From the early years of his mission, Sri Chinmoy would take a short break over Christmas in some location away from the intense cold of the New York winter. By the time I was a disciple, these trips had expanded, taking more disciples, lasting longer and visiting exotic locations around the world. I was told the Christmas Trips were really great. It was like a spiritual holiday with functions in the evening, and plenty of time in the day to enjoy tourist attractions and day trips. In 2005, I went on a section to Malaysia. It was my first time into Asia, I really liked the hotel and the people seemed very friendly. Unlike on previous trips, Guru was having more early morning meditations. Guru would start coming down to the lobby area from around 4.45am. He would drive around on a battery-powered tricycle (even then Guru's knees made it difficult to walk). It was a sublime experience – meditating at such an early time in the calm of the Malaysian morning. All was quiet; Guru would look very concentrated, not expressing a flicker of human emotion, being deeply absorbed in his meditation. It evoked a reverential attitude, helping you to silence the mind. Here thoughts felt more out of place than usual. There was so much stillness that the usual waywardness of the mind was less pressing. These were great moments, though I was usually glad for the opportunity to go back to sleep after such an early meditation.
After a generous breakfast, it was back to the function hall for another meditation. Guru would usually give daily prayers and poems, which he had composed that day. We would write them down and try to learn them. Guru would often be composing songs, which singing groups would learn and then perform later in the day. In the afternoon there was lunch and more free time. In the evening, Guru would encourage disciples to perform plays. Generally, the idea was to take one of Guru’s innumerable short stories and then use this as a base for a play, either to do the play exactly like the book or improvise extra bits, some funny, some serious. From my perspective, the standard of plays varied enormously, from the really amateur to some of almost comic genius. But, whatever the perceived standard, Guru always encouraged people to perform in plays.
Like many others, I was instinctively shy of public performing in a play. My lifetime experience of performing in plays amounted to little more than a monosyllabic line in a small and insignificant production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, which had mainly left me with a profound disinterest in the world of theatrics. But, Guru never wanted us to be comfortable in our notions of what we could and couldn't do. Performing in simple plays could bring out hidden talents. It was an opportunity to bring the heart forward. They could also be great fun to participate in. It was an opportunity to do something different, something positive. It seemed Guru never liked people to have lots of free time that could easily be wasted. He would prefer us to be doing something creative. This positive energy in itself was a kind of meditation, in that it takes you out of the mind; you just don’t have time to brood on your mental problems.
Christmas trips were a very special time, quite a unique combination of beautiful locations and a spiritual intensity. Every trip with Guru provided many significant moments. It was also an opportunity to spend several hours a day with a spiritual Master. On the trips, it seemed Guru could relax and talk more freely.
You often felt that Guru had tremendous love for his disciples, but this love had to be masked behind a strict exterior. For example, I believe, Guru once said that when he praised disciples it could do them more harm than good because they could become puffed with pride. It seemed Guru would put most attention into correcting disciples and trying to perfect their nature.
On one trip, a close disciple was suffering from the after-effects of a stroke; in this case it felt like Guru no longer had to maintain this exterior detachment and strictness. It was an opportunity to indulge the concern and love that was his real nature.
One of the great challenges in the spiritual life is to feel oneness with the Master. Often the Master will offer affection, gratitude to a particular disciple. Your mind may feel completely separated from that; thoughts like, 'Well, I deserve it more'; ‘I don't know why the Master is so kind to that useless disciple, I'm much more deserving’, etc. When the Master gave a blessing, the spiritual approach was to see it as a blessing to yourself. Whenever the Master did something good, you needed to identify with that. There was no point in feeling miserable or jealous because you weren't there.
Now Guru is no longer in the physical, it rests on an inner spirituality even more.