A Truckload of Humanitarian Aid Sails through Customs

In 1991, Sri Chinmoy founded the Oneness-Heart Tears and Smiles humanitarian service. Among its first projects was a delivery of food and medicines to Russia (above) at the request of President Gorbachev - a project that Dr. Arthada worked on.

Once I had almost finished collecting humanitarian aid for two or three truck deliveries that were supposed to go to Russia. Before the shipping, I and many other Austrian disciples went to Celebrations, a meeting of the disciples with Guru in America.

There, Kritagyata, a nurse who collected humanitarian supplies in America, told me that she had received a huge shipment of medical supplies for Russian children’s hospitals. The transport directly from America to Russia would, however, have been financially impossible and bureaucratically extremely difficult to manage by official means.

So the idea arose that we European disciples could take all these packages in our personal luggage back to Europe. At the next large international disciple meeting, disciples from other Centres could give these packages to the disciples from Vienna. The idea was that I would then add all these medical supplies to my already planned large aid delivery.

Secretly feeling relieved, I informed Guru that it was completely absurd to even think about bringing all these countless large parcels illegally to Europe in this way without Customs finding out. These parcels were significantly more voluminous than suitcases and, moreover, immediately identifiable from the outside as medical supplies. That was probably clear to everyone, and my many years of experience only made me smile pitifully at this idea. This is why, right from the beginning, I considered this project over and done with or rather hopeless and crazy. “One problem less,” I thought, but I did not know Guru that well yet.

A close brush with death

The great sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar became a very dear friend of Sri Chinmoy. Both Ravi Shankar and Sri Chinmoy hailed from Bengal, India, and they shared the same mother tongue. Over time, Pandit-ji and Sri Chinmoy became extremely close, having claimed each other as true brothers after their remaining blood-relative brothers had passed away.

In the fall of 2005, I was at Sri Chinmoy’s home when I received a phone call from Ravi Shankar's wife, Sukanya. Her voice was trembling with unusual urgency: Ravi-ji was on his way to a hospital in Manhattan, where he was staying at the time, suffering from breathing difficulties. While Sukanya was simply calling to inform Sri Chinmoy, I immediately reassured her that we were all at her service.

Pandit-ji had been suffering from a weak heart for about a decade. Although Sukanya did not give any inkling of how serious his present condition might be, as soon as Sri Chinmoy heard the news, he immediately left for Lenox Hill Hospital where Ravi-ji had been admitted.

Sri Chinmoy quickly walked into the emergency room, sat down, and went into a very lofty consciousness amidst the chaos of the ER. It was in this high state of meditation that Sri Chinmoy remained for over an hour. Sukanya, who was by Ravi-ji’s side, knew Sri Chinmoy was there and was very grateful for his presence.

The Champion-Hero Supreme

Sri Chinmoy passes the baton to Carl Lewis for the final leg of a Peace Mile Relay race in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, New York, 1989.

To win one gold medal at the Olympic Games is an extraordinary feat. To win nine gold medals is practically unheard of! And yet that is exactly what the great American athlete Carl Lewis accomplished, earning him many accolades, including the title “Best Olympian of the 20th Century” from Sports Illustrated.

Narada Michael Walden, Sri Chinmoy and Carl Lewis in 1998

In November 1983, the renowned Grammy award-winning music producer Narada Michael Walden brought Carl to meet Sri Chinmoy at his New York headquarters. This was nearly a year before Carl’s first Olympic competition in Los Angeles, at a time when Sri Chinmoy was intensely involved in running as a way to keep the body fit and as a form of spiritual discipline. Carl very sympathetically coached Sri Chinmoy in sprinting, and Sri Chinmoy wholeheartedly encouraged and guided Carl in his stellar athletic career, travelling to several Olympic Games.

Try to feel that the whole earth is behind you and that you are getting blessings, love, concern, determination and oneness from the entire earth. You have to convince your entire being that the whole Olympic stadium is for you, because you are not representing any particular country or race, but the entire earth.

Sri Chinmoy
advice to Carl before the 1984 Olympics

'This advice has guided me in leading my people ever since'

Sri Chinmoy with His Majesty King Pakoebowoeno XII

In December 2003, Sri Chinmoy set forth on a journey to Indonesia with a few hundred of his students from many countries. It was part of their annual Christmas and New Year’s travels to various countries. Their first destination was the beautiful green island of Java, the main island among the thousands of islands of Indonesia. Indonesia has a very rich and ancient culture, with Islam layered over its previous religious traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. The dynasty of rajas (kings) in Indonesia originally came from India. Sri Chinmoy specially wanted to spend some time in Solo, capital of the ancient Kingdom of Surakarta.  Although he had visited Indonesia on several occasions before, this was his first visit to Solo, the historic royal city of Indonesia.

