Friday, January 2, 2009

Lines of Communication

By 1999, Jeevan was no longer in the Center.

In the years just before, he had been working with our sister, Nirbachita, to re-establish a Sri Chinmoy Center in Santa Cruz, the very Center where I had started my journey so many years before. They had been making some gains in attracting seekers and had even put on a successful swim-run biathlon.

Then word made it back to Guru that Jeevan had become romantically involved with someone. He was summarily kicked out of the Center.

Shortly thereafter, Jeevan asked Guru if he could return to the Center. In response, Ashrita told Jeevan that Guru had expressed surprise to hear that Jeevan wanted back in, but that if he did, then he must move to the San Francisco Center (where, presumably, Jeevan would have less "freedom"). It didn't take long, however, for someone to spot Jeevan getting out of a car driven by a female disciple. Guru kicked Jeevan out of the Center for the second (and last) time.

Much later, Jeevan told me that he knew that his disciple-life had been over for some time, but that he couldn't bring himself to leave Guru.

Jeevan's departure from the Center left just our sister Liz still remaining. By then (1999), though, Guru had given her the name of Nirbachita. Literally it means "chosen" or "selected" in Bengali. Guru's more elaborate meaning was: "A Supremely chosen instrument-child of our Absolute Lord Beloved Supreme to please Him in His own way."

The Chosen One!

Unfortunately for her, Nirbachita was beginning to have a rough go of it. She was living in San Francisco and working at the disciple-run restaurant there, Ananda Fuara. At the time, day-to-day management of the restaurant was the responsibility of a person lacking in inter-personal skills who clashed with Nirbachita. Instead of ironing out any differences, though, the manager would call Ashrita in New York and complain about her.

I could sympathize. Her situation reminded me of my time in the Navy. It's a real challenge to work in a high stress, low pay environment, especially when being managed by idiots. For the first time in our lives, Nirbachita and I began talking fairly regularly. And it wasn't just about the everyday stress of work.

Nirbachita couldn't have been more devoted to Guru, which made it that much more difficult for her to deal with the treatment Guru was subjecting her to. I've written before about Guru's "tough love," but that's not what I'm describing here. Instead, Guru began treating Nirbachita unfairly. It was the start of a perplexing downward spiral in relations between them, all instigated by Guru.

Recently, when I asked Nirbachita to tell me the most hurtful thing Guru did to her, she recalled this time period. One of her friends had just left the Center and Guru had blamed Nirbachita for it. To make matters worse, Guru didn't say anything to Nirbachita herself, nor did he have the message delivered to her in the normal fashion (via his messenger Ashrita). Instead, Guru spread the news rumor-style to some other disciples and let it trickle down to her (and others of course).

When Nirbachita heard the news, she cried literally all night, she said. When she finally fell asleep, however, she was comforted in an unusual way. In a vivid dream, Swami Vivekananda sat down next to her, put his arm on her shoulder, and consoled her.

At first, I didn't know what to make of Guru's treatment of Nirbachita (which in my opinion got worse later on, as I'll address a few posts from now). Guru had generally treated me with kid gloves. But as I reflected upon my own Center experience, I had come to the conclusion that Guru might have been trying to push me out of the Center, like a mother bird trying to get its chick to leave the nest.

With Nirbachita, it seemed, the mother bird was actually pecking her pretty hard. A short time after her Swami Vivekananda dream, things came to a head at the restaurant and Guru's solution was to tell Nirbachita move up to the Seattle Center (rather than have the troublesome restaurant manager move).

In one of our telephone conversations, I hypothesized that if Guru was given the choice of kicking only one of two disciples out of the Center, he'd kick the saner of the two out every time. A sane person, like Nirbachita, I reasoned, would thrive outside the Center and continue her quest for personal development. Not so with some folks in the Center. For some disciples -- and certainly for most of us in the very beginning -- life in the Center was a step up: simple drug- and alcohol-free living, relatively healthy food, exercise.

That's what I told Nirbachita upon her exile to Seattle. She was the stronger one, so she was moved.

That Nirbachita was slowly moving towards life on the outside was clear to me then, and it became even more apparent once she made her final move from Seattle to New York, where, for no apparent reason, Guru continued to treat her harshly and unfairly.

Photo credit of my sister goes to a very nice San Francisco Center disciple named Astika.

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