Recollections on Sri Chinmoy: Outer Closeness versus Inner Oneness
- We all know about that remarkable time when Sri Ramakrishna declared to his disciples that on that very day he would become the kalpataru, the wish-fulfilling tree. According to my understanding of this event, Sri Ramakrishna told his spiritual children that he was ready to give them any spiritual vision they wanted. His devotees formed a line in front of him, and Sri Ramakrishna meditated on each one, and then exclaimed something like, "behold!" And then the devotee would see in Sri Ramakrishna the vision or attainment they most desired. It was a most extraordinary moment.
And what were Sri Ramakrishna's two dearest and most advanced disciples, Swami Brahmananda and Swami Vivekananda (neither known by those names at that time) doing while all this was taking place? They were cleaning Sri Ramakrishna's room. They felt that rendering humble service to the Master was more fulfilling to them than anything else, even the loftiest of visions.
I like that story. It reminds me of a comment Sri Chinmoy made many years ago. Once, Sri Chinmoy pointed out an elderly man who, he said, had been the dearest disciple of a certain Avatar who lived thousands of years ago. Guru established a close friendship and connection with this gentleman that lasted for many years. Some time after this seeker passed away, one of Guru's close disciples asked an interesting question: If it was true that this man had been the best disciple of such a great Avatar, why had he not realized God in all these centuries?
Guru responded by saying, "When did I say he was the best disciple of the Master? I only said he was the closest disciple, the dearest. That does not mean he was the best disciple."
Guru did have a circle of close disciples who gathered at his house for evening functions, funny, light-hearted movies and question and answer sessions. My roommate went to these functions at least once a week. My fellow-waiter at the restaurant (Oneness-Fountain-Heart) used to go at least three times a week. I was never invited at all. And I never minded. Really! I'm not trying to say that I was the `best' disciple, but I had a lot of things to do including collecting classical LPs and making frequent trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Also I was really busy at the restaurant. I was happy with the level of outer closeness that Guru had deemed appropriate for me. And I think he was happy that I didn't fall into the category of disciple who demanded his attention or lost sleep if he didn't give it to them.
Pradhan's marvelous, marvelous book At the Feet of My Master contains a chapter that deals with NOAMS (No Outer Attention Misery Syndrome). Pradhan (who actually spent countless hours alone with Guru, massaging his painful leg muscles and joints) elucidates the pitfalls on relying too much on the Master's outer affection or favor.
Anyway, ask my roommate and colleague if they've realized God yet or are planning to establish ashrams in the Himalayas. If either of them have such projects in the pipes, I'll become their best disciple and yodel outside their thatched huts until they grant me the realization nectar-fruit.
- If you would know how much I like reading your recollections on Sri Chinmoy! I am happy to read there are many more to come shared from your heart's memory.
Thank you so much