I wake up at the princely hour of nine o'clock, still with the feeling of being in another world entirely. It is not just the few hours of sleep I got, no, it is a sense of peace coming almost as an hors d'oeuvre to today's main course; I am showering and changing, I am doing the most ordinary things, but with the sense that this is no ordinary day...
Today is the focal point of the entire Celebrations, the anniversary of the day Sri Chinmoy arrived in the West. Arriving at Aspiration Ground, everything feels fresh and pure and new; the entire ground is festooned with new decorations, walls are decorated with the mantra "Supreme", bunting flutters in the breeze. The ground is filled with to capacity with students of Sri Chinmoy, from all over the world, from all walks of life, many who have come especially for today.
Guru arrives and starts one of his familiar driving meditations; the silence is almost as solid as to be felt.
We all walk past Guru as he meditates with us. The days when one will have good meditations are generally far from predictable, but today is one of the few days that one can confidently circle in the calendar as one of them: meditating as groups of students come up in turn to sing familiar and well-loved songs, meditating as Guru is inspired to spontaneously compose some songs, meditating in the stillness amidst the crowd. Meditation functions on this special day have been known to start at seven in the morning and go on until eleven or twelve at night. This time, though, it seems to be a little more relaxed; Sri Chinmoy leaves at lunchtime and announces he'll be back here at five.
Before leaving, Sri Chinmoy has given the groups of singers each a song and asked them to do some arrangement with it for today; the performance may happen, it may not, but we'll be ready. An arrangement tends to mean anything within the confines of the imagination as long as it's soulful - singing, of course, but perhaps also choreography, an accompanying acting skit or (in this case) some fire-eating! In between meditation functions we get a quick practice - the sun is so hot I do most of the singing with a paper plate over my head.
The evening will open with a performance of 42 conches signifying Sri Chinmoy's 42 years of service to the West. The conch, in Indian lore, is the herald of victory - in this case victory in the inner struggle for harmony, victory in furthering mankind's belief in its own capacity. I need to practice first in the park, where no-one can hear the racket. The first results are not impressive by any means. But some long-forgotten words come back to me; I remember someone saying long ago that it was just like playing the flute, and so I begin to get the hang of it. Now I'm waiting for the performance to begin, I'm on my way to the deli to grab a cup of tea to combat those drooping eyelids, but I see Ranjit and Unmesh and go over to tell them how much I enjoyed their performance of Indian traditional songs on Radio Sri Chinmoy. As it turns out stopping to talk to them saved me: suddenly the call goes out to get ready, the performance is about to begin! I drop my wallet on the lap of a very surprised Unmesh and race into the doorway. We assemble in a semi-circle, in front of an audience of over a thousand, in total silence. Saurjya, the leader of the group, gives the signal; the conches expand the air in defiance of the barriers against the onward march of mankind towards its true potential.
Many of Guru's favourite performers come on to play for his birthday, including one from Puerto Rico, where the first Sri Chinmoy Centre was founded back in 1966. Ranjit and Umesh come on and play more famous songs from India's past. One boy comes on whom Sri Chinmoy has been coaching in physical exercises - he is aiming for a new personal record in sit-ups, and we all will him on as he does it. As he reaches the three-quarters mark, it occurs to me that this is real meditation for all of us; all of us, empathising with him like anything as he pushes to excel himself. He finishes to a huge round of applause; Sri Chinmoy gives him a trophy almost as big as he is.
Well, one can't have a celebration without a cake - in this case it has to be big enough to feed over a thousand people! Sundari from California is the person responsible for delivering the goods on occasions like this - last August, her cake was used as part of a Guinness world record for the most lit candles on a cake (27,000)! She doesn't disappoint on this occasion either - very nice and very very chocolatey...
Many distinguished guests who have travelled to be here say a few words in appreciation; messages from well-wishers from all around the world are read out. These words, from the heart, make one wonder at the many disparate lives all over the globe Sri Chinmoy has touched in his 42 years of service. Again and again the conviction is the same, that so many people are unaware of the harmony and oneness and transcendence that can be attained in human life and that Sri Chinmoy has spent his life working for. To open people's windows of possibility, open out their conception of themselves - yes, here is truly a cause worth fighting for. After prasad, I walk home more firmly cemented than ever in the conviction that the only life worth living is one solely directed towards making others happy.