Tracking down Paul McCartney

Subarata had a dauntlessness in her, evident not only in her running but in being unfazed by lofty challenges. She had a fondness for some of the Beatles’s songs, and liked Paul and Linda McCartney’s fondness for animals and their strong vegetarian principles. When she learned that the legendary Paul McCartney was in Auckland—the Beatles’s singer and composer himself!—she spent several days single-handedly battling the layers of secrecy, security, and conspiratorial silence surrounding the great man’s visit, a bloodhound relentless in quest of its quarry, finally tracking him down to an exclusive coastal suburb.

At that time Subarata was organising a nationwide torch relay, the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, an epic 1,000-km run whose simple purpose was to encourage world peace. Keen to invite Paul and Linda’s support and armed with a Peace Run brochure, a letter of introduction, and a personal appeal for our superstar to meet with us, she marched up to the imposing gates of the McCartney’s lodgings. Their private residence lay behind high walls, most unwelcoming to any impertinent stray caller. At the gates, security staff confronted her and she persuaded one of them to personally give her package to the great Beatle.

Two days went by. Then one afternoon the phone rang and a voice said, “Hello, Paul McCartney here. Can I speak to Subarata Cunningham, please?”

And so it all came together. Sir Paul and wife Linda, hugely friendly and very relaxed, met us at Western Springs Stadium prior to their sound check for a packed Auckland concert. We discussed the Peace Run—lots of photos were taken with the relay’s ceremonial torch—vegetarianism, politics, music, and Sri Chinmoy’s work for world peace. We wandered about backstage for ages with our accommodating new friends.

The Mysterious Message

Abhinabha in race-mode

One evening during a meditation program in New York, one of Guru’s assistants came up to me and said, “Guru wants to see you!” My heartbeat went up a few notches as I approached his chair.

When Guru saw me, a subtle smile appeared on his face. Then in his endearing voice with its sweet Indian accent he said to me, “You are a great runner.” Immediately the arrow of his love entered into my heart. He continued, “But you are sad that you are seeing others going ahead of you. Others are defeating you.”

Here he paused for a moment. “But I am very proud of your enthusiasm in singing. You are a great singer.” Another short pause. Guru must have seen the question mark rising in my head, but lack of understanding never deterred him from making his point. As he raised his eyebrows, he concluded, “Don’t worry! Who cares if others are going ahead of you?” Then he nodded his head, letting me know the conversation was over.

I returned to my seat, more than a little confused. It was clear Guru was giving me some sort of message, but I didn’t have the slightest clue as to what it meant. True, I hadn’t come first in the two-mile race that week, but I hadn’t given it a second thought. On the contrary, I’d been quite pleased with my performance. I certainly didn’t feel hurt or humiliated at being defeated. Guru had always taught us to focus on transcending ourselves rather than competing with others. I racked my brain and my heart, trying to digest the deeper meaning behind that casual message, like a cryptographer trying to decipher a secret code. But no matter how I tried, I couldn’t find the key to crack it.

How I first saw my Guru

On December 21, 1969, Guru came to Puerto Rico for a short three-day visit. The first meeting with Guru was on a Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. Everybody was waiting for him because he had gone out for a walk.

Video

The older disciples were downstairs inside the Puerto Rico Centre with all of us seekers, talking to us about Guru while we waited for him. I had had many, many dreams of Guru by that time, so I was telling them about some of my dreams.

Eventually we went outside. The Centre was located towards the end of a hill. I was facing down the hill as we spoke. Suddenly my hands spontaneously folded and I turned around to look up the hill.

Sri Chinmoy in San Juan, Puerto Rico

At the top of the hill I vividly saw a young Indian man coming down and playing with a yo-yo. Everyone asked me how I knew it was him.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “Is it him?”
“Yes, it’s him,” they assured me.

It didn’t take long for Guru to come down the hill, and there he was right in front of us. He was looking at us and smiling at each of us individually. I found myself melting, totally melting, at the love that I felt flowing from him. It was the kind of love not from this world, and I knew that it came directly from God. With that love came this incredibly beautiful smile that went right through you and filled everything inside of you.

And that was how I met my Guru for the very first time.

Akuti: a pioneer-jewel in our Centre

Akuti is my oldest, dearest and wisest disciple. Her name is aspiration. She has proved to me and to our Lord Beloved Supreme what aspiration truly is.

Sri Chinmoy
20 November 2002

Akuti became a student of Sri Chinmoy in 1967, and was a pillar of our meditation Centre until her passing in 2014. The following reminiscences and stories about Akuti are from her fellow students of Sri Chinmoy.

Kalyani: She was born Dorothy Eisaman on November 30, 1915. The name Dorothy means "child of God". Dorothy had five brothers all much older than she. On the day she was born, a friend ran through the street telling all the neighbors, "The Eisamans have a girl, the Eisamans have a girl!" They must have been so happy to welcome her!

Sutushti: As I drove Akuti around for many years, she told me stories of her childhood. Akuti was born in western Pennsylvania, out in the country. At that time there were not many cars, and people still traveled by horse and buggy. It was like a bygone era, where her mother ran the household with an iron hand. There was a day each week for baking and laundry. One of her maiden aunts spent most of her time sewing for the large family and another did most of the cooking. Young girls learned needle-point, crocheting and other household skills. The house was lighted by gaslight and it was kept spotlessly clean.

In the summer, vaudeville troupes came through town to put on shows under a tent and sell potions to cure ailments.  Traveling salesmen came to the house selling shoes and house-wares from a cart, and an occasional hobo would knock on the door to ask for a handout. Akuti remembers running barefoot across the fields and through the stream each evening to bring the cows back to the barn.

Her mother profoundly believed every word of the large old family bible in which records were kept of births, marriages and deaths. If a family member had a skin problem, she took the person outside on a full moon night and placed a raw potato on the affected area. After she chanted a few words, the skin cleared up. She had a gift of intuitive vision and did not want Akuti to marry.

My Mother

When I was a child of three
My valley looked so green to me –
The hand that led me tenderly
Was Love in all Simplicity,
My Mother.

Her beauty was her crowning Glory.
She walked so softly by my side,
Her wondrous eyes of emerald green were deep
And so serene.
As they beheld the wonders at our feet
I’m sure she felt that she was three.

For here she was a child again.
She looked at me with Soulful eyes,
I saw a world of beauty there –
With upward hands she dropped her hair.
It fell in strands of purest gold,
Sun-kissed, a thing of beauty to Behold,
My Mother.

Our feet were kissed by morning dew,
For in this valley always new,
The hand of God was living there.

She knew the wonders of God’s work;
Here she taught me how to pray.
It seemed so strange to me, for I was only three.
And when she prayed she looked at me,
As though her world could never be,
Without this child of three.

Her Soulful prayers were all for me.
This valley was God’s gift to her
And here her Soul was free!

She molded me unto herself,
She taught me Tenderness and Love.
And all the things I gazed upon were made for me,
Placed here by God for me to feel and touch.

A child of Nature I became,
In Love with Life I have remained.
It started early in my life
When I was but a child of three.

