Auspicious Good Fortune
- I am happy to announce the launch of a new book today, called Auspicious Good Fortune. It has taken three years to write it and to find a publisher, but actually it began a long time ago on this very forum, I just didn't know back then that it would end up as a book. It tells the story of how I joined the Sri Chinmoy Centre, of the journey leading up to that turning point, and of how life has continued since.
I would like to offer special thanks to Michael Howard for inspiring me and others to start writing about our experiences here in years gone by. Thanks also to anyone reading and contributing here for keeping this forum alive. Last but not least, thanks to anyone who knows me for putting up with me during this challenging but rewarding project, it would have tried the patience of a saint :-)
Below is the introduction for anyone interested to read more. Further excerpts and information can be found at http://www.sumangali.org
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When first discovering a night sky, the eyes may pick out a few tiny stars. Waiting and watching reveals thousands, until it seems there is yet more light than empty blackness. So my life has been, and so it continues. This is my story, in gratitude to Sri Chinmoy: for teaching me how to wait, and how to watch.
Revelations, no matter their size, seem to hide when they are hunted down by thoughts and wonderings. Like untamed creatures in their own private world, they only let themselves be seen when I am either still and quiet, or disarmed by helplessness. This is no new phenomenon. I dare say everyone has been struck by at least one bolt of inner brilliance while the senses are otherwise engaged in the beauty of a sunset, or the smile of a child, or the grandeur of the open sea. Ironically, sudden insights may also come when one is at a complete loss to unravel the mysteries of life, suspended somewhere in the universe on this relatively small rock, all of us together and yet so very much alone. Rather than leaving such revelations to chance, one can consciously harness and harvest them through meditation. Ultimately the moments string themselves together into a constant stream of understanding a full and open connection to the divine.
Or so I believe. While I am yet far from reaching that exalted state, I have witnessed enough to know it exists: through increasing glimmers of my own experience, and most of all through the presence of a genuine spiritual Master.
I often wonder how I had the good fortune to find Sri Chinmoy, or even to take up any sort of spiritual practice at all. On paper it was highly unlikely, having been born into an atheist English family, and yet perhaps that very background played its own essential role. I was brought up never to leave things to chance. If something was broken, I was taught to study its components at least in order to inform myself of how it was made, if not to mend it. I was encouraged to believe that everything could be questioned or taken apart, physically or theoretically: that everything follows logical reason, whether or not we understand the reason at a given time. Extending the theory to life in general, I always felt empowered to shape my destiny.
Although I still have faith in that empirical spirit, and in my ability to change my life for the good, I now consider a pragmatic attitude however positive as only part of a much wider truth. While it is no doubt vital to give one's best, it seems there is also a time to let go one's grasp, to trust in something bigger, to admit that one does not have the answers, and to be at peace with that for now.
It was at such a time when Sri Chinmoy arrived in my world. I did not think I was looking for an Indian Guru, and he was not at all as I imagined an Indian Guru to be. He was smiling and clean-shaven, as gentle as he was inconceivably strong, his childlike humour in easy balance with a wisdom that seemed older than the world itself. He was eminently practical, acutely conscious of the human condition, and yet not bound at all by the sort of petty earthliness that seemed to dog my own existence. He carried an abundance of everything I had longed for in life: constancy and creativity, freedom and sensitivity, certainty, peacefulness and most of all, immaculate poise. He brought me answers to questions I had not even yet formed: in poetry, in songs, in physical demonstration and silent meditation. He charted maps for me: maps of immediate inner lands, and others I will not reach for a very long time.
I made many mistakes before finding him; error itself had been my faithful tutor until then. I tried many apparent shortcuts to fulfilment, each of them ending in its own cul-de-sac. If nothing else, I discovered quite clearly what I do not want in life, before discovering what I do. Finding happiness through aprocess of elimination is, after all, a way of finding happiness albeit a tortuous one. While I would not necessarily have chosen such a long route, I have come to realise the journey is an intrinsic part of the destination. If a pilot somehow found a way to perch a helicopter on the summit of Everest, his satisfaction and exhilaration would surely not compare to that of a mountaineer, even if they shared the same view at the end of the day.
According to Sri Chinmoy, the past is dust: we must learn from our mistakes and then continue on our way, carrying only that new knowledge with us, and leaving the useless weight of failure behind. I have come to show you the pieces of my past, not to confess my own secret hurts and imperfections they are far from useful or exceptional but to illustrate the extraordinary transforming influence Sri Chinmoy has had on this otherwise ordinary person: proof that the past is indeed dust, and that each of us may leave it behind if we choose.
I have neither designed nor necessarily deserved my good fortune. It came when I both needed it and was ready to accept it; when taking apart the components of my life no longer informed me well enough to mend it myself. After much racing around in pursuit of happiness, I found it had been inside me all along; I only needed to be still and quiet, knowing how and where to look. These are the real secrets I have come to tell you, in the hope of bringing that same good fortune to you, wherever you are on this relatively small rock. While we each must make our own steps to the peaks of spirituality, many have already gone before us, so we are never really alone.
