Gratitude to Sri Chinmoy

When my father died a few years ago, I was thinking of what Sri Chinmoy might say. His words, ever inspired and powerful, would also be very comforting. I read some of his aphorisms to get me through the day.

“Death is natural. Nothing natural can be detrimental. Death is rest. Rest is strength in disguise for a further adventure.

“Death says that it is immortal. Man’s achievements say, 'Death, you are right. But the truth of the matter is that we shine perpetually upon your very breast. Not only that, we shine forever in you, through you and beyond you.'”

At the time, Sri Chinmoy was in Australia, and I was with him in Queensland. When he received the sad news, he called me to stand in front of him, then meditated - silently and powerfully - for a few minutes. At the end, he smiled, as if to say “Your father is fine.” Though he has written millions of words, his meditations could say so much with no words at all.

Now Sri Chinmoy has also passed away.

I recall his words that I read, the ones I used to cope with my father’s death. It’s only fair that Dad returns the favour. When I was a small child, I innocently asked my father why people become so sad when their friends and relatives die, why so many tears are shed over something so inevitable. Is it really sad when people die?

“Of course,” he said. “Everyone should live forever.”

Like many, many others, I always felt very close to Sri Chinmoy, so I have some sadness that I will never again see his smiling and peaceful face. Yet I don’t have any of the sense of loss I felt when my father died. When that happened, I was very upset because, with all his wonderful qualities, he had never achieved all he could have, or should have achieved. You could blame his fate, or his all-too-human weaknesses, but it seemed that his death had come too soon.

Sri Chinmoy, however, was a man who accomplished all that anyone could accomplish in a mere 76 years. Even in his final weeks – I last saw him early in September – he was active, still demonstrating humanity's unlimited power. Had he not been taken from us, of course, he would still have done more – writing poetry, lifting incredible weights, drawing Soul-Birds, playing meditative music, or simply showing his love for the world through his supreme meditation.

Here in Australia, it is four in the morning as I write this. I was informed of his passing just a couple of hours ago. Unable to sleep, I sat in front of my meditation shrine and sang forty of his compositions.

In 2004, on the fortieth anniversary of his arrival in the West, I surveyed members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre on their favourite songs that he had composed. In a project heavily inspired by my pop-culture interests, I compiled a “Top 40” from the result. Two hours ago, after meditating briefly, I took out the songbook and sang all forty of these wonderful songs, only stopping to pause after “Usha Bala Elo”. This was the song that made me decide all those years ago, in just three lines, that I wanted to be his student.

I was thinking of the other things I might do today. I’m in the middle of a project for the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Canberra, in which I am (very) gradually converting our collection of VHS videos to DVD format. It has taken over a year, partly as there is so much material, and partly because I keep delaying the project, packing away the videotapes so that they stop cluttering the carpet while something else comes to take over my time.

Yesterday I copied a rare gem – a documentary from 1974 called The Life of Sri Chinmoy. Originally a 16mm film, it is not of the best quality, but it was still a wonderful look back, seeing an old friend long before I knew him, but already saying so much more with a silent meditation than I could ever say with millions of words. But I was thinking “This needs to be updated – and of course, with all he does, it needs to be updated every week!”

Now, I guess, we can have the ultimate version. He has left a wonderful legacy. So many thousands of songs I haven’t yet learned, and probably won’t have time to learn in this life (though I’ll do my best). So many books I have yet to read. So much wisdom I should use in my life. His time on this world is over, but like any great man, his work will exist for many centuries to come.