Akuti
published 1970 1

When Akuti was 15 or 16 years old, she and a friend visited a neighbor named Margaret Barlow, an old Welsh woman who smoked a corncob pipe. She told the girls many stories and predicted the future by reading tea leaves. When she looked at the arrangement of tea leaves in the cup for Akuti, she told her that she would travel across a body of water and live in a strange land; that she would meet a man of color, and she would bend.  Since Akuti was born on November 30, 1915, her fortune may very well have been told around Sri Chinmoy's birth in 1931. When Akuti first saw Guru in Puerto Rico, she couldn’t believe what she saw. Here was a man of golden color.

Her first job out of high school was as a nurse in a hospital, which included a psychiatric ward. She learned a lot from the doctors about how to care for these patients. She said that even if the patients could not function or communicate, they knew if they were being treated with kindness. Guru later told her that this profession was her forte.

After several years she started a new job at a department store where she managed different departments and traveled as a clothing buyer. After she worked there for 27 years, the company went bankrupt. Her longtime friend asked her to move to Puerto Rico with her and her husband.

In Puerto Rico she got a job in a chiropractor’s office.  Walking to and from the bus to work each day, she was greeted by a dog whom she befriended. The dog belonged to Agni and his wife, who were members of Guru’s first Centre in Puerto Rico. After some time they invited her to rent the upstairs apartment in their home.

One day after work Agni announced that the Master was visiting from New York and asked Akuti if she would like to come to the Centre. It was a hot day and she was tired, so she declined and lay down on her bed to rest. Suddenly she heard a booming voice say, "You may be missing a golden opportunity!"

She ran to the window and told Agni to wait for her. As soon as she saw Sri Chinmoy, the memories of Margaret Barlow’s tea leaves came flooding back to her. She walked up to him, past the other people who were sitting down, and stood in front of him. He said, "Do you know who I am?" She said, "I know who you are."

Akuti:   The soul is without beginning and without end. Then is there any limit to its progress?

Sri Chinmoy:  It is absolutely correct that the soul has neither beginning nor end. It is constantly progressing and moving towards its Goal. It has infinite potentialities because it is part of the Self. In our Gita, we have the most sublime description of the soul: “The soul is ancient, permanent, eternal, immutable and all-pervading. Weapons cannot cleave it. Fire cannot burn it. Water cannot drench it. The wind cannot dry it.” This is the description of the soul given by the Lord, Sri Krishna.

You can easily see the difference between a human body and the soul. The body lasts for seventy or eighty years and then it has to die. The soul, however, is imperishable.

Everybody can see the soul. Not only can you see it, but you can talk to it.

Akuti:  How can I talk to the soul, Guru?

Sri Chinmoy:  How? Only one word: aspiration. A-S-P-I-R-A-T-I-O-N. Aspiration and nothing else. No other medicine is required; only aspiration.

(referring to another spiritual seeker) I was telling you about her the other day. She started coming to our meetings last November and now she has become a student at our New York Centre. She is under my spiritual guidance. Last May, the 5th of May, it was her birthday. She saw her own soul and had a talk with it.

For the preceding few months, she had been constantly trying to see her soul and to see if all that I had said about it was really possible. She asked me many, many questions about the soul. Then I said, “Questions won’t do. You have to meditate on the soul and see it for yourself.”

She did meditate on the soul. On the 5th of May, her birthday, early, in the small hours of the morning, she saw her soul. While she was seeing her soul, I saw it at the same time. We live in the same building. I live on the fourth floor and she lives on the first floor. She told me everything in detail and I concentrated on her to see if it was correct. It was all true.

If she can do it, I do not see any reason why you, Akuti, cannot see and talk to your own soul. Try. I shall be glad to help you.

June 26, 1967
San Juan, Puerto Rico 2

Sutushti: She has said that Guru was never a stranger to her. Nothing about him was ever unfamiliar. Two or three days after their first meeting, she asked Guru for her spiritual name. He gave it to her, repeating it 200 times and keeping count by snapping his fingers. He told her that her name, Akuti, means Inspiration, Aspiration, Realisation and Revelation. For the first year after she met Guru, her eyes were always filled with tears from the joy of finding her Master.  

Her name means aspiration. In our boat she is the oldest member. She is dearer than the dearest in my heart and soul. Akuti is aspiration. Aspiration is the only thing we need to become supremely chosen children of our Lord Beloved Supreme. This is our Akuti.

Sri Chinmoy
18 February 2004

Bholanath: If I could in a phrase sum up Akuti, it would be “happy but conscious and very disciplined, all the time." I first met Akuti at the Sunday morning meditation held in the San Juan, Puerto Rico Centre in September 1968 – she would have been almost 53 years old then. I and my wife Eve had gone to Puerto Rico to visit her father, and Guru had told me about the Centre, inviting me to go there. My first impression when I saw her was, “What is this woman from middle America doing here in Puerto Rico?" She was in the center of the room on the aisle, with her silvery hair, big, lustrous eyes, and a smile to match. I knew I had met a friend. I liked her instantly.

Through the years she would say to me, “Why don’t you come more often, Bholanath?" She was always great for me, because she was always right on target. She was like an older sister, always concerned for me.

Akuti (centre) in with the other members of the Aum Centre in Puerto Rico (as the Sri Chinmoy centre was then called)

Sutushti: Over the next year and a half when Guru came to Puerto Rico for an extended visit, he often spent a few evenings a week with Akuti.

Akuti:  When I meditate on you, I feel that I enter into you as a personal God. Is there anything higher than that?

Sri Chinmoy: In my picture, my Transcendental picture, I am totally one with the Supreme. There I fully represent the Supreme and I am totally one with the Supreme in His Transcendental Consciousness. I personally look at my own Transcendental picture when I am not in my highest; there I am like a beggar. At times I look at my picture for two or three seconds and I enter into it. When I am in my normal consciousness, I see the difference between my highest and my lowest. There it is the top of the Himalayan peak and here, when I am cutting jokes and all that, it is lower than the foothills of the Himalayas.

But again, inside me, the divine consciousness and the infinite consciousness are very vigilant. It is not that I drop from heaven into hell. No. My highest is always accessible to me when I need it.

When you are concentrating on me, meditating on me, you are absolutely right in feeling that you enter into my Infinite Consciousness which is totally one with the Supreme. At that time, there is no difference between the Supreme and my Infinite Consciousness. At the time when I meditate right in front of you, in front of the disciples, here and in New York, I become everything that one can think of and aspire for. Even in the physical body, which you see inside the frame of the picture, the soul and the physical existence become totally one and there I see and I become the entire universe. At the same time, the entire universe is inside me.

And this experience of yours — I am so happy that you have it. In New York also, there are two or three who have told us about this. If the closest, dearest disciples feel that they can get everything from their Guru, from their Master, there is no mistake in it. It is absolutely true. For the disciple, the Guru represents the Supreme here on earth.