There have been bleak nights along my way, many of my own making, but life is all the brighter for them now. To the human eye, without the darkness there are no stars.
- Hi Sumangali,
Congratulations! You are such an eloquent and engaging writer, I can't wait to read your book in it's entirety.
Just yesterday a friend invited a few of us to her house for breakfast and she had your book on her coffee table. I read the first two chapters in lieu of socializing which was quite rude but I couldn't help it! Your book entirely absorbed me and I couldn't look up.
Great job! I wish you must success.
- Thanks so much for your feedback and encouragement, Brahmata, that's very kind of you! Sorry you missed out on the socialising, I hope you didn't miss out on any breakfast ;-)
- Hi all,
If you read this post from Sumangali's blog,
you get a taste of how writing and publishing a book is no small task.
It is certainly our good fortune that you are now a published author! I hope the book is very successful and thanks for sharing an excerpt here and the news of its launch.
- Thanks so much for your kind reply, Sharani! It has certainly not been easy, but so often the biggest challenges are the most rewarding in the end, aren't they?
Before I started, I was wondering why more people hadn't done it, now I think I know :-) Honestly, I wanted to give up at every step, but I did it because I somehow couldn't not do it, if you know what I mean. I know that's dreadful grammar for a "published author" but I'm not sure how else to put it :-)
I really look forward to reading other people's stories. Right now I'm reading the books Shivaram put together last year, and they're amazing. I love the fact that we each have such very different tales, even though we're all technically following the same spiritual path. So many varied miracles along the way
- Dear Sumangali,
As a fellow student of Sri Chinmoy I may congratulate you to your first book!
I can imagine how you felt holding the book in your hands after the long journey of writing it, knowing my own struggles to get *anything* done. Like in an ultramarathon I may appreciate all the labour that goes into finishing the distance, but I certainly do not know what you really went through. It will remain your secret (maybe not) or as you rightly and deservedly put it - your reward. I am happy with you to hold the book now in your hands and I hope many seeker readers will learn from your stories finding a shortcut to happiness or at least awakening (without getting their fingers burned). ;-)
It is very kind of you to thank Michael as an inspiration for you to start writing your experiences. He wrote an exquisite book review on amazon.com:
I am still insecure... but perhaps I have to disclose it. You inspired me to overcome hesitation and doubts, listen to Priyadarshan's advice and start a poetry blog. I really tried my best (admiring the perfection in all that you do) but in the end something very simple comes out, I guess that's me. I will definitely try to improve it but it is a beginning. :-)
- Thanks Sharani for bringing back Sumanagli's link about the start of her book "Auspicious Good Fortune".
Sumangali, I must admit I was very impressed with your kind and very spiritual reaction when finding out that your "blind" neighbor was not actually blind, just wanted to sit at the aisle seat. In the end it reminded me of a story where God appears in the form of a stray dog to "test" a seeker's sincerity and the seeker chased the dog away, not recognizing the Special Guest. You definitely passed the "test" - thank you for that lesson.
Also thank you for sharing the two points that your airplane
friend made about getting started and sharing from the heart rather than wondering how others might perceive it. It's also great to see and feel how much faith you have in your own inner guidance and not losing patience when you were not able to start writing sooner.
Sumangali, I am very happy for you and am looking forward to reading the book. I went on line and ordered it right away - should be receiving it in a couple of days. Thanks very much.
P.S. Did you read Jogyata's "In the Boat" yet? There are actually lots of really great ones out already.
- Dear Doris
You are most kind, thank you for your congratulations!
Yes Michael has written a very generous review, for which I shall remain forever grateful. I do not feel I deserve such praise, much less a reward, so any kind words I shall try pass on to the Supreme swiftly before I get too attached to them. Were it not for Guru's maxim "never give up", I surely would have given up on day one; I am not generally known for my patience :-)
Congratulations to you, Doris, for setting up a new website certainly no easy task! One of the things I like most about websites is that they can change and grow over time as you want them to. So I don't think there is any need to be shy, any stage can be like a new beginning. The hardest part is surely starting, which you have bravely done. Good luck with your ever-new project :-)
- Thank you so much, Bigalita, what a lovely surprise to hear from you!
It must be your own kindness that made my response to the poor "blind" man seem kind. I think I was really the most blind in that case. Just about every mother and grandmother who ever lived has advised against judging a book by its cover, and but for the Grace of God I would not have passed the test this time. It makes me wonder how many other elaborate lengths He has gone to in answering prayers, that have been missed by my own blindness.
The "blind" man's ears must be burning now that we are talking about him :-) Yes his advice was fittingly spiritual (to paraphrase) 1. Don't wait until you're ready to write, start now; 2. Don't worry about what you think others want to hear, just speak with your own true voice.
Thank you so much for buying the book on faith, I hope you enjoy it! I very much look forward to reading the stories of others too. You mentioned Jogyata's, which is naturally an absolute gem. Then of course there's Pradhan, Gunagriha, Ushasi, Trishakash, Tejvan, and Shivaram's collections. They are all compelling stories in such very different ways, and who knows what else is on the way.
