These days, to keep myself inspired, I find myself reaching not for an inspiring book or some soul-stirring music, but for my laptop, which contains everything at once!
I regularly supplement my meditations by reading Sri Chinmoy 's many aphorisms. In his youth, Sri Chinmoy used to write long poems in a formal, metred style, but over the years he has come to adopt the simple aphorism as his poetic medium of choice. His output has been nothing short of phenomenal: in 1983 he completed a collection of 10,000 aphorisms in 100 volumes titled Ten Thousand Flower-Flames ; by 1998 he had completed 27,000 aphorisms in 270 volumes under the title Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants . Never one to rest on his laurels, he is now more than half-way through creating Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees , a collection of 77,000 aphorisms. He has written many other aphorisms over the years, but it is to these three collections I invariably turn to upon visiting SriChinmoyLibrary.com ; I pick an arbitrary volume, scroll down the list of poems to one at random, and begin reading each one, not with my eyes, but with my heart, for it is the heart that knows how to unwrap the simplicity-packaging of each poetic offering, and with whole being drink the glimpses into higher and deeper truths that lie within.
Another thing which usually never fails to transport me into loftier realms is looking at the many meditative photo-montages on the Sri Chinmoy Centre photo gallery, particularly those which contain pictures of my teacher. All great teachers work in the realms of silence, and silence radiates from every corner of their being, so that even photographs carry this silence, and speak to the aspiring heart as if the teacher were actually there. Sri Chinmoy once recommended that if a spiritual seeker was interested in finding a teacher, he should get photographs of different teachers and look at each one to see which gave his heart most joy:
"How can one know who his spiritual teacher is?...His heart looks at the spiritual Masters and makes the choice. When the heart sees a spiritual Master, if it is overwhelmed with joy, then there is every probability that that spiritual Master is the right one for the seeker."
(excerpt from My Rose Petals, Part 2 by Sri Chinmoy.)
Well, Sri Chinmoy is my teacher, and many are the times my heart and I have gotten tremendous, tremendous joy from looking at photographs of him in high meditative states. In these pictures, there is an amazing variety of expression on Sri Chinmoy's face, such that one might think there are different people in the photographs! But we carry the same expressions on our faces all the time because life has grinded us into a single, monotonic way of being; whereas each expression on Sri Chinmoy's face displays a different country in the land of Vastness. My favourite photo album on the gallery is by Kedar Misani from Switzerland; the gallery of Pavitrata Taylor from London runs a very close second.
Finally, some ancient inspiration as well as modern: the life and example of the Indian spiritual Master Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) has always been of great inspiration to me. During the last four years of his life, a close student of his by the name of Mahendranath Gupta (also known as Master Mahashay, or simply M.) kept a word-for-word diary of his meetings with Sri Ramakrishna, and this diary came to be known as The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. The entire contents of this book are now available at ramakrishnavivekananda.info ; in opening a chapter at random I am transported into 19th century Calcutta, walking the temple grounds of Dakineshwar in the blazing heat, sitting down to hear the great Master speak with childlike spontaneity, seeing him rise into the highest meditative states of samadhi at even the first few lines of a soulful song or the barest mention of his Beloved...the philosophy of Sri Ramakrishna, like that of my own Master, Sri Chinmoy, is endowed with tremendous simplicity and unalloyed love for God, and I especially love reading from the Gospel in the evening of a day overburdened with Western complication. However, for those unfamiliar with Sri Ramakrishna or Indian philosophy in general, the Gospel can be quite a mouthful; I would recommend you first read the wonderful Ramakrishna and his disciples , by Christopher Isherwood.
Perhaps others might care to share some internet gems they've stumbled across...
- American Freedom in my poetry : An amusing reflection by Sri Chinmoy on his poetic style, at SriChinmoyLibrary.com.
- Master Mahasaya, as remembered by Paramahansa Yogananda in his autobiography 'Autobiography of a Yogi', chapters of which you can read at writespirit.net: As a child, Yogananda met with the author of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna quite frequently. I like reading this chapter because it really demonstrates the personal transformation that can be wrought over a lifetime of being a student of a great spiritual Master like Sri Ramakrishna.