A new look at personal responsibility


The decision to become a meditation student of Indian spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy was undoubtedly the best decision I ever made in my life. The 25 years since then that I have spent practicing meditation with Sri Chinmoy and his students have brought me increased inner peace, a certain amount of detachment from my own beliefs, needs and interests, and a small measure of wisdom about what really matters in this short life.

Sri Chinmoy passed from our view on October 11, 2007. Every year since then, some of his students from around the world have gathered in New York for a few days before and after October 11 to celebrate the life of Sri Chinmoy, meditate together, renew our commitment to his teaching, perform and listen to his music, and enjoy our companionship with each other. I was fortunate to be one of about one thousand of his students participating in these observances earlier this month. Early on the morning of October 11, 2015, I was sitting in our meditation space, meditating, and contemplating my life and some interpersonal problems I have been faced with for the last several years. Suddenly, apparently out of the blue, I had an illumining insight: I am responsible for creating harmony, good-feeling, smiles and love around me; it is up to me to be on the side of the divine forces. This struck me as an experienced truth, not just a thought… I know that I have had that idea as a thought before. But this time, it seemed real, true.

It makes no sense to allow myself to bear the brunt of others’ bad behavior, or to deplore it, or to develop a kind of cynical, there’s bad in everyone, approach, which I had been tending to do at times. More importantly, everyone has love inside of her or him. This is what it’s worthwhile to put my attention on — not only worthwhile, but essential. It’s essential to my own well-being, as well as life-enhancing to the people around me.

Just one smile
Immensely increases
The beauty of the universe.*

– Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy wrote this short aphorism on August 26, 2005, and it occurred to me that morning that he did not mean this to convey an abstract notion, but a piercing instruction: If I smile, the beauty of the entire universe is increased! Sure makes me want to try it more often.

A little thing that happened later the same day showed me how important this shift in attitude can be. I was sitting with a group of singers, practicing the songs that we would shortly sing for the whole crowd. I was sitting on a bench with one friend, and there was a small space between us. Just then, another member of our singing group approached us. She was late, and I caught my first reaction, which was to smirk, in a self-satisfied way, because she was late, and now she had nowhere to sit. Then the very next instant, I smiled, moved a little towards my end of the bench, and motioned the latecomer to sit down on the same bench. She accepted, and I enjoyed hearing her lovely singing voice (which I didn’t know, before, that she had) for the rest of our practice.

I will grant the skeptics among you that my whole beautiful insight will not stop Israelis from shooting Palestinians on the West Bank, as they are currently doing. At least not in the foreseeable future. But unlike the situation in faraway places, this behavior is (somewhat) under my control. Also, remote as it may seem, if everyone adopted my new approach, worldwide hostilities would eventually diminish, if not end altogether.

My friends, kindly reflect on this personal offering.

With thanks for your attention,


*Sri Chinmoy, A God-Devotion Teardrop Songbook, New York: Aum Publications, 2006.