16. First Visit to the Emerald Isles

I don’t recall much of what happened during our early visits to Ireland – those memories have mostly fallen into the sea. But it was Guru who invited us to go there and to start a Centre, asking Subarata, “Why do you not go and give meditation classes in Ireland? Surely your family there will be able to help you.”

Subarata’s native land seemed very different from the faraway islands of New Zealand. Ireland was an ancient world, its 10,000 and more years of human habitation in evidence everywhere: the crumbling castles and ancient stone walls, the music you heard that dealt with legends and heroes, the spirit of the place. The ploughed fields reeked with pathos and history; the earth was filled with the effluvia of the vanished generations, their flesh and bones, their tears and blood. Countless lives had come and gone, brief as the shadows of clouds passing across landscape. Their swords and ploughs and helmets were stitched into the earth, their stories hidden beneath the dark soil of every field. No wonder, then, the turreted castles and moats, the granaries secured in siege-proof towers, the vaulted iron gates – everyone had invaded Ireland.

We felt ourselves, though, to be a part of something new, as though the country were opening to a different future, and we had become entrusted to serve this new tomorrow. We were Guru’s ambassadors out in the frontier lands, and every poster we put up, every leaflet given to a stranger, was imbued with our hopes and our fervour and sang with possibilities.

Subarata was funny, determined, adventurous, filled with a bubbling will that surfaced at the needed moments. The soul of Ireland seemed to be in her, her optimism, her sense of purpose, her clear certainty. Money – the lack of it – brought a nagging unease, though the New Zealanders back home were watching out for us. Subarata was unperturbed, her faith in Guru unwavering.  One night she offered as prasad a consoling reminder, in Guru’s own words, of the reality of the unfailing grace ever present in our rather precarious lives. We would read:

“Once you have accepted the spiritual life
With all the sincerity at your command,
   Then it is a real insult
To your own soul, to your own Master
And to your own Lord Beloved Supreme
If you worry about your future.
   After all,
Are you not supposed to have placed
Your past, present and future
   In their hands?”

– Sri Chinmoy

Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 4, poem 3118