August 17, 1968
San Juan, Puerto Rico 3
(The Transcendental Picture that Sri Chinmoy is referring to is a photograph of Sri Chinmoy in the highest state of meditation. Sri Chinmoy's students use this picture for their daily meditation.)

Sutushti: Akuti gave Guru his first bank account, because she said that "he didn’t have two nickels to rub together".

In 1969, Guru asked Akuti to come to New York and to start a Centre in Connecticut. When she moved, the house was not ready, so Guru invited her to stay in his home in Queens. She cooked and cleaned and did other household chores for Guru. Guru told her that she was the best house-keeper among the disciples and that "when she cleans, Light follows". She lost 18 pounds in the six weeks she stayed there.

Prior to moving to Connecticut, Akuti said that she did not know what a hippie was. But in the summer of 1969 she found herself in the midst of the counterculture. The seekers coming to the Centre were mostly in their twenties, and Guru wanted us to lead a more spiritual lifestyle. Akuti’s maturity, dignity and purity were a good example, and she spent many hours answering questions from the more than 100 disciples in the Centre. She also spent many hours cleaning up after the meetings, as Guru sometimes came twice a week to her home in Norwalk. No job was too daunting for her. She scrubbed, swept and washed until everything was in perfect order. Wherever Akuti lived, one could sense a cleanliness which generated a spiritual purity and luminosity that spread through the rooms. Guru would often visit her upstairs before coming to the basement meditation room, and the whole house would be flooded with his Consciousness.

Akuti, as you know, is American. But she loved Puerto Rico so much, she wanted to live in Puerto Rico. But, alas, her Guru wanted her to come back home, sweet home. She listened to my request and became the leader of leaders.

Sri Chinmoy

Dhrubha: I always admired and looked up to Akuti because I felt that she embodied true spirituality. True, she was older than me and my disciple friends, but her spiritual maturity was much more than that. She was always very reserved and dignified, but at the same time had a great sense of humor. She was full of affection.

There was one event not long afterwards that was one of the reasons I developed such respect for Akuti’s spirituality. In late 1969 or early 1970, Guru was out of town for an extended period. I think he had gone to India. By then, I was going to the Centre regularly. While Guru was away, during meditations everyone would line up and pass by the Transcendental Photograph. At one meditation Guru did something to me inwardly that I felt really changed me profoundly. I said nothing about it to anyone, so no one else who was there had any idea about what had taken place within me. But as I was leaving, Akuti came up to me and said, "Tonight I see you in a whole new light."

Around that time, or perhaps a year or so later, I heard that Guru had said that Akuti was present at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I never heard anyone tell me that they were present when Guru said this, but I could easily believe it nonetheless. I have always been deeply impressed by her spiritual advancement, which was combined with a humility that made her everyone’s friend.

Sahishnu: Akuti was one of the first disciples I ever met, back in October of 1970. She had an air of sensibility, nobility, and purity that was surprising and inspiring at the same time. It was at the Wilton, Connecticut Centre that I first saw and meditated with Guru. Akuti had us new seekers-turned-disciples become respectful, clean, and hygienically purer by her own example. If you ever saw her apartment, especially in the second Connecticut Centre in Norwalk, it was spotless, pure, and simple. When seven aspiring disciples and I lived next door at 76 Perry Avenue, she kept the standard for us boys at a much higher level than we would ever consider. No small feat!

Anjali: Thinking of Akuti brings to mind the crystalline purity of the tone of the bell she would ring to signal the start and finish of meditation sessions during the Connecticut Centre meetings she led in Guru’s absence.

One thing that moved me most about Akuti, was, and is, her true and unwavering love for Guru, and her absolute dedication to her spiritual life. "Fall in love with God," she would often say. "Nothing else matters," she would quickly add.  

Akuti could also sing, although she seemed to prefer to do so in private! But in the early days, when Guru offered songs to a number of disciples to perform individually from time to time during Centre meetings, he gave Akuti one as well.

MY TASK
I ask, my Lord Supreme, I ask:
What is my task, what is my task?
"My child, try and cry to change thy face,
And tell the world My Name is Grace.
"Shall I succeed, can I succeed?"
"Why not, why not?
My Breath shall feed
Your life of love, devotion pure.
Victory all-where when surrender sure."

Sri Chinmoy 4

So Akuti would stand before Guru and sing the song. Her delivery was simple. She just sang – softly, matter-of-factly, but with conviction – and it always touched my heart, as I am sure it did the hearts of others who were listening. In my inner ear, to this day I can still hear the song being sung in her voice.

Chetana: Every Monday night when we arrived at the meditation at the Connecticut Centre, there would be Akuti waiting at the door. She didn’t just say hello or greet us; she looked into our eyes with her deepest love and concern. It was palpable; she had the ability to speak to someone with those beautiful, deep eyes.

Arpan: By the time I started coming to the Connecticut Centre in February 1972, there were already over 50 disciples. Akuti lived upstairs from the Meditation room. In her apartment there was a book room with all ten of Guru’s books!

At the time there was no Jharna-Kala or music tapes – only two or three vinyl LP albums of Guru singing. Yet Akuti made everything of Guru’s seem so valuable and priceless. The few books we had were quite inexpensive, but Akuti treated everything as a real treasure, and she kept everything pristine and neat.

The Connecticut Centre meetings were open to seekers back then, you didn't have to be a disciple to join them. Guru would be driven up from Queens every Monday night to lead us in meditation. After I attended those sessions as a seeker for about a month – still with my long hair – Akuti escorted me up to the book room after a Monday night meditation. She told me that Guru said if I wanted to keep coming on Monday nights and join the Centre then I knew what I must do. She was very serious about it, and quite powerful in a loving and caring way. She was not specific in her directive; she knew that I knew the rules, so she said nothing more.

At that moment I realized that this was a serious path and that I must ‘grow up’ quickly if I wanted to become part of it. During the long two-hour ride back to my University that night, I thought of this very serious decision I had to make, and all the requirements which went along with joining the Path. Akuti was the perfect motherly instrument who just naturally made one feel the real value of Guru’s path in an unmistakable and convincing way. So the decision was obvious to me.

Pranika: When I started the restaurant, Akuti used to check in with me to see how I was doing. I remember once when I came to the Connecticut Centre meeting, we had only had the restaurant for a few months, and she caught me at the door as I was coming in and she said, "How is it going?"  And I said, "Oh gosh, Akuti, it is really hard, but I am sure it is going to get better." "Well, I don’t think so," she quipped. She basically got you to bolster up and just stick with it.

Pulak: In those early years, there was a special meditation photo of Guru taken in Puerto Rico, which Akuti personally sold. When I asked to buy a copy, Akuti invited me up to her room on the second floor of the Centre. Entering her room was like entering a temple sanctuary, where everything was suffused with a pure and clear light. I felt deeply blessed by Akuti’s saintly presence as she reverently offered the photo to me.

Sometimes when Guru was not able to attend our Centre meetings, Akuti would initiate the meditation by standing up front facing the disciples and meditating for a couple of minutes. During these sessions she would be transformed into a clear beacon for Guru’s light. Many who knew her could attest that she would always radiate this glowing clarity.

