Happy Birthday Lily-di
- Last night, Wednesday, October 28, we celebrated Guru's sister
Lily's birthday which is on October 27. Lily was Guru's closest
sister and was like a mother to him after his parents died when he was
11 years old. She came to visit New York early in 1978 during the very
cold winter months and stayed until after Guru's birthday in August.
Coming from the very warm climate of Southern India, as she lived most
of her life in the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, Lily seemed to have
a hard time adjusting to the extremely opposite weather of a cold New
York winter. I remember her especially in the first month wearing lots
of warm coats, hats, gloves, etc. even inside at functions sometimes.
But she was always so compassionate and motherly to everyone and loved
to be involved in our events.
Celebrating her birthday last night at Aspiration-Ground brought back
some of those wonderful moments I personally can remember after 31 years
since she was here. Although I did not spend much time with her as some
of the Annam Brahma girls and others did, just to get Prasad from her or
have her present at a function was always very inspiring. It always made
Guru happy as well whenever Lily was present at many of the events.
One very amusing event we once had at the original Progress-Promise
meditation hall was a Sari contest put on by the boys. Lily was the
judge as the boys had to come out wearing a sari to the amusement of
everyone. But they were judged on how nice the sari was and how it was
put on. Some guys even put on wigs to make it look authentic and add
more levity to the situation. Lily had to see each one and at times
would modestly cover her mouth as she laughed and laughed at some of the
amusing `models' and how they wore their saris.
We even took Lily to amusement parks in the summer, the beach, a
racetrack and other places where she could experience some of the
variety of American culture. I cannot remember all the things she did or
places that she went but I do remember that she spent quite some time at
Annam Brahma cooking with the girls there. I am sure we had her food
many times and that it was quite delicious, authentic and fulfilling.
Perhaps the girls are still using some of her recipes.
Last night we had a very soulful program for Lily incorporated into our
regular Wednesday evening function. After our usual meditation and
singing we then had a Candlelight offering for Lily. This was
accompanied by singing from the Bhajan group members mostly with songs
about Lily. There was a birthday cake as we sang the birthday songs and
then some special Prasad, Guru's favorite for special occasions,
We then had regular Prasad and an Indian meal as well as we watched some
videos of past Celebrations of Lily-di's birthday with Guru.
Guru's love and respect for Lily-di (the `di' is a title of
respect for an older sister) was a wonderful example to all of us of
just how much oneness Guru had with his family. It showed us how
important and inspiring love and respect in a family can be even on the
human level. I am sure everyone in Guru's family received this kind
of love and attention from Guru when he went to visit them.
Unfortunately none of them, except Lily, ever came to America. We were
so blessed and so extremely grateful for her presence here for those 8
months. Even now, especially during this function, we can feel her heart
of love, concern and Oneness for Guru and for all of Guru's
In the words of one of Guru's songs about Lily, called: `Jhili
Mili Jhili Mili Lily Lily', Guru writes:
"Twinkling, twinkling, Lily, Lily,
You are the Hope-Heart of the World-Mother,
You are the Message-Eye of the World-Father.
You are the waves of
Delight and Peace fathomless of the World-Pilot-Supreme."
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Dear Arpan,
Your refreshing reports are most appreciated by me. I remember, on one of Lily-di's birthday, Guru gave us one of these sky-blue envelops with the name "from Lily-di" on it (hand-written by Guru) and a one dollar note in it. I still have that very same envelope in my home in New York. Happy Birthday, Lily-di!
Just a smile makes our mind clear, our heart pure and our world new.
If God tells me that I am his favorite, then I must believe it-
my disbelief will only increase the distance between us.
God keeps His Protection-Light all around the seekers life.
Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees
by Sri Chinmoy
- Arpan, what a superbly written account! Your writing is a perfect combination of heart and mind! So eloquent!
About the recipes - I remember a long time ago being in N.Y. and some kind person gave me a copy of an original recipe from Lily of her dhal, it was just called 'Lily's Dhal'. When I got back to the UK I set to making it...it was just the best dhal ever!! Then I moved house, and lost the recipe. I would really like to have that recipe again! Good dhal is so difficult to cook, but Lily's recipe was great, and easy to make too.
- Dear Arpan,
I am sure I am not alone in saying how grateful I am for your detailed accounts of events at Aspiration Ground. For all of us far away and only able to visit once or twice a year, your descriptions help so much to keep us connected.
- In New York we have been celebrating Guru's sister Lily's birthday, Oct. 27, for many years. (Lily is the western name given to Rani, one of Guru's three sisters. Guru had us call her Lily or Lily-di, which has a suffix added to her name out of respect to an elder. For men the suffix `-da' is used.)
It could not have been a more perfect evening for this year's celebration as it fell on a Wednesday which always brings most of the local disciples together at Aspiration-Ground. It had been raining off and on all day long but it fortunately stopped completely a few hours before the evening function. The weather was also quite warm today as it has been for a few days now. It was 72F or 22C today and 68F or 20C for the function tonight. This is amazing weather for late October and it was a pleasant way to celebrate this auspicious day.
Lily-di was Guru's very close sister who was very supportive and understanding of everything Guru did. She was the only sibling, out of six, of Guru's who came to America to visit Guru. That was in 1978 from February to September I seem to recall. Guru was so happy when she was here and he gave her the royal treatment. She also cooked for Guru every day and spent a good amount of time with the disciples as well. Guru also used to create special trips for us all to accompany Lily-di so she could experience places out of New York City.
Celebrating her birthday to us, especially those of us who had the good fortune to be around to meet her and mix with her in 1978, is a very soulful, sweet and elevating experience.
To give a brief description of tonight's birthday function, I will start with the atmosphere of a spiritual festival. There were lots of candles and flowers all around Aspiration-Ground just as with all the most special spiritual observances. Before entering the main gate there was the usual `Chittagong Chai Hut' with hot teas, Chai, snacks, etc.
During the function we enjoyed a few music group performances and the Bhajan singers except during the beginning silent meditation of course. During the singing there was a candle and flower offering walk-past meditation and videos of past Lily-di Celebrations being shown on the giant screen.The Bhajan singers sang songs dedicated to Lily, written by Guru.
After about six songs we all sang the main spiritual birthday song and the traditional western one as well. There was even a small birthday cake with `Happy Birthday Lily-di' written on it. It was placed by a cut-out of Lily and Guru next to the special Alu-Pie Prasad which is what would like to give out on very special occasions.
There was lots of other Prasad as well offered by different groups of people. Also a special meal was offered, cooked by some of the more experienced local cooks. It was all quite delicious and I think Lily-di would have been happy with the food and proud of the cooks.
It really was a pleasant, peaceful, joyful and meaningful Celebration which really seemed to invoke the love and sweetness of Guru's favorite sister. She was like a mother to us when she was here such a long time ago and one could still feel that concern and oneness she had with Guru and his mission here in the West.
Even though the function went on longer than most Wednesday evening functions do, some of us could hardly leave Aspiration-Ground as the whole place was filled with the powerful presence and peace that Lily-di embodied and shared with us all as she supported her younger brother and our dear Guru.
- Thanks for evoking the atmosphere of the recent function and the visit of Lily-di back in the 1970s. It sounds something very special.
p.s. Arpan, I'm also trying to visualise you in a sari, but having great difficulty!
- Thank you Arpan for this inspiring post. I enjoy hearing the Annam Brahma girls talk about their experiences with Lily in the kitchen, and of course we all love her famous recipe dhal!