The world-experience-tree-climber, part 1

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You know how to fool everyone1

As I was coming out of the plane at the Eugene, Oregon airport, there was an old man with a cane right in front of me. With his right hand he was holding the rail, and he was dragging his legs. I was behind him doing the same because of all my back pain and leg pain. He turned around, mad, and said, “What are you doing?” He thought I was mocking him. He said he was 76 years old. I said that I was not mocking him, only I had leg pain. He believed me.

When I got to the motel, I went to the gift shop to buy some candy. The saleslady started to talk to me. She was saying, “How are you? Did you have a nice day?” and other things. Salespeople like to talk to everyone, so I didn’t think she was talking to me because she knew who I was. I only smiled at her.

When I gave her a dollar for the candy, she gave me back a quarter. Then she said that she had gone to one of my meditations once, and had seen me meditating in my dhoti. Now I was in western clothes. So she said, “You know how to fool everyone.”

WE 1. 19 October 1980

You have to carry two bags?2

When I arrived at the airport in New York from Puerto Rico, I was carrying two small bags, one on each shoulder. Lucy and Ranjana were watching me from the other side of the glass partition. I saw them, but they could not come inside.

One of the porters recognised me, saying, “Sri Chinmoy, you are such a great man! You have to carry two bags?” He wanted to carry my bags for me, but they were such tiny bags! He was not a runner, I am sure, since he was quite fat, so I don’t think he knew me from our races. I was looking at my shirt to see if ‘Sri Chinmoy’ was mentioned anywhere, but it wasn’t. How did he recognise me? God alone knows!

WE 2. 27 July 1981

Thank you3

This morning I had to telephone someone. I could not dial directly from here, so I had to take help from the telephone operator. She was an elderly lady who was very, very kind to me. When I gave her the number, she said to me, “Thank you.”

So I said to her, “Thank you.”

Then she said to me very affectionately, in a motherly way, “When someone says ‘Thank you’, you are not supposed to say ‘Thank you’! You are supposed to say, ‘You are welcome’!”

I thanked her for telling me that, and then she started laughing and laughing.

WE 3. 17 September 1981

The Philippines airport4

At the airport in the Philippines, I had three pieces of luggage - two suitcases and a carry-on. Three boys took them away, but they were not going in the same direction. I told a policeman and he laughed, but he made the boys come back. I said that I needed only one fellow. Afterwards I found out that when you give the porters money, it goes to the police.

WE 4. 31 December 1981

Italian experiences5

On this trip the Italians were so bad to me! It started at the airport, where all my luggage was missing. Even when I was in a taxi on the way to see the Pope, the taxi driver took me out of my way. The Vatican was in sight, but the driver, thinking I wouldn’t recognise it, went somewhere else. The ride never ended!

In Italy the churches are very beautiful. But when you go to a church, five or six photographers will take your picture and then try to sell you the photographs.

WE 5. 31 December 1981

Rainy Bermuda6

Once I went to Bermuda for three days alone. The hotel I stayed in was near the water. It was very beautiful. But it rained heavily the whole time I was there. I could not even go out. It rained cats and dogs. Only once I went across the street to a Chinese restaurant. My only consolation was that I wrote two hundred poems while I was there. But I was not able to go out walking or running at all!

WE 6. 3 January 1982

Unfortunate experiences in France7

I have many good things to say about France, but each time I go there, I have to lose something - or perhaps I should say they have to steal something! Once they stole my harmonium and another time they took my tape recorder. I had left a tape recorder right on the dresser in my room. As soon as we reached the airport, only fifteen minutes later, I called the hotel and said that one of my students was coming back for the tape recorder. The manager said he would send someone up to see if it was there. After a few minutes he said that there was nothing on the dresser in my room - as if my mind would go blank in fifteen minutes!

WE 7. 3 January 1982

Indian hotels8

In India, the hotel people show you a room and say that all the rooms are the same. So you pay for a room, leave your bags in the car and go out for two or three hours. When you come back, O God, the room they take you to is unbelievable. Compared to the room they showed you, it is the difference between Heaven and hell. It is on the same floor as the other room, but there is such a difference!

WE 8. 3 January 1982

Indian drivers9

In Agra, the drivers take two hours to go to the Taj Mahal, although it is only twenty minutes away. God knows where they take you! Then, in the hope of a little more money, for four blocks they will follow you like a faithful dog. If you throw them something - even the smallest coin - then when they go to pick it up, you can gain some ground on them and escape.

