Every April and August when Sri Chinmoy's students come to visit him, Sri Chinmoy holds a circus in which all his students participate! In his philosophy anything that brings joy and releases depression and frustration is as good as meditation, and the circus definitely fits the bill in that regard. Everyone gets a chance to use their talents and creativity, and the result is whole potpourri of acts and performances that last for over seven hours.
I actually don't get there until a couple of hours into the spectacle - first the Irish Centre are down to serve lunch; there is so much work involved in hosting a gathering of over a thousand people and the price of staying here would soon rise beyond everyone's reach if we didn't all pitch in to help. In truth, it does not feel like an imposition at all - in helping others, one feels one's good qualities expand exactly as one does in meditation. Then I go home to find that I locked my key inside the house when I left this morning. (Colm told me later that I could have broken into the house through a basement window - too late). I doze off for an hour or so on the porch steps waiting for someone to come.
Circus is in full swing by the time I finally do get there. One room has been turned into a veritable bazaar where anything remotely connected to spirituality is being sold, the next room is holding some last minute rehearsals, the next is selling food and refreshments, rehearsals for the last-act extravaganza is taking place in the basement, not to mention the circus hall itself - festooned with decorations, circus band at one end led by music maestro Premik Tubbs, clowns, acrobats, stiltwalkers, magicians, and some very very funny skits - bowling with some very eccentric human bowling balls, and a great Batman and Robin pastiche that evoked childhood memories in front of the TV every week, same bat-time, same bat-channel.
Colm was in a group doing some very impressive African drumming, all decked out in west African agbadas.
Myself and Colm were part of the big final act. Every year, Charana from Cardiff spends months getting everything together for this big play. It's usually based around some theme - in this case pirates - but it's adhered to very very loosely and there is much deliberate and hilarious confusion as two or three things are happening on stage at once. Within the space of eight or ten minutes we have to squeeze in Sherlock Holmes, Hawaiian dancing girls (played by Swiss and German boys), Wallace and Gromit, some heads on a platter garnished with instant cream, three Captain Hooks vying for supremacy, Peter Pan inelegantly flying through the air, the obligatory spot of plank-walking, some bowling and some Star Wars characters who have to be repeatedly told to leave because they're on the wrong show.
After a last climactic finale involving King Kong being led away meekly by the hand, we have one final act of tribute to pay. Ongkar would no doubt have been with us in this performance had he not passed away earlier this year; we all re-enter stage with Onkgar's place taken by his smiling picture atop a remote-controlled tank. Sri Chinmoy asks for the picture, and there are a few heartfelt silent moments where he meditates on the picture before asking his students from Great Britain to come up so he can meditate on them also. Then the circus ends with a big parade around the hall - the band strikes up the music, and the hundreds-strong motley crew of performers march, skip (and stiltwalk) around the stage. It is late in the evening now, but sleep will have to wait for another while, until the energy this circus has given us has worn off.