She definitely had her lighter side at times, teasing and joking with us, but even those moments were pervaded with a sweet heartfelt sense of joy. She affectionately referred to us as her "Connecticut children", and she spoke of Guru (saying "Guru" in her inimitable way) with a dual sense of a disciple’s love and a mother’s loving adoration of her divinely mischievous child.

She did not believe in saying anything negative about anyone, and even when she had to reprimand us as a group or individually, she delivered her message with a loving concern. What gave her the greatest joy was when she could deliver good news about Guru or from Guru, or a message from Guru saying he was very pleased with the Connecticut Centre. At those times, her maternal pride would swell and joyfully illumine everyone’s heart.

Tanima: One experience in particular from the early days I remember to this day, because it was so very powerful. In the 1970s, Dhrubha and Nayana had a house on 87th Avenue with a very large living room, which was used for many activities and functions, from the New Jersey Centre meetings to rehearsals for all kinds of performances. There was a period when Guru would come there every Sunday morning very early – at 6 a.m. – and hold silent meditations.

Sri Chinmoy blessing Akuti

At one of these meditations Akuti was sitting in the front on the floor (we all sat on the floor in those days!). Guru was seated on his throne. All was silent as Guru was in his highest.  But then all of a sudden he looked down at Akuti and motioned for her to approach him. She knelt in front of him; and as he placed both his hands on her head, blessing her, she wept, saying over and over in a tearful, quiet voice, "It takes so long, it takes so long, it takes so long. . . . ."

The depth of that moment I cannot forget. Here she was, a disciple for maybe only six or seven years, and she was already so fervently crying and aspiring for the goal of goals – total unconditional surrender and God-realisation. She always lived the truth of her spiritual name: aspiration. I don’t think anyone but Guru knew the true magnitude of this extraordinary soul.

Savita: In the early days, Guru often invited different groups of disciples to stand in front of him, face the audience and meditate. Sometimes we were called up according to our age group, the beginning letter of our name or our birthday month. I am sure Guru did this for many reasons, but I believe one reason was for us to receive inspiration from our sisters’ and brothers’ aspiring meditations. Akuti’s meditation was always inspiring to me. With eyes open, serene and deep, her gaze straight ahead, unwavering and reaching far beyond the walls of the room, her meditation conveyed her inner strength, spiritual confidence, profound wisdom and intense love.

Rijuta: Akuti’s sense of humour was sometimes subtle and always charming. An example of this was the adorable stickers she chose to place on cards that she gave on disciple birthdays. Two of her favourite seal collections that I noticed over the years were Pooh Bear and two cute little house mice. One of the seals I received was Pooh Bear doing a somersault. Another was two mice at a party – one mouse (marked ‘Rijuta’) was blowing up a balloon and the other mouse (marked ‘Akuti’) had a large needle ready to burst the balloon. My favourite was entitled, "True friends". Pooh Bear (marked ‘Rijuta’) was enjoying teatime with a friend (marked ‘Akuti’).

Premik: One story about Akuti the divine disciplinarian: after being a disciple for a short while, I was playing in an all-disciple band called Jatra. One Saturday, the band decided it needed to have a rehearsal to prepare for some show or recording. Saturday noon was also my Centre meeting. So I phoned Akuti to politely inform her that I wouldn’t be attending the meeting. When I told why, her response was immediate: "What’s more important…..your God-realisation or that silly band of yours??  Don’t you EVER cancel a meeting again for such a silly reason!!" Of course I don’t remember her exact words after all these years, but it was something of that intensity. I got my priorities straight pretty quickly after that!

Surashri: It was 1973 and I was a hippie. Unsatisfied with my life, some-thing within me was urging me to search Eastern philosophies. I began reading Guru’s book Eastern Light for the Western Mind. I then went to meditation classes, and I met with some disciples, who were extremely friendly and sincerely encouraging. I saw Guru for the first time at the University of Connecticut, and the next step was to go to the Connecticut Centre meeting at Norwalk, held on Saturday afternoons. The meetings were in a basement, but the pristine condition and graceful décor made it eloquent and serene. Akuti, I learned, was the one responsible for this exquisite setting that was wonderfully conducive to meditation.

I remember in those early days Akuti leading the meetings with a kind of "soft" strictness. Her eyes were full of light and she had tremendous poise when she read Guru’s writings to us or spoke to the group. Guru’s requests were conveyed with firmness by Akuti. But when I was struggling with a difficulty related to my transition into the spiritual life and I approached her about it, she was all sympathy. Coming as I was from my undisciplined world, the fact that Akuti was in her fifties (there was a hippie slogan in those days: don’t trust anyone over 30), and that there were many rules and disciplines, could have put me off. But in large part because of Akuti’s manner, I was able to accept all this with a minimum of resistance from within myself.

The third time I attended these meetings, Guru unexpectedly returned early from travel in Europe and came to our meeting. He announced that those of us who had come three times or more would have to decide whether or not to become disciples, otherwise we would not be allowed to continue coming to the Connecticut meetings, but only to the Saturday evening seeker meditations in Manhattan.

As a child, I remember times when, standing at the edge of a swimming pool, I hesitated to jump into the water, knowing there would be a momentary shock of cold. But I also knew it would be followed by a lasting delightful coolness. Similarly, I knew I wanted to become a disciple but delayed. Guru’s ultimatum was the push I needed to take the plunge into the blissful waters of the spiritual life.

The following week I had my long, red ponytail cut off and I put on white clothes for the first time. At the meditation, Guru requested those who wanted to become disciples to stand up. He meditated on each of us, smiled broadly, then bowed his head, but he said not a word.

After the meeting, I went up and asked Akuti if I had been accepted as a disciple. Akuti said, "Guru is pleased with you." I am sure this satisfied my heart and soul, but I was compelled to ask, "Does that mean I am accepted?" Akuti told me that I was. Funny how the most important moment of my life was such a simple one.

Sahishnu: When I had been through a few years of discipleship, Akuti asked me to drive her to the Bayside Church for meditations on Thursdays or Sundays. It was a privilege I enjoyed, as it was a chance to meditate with Guru again at the New York Centre. She would tell short stories about being with Guru in Puerto Rico, where she first met our Master. She even discussed the status of the boys in our Centre, and would tell juicy stories about who was doing well, according to Guru.

One time when we were driving to the Bayside Church, she told me of her experience during a dream. She saw herself in a flowing gown, much like a princess or duchess. Then a great, majestic emperor appeared, with an adorned headpiece, almost like a crown. She saw Guru’s face as the emperor. She was awestruck in the dream, but then suddenly awoke, and felt as if it were real. Astonished, she asked Guru at the appropriate time, a few days later, if this dream was significant, or real. She had similar recollections of this dream beforehand, but never so vividly. She then told me that Guru went into his trance while standing, and in a serious but soft tone, said, "Absolutely true. Your experience was real." Other details escape me, but you can imagine.

My Akuti, in the inner world you are taller than the tallest.

