I was recently extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to spend three weeks in China with my spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy. We stayed in Qingdao, a coastal city south of Beijing. The city itself is rather grey and polluted, but the sea-front, poised to host the sailing events for the up-coming 2008 Olympic Games, is quite beautiful.
In the mornings I would go running and see the local people out at the crack of dawn stretching,practising Tai Chi and playing Chinese hacky sack. The people were kind-hearted, and each weathered face embodied the simple, ancient quality of the country.
Although I enjoyed the cultural experience, I was really in China to spend time with Sri Chinmoy, along with three hundred fellow students from around the world.
Sri Chinmoy has visited many different countries, but this was his first trip to China. Wherever he goes, Sri Chinmoy has a natural and spontaneous ability to identify and become one with the people and places he visits. He has dedicated his life towards inspiring people in all walks of life to go beyond their present standard and seek a higher truth within themselves, which will in turn raise the consciousness of the entire humanity.
Sri Chinmoy also gains inspiration from people he meets and places he visits, which is expressed in his creative outpourings, ranging from poetry, music, drawing, and painting, to story-telling and even weight lifting. One song he wrote while in China, entitled "I am a great Chinese boy, I am a great Chinese girl", captures in one line the essence of the modern Chinese reality:
'...China's ancient wisdon sea, China's modern progress speed...'.
A memorable moment for me was visiting the Great Wall with Sri Chinmoy. Coming from New Zealand, where our history is so astoundingly short, it is quite an experience to stand on such an ancient and majestic creation, which seems to be home to the soul of China itself. Time was momentarily lost, and I felt as if I could have been experiencing two thousand years ago, and one thousand years ago, and the present moment all at the same time. Perhaps people frequently feel a deeper sense of themselves when they visit such a place, where the mind, unable to concieve of how such a thing was possibly created, is opened to higher possibilities.
In sub-zero conditions, Sri Chinmoy played several of his own deeply soulful and prayerful compositions on the esraj, a stringed Indian instrument. The hauntingly beautiful melody, combined with the striking grandeur of the wall, created a most unique, uplifting and deeply moving experience for everyone present.
As this was one of my last moments in China, it completed my entire experience in a very moving way. I felt a deep appreciation which I had never had before for this ancient land and it's people, and my inspiration and gratitude for having the opportunity to spend life-enriching time with Sri Chinmoy can only be felt and never described.