WE 9. 3 January 1982

Airport encounters10

At the Calcutta airport, quite unexpectedly Mother Teresa and I met face to face. For me to recognise her was a very easy task. But she didn’t give any sign of recognising me. For a fleeting second she looked at me and I looked at her. We were only three metres from each other. She was travelling with only three attendants, and they were all wearing saris. Usually I have quite a few attendants around me, although this time I had nobody.

Then again at the Delhi airport we passed by each other. But it happened so quickly that I barely noticed her. Then I saw three or four people come up to her for her autograph.

WE 10. 28 March 1982

A letter to the editor11

As you know, a very nice article came out about me in The Illustrated Weekly of India, which is like America’s Time magazine. The following week an Indian wrote four or five lines highly appreciating that article. It came out as a letter to the editor. I saw it when I was in India.

WE 11. 28 March 1982

The deceitful taxi driver12

Indian taxi drivers are notorious for deceiving people. On this trip deception started at the Bombay airport. From the airport to the hotel is a very short distance. The taxi ride normally costs only seven rupees, but the driver asked for two hundred rupees. I started arguing with him in Hindi. Perhaps I made some grammatical mistakes, but he understood me perfectly. From two hundred he finally came down to sixty. So I gave him sixty rupees. What could I do? The following morning, when I went from the hotel to the airport, another driver charged me the correct amount - seven rupees. So you can see what a rogue the first driver was!

WE 12. 28 March 1982

The missing notebook13

The following day, while I was waiting to board the plane to Madras, I was writing poems. After some time I put my notebook on the seat next to me and began meditating. Suddenly I noticed that my notebook had disappeared. I started asking myself, “Where did it go?”

I looked for the notebook in my blue bag, but it was not there. Then I started looking around me. There were about seventy or eighty people waiting to get on the plane, and it was almost boarding time. Then I saw that somebody was holding the notebook. He was not reading the poems; he was only appreciating the beautiful parrot that was on the cover.

I said to him, “Excuse me, this is my book.”

He said, “Your book? I found it on a seat. Nobody was sitting there, so I took it because I liked the bird.”

Fortunately I got my notebook back at the last minute. Otherwise, ninety-nine poems would have been lost.

WE 13. 28 March 1982

The lightning call14

When I arrived in Calcutta after leaving Pondicherry, I wanted to phone my family. My sisters and brothers had driven me to the Madras airport, and then they had to make the three-and-a-half-hour drive back to Pondicherry. So I was worried about them. I felt sorry, because going and coming back came to seven hours of driving altogether. For me, it was only an hour-and-a-half plane ride from Madras to Calcutta. So after about three hours I started phoning Pondicherry to see if they had gotten back all right.

The operator said that the Pondicherry line was out of order and that it could be that way for two or three more days. Quite often when I try to call from New York, the operator says that the Pondicherry line is out of order. The first day I believed the operator. The second day when I tried to call, again the operator said that it was out of order. I said, “O God, what does the government do if it has to make an urgent call?”

The operator said, “Oh, the government has a special line that is used only for lightning calls. If you make a lightning call, you have to pay eight times more.”

I said, “Look here, I am willing to pay eight times more.”

The operator said, “Eight times more? Are you sure?”

I said, “I have the money, so please do it.”

So the operator made the lightning call around one-thirty in the morning, but nobody answered. My mind was worried that perhaps something had gone wrong. One is allowed to try a lightning call only twice, and then the call is cancelled. They made the second call a half hour later and still there was no answer. What had happened was this: the Calcutta hotel operator had put through the lightning call, but the rogues in Madras had used a wrong number. All the time I thought that something had gone wrong with my family’s phone. It turned out that our phone was all right, but the Madras operator was putting me through to a wrong number.

The following day I tried to make another lightning call two times, but again it didn’t go through. Whenever the call does not go through, you don’t have to pay; but you always get a scolding from the operator. The operator barks at you because a lightning call is only supposed to be made by very rich or great people. They did not feel that I was rich or great enough.

My family couldn’t call me because they didn’t know at which hotel I was staying. Finally, I called my house in New York. Since nobody there had heard from my brothers and sisters, I said, “That means that everything is all right. If anything had gone wrong, they would have called New York.” From New York one of the girls tried calling Pondicherry, but she had the same fate. She could not get through. Finally, she sent a telegram to my family asking if everyone was all right.

The next day I told the operator that I had been trying to call Pondicherry for three days. She put in another lightning call, and in two minutes the call went through. My brother answered the phone and I immediately said to him, “Why have you not been answering the phone?”

