Tribute to Dharmaja
- As some of you may have already heard, our dear friend and brother
Dharmaja (Donald Acterman), passed away on Friday, August 15. He had
been bedridden in a hospital in New York City since October 2006 after
suffering from a stroke caused by a brain tumor which happened to be
During that time of almost two years in the hospital he maintained a
very good demeanor and consciousness and was pleasant to be around.
For those of us who were fortunate to be able to visit him regularly,
we learned much from his experience and his own attitude towards his
ill health. He understood that it was just the body that was failing
and that it was important to remain cheerful and grateful for all we
have in life. The following is an excerpt from one of a few posts that
he dictated to me to share on the Inspiration Site:
"If you do not have an abundance of cheerfulness and if you want to get
it, then again Guru's philosophy is the guideline. `Banat, banat,
It's a saying in Bengali which means `little by little you
accomplish the goal'.
So if you can face even one of your life's difficulties with
cheerfulness, then you have started yourself on the road to the
constant embodiment of cheerfulness. So you have to start with one
thing and then you can expand to many things.
Cheerfulness force is an unconditional gift from the Supreme. You can
work to create it by cherishing cheerfulness everyday. In my case my
cheerfulness is an unconditional gift from God. By cherishing this
gift and by giving value to this gift I am able to maintain it and
even increase it."
For those who knew Dharmaja and are inspired to write something about
him, I would encourage you to do so soon. We would like to have a
collection of tributes to him to share here and to offer his parents
as well. His parents, Joe and Rose, who are both close to 90 years
old, are both very sweet and were very kind to Dharmaja and his
friends. They respected our path and our Guru and at one point in
their lives they even went to meditation classes. They live in
California and did not get to see Dharmaja that often when he was
bedridden in New York as it was difficult for them to travel although
they did come a few times a year.
To me Dharmaja was an example of a longtime disciple of Sri Chinmoy
who did not give up even in the worst of times in his spiritual
journey. He had his problems and misunderstandings but never seemed to
get bitter or hold grudges on others. He tried to remain cheerful even
in the worst situations, always bringing in some form of humor and
lighthearted comments to ease the pain and tension.
Dharmaja was a talented musician who loved to sing his Guru's music,
accompanying himself on one of many of his guitars. He had a
brilliant mind and was able to figure out difficult problems in
logical ways, both with the computer when necessary and without it as
well. Dharmaja took good care of his body, trying to stay fit through
exercise and proper diet. He loved to race-walk and was quite
accomplished at it in his earlier years.
Most importantly, Dharmaja valued his spiritual path, his spiritual
Guru and his spiritual family. He also loved and respected his parents
and family throughout his long and fruitful life. When he suffered the
completely unexpected turn of events in his health he fought back in a
most determined way, and with the support of his loved ones, he lived
well beyond the original 6 months that was predicted by the doctors.
For the next year and 10 months Dharmaja gained the respect of all the
hospital staff, doctors and specialists whom he encountered. His
nurses and doctors looked forward to his jokes, his wit and his wisdom
as well. It was a joy to visit him in his hospital room that he shared
with three others even though the hospital setting is not the most
pleasant to be in for most people.
Dharmaja will be missed by his near and dear ones and by all those who
were fortunate enough to share in some of his humor and wisdom over
the years. His spirit is still strong and I feel, as others also do,
that Dharmaja and his strong and cheerful personality will live on in
our hearts forever.
- Lunchtimes, on the wide pavement near the back gate of Annam Brahma,
on the road leading to the park where our meals are served. Dharmaja
sitting with his guitar, playing and singing in the sunshine.
Gradually a flock of disciples would gather and sing with him. My son
was quite young then and we learned many songs singing like that with
Dharmaja. Sweetness, humility and a great sense of humour as well as
great musicianship is what I remember most.
I wonder if others who sang with him at that time can remember which
songs he taught us. Some are tickling the back of my memory but I
can't catch them yet. Knowing the way my mind works these songs will
probably jump out and tell me their names in three or four days time,
when I have completely stopped trying to remember.
