Chitta Da’s Birthday
By: Jogyata Dallas
If you came here in August, if you have an interest in things of the spirit, you might have walked down this driveway in the New York City Borough of Queens and through a gate as I did, and entered into a world of great beauty and surprise.
Today, August 16, they are celebrating the birthday of Chitta Ranjan Ghose, a devout soul born into a family of great Indian souls. 800 students of Chitta’s brother, the living spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy, are here to commemorate this sacred occasion.
Inside the gate two majestic stone lions greet you, regal guardians immaculately carved in white marble. They are immense, alive, full of power – the fierce gatekeepers inspire in you humility, reverence, respect. You find yourself standing in an outdoor garden of sorts, a temple grounds rich with bright colours and flanked above by steep terraced benches. People are milling about, the women in brightly coloured saris, a garment honouring the spiritual and sacred, the men in white, the colour for ceremony and meditation.
In the background, set into a grove of shading oaks, stands an elegant low temple, Zen-like with its flowing lines and graceful simplicity. Everywhere nature’s riotous beauty, bursts forth in the multifarious greens of summer – evident in the tendrils and creepers of the wisteria vine, engulfing the western roof of the temple in a blaze of invading green; in the dappled shadow-greens of the oaks and sycamores, their boughs merging with the temple’s elegance in a symmetry of man’s artifice and nature; and amid all this, the indescribable abundance of flowers. Yes, flowers are everywhere, the jubilant yellows of marigolds and sunflowers; peonies and violets tumbling from dozens of hanging baskets; the huge, tall moon globes of orange blossoms, heavy with fragrance.
Inside the temple, beneath its burnished copper-tiled roof, Sri Chinmoy is a calm, solitary figure. Like the leonine gatekeepers, the Master sits motionless, and you watch and marvel at his stillness – in his simple white cotton dhoti he, too, is a statue, majestic in the repose of meditation, eyes half closed, conscious of this world yet clearly roaming in other, inner realms that lie beyond the horizons of our comprehension.
Gathered behind him, life-size images of his family stand together, each garlanded with flowers – Shashi Kumar Ghose, the pious father; Mantu, the renunciate; Hriday, eldest brother; Chitta, once a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and so close to Sri Chinmoy.
Down on the garden courtyard a stage has been set for a concert of songs that will honour Chitta-da’s life, Chitta-da’s soul. Behind the assembling performers, cosmic gods and goddesses have been installed in panels of bright colours – Mother Kali, dark-hued transformer of human ignorance, depicted with her necklace of human skulls; Saraswati, imparter of knowledge: Ganesha, protector of homes and temples. Everywhere bouquets of bright flowers, statues, a rich feast of colours and details enchanting to the eyes. Overhead long streamers of white paper flowers sway silently in the breeze, prayer-flags moving slowly in unison like underwater plants swaying to the rhythm of silent seas.
Invisible in their overhead kingdom of trees, cicadas sing their harsh summer song. Their voices rise in unison then fade into silence – rise again together as though attentive to some unseen conductor.
Now for several minutes a ritual bell is rung, single-noted, vibrant in the silence, summoning the soul of Chitta-da from its own abode to this earth world. “Come, come” it seems to say. “We have decorated our garden-temple for you today, beloved Chitta-da. Come, come, we invoke you, it is you we celebrate.” Tumblers of incense are lit, activity fades into stillness, everything falls silent in anticipation.
Now the singers begin their mantric song chants, beautiful repeating melodies accompanied by harmonium, hammer dulcimer, flute, tabla and the haunting sounds of the two stringed Chinese erhu, eerily resembling the human voice in supplicating song.
And how beautiful the human voice is when harnessed to the force of spirit – listening our very souls seem bathed in sunlight. Immersed in the Master’s songs, you are surprised how deeply moved you feel, your hands fold together over your heart in spontaneous devotion. Sri Chinmoy the composer-alchemist is transforming the base stuff of mind, body into a golden rapture of pure consciousness, an effortless euphoria of spirit. Each tribute song distills some essence of Chitta-da’s earth-life, some aspect of his soul – the words are garbed in Sri Chinmoy’s wonderful melodies that so energise, awaken our spirits. They are pure brush strokes of music that somehow capture and convey a sense of something very lovely – what is it ? – something already familiar to the soul and waiting just beyond reach for its rediscovery. So that spirituality is less an act of learning and knowing, but simply of remembering.
What was it that summoned Chitta-da’s soul – the ritual bell, the songs filled with such a pure devotion, the force of brother Chinmoy’s encompassing love, spanning other realms, other times not of our knowing? Later Sri Chinmoy would recount to us many of his inner experiences during the concert – experiences that would seem remarkable and wonderful to us. What might have been only a belief in the endless life of the soul becomes a compelling portrait of its reality as you hear Sri Chinmoy talk of these visitations by his family. Clearly, an illumined Master is a bridge between co-existing worlds, a meeting place between the seen and the unseen, the material and the ethereal, body and spirit, a truth vividly revealed this day.
In his book My Brother Chitta, Sri Chinmoy writes: “My brother was not an ordinary human being. He was a really great soul… His love for me was unparalleled… When I was meditating, or studying, or writing poems, he would come and stand in front of me and look into my eyes. I am his youngest brother and his only wish was to look into my eyes.”
“I wish to say that no elder brother has been so indulgent to his younger brother in God’s entire creation… Unconditional love and unconditional service my brother showed me all his life. He only desired one thing: my happiness.”
From My Brother Chitta, by Sri Chinmoy
(Pgs. 3, 50, 51)
Originally posted on Sri Chinmoy Centre – Inspiration Letters