Salutations, numbers 5-8
The plane rideWhen I arrived at the airport for the flight to Florida, I entered into the plane and sat down quite comfortably. O God, right behind me two young men and their girlfriend were talking so loudly about the dates they had been on and all that. The girl's name was Jill and one of the boys' names was Michael. The girl kept speaking to Michael only to annoy the other boy.
It was ruining my concentration, but what could I do? After twenty minutes I got disgusted, saying to myself, "I won't be able to write anything." So I moved to another seat.
Then I saw that one row in front of me a baby was sleeping. I said, "At least let him sleep. I will be able to finish my writing." The baby remained fast asleep, so I was happy. Suddenly his mother started shaking him. I said, "O God, only in Indian villages do they do this kind of thing — showing their affection this way." Then, finally, she pulled away a pacifier that was in his mouth. As soon as the pacifier was taken away, the child started screaming. The hostile forces were acting through the mother.
She gave the child a toy and the child kicked it. Of all places, it fell at my feet. The mother said to me, "Can you hand it over?"
I gave back the toy, but I said in silence: "You want to show your possession to the world at the cost of others' suffering. You have got a child, but why do you have to ruin our peace?"
Her husband was sitting beside her. He got mad at her and said, "Had I known that you were so ugly I would not have married you. You are inwardly so ugly."
Then she said, "Had I known that you were outwardly so ugly, I would not have married you."
The husband left his seat and sat some other place, four or five seats ahead. I said, "Here is God speaking on earth. The wife is a hostile force, and the husband is God." I took his side.
After an hour the two boys and their girlfriend came and sat right behind me again. But this time they did not talk at all. All three were absolutely peaceful. But why did they have to come and sit behind me? There were only forty or fifty people on the plane; it was totally empty. I thought they would again start their business, but they were quiet.
The first nightThe first day I was in Fort Lauderdale alone and I went out to run at night — around ten o'clock. After I had run about two and a half miles, I became quite hungry. I had some money, so I went into a restaurant. But they said to me, "No, you can't eat here. You are not properly dressed." I was wearing tennis shorts which came right to my knees. They were quite modest — not the thin, Bill Rodgers running shorts.
So I left and went to another place. There was a guard sitting at the door. He said to me, "Do you want to eat?"
I said, "Yes, I am very hungry."
He said, "You can go inside and eat."
I went in, but here also, one of the waiters saw how I was dressed and said to me, "This is not the place for you. Here you can't eat." They also asked me to leave.
There was a place beside the main restaurant, like an adjacent dining hall. Nobody was there. I asked, "Can I not eat there?"
They said, "No, you are not properly dressed. You have no tie, no suit, nothing."
Two places had thrown me out. Now it was like a challenge to find a restaurant. Otherwise, I wouldn't care. But since I live in America, American blood has entered into me, and Americans love challenges. So I was running and running. Finally, around eleven o'clock, I came to an Italian restaurant. I saw a menu on the window, and I was reading it with the hope that I would be able to go inside. Somebody came out and looked at me. I said to that person, "I want to speak to the manager."
The man said, "I'm the manager."
I asked, "Can I go inside and eat?"
The manager asked, "What is wrong with you? You have no money?"
I said, "I have money, but I am not properly dressed."
So I went inside. Except for one table, all the tables were occupied. I ordered eggplant, as usual. Beside me there was a group of people at a big table: an airline pilot and his wife, the co-pilot and his wife and their parents. The wives were sitting on the right side of the husbands and next to them were the parents. It was one of the fathers' birthday and they were all very happy. They had ordered a cake, which one of the waiters brought, and they were about to sing "Happy Birthday."
Quite unexpectedly, a middle-aged couple came over to them. The couple had been sitting at another table. The co-pilot stood up and shook hands with the man and kissed the woman. O God, the co-pilot's wife became furious. She stood up and walked out of the restaurant. Her husband's father and some others went to bring her back. At the table, some were laughing, some were serious, some were shocked. Even people from other tables came over to see what the commotion was. But the co-pilot just said, "Let us sing 'Happy Birthday'."
My bill was for seven dollars and something. So I put a ten dollar bill on the table and left. I was not enjoying my eggplant. "Next," I thought, "will come a fight. Before bottles fly in the air — bottle-bullets — let me leave this place."
The police chaseIt was around midnight and I was going back home. There were some grocery stores that were open twenty-four hours, so I went into one and bought a Tab, some fruit and juice — no candy at that hour. Two or three other people were also inside the store.
