Giving meditation classes
Spiritual Masters always remind us how remarkable the human soul is, and that our ignorance is a kind of amnesia, a forgetfulness of our essentially divine nature. Learning meditation is a process of rediscovery, of regaining mastery of our wayward mind, moving out of its shadows into the light of the heart and of the soul, a journey of remembering. The English writer Lawrence Durrell very nicely described meditation as “swallowing the sky” – the analogy captures the great widening and deepening of awareness that meditation brings, the expansion of consciousness. Guru, too, employed many “sky” metaphors when teaching us the ABCs of meditation, referring often to the “vastness-sky,” “oneness-sky,” “freedom-sky,” “delight-sky” in his imagery.
While teaching meditation classes together Subarata and I often told jokes about each other and we each had a repertoire of amusing stories.
Once we ran 50 miles on a Saturday to celebrate Guru's weightlifting – and on the Sunday gave a one-day workshop in meditation. Both of us were extremely tired and during the mantra section, after a few initial 'Aums', we both fell fast asleep.
About 20 minutes later I heard a loud snore from the other side of the room – and awoke to see Subarata lolling back in her chair, mouth open, deeply asleep. I began chanting again and the amazed audience joined me, finally waking Subarata up.
She would often tell this story in classes but claim that it was I who fell asleep and snored, but to this day I know it was her. In subsequent classes it was always a race to tell this story first at the other's expense.
Once a really eccentric man in a wheelchair attended our classes – I spotted him at the bottom of our stairwell and suggested we keep quiet, but Subarata sprang to help him. So we hauled him up the stairs where he scratched and muttered through our class, disturbing everyone incessantly. Finally it was time to help him back down.
All went well until about halfway down when I suddenly lost control – and so began a mad wheelchair ride all the way to the bottom. We bounced frantically downwards, gaining speed and momentum and bounding over the steps with the wheelchair occupant shouting and cursing. We flew over the last steps and out into the roadway where we came to rest at last, shaken and pale. Predictably, our unwelcome visitor never returned.
And then every now and then in one of our classes some innocent would ask, when the topic of God-realisation came up, “Are you God-realised?"
If Subarata was there, or there were other disciples in the class, I would give a self-deprecating shrug and say, “Well....," hinting that perhaps I was, but that the humility one acquires at this advanced level forbade one from saying so. After the mirth from the disciples subsided, I would then confess that I was not.
Once a highly devoted couple from India came to our classes. It seemed that they saw some- thing very lofty in me, something I knew to be a fiction given my long acquaintanceship with myself, but they insisted on calling me “Sri Jogyata". They would ask, “Is Sri Jogyata giving tonight’s class...?" and when I appeared there was much pranaaming and folding of hands. I had much fun in asserting how incredibly receptive the couple were, though Subarata teased me mercilessly about my sudden promotion. The other Centre members were likewise unimpressed with my new status, and my enlightenment caused more mirth and wry smiles than anything else. I would say, “Please have more respect for the Awakened One" and go on by.
We submitted both of the couple’s photos to Guru for his consideration regarding discipleship, and I mentioned in a fun note that they had spotted my inner height and insisted upon an honorary “Sri" when addressing me. Guru gave me a big smile, kindly refraining from the obvious unnecessary comment.
Eventually the couple returned to India, and stripped of my title, I once again became Jogyata the Unillumined. But my first taste of enlightenment had been very pleasant, and even now we all smile when we remember this couple’s very generous assessment of Sri Jogyata.
I keep meeting people who remember Subarata’s meditation classes – strangers in the street, someone on a bus, or chance encounters. “Do you remember me?” they ask. “You came to our city twelve years ago, you and an Irish lady. You gave a meditation workshop together. I have been meditating ever since. My children meditate, too; we’re all vegetarians now as well.” There are thousands of those people out there, all with their stories, and we will never meet more than a few of them again. Yet these encounters bring a growing understanding of why Guru encouraged us so much to offer his teachings to the world, why Guru once said to us on the telephone – his voice charged with a great power – “I authorise you to manifest the Supreme!”