Thankyou for your insight into his illness and philosophy. He was very
special. Part of me is envious because I can imagine where he is now
and who is enjoying his singing! Guru has certainly given us a fresh
perspective on death. It is a cause of celebration and not sadness
when one of us who knew him in this life 'crosses to the other shore.'
I hope that Dharmaja's parents can understand this and feel the
comfort and joy of knowing he is happy and blessed in a way we can
only begin to imagine.
Love and gratitude
- To this day I remember vividly when I first met Dharmaja, at
Kanan's flower store, The Garland of Divinity's Love, in the
I was immediately and deeply impressed by Dharmaja's
sweetness and devotion to Guru, and his soulfulness even
amidst jokes and laughter.
I am so grateful for the boundless inspiration God offered to
me and to many others through his smiling life.
He is a brave, good and beautiful soul. I was not fortunate
to be his close friend, but I am proud to be his spiritual
Thank you Arpan for the opportunity.
- Dharmaja was also a regular contributor to these pages, I so used to
enjoy reading his posts! I have been looking back through the
Sri_Chinmoy__Inspiration archives and have copied and pasted a
Prose by Dharmaja
I need and want to be overwhelmed by You.
I want to be completely immersed in Your Loving Goodness.
I want to see You in everyone, which is something that, right now, I
I want to forgive everyone who displeases me, as You have forgiven
me countless times.
After all, isn't the experience of my displeasure at the behaviour
of others merely the result of my own egotism and arrogance? So why
should anyone else have to suffer because of my embrace of the
Do not allow me to be immersed in any world of tears, other than the
ocean of gratitude-tears.
The world of science cannot save me.
The world of material wealth cannot save me.
Only You can save me.
Dear God Who created me,
Do save Your child,
This frail boat,
TAKE LIFE EASY
Take life easy,
For life is God's playground of transformation
Always take life easy.
This is the only way
In earth's mental asylum.
Excerpt from Transcendence-Perfection, poem #679.
When I first read Transcendence-Perfection, this was my favorite
poem. It seemed to take the edge off the pressures that I was
feeling at the time. I did not then think, nor do I now think, that
the poem suggests that we should take a lazy attitude towards life!
Rather, I feel that it means that we should hold events in a proper
Example: yesterday, I happened to be sitting in my parked car near
a busy intersection. A man had just pulled up to the intersection,
and was waiting for a safe opportunity to make a right turn. The
woman behind him was too impatient to wait for him to proceed
safely, she wanted him to get going right now! Apparently, she had
honked the horn at him a few seconds ago, and she honked a second
time as he was waiting to proceed. He got out of his car, and
walked back towards her vehicle in an obviously angry stride. Then
he gestured and articulated in a manner that cannot be printed
here! Judging by the look on her face, she got the message and
accepted the fact that she had been too aggressive and impatient.
Fortunately, the conflict did not go anywhere beyond that. They
both had played the role of inmates in "earth's mental asylum."
When these kinds of driving discourtesies happen, I try to pray for
humility. I try to remind myself that there is a bigger picture in
There is also the phrase, "playground of transformation." I am
reminded that I am a work in progress, not a finished article.
Here is an excerpt from "Take Your God-Search Seriously" by Sri
4. Is There Any Mind...
Is there any mind
That does not think
It can easily be
Commentary by Dharmaja:
Seems like the mind and the ego are intimate friends. Here is a
There was once a spiritual seeker who lived in San Francisco. From
the beginning of his spiritual life, he thought that he was destined
for greatness. He thought that he had a lot of God-awareness, and
he even thought that he could play the role of a guru.
He worked at a vegetarian restaurant, where they had cafeteria-style
service. One day, when he was doing some cleaning in the area where
people were waiting to go through the queue, he overheard two women
conversing. One woman was saying, "Oh, I'm really at the point that
I need some guidance in my spiritual life." Because this seeker
thought that he was God's gift to humanity, he immediately felt the
necessity of offering his spiritual capacity to this woman. At the
moment of her comment, he happened to be facing away from her, and
he swung around, making a magnanimous and self-offering gesture with
his arm, saying, "Oh, I will gladly help you!" This provided a
splendid confluence of motion and objects, because she had a
milkshake on her tray. As he swung his arm around, it struck the
milkshake glass, splattering the milkshake all over the woman and
all over the floor. It created quite a scene! Because of his out-
of-control egotism, he was utterly humiliated by this. He knew it
was a message from the Supreme, telling him to shape up! Then he
had to beg forgiveness, both from the woman and from God.