At the same time he said to me, “Where is your concern for us? Why have you not called us for four days? One of us has always been near the phone, worrying.”

I said, “I have tried to make lightning calls twenty times.”

So everything was all right. The first day when they didn’t answer, I felt that perhaps my sister was tired and exhausted from travelling, and therefore she didn’t hear the phone ringing. It turned out that my brother was there, but the phone line was not working at all. For three days the Pondicherry line was not working. I said, “What kind of worries the telephone can create!” I was blessing the telephone like anything.

I was so happy that I finally got through to Pondicherry that I called the hotel telephone operator. I had heard her say her name, Mrs. Dasgupta. She was Bengali, but we started talking in English because telephone operators always prefer to speak English. She told me, “You asked for a lightning call, but I did not make a lightning call. I have a friend in Madras and I told her to make it a special call without saying it was a lightning call.” It would have cost me six hundred rupees, but now I had to pay only one hundred ten rupees. So I was very grateful to her.

I put a hundred rupees in an envelope to give her, and then I went downstairs to the hotel telephone office. The place was so dirty! I stood at the door and said, “I would like to speak to Mrs. Dasgupta.” So many people were working there. How could I go in and give her the envelope when there were so many other girls around? I said to the guard, “Can you ask her to come here?”

The guard came back and said, “They are asking you to come in.”

I said to myself, “I am in trouble now. I can’t just give her this envelope in front of everyone.”

So I gave her a copy of the small Galaxy of Luminaries. When she saw my picture with the Pope, she could not believe it. She said to me “Where do you come from?”

I said, “I am Bengali. Why?”

She said, “But when you talked to your family, it was not in Bengali.”

I said, “I come from Chittagong.”

She said she could not understand a word of our Chittagong dialect.

I said, “This is what you do? You listen to people’s private conversations?”

She said, “Oh no, I just wanted to see if you got through to your party. Then I heard something very peculiar.” Then she added, “You don’t have a Chittagong accent.”

I said to myself, “Not in vain did I stay at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. There I spoke real Bengali.”

Then she started appreciating my Bengali. I didn’t have the heart to tell her how many books, poems and songs I have written in Bengali. Then she said, “Is your mother alive?”

I said, “No.”

She said, “The person who would have been the happiest to see this picture is not alive.”

I said, “I lost her when I was quite young.”

She said, “I am so sorry that you have lost your mother. She would have been the happiest person.

I said, “There is something called Heaven, so she can be proud of her son from Heaven.”

She was very moved. Then I gave her the envelope and said, “This is a gift.”

I thought she would show false modesty and say, “No,” and I would have to insist. But she just took it and thanked me. Inwardly I said, “You deserve it! You saved me from paying for a lightning call.”

WE 14. 28 March 1982

The flight to London15

What an adventure this trip to Scotland was! So many things went wrong in the airport, on the plane and in the hotels.

After the disciples saw me off at Kennedy Airport, I went to the British Airways lounge. Can you imagine? About forty people were standing because there were no seats left in the lounge.

Finally we entered into the plane. An orthodox Jewish man was sitting in the seat beside mine. He had a little cap and a long beard. His seat was on the aisle and mine was at the window. When I came and stood in front of him, he didn’t want to move or get up so that I could get to my seat. It was only with greatest difficulty that I was able to sit down.

After ten or fifteen minutes I thought, “Let me start writing poems.” But I could not find even one ballpoint. I had put six ballpoints into my bag, but at that time I could not find even one. I searched here and there. I said to myself, “How can I ask this man for a ballpoint? God doesn’t want me to write poems.” So I read for hours on the plane and I didn’t write even one poem.

Towards the end of the trip, the stewardess gave out immigration cards for us to fill out. I could have asked the stewardess for a ballpoint, but often it is so hard to get their attention that you lose all your inspiration. I said to myself, “At the airport I will fill it out!”

WE 15. 20 May 1982

The drink16

During the plane ride the steward came to me and said, “What would you like to drink?”

I said, “Tomato juice.”

In ten minutes’ time he brought me something that looked like tomato juice, but it smelled like wine. I was half in the dream world, but I asked myself, “How could it be tomato juice? Definitely this smells like wine.”

Fortunately I smelled it first before drinking it.

I said to the steward, “This can’t be tomato juice. I asked you for tomato juice.”

He said, “Oh no, you asked me for…” and he said the name of a drink that started with the letter ‘t’. He said the name at least twice, but still I didn’t know what he was saying. He didn’t say, “Sorry!” or apologise in any way. He acted as if it was my fault. Finally, though, he did bring me some tomato juice.