I think it's perfect there is such a variety of books coming out, so people can potentially gain many different perspectives on our Path. Some will relate to the loftier tales, some to the more worldly; some to the intimate, and some to the pragmatic. Diversity is surely one of the most beautiful things about the worldwide Sri Chinmoy Centre.
- Would somebody kindly post the link to the story about the "blind" man in the aisle seat? Or was it a message I missed?
Thank you :-)
- May I first of all offer my congratulations to Sumangali for the mammoth mountain which she has climbed in writing her first and very special book, Auspicious Good Fortune. I myself one day hope to be able to climb a few foothills in the world of writing, but what Sumangali has done, both in completing a novel and getting it published -- the summit she has scaled -- is simply unimaginable!
Still, impossible dreams of mountain climbing and Himalayan heights aside, one small that is within my reach is the writing of a review -- glowing of course -- and which has just been published in the online magazine Blog Critics:
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Book Review: Auspicious Good Fortune: One Woman's Inspirational Journey from Western Disillusionment to Eastern Spiritual Fulfilment by Sumangali Morhall
Auspicious Good Fortune is English writer Sumangali Morhall's first published work, a novice author and student of an Indian spiritual master writing more than adeptly of her lifelong journey from spiritual novice to adept. Or as such things are put on lush, inviting book covers, "One woman's inspirational journey from Western disillusionment to Eastern spiritual fulfilment." For once you really can judge a book by its attractively designed, accurately described cover.
Morhall is from an arguably unique generation in history, a generation which grew up taking the fruits and freedoms of feminism for granted. Coming of age in the late 1980s, she literally had the world at her feet, and like few women before her, was able to study, travel and work in almost any field of her choosing. In the pages of her autobiography, she literally does.
To borrow the mantra of Joseph Campbell, completely unhindered in the ability to follow her personal bliss, Morhall seeks happiness and satisfaction in multiple jobs, countries, relationships and experiences: gaining an art degree, lead singer of a band, teaching English in Thailand, partying in London, scuba diving and nearly marriage in Mexico, shoplifting and retail store manager, business degree from a prestigious university, job in a London fashion house; she tries it all and willingly walks away from it all, including a model-musician boyfriend, to wear a sari and join what is traditionally one of the most patriarchal, male dominated realms a spiritual community where by her own compelling account, she undeniably blossoms.
Amongst the near horizonless flotsam and jetsam of our internet age, the sea of world-weariness, cheap cynicism, aimlessly drifting intellectualism and obscure speculation, the sincere, affecting, beautiful words with which Morhall describes her sometimes stumbling, sometimes running search for enlightenment are like a life-raft floating far beyond, and the depth of wisdom on board, pearls from deep beneath.
Auspicious Good Fortune is potentially an instant classic of the world of spiritual literature. Like the writing of Christopher Isherwood, an English author better known as the father of modern gay writing, but also a lifelong member of the Ramakrishna Order, and author of several seminal works on spirituality, Morhall's book possesses the rare distinction of being the product not just of an authentic devotee and spiritual insider Morhall a student with a rare close access to the recently belated New York guru Sri Chinmoy but a genuinely talented writer as well. Also like Isherwood, Auspicious Good Fortune surprises with its candour and willingness to throw back the cloister curtains, the search for inner truth speckled equally with tears of frustration and jewels of bliss.
Heart on sleeve and on page, Morhall writes directly from the heart, with endearing honesty and captivating charm. Hers is the pure, unaffected voice of child, but a child who has meditated for over two decades, and whom possesses piercing insight and depth of both spiritual and worldly experience. Morhall may be a novice author, but in Auspicious Good Fortune she is no novice of the spiritual realm. If Eat, Pray, Love were to become serialised, this would be concluding edition.
A subtly emotive, poetic writer, with a keen eye for the delicate and minute, so well written and metaphorically masterful is Auspicious Good Fortune, it is as if Emily Dickinson herself has entered the realm of biographical prose. By her own admission more adept at poetry than prose, Morhall is at her lyrical and transcendent best when discussing her genuinely inspiring and at times genuinely miraculous experiences with Indian meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy, whom on the basis of this heart-felt account, one can't help but want to know better.
Morhall presents us with a conclusion that echoes the wisdom of ancient sages quoted within her very pages: to find a spiritual master and to follow the life of inner truth is the most auspicious path of all. Auspicious Good Fortune is the highly recommended tale of that search, and furthermore, the tale of what is found.
- Jaitra, any amount of thanks from me would seem insufficient. Your review is extremely generous. I know at the end of the day your offering of words is for the collective good â" a gift for the Divine â" so it is not for me to thank you. But since I am naturally invested in this project to the point where I cannot separate myself from it, I am personally extremely grateful. That goes for any reviews submitted on Amazon or Goodreads, or private messages of support. Thank you to all those who have understood my intentions in writing, and who have seen past the countless imperfections in the book's creation.