Last-Minute Plans

When our loved ones die, we journey to their wake, to offer our respects. It is the same in the spiritual life as in the “regular” life. So I can barely understand why, for the first few days after Sri Chinmoy’s passing, I stayed at home, content simply to write online tributes to him, while many of my spiritual brothers and sisters were in New York, paying their respects to him at his meditation garden. We had nightly meditations at our Centre, in which his Canberra-based students (or at least, those who remained at home) would meet. But it wasn’t the same. As I heard of the memorial service, a beautiful event attended by many of his friends, I knew I had missed something special.

Four days after Guru’s death, I finally decided to stop waiting. Early in the morning, I phoned an airline and booked a flight to New York for that afternoon (the most expensive flight to NY I’ve ever booked – but I couldn’t exactly pick and choose). I quickly threw together a few clothes in a sports bag, which was easily done. As most of my clothes were in a washing basket, waiting to be thrown in the machine, I just took whatever was still in the cupboard. (My dirty washing will have to wait an extra week.)

After a few phone calls – of the “Hi, I won’t be able to make it to dinner on Friday” variety – I jumped in my car, made the three-hour drive to Sydney and flew to New York. By that evening, after a long-extended day, I was in the meditation garden. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Indeed, I wondered why I had hesitated.

It was obvious, of course. While I have always been happy to fly overseas, for any number of spiritual reasons, I have rarely possessed the sense of spontaneity needed for the thankfully rare moments like this, which require me to drop everything immediately, even if it means seeing off someone who meant so much to me. He always talked about the importance of spontaneity – and judging by their swift arrivals in New York, most of his students seemed to have taken it to heart. Sadly, not this one.

At least, not to the same extent. Friends of mine with full-time jobs were able to quickly arrange leave with their sympathetic employers, not wasting time. I have a flexible work situation, but I was still hesitant. “Too expensive”, “too awkward”, all the usual excuses.

Happily, I eventually came to my senses - and to NY. I saw my Guru at rest, and attended his burial ceremony. It was worth every cent, every minute, every moment of the last-minute rush. Had I come any later, I would have missed everything.

Thanks to my lack of spontaneity, I was forced to be more spontaneous than ever before.

Thank you, Guru. Even your passing reminds me that there is still so much I need to learn from you. May I continue to learn.

For more (many more) heartfelt tributes to Sri Chinmoy, see: