Salutations, numbers 1-4

Return to the table of contents

Part I — Salutations to Switzerland

Meditation in Zurich

In Zurich over five hundred people came to the meditation. The seekers in Zurich were so good. They took prasad with real devotion — "devotion" is the right word. I am always deeply moved that when seekers in the audience in San Francisco take prasad after a public meditation, they show tremendous respect. Here in Zurich it was truly like our San Francisco experience. With such devotedness, hundreds of people took prasad.

Zatopek arrives

As you know, the immortal runner and Olympic gold medalist Emil Zatopek spent two days with us in Zurich on 14 and 15 June. Right from my childhood I have been a great admirer of his, so I am deeply grateful that Zatopek came from Czechoslovakia to visit us. So many unforgettable experiences we all had with him and his wife, Dana!

Our plane reached Zurich at eleven-thirty, and at twelve o'clock Zatopek's plane was supposed to arrive. Kailash, Abarita and I went with two photographers to another platform to wait for him. His plane came on time, but there was a problem with his bag. He had a small bag — you can call it a briefcase even — for his wife and himself. But they wouldn't allow him to carry the bag on the plane. It had to go in the baggage compartment. He said later that in America we can take big, huge boxes and all that, so he felt it was ridiculous that they wouldn't allow him to carry such a small bag.

We were watching him through the glass door as he was waiting by the carousel for his bag. Everybody's luggage came, but his was missing. He is my best friend in that way. So many times everybody's luggage comes except mine. Even returning to New York this time, I arrived yesterday and only today my luggage arrived. You can call my stories hilarious or painful.

We were all excited because we could see him, but he couldn't come outside to meet us because he was looking for his bag. At one point while we were waiting, ten or more middle-aged and elderly ladies asked me, "Is Zatopek here?" We pointed him out, "Yes, he is there." They had gotten their bags and everything, and, O God, now they wanted to see him. For about half an hour or more they were waiting outside — only to see Zatopek. They were so eager and anxious to meet him. Perhaps, for the first time, they were getting the opportunity to see him in person, When he was young, when he was a champion, they had heard his name. Now they wanted to see him.

At long last he came out and I approached him. He recognised me. I wanted to shake hands with him, but he immediately folded his hands in the Indian way and said, "Namaskar." Then he started talking to me in Hindi, using a few Hindi words. He was asking me if I wanted to drink hot tea. Then he asked, "How is it that Hindi is easy, but Urdu I could not learn?" He and his wife were in India for four months. We were talking and talking about various things.

A French disciple was using my movie camera, but there was nothing inside it — wonderful! But fortunately thirty or forty very nice pictures were taken by Marco. Then Zatopek and his wife went to their hotel to take rest.

The athletic meet

In two hours' time we met again at an athletic meet. A few world champions were there, and people had come from different countries. We were sitting together in the gallery with Zatopek and his wife. In the beginning he was so shy that his wife did most of the talking. It was not that Zatopek was snubbing me, but he would look to this side and that side and sometimes even close his eyes. His wife was absolutely at ease while we were chatting. Zatopek speaks many languages, but his wife seems to speak better English than he does.

During the five thousand-metre run, Zatopek picked a runner that he wanted to be first. He was telling me, "This runner is going to be first." It so happens that that particular runner had written me a letter about a year ago. He had heard about me and congratulated me on something that I had done. I forgot to tell Zatopek that it was the same person. Zatopek was clapping and screaming the runner's name, but that runner didn't come in first. Afterwards, the runner wanted to see me. I went and congratulated and consoled him.

When Zatopek went to give the prizes for the five thousand-metre race, the whole audience cheered him. Everybody in the stadium honoured him like anything.

The uncooperative camera

Kailash was using my camera to take pictures at the athletic meet. It seemed that the camera was on exposure number eight, so Kailash took nine, ten and all the way up to thirty-six pictures. Then for some reason suspicion arose. He opened the camera and there was no film in it.

But there were three other photographers, so there was no problem. Marco and others were taking pictures; so it was not necessary for Kailash to take pictures also.

The great man

The funniest thing happened when it was time for the awards ceremony for the women's discus. For each event the organisers of the games had arranged for a "great man" to give out the prizes. They were looking for the great man who was supposed to give the prizes for the discus, but he was missing. Then it was discovered that this great man was none other than Abarita himself.

They called Abarita over the loud-speaker and begged him to give the prizes. Abarita dropped from Heaven! How could he go to the centre of the stadium and give the prizes? He knows nothing about the discus and he does not consider himself a great man. But those people were saying, "You are great."

In the ceremony there was a line of three or four girls, and the official had to put a medal around each girl's neck. The winners were all three and four times as large as Abarita; they were like Tejiyan and Bhima. They were absolutely from another world. Abarita became nervous, but since he had become the great man, he had to go and give out the prizes.

The relay race

The girls in the four hundred-metre race ran so fast! You could barely see them even. It was very good and it reminded me of my races in India. They were all thin, like skeletons.

After the relay race, I was supposed to give out the prizes in the stadium and speak about Zatopek to honour him. I spoke for four or five minutes appreciating him, and I mentioned his wife's name also. Then Zatopek also spoke, thanking the organisers and encouraging us.

The German disciples sang "Run and Become" and the Marathon song very nicely.

The big prize

Another calamity! Zatopek was supposed to get a very nice prize from the club and from us. But, God knows, there was some confusion and the prize we wanted to give him did not arrive in time.

All the disciples had was a very tiny — tinier than the tiniest — medallion. I said, "What am I going to do?" Abarita said, "What can you do? If you don't give a big prize, what will everyone think?" The disciples thought it would look odd for people to see such a tiny thing, so they wrapped a very big chocolate bar and put the medal on top.

But that night we compensated for this and gave Zatopek some very nice things that he liked — a very big cuckoo clock and other things. We told him afterwards that the other prize was all deception. But what could we do? Thousands of people were watching.

Zatopek and water

We were at the stadium for hours. There I usually drink tea and all that. I don't know how, but this time I became a good man and was drinking only water. Perhaps I didn't have the heart to ask the disciples to bring me tea. Three or four times I drank water. I was very thirsty and hot. Zatopek watched me — although at the time I didn't know that he was watching.

Zatopek likes drinking beer. When we went back to his hotel, there was a tiny refrigerator in each room. So he asked his wife to give him a beer. Then he changed his mind and said, "Oh, no, no! I saw Sri Chinmoy drinking water. After seeing him drink water, I can't drink beer." These were his words. So he asked his wife to give him water.

His wife was so happy to give him water, because she had been telling him for years that he should drink less beer. Then, to make her happier, he said, "Now, I am not going to drink beer anymore. Only on very rare occasions will I drink it. Otherwise, I will drink only water. I saw Sri Chinmoy drinking water; I can't drink beer anymore."

That night he didn't take beer and the following day also he didn't drink beer. He was drinking only water. So for two days he didn't drink beer. His wife was happy that he was fulfilling her wish.

Zatopek and the Russians

In the running world, the Russians were Zatopek's worst enemies. Sometimes he used to break a world record and hold it only for a few days before the Russians would break it. The Russians tried in so many ways to defeat him. They used to give him bad advice. Outwardly they pretended to be very good friends, but often they told him everything wrong so that he would practice wrong and then lose. That kind of trick he didn't play on the Russians.

Stories from Zatopek

Zatopek told me so many stories, and I asked him many questions. He said that his father was so sad and mad when he took up running. His brother was also sad. He said, "You have cast a slur on our family. The neighbours have seen you running in another village. They are saying such bad things about us." He said that in his own village he didn't practise, because the people criticised him and hated him. So his father was very, very sad.

Then, when he became a champion, his father used to go to all the paper stands and collect the newspapers that had his picture. He kept album after album, only with Zatopek's pictures. When friends and relatives came, he would show them the albums, even before they asked anything about his son. Before that, his father was dead against his running. But when the neighbours started appreciating him, his father used to get much more joy from Zatopek's running than he himself got. This happened in my case also. When I used to stand first, my brother Mantu would get much more joy than I got.

When I asked Zatopek about his timing for one hundred, two hundred and four hundred metres, to verify what I had read in the book, he told me the timing. Believe it or not, my timing was better than his timing. But I didn't tell him that. Of course, I was a sprinter and Zatopek was a middle-distance and long-distance runner.

The television trick

One television station was supposed to interview both Zatopek and me. Then they changed their mind and said that they would interview only Zatopek. But Abarita said, "No. Zatopek came to Zurich at our request. If our Master cannot be there, then we will not allow Zatopek to be there." So Abarita cancelled it.

Then these rogues said, "We have changed our mind. Both of them should come." Around ten o'clock we went there and were taken to the main studio. In fifteen minutes' time we were supposed to be on television. A young girl came and put powder on Dana's face and on Zatopek's face. Then she went away. Immediately I got the point. I said, "They are playing a trick." So I stood up and asked Abarita, "Now, go and ask them if I will be in the interview. " Abarita asked them and they said, "No, we have changed our mind again. Only Zatopek and his wife will be there."

It was so hot there with all the studio lights. I started going into another room — but not actually outside the building — so I could watch the interview more comfortably on a television set. But then Abarita came up to me and said, "It will look very odd if you go away. No, please stay here."

I said, "I know, but it is so hot."

Then the interviewer came up to me and said, "We have a special place for you. Please come."

The special place was a seat with the jokers in the studio who only clap. There were about sixty or seventy who had come to watch the show. They put me in the front row. As soon as I joined them, they began cutting jokes and screaming and doing all kinds of things. Fortunately, I didn't understand their language. They were behaving as if they had come directly from a zoo; they were mocking and all that — the way you see them behave on television.

While Zatopek and his wife were being interviewed, they showed pictures of his Helsinki performance. At one point, Zatopek broke in and started talking about me. The interviewer immediately changed the subject. But when Zatopek mentioned my name, for two seconds the camera turned towards me and I was on television. So people saw me for two seconds. The rest of the time it was all about Zatopek. They did not allow him even to talk about me.

When it was all over, immediately Zatopek grabbed me. He felt very sad. With a very sorrowful face he said, "You are a very, very great, creative personality." I said, "What can you do? It is not your fault. Everything is for the best."

Zatopek's Guru

Later we went to our dining place and I played for ten or fifteen minutes on the esraj. Both Zatopek and his wife were listening very attentively. In a book about him, I had read that he used to play on the guitar, so we asked him to play for us. He took the guitar and for two or three seconds he played. Then he gave it to his wife, saying, "She is the one who plays."

She took the guitar and played. Then we asked them to sing one or two songs; but to our delight, they sang one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. They went on and on. I must say, they and I have some similarities. When you ask me to sing, I don't stop. They said, "We don't sing spiritual songs. We sing folk songs." So they sang many songs in different languages. I have a tape of them. It is very nice. Both of them have excellent singing voices. He sang while she was playing on the guitar. Then, at one point, we again asked him to play. He didn't want to. He said, "No, as you are their Guru, she is my Guru." He used the term "Guru" quite a few times.

Glued to the screen

When we showed the movie we had made for them of the singers in New York performing the songs I had dedicated to Zatopek, he and his wife were sitting literally on the edge of their seats. Pictures are there to prove it. They wouldn't look to this side or that side. During the serious songs I could understand it. But even during the joking sections they were sitting like that. In the movie at times our people joke and perform short skits to illustrate the songs; everything is going on. But even then Zatopek and his wife didn't laugh. Usually they are not so serious. They smile and joke and do all kinds of things. But during the movie they were so moved. They watched in pin-drop silence, as if they were glued to the screen.

Zatopek the reader

After the movie I presented Zatopek with the book I had written about him. It seems that Zatopek does not like to read anything. Perhaps he thinks it is a waste of time. I do not blame him. His wife reads on his behalf. He turns the pages, but he doesn't read. But his wife reads everything carefully. She will read my book and tell him about it. He liked very much the songs and also the movie we made for him.

Sri Chinmoy Lauf

The following day was our main race, the Sri Chinmoy Run. The disciples had found a very beautiful course around a lake with two or three small loops and one big loop. Zatopek was supposed to start the race. He was so enthusiastic, as if he were running himself. He called out, "Where is the gun?" He was screaming, "No gun? No gun?" We said, "We don't use a gun." Then his wife said, "You don't need a gun." When his wife said that, Zatopek said, "All right, I will clap."

The race was to start on a small bridge. There were a little over two hundred people on the bridge. They were standing under a big banner saying "Sri Chinmoy Lauf." "Lauf" means race. Zatopek was standing on one side. He started the race by saying something in German, ending with a final clap. When he clapped, everybody clapped, and the race started.

All the London disciples — even elderly women — were running. Our very good runners were also there. Among the disciples, Sundar came in first and then Janaka. But they were defeated by local Swiss boys. I was not feeling well and was running last, behind everybody. When I ran along the small loops, Zatopek was so excited. He was clapping like anything. His wife stood up also and was clapping and clapping, although I was running behind everybody.

Some of the girls who are useless runners kept taking short cuts at the places where the monitors were directing them around the loops. I told them later that they were all rogues. If they were supposed to run around someone who was standing in one place, instead they cut across. They saved fifty or seventy metres on four occasions. I was so disgusted. On one loop, at least two hundred metres they didn't run. They took a short cut. What were they doing? Just because they were third class runners, they felt nobody would pay any attention.

When it was over, Zatopek gave the prizes. I was so embarrassed. The first, second and third prize trophies were of the same size, with the same figure. Only it was mentioned on the trophy, "first" or "second" or "third." I said, "How can it be?"

Phillip announced the winner's name and handed the trophy to Zatopek, who handed it to the person. To each person who came up for a trophy, Zatopek had something encouraging to say. He was very, very nice. There were also health food prizes — honey and other things — for the winners. Zatopek was so happy to see that we had health food for the winners. After he gave each person his trophy, he pointed to the health food so happily and said, "Take this. You select."

I thanked both Zatopek and his wife, and Zatopek spoke, appreciating us. Then he came up to me and grabbed my hand and said, "Our Guru, this is the best." That was his comment. The race and the atmosphere — everything — pleased him, so he said, "Our Guru, this is the best."

The Mayor of Zurich, who comes from Canada, sent his assistant to honour me. He came with a proclamation and he spoke so highly of me for about seven or eight minutes. All of a sudden, his wife, who was very tall — much taller than her husband — came and gave me a huge bouquet. She was smiling at me. The husband said, "She wants to offer you this bouquet." So I took it and I thanked her.

Signing autographs

After the race, people were all standing in a queue for Zatopek's autograph. Some people came up to me and asked me to autograph a small scrapbook. Some also came and asked me to sign their running numbers.

Everybody liked Abarita's book on Zatopek. It was in German and included conversations with Zatopek during Abarita's stay at Zatopek's home. Before they ran, and afterwards as well, many runners came up to Zatopek and asked him to sign the book. Carla was selling the book, and Zatopek and his wife were sitting together side by side, signing it. When there were people he considered important, he asked his wife also to sign. Otherwise, his signature was enough. Hundreds of people came and stood in line.

When the line began fading, I also came. Before me there were seven or eight people. But Abarita had to ask those people to let me go ahead of them.

When I stood in front of Zatopek with one of Abarita's books, he wrote, "With great admiration for the greatest Guru." Then he signed his name and he drew a picture of a javelin aiming at someone. Like me, he became an artist and illustrated his signature. When I sign, I draw birds. In his case, he drew a javelin.

The ball collector

Many times Zatopek had talks with Abarita about me and the Centre. When we went to play tennis, he came to watch us play. His wife went to see one of her students, who has now become a coach.

For over an hour, Zatopek was watching our games. There were no good players there, so I looked like a great player, defeating all the European disciples.

While he was watching, four or five times he ran after the ball to collect it and give it to the person throwing balls to the server. He was enjoying the game like anything, but he never played.

Zatopek and his wife were very nice. Everything went perfectly well. They were so happy that they had come, and we were so happy to have them. They liked the disciples and they were very, very deeply moved.

The Director-General of the United Nations in Geneva

The Director-General of the United Nations in Geneva, Mr. Luigi Cottafavi, is an Italian. For about forty-five minutes we met with him and talked all about different religions. We also spoke all about Hinduism and about India.

He was very nice and kind, and full of life and enthusiasm. Physically he was very tall and strong. There is a great difference between the Director-General in Geneva and the Secretary-General here in New York. The Secretary-General has luminosity; the Director-General has dynamic vigour.

Other meetings

In Geneva I met with the Vice President of the International Red Cross. He was very humble and modest. Our people sang the Red Cross song. It was a very soulful atmosphere that our singers created. Everything went well.

In Switzerland I also met with the Indian ambassador, who was extremely nice and very kind. Daily we went to three or four different places.

A visit to Einstein's house

Visiting Einstein's house in Bern was an unforgettable experience. Before Einstein came to the United States, he had lived in these three or four small rooms. There are four floors and one has to walk up. It is a very old building. Einstein's pictures were there and different examples of his research work. Einstein became very soulful and spiritual in the evening of his life.

The greatest living authority on Einstein was there. He has written a book on Einstein. I don't know what the professor saw in me, but he went on talking and talking, literally not allowing me to come down the stairs. He talked all about Einstein's spirituality and this and that.

Finally he said, "Please, you have to write down something," so I had to write something in the guest book. They don't ask for an autograph; they ask for a few lines. It was a big page and while I was writing he was standing beside me and watching. I was so moved.

Part II — Salutations to Italy

The excited Cardinal

As you know, on the 18th of June, at seven o'clock, I was supposed to meet with the Pope. At five-thirty they wanted me to be present. I came at five-thirty on the dot and stood not at the Vatican Gate, but about twenty or thirty metres away. A Cardinal was waiting for me but he could not see me, and he was very excited because he thought I was late. When he finally saw me, he took my papers and led me inside.

My Italian photographer

I had invited our Italian disciple Giorgio to come with me when I went to see the Pope. He does not speak English; he does not even speak French. And I don't speak Italian. So we talked through our smile — no other language, only smiling language we understood.

Giorgio went with me to take pictures, because with the previous Pope we had had problems. The first time I saw Pope Paul VI, we got good pictures. The second time, nothing that was taken by the Vatican photographers ever came out. The third time I was there, the Vatican photographer came to me and asked how many pictures we wanted taken. But when I actually met with the Pope, that was the moment that the photographer left the room. We were looking for him, but he had gone.

This time, with Pope John Paul II, we didn't take any chances. I was allowed to bring one person, so as a friend and a student Giorgio came with me. Another reason I took him was because he speaks Italian.

The Pope arrives

Inside the Vatican, there were ninety thousand people. They had all come to hear the Pope speak. Since it was summer, the audience was held outside, in a corridor. But the Vatican is so big that the corridor easily housed over ninety thousand people. The people were all excited that they were going to see the Pope.

Around a quarter to seven, the Pope arrived in his small van or car. His car was moving down a passageway, and he was blessing people from the car. Then, when he came out of the car and was making his way to his throne, he would go and bless one person, shake hands with someone else, pat somebody's shoulder and do all kinds of things. He was like an affectionate grandfather greeting his family.

There was a group of African singers wearing special uniforms. Sometimes they would sing and sometimes they would slap their face or head. It was a part of the performance. The Pope was so satisfied with them. He clapped and clapped and clapped.

The Pope's speech

The Pope read out his speech in, I think, seven languages. First one of the Cardinals said something in Italian, and then the Pope read out his message in English, French, German, Spanish and a few more languages. But before he read out his serious message in all the languages, he cut jokes and made everybody laugh. You can't imagine, for two hours or more, he only smiled and smiled and smiled. He would look to one side and smile and then to the other side and smile. He would all the time smile, bless people, talk and cut jokes.

Like the last time I was there to see Pope Paul, this time also I was put in the front row. Beside me were a Cardinal and two or three priests from Africa. They were also supposed to see the Pope. It was a private audience in the sense that the Pope would speak to each person personally. Behind me was another row; so there were two rows altogether.

The Pope's throne was very, very simple and his shoes were also very simple. He was in a white robe. Six or seven times during his talk he looked at me and smiled. I was sitting only ten or twelve metres away from him. He looked at me and greeted me six or seven times during his speech.

Meeting with the Pope

After the speech, it was time for the private interviews. Three or four black priests were ahead of me. The Pope came up to them and they all knelt down and kissed his ring.

As soon as the Pope came near me, I stood up and one of the Cardinals said, "He is Sri Chinmoy from the United Nations."

I gave the Pope Sanatan's plaque, which was so beautiful, and the pamphlet with the song about him. As I was giving him the plaque and the pamphlet, the Pope said, "You are from the United Nations."

I said, "Yes, Father, I am."

Then he asked me, "Are you an Indian?"

Again I said, "Yes, I am."

Then he said, "India, India, India!" with such joy and enthusiasm in his face.He was absolutely beaming with joy.

He very powerfully grabbed my elbow with such affection, and looked at me as if I were an old forgotten friend or grandson. He was holding me firmly and talking to me, and he patted my shoulder seven or eight times.

Then he said to me, "Special greetings to your members. Special blessings to you. We shall continue together."

The words we exchanged were few, but he spent time looking at the plaque and appreciating it. I also showed him the picture of me with the previous Pope that was in the U.N. booklet, "Our First Ten Years." He looked at the picture and also at the pamphlet with the song about him.

The Pope's affection

Pope John Paul has tremendous warmth and he is very sincere in expressing affection. He is very sociable, very affectionate, very compassionate. He has sincere compassion and affection. He was beaming with joy and showed me tremendous affection, love and concern when he offered me his benediction.

The Pope has compassion on the human level, the physical level, which others can immediately see and feel. Pope Paul VI had compassion in a luminous, ethereal way. The previous day, I saw the soul of Pope Paul four or five times, filled with real aspiration. His psychic presence I saw and I felt most powerfully.

Giorgio versus UPI

There is a funny story about our photographer-disciple, Giorgio. When the UPI photographer saw Giorgio there, he asked him to leave, saying he had no right to take pictures. Previously, Giorgio had asked me if I wanted pictures taken during the Pope's speech, and I had said yes. God knows where the UPI man was then, but Giorgio took three or four pictures of the Pope from over my shoulder.

When it was time for the private interviews, the UPI photographer came and told him to leave. Giorgio looked at me and I just smiled at him. So he gave a similar smile to the UPI photographer. The UPI man got mad and made complaints to one of the Cardinals. The Cardinal asked Giorgio to leave immediately, but he was not listening. He kept looking at me and I kept smiling at him. At least four times they insulted him, all in Italian. Still he didn't listen. He took four black and white pictures and four colour slides. Eight or nine pictures he took, and UPI took, I think, three.

The Pope's hair

The Pope has much more hair than I have. Once, the wind blew away his cap and four or five Cardinals ran after it, almost colliding. That was the time I was able to see. I said, "O God, so much hair!"

The meditation in Italy

In Italy I was supposed to give a talk. It was in a small hall in a very big building. For the first time, perhaps, I went to give a talk in a track suit, but the audience didn't mind. There were about seventy or eighty people.

Indians, as usual, dominated the question and answer period. Three Indians did not allow anyone else to ask any questions. One question was about pressure in the third eye. Another question was about reincarnation. They went on and on.

Before that, a tall young man came up to me and introduced himself as one of the secretaries of the Italian Ambassador to the United Nations. He said he had come to our meditations at the U.N. five or six times and had enjoyed them very much. He couldn't believe that I came to such a small gathering to hold meditation and give a talk. He was very, very nice. Also he came to the meeting later.

The lady who organised the meeting had wanted to come to New York to see me and become my disciple. But instead of coming to New York, she went to Miami and met another Master and became his disciple. She was asking me, "Did I do the right thing? Did I find the real Guru?" So I said, "You did absolutely the right thing. You found the real Guru." She was so happy that she had found the real Guru and the real path.

Part III — Salutations to Germany

Marathon champion

While in Germany, I met with the previous women's world marathon champion, a German girl, Christa Vahlensieck. Projjwal had invited Christa to get a trophy from me. You can't imagine how spiritually developed that girl is. She doesn't speak English, but she gave the sweetest smile each time we talked to her. She had come by bus from forty or fifty miles away. The disciples sang for her and we gave her gifts. Many pictures were taken. She enjoyed everything.

Christa is a very good runner. She is very short and her strides are also short. In 1978 she came to New York, but she could not finish the marathon. She said that the New York heat was unbearable and she was miserable. That was when she lost her world record; Grete Waitz broke it by seven minutes. Then, for one year she could not run because she was sick. Now she will be running a marathon in Britain. She was very, very nice and everybody liked her.

Jharna-Kala exhibit

My paintings were exhibited in a very beautiful museum in Bonn. Many dignitaries were there, including a Harvard professor. She was a very nice elderly lady who liked the paintings very much.

The curator came up to me with a guest book and said, "Please, you have to write something; you have to sign this."

"Write something" means what? I wrote a full page, and he was very happy. He is a professor also. It was a very good experience.

The mayor of Cologne

We also saw the Mayor of Cologne, who gave us a proclamation and very nice gifts. He was so nice. Three or four times he talked about me, all from his heart — what he was feeling about me. Then there was an immediate translation by a lady who had been in New York for only three years. But her English was excellent. When I spoke, she translated for me.

Of all the twenty or thirty mayors that I have seen, this German Mayor was the one who touched most deeply the very depth of my gratitude-heart.

Composing songs

On Father's Day I asked all of my disciples to meditate once for each year that they had been with me. I am sure they listened to my request. On Father's Day I composed a song. It was translated into twelve languages. The best was an African language. Devadip translated it into Spanish and Haridas arranged it.

I also composed a song on France — "Vive la France." The European disciples enjoyed it very much and now they are learning it.

I gave a name to Projjwal's printing press: "Perfection-Glory." There I composed a song dedicated to his press.

My coach Saumitra

Last but not least, I visited my former coach, Saumitra, a German runner who coached me in India. Now he is head of a school which has three or four thousand students. He is the father of three sons and he does not run anymore. He has lost a lot of his hair, but nobody can defeat me in losing hair. He looked at me and I looked at him. In silence we talked about our hair.

I spent an hour and a half with him. What a moving experience! We talked and talked and talked about many, many things. He gave me the greatest surprise. In 1958 I had given him a small album with some pictures. Also, I had composed two songs about him. One was sung in front of the head of the ashram by two hundred athletes. He has kept that song plus the other song I had composed, one of my pictures and the album. Projjwal had sent him a photograph of me running a marathon. He has kept everything like a treasure. I had totally forgotten about the album and the pictures, but he has preserved them under lock and key in a cupboard with his most valuable things. He brought them to me with such concern and care.

We discussed many, many things and gave each other tremendous joy. His wife is extremely spiritual. When he was in India, he was not yet married.

Our old friendship we revived. At one point I said, "You were an excellent coach but I was a hopeless case."

He said, "I never told you that you were a hopeless case. It is all your mental creation!"

I said, "I could not learn your way."

He said, "But that does not mean you were hopeless. In your own way you did so well."

That was Saumitra.

Part IV — Salutations to Puerto Rico

Pan American games adventure

I am telling you about my adventure at the Pan American Masters Games. As you know, I was invited to go there to offer a short meditation. Also, I was requested to dedicate one of my songs to the Pan American Masters Games. So, the good singers sang the "Run and Become" song extremely well for a tape and I dedicated that song to the Games.

There were quite a few thousand spectators. Some young men used coloured flags to say "welcome," "thank you" and all kinds of things — as in the previous Pan American Games. It was quite beautiful and charming.

The speaker read out ten or twelve lines about me in Spanish and then I was escorted by a lady to the platform. Uttama followed me. I was not supposed to inaugurate the Games; I was supposed to hold the opening meditation after the inauguration. The Governor himself was supposed to inaugurate the Games, but God knows what happened. The Governor was delayed for some reason. So the official said, "Sri Chinmoy will offer us the inaugural benediction."

I went to the platform and Uttama said a few things. He thanked all the celebrities and then introduced me. I meditated for about two or three minutes, facing the audience. Then I turned around and meditated on the people who were showing the coloured flags. Afterwards I spoke for a few minutes, thanking them and bringing down the Supreme's Blessings for the athletes.

Thousands of people were there, but they remained in pin-drop silence. I told them I was dedicating one of my songs to the soul of the Pan American Masters Games and they played the tape over the loudspeaker. It sounded extremely good. It was simply marvellous.

The march past

After the inauguration, we were in the march past. You laugh, at times, at our marching on Sports Day. But if you laugh at our marching, then you would have perhaps jumped and danced if you had seen them marching. The musicians in the band were really good, but nobody paid attention to the drum. Everybody had his or her own inner drum.

The grace descends for the Mayor

After the march past, the Mayor of San Juan was supposed to speak. We were standing in the field and the Mayor was taking a little time to start speaking. O God, from Heaven real Grace descended. There was a real downpour, and I was not brave enough to stay. I ran inside the stadium, but others were brave. They stood there in the rain and listened while the Mayor spoke for a few minutes.

God knows what Uttama told him about me. Afterwards the Mayor came up to me, walking at least 200 metres out of his way. He thanked me profusely for the trouble I had taken to come to the Pan American Masters Games. I thanked him and said quite a few nice things about the athletes. He was very happy.

After the Mayor came, the president of the organisation, a tall young man, introduced himself to me. I thanked him and he thanked me. He was very nice.

Then a man 67 years old came up to me. Last year he was decathlon champion in his age group. He started telling me about himself. He said he had seven children and eighteen grandchildren and that whenever he won it was all God's Grace. The next day, the newspaper had his timing. My timing and throwing distances in the ashram were far, far better. But I can't brag, since I was 26 or 27 at that time and he is 67.

The rainy race

I was supposed to join in the 100-metre dash. Just before the race, it started raining. Many others didn't run because of the rain, but I wanted to show off. During my 20 years of competing in India, I never used starting blocks. I lost my balance at the start and I was last. God wanted me to have this experience.

Once upon a time I was first — for 16 years. But here, there was at least a 50-metre gap between the first runner and me. The audience was enjoying the fact that there was such a gap between us.

On the board it was mentioned, "Sri Chinmoy, Puerto Rico." The Puerto Rican disciples were so delighted. I had said that I was not going to run the 400-metre dash, but they didn't listen. My name still appeared on the board: "Sri Chinmoy, Puerto Rico."

Old friends

A thin, tall black man came up to me and said, "Guru, don't you remember me? The other day I ran 800 metres with you." Then I recognised him. He was in the Randall's Island race in New York City. I had told Danny to videotape him. I said, "Yes, you ran extremely well. I was far, far behind." He is national champion in his age category. He was so happy to see me. He couldn't believe that I was in Puerto Rico. At Randall's island he ran a 2:10 and my timing was three minutes. But in India in the 800 metres I had stood first.

In half an hour, again he came up to me just to chat. In the Pan American Games he defeated everyone in the 800, but in the 100 he didn't get a place. So, he said nice things and I said nice things.

Then some elderly athletes were showing that they could do the high jump and pole vault. One of them pushed the bar with his shoulder, so everybody laughed. One or two athletes were good when they jumped. I was watching and enjoying. Sometimes when people were throwing the javelin, it did not point. Even world champions have that problem.

One 75-year-old ran very fast. Then, when the race was over, the first, second and third place finishers embraced one another and took pictures. It was most thrilling. Many times the experiences were very, very good.

A man of peace

Today something very significant took place. When I arrived at the airport, there were only 12 minutes before the plane was scheduled to take off. I went hurriedly to the last check point. As soon as I came near the door and saw the man who was in charge of checking, he came running towards me and grabbed my right arm powerfully. Then he embraced me and said, "Sri Chinmoy, you are a man of peace. The other day I got so much peace from your meditation at the Pan Am Games."

He asked me how old I was, and I said, "Forty-nine."

He said, "You look younger every year. I need peace. The world needs peace badly."

Then he asked me for my ticket. I had my ticket and boarding pass. But I was looking for my passport, because they always ask you for a passport when you are leaving Puerto Rico. He said, "What are you doing?"

I said, " I am looking for my passport."

He said, "You are a saint. You don't need a passport. You are universal. A man of peace is universal."

First class

I gave the man at the check point my boarding pass. God knows what he did with it. He said to me, "You will get a refund of $69." Then he said, "I just put you a few seats ahead."

I had bought a ticket for the coach section. But when I entered the plane and showed the stewardess my pass, she took me to the first seat of the first class section. So I got a $69 refund plus first class accommodations.

In ten or fifteen minutes' time, the same man entered into the plane. There was some bad news: all the breakfasts were rotten, so they had to take them out of the plane. I thanked him for what he had done. He said to me, "It is my honour, my pleasure. At least I can do this much for you. I am so honoured."

So, if you can really bring down peace, at least one person may get peace. And because he got peace, he put me in the first class section and gave me a cheque for $69.

Before take-off

I was sitting in the first seat of the front row. One of the stewardesses said, "Please let me take the bag that is in front of you until the plane is in the air. Then I will bring it back."

So I gave it to her. Then there was an announcement that the plane would be delayed for twenty minutes. When I went to the stewardess to get some books out of the bag, a tall man came and stood in front of me and said, "Master, Master, why didn't you run yesterday in the half-marathon?"

I said, "I couldn't do the 400-metre dash. How could I have done the half-marathon?"

He said, "Your races are so good because they are held early in the morning. I always enter your races. Early in the morning I run."

Here the half-marathon was held at three-thirty in the afternoon, so he didn't run. And he is Puerto Rican! Puerto Ricans are accustomed to that kind of heat.

So you see, if you start races early in the morning, there will be at least one person who will be happy and grateful.

He said, "Your students, your disciples, are so good."

Another stewardess happened to be there and she said, "Because the Master is good, the disciples are good." Then she said, "Master, I have been to your meetings quite a few times, but now it is different. At the meditations you are very distant. It is good, but you are somewhere else. Now you are talking."

I said, "At that time I meditate."

She said, "Yes, that's why you are so distant."

The stewardess' job

That particular stewardess was supposed to serve the first-class passengers. She asked me what I wanted to drink. I said, "Seven-up." She felt that I had given her a special job. During the flight I didn't ask her again for Seven-up, but she was watching my glass. I was writing poems, in my own world. Whenever my glass became empty, she came and filled it. I didn't have the heart to tell her I didn't want any more.

Editor's introduction from the first edition, Switzerland

Sri Chinmoy visited Switzerland in June 1980 as part of a European lecture and concert tour. These informal and often amusing anecdotes have been collected from conversations and stories that the Master has told about his experiences there. This is the first in a series of such “Salutations” to different places that Sri Chinmoy has visited.

Editor's introduction from the first edition, Italy and the Vatican

Sri Chinmoy visited Italy and the Vatican in June 1980, lecturing in Rome and meeting with the Pope.

These informal and often amusing anecdotes have been collected from conversations and stories told by the Master about his experiences there. This is the second in a series of such “Salutations” to different countries that Sri Chinmoy has visited.

Editor's introduction from the first edition, Germany

In June 1980 Sri Chinmoy visited Germany as part of a European lecture and concert tour.

This collection of informal and often amusing anecdotes, related by Sri Chinmoy about his experiences there, is the third in his series of “Salutations” to different places he has visited.

Editor's introduction from the first edition, Puerto Rico

In September 1980 Sri Chinmoy was invited to Puerto Rico to deliver the opening benediction at the Pan American Masters Games.

This collection of informal and often amusing anecdotes, related by Sri Chinmoy about his experiences there, is the fourth in his series of “Salutations” to different places he has visited.

Translations of this page: Japanese
This book series can be cited using cite-key slt-1