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Chapter 12: Hilda Remembered

Hilda passed on at ten o'clock on the morning of January 29, 1988. A memorial service was arranged for Sunday, February 14, Valentine's Day, at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in the large hall of the Synod House, with its beautiful arched ceiling, where she had held her classes for so many years.
More than 2,000 people came to show their love and gratitude — some who had steadily attended her classes for as many as twenty-three years, some who had come only once but had been so transformed as to never forget her.
A program of music and speakers included her hosts at the two places where she regularly held meetings — the Cathedral and the Hindu Temple in Flushing, Queens — two of her students whose work was in the public eye, and the members of her household.

A peach-colored urn containing her ashes was set in the front of the room before the stage so that those speaking faced it and the audience sat around and behind it. At each of her meetings people had brought her flowers, which were placed in vases on a table by her side on the stage. Many, many people brought her flowers on this day, which were arranged around the urn.

 
As at Hilda's classes, songs of devotion were softly sung by the musicians and the audience before the program began, and soloists sang songs evoking the atmosphere of Hilda's love and teachings. And also as at Hilda's classes, tears and laughter, devotion and celebration of the deepest kind prevailed.

Ingrid: On behalf of everybody I welcome everybody. It's so great for us all to be together in memory of our beloved Hilda Charlton. Some of us here now only came to one meeting. Others only heard a tape of her or heard of her from a friend. Others of us came to almost every meeting for many years. But one thing we all had in common is the experience of being transformed by the presence of Hilda and her Lessons of Life. We have come today to honor her. Her wish was that this be a joyous occasion, because she despised the somber worldly custom of mourning the passing of a soul to the other side. Therefore we will have an afternoon of music, recollections of her life, and the wonderful Mary dance, which will be performed by Kathy. Hilda choreographed this dance and once upon a time danced it herself with incredible grace. Music, poetry, all arts and artists were so very dear to her heart.

To begin, we'll have Dr. Wally, whom we all know. Dr. Wally: Hello and peace, my brothers and my sisters. Today is February the 14th, Valentine's Day. And it reminds me of "Oh, how I love you, Hilda." I remember the first class I came to. I was brought here by Larry and Ilene and I sat right in front, about eleven years ago. Hilda's words touched my heart and all I could think of was "Oh, how I love you, Hilda." The energies then were very similar to today. I didn't understand them, but I cried and I laughed, and they both were all going on at the same time. Again I felt "Oh, how I love you, Hilda." Someone gave me her phone number a few weeks later and I called her, not knowing what I was going to say. I was surprised that she answered the phone. Again, I spontaneously said, "Oh, how I love you, Hilda" because I didn't know what else to say. She asked me why I called. I said things were happening in my life and I was frightened and very confused. She said, "Please come to the class tonight." It was Friday night. I went to the class and she surrounded me with light, and she had the people pray for me. All fear left. There was no more fear. Not even today. And she brought out in me the goodness, the responsibility, the concern, the integrity, the love, the humanity, all the attributes that she possesses.
Just recently, she wrote a note to my wife, Phoebe. I'd like to read a portion of it, which will remind you of Hilda. She wrote, "To Dr. Wally's patient, kind, serene, noble and loving wife, Phoebe: Here is a little tiny love offering towards your home phone bill that he has run up because of me. I give you full permission to rebuke him once a month, even yell, if you want. The rest of the time, be a patient, kind, serene, noble and loving human being."


Hilda is a patient, kind, serene, noble, and loving human being. She is a dedicated, fully integrated, humane, loving, joyful, peaceful and, oh yes, playful person whose integrity never allowed her to compromise her ideals and who honored and blessed us by her presence.

Today is Valentine's Day, and oh how I love you, Hilda, but I loved you before and I'll continue loving you forevermore. And any time I do a patient, kind, serene, noble, loving act for people or for the planet, I will dedicate it to you. Ingrid: Thank you, Dr. Wally. With great gratitude, I call upon a very important figure in Hilda's spiritual mission in New York, Dean Morton, the Very Reverend Dean Morton, who is responsible for hosting Hilda's Lessons of Life class here at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for the past twelve years. I had wanted to say more in praise of him, but he wouldn't let me. Dean Morton... Dean Morton: I'm full of all sorts of thoughts. First of all, whenever I'm introduced as the Very Reverend, that stops me, because I mean, what does it mean? We had an archbishop here this morning and archbishops are called the Most Reverend. And so I said to the archbishop, "You know, it's okay if someone says, 'You're really the most,' but it's not so great if someone says, 'You're really very,' which is what I am. Hilda would just roar with all of those stupid kinds of things — the Very Reverend, the Most, all of that.

It's so beautiful to see all of Hilda's friends, because I see Hilda when I see you.

I would like to say a couple of things about how Hilda came to the Cathedral. A very old friend of mine is the rector of St. Luke's Church in the Village, where Hilda's public meetings began. But of course they outgrew the gymnasium, where they were held. And so Ledlie called me and he said, "The Cathedral is bigger than St. Luke's and we have this very strange woman here by the name of Hilda Charlton and she has this fabulous meditation group." I said, "Well, tell me a little bit about it." He said, "Well, it's very difficult to describe." I said, "Is she wacky? What do you mean?" There was a pause, and he said, "She's holy." And I said, "Oh! Well, I'll come down." So I came down and went to what was one of the last sessions down there. You should have seen it. How many of you were down in St. Luke's? It was like sardines. I mean, it was absolutely jam-packed.
So I met her, and she said, "I understand we can come up to the Cathedral possibly?" And I said, "Yes." It was simpler to say, "Yes" than anything else. And so she's been here ever since.


