Sri Chinmoy was born 27th August, 1931 in Shakpura, Chittagong, India (now part of Bangladesh).
For disciples of Sri Chinmoy, August 27th is a special day, which we mark with a race, meditation and musical performances. This year, there were perhaps 1,000 people from all over the world who came to meet in Jamaica, Queens, New York.
August 27th is one of the few days a year where I feel I have no outer obligations or responsibilities. The phone and computer is switched off; it is simply a day for meditation and being at peace with the world.
I start off by meditating at 5am. Usually, getting up at 5am to meditate would be a difficult task, but the energy of a spiritual celebration seems to help reduce the need for sleep. (Plus jet lag from UK works in favour of getting up early.)
After that I have a leisurely breakfast in an American diner – fried potatoes and fried omelette. It’s not the raw carrots and kale of a strict spiritual discipline, but outer joy is good too. Breakfast is also a good time to speak to old friends and share stories and anecdotes from the spiritual life – some are inspiring, some amusing.
After breakfast I help to take down the 47 mile race. The 47 mile race is run from midnight of the 27th until 10am. Sri Chinmoy himself ran this race two times and encourages his disciples to also take part. It is an opportunity for self-transcendence – both physically and spiritually. The race does not have a competitive vibration, but is an opportunity for entrants to try and transcend their outer and inner capacities. I arrived at 9.30am and saw many of the slower runners finish. It is quite revealing to see the faces of those who finish – so much joy and sense of satisfaction; it is the kind of joy that cannot be bought with any money. Sri Chinmoy once said that if anybody wanted to give him a birthday present, the best gift would be to enter the race. In 1979, after seeing many disciples finish, Sri Chinmoy declared:
“This is my best birthday gift. Watching each of you transcend your own outer limitations has given me tremendous joy. When you transcend any aspect of yourself, your spiritual qualities grow and expand. Now you see what is true for all human beings. We are all truly unlimited if we only dare to try and have faith.” (Article on 47 mile race)
Comparatively, I had an easy job which doesn’t require forsaking sleep, but it is still nice to take part. As the last person to leave, I found an old friend had left a bag. This friend from Scandinavia is the kind of friend I might only speak to once or twice a year, but when we meet, there is always a sense of affinity, suggesting outer contact is only a part of real friendship.
By the time the race was packed up, it was getting quite hot, so I went to shower and get ready for meditation. The formal meditation and function had already started at 10am. As a young disciple, I may have regretted missing part of the function, but now I feel it doesn’t matter. Real meditation is not just about sitting still and trying to quieten the mind, but also a sense of service. Taking part in the race helps give the day a complementary approach of both service and silent meditation.
Once at Aspiration Ground (the place where we meet together), I found a place and began to meditate. The secret of all day meditation is to have no expectation and not to think about time. When I feel like a break, I go outside and have some refreshments and chat to friends. On this occasion, I sat and listened as three people talked about their experiences with Sri Chinmoy and their visits to India and Asia. I was happy to be a listener because they told with great sincerity some of the ways Sri Chinmoy had encouraged their spiritual search or took an interest in their progress.
One brother who had travelled to India told this interesting experience. Whilst travelling in India, a sadhak (spiritual seeker) invited him to come and meet his Indian Guru. The brother took up the invitation and went to an underground cave, where a yogi was meditating. The yogi came out of his trance and placed his hands on his head in blessing. It was a nice experience, but something he forgot all about. Six months later, Sri Chinmoy was walking down a corridor and spoke to this brother.
“So you have another Guru? do you?”
“I’m sorry Guru (Sri Chinmoy), I’m not sure what you mean.”
The brother couldn’t understand at all why Sri Chinmoy was asking this question. But, catching Sri Chinmoy’s eyes, the memory of meeting this yogi and the sensation of having his hands placed on his head came straight into his mind.
Half apologetically, he replied.
“No, I only have one Guru!”
Sri Chinmoy smiled and walked off. The point was that the brother felt Sri Chinmoy always knew what was happening in his spiritual life. Usually, Sri Chinmoy would not say anything outwardly, but on this occasion, he did.
After I had a fill of Indian stories I went back inside to listen to some excellent musical performances – arrangements of Sri Chinmoy’s music by some very talented performers from the Sri Chinmoy Centre. Some of the music was very soulful, it really helped me to go deep within. More than anything, it brought forward the spiritual heart.
Time passed very easily, and before I knew – it had gone from 12am to 6pm and I hadn’t done anything or gone further than getting lunch in a park. I can’t remember having any particular great meditation, but it seemed effortless to sit there. One thing I remember strongly about the day was walking to dinner and feeling such an overwhelming sense of goodwill to everyone in the world. It felt spontaneously like I wanted to inwardly offer good will, even to random people I passed in the street. The good experience built up over the day, helped by the focus and spiritual energy which seemed to permeate this special celebration.
After finding the bag of my Scandinavian friend earlier in the day, I now wished to return the bag. I happened to spot him by a big picture of Sri Chinmoy over a birthday cake. He seemed to be meditating on the photo and his face looked remarkably similar to the smiling picture of Sri Chinmoy. If anyone else had been standing in a driveway meditating it might have been a little strange, but this chap is a special soul; the devotion was real, not at all forced – he often seems to be inhabiting his own loka, beyond the usual snares of the world. I wanted to give back the bag, but felt unable to disturb his meditation. So I just stood there too, and bided my time. After a short time, he turned round and with a smiling countenance looked at his missing bag. I handed the bag and spoke:
“From one space cadet to another, here is your missing bag!”
“Wow, thank you! I was just about to start asking people for that bag!”
That was it. Not the most deep conversation, but there was a rare sense of a soul’s connection, the mysterious hand of fate bringing two friends together through a missing bag. It shows that if someone really meditates, even the most mundane thing like recovering a bag can give great joy. It wasn’t the recovery of a material object, it was something deeper than that. I can’t explain the great joy this experience gave. Like an infectious wave, I caught the smiling bug. Disease and cynicism maybe infectious, but so too are smiling and laughter.
(BTW: I too am a space cadet and am always leaving bags lying around; in fact I was glad to be on the side of recovering someone else’s stuff for a change.)
After dinner there were more musical performances. There was also a world record attempt by Ashrita and a team of 80 helpers. The aim was to set the world record for the most number of candles on a cake. It was a big operation to set alight and then blow out all the candles. A delay before the start, highlighting the tension of the occasion.
After the excitement of 72,000 candles and a world record, I went back inside for a final meditation and prasad. I felt a little sad the day was nearing to an end. I knew tomorrow that responsibilities and duties would again come to the fore, but, for at least two to three times a year, it is important to be able to switch off and devote to a remembrance of the spiritual life.
- 47 mile race in 2015 – blog at Perfection Journey