Past, Present, Future, Forever, an article by Sharani
- Past Present Future Forever
I am seated inside a church on a wooden pew alongside a large open window, hoping for a breeze to yawn through on this very hot day shortly before the Independence Day holiday of July 4th - in the year 2012 to be precise. Modern air conditioning is not to be found here in Christ Church since it dates from 1695, over 300 years ago. The church is one of many historic landmarks and artifacts in the Old City area of Philadelphia and is steeped in early American history. Signers of the Declaration of Independence worshipped here and the pews where notable patriots sat are labeled with legendary names such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin
Today I am waiting for a concert to begin featuring the Sri Chinmoy Sacred Fire Singers, offered as an Independence Day Holiday program. They will perform songs composed by Sri Chinmoy and recite from his writings, all centered on the theme of the ideals upon which our nation was founded.
As I sit in the church waiting for the concert to begin, I ponder the tour of Independence Hall I just completed and about how I set off on foot afterwards to walk to the Philadelphia neighborhood I once lived in near the Italian Market and South Street. The neighborhoods still exuded the same charm that captured my heart over 30 years ago.
My own love affair with Philadelphia was first kindled when I lived in that Italian neighborhood briefly while doing a college internship semester. Those short months were imbued with a perpetual feeling of deja vu whenever I walked the streets. Philadelphia was "home" as much as I ever felt in my midwestern home town where I grew up.
Not until I embarked on a spiritual path with belief in reincarnation at its very core did I wonder why I loved Philadelphia and the colonial and Revolutionary War period in U.S. history so much. Without giving it undue importance - since the past is over and done - I didn't speculate too much about my previous incarnations even though occasionally I experienced glimmers of awareness.
One time I was touring an old historic home in Rhode Island and when I walked into a room and looked into a mirror, the face reflected in the mirror looking back at me was a woman dressed plainly and in the garb of a bygone era. I felt it was myself in the mirror. Was this really a glimpse of myself in some previous life or a ghost? Questions such as these are not easily answered with confidence and conviction.
Now my very modern self is sitting in a church in the National Historic Register in one of my favorite cities and I am immersed in the concert and recitations by the Sacred Fire Ensemble of musicians and singers. I am enchanted by the beauty and wisdom expressed in Sri Chinmoy's compositions and writings on the significance of America. What a sublime way to celebrate the 4th of July!
Suddenly a question pierced my gaze and attention to the music. I inwardly asked God if it was true that I had been in this very church before, in a former life. Did I have an incarnation in Philadelphia? I looked out the window into the courtyard outside and tried to feel if the view seemed familiar. Remembering my experience in the historic house tour with the mirror, I thought maybe when I look back into the church I would see some vision of the past as an answer.
I turned my gaze from the courtyard back into the church and perhaps not surprisingly, all is still twenty-first century. Immediately after this moment, one of Sri Chinmoy's students originally from Bangladesh, now living in Queens, came up to the microphone to perform solo. She sings in a haunting classical Indian style and shares the mother tongue of Sri Chinmoy, Bengali, which many of his songs are written in. Sri Chinmoy praised her as an excellent singer and many times asked her to perform a cappella at our meditation functions.
All the music thus far in the concert has been songs by Sri Chinmoy written in English and themed in content about America. She commences singing in Bengali, a traditional song that Sri Chinmoy himself often sang. My being is enveloped in goosebumps and tearful gratitude. Directly after asking if I have ever been here before in the "past" I am hearing a Bengali song reverberating in the church which includes my spiritual name.
The song has no outward logical connection to the American patriotism of the rest of the concert. The chances seem to me a million to one that I would be hearing a Bengali song performed in this historic American church and one which I sing daily in my morning devotions at my shrine because the song has the word "Sharani" in it, the spiritual name given to me by Sri Chinmoy.
My question which was impulsive in the moment and posed without a strong feeling that it would be answered comes back with an answer cosmic and profound on multiple levels. Firstly that God hears our every little thoughts and whispers and rains down Grace and Compassion regardless of our state of deserving or non-deserving.
Secondly, instead of showing me visions of myself and people inside the church cloaked in the bygone past, I am answered affirmatively with the utterance of my spiritual name, the representation of my core self which itself is beyond time and place. Sharani was here before and Sharani is here now and that soul essence belongs to no single geographic place, period in history or circumstance.
Like a teacher patiently leading the student to deeper wisdom and more meaningful dialogue, the answer to my question made me feel that even though I apparently was incarnated in Philadelphia in some previous lifetime, it didn't really matter. What matters is only the soul, the soul on an eternal journey to reunite consciously with the Divine Source. Whether that was in Philadelphia or anywhere else is ultimately extraneous.
When learning foreign languages, the tenses and conjugation of verbs is key to the study. A verb can be conjugated as simple past, simple present, simple future - all the way up to past continuous, future continuous and future perfect continuous. My past life framed by the belief in reincarnation conjugates as a verb. My core divine self on a journey beyond past, present or future. Sharani - the Road that Leads to the Highest Destination of Divinity. Past, Present, Future Perfect Continuous. Journey on to the destination - past, present, future forever.