Most of us expect, at some point in our lives, that we will take a journey. It may be something as simple as travel to distant lands, or one that is more difficult to assess and measure, an inner journey. Here there are no simple and reliable vehicles of transportation. The scenery we pass along the way, is the pure landscape of our own consciousness. There are paths we wander down that may seem predictable and others, in which the destination is just beyond the unknown. Snatak is one, who for me has taken a journey with his life, that is both profound and unique. It is one in which has seen the shifting goal of his life move from the improbable to what one can almost say is the impossible. Yet for spiritual seekers, and for those who have the benefit of a spiritual master like Snatak, impossibility is a just a word to be stepped upon, as they boldly move forward in the great adventure, we call life.
A native of Iceland, for the last few weeks he has been in Columbia with a group of Icelandic friends. They are here conducting meditation classes in various parts of the country. His visit here, which is just over 5,000 miles from his home, is not unique. For many years, he traveled for a few weeks each year, during the winter months, with his late spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy. It is a tradition that has continued on. Besides his 3 Icelandic friends he is also joined here with a group of about 100 fellow students of Sri Chinmoy from around the world, who are enjoying the groups first visit to Columbia. Over the years Snatak has visited dozens of countries, and he has seen his own spiritual life blossom. He has also attempted to share the philosophy and the teachings of Sri Chinmoy, wherever he goes.
“I am a spiritual farmer. God, out of His infinite Bounty, has entrusted me with the task of plowing the spiritual land. This is my first visit to your beautiful island. I have been here for about four hours. During these four hours, I have felt the Indian consciousness here in Iceland. India’s natural beauty I have observed here; India’s inner peace I have felt here. My presence here makes me feel that my life of aspiration and your life of aspiration in the inner world have built a bridge between spiritual India and spiritual Iceland. My Indian heart offers its soulful gratitude to your hearts of aspiration, for it is you who have given me the opportunity to be of dedicated service to you today. Nothing gives me greater joy than to be of dedicated service to the Supreme inside aspiring human beings.”
Excerpt from My Rose Petals, Part 4 by Sri Chinmoy.
“When I was 13 I was drawn towards books on yoga, and spiritual questions. I found it fascinating.” At a very precocious ages he discovered the first yearnings of a spiritual life, stirring within himself. “I felt that this was the way to go. I remember reading the yoga book by Patanjali. I felt that this was the real thing. I just didn’t know how to do it. I felt I had to do something.”
In 1975, when he was 14, one of the most painfully ironic moments of his life took place. Sri Chinmoy came to Iceland for the second time, and gave a talk in the small town of Akureyri, where he was living. It has a population of only about 17,000. One day, while his mother was at work, she heard from some friends, that a talk was being given by an Indian Yogi in a small hall in the town. The next day she described the experience to her son. “When I came into the hall it was like walking into a wall. It was just so powerful. This man he can’t live very long, because he is giving off all this energy. It was like walking into a wall of power.”
He admits to being disappointed at the time, that he had not been able to attend the talk himself. His mother had gone spontaneously, and he says, it took place in the days before mobile phones. He says with a sweet smile, “there was a real yogi in town and I missed him.” She did however purchase a book at the time and brought it home to him. He was much impressed with what he read. Of the experience of reading the words of Sri Chinmoy for the first time, he says emphatically, “He was not fooling around.” The book included all the requirements, that one must accept, if one wanted to apply to become his disciple. It was all very new to him. He describes the time as the Hippy period. When young men, such as himself, wore their hair long. The book was a tantalizing guide post to a life journey, that he himself would one day take. Yet there was no clue he says, of how to pursue this teacher, or his path at that time.
A year later he happened to go into a bookstore, where there was a small collection of Sri Chinmoy’s books. “I bought all of them. That was it. From then on I was just reading Guru’s books. I couldn’t help myself. I was reading them an hour a day. This was my spiritual nourishment for many many years.” He recalls trying to write a letter to Sri Chinmoy during this period, but he simply had no idea where to send it. He was filled with such enthusiasm by what he was reading, that he would sometimes spontaneously find himself speaking to others, about this spiritual teacher that he was reading. From the beginning he felt it was important to inspire others, and to share the philosophy that he was learning from Sri Chinmoy’s books.
When it came time for him to go to University, he decided that he would enroll in a University in America. Thinking, that perhaps if he came to the U.S., then he would at last be able to locate Sri Chinmoy in person. He eventually received a scholarship to attend a University in Virginia called Washington and Lee, in Lexington. He says that without fail, during each school break, he would come to New York. Both during Easter and the Christmas break. His seemingly simple dream was that, “I would go to New York and try and find Sri Chinmoy.” It would not be until his second year of school, 1983, and on his 4th visit there, that he at last found the elusive prize, he had been seeking for such a long time.
He describes a less than fashionable bookstore in the Village, as the place where he would at last get the real clue to end his quest. Stuck to a pole in the basement of the shop was a “tinier than the tiniest invitation by the students of Sri Chinmoy offering mediation classes.” There was a phone number that you could rip off. “That was it. I ripped off the number and went outside and called the number.” It turns out that he was calling at a fortuitous time. A public concert was soon about to take place in Manhattan.
