Monday, January 28, 2008

Novitiate

The Santa Cruz Sri Chinmoy Center met twice a week for meditation at a two-story apartment, the top floor of which was used as a meditation room by the half dozen disciples belonging to the Center and was off limits to us non-disciples. So, Charlie and I didn't go up there. We just attended the public meditation given by the Center every Wednesday night, which was held downstairs in the living room. (Photo credit.)

By then -- the end of the summer of 1981 -- Charlie and I both wanted to become disciples of Sri Chinmoy. On Wednesday evenings, we would catch a ride over the hill from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz with whoever Charlie's brother Dave was going with. We'd usually arrive at the Center a few minutes before meditation started at 7:30 p.m. So, Charlie and I would spend a few minutes checking out the hundreds of books in the Center library (which was basically just a big bookcase).

The meditation itself would usually last an hour, and included reading, some music of Sri Chinmoy's played on tape (esraj or flute), and some silent meditation on Guru's photograph. Afterwards, we'd sit around joking and basking in the meditation-induced high we'd received (at least I did), while one of the local Santa Cruz disciples put together the fixin's for quesadillas or some other California fare. After dinner, but before heading back over the hill, we'd stop off at Marianne's for ice cream.

Though I wasn't a disciple, nobody in the Center ever tried to recruit me. In fact, it took what I thought (even at the time) extraordinary effort on my part just to find out about the public meditations.

Ever since my awakening -- that day when I first meditated on Sri Chinmoy's picture and came away high as a kite -- I had been pestering Dave to let me know how to apply to become a disciple of Sri Chinmoy. While he told me that it entailed having my photograph taken and sent to Guru, he had no good answer about when that might happen. All he told me was that at present, the leaders of the Santa Cruz Center were out of town and no pictures would be taken any time soon.

Not satisfied, I wrote New York. I'd seen an address for the Sri Chinmoy Center headquarters there and wrote, asking what I had to do to become a disciple. A few weeks later, I received a response. While the response was meant to be helpful, it suggested that I contact the Santa Cruz Center, which was nearest my location. Armed with that response, I re-approached Dave, who then suggested Charlie and I attend on Wednesday nights, until the Center leaders were "back in town."

As it turned out, the leaders of the Santa Cruz Center were a married couple -- Devadip and Urmila (a.k.a. Carlos and Debbie) Santana -- who were in the process of disassociating themselves from the group. The shock of this event on the local disciples was lost on me and my new found zeal. All I wanted was to have my picture taken and sent to Sri Chinmoy. And as the new school year started, I got my wish -- my photo would be taken at the next Wednesday night meditation.

When Wednesday came, one of the disciples told me that I could go upstairs and meditate by myself. After ten minutes or so, he said he'd come up and take my picture. For the first time, I got to ascend the stairs to the disciple-only shrine. It was sublime. The meditation room was all white -- very plush white carpet, white chiffon curtains behind the shrine -- and a large, high quality matte print of Guru's photo. The room was bristling with energy.

With that, my picture was taken and the waiting game began. My understanding was that the photo would be sent to Guru, who would then meditate on it to determine whether my soul was meant for his path or not. No one, however, could say how long the process would take. I just had to wait.

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