I do hope that by now he has learned his lesson.
Sunamita, agree to disagree
In your recent message, you stated,
"Another thing I've learned is: it's ok to agree to disagree."
To me, this concept is HUGE.
I have a friend named Frank, he is a fundamentalist Christian, and
he has a pure water delivery business. I often see him at the
Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op doing his H2O deliveries.
In the summer (and other nice-weather months), I go to the
vegetarian buffet at the co-op, and then I have my lunch outside in
the patio dining area. Frank comes over, and sits down, and he
inevitably starts asking me questions about what I believe! Well,
zowie, it can get a little intense! But over the years we have
trained ourselves to make these talks "work". When we get to a
point of seemingly irreconciliable differences, we simply agree to
disagree, and we go on to another topic. It really works, and we
can divinely love each other! Neither of us feels that we have
to "prove" the point, and we don't feel that we have to win!
with much gratitude,
P.S. I am 52, and this is the RIGHT side of 50!!!
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Message # 2092
Fri Dec 19, 2003 11:42 am
In a recent posting, Kamalakanta stated that we have difficulty in
forgiving ourselves when we commit an error.
So, if I make a mistake, what should I do? I have to give value to
The Supreme will allow me to be on earth for a finite number of
years. I have a finite amount of time in which to try to manifest
Him satisfactorily. So, if I make a mistake, and if I spend an
entire week in miserable self-recrimination, what have I
accomplished? The only thing that has been accomplished is this: I
have delayed my own progress, I have delayed my own divine
satisfaction, AND I HAVE LOST AN ENTIRE WEEK of my life. During this
week I could have used the time fruitfully.
So, if I do commit an error, I pray that I will immediately start
invoking God's Grace and Strength, so that I may immediately pick up
the pace on my road to self-discovery and God-fulfillment. May I not
waste my time, may I not waste God's time, in useless self-pity.
Victory to the Supremely Chosen Child of Mother Kali.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Message # 1669
Tuesday Nov 4th, 2003,
Hey boys and girls, gather round,
listen to the story goin' all through the town
Hey, children, our Guru is a handyman.
He's not the kind that uses pencil or rule
He's handy, children, 'cause He's been to God-school,
He fixes broken hearts, I know, yes He truly can!
If your aspiration-heart should need repair,
Oh, He is the Man to see!
You run on home and you tell all your friends,
they'll come runnin' to Sriiiiii - - -
Here is the main thing that I want to say:
He's praying twenty-four hours a day
He's got real aspiration, I know, yes He truly can!
(this was originally composed by the popular song writer
Neil Sedaka. I changed the words around a little, and
recorded it with several guitars and harmonies for my
own inspiration --- D.A.)
- I only met Dharmaja on only one occasion. It was in the Smile of the Beyond, where a tall, thin chap cheerfully introduced himself, making light of our shared body type (Ectomorph or something like that). I remember his kindness, concern and great sense of humour. He seemed genuinely interested in other people and had a demeanour of self-giving.
Long standing members of the Inspiration group, may remember some of Dharmaja's humourous and entertaining posts. They were characterised by humility, cheerful wisdom and frequent self-depreciation; they were certainly always welcome.
This is just a small selection of some of Dharmaja's posts:
http://srichinmoyinspiration.com/comments/10107 Stress and humor
http://srichinmoyinspiration.com/comments/3934 - Re: Someone left the cake out.
http://srichinmoyinspiration.com/forums/7377 - OT Exploding tomatoes, maya tactics and the law of Karma.
p.s. Thanks to Arpan for sharing this opportunity to remember Dharmaja.
I am very sad to hear dear Dharmaja's passing away. Unfortunately I
was not aware either that he was sick or that he was in New York. It
would have been a bit more easy if I had visited him.
