One of the very first people to embrace the spiritual path of Sri Chinmoy in New Zealand was a wonderful woman called Harshani, who passed away at the age of 93 on the morning of September 16th, 2021. She was gifted with the ability to see subtle realities and spirit entities unfamiliar to most, a gift not uncommon in those possessing a pure mind and simplicity.
She first attended some meditation classes I held long ago in the Devonport community centre, and several times asked me who the beautiful Indian yogi was, seated on the floor in front of us. I couldn’t see this same emanation, but I knew it was real.
When I gave Harshani’s photo to Sri Chinmoy, I told him about her vision and he asked me what my response to Harshani had been. I had told her it was Guru himself in the subtle body, or his emanation or inner being. Guru said yes, absolutely correct, this was who she saw.
Harshani had a very pure mind and heart and like a child had many inner experiences. She often saw subtle creatures like fairies and spiritual beings, like the rainbow colored spirit she encountered twice on Mt Eden that night we ran up and down many many times. She was so excited by these two encounters and her conversations with this beautiful form that came to her in the late night.
Harshani might always be unmatched for her extraordinary devotion and discipline. For decades she had an unwavering meditation practice that included early morning readings and mantras and meditations, usually at 3am, and again later in the day and evenings. She never missed a day, all the more remarkable for following these practices while her body declined.
Prior to her last years in the Selwyn Heights rest home, she always came to our fun runs and public races, participating and slowly covering 800 metres with her walking stick, determined not to surrender to ageing.
I know very deeply in my heart that her Guru is immensely proud of Harshani and her loyalty and unwavering steadfastness. I do believe she will go to a very special place. She held her Guru’s photo over her heart in her last hour, and I sang her favorite devotional songs as her breath slowed and finally ended.
When devotees like Harshani leave us, there is always a sense of loss even though we can be happy for the liberated soul. Their presence on earth and in our family, their kinship and loyalty and uniqueness strengthen us. Their deep discipleship embodies an energy that is comforting, and as an aspect of God their departure diminishes our world for a while. Their loss troubles us, because a portion of God that we had in our lives and accompanied us is gone.
I’m reminded of those lovely lines from Mathews in the Bible:
“His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
A friend of hers, Scott Vennell, wrote a lovely poem for her, included here:
‘A gently squeezed hand
a silent goodbye
or a final surrender
that there is nothing left to do
twilight will become dusk
whether we want it to or not.
Wingbeats of angels unheard
the golden light of the chariot unseen
only their radiance we felt
even after you had gone.
old friend dear friend
simple as a butterfly
pure as a mountain stream
anointed by Heaven:
the one who smiles
and laughs eternally
with her soul’s inner joy