You only have to keep your eyes and ears open
According to my parents, I was a really fat but very happy baby. Love and a lot of food were the two main reasons for that! After one year things became more animated: I had learned to walk, and very quickly the well-fed, sitting and reclining "Buddha-baby" became a little weasel that kept everyone on the go while enthusiastically exploring its surroundings.
I liked to learn and was interested in everything, and therefore I was a good student. In high school, I learned about meditation from my religion teacher, a kindhearted, patient, older man with white hair. He wanted to get more than 20 teenagers to sit quietly and dive deep within. Well, that was a courageous undertaking on his part. As far as I remember he had perseverance; he tried several times but we could not or would not follow him into the world of silence. At least the experience stayed in my memory.
At university I attended a seminar that incorporated so-called nature meditation. I enjoyed these sessions. To become calm, to breathe and simply to be was refreshing. Afterwards I always felt newborn, replenished and fresh.
On my way to university I saw again and again esoteric posters (as I called them) offering free meditation classes and other events. I will go there when I have time, I decided. Time passed, I finished my studies and moved back to my home town to become a teacher. But all that did not really fulfil me. I felt confined and misunderstood by the world. For 20 years we eagerly aspire for this kind of life, the life of an adult? Great! Another 50 years and we are ready for the graveyard! Is this the only goal of our joyful expectation, then? Crazy! Such thinking was beyond me, and I simply could not believe that this would be all.
At that time I was into esoteric and Eastern philosophy. I devoured tons of books. The idea of reincarnation and karma, in particular, seemed logical and, above all, very, very just. To live only once on this earth, to take all the trouble to learn how to speak and walk for just one single lifetime and then to remain forever in Heaven or hell: that seemed like a harsh theory. The idea that the soul keeps taking on a new body again and again in order to gain experiences, to mature and finally to attain to perfection made much more sense to me!
I was equally inspired by the law of karma: everything that we do has repercussions and – sooner or (much) later – we personally receive the bill with a plus or minus balance. That means we cannot escape the responsibility for our actions, and we will definitely get good or not-so-good karma for them. If we spend our whole life killing ourselves to play the piano really well, we might be an excellent pianist or musician in our next life even by the age of 4. If we practise sports all our life and keep in shape, we will probably have a strong and healthy body in our next life. These examples are very simplistic, but they gave me hope and courage. The idea behind them gave my life a deeper meaning: once again I am on this planet to learn how to become a perfect human being, and I will come back yet again, rested, to undertake more adventures. That’s how it is!
Yes, this perspective changed my life. I knew why I got up early in the morning and why I sometimes had to deal with difficult children. I had come here to learn how to widen my experience, improve my actions and become a better person. In my favourite books I kept reading about the path of the heart and hearing that one should always follow or listen to one’s heart. It sounded great! But in practical life it was a completely different story that caused me unending difficulties.
I read that meditation is the key to the heart. It quiets the loud voice of the mind and then you should be able to perceive the soft voice of the heart. A few weeks later something happened. God knows how many times I had heard that it is highly advisable to have a teacher or to look for one. For everything it is extremely helpful to have a good teacher by our side to teach us the right technique that will help us to make progress and to experience joy while constantly improving in a particular field, whether it be playing the guitar, skiing, building houses or baking. Everybody knows from their own experience that there are great teachers and not-so-good teachers. The good ones are nice and witty, we learn faster and more, the learning process is easier, we develop interest and curiosity and it is a lot of fun! And if we aren’t doing too well one day, a good teacher will be understanding and help us with words and deeds. It was absolutely clear to me: I had to find this good teacher that fulfilled all the criteria mentioned above. I was very grateful for already having learned about and come to value some of these teachers, and they had become role models for me. Now I needed to find the meditation teacher.
A new adventure began that led me to New York. I experienced the fact that you do meet your teacher if you really want to do so, with all your heart. Then you literally attract him to you. You only have to keep your eyes and ears open.
New York turned out to be a real treasure chest of meditation teachers. On every corner there was an esoteric bookshop, a café, a restaurant, a yoga centre or a health food store, and everywhere you could find ads and information about events. I attended a free meditation class. I found the class boring, since I had been meditating for some time already. Only when the instructor started speaking about her teacher did I listen attentively. She spoke with so much love about him: Sri Chinmoy. Shortly before my departure for New York I had heard about Sri Chinmoy. I knew that he lived in New York and now I learned that he would be holding a meditation in Manhattan soon. I got an invitation with a beautiful colour photo of Sri Chinmoy. I already had one of his pictures hanging in my room – a black and white copy of another picture that was on the meditation class flier. I went to the meditation in Manhattan.
Wow! That’s the only thing I can say. That was about all that came to my mind that evening. My usually extremely busy brain had gone on a short vacation that night, and it was disconnected. At the end of the event, Sri Chinmoy handed out an orange and a message for the coming year. I walked up to the stage to receive my gifts and then walked back to my seat as if in trance.
When I arrived home, I was still 'alone' - without my familiar thought-world. My roommate looked at me, surprised, and asked if everything was OK. I just nodded and disappeared into my room. Something had happened and it felt good! Yes, it really felt good! I didn’t want to make a hasty decision, so I bought – besides books by Sri Chinmoy – very inspiring books by other meditation teachers. Nevertheless, The Wings of Joy by Sri Chinmoy became my absolutely favourite book.
A few weeks later I went, as I did every Sunday, to my favourite restaurant in Queens, Annam Brahma, where everything is homemade – even the delicious chai, an Asian spiced tea. Disciples of Sri Chinmoy run the vegetarian restaurant, and I told them that I also wanted to become a disciple. My heart was jumping with joy when I said it.
Thus my decision was made, even though it wasn’t really a decision any more. Day by day it became clearer to me that Sri Chinmoy was the one I was looking for. When I looked at his picture I felt a warm glow around my heart, and the same thing happened when I read his books. My adventure was over, but a new and equally fascinating one had begun: my life as a disciple of Sri Chinmoy.
First steps on the spiritual path
More stories from Sri Chinmoy's students.
Muhammad Ali: I was expecting a monster, but I found a lambSevananda Padilla San Juan, Puerto Rico
A spiritual name is the name of our soul, and what we can becomeNayak Polissar Seattle, United States
I just knew from the moment I saw himAshrita Furman New York, United States
The day when everything beganBhagavantee Paul Salzburg, Austria
I was just so transported by the atmospherePulak Viscardi New York, United States
A Mountain MeditationJogyata Dallas Auckland, New Zealand
Time seemed to freezeBrahmata Michael Ottawa, Canada
My love of spiritual poetryManatita Hutchinson London, United Kingdom
'Always say things in such a way as to inspire people, not discourage them'Pradhan Balter Chicago, United States
How sports and fitness became part of our spiritual lifeBanshidhar Medeiros San Juan, Puerto Rico
If a wish comes from the soul, it will be grantedKamalakanta Nieves New York, United States
interviews with Sri Chinmoy's students