Sri Chinmoy
20 October 2004, at the Gujarati Samaj in Queens:

Akuti receives prasad (food blessed by the Master) from Sri Chinmoy, 1978

Sutushti: She also traveled to Queens a few nights a week to Guru’s house and came home late at night. She started work at 7:30 a.m. in a factory. She had to fully concentrate while working on her machine or the result could have been serious injury.  She was over 60 years old at the time, but instead of slowing down, she performed all tasks with a high standard of perfection.

Akuti with Sri Chinmoy's sister, Lily, at the Connecticut Centre, 1978

In 1976 I moved to Norwalk and Akuti started asking me to drive her places. As the years passed, we followed Guru all over. We drove to New York Centre meetings at the Bayside Church where Guru’s silent meditations left the disciples almost unable to speak. We followed Guru to public meditations, lectures and concerts throughout New York and the surrounding states. Always as she rode in the car, she was preparing herself inwardly to see Guru. We were mostly silent on short trips, and the eager anticipation nullified any thoughts of the outer world.  We just forgot everything in our eagerness to see our Master. We also trusted that Guru would get us to our destination despite any weather or traffic delays. She mentioned recently that we did not miss a Wednesday night meeting because of weather in 30 years! We sometimes got lost but an inner compass (and some help from friendly gas station attendants) helped us to find our destination. I am grateful for these wonderful experiences where we found that Guru really could transcend space and time for us so that we could see him. 

This is called love for her Master. Akuti comes from Connecticut. She comes all the way from Connecticut, and I am very grateful to Sutushti for taking care of her, very nice care of her.

Sri Chinmoy
27 October 2003 - referring to Akuti coming from Connecticut to a Peace Concert held at P.S. 86, Queens, at the age of 87

Nemi: For years, Akuti got up at 4:30 in the morning to go to work at a factory, often after arriving home from meditation in Jamaica late the previous night. She was not a sleeper! Once, in the later years, I asked her if she took any vitamins. She waved her hand gracefully and said, "I don’t believe in any of that stuff." She ate very sparingly and I am sure she invoked prana for her life-energy. She walked a mile every day until her eighties. Her hair was snow-white, her complexion flawless, translucent.

Nidrahara: If Akuti accepted you as a friend, it was forever. Nothing was halfway for Akuti. She gave her love with all of her heart. She deeply appreciated and cared for her spiritual family –especially all of her Connecticut girls and boys. She had a high standard of purity and integrity that most people living today could not understand.

Akuti also had a very high standard in her capacity to love. I knew her in the middle and the end of her life. At the end of her life, I saw her practice love and forgiveness like no one else on this earth, except Guru!! She valued love and forgiveness above all else. She lived love and forgiveness.

If I ever wanted to have the best meditation, I would sit as close as I could to Akuti. I could always feel her purity-light and her inner strength.

Driving to Queens from Stamford, Connecticut was never an easy task for me. It is an hour door-to-door, if there are no major obstructions – i.e., accidents, slippery roads, construction projects, 18-wheeler trucks all around! We were often pushed into one lane or forced to stop completely for long periods of time. In the early days, we were expected to come to Queens despite wind, rain, snow or sleet on several nights during the week. These trips continue to be a white-knuckle experience for me for 33 years now. Sometimes, if Akuti was in the car, while I was enjoying my near-panic state of mind, she was playfully counting groundhogs in the grass along the highway as a game to pass the time! This was our dear, sweet, strong and delightful Akuti.

Nripal: As Guru taught, the spiritual life cannot be separated from life itself. Life is either lived spiritually or not. And maintaining a respectable spiritual standard can be challenging as we navigate life’s journey. Akuti was practical in her approach to contending with this universal challenge. She spoke about the inevitable dry periods and the need to persevere. The importance of forgiveness. The value of maintaining unshakeable faith in the guidance of our Master. The Supreme’s abiding assurance that life’s clouds eventually and always dissipate.

Akuti in the Connecticut Sri Chinmoy Centre, with Nripal, Saral and Arpan

Akuti never glossed over nonsense. When she saw wayward activity or heard wrong thinking, she maintained her silence but offered inner good will. And when occasionally she thought it appropriate to comment, her observations were consistently of an honest, pithy and constructive character.

Savita: A couple of times each year over the course of about twenty years, I had the opportunity to help serve a special meal with a few other girls in the Centre, including Akuti. Invariably, I would ensure that I was working right next to Akuti because I knew I would receive added inspiration from her. While working we would talk all about Guru and I would ask her a multitude of questions about Guru’s life in the late 1960’s and the very early 1970’s. When recalling her first meeting and subsequent experiences with Guru in Puerto Rico, she would always refer to Guru as "my boy, my boy". She painted a picture of Guru, in his late 30s, that was so charming and adorable – how could one not fall in love with him! In every word, I felt and enjoyed Akuti’s sweet affection and loving devotion for Guru.

Akuti, you are our pioneer disciple. Akuti means aspiration, Himalayan aspiration, higher than the highest aspiration. You have proved it in your lifetime. I am extremely grateful to you and extremely proud of you, extremely proud of you. You are a real jewel, a true jewel in our family.

Sri Chinmoy
23 July 2003, While celebrating the 37th anniversary of the Puerto Rico Centre

Kalyani: As the years went by we spent a lot of time together. We drove to New York for meditations in all kinds of weather! It was an hour drive from our home in Connecticut, but no matter what the weather was, we went to see Guru. I remember when the Connecticut Thruway was covered with many inches of snow and we still plowed our way into New York in my little VW bug. She always said it would be fine. Of course, I was the driver and "shaking in my shoes" so to speak, but Akuti said it was OK, so we persevered and always arrived safely. During torrential downpours our joke was, "It’s only water!"

Akuti, my daughter Mohini, and I had many fun trips driving around the Connecticut and New York area. She loved to go to all the old historic houses along the Hudson and take the tours through them. Sometimes we would simply just drive because she loved to see all the trees and countryside.

Akuti was my best friend and I loved her dearly. She was so wise and often would chastise me for thinking and speaking about something in a very silly and probably most unspiritual way! Who knows what would have become of me if it weren’t for her! I will be grateful forever that I was allowed to be Akuti’s companion for many wonderful years. Akuti said that once you were her friend, you would always be her friend.

Meghna: In 1985 I had the sweetest good fortune to make Akuti’s acquaintance. Since we both lived in Connecticut I had the opportunity to give her rides to Queens. During those trips we got to know each other and became good friends. Akuti’s name means "Aspiration" and she was a tremendous spiritual inspiration to me. Plus, we had so much fun together. She had a cute sense of humor and on countless occasions I dissolved in laughter at her stories and her hilarious comments.