WE 16. 20 May 1982

Begging for a ballpoint17

In the London airport hundreds of people were standing in a queue. I saw one of the airport people sitting at an empty desk reading a newspaper. He had three ballpoints in his shirt pocket. I said to him, “Excuse me, may I use your ballpoint for a minute?”

He said abruptly, “I don’t have one!” And I was looking at the pens in his pocket when he said it. I have never seen such a rogue.

There was such a big line; at least a hundred fifty people were in front of me. I thought, “When I get to the front of the line, they will want to see this card filled out. Since I am wasting my time here, let me ask someone else.” I asked another employee who was nearby, but he said, “When you get to the front of the line there will be someone to give you a ballpoint.” I could see that he also had three or four, but he didn’t want to give me one.

After fifteen minutes I reached the front of the line. I said to the lady who told you which booth to go to, “I don’t have a ballpoint.” She answered, “I am sorry, I don’t have one. Otherwise, I would give you one.” In her case, I saw that she really didn’t have a ballpoint.

Then I saw a middle-aged Indian man sitting with his head in his hands. He was just a passenger waiting for someone. As you know, I have told many stories about Indians who acted like perfect rogues. But my Indian brothers can be of help to me also. I asked this man, “May I borrow a ballpoint?”

He said, “Of course, of course!”

He had a huge bag with so many clothes in it, and he started searching and searching through all his things. It took him two or three minutes to find one. So this is the difference between Englishmen and Indians. I said to myself, “Indians quarrel and fight, but in the time of need they will always try to come to each other’s rescue with a big heart.” I used the pen and returned it to him and thanked him. Inwardly I felt sorry that he was still brooding.

When people at the airport or other places are mean to me, I forgive them and God forgives them. It is just human nature. Then when I tell the stories, I get joy. I tell them in a cheerful way.

WE 17. 20 May 1982

Looking for Terminal Three18

After I gave the customs people my immigration card, I put my things on a trolley and went to the place where they check tickets. The lady looked at my ticket and said, “Wrong place!” There were two airlines whose names started with the word ‘British’, and I had gone to the wrong one. But the lady wouldn’t tell me where to go. She was so rude! Then one of the porters grabbed my shoulder very affectionately and said, “Do you see the bookstore over there? Just behind it is the booth that you want.”

I went there and showed the lady my ticket. She told me which terminal to go to, but I couldn’t hear her. So I said, “Excuse me, sorry, but I could not get what you said.”

The lady said, “I told you!” and she wouldn’t speak to me again.

Another porter happened to be nearby. He told me, “She said terminal three.” He was so nice to me.

You can either take a taxi or walk to terminal three. I walked. The route was all zigzag, like a serpent, and it took me ten or fifteen minutes to get there.

WE 18. 20 May 1982

The new disciple19

When I was about to enter the plane - I was only ten or twelve metres from the door — a young girl looked at me, smiling, and said, “Guru!”

I couldn’t imagine who she was. She said, “I am a new disciple.”

I said, “You are a new disciple?”

She said, “I have been your disciple for only three weeks. I am a Zurich disciple. My name is Emily.” She grabbed my instrument case and wanted to take my bag also. She spoke English fluently. She works for Air France, and she was taking the same flight to Scotland. She carried my bags right to my seat. She was going on standby. But she told me that she would have no trouble getting on the plane.

WE 19. 20 May 1982

The plane ride to Scotland20

In the airport I had gone to a bookstore and bought three ballpoints so I wouldn’t have to be a beggar anymore. On the plane one of the stewards asked me to fill out a form that I would need to enter Scotland. Emily was five or six metres behind me. When she heard that I was supposed to write something, she came running with a ballpoint even before I could get my own out of my bag. So this is the difference between disciples and non-disciples!

Hannelore, Robert and four or five other German disciples were also on the plane, but they didn’t know beforehand that I would be on the same flight. The disciples were so happy and delighted to be on the plane with me. Emily sat behind me and the other disciples had seats near me, although no one sat right beside me. None of the disciples talked. They were absolutely silent, sitting and meditating. The American girls, on the other hand, will talk about their breakfast, their running, their shopping — everything — when they fly with me.

WE 20. 20 May 1982

The missing tote-a-tune21

Around three o’clock in the afternoon we were supposed to leave for the concert in Dundee; Shantishri was going to drive. I was sitting downstairs in the hotel waiting for Janaka and Janani, who were late. As soon as I saw them, I jumped up. I had a blue bag and a tote-a-tune with me, but because I was in a terrible rush, I left the tote-a-tune.