His students made an appointment for him to pay his respects to the elderly King of the region, but before Sri Chinmoy had the chance to go to the Palace, the King himself came to see Sri Chinmoy at his hotel. This particular King was very famous in Indonesia. Hailed as the King of all the Kings of Indonesia, he had been on the throne for more than 60 years. Although his proper name was His Majesty King Pakoebowoeno XII, he was respectfully known by the title Sinoehoen. Sinoehoen is a Dutch word that means ‘King of Kings’, dating back to the years when Indonesia was ruled by the Dutch.

Sinoehoen came to see Sri Chinmoy on December 7th, 2003. Travelling in an unmarked car so as not to attract large crowds, he was accompanied by one of his sons, Prince Dipokusumo, and his personal secretary.  As Sinoehoen arrived, he cast a glance to his right and saw an Indian man wearing a sky-blue dhoti and kurta coming to welcome him. The King stopped in his tracks, his eyes glowing with joy.  “This is the man!” exclaimed the King to himself (as later recounted to his son). “I have seen him many times before during my meditation. His face is so familiar to me.” That man was Sri Chinmoy.

A dear brother-friend

Well known as a consummate diplomat and visionary, Vladimir Petrovsky served as United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs (1992) and the Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva (1993-2002), as well as First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union (1986-1991). Sri Chinmoy first met Vladimir Petrovsky in 1991, and a special friendship developed between the two.

In 1992, Mr. Petrovsky was appointed to the position of UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. In early April of that year, Sri Chinmoy heard that Mr. Petrovsky and his wife had recently moved to New York. Sri Chinmoy requested me to pay them a welcome visit. The Petrovskys had not yet properly moved into their apartment, which was still full of unpacked boxes, but even in the midst of all this chaos, they were extremely hospitable.

Mr. Petrovsky said to me, “I find this a very auspicious sign. We have just come to New York, and Sri Chinmoy wishes to offer me a message. In fact, I am about to leave for Libya tonight to meet with Colonel Gaddafi (who was then the leader of Libya). I have a very important mission to achieve when I meet with him. To tell you the truth, I do not have any fear, but I definitely have trepidation. I know these negotiations are very, very serious. I would like to succeed for the UN, and I am not sure I can. Again, with your having come to find me and to tell me about Sri Chinmoy’s very special encouragement and prayers, I am certain everything will be fine.”

The Blue Crystal

I learned that Sri Chinmoy’s friend Irina Malikova of the Gorbachev Foundation, a close assistant to President Gorbachev, was not at all well. She went for a biopsy, and afterwards I called her, at Sri Chinmoy’s request, to ask the outcome. She described on the phone her experience during the operation and asked if I could please ask Sri Chinmoy the spiritual significance.

Unfortunately after her biopsy Irina could not come out of the anaesthesia for four hours. She experienced what seemed like a strange dream with unusual beings taking her down a long tunnel. She could see at the end of a tunnel what seemed to be a large illumined hall, and the beings kept saying “Come with us, go with us, you will like this.” She felt herself rushing backward down a long tunnel going faster and faster.  

All of a sudden, larger than anything she could ever imagine, she saw Sri Chinmoy blocking the tunnel. He stopped her and told her, “Put out your hands and take hold of this.”When she did this, Sri Chinmoy placed in her hands what Irina described as a crystal, very translucent, of an unearthly, beautiful blue. Then he loudly commanded,  “Say the magic word.” At first Irina did not respond.  At the top of his voice, Sri Chinmoy again commanded, “Say the magic word — NOW!” At that moment, she screamed out the name of her small child, “Dmitriy, Dimitry!” When she did this, she went rushing down the tube in the reverse direction with the greatest speed. The next thing she knew, she was opening her eyes on the operating table, with the doctors and nurses looking over her, with a big light shining behind them.

When I asked Sri Chinmoy if he would please give his interpretation of this experience as she had requested, Sri Chinmoy said, “Her soul was about to leave her body for the other world,” and that he had given Irina back her own soul. He said to Irina, “Do you remember the blue bird when you first came to see me? At that time I showed you your soul.” Irina remembered that the first time she saw Sri Chinmoy, at Aspiration-Ground in New York, he took her to the Sri Chinmoy Track where she noticed a beautiful blue bird. When she described it to others, they said they had never seen such a bird at the track.

When Irina came to New York later that year, everywhere we went she would try to rediscover that particular blue colour, because she said this crystal was an incredibly beautiful blue.As it turns out, she says that she has never been able to recapture that beautiful blue colour.

