One afternoon, perhaps seven or eight years ago, I was working at Oneness-Fountain-Heart, behind the cash register. A respectable-looking middle-aged gentleman came in and looked around the restaurant, gazing appreciatively at our original Jharna-Kalas, and also at the television monitor which showed some of Sri Chinmoy's recent inspirational activities. Finally he picked out two cassette tapes from the display and approached the counter.
As I was ringing him up, I noticed that he looked familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I asked him if we had met before. He responded by asking me how long I had been a disciple. When I told him, he explained to me that he left the Centre just a few years after I came. Probably I recognized him from one of my early Celebrations.
He spoke a beautiful, formal kind of English, and I asked him which part of England he came from. I was embarrassed when he told me that actually he came from Australia! (Not, mind you, that there's anything wrong with being Australian; it's just that I take some ill-founded pride in my accent-recognition ability.) He added that he had grown up speaking very, very proper English at home, which was why people often thought he was British. He is now an international businessman, and he explained to me that he was driving across the United States for his company. He wanted the tapes so that he could hear Guru's voice as he drove around America.
I thanked him for stopping by and he gave me a sweet smile. As he was leaving, I reflected on the fact that not all people who leave a spiritual group take an apostate stance. In fact, I remember how Guru once said that some of the so-called "former-disciples" are actually closer than the closest to his heart!
I heard from a friend that Guru once remarked that some of the people who left long ago actually continue to make spiritual progress because they remember what they received from Guru, and they treasure those experiences in their hearts.
I can think of no better way to spend my time than to remember my own experiences with Guru, and the love and compassion he showered on us so magnanimously.