I still go at least twice a year to visit the place where Sri Chinmoy spent most of his time – once in April and once in August. Some things are naturally different since his passing in 2007, but some things are still the same. Although I do miss the outer presence of my Guru, the feeling in that little corner of Queens, New York, is just as refined and powerful. I always come back thinking I have been away for weeks, even after days – vigour and inspiration renewed, a fresh perspective on life, solutions to problems, new ideas for creativity. It’s a time not just for inner reflection, but a time to spend with friends from all over the world who have come for the same reasons – a time of laughter and conversation, a chance to plan new projects and compare ideas, as well as sitting together in silent meditation, or performing Sri Chinmoy’s music and plays. I was looking through my earlier recollections today, and found these notes from August 2005.
A green profusion makes an enclave in the dusted floor of a former tennis court. On his seventy-fourth birthday Sri Chinmoy sings out under the mellow evening sky. Two hundred songs fly unaccompanied, unhindered, uninhibited through the poised and listening air, and still that rich voice goes on, growing richer with offering; a melting balm for the tension of my wheeling worldly thoughts.
Can this really be just paper and paint, tethered to a table on that same dusted ground? It seems it may fly away of its own accord, such is the life in it all. I catch myself wondering if these colours have even existed before; they dance with such unearthly splendour. I have looked on many paintings, but I have never seen such movement as in the flight of Sri Chinmoy’s birds. Each work could absorb me for an hour or more, yet they stretch and jostle here in their hundreds. Hundreds of viewers tread softly behind me in the queue, awaiting their own glimpses, so my feet carry me on when I would sooner linger.
I stand by the edge of a lake under shields of trees, with two drinks hastily replaced by two more. Those I serve thank me or smile, although they must be ragged on their approach to mile twenty-six. It is I who would thank them for this chance to stand as if at strength’s epicentre, hour after fleeting hour. Instead I strive to remember names as quickly as their owners pass, stir and drain containers, gather cups discarded, my thanks shining through heart and eyes.
It is not just the momentous, but the simple or even momentary, that paint this view: the sweeping of the restaurant floor; the song of cicadas as bright leaves drop before a glossy moon; a thoughtful gift for no special reason; the witnessing of talent, or goodness, or achievements of another, and the resultant inner cheer; the sense of change – day on day, year on year – as my own true self is revealed to me through it all.
There are treasures in this two-week trove too arresting in strength, too sacred in beauty, too wide and deep and delicate to weave in words. I choose seven pure and perfect flowers to offer Sri Chinmoy in thanks for these jewels. It is not enough on my part, but my own wonder and delight now whisper from the softness of each petal, smile from each starry face, and glow through their colour and light. The jewels will not wither though, as flowers do.
4 replies on “Back in New York”
What a lovely post, a little glimpse into the experience-overload one gets at Celebrations in New York! I was always astounded at how everybody’s activities were so different, apart from the meditation of course, and how one person could spend their two weeks doing running and organising, another practicing solidly for a big dramatic production, someone else immersed solely in song learning for the whole time; all the worlds collide during Celebrations, don’t they? I never forget one person telling me they spent most of their time outside the meditation sessions practicing for a half hour production of a Fawlty Towers sketch!
I loved hearing your impressions of previous years. I was struck by the way in which those memories of little moments were written; your words meander into the mind like incense, stealthily intercepting the dream before it fades. It made me smile reading your account of gratefully handing out drinks at the marathon; on the occasions I’ve done that it takes me about an hour to get over my guilt that I am not running myself! But after a while I forget about my own little story and I lose myself in what the runners are doing. Identifying with their smiles and tears is a special experience in itself, isn’t it?
Thanks so much for your visit, Hita! Isn’t it amazing how different each person’s experience can be, even while ostensibly going to New York for the same reasons? I love the fact that every soul is unique, with its own unique expression and manifestation. I’ve never been much of runner for example, so I don’t feel at all bad not running marathons on a regular basis, but as you say, there are other ways to support and encourage, thus becoming a part of the whole. I suppose every activity can thus be like a microcosm of the world.
Your comment about practising for a Fawlty Towers sketch instead of meditating – in some specific circumstances, rather than all the time 😉 – reminds me of Swami Vivekananda’s oft-quoted and seemingly baffling remark about sport. It’s said he advised a young lad to stop studying the Bhagavad Gita and go out to play football – that he would enter heaven more quickly that way [source]. The boy was apparently sickly and neglecting his health in favour of spiritual knowledge, but Swami Vivekananda was encouraging him to keep a strong body too in order to support his spiritual life – just as Sri Chinmoy teaches – rather than neglecting his health. As we know, Sri Chinmoy also advocates a childlike approach to life – not that we would neglect our responsibilities or fail to be serious when necessary, but sometimes a little humour can clear the mind of troubles in an instant, perhaps ironically making meditation easier. So for some a little harmless humour such as Fawlty Towers might actually be “nearer heaven” 🙂 Interesting topic, thanks for raising it!
You put it so well: days seem like weeks and you come back with a fresh perspective on life.
Such a poetic account of August 2005, brings back some very precious memories. Thank you Sumangali.
Thanks so much for your comments, Bhashini, glad the notes brought back some happy memories for you. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget details you think would stay in the mind forever. I wish I’d written down more recollections, but somehow being caught up in the experience of it all, a diary often seemed incongruous. I suppose the essence of it never fades though…