Presence of the Master

There is a stubborn sadness in my life that seems reluctant to leave.  It is not constant and yet as time passes it’s dark press upon my heart seems  to grow ever more subtle, and yet, seems reluctant to fade entirely.  Time is always the great healer of our self imposed problems, when just about every other cure is doomed to fail.  I know too that I am the source of this stubborn dark emotion.  It comes from both my lack of receptivity and some unevolved part of my being that desperately wants to continue to cling to a different time and reality then the blessed here and now.

Photo by Shradha

More than 4 years have now swept past since Sri Chinmoy left us.  His sudden departure from this world was a shock, not just those who called him their Guru, but also to many many others.  Spiritual seekers around the world who saw him as a spiritual beacon and inspirer of all those who sought to reach new heights both inwardly and outwardly.  His departure churned up a great wave of sorrow that spilled across the globe and touched all those with whom he had made an inner connection.

This sorrow however is such a useless thing, and certainly not what Sri Chinmoy would have wanted of anyone who admired, respected or loved him.  Nothing is ever to be gained by fruitlessly chasing down tears.  He saw joy as the only true avenue in which one could confidently move forward and continue to attain and fulfill all our own spiritual goals.  In retrospect, he certainly had accomplished all that he needed to do on this earth.   He shared the richness of his life with all and required not another year, month, or day in which to do it.  Most importantly, it is his inner connection to his followers that is in fact still intact, and is as bright and illumining as it has always been.  His capacity to nurture and inspire remains as rich and as powerful as always.

But for those of us who lived physically close to him, or had the opportunity for repeated personal encounters, it is another matter.  I do not think that I am alone in still feeling the pangs of his loss.  I am patient but certainly I still have some distance to cover before this healing can be claimed complete.  Even an examination of a tiny catalog of my personal experiences with him reminds me of how transformative, illumining and so divinely sweet each moment was.  An accumulation of them over the decades and I am reminded of just how much I was shaped and formed by them in an infinite variety of ways.

How remarkable it was that while in his brief presence, a miracle could take place with just a passing glimpse of his smile.   How you could not but be aware of the unimaginable wealth of divinity within him.  A seemingly limitless world that he offered unhesitatingly and unconditionally, not just to his students but to all who came round and about him.

Yet I know a brightness burns still within my life, as it does in the countless others that he inspired.  It was abundantly clear to anyone in his presence that he was not just a true spiritual master but also, he could also be appreciated on a human level as a brother and a friend.  Just as we will loose countless family and friends in our lives so too will we step into the next world ourselves.  Find a new path, and journey in a new direction, hopefully  with greater purpose and resolve.  Ultimately loss is part of all our lives and yet no loss is perhaps more profound and incomprehensible than the loss of one’s spiritual master.  If one remains sincere, and maintains their inner connection, than ultimately the journey must and will continue, until the goal has at last been reached within.

A year ago I had a chance to observe one unique way in which Sri Chinmoy’s life is being perpetuated.  It was on a tropical afternoon that myself and Kaivalya Torpy strolled into the Agun Rai park in Ubud Bali.  A gentle rain fell us as we walked along the tidy path, glistening with the moisture. The raindrops create a rhythmic music as they softly ‘pitter pat’ against our umbrellas.  The air hangs heavy with humidity  and the rich scent  lush gardens sweetens the air.   When you look in any direction the view is filled with flowers and shiny green leaves of the tropical gardens.   There are few places on earth more beautiful than this one.

photo by Sushuti

It is in many ways a familiar stroll for both us, as we had walked this same path just 2 years earlier.  Our conversation is casual and relaxed  as would be expected with two old chums as they take a stroll on their first day of vacation. We are rediscovering our legs in some ways.  Each of us has traveled from very far, and shaking off jet lag and the weary bonds of international travel. He has flown here from England and myself from Canada.  It has been two years since we were last here in this most sacred place.  For me it is a pilgrimage to come back here again and see a bronze statue of my Guru, for Kaivalya it is something else again.  For he is the artist who crafted this statue of his spiritual master and helped to set it in this magnificent garden.   He is eager to reacquaint himself with his creation and see how it is fared since he last left it here 2 years ago.

In fairness it was the second bronze statue he had created of Sri Chinmoy, the first being displayed in Oslo.  Now as time has passed he has skillfully crafted and constructed more and more likenesses of his late spiritual master that are being set up here and there all over the world.  At last count there were 9 bronze likenesses.  I cannot help but feel that for Kaivalya, each and every time he looks upon them, he does so with both a unique personal affection and an inspection that no one but he the artist can appreciate.