I would call Akuti regularly to chat. One day she mentioned that she needed to take care of Louise. I asked, "Who is Louise?" She replied that Louise was her gardenia plant. Louise was a gift Akuti received years before, when Louise was a tiny little plant that sat neatly on a windowsill. Gardenias are extremely difficult to maintain inside a house because they require very specific conditions to thrive. However, under Akuti’s diligent nurturing Louise flourished, expanding to well over three feet in diameter. In this condition she was much too heavy to lift, so her pot was fitted with wheels. Thereafter Louise was a gardenia on the go. Akuti drove Louise around the apartment to catch the sun at different windows and into the kitchen for beauty treatments (trimming and showering). Then when the weather warmed, Akuti parked Louise outside on the porch for her summer vacation. Louise loved Akuti and Akuti loved Louise. There wasn’t a year that went by that Akuti didn’t give me a detailed description of the size and number of her flowers, her fragrance, the condition of her roots and her general demeanor. That was Akuti’s "Louise".

Akuti had a special connection to the gardenia. When a disciple passed away, Akuti first received the message not by phone but with the fragrance of the gardenia.

Nayana: Akuti was mature without being "old", and she was youthful without being frivolous. Practical and extremely grounded, she was a molten core of divinity, constantly reaching upward and offering herself outward to all.

Akuti was a doer. Well into her eighties, if there was a special event at Guru’s house, Guru would ask Akuti to join those serving food in the kitchen rather than remain seated in his living room as the honoured guest that she also was.

Akuti had a wonderful sense of humor. She once told me that she had worked as a psychiatric nurse in a hospital for insane priests and nuns many years earlier. "Good practice for the Centre, don’t you think?" she remarked.

Akuti’s kindness and concern sprang not merely from good manners or a sense of duty, but from her loving heart. With her halo of short white curls, Akuti usually sat somewhere in front of me in the New York meditation meetings.  Many of us behind her were sometimes exhausted from a day’s work and were slipping off into dreamland, when Akuti came to our rescue by surreptitiously passing back little chocolate candies to keep us awake. She always kept a good supply on hand.

Arpan: In 1992, Guru asked me to make prasad cookies every year to honour Akuti on her birthday on 30 November. One of the last functions Guru would have before leaving on the yearly Christmas Trip would include this special prasad for Akuti. Guru would hand out the prasad individually to each disciple and then honor Akuti. It was a great privilege and honor for me to be part of this special celebration for Akuti.

Arpan and Akuti hold Akuti's birthday cake, with Sri Chinmoy looking on.

A selection of Sri Chinmoy’s comments on Akutis birthday

"Akuti is my oldest, dearest and wisest disciple. Her name is aspiration. She has proved to me and to our Lord Beloved Supreme what aspiration truly is.

20 November 2002

My heart’s infinite and infinite love, gratitude, sweetness and fondness – gratitude and gratitude and gratitude….In my family you are a real jewel – real, real jewel in my heart-shrine.

19 November 2003

Now we are celebrating our dearest Akuti’s birthday. She is one of the main pillars, plus one of our pioneer-disciples. Akuti means aspiration, climbing cry. I love her and treasure her dearly in the very depth of my heart. Akuti, kindly come and stand, in front of me. (Everybody sings the Happy birthday song composed by Sri Chinmoy.)

"Arpan has made cookies larger than the largest, and I have already devoured one. They are supremely excellent, excellent, excellent, larger than the largest cookies. (Akuti holds the cake and everyone sings the universally-known Happy Birthday song.) Now Arpan bring the cookies, and bring the rest of the Prasad.

20 November 2004

My dearest Akuti, you are my soul’s, my heart’s and my life’s true joy and true pride. My dearest Akuti, you are my soul’s, my heart’s and my life’s true joy and true pride.

(After singers sang Akutir Shesh Nai, Guru offered a translation:) "The desire-life has an end, but the aspiration-heart has no end, no end."
You are the living proof.

(After Guru joins everybody in singing the international birthday song) Arpan, bring your famous cookie. Akuti has seen 90 summers!

12 November 2005

Sameepa: In 2002, I seriously injured my neck and was unableto drive myself to Wednesday’s meditation in Queens. Sutushti and Akuti were kind enough to drive me with the understanding that Akuti meditated during the drive down to P.S. 86, so the conversation would be limited. When I got into the car, Akuti cordially visited for a short time and then sat quietly meditating.

Much later, I realized Akuti’s commitment to Guru. Often Guru would remind disciples to meditate as soon as they entered the school and prior to his coming. Here was Akuti heeding his instructions and preparing an hour in advance for Guru’s arrival. How pleased Guru must have been with her.

Sri Chinmoy speaks with Akuti during a meditation function in Aspiration-Ground, Queens

Nilima: As a teenager joining the path in 1968, I was in awe of Akuti as a serious seeker of the ultimate Truth. I admired her tremendous inner height and depth, but most remarkable was her humility and oneness with all of us, and she flooded the members of her spiritual family with compassion and concern.

So it is not surprising that even 35 years later, when my mother started coming regularly to receive Guru’s blessings at our Friday night meetings, she was also the lucky recipient of Akuti’s continuing kindness and affection. Guru considered both my father and mother disciples in their later years, and after my father’s passing in 2003, my brother would bring my mother religiously to our Friday meditations. Akuti literally welcomed her each time with open arms; and my mother, who was just a year younger at 87, was so happy to have a true friend, especially another octogenarian, and eventually nonagenarian.

27/3/05

My dear Guru,

Intelligence – Wisdom –
I feel the heart is the preacher
and yet many who are intelligent
are lacking in Wisdom.

Wisdom to me comes only
     from the soul –
The ever-knowing All
Like a mirror –
    reflecting the Face of God.

All my Love,
Akuti

Tanima: Starting in April 2005 through April 2009, I was so fortunate to be a part of a three-member team of Akuti, Archee and myself that performed at at our international Celebrations every April and August. Our performance always started with Akuti reading some of Guru’s poems; she immediately elevated our offering by her very deep and soulful readings. This was followed by my singing a few songs of Guru’s that were arranged and accompanied by Archee on keyboard.

In the last maybe five years of her life, I was also very fortunate to have the opportunity of visiting her several times, always along with my dear friend Nidrahara, first at Kalyani’s house in Ridgefield, Connecticut and then in Bar Harbor, Maine. I was so proud and impressed with Akuti that, at her place in Maine, she without fail got up and walked up and down the halls with her walker at least five times a day. When I’d telephone her and she’d say, "I just finished walking" and I’d praise her, she always said, "I promised Michael (Kalyani's husband) I would do it, and I always keep my promise." And she walked fast – a few times when we visited, we walked with her and could hardly keep up!

It was the last visits in Bar Harbor that I remember with deepest joy and gratitude. For the time she was in Maine, Nidrahara and I flew up there twice a year to visit her. Akuti was always the perfect hostess. She always had a small, sweet gift for each of us that Kalyani either procured or made herself on Akuti’s behalf.  But Akuti was always involved in the selection of the item and colour scheme. The last gifts we received were gloves knitted by Kalyani, and Akuti had picked out all the colours for each of our pairs of gloves. That was her sweetest concern, love and gratitude.

Sometimes on our first day of the visit, we would go out in Kalyani’s car, Akuti sitting in the front seat with Rusty – Kalyani’s small poodle who adored Akuti – on her lap, driving up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, to what is known as the highest point in the whole Eastern seaboard. The view overlooking the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean is spectacular. Akuti loved the weekly drives with Kalyani to see the beauty of the trees, mountains and ocean.

