New York Joy Day Fall 2005
As I recollect a sublime gathering in New York on the weekend, my thoughts also turn to this passage by C.S. Lewis which I like very much. For me it sums up our essential aloneness with God as we journey through life trying to learn the myriad lessons that will help us grow and evolve. Lewis writes:
"You have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw - but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported . . . All the things that have deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it - tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest - if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself - you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say 'Here at last is the thing I was made for.' We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want . . . which we shall still desire on our deathbeds . . . Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it - made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand."
(C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, NY: Macmillan, 1938, 145-148)
While I find tremendous wisdom in Lewis's words, if anything might challenge its veracity, I suggest it is the Joy Day held in Queens last Sunday at the new centre for classes/meditation meetings of new members in our group. We have heard many wonderful stories of Joy Days held in countries across the globe and have been treated to photographic memories of the occasions as well. Now I feel privileged to have attended a Joy Day that like these others, is brimming with laughter, community and real joy.
The newly-rented apartment nearby the 3100 mile race route was the venue. The house itself and yard are quite nice. A feast including barbecued veggie burgers/dogs, pizza, Indian food and more satisfied the hungriest of appetites. My pal Virangini was the grill chef extraordinaire.
Games and prizes were also de rigeur. Shooting baskets, musical chairs and a bike race where the slowest finisher wins gave birth to much laughter and amusement.
As night fell, we retired inside and had a meditation complete with chanting and singing the Invocation—a song invoking the presence of God in our lives that was penned by Sri Chinmoy many years ago, and is considered sacred by his students. The size of our group barely could be contained within the room and the closeness of quarters seemed to just multiply the feeling of camaraderie and community. Difficult to describe, suffice it say that the feeling in the room as we sang the Invocation now ranks as one of my favorite experiences of singing this sacred song.
After we took prasad (blessed food—a tradition amongst spiritual Masters), everyone was milling about eating and talking. This moment provided the opportunity for me to get introduced to some of the new members of our centre in the New York area. Many are Bengali and I diligently tried to remember which individuals went with which mothers, fathers, children, etc. New and old, longtime local residents and weekend "visitors" like myself all mingled in a true feeling of warm community.
This happy murmur was suddenly upped to an electric buzz of excitement with the announcement that Sri Chinmoy had just arrived at our gathering. His surprise visit was such a blessing! He placed a tray of chocolate chip cookies on his lap and handed prasad to each of us. After pictures were taken of Sri Chinmoy with the leaders of this particular group, he departed as quickly as he had arrived.
Then somehow proving that good things can just keep getting better, we turned to the performance part of our gathering. Most of the new members present performed - either singing traditional songs to Krishna, Durga, and Kali or singing some of Sri Chinmoy's songs (with and without instruments). The children performed as well - either singing or reciting poems by their Guru (the older children from memory). The whole program was just perfect. Twice during the performances I felt shivers up and down my spine because I was so moved by the singing.
When at last the evening drew to a close with the showing of the film The Little Buddha, this now tired attendee departed. Now I know firsthand just how much joy one can share in a centre joy day. It was the perfect balance of games, fun, food and spiritual activities. The best part of all was the solid feeling of community that pervaded the entire gathering. I would almost go so far as to say that C.S. Lewis was proved wrong in his depiction of the truth that the only true union is that of our souls with the Highest. What this day adds perhaps is the clause that the oneness of shared spiritual community makes the essentially solitary journey infinitely more sweet.