Sri Chinmoy will not be driving in the early mornings for the next few days, so instead I decide to do some speed intervals on a nearby athletics track, hoping perhaps to pick up some of the pace I lost during my marathon training. I have to admit I am actually rather clueless when it comes to training methods, and rely on overheard snippets of wisdom from runners more experienced than myself - I first try a couple of 800m intervals, but I feel I'm not going much faster than if I were doing the 2-mile race, so I switch to 400's and definitely notice the difference. Later I was told that even 200m intervals are very good training for distances of a mile or two miles.
I'm finding it pretty tough going especially near the end of the intervals; for some reason the phrase 'there are no ordinary moments' drifts into my awareness, and I realise that I subconsciously when I run I am wishing myself to be thirty seconds forward into the future and finished the lap, but really I should be just enjoying the experience.
After the penultimate lap, I take off my glasses to adjust them, as they are a little bit loose. They are plastic frames and the only way I've found to tighten them is to bend the plastic rim in the middle; unfortunately this time the frames snap apart in my hands! I still have a lap to finish, so I put the glasses down, finish the last 400m and then go back to reexamine them. Hmm. Nothing that Super Glue cant fix temporarily, although it is probably the beginning of the end for those pair of frames. I bought two pair of glasses three tears ago and now both of them are in various states of disrepair, my dad is always giving out to me for the rate at which i go through glasses, he tells me he's had his for the past twenty years! I take my breakfast in a courtyard, consisting entirely of clearing my backlog of prasad. It's funny when I reflect on it, but almost all the food I've been eating this past week has been lovingly blessed by my teacher and given to me as prasad.
After the eleven o'clock meditation, we are told there will now be a walking meditation in front of Sri Chinmoy's house, so we all scurry over there as quick as possible. It is a rather windy blustery day, but the sound of the wind through the trees only serves to accentuate the silence, as we all slowly walk around in a loop, in silent communion with our teacher.
Home for a quick bite to eat; Colm and I said we would help doing a few odd-jobs around Aspiration-Ground. Firstly we have to fix some chain wires around the outer gates with a pliers. I am busy pulling a piece of wire towards me with the pliers, when the pliers lose their grip on the wire and head straight for my eye! As you can see, I wasn't all that far away from taking my eye out completely in a way that probably would have landed me in the All-Time Hall of Fame for hilarious self-inflicted injuries.
Wednesday night is one of the busiest meditation nights; this night is the night of the week on which students of Sri Chinmoy from meditate in their respective centres around the world, and also the night when many people from the New York area come to meditate with Sri Chinmoy. The tent is full to bursting, and quite a few people have to sit on the bleachers just outside the tent below the night sky.
Sri Chinmoy arrives and begins the function with a silent meditation.
There was so many things going on; the evening began with musical performances, including one in which Sri Chinmoy spontaneously sang along with the performers. Sri Chinmoy then read out prayers form his 'God-Hunger Cry' rhyming couplets, which are written one for every day and have a very childlike quality; Khokan, a student of Sri Chinmoy originally from Austria, then came up and recited some more poems with tremendous heartfelt expression.
Then came a very beautiful slideshow. Aparajita from New York was in Delhi recently, giving concerts of Sri Chinmoy's music at locations all around the city. Freshly returned, he was now relating his tale through pictures. I must admit I had this rather narrow view of modern India as trampling over its inner wealth in a race to catch up with the West in development, but wherever Aparajita went, he seemed to meet the sweetness and pureness of heart that characterise the eternal India, the India which draws to it the hearts of spiritual seekers the world over. People really seemed to empathise with this single Westerner coming over just to play songs of the heart, and Aparajita had quite a few stories of total strangers who helped him with finding places to play solely out of the goodness of their hearts; as the slideshow ended, I was struck the effects of such small acts of goodwill shown in India could be felt even here half a world away; I was very, very touched.
We then saw another video of Ashrita, a student of Sri Chinmoy's who has the Guinness Record for holding the most records - at this stage he has around 50 records, and he seems to be breaking them with increasing regularity as he gets older. In fact, it seems he is breaking records so fast his own website can't keep up with him! Here, we watched him set a record for the most cigar boxes balanced on his chin for 5 seconds - a whopping 223! The record was made all the more accomplished by the fact that Ashrita had to painstakingly spend hours carefully stacking the boxes in a form suitable for balancing, which meant he basically had only one shot at balancing, as failure would have meant many more hours stacking the boxes again. The nervousness was clearly evident on Ashrita's face as he faced up to the boxes, but he held his nerve and pulled it off. Afterwards, as always, he dedicated his record to the inner support he recieves from Sri Chinmoy, which pulls him through the toughest of challenges. Sri Chinmoy recently remarked what an amazing power of concentration Ashrita had, and it was certainly evident watching this video.
We then saw a video presentation about a program organised by the Oneness-Heart Tears and Smiles - a humanitarian initiative by founded Sri Chinmoy to answer requests for assistance from around the world. This imaginative program is called 'Kids to Kids', which links children in different parts of the world by facilitating the sharing of aid, or even messages and drawing of support and empathy. For example, through this program thousands of drawings expressing love and support were sent from countries all over the world to countries devastated by the 2004 tsunami.
Then came Satyajit's group, a regular on Wednesday nights, and a performance everyone looks forward to in anticipation of some very soulful moments. Satyajit combines aphorisms, passages from Sri Chinmoy's writings, expansive instrumental pieces and very soulful choral singing to create something very special indeed. I remember being part of one of Satyajit's performances last August, and the pains he took during rehearsals to ensure that everything conveyed a very lofty spiritual height. (Hear this performance on radiosrichinmoy.org....)
Then another favourite of mine - two brothers, Ranjit and Unmesh Swanson, who visit India regularly, and seem to have a very intimate connection with that mystic land. Appearing on stage in the garb of Begali baoul renunciants with single-stringed ektars in hand, they sing Manase Diyecho Asha by Sri Chinmoy, followed by Lord, keep me as your servant, a favourite song of the 16th century female saint Mirabai. Apparently, they had sung another song of Mirabai's last week, and Sri Chinmoy requested they sing this particular one; I looked over and saw he was enjoying this performance tremendously.
(Hear this performance on radiosrichinmoy.org....)
Such a long function, jam-packed with special moments, and we weren't done yet: we have some birthdays to celebrate. In Eastern tradition, birthdays are very significant occasions, as they remind you of your unique purpose here on earth. Today we are celebrating the birthday of Akuti, who at 91 is the oldest living student of Sri Chinmoy, having been his student for almost as long as he has been in the West. Sri Chinmoy had a beautiful short meditation with her before saying "you are my heart's true joy and my life's true pride."
Arpan had made some monster cookies for the occasion, which Sri Chinmoy gives out to us all by hand. By the time the meditation function ends, we are firmly into the small hours of the morning.
(Read Arpan's account of tonight's function on the Sri Chinmoy Inspiration group)
- Next day: Thursday 16th ...