'We speak only of how we can serve the world'

When he is with me, we never discuss politics.  We speak only of how we can serve the world, how we can raise the standard of humanity with our goodwill, peace, prayers and meditations.

Sri Chinmoy
speaking about his relationship with President Gorbachev

Sri Chinmoy’s warm relationship with President Mikhail Gorbachev spanned several decades, with 25 meetings and over a hundred letters expressing mutual encouragement, appreciation and support.

On August 18, 1991, there was an attempted coup by Soviet leaders against President Gorbachev, and the President and his family were trapped in the Crimea. Sri Chinmoy took the situation extremely seriously and turned his entire focus to the Gorbachevs’ safety.

There were more than a thousand of Sri Chinmoy’s students gathered in New York for their traditional celebration of his birthday, and he and his students were meditating and praying most intensely for the President and his family. For the first time in more than 20 years, Sri Chinmoy cancelled many of the scheduled activities, except for silent meditation, prayer and spiritual singing.

One evening, Sri Chinmoy interrupted some of his students who were singing his spiritual songs.  With great urgency in his voice, Sri Chinmoy said,  “Kindly stop singing right now!” and he began to meditate most intensely.

'Everything will become again like it was before'

You could see the photo of this car accident in almost every newspaper in Switzerland: our van pierced by a crash-barrier that rose up behind the car into the sky more than 10 metres. This experience was like a nightmare from my childhood in which I found myself in a cruel, hopeless situation and desperately fought to wake up. But this time it was not a dream, and it was Sri Chinmoy who eventually freed me from this abysmal abyss with his loving care.

I tried to get out of the van, but my right leg wouldn’t move. When I tried to lift it with my hand, my fingers found themselves between flesh and bones, covered with blood. I was so shocked and horrified that I didn’t notice that a bar from the destroyed seat had speared me.

Enough facts for despair. I was extremely lucky that I had already been a student of Sri Chinmoy’s for almost two years—long enough to have a lot of faith in him. Otherwise I would have perished miserably then and there.

In the hospital, when the doctor who was standing at the left side of my bed started to elaborate on the “facts of the situation”, my wife Usha, whose presence I then became aware of, interrupted him at once. Smiling bravely at me, she said to me that she had been able to talk to Sri Chinmoy about my accident. His compassionate message for me said I shouldn’t worry because everything would become again like it was before. This was definitely the happiest moment of my life. Of course, there were still many tough moments to come, but he would always be there to save me.

Please postpone the surgery

About three years ago, my mother was diagnosed with a very serious form of cancer that was quickly spreading. To be certain, she went for the opinion of three prominent cancer specialists in Puerto Rico. All of them concurred: she definitely had a serious form of cancer.

I became increasingly worried—I love my mother dearly and her suffering and imminent death were torturing my heart. Over the years I have met excellent physicians and naturopaths who have been very successful in treating cancer as well as other so-called “incurable” diseases. It was my hope to bring my mother to New York for such treatment.

Her main physician told her that she needed radiation, chemotherapy and most definitely surgery. I asked my mother to please hold off with all those therapies until I could consult with the doctor I had in mind, and to send me copies of her records. When I read her blood analysis, panic struck me hard, for it became real that my mother was very sick.

I had not wanted to tell Sri Chinmoy anything until I had all the information, but now pressure was mounting, and my mother was scheduled for surgery within a few weeks. Finally, I wrote Sri Chinmoy a letter explaining everything I told him that I love my mother very much and that I was not ready to lose her, but I also told him that I was praying for God’s Victory-Will in whatever form it would express itself.

Sri Chinmoy’s reply came immediately: “Ask her to please postpone the surgery for one month.” I immediately telephoned my mother and pleaded with her to please listen and follow Sri Chinmoy’s advice. She agreed.

Building a sacred space

I remember when I first got the phone call. I was working at a construction site. Back then there were no cell phones, but I was helping to build a house, climbing all over it, when my boss found me and said, “There’s a phone call for you.”


It was Ashrita, who often assisted Guru directly. It wasn’t a regular occurrence to get a phone call from Ashrita, so I knew it was something important about Guru.

Ashrita said that Guru wanted me to come and build a tennis court for him. I was very shocked, but I said, “Well, of course I would like to do it, but when?”

“Tomorrow,” Ashrita said. “Wow,” I thought to myself.

If it’s your Guru asking you to do something, you just do it! I told my boss that I had to go. I knew that Guru would take care of me and that this project was meant to be. The second part of Ashrita’s message had been that Guru said if I didn’t want to, he would get someone else to do it. But I was thrilled to be part of this venture. Guru always said that if you have eagerness, if you have enthusiasm, anything is possible.