Just two days ago I thought of him and wondered why I did not see him
in New York.
Once I stayed with him for a night in his apartment in San Francisco.
I remember him as a jovial joking brother who also played his guitar
sitting on the pavement on the way to the Goosepond Park near
Once in the old all blue-bench Progress Promise Guru asked all who felt an affinity with the Mahabharata story and characters and tell
something. Dharmaja said because of my name I feel an affinity with
Dharma Putra (the eldest Pandava brother)
As those acquainted with Mahabharata know this eldest Pandava's
devotion to absolute truth was so high, his chariot stayed a few
inches above the ground until he made an utterance which had a grain
It is inspiring to recall that Dharmaja felt an affinity with such a
high soul. I offer my deepest prayers for his release from all bondage
and words of comfort to his close relatives. - shivaram, Toronto, Canada
- It was in August 1994 when I first came to New York.
Being all new and coming from Switzerland it was quite
a change to be in the big city and with many new people.
On the sportsday I saw one man sitting on the ground with
a guitar and some other boys around him just singing along.
He invited me to join and I did. I definitely got a lot of
inspiration by him for Sri Chinmoy's Songs and also to
start playing the guitar myself. The atmosphere was so
peaceful and relaxed. He definitely looked full of light.
So for many years after that he invited me to be part of
his music/singing group to perform and I liked him very
- I remember being in an international singing group that he was
inspired to lead and being in Goose Pond Park learning songs from him
surrounded by disciples from many countries. It was a joy to learn Sri
Chinmoy's songs with him as a teacher/conductor.
One of my favorite of his posts (message 14577) is excerpted below
from a long thread on parents. In it he tells the story of his parents
coming to a concert by Sri Chinmoy.
"Thank you for inquiring about my parents. I thought I posted
the story, sorry about that.
The saga of inspiring and motivating my folks to attend Sri
Chinmoy's concert in San Francisco turned out to be quite a
challenge, but ultimately it worked out.
I drove down to San Jose from San Francisco to pick them up
on the afternoon of the event, drove back to SF, then checked
them into the Ramada hotel (which was right near the venue).
Then we attended the concert; Sujantra the miracle worker
somehow got us seats right up front!
My mom was quite enthusiastic about the whole affair. Dad,
on the other hand, was more reserved. Because mom has lost
part of her sight, she needed me to give a running commentary
on what was happening on stage throughout the event...as best
as I could, I tried to do this discreetly, so others around
us would not be disturbed.
At the end of the concert, Sri Chinmoy performed on the
synthesizer, and that particular segment started off *very*
loud, and mom was initially a bit alarmed, but then she got
The next morning, there was a Sri Chinmoy Centre function at
the same hotel where my parents were staying, in the main
meeting room. For those who are not familiar, in many cases
Sri Chinmoy offers meditation sessions which are open to the
general public, but in this case it was a "students only"
meeting. Therefore, my parents had to wait for me out in the
lobby area of the hotel, and it appeared that they would not
get an opportunity to see Sri Chinmoy on that day.
I was praying and praying that, somehow-somehow-somehow, my
parents would get to see him. There didn't seem to be any
outer mechanism by which that could happen.
But my prayer was answered . . . big time and hugely.
Around 11:30am, for some *inexplicable* reason, Sri Chinmoy
decided to take a break. He walked out of the meeting room,
into the hotel lobby, went directly over to where my parents
were sitting, and greeted them. He had them stand next to
him, and he had Durdam take what I will refer to as a
I have posted the photo here:
Under the photo, there is a caption in which I have said that
my mom is 80. Well, I was close, she is actually
80-something, I think 83 or 84, somewhere around there. I
sent the picture to mom and dad...when mom saw it, even
though her sight is not so good, she was absolutely smiling
ear to ear.
I would like the world to know that I believe that my
spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy is a God-realised master, and
he knows what's up.
San Diego, California"
[Thank you so much, Dharmaja, for sharing this story,
and that beutiful picture!]