A middle-aged lady was behind the counter. Each time a person wanted to come in, she would open the door from the inside and then bolt it again. She was very nice. O God, suddenly three young men tried to open the door forcefully, but the lady would not let them in.
The three young men were being chased by the police. While the other two were still banging on the door, trying to escape, one fellow hid under a car. There were three or four cars in front of the grocery store. The police were having such trouble getting this man, because they were too fat to get under the car. They were screaming at the fellow, but he continued to stay under the car. The other two had already been arrested, and they were laughing at the police. I said, "O God, O God, I don't want to know the remainder of this story." So I bought four or five dollars' worth of things and I left.
Looking for SallyI was coming back home around twelve-thirty. About three hundred metres from my apartment was a small hospital, with windows facing the street. One fellow was standing on the street drinking and calling for his girlfriend: "Sally! Open the window. I want to see you. I have not seen you for a long time. " He was screaming up to the second or third floor for the patient, Sally, to open the window and talk to him.
But she was not opening the window. Another man from upstairs started screaming at the drunk fellow: "What are you doing at this hour?" He used all American slang, screaming at him from the third floor.
The hatThe next day I went to the airport to meet Alo. I am on a diet, but only my soul knows it. I bought candies and cookies. It was very hot and I was suffering so much. All I had was a head-band, so I wanted to buy a hat. I picked one out and put it on my head. I picked up a newspaper and a few other things also. The cashier was an old lady. For the newspaper, this and that, she charged me two dollars and some change. I gave her a ten-dollar bill and she returned the change. Everything was perfect.
After I left the store, inadvertently I put my hand on my head. I said, "O my God, I didn't pay for my hat."
I went back to the cashier and explained, "I didn't pay for the hat. It was on my head."
The lady said, "There should be another person like you on earth."
The hat was five or six dollars, so the lady was very happy that I had come back
The taxi driverAlo and I were looking for a taxi for about ten minutes. We wanted to get Savyasachi from the airport. Finally a taxi stopped, but there was a man in the back seat, so we didn't want to take the taxi. The driver explained that the man in the back seat was blind, and that he was supposed to help the blind man out of the car. The blind man had a machine for braille, and Alo was asking about it. The man said that his mother came from New York.
The taxi driver was so nice. After he let the blind man out, he took us to the airport. He said he came from Flushing five years ago. He does not run at all, but he swims. His girlfriend compels him to swim, so he swims.
We arrived at the airport. The fare was eight dollars, but I gave the driver two dollars more. He looked at me. I said, "You are such a kind-hearted man. You helped that blind man."
I had been sitting in the front beside him. He said, "Now I see that your vibration was too high for me."
The muggersAlo, Savyasachi and I were out shopping for furniture, this and that. At one point, when I came out of a big department store, three black teenagers came up to me and said, "Mister, what time do you have?"
I said, "Four forty-five."
Then they came closer to me and said, "What we really want from you is the wristwatch, and not the time."
I got so furious! I pushed my elbows out, but I didn't touch anybody, and I screamed, "What!" When I screamed, all three disappeared. There were hundreds of people around at the time.
You need daily churchAs you know, I am always fond of entering into bookstores, especially if they are Christian bookstores. I am just the right person. So I went into a bookstore run by an old couple and asked the lady if she had a daily prayer book. She could not understand my pronunciation. She said, "What, what?"
Then I said, "Everyday prayers."
"Oh," she said, "You are saying 'daily prayers'. My son, you don't need a daily prayer. What you need is daily church. You must go to church every morning. Daily you must go to pray. You don't need a prayer book."
She looked like she was in her seventies. She wanted me to go to church and pray.
A young running companionOne day I was out running. A beautiful six or seven-year-old child, wearing a necklace, came up to me and asked, "Mister, can I run with you?"
I said, "Why not?"
I had been running at an eight or eight and a half minute pace. Now, very slowly I ran with her. We covered three blocks, and then she stopped near her house. She came from a respectable family. She was so happy and proud that I ran with her. She thanked me and gave me a broad smile.
Mister, will you help me?Two days later, a little child, even younger than the other little girl, was on her way to school when I ran by quite fast. All of a sudden she said, "Mister!" There were no cars, but she wanted me to help her cross the street. So very slowly I walked across the street with her. I didn't even need to hold her hand, because there was no traffic. As soon as we had crossed the street, she thanked me and entered into a little school.
Lost and foundThe other day, I went out to run for two hours. After I ran for about an hour and forty minutes, I got totally lost. It was raining. I said, "O God, where do I go? I don't have any money." Luckily, I remembered the apartment number and, with greatest difficulty, I even remembered the name of the street — Las Olas. I said, "This is the time for me to look for a taxi."
I asked a lady where Las Olas Street was. I had to listen for at least five minutes while she explained which road to take and where I should turn. I didn't understand her in spite of her five-minute explanation. I said, "All right, let me take this street."
Then whom did I see running down the street? Savyasachi! I said, "How can it be?" I had run six or seven miles. He was staying only one mile away from where I had stopped running. He had just gone out for a short run, and he got great joy when he saw me. Then we ran together.
When I play tennis with Savyasachi, his standard always makes me laugh — not only inwardly but also outwardly. But when he runs with me, I feel that inwardly he is laughing at my standard.
The braggartAs I was running the next day, a young man went ahead of me. Four men saw him run past. They said to me, "He is bragging. Don't pay any attention." The runner went four or five hundred metres ahead, while I continued slowly running. Then he stopped and began to walk. His bragging was over. I passed him. When I was returning from my run, he was still walking.
Competition-blood will never leave meAnother day I saw an old man running. I said, "If my speed has really increased, I will be able to pass him." I came nearer, only to discover that the runner was a lady. I said, "Let me run according to my speed." After two hundred metres, I turned around. O God, she was so far behind!
I tell the disciples to have no competitive feeling, to compete only with themselves. Here I was competing with an old lady! Competition-blood will never leave me.
Dog problemsWhile running in Fort Lauderdale, as usual, I had dog problems. A dog started barking at me and didn't allow me to go by. When I returned home, I told Alo about the dog.
The following day she went to look for it, so that she could insult the owner. Luckily she found a different dog, so everything went peacefully.
The lost running companionAnother day I was running about seven miles. At one point I was about to make a right turn, but something within told me to make a left turn. Alo was there looking for me!
Another day I was running and she was following me. I would go ahead two hundred metres and then come back, go ahead and come back. Once, after running two hundred metres and coming back, she was not there. I said, "Where can she be?" But she was not to be found.
What happened was that she had gone across the street to look at a clothing store. I didn't see her standing across the street, so I kept going up and down the block — three or four times.
When I came back home, she was there, worrying about what had happened to me. She had gone out two times to look for me. But she did not find me because she just went in front of the building, and I was somewhere else.
The best shopping in the worldA few years ago I told you I went to an Indian bookstore in Calcutta called "The World's Best Bookshop." In Fort Lauderdale there are also shops with that kind of name. One shop is called "The World's Best Sport Shop." Another place is called "The World's Best Tea Shop." Hardly four persons can sit there, but it is called "The World's Best"! Other places are called "The World's Largest." Our small meditation hall is three times as large as those places! In other places, if they have four or five pairs of skates, they will put them on a table with a sign: "World's Best." If you ask the price, it is twenty-nine or thirty dollars — very expensive.
And these stores have very, very few things. You can go to ten athletic stores, and you will be finished in each place in five minutes. Very few shops have a second story; there is no upstairs. Sandhani's sports store is bigger.
The shopkeepers are rogues. I was looking for the kind of belt that weightlifters use. One shopkeeper told me, "We don't have what you are looking for, but our branch in Coral Gables definitely has it." He said that their branch store in Coral Gables was more established, whereas this store was about to close down. I believed him, and Savyasachi drove us to the store. It took us twenty-five minutes. But when we reached Coral Gables, they didn't have one single belt. What can you do? The shop was smaller than the smallest and everything was so expensive!
The ignorant shopkeeperI went to a particular store and bought something. Then I sent Savyasachi to get something else from that store. It was mentioned that the item was twenty-five percent off. Savyasachi said, "Twenty-five percent off, your sign says."
The owner of the store said, "Oh, I didn't know that." He asked his assistant, "Is it twenty-five percent off?"
His assistant also said, "I don't know."
The owner did not know and his assistant did not know. Did I go there and write "Twenty-five percent off"?
Then I went to another store, just to browse. I got the same item, but it was of far better quality and the price was also far better. I asked Savyasachi to return the item to the first store. He is an American, so he was a little embarrassed because first we had asked for the twenty-five percent discount, and then we wanted to return the thing. But they gave all our money back, and then we bought one dollar's worth from their store.
The Paradise Whydah finchOn my way back home to New York, I came to the airport with a bird called a Paradise Whydah, a kind of finch. It has a very long tail and is very beautiful. Alo was holding the bird in a box. An official at the check-in counter said, "Oh, you have to make a reservation for the bird. There will be an extra charge."
I said, "I have carried birds from so many places. There is never any problem."
The man said, "No, the bird is an animal. You have to pay."
We didn't pay any attention to him. We just went to another check-in counter. Alo felt really sad that she had been holding the bird near the people who check baggage. She said that she always brings good luck, but that this time she had brought bad luck.
This time Savyasachi held the bird. The people at the other check-in counter said, "You have to pay twenty-one dollars for the bird, because it is an animal."
We were disgusted with their behaviour, so we didn't pay right away. Alo and I went to have some dinner, and Savyasachi stayed to watch our bags. While we were gone, one of the clerks came over to Savyasachi and asked, "Are you with the people who had the bird? Where are they?"
Savyasachi said that he didn't know anything; he was only watching the bags.
The clerk said, "They have to pay for the bird."
The people were very bad. When we returned, we argued with them again, but our arguments were in vain. So Alo paid twenty-one dollars, and I entered into the plane. One of the stewardesses saw the box and asked, "Is there a bird inside?"
I said, "Yes."
She asked, "What kind of bird?"
I replied, "A finch, a Paradise Whydah."
She said, "Oh, I adore finches."
I looked a little sad and said, "I had to pay twenty-one dollars to bring it on the plane."
She said, "Twenty-one dollars! Those men are crooks! I would have given them a mouthful. If my superiors were not here, I would go on your behalf and speak to the people who charged you."
The plane was about to leave. A half hour after take-off, the stewardess came and sat beside me and started talking to the bird. She said to the bird, "Hello, darling, talk to me."
I said to myself, "Oi! As if finches will talk!"
Then she said, "Finches are adorable. You had bad luck. Those men were crooks. Next time, you tell them that it is a bird and not an animal. Or take a small box and put the bird in your briefcase. They do that just to make money. The money will not even go to the airline. It will go into their own pockets."
She was talking to the bird and it was making noise.
Looking for the Ottawa Holiday InnYesterday in Ottawa I went out to run early in the morning. I had been running for about an hour and fifteen minutes when I realised that I was lost. I asked a very nice and kind-hearted black lady where the Holiday Inn was. She said, "Oh dear, where are you? It is so far. Go straight down for at least twenty blocks and then ask people to show you where it is. You won't be able to understand how to get there from here, so after twenty blocks you ask someone where it is."
I ran about twenty blocks to a place that I later found out was only two or three blocks away from the hotel. Unfortunately, when I asked a young boy where the Holiday Inn was, he told me exactly the opposite way. Instead of telling me it was two blocks in one direction, he turned the other way and said, "Run that way. Go only a couple of blocks — two or three more — and then you will find it." He even pointed the way with his finger.
I ran two or three, then six or seven blocks, and still I didn't see the hotel. Finally, I approached someone else: "Somebody told me that the Holiday Inn was only two blocks in this direction."
The man said, "Not this direction. It is in the other direction. Turn around and go the other way."
I said to myself, "Whom to believe?" The first time, when I was following the young boy's instructions, I was having no doubts. But by this time real doubt had started. O God, what could I do? When one is a stranger, one has to believe in these people. Finally I said, "All right." So I covered six or seven blocks in the other direction, and finally I found the Holiday Inn there.
Pizza for breakfastBefore I left on the Canadian trip, I had taken a solemn oath not to take solid food during the whole tour, depending only on water, ERG, juice and, of course, my best friend and enemy — nuts. I really did keep my promise.
In Montreal, early in the morning, Savyasachi, Alo and I went to the Montreal Mall for breakfast. As usual, I asked for a cup of tea and Savyasachi ordered his breakfast. Alo said she didn't want anything. Then I pointed out a pizza parlour about five or six metres away, asking, "Do you want to have pizza?" She said, "Yes, yes," and went to get some.
The pie in the tray had meat on it — sausage or whatever. So she asked one of the men if they could give her vegetarian pizza. They said, "Yes, we can give it to you, but come back in five minutes." After five minutes when she went back, to her surprise she saw that one of the workers had just removed two slices from that same pie and then taken off the meat. When they gave the pieces to her, Alo said, "You people are not honest. Definitely you have taken these pieces from the sausage pie and have just removed the meat."
One of the workers answered, "There is no meat inside it. I told you there would be no meat."
Then Alo said, "You people are dishonest."
They said, "You are also not honest."
Alo said, "Can you not look into my eyes and my soul?"
One of them answered, "Can you not look into my soul and into my eyes? I am honest. You are dishonest. You talk too much."
Then Alo said, "You people do not have the Canadian good nature. Of the three of you, only one has a little sincerity," and she pointed to one of the workers.
Then the other two started cutting jokes with the one who, according to Alo, was a little sincere. Savyasachi and I could overhear the whole conversation, and we were deeply amused.
Your smile is our meditationWhen we were coming back from Halifax to Quebec, we had a short stopover at one of the towns. Just as we were about to get out of our seats, a young man, very nicely dressed in a suit and tie, came over to me and said, "So, were you successful last night?"
I said, "What do you mean?"
He said, "Last night you gave a concert. I was there. It was so moving."
I said, "If people are receptive, then I am successful; and if they are not receptive, then I am not successful. But I place my success and failure at the Feet of my Lord Supreme with equal joy."
Then he said, "I wish to tell you one thing. You didn't have to play, you didn't have to sing, you didn't have to do anything. If you had only given us a smile occasionally we could have stayed in our highest, our best consciousness. From time to time you did smile at the audience. That was the best meditation and the best music for us. I am a disciple of Maharaji. I initiate people here in Canada. Would you be able to listen to a short tape of a Hindi song?"
I said, "I know very little Hindi. Also, I won't be able to understand the words from the tape. Even when they tape my own songs in Bengali, which are sung by my students who are excellent singers, I can't understand the words. So I know I won't be able to understand this."
He said, "Please try."
So I said, "I can try."
The tape was very short. It was a short bhajan, a Hindi religious song. I said, "All right, this much I can say. It is dedicated to Lord Krishna and it is about the gopis in Brindaban, but the actual translation I won't be able to give."
He was very happy that I had listened to the tape. He opened up his briefcase to show me a picture of his Guru wearing a suit. Now the Maharaji has grown a moustache, a long beard and long hair.
It was time to get off the plane and I said, "How can we keep our seats?" There were no reserved seats but we wanted to save our places. Immediately the young man took from his pocket a piece of plastic that said "Occupied" and put it on our seats to save them.
The Japanese robinI went to a pet shop that had three Japanese robins. I wanted to buy two, but the lady said, "Don't buy two, buy one."
I asked, "Why?"
She answered, "If you buy two, they won't sing. Only buy one; then it will sing. When they are alone, they sing a lot. But if you have two or three, as we have here, they don't sing."
The price was thirty dollars. I asked her, "Can you reduce the price?"
She was so nice. She said, "I have to ask my boss."
Her boss came over to me and I asked her, "Can you make the price a little less?"
The boss said, "Oh, twenty-five dollars." I agreed, "All right. I will buy it for twenty-five dollars."
The bird started flying all over the store, and with greatest difficulty the saleslady caught it. When she brought it to the register, her boss said, "I am going out now. I will be back in a few minutes."
As soon as her boss left, the saleslady rang up twenty dollars on the register.
I said, "Why, it is twenty-five, not twenty." She just gave me a smile. I continued, "But your boss didn't agree to twenty. She said for twenty-five I can have it."
The saleslady gave it to me for twenty. She was so nice to me. And she was right; the bird sang for three days in the car. For fifteen minutes it would sing one song, then another song. Japanese robins sing different songs with different notes. At least twenty times we heard it sing.
Before this incident, I had gone to another store where the owner was so rude. They had a beautiful parrot. I made him an offer, but he said, "No! It's about a hundred dollars."
I said, "But I'll give you American dollars."
He exclaimed, "What?"
I said, "Perhaps you know that American dollars are worth more."
He said, "What does it mean? So what!"
I said, "Come to America. Then you will see."
These people are all rogues. In so many places they don't give the right exchange rate for the American dollar.
Practising what you preachIn Toronto there was a two-mile race. I had already run a lot early in the morning before the race, so I was very tired and exhausted. Also, I didn't have any energy because I had not been eating solid food. But I started running anyway.
There were about twenty-five runners in the race. Four girls who were running started to pass me. I said, "I have no more strength to run. I preach all the time 'surrender, surrender, surrender' to my disciples. Now God wants me to practice it."
O God, one, two, three, four — the girls all went ahead of me. Then, after one mile, one by one I caught three of them. But one girl was still ahead of me. After a mile and a half, O God, I had absolutely no energy left. I started walking very nicely and the girls whom I had passed went ahead. I said, "Oh, now I am practising and practising. Not only do I preach surrender but I practise it also."
A young man, a new disciple who still has long hair and a moustache, came up to me near the end of the race and said, "Guru, I want to run with you because I want peace. I am getting so much peace from you."
I thought, "Oh, he is getting peace and I am dying."
So, near the finish line, when I started walking, he also started walking. Then about a hundred metres from the end I told him, "Now, please, you go and run. Finish it running." So he completed the two-mile race running.
The well-established seekerRight after the concert in Halifax, when I was coming out of the hall, I had no guards except Utpal, who went ahead to the car just as Alo and I were about to get in it. All of a sudden, a young Indian man fell down at my feet and prostrated himself, just as if he were going to do pushups. Then he did do four pushups, touching my feet with his forehead each time. I said, "Oi, oi, oi, please, please get up."
He wouldn't get up, so I placed my hand on his head and he finally stood up with folded hands. Alo said, "You are so nice, you have such a fine soul. If you want to come tonight, Sri Chinmoy will see people who are interested in his path."
Then the Indian man said, "Oh no, I am well-established here. I come from New Delhi and I am well-established here. But I was so moved when Swamiji was playing."
Later Alo said, "Look at that fellow! He prostrates himself, doing pushups at your feet, banging on your foot. Then he says he is well-established, so he can't come!"
Devotees from the Indian ConsulateThere was an Indian girl, Vijaya, who worked in the same section with me at the Indian Consulate. She came from south India, from Kerala, our divine Shivaram's place. She was very nice and kind to me, very fond of me. Some time after I left the Indian Consulate she also left to get married. When she had a child, she wanted me to bless it because, according to her, I was a real swami, a real saint and all that. A few years ago she brought her child to our Centre in New York for blessings. She said, "Look, we were in the same section and you became a saint, a swami." She was very proud that I was an Indian. She was very nice and I blessed the child.
In Toronto, this same Indian lady wanted to come to see me, but she could not come because of family problems. Her husband also likes me very much. In India, whenever you see a swami, a spiritual man, you give him something. So she put fifty dollars in an envelope and wrote, "For the Swami." She gave the money to Shivaram so that she could get inner blessings for her family and for herself. Shivaram gave the envelope to Alo and Alo opened it in the plane, saying, "Shivaram told me that this Indian lady had given some money so that she could have your inner blessings, even though she could not come to see you."
What I am saying is, even in those days, when I worked at the Consulate, people saw something in me. Now I have become a Guru, a Master, but even now some people don't recognise anything in me. Such a difference between their spirituality and the spirituality of some of my former colleagues, such as Vijaya. In those days, when I was a junior clerk and she was a junior clerk, she recognised me. Of course, when I was a clerk, Shivaram was also a clerk. Shivaram and I used to talk about Ramakrishna and different spiritual Masters. He saw something in me and he became my disciple. Look at his divinity! My best friend at the Indian Consulate has since become my disciple. Whoever thought, when we were working at the Indian Consulate, that Shivaram would someday become my disciple?
Yesterday an Indian man became a disciple. His brother used to work with us at the Consulate. I don't recollect who he was, but Shivaram says definitely I knew him. He used to work in another section. He used to take photographs. Now his brother, who is also a photographer, has become a disciple in the Toronto Centre!
The musician's plightIn Canada when I was flying from Halifax to Quebec, I was carrying my smallest esraj. When I went to sit in my seat, a stewardess asked, "How is it you have brought that in here? Did you pay for it?"
I said, "No, they didn't ask me to pay."
She said, "It is illegal. You have to pay and you can't bring it here."
I said, "They allowed me to come in here and they saw that I was carrying this."
I was sitting on the extreme right. A musician happened to be on the extreme left. He took my side. He got furious, and started abusing the stewardess: "You make your rules every second. All over the world we go and here you won't allow us to carry an instrument."
I said, "When I went to Halifax, Air Canada allowed me to bring this with me."
Then the stewardess got frightened or perhaps she was amused. She said, "Please give me the instrument. I will keep it very safe and give it back when we land." She kept her promise. As soon as the plane touched the ground, she brought the instrument back.
The good and bad shopkeepersOne day I went to buy an alarm clock for Alo because she needed one badly. First I went to one store and bought a pair of shoes. Then I went to another store to look for the clock. The man was extremely kind and polite and showed me five or six alarm clocks. I selected one that I liked and bought it.
When I walked out of the store, I left the bag with my shoes there. I had covered about four blocks when all of a sudden behind me I heard some footsteps and panting. The gentleman from the store had come running after me, saying, "Sir, Sir!" Then he gave me my shoes.
I was so moved, and I wanted to give him a tip. He said, "Oh no, I can't take that." The gentleman had run four blocks to catch me. I was so grateful.
I entered into a meditative consciousness and continued walking back to the Palace Gardens Hotel. After I had covered another three or four blocks, I saw a small shop selling bags. It was like a boutique. When I entered the store, the owner, an Arab lady, said to me, "You not good man. Go away."
I looked at her. Then I saw a beautiful scarf and asked, " How much is this?"
Again she said, "You go away my shop. Go away."
This is what happens when you are in a meditative consciousness. Finally I went away. The following day, I told Alo about the incident and she was so mad and furious. She wanted to go there.
So these are two experiences with shopkeepers, one good and one bad.
The Palace Gardens maidWhen I was staying at the Palace Gardens Hotel, one day around six-thirty or quarter to seven in the morning somebody opened my door. Usually they don't clean so early so I asked, "What is it?"
A maid answered, "Sorry, sorry," and went away.
Then I came out and put the "Don't Disturb" sign on the door and went back into my room. In twenty minutes, the same lady again opened the door. This time I insulted her: "You don't read English? Here is the 'Don't Disturb' sign. You speak English, but you don't read English."
After that, I left my key at the desk and went out for about three hours. When I came back to my room, I realised I had left the key downstairs. I saw the same lady in front of my room, so I said, "I am very sorry, but I left the key downstairs. Would you kindly open my door?"
She said, "How do I know you are staying in that room?"
She would not open the door for me, so I had to go downstairs to get the key. When I came back, she was watching me open the door and laughing at me. For twenty minutes she had bothered me. Then, three hours later, she said she did not recognise me. By not opening the door, she was punishing me for insulting her.
The Indian exchange rateI went into an Indian store to buy a few things for the children of the London Centre. The lady quoted prices in American dollars. I was buying scarves, saris and all kinds of things.
O God, when I gave her the money, the lady reduced the exchange rate because she was so eager to get American dollars. When she saw American money, she gave everything to me much cheaper.
Two IndiansWhen Haridas' choir sang at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan School last year, the head of it wrote me a nice letter. This year I had not the slightest idea that we would have that place for our evening functions, which are all plays, songs, jokes and all that. When we got to the school, I thought, "Perhaps the head of the school will be here." But, as usual, I was wearing a running suit. I only wear dhotis on special occasions.
Right away the registrar came up to me with folded hands and said, "I have to honour you." When he returned a half hour later, he was wearing his Indian kurta and dhoti and had put a tilak on his forehead. Also, he had brought a garland to garland me.
We were both on the stage. He spoke very highly of me for a long time. An Indian was honouring me, saying nice things about me! I was embarrassed. Although I was unprepared, I spoke very highly of the founder of his organisation and of my personal experiences with him.
Another Indian, a Bengali, happened to be there. When I returned to my seat, he came up behind me and started showing off. He touched my feet and then gave me a pound as a gift. Since I am a Bengali, he started talking all about Bengal. Finally Alo stopped him, saying that we had many important things to do.
A song for MalcolmI composed a song for Malcolm while I was in Europe this time. As soon as people think of Malcolm, they laugh. But he has a very good soul and I am really pleased with his exemplary dedication. I wanted to make him happy, so I composed a song.
The children in our London Centre are better singers than the children in America. They learned so many songs and performed them extremely well. They also performed excellent plays.
One boy, in a play, recited the Sanskrit for "The Soul cannot be won by the weakling": "Nayam atma balahinena labhyo." Then, instead of singing that song, he sang instead "Tomai dite." I said, "Wonderful!" I called him down from the stage after the play and set tune to the Sanskrit words. I taught the song to him, and then all the children learned it.
Buying a newspaperWhen I bought an English newspaper, I couldn't understand the shopkeeper's pronunciation. It was thirty pence, but I thought he was saying twenty pence. I gave him twenty pence and he was saying, "Wan mo', wan mo'," but I couldn't understand him.
The cup of coffeeIn Rio, we went to a shop where it said a cup of coffee was fifteen cruzeiros. We gave the man twenty. But, instead of giving us change, the man asked for another twenty. Alo got mad at him. When our bus driver came, he said to the man, "How can you ask for more than what it says?" Finally, he returned five cruzeiros as our change.
The beer drinkerIn one hotel in Rio, the Riviera, as usual we went to pay the bill at check-out time. My bill and Alo's bill were not the same. Alo hadn't made any phone calls, but her bill exceeded mine. When we checked it, we saw that they said she had taken two bottles of beer from the refrigerator.
Alo got furious and insulted them very nicely. Finally they said it had been a mistake. The chambermaid had said that Alo had drunk two beers, but when Alo got furious, they said it had been a mistake. The two beers should have been billed to another room.
The hotel roguesAt another hotel in Rio, the Luxor Regente, Alo stayed in room 509 and I was in 408. After two days, Alo left for Puerto Rico. I had given them a deposit of sixty dollars for our rooms, although they didn't want it at the time. Alo left at nine-thirty at night and they called me, asking me to come down to settle the account. I said, "I have given a deposit and I am still here. I will settle it tomorrow."
An hour later, somebody else called, asking me to come down to settle the account. I got mad and insulted them. I said, "I am here. My things are here. I have given a deposit."
In two or three days, when I went to check out, again I had problems with them. At some hotels if you stay for half a day, they charge you only half. But these people were such rogues. Checkout time for half a day was six o'clock. If it is a little past six, even five minutes, you pay the full amount for a whole day. At a quarter to six, I came down to check out. Then they took twenty-one minutes to check my room. They sent a bell boy or someone to see what I had taken from the soda and juice stocked in the refrigerator. They were delaying and delaying, just so they could charge me for a full day.
The holsterWe went to see Brazil's world-famous statue of the Christ. On the way back, I wanted to buy a belt, but they only had a holster. I said I couldn't buy it because it was for a gun. They removed the holster piece, but still kept the price very high, so I didn't buy it.
I walked out of the store and entered into a bus, leaving behind something I had bought in another shop. O God, the owner of the shop came running to the bus to give me the things that I had bought at another store — even though I hadn't bought anything from his shop.
Breakfast for twoWe were in Sao Paulo, which has the world's largest population — eighteen million. It is twice the size of New York City. We were staying in the El Dorados Hotel.
Early in the morning, around eight o'clock, I went to Alo's room, which was 610. She was having breakfast. She said that since I had come, we could order my food too. Alo told them that I was from room 503 and she asked them to bring the same food for me — milk, bread and, God knows, maybe an egg. Breakfast is always included with the room.
When I went downstairs to check out, they charged us for the food, saying that Alo had to pay extra because she had had a guest. I had given my room number and I had had my keys with me. There were two separate registration forms for us, and I had registered properly. Still, it took them fifteen minutes to look into the problem. Finally, the manager came. Not only did he cancel the extra breakfast charge, but he also deducted six or seven dollars from the total bill for the rooms.
Blouse bargainingIn one shop I wanted to buy a blouse for Alo. The lady said it was twelve hundred cruzeiros, and she wouldn't lower the price. I said to Alo, "Since you like it, let us buy it," and I gave her the money. Then I went next door. When X gave the shopkeeper the twelve hundred cruzeiros, the lady returned four hundred.
The grandfatherI went to a shop to buy Janine a present. I said to the owner, "I'm looking for something for a little girl."
The man asked, "Is it your daughter?"
I answered, "No, my granddaughter. The only problem is, I don't know her size."
The man said, "What kind of grandfather are you? You don't know your own granddaughter's size?"
I said, "Whenever she wears a sari, she looks very stout and fat. But whenever she wears Western clothes, she looks thin and skinny."
Then I just picked out something, without knowing whether it was too small or too big.
The stranger from TexasIn Brazil there was a seven or ten-mile race. I was tired, exhausted, since I had run eight or nine miles that morning, so I didn't join.
I saw a man with a dog near the start of the race and I said to him, "Excuse me, can you tell me how many miles they are going to run? I see there is going to be a race."
The man said, "I don't understand your English!" in a very abrupt way.
Immediately I saw that he was an American. I asked, "Where do you come from?"
He answered, "I come from Texas. Where do you come from?"
I said, "I come from New York."
He said, "Now I understand your English. Ask me again."
When I asked him, he said, "I am also a stranger, like you."
Getting through customsWhen I was coming through American customs, the immigration officer was an Indian. He noticed that I was also an Indian and, when he saw my green card, he said, "What have you been doing here for such a long time?"
I said, "What have you been doing here for such a long time?"
He said, "I am here for the money."
I said, "I am also here for money."
If I had said, "I teach philosophy and yoga," then he would have given me his philosophy about how we are ruining the prestige of India. So I just said, "I am also here for money." This is how one can get through customs.