It was now 8 years since his mother had first attended the talk in Iceland. Like all great adventures however, his story did not conclude, at least not just then, with a eureka moment of realization. He went to the concert with a school friend, who he says, was in a hurry to get back to Virginia. Because of this he had no opportunity to browse the book table, or chat with anyone in the group, before he had to leave. He admits however that his mind was not in a receptive space. He says of it now, “it was going overtime.” Clearly his time had not yet come. He says that regardless of how unreceptive he was at that moment, “at least I had seen Guru.”
The next year, he went to England to study music. He admits, “I became very very unhappy. By my second year in England, I was really depressed. Here I was trying to find a spiritual path for 9 years, and I hadn’t found anything! So at that point, every night before I went to sleep, I prayed and prayed like crazy, for many months, for me to find a spiritual master. ” Eventually he came across a poster at his school in Manchester, offering mediation classes, once again by the students of Sri Chinmoy. He says, “that was it.” The the class was being given by Bhavani, who came up there from London regularly, to give the class.
He tells me that at the end of the class, he asked her, that if he wrote a letter to Sri Chinmoy, could she give it to him. He describes the relief he felt, to be able to at last write a letter to Sri Chinmoy, and know for certain that he would receive it. The experience he recalls, was so gratifying , that he felt himself unreservedly shedding tears. “I really asked for guidance.” He also included a photograph of himself. A short time later, he received a post card from Bhavani saying, that he had been accepted as a disciple. It was April of 1985. This news brought him tremendous joy and hope. At this memory he lets out a “Wowwwww” sound, as he describes the feeling of elation he experienced. “Of course my problems were not over, but I felt as something really significant had happened there. I could feel it. There was something going on.”
He says that when he heard that he was accepted to Sri Chinmoy’s path, he wanted to get on the first plane he could, and immediately fly to New York and see him. It was quickly decided however, that he could come for the August celebration that summer. When he got there he says,”I had a fantastic time. I couldn’t get enough. There were moments there when I just knew I had found the real thing.” He describes how he had powerful and profound meditation experiences. It was as though he was at last having the kind of spiritual life he had been only able to read about years earlier. Of his meditations then he recalls,”I do not know where I went. I was in tears. I could not believe how beautiful it was. I couldn’t get enough.”
Everyone’s first spiritual experiences are unique. He, like most new students to a spiritual path, have really no idea where it would all lead to. They just realize that now they are where their hearts truly belong. That ultimately they will be guided, body, vital, mind, heart, and soul, to ever new and greater inner realities. He says of this time, “I was soaking it in. I had a great time. There was no question. Finally I had found the real thing.”
To some it may appear to be a cruel irony, to be searching for so long to find a spiritual teacher, when for at least for a brief time, he must have been only a few blocks away. In 1975 Sri Chinmoy almost magically arrived to give a talk in his small village, and yet only his Mother was there to see him. He describes how he tried to learn and practice meditation by reading books, but he describes the results as painfully meagre. Ultimately, it is only when the student is at last fully ready, that they at last find themselves himself being drawn into the all encompassing protection and guidance of a spiritual path.
The task that now lay in front of him, soon became clear. By this time there was just one student in Iceland, so he decided to go back and live in his native country. “I felt compelled,” he describes, and from that moment on he has been giving meditation classes here and there, and became the leader of the Iceland center. He says, that he simply wanted to, “increase the awareness of what Guru was all about.” Among the events he organized was the first Peace run there in 1987, which he describes as, “a tremendous success.” It is clear that he was inspired, by what he was experiencing in his own spiritual life. With this inspiration he worked hard, to share this experience with as many people as possible. “I had lots of enthusiasm. I had lots of energy.” Humbly he adds to this, that he may not always have gotten it right, but nonetheless he enjoyed very much, this ever unfolding new life committed to spirituality, and the path of Sri Chinmoy.
I ask him why it is, that it appears as though Iceland has been so successful, compared to its small size, in accepting spirituality. He offers a simple succinct reply. “If we work hard anything is possible.”
I then ask him if he had any significant personal experiences with his Guru that he might care to share. Something, that would stand out, in the 22 years he had the great opportunity to spend in the presence of Sri Chinmoy. Without pause, he describes for me a concert, that took place in Iceland in 1988. It had been a long time since Sri Chinmoy had last been to the country, something like 13 years. Despite this fact, it seems that the Icelandic people had learned so much about Sri Chinmoy. He tells me that he was so well known, that he was even the topic of a question, in a local televised quiz show. “Who lifted 7,000 lbs. with one hand?” The answer was immediate by the contestants. Snatak says, “so many people knew.”
The concert was once again a big success. As Sri Chinmoy was about to leave from the airport, he walked directly over to Snatak, and stood in front of him. Sri Chinmoy praised him, and repeated this to him, again and again with such love and affection. His reaction to this unexpected attention he recalls, “I just lost it.” A flood of tears came over him, and he felt at that moment, the soulfully deep, and profoundly sweet connection, that existed between himself and Sri Chinmoy. For him it was a one of the most cherished moments in his life. One, that took place with such incredible inner intensity, but also one, in which he still feels the love and inner connection he shared with his teacher.
