Friday, April 4, 2008

Phanindra

Shortly after Guru arrived at Progress-Promise, it was apparent that something significant was happening. He was very quiet and serious -- grave, even -- as he entered the hall and shuffled up to the stage. Almost immediately upon taking his seat, Guru began meditating.

After a few minutes, and without a word, Guru picked up a pen from among those gathered next to his throne and began drawing on an oversize piece of paper. The silent drawing went on for some time. There was tension in the room. When Guru finished drawing, he simply let the paper slip from his fingers almost carelessly, where it floated down in front of him onto the carpet. Then, Guru began intently meditating again.

After a few minutes, Guru announced that Phanindra was dead. He had been killed in an avalanche while skiing in the Alps with his father.

I shared floor space with Phanindra in the room of a local disciple on my two most recent trips to New York (April and August '83). He was a young, sharp-featured Frenchman with orange hair. While I would wake up in the mornings a few minutes late, shower quickly and then run all the way to the morning function -- mentally flogging myself all the way for missing every precious divine moment with the master -- Phanindra would sleep in. Upon my return to the room, I'd find him lying on the floor reading comic books.

Phanindra was at ease with himself, a quality that I both lacked and admired. He received his name on a small square of paper and I remember asking him what it said. He told me that "Phanindra" had something to do with the "divine snake consciousness," as I recall. I wasn't sure how I would have reacted to such a name had it been given to me.

The snake didn't seem like all that uplifting of a symbol to me, but I detected no such hesitation in his acceptance of the name. At the time, I thought Phanindra did resemble a snake, with his sharp nose and intent eyes, and now, thinking back, I imagine he did personify the budding creative energy beginning to uncoil itself upon the world -- the Divine Serpent.

The last time I remember seeing Phanindra, he gave me a "Vive la France" t-shirt. It was a gaudy red, white and blue number that the French disciples' Song-Waves choir used in their performances. At the April '83 Celebrations, I had made an off hand comment to Phanindra about how much I liked the shirts. So, that August, he brought one for me.

I was very happy to get the shirt, but touched even more that Phanindra had thought of me.

A special thank you to some old friends in Paris for the photo, which shows not only Phanindra, but his Paris Center name tag.

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