Shantishri had been driving for only three or four minutes when I realised that my tote-a-tune was missing. She drove back to the hotel and I went to the chair where I had been sitting. But the tote-a-tune was gone. One of the porters said, “I saw it,” and gave me a full description. But he said that he had not taken it. What could we do? It was getting late, so we had to leave for the concert. Then Shantishri had to drive seventy or eighty miles per hour because we were so late.

The following day the police came and searched everywhere, but they could not find the tote-a-tune.

WE 21. 20 May 1982

The chambermaid's test22

The next day before I went running, I left a fifty-pence coin and two ten-pence coins in my room to see if the chambermaid was honest. I did this deliberately to test her. When I came back from running, I saw that the fifty-pence coin was gone, but the two ten-pence coins were left. So deliberately I did it and deliberately I got a slap.

WE 22. 20 May 1982

The silver ballpoints23

When I first got to Scotland, I told the disciples my stories about not having a ballpoint. I told them how bad the British are and how good the Indians are. They all felt miserable. They said, “Those people were not disciples. What can you expect from them?”

After the last concert, the British disciples performed scenes from The Son for the other disciples. They brought down the actual atmosphere of the play - even the Christ’s consciousness and Mary’s consciousness. No other performers have done it so perfectly. The director was Charana. Their costumes were also excellent. At the end of the play I appreciated them like anything.

Afterwards, Charana presented me with a set of three silver ballpoints. He said, “We have heard your ballpoint stories, so we are presenting you with these.”

Then I entered into a small room near the stage to speak with two disciples for a few minutes. When I left the room, I very nicely left the ballpoints in the room. Later I realised that I didn’t have them, but I did not remember where I had left them. I said to myself, “The ballpoint story will never end!”

Fortunately, the disciples found them. They were not supposed to go into that room, but after I left they went there to see if I had left anything. The following day they brought the ballpoints to me.

WE 23. 20 May 1982

The kilt24

I knew that Alo would be sad if I didn’t wear my kilt during the trip. She had given it to Mangal to bring to me. So after the Christ play I said, “In five minutes I will put on the kilt.” I put it on very nicely on top of my dhoti. I wore the top also, and it looked very nice. My dhoti was hidden underneath the kilt.

WE 24. 20 May 1982

The forgotten gifts25

When I was packing to leave Glasgow for London, the two zippers on my bag broke. The disciples put my things in a garbage bag, but not everything fit. So I took out some expensive, very nicely wrapped candies that I had bought as gifts. I had already eaten a few.

Shantishri drove me to the airport, and again we were in a terrible rush. It was a fifteen-minute or half-hour drive. Then I realised that I had left behind a wristwatch that I had bought for Vidhu. It had a football game on it. So I asked Shantishri to go back to the hotel to get the wristwatch.

When she reached the hotel, forty minutes after we had left, everything was still in my room. Not only did she find my wristwatch and the expensive candies but also many other gifts that I had bought for people. I knew that I had forgotten the wristwatch and the candies, but I had no idea about the other things. There was a football that I had bought for Tejiyan’s group and some other items. I had left my door open, but nothing was taken.

WE 25. 20 May 1982

The Indian taxi drivers26

In London I went shopping in the Indian district. When I was finished, the store owner called a taxi company to send a taxi for me. The taxi came and I saw that the driver was a real rogue. He and his friend, who was another rogue, were sitting in the front seat. I told the driver where I was going, and then I said, “It has to be a flat rate,” because they looked like such rogues.

Immediately they said, “Five and a half pounds.”

I said, “When I came to this store from the hotel with an English taxi driver, it said seven pounds on the meter. Why are you asking for only five and a half pounds?”

The driver said, “Because you are an Indian and you look like a saintly person. Otherwise if you had not been an Indian, we would have asked for twelve pounds and driven here, there, everywhere.”

I said, “I will give you seven pounds. But definitely you are going to take me to the right place? Are you sure you know the place?”

They said, “Yes, we know the place. We have been driving for so many years.”

The whole way there they were talking about their relatives in America. They did bring me to the right hotel and let me off at the right place. I had told them that I would give them seven pounds, but when they stopped in front of the hotel I gave them eight pounds.

I said, “You people can be nice and I can also be nice.” Then I told them, “Don’t deceive people anymore!”

They said they would try, and they will.

