An article exploring the meaning of being a spiritual warrior which develops from a personal experience at the 2004 Birthday celebrations
When I arrived in Jamaica , Queens , in mid-August, I was a wreck. I was just beginning to recover from acute laryngitis and had sustained a foot injury that made walking painful and difficult. In the midst of the physical problems, I had had to endure a marathon of lectures, exams, grading, student problems and paperwork, sometimes 16 hours a day, that all goes with the job of teaching at a large metropolitan university. Despite my more than 30 years of practice of meditation, the unrelenting pace of the work coupled with the physical problems had given me a hellish ten days. My head was full of other peoples’ problems in addition to trying to keep the small scraps of civility and cheerfulness in my own life from blowing away in the winds.
I think for many of us the commonest antidote for stress and overwork would be to go to some remote, beautiful and peaceful natural area and let the solace of Mother Nature wash over the mental and physical abrasions with her slow, simple healing rhythms. It was certainly a tactic that I had used many times in the past, but here I was in the middle of New York City attending my spiritual teacher’s birthday celebration along with close to 2000 others from probably 50 different countries. We were all crammed into small apartments or rented houses, sometimes five to a room, for two weeks of plays, musical performances, athletic events and meditations. As I lugged my stuff up the two flights of stairs to the apartment where I would spend the celebration with a dozen friends from everywhere from Seattle to Macedonia, I briefly considered the possibility that I had fallen off the narrow ledge of sanity on which I fancied myself to be standing. Still, as I opened the door and saw the chaos of luggage, clothes, books, musical instruments, sheets, sleeping bags and humanity before me, I found to my astonishment a truly genuine and sincere smile on my face, and I croaked out greetings to friends I hadn’t seen in many months. Where had that smile come from? How could it have arisen so spontaneously and from what forgotten inner reservoir of joy and soul that had been buried by the relentless stress of my outer life? Even as these questions arose I felt that reservoir begin to grow and glow and begin to spread throughout my whole being.
After a shower, I changed into white shirt and pants that all Sri Chinmoy’s men disciples wear to the formal gatherings and walked the three blocks to the place that we call Aspiration Ground . This is Sri Chinmoy’s private outdoor urban center, actually a tennis court and garden marvelously reclaimed from an undeveloped marshy streambed between two steep hillsides and over the past few years gradually refurbished into a small amphitheater. At one end is a small ‘temple’ where he himself presides and from where he can be seen by everyone seated in the bleachers above the court. Nearly all the celebration activities are held here, and regardless of how many people are in attendance, sometimes many more than 1000, there always seems to be room for at least one more.
Aspiration Ground is one of the major anchors of Sri Chinmoy’s spiritual force in the outer world. When you enter, you can feel your center move. The motion is from your mental arena into the depths of your spiritual heart, gateway to the soul and to the infinite; and it is to the collective heart that his teaching is directed and from whence its radiance spreads to mind, emotional drives and the physical body itself. As I found a seat, at the very rear facing the temple, I could see ‘Guru’ as we call him sitting still in his chair as one of the many singing groups sang several of his devotional songs written in his native Bengali tongue. Several such groups performed in succession as the audience of several hundred appreciated them in meditative silence. As the singing continued I could feel the inmost layers of disharmony that I had carried in with me: the mental tensions, resentments, frustrations begin to loosen and slowly disperse. Guru’s and the audience’s meditation amplified the sweetness of the singing, and I felt that the heavens were descending to earth, assuaging her countless woes; or perhaps that earth were rising into the realms where compassion and concern take their source. As the waves of music and peace washed over and through me, the loosening accelerated into a cleansing and a healing. I had the sense of my mind clearing first, its suffering evaporating, and as we walked home a few hours later in the evening, I realized that my emotional and physical discomforts had eased greatly as well. I wondered how I could ever have felt so overwhelmed as nearly to have lost contact with my spiritual center. Rather than pursuing this self-accusatory thought I felt myself filling with an intense sense of gratitude. Tears ran down my face as I walked through the cool tree-lined streets.
Of course this was neither a new experience nor a new revelation for me. On many occasions I had come to New York from the ‘dense’ activities of academia and human life in general to have my spirituality recharged and reanimated in the presence of my teacher, but this occasion had been certainly the most intense. The distance between my state on arrival and my reawakened state was the greatest I could remember. Sri Chinmoy’smetaphor of spiritual seekers as ‘divine warriors’ came back to be again and again over the duration of the celebration, and I had several conversations along this line with some of my closest friends.
The metaphor of the ‘spiritual warrior’ is only partly based on the outer warrior who has to defeat enemies in physical combat. It has a more subtle source and farther-reaching application. It is true that in one dimension, the battle is a personal one, waged against one’s own limitations of doubt, fear, jealousy, frustration, desires……many of the things I myself was experiencing just a few days ago. Through meditation, we open ourselves to our inner source, the soul-force that lives deep inside the hearts of each of us. When we can open that window fully enough, these disharmonies of personal life are illumined and finally and permanently conquered. I realized that the cure to my recent aggravations wasn’t anger and stoicism, but more meditation, more meditation and more patience . Anyone who knows me will be quick to point out that impatience is one of my most deeply embedded weaknesses. I have made a personal mantra out of one of Sri Chinmoy’s most important spiritual guideposts, ‘Never give up!’ This has a deep personal meaning to me because in the greater field of humanity, each individual victory of the spiritual warrior brings the collective consciousness one rung higher than it was before. Determination, patience and an unshakable faith in our inner divinity can and will bring about the transformation of the world, starting with our own nature. When enough people let in enough light through their prayers and meditation, the division, violence and unhappiness that are the rags of modern human society can and will move on a more luminous and fulfilling course. Bliss is not content to peek out from the occasional single life. Its destiny is to spread throughout the length and breadth of the world. Thus it should be no surprise that Sri Chinmoy’s activities are global in scope and have taken him to nearly every nation of the world to offer inspiration to whomever is receptive to his message of self-transcendence through development of the inner life.
During the next few days, I joined in the myriad disciple activities that make up the outer life of the celebration: practicing with singing groups, putting on first a marathon and then, on the next day, an ultramarathon, cooking meals for hundreds, doing dishes for the same hundreds, attending performances, meetings and meditations, and last and also least, getting 4-5 hours sleep a day. ‘A joyful madness’ as one Canadian friend put it. There was the same level of activity, moreso in fact, that I had experienced just before I left home, but rather than jolting from one dissonance into another, it was all a delicious flow of happiness from beginning to end.
Even in the very intense activities of the long-distance runs, the spiritual centeredness of the participants, whether runners or support staff, imbued the atmosphere with the inspiring qualities of heroism, dedication, concentration, self-transcendence and selflessly offered service. Everyone, however apparently humble were their roles, from race directors to water providers worked in what Sri Chinmoy likes to call a ‘oneness family’ of purpose and effort. That several hundred people, speaking more than a dozen different languages, of diverse religious, national and ethnic backgrounds could put together events of such complexity and precision on what was very short notice was a microcosmic demonstration by our little disciple community of what a truly spiritual global society could accomplish.
Why all of this struck me with such force after having come to celebrations for nearly thirty years I cannot say, other than hopefully I was growing more fit as an instrument of my soul. Perhaps the suffering and illness and injury which now seemed two lifetimes ago rather than a short two weeks had catalyzed some inner forward movement that I could not have foreseen and did not fully understand. As my flight landed at Fort Lauderdale, I stepped onto my native Florida soil with an eagerness of spirit and a new confidence to serve and to grow, perhaps to be challenged, but also to be grateful for whatever lessons in progress life was going to offer.
Article By: Durjaya