I am writing to let you know that our beloved Christine Easwaran shed her body last night, Sunday, August 28th, at Ramagiri Ashram at the age of 101. She was surrounded by loving care, yet those who attended to her needs invariably came away feeling they had been the ones cared for. Her passing was both peaceful and powerful. Geographical barriers melted away as the atmosphere in the room became charged with the love and prayers flowing in from around the world, and with Christine's own love and blessings flowing out to all through every breath. Although her spirit has left her body, her presence here — and in our lives, in our hearts, and in our spiritual practice — is as strong as ever.
This last year of Christine’s life in particular revealed a dedication and loving determination that never wavered in the face of any physical change. She continued to lift our spirits with qualities that would be recognizable to all who met her at BMCM events and retreats or through her writings: subtle wisdom, careful adherence to her spiritual schedule, meticulous attentiveness to the people around her and to the wellbeing of friends around the world, sweet smiles, and gentle humor. Each day she continued to fulfill her unique role in Sri Easwaran’s work, as she had for over sixty years.
Once, a friend asked Christine if she had ever reflected on the striking parallels between her life story and Sri Easwaran’s. There are, in truth, many correspondences.
Both were born in the early 20th century, at home, into families residing on ancestral lands that had been handed down for generations – he in Kerala State, South India, in 1910; she in Lancaster County, Virginia, in 1921.
Both attended village schools within walking distance of home – he in a tiny village, with the distant Blue Mountains edging the horizon; she in a rural hamlet of coastal Virginia, where the Rappahannock River empties into the Chesapeake Bay.
Both left the idyllic countryside of a family-centered childhood to attend college in a distant city – he at a small Catholic college about fifty miles from home, where he deepened his interest in English literature and excelled in debate; she at Westhampton College in Richmond, Virginia, where she majored in history and greatly enjoyed playing field hockey.
Later, both ventured even farther from home – he to central India as instructor, then professor and department head in English literature at Nagpur University during the tumultuous final years of the Gandhian independence movement; she to a series of administrative positions in post-World War II Washington, D.C., where she remembered taking breaks from her job at the Library of Congress to attend ticker-tape parades celebrating the end of the war.
And both, established in careers but no longer satisfied with worldly achievements, began a spiritual search that would change their lives utterly – he, in Nagpur, turning spontaneously to meditation when haunting existential questions arose in his consciousness; she, in Washington, exploring well beyond the Methodist faith of her childhood.
Both, at mid-life, pulled up stakes and set off on a journey of thousands of miles – he, around age 50, on fire with a spiritual mission to share his direct experience of the unity of life, crossed oceans and continents with fellow Fulbright scholars, arriving eventually in the San Francisco Bay Area; she, around age 40, her old car packed with all her possessions, a Victrola filling the front passenger seat, an ironing board stretched across the back seat, drove solo across the US for a fresh start in the San Francisco Bay Area. . . .
Christine, after listening patiently to a much shorter version of this narration, leaned forward in her chair, blue eyes flashing:
“Yes!” she exclaimed, “And then – East meets West!”