Sarada Devi had this kind of experience with a dacoit [robber] once. When she called him “Father,” the dacoit became like her father. The following day he let her go.

WE 26. 20 May 1982

The missing porters27

When I was leaving the Kensington Royal Gardens Hotel to catch the famous plane, the Concorde, I waited for the porters for fifteen minutes. The porters were not coming, so I had to bring down three heavy suitcases myself. As soon as I came down, two or three porters came running towards me to help me take them to the car. But before that, when I really needed them, they never appeared.

WE 27. 20 May 1982

The fat taxi driver28

On the way to the airport, the taxi driver started talking about this and that. I asked him about his father, who was in the army. Then I said, “During the Second World War, where were you?”

He said, “I was not born.”

I looked at him. He was so huge. Everything about him was bulging, but he was fifteen years my junior.

He said, “My father was in the army in Germany, Hungary and Austria - but not in India. My parents waited until after the war to have children because they felt that if they had children during the war, the children would be defective. So I was born in 1946.”

I was saying silently, “True, you are not defective but you are very fat!” He was extremely nice, though. He drove very fast to save me, since I had been delayed at the hotel.

WE 28. 20 May 1982

The Concorde29

The Concorde is quite small. The windows are very small and there are only two seats in each row. A middle-aged man was sitting beside me. As soon as he sat down, he said, “I hope you do not mind if I put my legs a little bit on your side.” Throughout the trip he was sitting with his foot on his knee, and his leg bent towards my seat. Then he turned on the light and went to sleep with his hands over his eyes. He turned on the light, and then he wouldn’t open his eyes! He wouldn’t eat anything. After an hour I turned out the light. All of a sudden he woke up and said, “Where did I lose my ballpoint?”

Everywhere there are ballpoint problems! He was telling the stewardess that he had a silver pen. The stewardess was begging the person behind him to look for it. Then they found that it had rolled two seats behind. So the man got back his pen and he was very happy.

When we were about to get out of the plane, the man started looking for his passport. He couldn’t find it, so he said, “That is interesting.” He was banging everything around, searching here and there. Everybody was standing up in the aisle, waiting for him to find his passport. He was blocking everybody.

WE 29. 20 May 1982

Flight technicalities30

In the beginning the pilot started talking to us. He said, “I know it does not make any sense, but we have to do our duty.” Then he started telling all about our speed, our altitude, and so-on. But he was right. It was too technical.

The plane was going 1,320 miles per hour or even 1,500 miles per hour. The flight usually takes three hours and twenty-five minutes, but this time it took only three hours and five minutes.

When the plane is stopping, it goes 225 miles per hour. At that time you can appreciate that it was going 1,300. But when it is going at the fastest speed, you are not aware of it; you cannot see anything. The plane was flying at twice the height of Mount Everest.

Because it was such a short flight, I didn’t get any leg pain. Even going to Puerto Rico, which is often a three-and-a-half-hour trip, I get cramps in my legs. But after the Concorde ride, when I stood up, there was no pain. Now I will go to California, and it will take five and a half hours!

From now on when I go to India, how I wish I could go to London on the Concorde. Otherwise, it is such a long trip, I suffer so much. But it is really expensive! I am not a millionaire and my disciples are not millionaires, so this was perhaps my first and last time flying on the Concorde.

WE 30. 20 May 1982

Concorde souvenirs31

On the plane everyone got a souvenir ballpoint saying that they had been on the Concorde. They said that anyone who wanted could come up for a certificate. A few ladies went up to get one. When the last lady went up, the certificates were all used up. The stewardess apologised and said to her, “Hope to see you again.”

The lady replied, “I can’t afford to see you again.”

Right from the beginning of the ride, the flight attendants came and asked, “Do you want anything?” They meant well, but they didn’t have enough people to give us excellent service. They should have more attendants helping.

WE 31. 20 May 1982

Getting ahead32

When I was waiting on line in the immigration area here at Kennedy Airport, a young girl behind me gave me a smile and started talking to me. She said, “Do you mind? I am behind you but I am very tired, very exhausted. Can I go before you?”

She was a young girl of 23 or 24 years, and I am an old man. She was not an American, because we were both in the alien area, but I thought perhaps she was a French girl. There were many people on line, but she asked only to go ahead of me. After me, she couldn’t go forward anymore because I was at the front of the line. I didn’t see if she was actually behind me on line to start with. Perhaps this is how she got to the front of the line from somewhere near the back.