We have by chance taken the back entrance to the park, and so our longer walk has but added to our growing anticipation.  We go down a few steps and turn a corner and then quite suddenly there is Sri Chinmoy standing on his pedestal glistening from the rain.  This experience is a wonderful shock, both for my heart and my mind.  Over the least few years my Guru has only been physically attainable to me through photographs, recordings, and written material.  Yet now he stood before me in immortal shinning splendor, ageless and immune from time and the demands of the world.  The first thing I notice is that this is just not a good image of him but a great one.  For me the statue somehow captures not just a profound mirror of a physical reality, but also conveys something deeper and subtle from within as well.  That a spark of Sri Chinmoy’s consciousness has been imbedded here as well.

This was Kaivalya’s second statue of Sri Chinmoy.  His first was in Oslo and this one came a few months later.  He tells me:

“Each one is a little different, they all have a slightly different expression, I don’t know why, it’s just how they come out of the mold. 

“They all have a different feeling.  They’re in a different position, in Prague you’re looking straight at it,  This one you are looking up. 

It’s very nice to see it again.   It’s a really a fresh experience again.

For me it seems just a little disconcerting to ultimately turn my back and walk away.  I wonder if Kaivalya has any thoughts when he leaves one of his creations under the trees or in a public park.

Well no, because you’re always concentrated on the next one. There’s always a next one, just on the horizon. You’re always concentrated on getting everything right, getting the timing right.

He also has no real notion of how others will and do relate to his statues. He also reminds me that Bronzes from Greek times continue to survive and this over thousands of years.

He had over the years produced many works of art and pieces of sculpture for Sri Chimoy personally.  He has a deep and rich art experience.

It’s always been my experience that I’ve tried very hard, in the actual process of making each sculpture, whether its this one or the smaller ones to capture Guru…but in the end Guru always gave me a very short time. He never allowed me to deliberate for too longs. He always said speed was of the essence. In the end, you surrendered. Whatever comes out, comes out, and you hope that Guru liked it.. Sometimes I was more pleased, sometimes I was less pleased.

In the end, you really feel that Guru is working through you. Sometimes in your desire to get what you think is right, you miss what is going on, and then suddenly when you wake up and see the whole thing, you realize that Guru is also working through you, and you appreciate Guru’s effort

His first full sized figure of Sri Chinmoy was created in 1996.  It was created specifically to be placed on the property of Narada Michael Waldon.

The year before, ’95, Guru had been down to Sacred Rock, and he saw Mary, Mother Mary, and a plate, a copper plate statue of the Buddha, quite a big one, and it was standing high up, and Narada said – this is what I heard – oh Guru, I’d love to have a statue of you there. And Guru said, I will ask Kaivalya to do one. And by some miracle, low and behold scarcely a year later, there was a statue of Guru in white polyester resin. And it was a nightmare getting it there. Guru had to get there  I had to get there, Narada had to get there, and the statue had to get there. At times it seemed that one of the four wasn’t going to make it, and very often it was me, so I said, look, it doesn’t matter about me – let’s get Guru, the statue and Narada together, because Narada also had a timetable, and he kept saying, I can’t, I can’t. But finally, Narada picked up the statue, I think on the Friday, and then I came on the Saturday or Sunday, and then Guru came on the Sunday, I think it was,  I got a Thai Airline flight, it was a one-day flight, I mean, you returned on the next day. So we were all there – the forces all came together, and it was great.

Kaivalaya interview Part 1

[audio:|titles=Interview part 1]

I never thought too much about it, I just felt that Guru would help me. I was a total amateur, I was just doing it. I was doing the clay modeling in the boys’ bedroom, because that’s how much space there was in the apartment. I was working through the night while they slept on their beds on the floor. And it was just pure, pure belief in the system. Because I didn’t know what was going to happen next. And I did the clay, we carried it out of the house to the car and then drove it down to the casters about 25 miles away, and it all sort of happened, we arranged the transport and it went flying off to San Francisco.

He tells me about a time when he worked on just a head and shoulders project.

Guru looked at each part and worked his way down – forehead good, eyes good, nose good – then he got to the mouth, and he slowed up and said, Mouth?, hmmm.  and then he got to the chin, and he said, Next year, next year.(laughs) That was just a small head and shoulders that I did. But this one for Narada, he was totally blown away by it, he was absolutely really happy, everyone was really happy. Guru said, Narada, I’m so happy, you’ve brought down happiness, the statue is here and you are singing songs. He blessed me there.