From his very early years as a student of Sri Chinmoy, he would take part every year, in the annual Christmas Trip. Starting first in Malta, he who would journey with his teacher to various parts of the world, each year the trip gradually getting longer and longer. “It was fantastic.” He describes the informality of these trips and that Sri Chinmoy would be available and accessible almost all day long. He describes the spontaneous creativity that took place when his teacher was present on these trips. For hours at a time Sri Chinmoy would be composing songs, or painting, or exercising. The list of activities that flowed across the day, and well into the night, was endless. He describes that for him these experiences exemplified, what he dreamed and felt the true spiritual life is all about. The closeness and intimacy of the trips with his spiritual teacher, felt like for him, as though it were a very fulfilling traveling ashram. For him even now, in this new era, he still feels reinvigorated by the Christmas trips. He feels the unique sense of oneness that comes with traveling with those he looks upon as members of his spiritual family. And that when you are visiting different countries in this way, your problems seem to pale into insignifcance. “I feel it is really important to come on it. For me the trip is still a priority.”
For Snatak, this is now his 3rd trip to Columbia. He is busy, along with some others, also giving classes here, but he is as well, participating in all the camaraderie and activities, that are part and parcel of this new Christmas trip experience. His trip this year, started some weeks ago in Guatemala, and will conclude almost 2 weeks later in Puerto Rico. He says of the Christmas trip, “I really appreciate it. It really gives you a boost.” He is after all, part of a larger Spiritual family, that now is spread across much of Europe, but is only now really making progress in establishing itself in Latin America.
As he describes for me his own first tender steps toward the spiritual life, he also describes the understanding he has, that there are still more new students of Sri Chinmoy out there in the world waiting to make their own connection with his spiritual teacher. In his heart he feels that there are countless ones, who have yet to be reached and inspired by Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy and his path. The experience he says, for a new generation, will be different for each and every seeker. Just as the experience of having a teacher was unique for each and every one who had a chance to be in his physical presence. He says, it just depends on their aspiration. “Sri Chinmoy will give them everything. What they aspire for they will get. I am 100% sure.”
Out of curiosity I asked once again about his Mother. Did she ever have a chance to see Sri Chinmoy again. He describes that she was able to be lifted by Sri Chinmoy in Iceland in 2003. Sri Chinmoy said of his mom, “her heart was wide open.”
During this trip to Columbia, Snatak will celebrate his 49th birthday. A few years ago he was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological problem but it seems not to slow him down hardly at all, as he completes a very busy unvacationlike daily schedule. He can be found early most mornings, running on the flat Cartagena beach. Not one to sit back and laze about under the sun, he looks forward to each new day as a divine opportunity. He wants to manifest the great spiritual treasure that he feels he has been gifted as a student of Sri Chinmoy. It has been a long journey for him, one he feels fortunate to have been able to take. One that began decades and miles away and yet still continues at pace.
“It is only a matter of time before the whole world becomes aware of these treasures. In the beginning it is a trickle, and then it becomes a stream, and eventually it becomes a river and then it becomes an ocean.” He feels that it is a privilege to share this experience with the world. I know that in the future the inspiration of Sri Chinmoy will go way beyond anything what we can imagine now. We had the opportunity to learn and we still have the opportunity to learn. How to build this path upon oneness. This our role. We were chosen to bring this oneness of the heart into the world. According to our inspiration and aspiration we try our best. I am really excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. I am having great fun. It’s fun to be alive.”
7 responses to “Most of us expect, at some point in our …”
This really and truly inspires me to try harder to do all that I know is needed to spread our teacher’s light to the world. It is a huge task, but with so many willing spiritual brothers and sisters, we each can do what the Supreme wants us to do and in thus doing this, we are fulfilling the task we were born to do. I admire the work that Snatak has been doing in his native land and all the other lands he has selflessly attended to. My heart is so happy to read such articles and I thank you Utpal for showing us the life and works of this extraordinary person.
I like his final quote: “Its fun to be alive.” I’ll take that as sage wisdom.
[…] “…The next year, he went to England to study music. He admits, “I became very very unhappy. By my second year in England, I was really depressed. Here I was trying to find a spiritual path for 9 years, and I hadn’t found anything! So at that point, every night before I went to sleep, I prayed and prayed like crazy, for many months, for me to find a spiritual master. ” Eventually he came across a poster at his school in Manchester, offering mediation classes, once again by the students of Sri Chinmoy. He says, “that was it.” …” Read more at Long Journeys […]
Wonderful to hear these thoughts and experiences from one who lived his life so close to the Master.
Very, very inspiring!
Very nice of you to take the time to discover the depths of one of our favorite and inspiring brothers. Snatak is indeed an excellent example for us all. Thank you for writing ‘his story’.
Very moving and inspiring. Keep up the great work!