WE 32. 20 May 1982

Harmonium experiences33

Before I left for California, Vinaya ordered a case for my new big harmonium. I gave him the money and he bought it, only to discover it was too big - three times larger than the instrument itself. And he had measured the harmonium first!

I said, “Vinaya, you have bought my coffin!”

That particular harmonium is by far the best, so I wanted to take it to San Francisco. Two weeks earlier I had received it from India. The last time I was in Calcutta I played it in the store and I liked it so much. The people in the store were kind enough to send me the same one.

The first time I went to Japan I went via San Francisco. In San Francisco I liked a particular harmonium and I bought it. They said, “Oh, we will ship it to New York,” and I believed them. When I got back to New York there was a harmonium, but not the one I had bought.

WE 33. 11 June 1982

God on the flute34

A woman who came to our concert in Davies Hall was so moved by my singing and playing. Afterwards she wrote a long letter to our music store saying how happy she was to have been able to come because it was so worthwhile. Then, in the last line she said, “I have never heard God play on the flute before.”

This time San Francisco gave me two “God” experiences. The other one occurred on the plane on the way home.

WE 34. 11 June 1982

Morning Star memories35

Chandika’s brother helped arrange my first trip to California. I'll never forget that unique experience when I went to see him in the Morning Star commune near Santa Cruz. There were cockroaches and other insects all over. Nobody has asked me so many questions in this incarnation as he did.

WE 35. 11 June 1982

Progress at Berkeley36

The first time I went to Berkeley, it was not at all a good experience. One person would ask me a question and six others would stand up to answer it. I could not answer a question before two or three others also started answering the question. Then, while I was speaking, people in the audience were whistling.

But they have made progress at Berkeley. This time when I came they were silent, and they were kind enough to clap after the meditation.

WE 36. 11 June 1982

Encounter in Chinatown37

In San Francisco’s Chinatown a man recognised me in the street. He said, “It’s Sri Chinmoy! I can’t believe this! I went to your concert last night. It was so beautiful.” He was so happy and excited to see me.

The man was with a friend. He asked me to bless a coin that he had. So I put the coin in my right palm and meditated on it — not for one second, but very seriously, very powerfully I blessed his coin. He was so moved and grateful.

When he saw me on the stage I was wearing my Indian clothes. In Chinatown I was wearing a track suit, but he still recognised me. This man was very nice. When people are nice to me, I try to be nice to them.

WE 37. 11 June 1982

I can feel it38

When I was standing in my hotel lobby, a Japanese lady came up to me and said, “What are you doing?”

I said, “I am meditating and bringing down peace and joy.”

The lady said, “I can feel it, I can feel it.”

WE 38. 11 June 1982

The smartest-looking guy39

In the elevator a lady said to me, “You are the smartest-looking guy I ever saw.” I had on my white track suit and my Tiger running shoes, which matched the track suit.

Her husband said to her, “Don’t forget, you are married to me.”

The wife said, “Correction! You are married to me!”

WE 39. 11 June 1982

The fattest man40

At the Guinness Museum we saw a 455-pound man. Previously, he and his brother had both weighed the same, but recently his brother died.

His wife weighs only 95 pounds. He said that his wife is thin but his brother’s wife is fat. Everybody was curious to know his brother’s wife’s weight. It is 125 pounds!

When I saw his thigh, I couldn’t believe it. Of course, he has custom-made trousers. Then we saw the tallest woman and the tallest man — he is eight feet something.

WE 40. 11 June 1982

Flying ambassador class41

For my flight to San Francisco, Sandhani the great got me a discount. I almost never fly first class, but economy class is real torture for me because there is no room to stretch out and after three hours my legs give way. I get such pain! And San Francisco takes practically six hours’ flying.

Garima is always kind to me. When I said that I always have knee trouble because of the lack of room in economy, she wanted to change my ticket from economy to ambassador class for the return trip. She was asking me to let her change my ticket because she said the ambassador-class seats are very wide. She was begging me to let her pay the difference.

So I agreed, and Garima had to pay the difference, first between super-saver and economy, and then between economy and ambassador.

WE 41. 11 June 1982

Let God enter first42

At the airport the plane was an hour and a half late. I was chatting with the disciples in the lounge, cutting jokes and just killing time. As usual, the disciples were looking at me with affection, love and devotion, as though they were all about to realise God in the next second.

One middle-aged man was observing us. When it came time to board, strangely enough the disciples were allowed to come very near the entrance to the plane. So that man got mad. He came up to me and said, “Who do you think you are - God? These people are worshipping you as if you were God. Since you are God, you enter first!”