I ask him if he ever imagined that after so many years he ever imagined that he would find himself almost working full time and creating likenesses of his Guru. (At this moment he is 72)

Well, it never occurred to me strongly. I thought, well, this is an opportunity that I have taken more will come,  But I never thought about bronze at all.

This statue in Bali was taken from a series of poses that Sri Chinmoy did on a revolving pedestal sometime in 1999-2000.

So I took the idea from that, but not the face. I took the posture, but not the face.  The pose is exactly the same, even to the fingers. Guru explained to him (Shilpa-Taru) why the fingers are apart. He said, “When I fold my hands and put my fingers together, I bring down the force, and then when I open them up, I send the light out.” This is what he said to Shilpa-Taru. I did it exactly ike that, because shilpa taru said. But the face, I worked on a lot, a lot, a lot, and I kept changing the emphasis.

The very first one I did, the face wasn’t good enough. We made the clay model and cast it, but then I made a completely new head. We took off the original head and made a completely new head.

He describes the building of his statues as being a very hands on experience.

Even now I do take photographs, and I play with photographs and computer images, and choose the ones I like. But in the end, when you’ve done all your drawings, you have made all your measurements, you have to do all that.  You have to make a structure inside to hold it all up  when you are doing it in clay. 

 Once you’ve done all that and you have created the base, then getting the feeling is something that just happens as I’m working on it,  I get  a very strong feeling as I am working on it.  Working on the surface with the material

The number of Kaivalya’s statues of Sri Chinmoy just continue to be set up in different countries and places around the world.  When asked just how many he personally would like to see he mentions the obvious, 27 statues.

I also have my own private little venture is to do 27 heads of Guru, in different modes and expressions. And then to do the Kamakura, the Guru Kamakura. It’s my fervent target to fulfill that idea  which came way round in 1999 or 1998.

This project is one of those immense projects that would can humble even the bravest.  Yet Kaivalya envisions it being completed, perhaps in his lifetime.  It would be a truly epic statue erected of Sri Chinmoy on the scale of the great Buddha in Kamakura Japan.  It would be a statue 13 meters high, built from a material yet to be decided and a also an unknown location.

While we are standing together admiring the statue the owner of the museum Agung Rai comes and joins us.  He had met Sri Chinmoy personally in 2004 and was grateful to have the opportunity to host a statue of Sri Chinmoy.

It is not just a statue.  It has a spirit, it has a positive spirit.  It is really amazing powerful  If you are honest when you view it you can feel the impact, the reflection of yourself.  Everything begins with our own self. 

Some artifacts are around for a 1000 years and people stll respect it.  And the way to respect it is to keep it sacred.  The old and new hand in hand this is what we call a living tradition. 

Interview with Agung Rai

[audio:|titles=Agung Rai Founder museum]

Of course no statue, no matter how skillfully created or evocative could replace Sri Chinmoy.  Yet visiting the statue with its creator was comforting to me in a way that I had not  completely expected.  For Kaivalya who has a polyester cast of Guru in his back garden in London tells me that he meditates every day on it whenever he passes by.

I also ask him what he would do if I weren’t intruding upon him just now.

Why I’d go right up to the statue and meditate on it, and express my gratitude to Guru.  

With that the interview concluded and we both did exactly that.

Kaivalya interview Part 2

[audio:|titles=Interview part 2]

5 responses to “Presence of the Master”

  1. Sorry, I lost the first message….

    To continue. I believe a statue should definitely be in the Jamaica area and Goose Pond Park, with the water, is a lovely setting for a huge one the size of Japan’s Kamakura Buddha. It should be in a location where many people can come and receive its stunning spirit. At first I thought it should be in the driveway entrance to Aspiration Ground but there just isn’t enough space there. Inside Aspiration Ground it would not be available for the general public.

    There are many places in and around the city one might choose, but none is so memorable as the area where he spent most of his life.

    Utpal, I so enjoyed reading of your visit with Kaivalya, the master sculptor.


  2. I really enjoyed this brilliant article on the meeting with Sri Chinmoy’s statue in Bali. I was there myself when it was inaugurated with a huge Hindu ceremony, and hundreds of Sri Chinmoy’s students from around the world were present.

    I am looking forward to the Kamakura size sculpture and hope it will be realized in the near future!

  3. what a great article, I love it: “Yet now he stood before me in immortal shinning splendor, ageless and immune from time and the demands of the world.”


  4. Immesurable thanks, Utpal.You put voice to the unfinished sorrows, and to the bright amazing future of our all-powerful Guru’s ongoing life. I really appreciate your offering.

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