Bar Harbour, viewed from Acadia National Park

Then the next day just Nidrahara and I would visit her for about an hour.  We would talk about Guru, and she often spoke particularly of love and forgiveness. Even in my weekly telephone conversations, love and forgiveness was a constant theme. During our visit, I always would sing Guru’s songs for her, particularly the ones with her name in them, and her eyes would fill with tears; and then my eyes would fill with tears – but happy tears for the gift of being able to offer something of Guru with my heart to this beautiful, supremely deep and high soul. It was also during one of our visits, as we were talking about Guru and our spiritual lives, when we learned from Akuti that Guru had told her she had been evolving on this earth for 5,000 years.

Arpan: Akuti was born in 1915 and would have been 99 years old in November 2014. The last time Guru handed out her birthday cookies was in 2006 when she was 91 years old. We continue to honor her birthday every year with special prasad cookies. She lived quite happily and healthily for another eight years until her sudden passing in September 2014. Although she did not quite make it to 100 years on earth, her very powerful aspiration and loving presence can still be felt by those of us who knew her. We are so grateful for her long, inspiring and aspiring life, and her sincere and complete dedication to Guru and his Path. If you are ever in Queens at the end of November, you can be certain that we will still have special prasad cookies in honor of Akuti’s birthday.

Thoughts

I awaken at daybreak,
My thoughts are of you.
My eyes find the sky – they flood    
    in exquisite delight.
Tears so soft,
A caress to my cheeks – suddenly    
    my thoughts are lost –
Silence takes hold.
Slowly I sink in that merciful realm,
Devoid of all thought
– all vastness    
    and space.
The breeze of Bliss blows through    
    the windows of my Soul
In profound Meditation.
Who knows what lies within my heart?
The arts and foolish fancies lost.
Oh Self, reveal Thy Self.
Oh Saviour Soul, set me free!

Akuti
published 1968 5

Have you seen the Buddha?

A 2002 performance by Sri Chinmoy on the pipe organ

Spiritual Masters who have truly realised God are very rare souls, and most human beings will almost certainly never encounter one. And if they did, how many would recognise in this encounter a being who had scaled the highest heights? For the lives of God-realised souls are characterised by humility and simplicity, not the overt trappings of pomp, power, and status that characterise most other forms of human celebrity.

There is an illustrative story of an ascetic in search of the Buddha. He travelled far and wide, at last coming to stay for a night in a house where the Buddha was also staying. “Have you seen the Buddha?” he asked, but unaware of what the Buddha would look like, he continued on his way the next day, disappointed and still searching. In the same way you could pass an enlightened Master in the street, but without some training of your own, you would in all probability be unaware of who had just passed you by.

In late 1989 Guru was in New Zealand for a few days. One afternoon following a pipe organ performance at the Auckland Town Hall, at his request we took him to a local gym. In a bright yellow dhoti after his concert he was an unusual figure, seemingly a small unassuming Indian man in his early sixties with two or three attendants.

Well known for his feats of strength, and for his advocacy of meditation as a key to transcendence in all areas of accomplishment, in no time he had a small group of weightlifters and bodybuilders around him. They were keen to ask questions and determine for themselves the authenticity of the stories they had heard about his achievements.

Forcing the soul back into the body

One of Sri Chinmoy’s students, an Indian man named Mitra, was shot in the chest in a parking lot in Queens. His wife immediately sent a message to Sri Chinmoy, who asked one of the Centre doctors and myself, as a nurse, to go right away to the hospital. Sri Chinmoy himself came very quickly, but the doctors would not let him into the emergency room.  We told them that Sri Chinmoy was the family priest, but they said that the case was not very serious, that the patient’s condition was stable and that he did not need a priest.

The family was about to leave the hospital for a while, but Sri Chinmoy told them most urgently, “Don’t leave — stay here and pray and meditate. His case is very serious. He is dying!” At that point I saw that Mitra’s blood pressure was dropping rapidly, his pulse was weak and thready, and his colour was ashen white.  We alerted the doctors, who then saw his condition was critical. He was given volumes of blood and electrolyte solution intravenously to replace lost blood and increase blood pressure.

Because of the position of the bullet near his heart and his deteriorating condition, the doctors were not hopeful.  A team of three surgeons operated for four hours. The chief surgeon was surprised that Mitra survived the surgery, but remained very guarded in his prognosis. They had stopped the bleeding and tried to repair the damage to the tissue, but the bullet could not be removed.  We all felt Sri Chinmoy’s meditation-power constantly at the hospital and around Mitra and his family. Sri Chinmoy asked me to stay there twenty-four hours a day, and to call him every hour with an update. The family also kept a vigil day and night in the hospital chapel.

In the surgical intensive care unit, Mitra quickly improved, but he was unable to talk because of the endotracheal tube in his throat.  With two chest tubes, four IV lines and catheters, he could not move, either.A few days later, when he was taken for an x-ray, Mitra suffered a cardiac arrest. Sri Chinmoy was contacted immediately.  He later told us that he had meditated most powerfully and three times he had literally forced the soul back into the body. He explained that he had done so for the sake of Mitra’s children. The soul wanted to leave because the body was so shattered. But the children were still young and needed their father.

'It's a miracle you're alive'

It has often been said that we make the most progress when we have to overcome obstacles or hardships. I have had the firsthand experience that this is true, but that experience almost cost me my life!

One hot, quiet Saturday afternoon in July of 1976, I was working in the back room of our stationery store. I was alone in the store; the front door was open, and I was busy doing paperwork, figuring I could hear if anyone came in and needed help. I was wrong. Suddenly I heard a noise and the moment I looked up, I knew I was in serious trouble. Just one foot away, an evil-looking man stood staring at me, seething with hatred. Those few seconds of frozen silence felt like an eternity.

Stunned, I jumped out of my chair. The man instantly charged at me as if to stab me. I covered my chest, expecting to be attacked with a knife, but instead he smashed me over the head with a lead pipe he had concealed in his other hand. It all seemed to be happening in slow motion, and I remember thinking to myself after the second or third blow, “What is wrong with you? Why aren’t you invoking help from Sri Chinmoy and God the Supreme?” I started chanting aloud, “Guru, Supreme, Guru, Supreme” — each time this hostile being struck, I would cry out, “Guru, Supreme!”

After seven or eight blows I fell to the ground, but he continued to attack me. I was convinced he was trying to kill me, when suddenly, for no apparent reason, he stopped. He grabbed my wallet and wristwatch and sauntered out of the store.

Back in those days there was almost no business on a summer weekend, and I might have lain there for hours, but miraculously within seconds a friend came into the store and spotted me curled up on the floor in a pool of blood, holding my head. She sank to her knees and started crying hysterically. I was so moved that anyone would care enough about me to cry like that; I even tried to calm her down by saying, “Don’t worry, I’m okay.”