I am glad Arpan is gathering together these tributes. If you want
Arpan, I also saved some screen shots turned into image files of
candles lit for him at gratefulness.org.
- ¨Hola!¨ said Dharmaja to me when he was walking across the street
where the international ceremony for the World Harmony Run was going
to be hold in Manhattan in August 2006.
I was sitting near a small water fall trying to get some relaxing
time after the long flight that had brought me back to my spiritual
home that very morning. I was physically so tired that I could not
greet him as cheerfully deep as he did.
At this time of writing some of his sympathetic words in Spanish -
¨muy bien¨, ¨Maestro espiritual¨, ¨poquito¨- are coming to me from
the days I used to see him singing near Annam Brahma and participated
in his international choir. What a lovely experience of oneness it
was! As a conductor, Dharmaja had the nice capacity to deal
compassionately with excellent humour and high quality.
In August 2005, on my last day before going back to South America, I
happened to wait for Guru´s blessings in the street opposite
Aspiration-Ground. All of a sudden Dharmaja came closer and said,
¨Please, take this computer. A group of your brothers is giving this
to you so you can work easily on Guru´s books and everything.¨
As soon as he left the place, Guru passed by in his car offering his
divine blessings to everyone, including the computer!
The blue luggage and its content is here with me and I am able to
offer my humble tribute to Dharmaja´s oneness-heart.
After that, I phoned him twice or three times to get some
explanations on such difficult technology! He sent me incredible
guidelines -it was magic because he used to tell me ¨Suchana, give me
extra time,I am trying to remember how that computer works, it will
be simple¨- which allowed me to start working faster with Guru´s
translations and my friends all over the world.
When I don´t use the mouse for 13 minutes or so, a beautiful Concert
of Guru in Macedonia appears in a slideshow. There are a few more of
extraordinary landscapes, Guru´s photos at different times of his
life on earth, some essays mixing Guru´s pictures and nature,
goddesses, Pavitrata´s & Kedar´s photos, dolphins, butterflies, the
Golden Gate bridge, mountains, oceans and lakes. The whole material
is so inspiring and refreshing!
Arpan, I´ll send them to you once I get some extra time to save them
on a CD. You may like sharing these pictures with his parents.
The blue luggage has got several blue ribbons. ¨Don´t take them
away¨, Dharmaja recommended me, ¨you can identify your luggage at the
airport¨. But the blue luggage travelled by my side; how could I be
separated of such a treasure?
May Guru´s blue birds of Love-Light and Concern accompany his journey
to the Source! Supreme Shanti
- I have been reading tributes to Dharmaja only today, not because I am
indifferent. I just couldn't read them. I am very glad others have
done so. The only thing I could do after hearing of his death was to
write his name on a piece of paper, illustrate it, leave it on my
shrine and sing the song Sri Chinmoy had composed and requested us to
sing for a fellow student or friend or dear one who dies to help the
soul reach the heavenly abode.
I still find myself sitting in front of an almost empty page and
cannot write anything. I am just sitting here and playing with a gum
and thinking of him. Why do things happen the way they did? Why do
some people have to suffer for such a long time only to go? I have had
so much hope for him to recover. The reports about his health
improvement that I received from Sarah were not absolutely positive
but they were promising.
The only incident that comes to my mind easily is his so very humorous
post about the exploding tomatoes, a story I will never forget. I
remember how heartily I laughed and can still clearly visualize what
happened then...But today I cannot laugh or I don't want to. I am
reminded of a picture that I saw a few months ago on Arpan's iPod
showing Dharmaja's soulful face lying in a hospital bed.
I thought I knew him only from the Inspiration Site but reading
other's tributes mentioning him playing his guitar near Annam Brahma
restaurant or at other places I am quite sure I too did see him
sitting at Goose Pond Park playing Sri Chinmoy's music and
Perhaps I should not be too sad, perhaps it is true what someone said
that he is possibly laughing together with his master in heaven at the
joke of death.
So I may conclude with a few words I left for him on gratefulness.org
where many people lit a candle for him after hearing of his passing away:
Dear Dharmaja, please come back soon, we need your presence here on earth.