Once the shuttle bus to Auckland, a chance encounter with a doctor who spies the book of Guru’s aphorisms in my hand, introduces herself, remembers my wife Subarata teaching her how to meditate in the long-ago. “She’s such a beautiful girl, she inspired me so much, now my whole family meditates„ she tells me. When I tell her Subarata has passed away, she almost weeps. “She helped me so much when I was struggling with my life – I will always remember her."
Guru knew that teaching meditation – along with the various other efforts we undertake to bring the message of spirituality to our world – was like the ripple of a pebble tossed into the pond, the consequences spreading out into space and time and literally changing the future. Invisible and immeasurable to us, the effects spread out in an endless multiplication, touching numberless lives in ways both small and large, and all of it unknown to us. If we could take a snapshot of any given meditation workshop, and follow the consequences in a single life, the ceaselessly multiplying ripples and consequences of that single moment when we put a poster up on a wall or handed out a flier, we would probably be amazed.
Guru saw very deeply into the interconnectedness of all life. Some of his insights are astonishing and redefine our place in the universe, establishing our oneness with all that exists. We are not at its periphery – the universe exists within us, and our consciousness itself is the origin and manifester of the worlds of our inner and outer experiences.
In Kundalini: The Mother Power, Guru writes: “The universe, the universal Consciousness, the eternal Consciousness, the infinite Consciousness are all inside the spiritual heart. On the one hand, this spiritual heart houses Divinity, Immortality, Eternity and Infinity; on the other hand, it transcends everything…”
“We can never go too deep; we can never touch the boundaries of the spiritual heart because it embodies the vast universe and, at the same time, it is larger and vaster than the universe.”
The Tantric Master Lama Govinda similarly describes how, for the Buddhist, “the external world and his inner world are for him only two sides of the same fabric, in which the threads of all forces and of all events, of all forms of consciousness and of their objects, are woven into an inseparable net of endless, mutually conditioned relations.”
Guru was a kind of spiritual quantum physicist, aware that consciousness is the ground of all being, the very matrix of the universe and the principal medium for the transmission of light and spirituality. This is why he wanted so many of us to run in the New York City Marathon – 300 disciples, 300 meditators, could uplift the spirit and “feeling” of the race for 20,000 others. And on one Christmas Trip I remember him telling us not to share with our Centres back home a talk he had just given – from far away his disciples would feel and know the import of his talk through their meditation, their oneness with him. This proved so true! And why he delayed offering the New Year’s Message one year – he was waiting to see how much our aspiration would determine the coming energies and opportunities in the year ahead!
When I meet the people who met and remember Subarata, I am reminded of how great a gift we have been given to touch the world in an enduring, positive way. Her soul’s quality of inspiration is still resonating out there in our world, her sharing of her Teacher’s teachings spreading from those she met to those they meet, an ongoing dissemination. The ripples from those pebbles tossed into the pool will never cease, extending out into farthest space and endless time.
And I remember Guru’s words, reminding us that we co-create this world:
Just one smile
from my gratitude-heart
immensely increases the beauty of the universe.
First-hand experiences of meditation and spirituality.
Sri Chinmoy meets St. PeterParamita Jarvis Kingston, Canada
Spirituality means speedPatanga Cordeiro São Paulo, Brazil
Patanga: my spiritual namePatanga Cordeiro São Paulo, Brazil
My life with Sri ChinmoyNamrata Moses New York, United States
Muhammad Ali: I was expecting a monster, but I found a lambSevananda Padilla San Juan, Puerto Rico
I just knew from the moment I saw himAshrita Furman New York, United States
Sri Chinmoy meets an old friendPradhan Balter Chicago, United States
How my spiritual search led me to Sri ChinmoyVidura Groulx Montreal, Canada
In the Right Place, At the Right TimeEshana Gadjanski Novi Sad, Serbia
I was what you call a classic unconscious seekerRupantar LaRusso New York, United States
Sri Chinmoy's biography, written by one of the most famous Bengali authorsMahatapa Palit New York, United States
The Peace Run visits OxfordTejvan Pettinger Oxford, United Kingdom
Running and MeGarga Chamberlain Bristol, United Kingdom
interviews with Sri Chinmoy's students