Of course, I wasn’t really okay. The police came, and an ambulance took me to the hospital, where they discovered that my scalp had been split open in several places. Sri Chinmoy had just flown in from somewhere to JFK Airport, and when he got the news he came straight to the hospital.

Well, now two of us know

In a dream five years after Guru passed away, he looked at me pointedly and asked lovingly yet knowingly, “Is everything okay?”

My initial reaction was to say, “Yes, yes, of course,” (partly out of a desire to not create any problems for Guru – which is actually totally stupid because if something is not okay, then Guru is the exact person to fix it – and partly out of embarrassment in not wanting to acknowledge that I was having a problem).

Just as I was about to respond within this dream, I remembered a situation in real life when Guru had gently inquired as to why he had not been seeing me around. I had responded by saying nonchalantly, “Oh Guru, I’ve been very busy working on the World Harmony Run,” when the real reason was that I was extremely upset with another disciple and also very mad at Guru because that disciple was very close to Guru. (I think that if I had actually admitted that to Guru, I would have burst into tears and totally broken down—there was so much emotion bottled up in the situation. Upon reflection, I think Guru was trying to help me release that emotion rather than let it fester.)

Anyway, Guru sadly acknowledged my response and lovingly requested that I come to functions. That very evening, Guru launched into a long public discourse, talking generally about disciples being honest with him and how he can see through our half-truths and evasive responses as easily as you or I might drink a glass of water. Listening to this, I fidgeted in my seat.

Having learned from this real-life experience, when Guru asked me in the dream if everything was okay, I said that I would like to tell him privately what was bothering me (in this dream I was in Guru’s house and there were other people around).

We went into Guru’s kitchen, where I was alone with him, and I explained my problem.Guru said, “You should have said something earlier, because you need help.” I was about to point out that Guru had passed away five years earlier, but I held my tongue as I knew Guru would get very upset with me. He would launch into a whole talk about whether I believed in the inner world and all that. (Which of course I did, as this whole exchange was taking place in the inner world, in my dream!)

Guru then reassuringly followed up with, “Well, now two of us know.” I knew that what he meant was, “Now you can rely on me to fight this battle with you.” And because I do believe in the inner world and the inner life, I felt confident in this reassurance, which helped me to face the situation.

'Tell Guru she is dying; we don’t know what else to do'

During an evening concert given by Sri Chinmoy in New York in 1990, it suddenly felt difficult for me to breathe. My fellow disciple Kritagyata, who is a nurse, wrote a note to Sri Chinmoy to alert him, and Sri Chinmoy replied that she should immediately take me to the hospital.

That night in the hospital was very difficult, even with the oxygen and all the medication the physicians gave me. In the morning I awoke, exhausted, to find a priest praying near me. (It was a Catholic hospital.) My diagnosis was a pulmonary embolism; clots from both my legs had gone into my lungs. Being a physician myself, I knew the chance of surviving was small, and my heart began to talk with Sri Chinmoy. I said, “If it is good and necessary that I continue to work on this earth, please come help me!” I felt like I was suffocating and knew that medical science could not do anything more.

Shortly after, I was sure that I saw Sri Chinmoy sitting near my bed. He told some of his students afterwards that my soul had been calling him very powerfully. Sri Chinmoy’s mighty presence was necessary for only seven or eight seconds before I again began to breathe normally.  With tears of gratitude I told him, “Dear Guru, thank you for my life; again I can breathe easily.” Sri Chinmoy answered inwardly that I did not take adequate care of my physical body, which is the youngest member of our inner family — body, vital, mind, heart and soul. He advised me to postpone an upcoming trip to Russia.

A new decision was made about my illness when other clots were found in the lungs. “Urgent surgery” was the reply of the vascular surgeon. He put a filter into the vena cava, the large vein in my abdomen, to catch and prevent new clots in my legs from going towards my lungs. But, two hours after the operation, the same feeling of suffocation returned with severe pain in the lungs.Nothing more could help me physically. I knew at this moment, as before, that only Sri Chinmoy could help me. The cause of this second approach of death was the complications of recurrent pulmonary emboli during the operation and accompanying pleuritis. This affected my breathing even more, and I wasn’t getting the necessary oxygen into my body.

The last thing I heard, before I closed my eyes at about 2 a.m., was Kritagyata phoning Ashrita, who gives messages to Sri Chinmoy. She said, “Tell Guru she is dying.  We don’t know what else to do.” Never will I forget her face hovering over me with so much love and compassion. A smile of gratitude came from my soul, and then I lost consciousness with the sure feeling that I was in the hands of the Supreme.

When I opened my eyes, it was 7 a.m. … I was alive. During my absence from the earthly environment, I had seen the most beautiful landscape that one can imagine: sweet green meadows full of flowers, rivers, butterflies and birds, and big forests with a pure, mild atmosphere. I remember hearing a divine, quiet music and seeing wonderful colours.After I left the hospital, I often wished to see and feel that unearthly beauty.  This wish was so strong and repeated so often that some friends decided to tell Sri Chinmoy about it.

One day at his tennis court, Sri Chinmoy called me to come and sit on a chair next to him. We meditated for about ten minutes, though to tell the truth, I lost track of the time. I felt the vibration of a very powerful energy around my hands and head, and after a few seconds, around all of my being. With this energy came an excellent, pure joy and delight. I saw a yellow aura around Sri Chinmoy’s head. I had wanted it to last forever, this extraordinary feeling of losing the body and finding satisfaction in the pure joy of existence.

So Sri Chinmoy gave me another life and showed me what I must still learn in my stay on this earth: how to maintain this divine consciousness. He gave me the faith and knowledge that the Being who is all love, goodness and compassion will always do what is best for us and for everybody. This truth brings divine peace, in life and in death. This was the wonderful lesson my heart learned that April: how, with Sri Chinmoy’s help, to overcome the fear of death.

An early spiritual experience

From a young age, I was really determined to learn how to meditate. Of course right away as soon as I started meditating with Guru, my meditations got better. I remember sitting in front of my shrine for hours. This was way back in my first few months on the path, and I had a deep and real spiritual experience. I came downstairs, and my mother looked at me and said, “There is something different about you. Did you get a haircut?” She could not understand. I had really had an enlightening experience. So I went to our group meditation, and after the meditation Guru was still in a very high state of consciousness. He eventually came down from his height and said something like, “Oh, now some of you think that just because you have had a spiritual experience, you have realised the highest. No, no, no. You have a long way to go.”

I knew right away that Guru was talking to me. I felt very embarrassed, but it was also good because Guru made it clear that this was only the beginning. It was nice, because Guru usually does not like us to share our spiritual experiences with other people, but this one particular time he said, “If you have had a spiritual experience, then you can come up and tell about your most profound experience.”

So I went up and spoke about my experience, although I did not say what had happened—that Guru had exposed me (although no one knew it was me). I just said that the experience and its effect went on for a few days, but then it went away. Guru responded, “No, no, no! It did not go away. It will always remain carved on the tablet of your heart.”

Video
Ashrita talks about his spiritual journey, which has led to him setting hundreds of Guinness world records

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