And the incidents, oh there are lots of incidents I can recall, but one incident I want to share with you, because I'll never forget it. She had been here about a year, so she had gotten a feel of the Cathedral and we had gotten to know each other. She said, "I want to walk around with you in the Cathedral." I said, "Okay." And so we walked around. This must have been around 1976, because I was going through a lot of trouble. That can happen to anybody. But I was going through a lot of trouble with respect to certain things here at the Cathedral. Not everything that I was doing, such as having Hilda's meditation group here, met with universal approval. And there were even some who would have liked to see me elsewhere. I was really under a lot of heat at that time. And so, as all of us do in times like that, I looked for all the help I could get. Hilda said, "I just want to walk around with you." We were walking around in the Cathedral, and she said, "Do you know the Dean who was here before you?" And I said, "Well, there are a lot of them." She said, "The one who'd gotten into all of that trouble." And I said, "Well, many of them did." And she said, "What's his name?" I said, "Do you mean Dean Pike?" She said, "Yes." She said, "I've been talking to him." Of course, he had died 15 years ago. And I said, "Say more." And she said, "He said you'll be okay." I don't think she knew the politics of the church, but she said, "You're having some trouble. There are people who are really giving you a hard time." I said, "Yes, that's true." She said, "Well, Dean Pike, he knows, he understands, because he went through it too. He just wanted you to know to stick with it and you'll be okay." Then she told me she'd been talking to various of the bishops who were buried around the Cathedral. I said, "What did they have to say?" She said, "Just keep going the way you're going and it'll be okay."

So, I can't tell you what it means at one level that Hilda won't be calling up on the telephone. I'll miss her very much. But at a deeper level, I don't miss her at all, because she's very much here, just like Pike and all those dead bishops. She makes them come alive. That is, I think, the bottom line of what spirituality is for all of us. We move to different places, to different spaces. The continuity is there, because that's why we're here. Hilda was one of those great — not just teachers, but bringers about of the continuity of the experience of the reality, so that you enter into communion with God right then and there. And if that would stop with her death, then the whole thing's a joke. Right? So, there is really no problem, except we'll miss seeing her, you know, on Thursday. But we'll see her shortly. Thanks! Ingrid: Thank you so much, Dean Morton. It is with great love and respect that I introduce Dr. Alagappan, the chairman and founder of the Hindu Temple Society of North America. He is responsible for founding the Jyoti movement with Hilda's support and inspiration, which honors the Eternal Godhead or the Goddess of Light and which has erected temples to her. He was instrumental in arranging the use of the Hindu Temple in Queens for the Skanda/Jyoti Puja at the full moon of each month, where Hilda delivered the messages of Lord Skanda. Dr. Alagappan... Dr. Alagappan: Friends, I'm just now coming from a joint meeting of the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee of the Hindu Temple Society of North America. They passed a resolution, which they've asked me to transmit to this group here. "The Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee place on record with their deep sense of appreciation the sterling contribution made by Ms. Hilda Charlton as a member of the Board of Trustees since its inception on January 26, 1970. Ms. Charlton, besides imparting an ecumenical leadership, has played a major role in developing the Jyoti philosophy and the Jyoti movement." This is the text of the resolution. It speaks for itself.

You see, when the Hindu philosophy came to this continent in the last century, with the aid of Swami Vivekananda, the temples had not come. This Jyoti movement started only in this century and coincided with the Bicentennial celebrations of this great country. But when the effort started to build the temples, one of the first to be built was the temple in Flushing, and somehow God brought Hilda into the group two days before its first meeting. It was started with a fifty-one dollar check. But then, Hilda was there, and so was her grace. Her contribution was, as the resolution states, an ecumenical leadership. You know, all religions are the same. They lead to the same Godhead. So a religion becomes the practice of a set of people in a particular geographic region. Hilda tried to bring this about and dilute the orthodoxy, the rituals, et cetera, of the people who had brought it. Now, the symbol of this temple became a light surrounded by the insignias of all religions: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and so on. So, it is this type of contribution that Hilda made in the beginning. And the temple at Flushing, Queens was a pioneer, in a sense, and it has brought a movement of temples on this continent. There are now over thirty temples and all of them have this ecumenical character. It is indeed an important contribution made by Hilda. Then, as it was mentioned, Hilda has been there right from the start of this Jyoti movement. Shrines have been erected for Jyoti in New York, Houston and Los Angeles. From here, it has gone to India and a major project is now in the making. And it was our hope that we could have invited Hilda to come and consecrate that shrine and the philosophy there.

Let me explain what this Jyoti is. She is the Eternal Godhead which is the Goddess of Light. According to the Hindu legends, the Universal Mother gave the vel1 of knowledge to a young son of seven, Skanda, to go and do battle. This vel is said to be one of the forms of the Goddess of Light given by Shakti, the Mother, this vel
 
 
of knowledge is also called Saravanabhavayai , or sister of Skanda, or jnana or the absolute truth. Now, we go one step from there to say, "What is this jnana, this knowledge?" The knowledge is to see God in everything in all creation. And so social service is the best orm of religion. This is the Jyoti philosophy to which Hilda subscribed. Hilda was at all times in contact with the celestial beings. She was able to transmit the message of jnana. She gave it a vibrant quality by doing these pujas at the Hindu Temple close to every full moon for quite a few years. The interesting thing is, whenever Hilda came to the temple each month that was the time when the temple acquired a new quality of vibration, a sanctity and a presence of divinity far greater than on any other occasion. So, she was always welcome and so was the group.
 
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