I said, “I am not blocking your way. You please go first.”

Standing in front of him were Agraha and Brad. Immediately they wanted to go with me into the plane to protect me, but I said it was not necessary.

WE 42. 11 June 1982

A pillow for God43

Once I entered into the plane, I took my seat in the ambassador-class section and was getting ready to write poems. In five minutes’ time the same man came to me with a pillow and a blanket and said, “God, take this!”

Previously he was mad at me, but this time he was joking. I didn’t say anything to him. I just smiled. God didn’t accept his offering, but God was grateful to him.

Then he put the pillow and blanket on the seat next to me.

WE 43. 11 June 1982

Sue the airline44

Then the man said, “You should sue the airline. You are paying for ambassador class, but the seats are so narrow! They are gypping you.”

I also felt that the seats were unbearably narrow, but I didn’t want to make a fuss. I just thought that I would cut jokes with Garima afterwards, saying that this was her ambassador class - extra cost, but no extra room! Then I said to myself, “Perhaps I should sue Snigdha; she works for that airline.”

When my friend started complaining, a stewardess came and said I would get a full refund. Some of the planes have the new ambassador-class seats, but this particular plane had not yet been remodelled.

WE 44. 11 June 1982

Eight refunds45

As I was filling out the form for a refund, the head stewardess came by and said, “Where did you get this?” She was absolutely furious.

The first stewardess said, “I am giving him a refund. Otherwise, these people are going to sue the airline. We have taken money from them for ambassador class, but these are not ambassador-class seats.”

There were only eight of us in the ambassador class, although there were about 40 seats. So the head stewardess went to get refund forms for the other seven passengers as well. First she was angry at the stewardess who gave me the refund form. Perhaps she had wanted to deceive us. But then she herself went to all the other ambassador-class passengers and gave them forms.

It was all because of the man who called me ‘God’ that eight people got refunds. The other ambassador-class passengers were fools like me. If that man had not spoken up, the stewardess would have kept silent about the fact that they were not ambassador-class seats.

My only thanks to that man came through my smiling. The man was very pleased when I smiled at him. Then he went away.

After some time I got up to look for my friend, because I wanted to thank him. I walked all around the economy section, going to this side and that side, but I could not find him.

First this man was angry at me. Then his heart came forward and he brought a little pillow and blanket for God. Then he saw that God was suffering, so he wanted to sue the airline. Because of him eight people got refunds.

WE 45. 11 June 1982

The dancing man46

As soon as the plane was in the air, a young man got the inspiration to dance. He would stand in front of someone and then start his dancing.

When I saw him coming near me, immediately I pretended to fall asleep. When he saw that I was sleeping, he went past me.

WE 46. 11 June 1982

The economy-class sleepers47

In two hours’ time at least ten or twelve people from economy class came to lie down in the ambassador-class seats. These people didn’t pay anything for ambassador class; they just came and were sleeping there. The stewardesses didn’t ask them to move. If it had really been ambassador class, they wouldn’t have allowed people from the economy section to occupy the seats.

WE 47. 11 June 1982

Thin man48

When I finished eating, I got up to go to the back of the plane to use the bathroom. Since we were only in the ambassador class, we were not allowed to go forward to the first-class bathrooms.

The stewardesses were still serving, and they had their trolleys in the aisles. Ahead of me there were two ladies who also wanted to go to the bathroom, but they couldn’t move because the trolleys were blocking their way. One of the stewardesses said to me, “You are thin. You can pass by. But they can’t.” She put her hand on my back and said, “You can try, but those two can’t even try.”

Then she turned the trolley in such a way that there was a tiny space. I went through, and immediately she turned the trolley straight. As I was coming back, I saw that those two women were still waiting to get through.

WE 48. 11 June 1982

Editor's note

Earth is never quite prepared for a true God-realised soul. As children will chase after a meteor that falls from the sky, all the divine and undivine forces of this world seem drawn to him. Thus, on both the inner plane and the outer plane, a Master’s biography is a unique and wondrous thing.

In this unusual book, the great spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy describes some of the ordinary and not-so-ordinary experiences he has had while travelling in different places. They form part of the memorabilia that a Master from another reality has collected during his stay on earth — like the pebbles and shells a child might pick up on a visit to the seashore. In the case of a God-realised soul, however, such treasures belong to all humanity, and the reader is invited to marvel, laugh and commiserate with him as he recalls these stories from his human past. It is a rare opportunity, divinely illumining and supremely fulfilling.