Recollections on Sri Chinmoy: Sri Chinmoy's 1999 Esraj Anniversary
- When Sri Chinmoy came back from the Christmas trip in late January of 1999, I remember he gave a special esraj concert at PS 117, in the small, intimate auditorium. The concert commemorated the anniversary of his esraj playing. I just remember watching him play his favorite melodies, he always held my attention with his superb musicianship. It seemed like a different kind of esraj than the one he played earlier, somehow simpler in design, with a beautiful tone. He wore a gold dhoti, if I remember correctly. As I watched him play, his brow furrowed in concentration, his arm moving in measured arcs, I felt myself enter into a kind of tranced-out bliss. I felt all my problems were melting away into nothingness, all that mattered was this soulful music. I've always loved Sri Chinmoy's esraj music- The Beauty of a Oneness-Family Home is an especially lovely album.
Afterwards, Sri Chinmoy clapped, and we all joined in. He was clapping not to honor himself, but rather to appreciate our receptivity to what he wanted to offer through music. We clapped thunderously for him, for proving that age is no barrier to learning and mastering a musical instrument.
Perhaps that same night Sri Chinmoy also announced that it was Sri Ramakrishna's birthday. He sold a book called "From the Undivine Tree to the Divine Fruit" (http://www.srichinmoylibrary.com/books/1272/index.html) about the life and spiritual journey of Girish Ghosh, a very prominent householder disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. Many years later, in 2006, some of Guru's disciples put on a play about the life of Girish Ghosh, based on this book. It was a very nice play! Sri Chinmoy said afterwards that they should have included a scene of Sri Ramakrishna blessing Girish Ghosh's actresses. But then he commented that they probably don't know enough about Girish's life to know that Sri Ramakrishna did bless many of the people in his troupe. He also commented that they should have included the scene where Sri Ramakrishna actually demanded that Girish drink right in front of him. Girish was ashamed of his behavior, but Sri Ramakrishna taught him that shame and embarrassment do not transform our nature. Spiritual evolution and perfection are always gradual, slow and natural.
I just remember a striking tapestry on the stage behind Sri Chinmoy. The weave depicted the famous studio portrait of Sri Ramakrishna, where he is leaning on a pillar, his hands in a particular mudra with only the pinkie and index fingers extended. I have a photograph of Sri Chinmoy playing the harmonium in front of this particular tapestry. An otherworldly smile plays on his face. You can feel his ecstatic communion with the great Avatar Sri Ramakrishna.
After the beautiful esraj concert and also after Sri Chinmoy had read out some soulful selections from his book on Girish Ghosh, he handed out prasad. It might have been some kind of Indian wrap. I just remember touching Guru's hand as he gave me the prasad. His fingers scraped against mine, and I was surprised at how hard and callused they were. They were the hands of someone who had worked hard his whole life, who had known a lot of strenuous manual labor. They were not like my soft, suburbanite hands at all.
So, it wasn't enough for Sri Chinmoy to offer us a soulful concert and a deeply devotional, thoughtful book on Sri Ramakrishna and his dear Girish. He also wanted to see us well fed. His concern for us was and remains unfathomable.
- Mahiruha, thank you for writing your reminiscences here so generously. I'm sure I speak for many people when I say I am grateful you have such precise memories of times with Sri Chinmoy. You convey both the personal and general experience with vivid detail. I hope you will collect your stories in print one day so they can be kept and read all together.
I was not at the concert you mentioned, but I know and love the book about Girish Chandra Ghosh. Your mention of him reminded me of Swami Prabhavananda's book, The Eternal Companion: Brahmananda, His Life & Teachings. The disciple's memories of the master are compelling and beautiful in themselves, but there is a section towards the end where different people speak about what they remember of Swami Brahmananda, this dear disciple of Sri Ramakrishna.
For me the most touching was the story of a woman named Tara, one of Girish Ghosh's troupe. It is of course inspiring to hear of the greatness of spiritual masters -- their power and luminosity -- but the goodness in the smallest details of life is easily overlooked. Often such actions are just as instructive; sometimes more so, because they are more relatable.
Tara tells of a time she visited Swami Brahmananda, he showed such concern for her, in even the simplest detail: not just whether she was hungry after her journey, but what food she liked to eat, so he would know for next time. As she describes:
"What kind of a holy man was this? A worldly man would not feel such concern for his sons and daughters. Who was I? Where was my place in society? Down -- down below! I had nothing to expect from the world but hatred and indifference. I had no friend, no relative. This big world seemed to me like a stranger's house.... There was none in this world whom I could call my own. Until today!"
I was reminded of this too when you spoke of Sri Chinmoy's unfathomable concern for the needs of us all, on every level: the human as well as the spiritual hunger.