Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Guru's Death

On Sunday night, October 14, Jeevan and I walked past Guru's open casket at the appointed hour. Afterwards, as we had done the night before, we mingled outside the tennis court with our many friends. It was then that I sat down with Sahishnu (pictured above, in race director mode) and he told me about Guru's last hours.

I wrote the following account from memory the following evening, October 15, once back in California:

According to Sahishnu, on the night of Wednesday, October 10, 2007, Guru had a meditation at the tennis court. Aside from being Wednesday night -- an historically important night for Center meditations -- it was also the night before the Nobel Peace Prize was to be awarded, an award long cherished by Guru.

At the end of the meditation, Guru asked for volunteers to stay for a few extra hours, after he had left the tennis court, to meditate at the court with the Peace Prize in mind. Eighty-five disciples volunteered and Guru then went home. Sahishnu, and Guru's other masseuse Kamalakanta, followed.

Sometime after midnight, Sahishnu said that something scary happened. While he was massaging Guru, a sudden expression came over Guru's face. Sahishnu said that it lasted perhaps 10 seconds or so, but he said Guru looked very frightened. Sahishnu said that he had never seen Guru appear so scared and so totally out of control like that before. It was over, however, just as quickly as it had started. As Guru came to, he asked that prasad be brought.

All of this occurred upstairs at Guru's house. Apparently, the downstairs living room area, where we'd gather to watch TV at the house back in the day, is now too crowded with various pieces of exercise equipment, so Guru and the disciples congregate upstairs.

In any event, after prasad, everyone left the house except Sahishnu, Kamalakanta, Ranjana, Govinda, and Paree. Once the others had gone, Guru asked Sahishnu and Kamalakanta to start vigorously massaging his chest in a downward motion. Sahishnu demonstrated this for me as he spoke by pushing down from his chest towards his abdomen and waist. From Sahishnu's description, this went on for some time, then Guru asked them to work his neck and the back of his shoulders.

Sahishnu said that he and Kamalakanta were really working hard -- to the point of sweating. Sometimes they were working in unison on Guru's chest or back, while at other times they were working separately, with one doing Guru's chest and the other doing Guru's neck and shoulders. This went on until around 2:30 a.m. on the morning of Thursday, October 11. At that point, Sahishnu (and everyone else, I think) left.

Sahishnu remembered Ranjana stopping her car alongside him as he began walking home. He pet Ranjana's dog, then he and Ranjana waved good night to each other. That, apparently, was the end of Sahishnu's direct knowledge of events.

Sahishnu went on to relate that Ranjana was seen speeding to Guru's house at around 4:30 a.m. (I think that's what Sahishnu said). Then, around 6:30 a.m., Guru suffered the fatal attack. The only other piece of information I picked up -- and this might not have been from Sahishnu -- was that paramedics were called.

Sahishnu's account was heartfelt and sobering; his eyes were moist and red throughout. I've got lots of reasons to be grateful to Sahishnu. The first time I visited New York -- August celebrations 1982 -- he let me crash in his room for a few days. Later, at the Smile, he set an example for me of how to man up under difficult and demanding circumstances, an example I've never forgotten. I am especially grateful, however, that he shared his time with me that Sunday night last October.


Anonymous said...


I am an old close friend and spiritual brother of Sahishnu. I am so deeply touched by his recounting of the last hours on Earth of Sri Chinmoy, our Guru.
I extend my deepest love to Sahishnu and all those there in N.Y. that know me.
with great fondness
rich Navroth

Y. said...

For what I think are obvious reasons, this post is the most viewed of the entire blog.

Unfortunately, the naturalness of Guru's death -- from an apparent heart attack or stroke -- and Guru's surprise and/or fear of the event has led some to sniff at the irony of an all-seeing "avatar" or "god realized soul" dying in such a human way. This kind of superficial -- small minded, really -- understanding is both sad and counterproductive.

"Mahasamadhi" -- the great trance -- is one of the first Indian words I learned as a teenaged seeker. The idea, as I idealized it then -- and as many fundamentalists still idealize it -- was that great souls would, at a time of their own choosing, leave their bodies consciously by first going into trance. Of course, this idea is extremely attractive in that it posits control over one's own death. This, however, is the stuff of myth, the stuff of pure hagiography.

In reality, "mahasamadhi" is a euphemism for death. Of those spiritual masters that made up my early heroes -- and of whom there is any credible record -- none left their bodies via trance. Sri Ramakrishna: long, painful battle with throat cancer; Vivekananda: diabetic coma; Paramahansa Yogananda: stroke, right in the middle of a speech.

Here's the take home point: don't make spiritual masters out to be anything other than human beings. They don't descend from the clouds and crap sandalwood (and if they did, they wouldn't be of any use to the rest of us). They are people, not gods.

That's where I find the most inspiration. If my spiritual heroes struggled with the same issues that I struggle with, then I am more like them than I had once believed.

And the real downside to those who publicly sneer at Guru's very human death -- aside from being classless -- is that it puts pressure on those running the Center to come up with their own myth as to Guru's passing, to continue the age old disservice of spiritual movements throughout history which have foisted upon after arriving seekers the fog of hagiography, covering the Truth with a fog of deceit made even thicker with good intentions.

AM said...

I have heard of tibetan lamas who have consiously "crossed over" in modern times, but that may also be part of a myth.
The mother of the Sri Aurobindo ashram allegedly cured herself from a heart attack, perhaps a myth.
Jesus, an undisputed Master, was supposed to have felt abandoned for a while, while on the cross."My Lord, why have you forsaken me."

The last hours of Sri Chinmoy, as they were told to me over in Europe: Sri Chinmoy was in his house, Paree and Govinda was in another room, then they found Guru dead, lying on the floor with folded hands in front of a picture of Mother Kali, with his head toward the Kali-image and with a leg drawn up in a Kali-dance way.
This story, differs from Sahishnu's story but does not contradict it.

Anonymous said...


I tried the Chinmoy path for certain time and gave out for feelings of uncertainity and disgust. So I am not disciple, but I have some friends in SCC.

When in 2007 I was told by certain ex-s the Guru who claimed himself near to be immortal, suddenly died on heart attack, I did not believed.
I decided to ask my friend, who is still disciple.
He told me this is, unfortunatelly for all the Devotion Space, true.
And, he did shown me 2 photos of poor quality. On first of them was Chinmoy lying on floor, on his belly, with hand touching near his left armpit. On other was detail of his face, with not much nice grimace.
He described the situation their Guru was lying there like someone shot him dead.
If his death was caused by sudden heart attack, there is nothing mysterious on the fact.
But if I imagine myself to be one of the faithfull, such experinece will gave me unbearable shock.
Is there anyone else who saw the photos?
I simply can not believe the photo showing Chinmoy lying in a casket with peacefull face, what appeared in funeral times, is the authentic one.