Where Would Be the Fun?
Despite occasional speed wobbles, one of Subarata’s admirable qualities was her spirited loyalty to her path and her Guru. On our Centre meditation nights when she would sometimes choose the evening’s programme, she would often have us chanting “gratitude„ for ten minutes at a stretch, an acknow- ledgement of the gift of discipleship and of grace in our often forgetful lives and a reminder intended for everyone. Grace would also be needed by anyone who dared challenge Guru’s authority or height in our meditation classes. Subarata’s response would be swift and fierce, a thunderbolt. „
I used to call Subarata “Smokin’ Gun Cunningham , a reference to her blunt candour when dealing with critics and adversaries. Sometimes when it seemed a little excessive I would find myself playing “good cop„ to her “bad cop,„ pouring oil on troubled waters. I favoured the “iron hand in the velvet glove„ approach—but Subarata was often the “iron hand in the iron glove.„ People really liked this quality in her and knew exactly where they stood. It was a breath of fresh air, even though it sometimes became a chilly blast.
Her candour nearly torpedoed Guru’s New Zealand Peace Concert at the prestigious Aotea Centre in Auckland,
showcase venue for premier performers and productions in New Zealand. Our liaison there at the time was a rather supercilious and unpleasant man who disliked spiritual groups. He knew we were somehow “different,„ and he didn’t approve of that. Our negotiations regarding our concert requirements turned into a running gun battle, and “Smokin’ Gun Cunningham„ rode into the fray.
There in the concert hall foyer, surrounded by a busload of admiring Japanese tourists who had apparently never seen anyone being so outspoken before, she launched a salvo of defamatory and colourful remarks about the man’s intelligence and ancestry, a verbal fusillade. It worked!
Anxious to avoid any further public spectacle or acrimo- nious broadsides aimed at their staff, the Aotea Centre capitulated on many key points. The concert went off successfully, if a little uneasily, as though at any moment the veneer of calm might be punctured by another salvo from Ol’ Smokin’ Gun.
Subarata’s plain-spoken, sometimes vehement loyalty to Guru was often tested. From memory it was Sri Ramakrishna who spoke of the various forces arrayed against the spiritual life, against the Masters, as “thickening the plot." When asked why our human life is so filled with struggles, Guru, in a similar vein, replied, “Otherwise, where is the fun?” The Cosmic Game! Guru often reminded us of the descending grace that enables us to find and to hold true to our path – not easy when from cradle-rock to last breath we are immersed in all the phantasmagoria of the world. “I sincerely admire you people,” he once said, “for I know how hard it is to be a disciple.”
In one of Guru's songs the lyrics remind us, "Darkness there is, light there is; you can choose whichever pleases you." Yes – who has not felt the tug of other, unlived lives clamouring for attention and birth? All the more reason to feel gratitude for this enduring, if sometimes fragile, gift of loyalty to God. For those whose choice of self has opposed them to the spiritual way of life, they also have their part to play, and certainly they “thicken the plot.” I remember the line attributed to Judas in the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” – "Why was I cast as the villain?" – acknowledging the nudgings of fate and destiny in the roles we play.
Vishnu Paran – tales of the incarnations of Vishnu – and the Mahabharata are both filled with the stories of great souls destined to oppose righteousness and the incarnations of God. Our own other possible lives and selves also lurk in the shadows behind our public personae and, but for a twist of chance, might “strut and fret their hour upon the stage to a very different tune as well.
Confronted by those who have chosen to defame our spiritual life, I do believe our greatest strength lies not in being drawn into response and combat – even where that is sometimes necessary and unavoidable – but primarily through our own deepening and blossoming spirituality. When the storm blows through the forest, only the sickly trees will fall. And from our love of God and God-reliance will come the knowing of how, when and what to do. Our guardianship of Guru's legacy will be most effective through our own self-perfecting, through building an individually perfect world. Such is the power of each human soul that the force of consciousness itself is the greatest way to honour our teacher and offer light to the world.
Subarata might not always agree with these musings, but she always prayed to be true to her teacher and her path to the end. And she knew that the inner challenges, such as doubt, fear, anxiety and flagging aspiration, are really our greatest threat, rather than the enemy at the gates. The innumerable outer challenges of the world will finally strengthen us, for we cannot make progress in a vacuum, nor ever realise God unless through the trials of life we develop strength and faith and fortitude.
Guru's own words are always encouraging: "The more you take your life as a life of divine, supreme duty to the Supreme, the more your body, vital, mind, heart and soul will spread beauty.... Spiritual history will bear witness to what we are doing. Each of you is of paramount importance. In spiritual history our love of light, truth and oneness will be inscribed in golden letters. If we dedicate ourselves consciously to the supreme cause with our aspiration, prayer, meditation and service, then in and through us will grow a better, more illumining and fulfilling world."