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A soulful visit to New York: a year since our teacher's passing
When Sri Chinmoy was with us physically, our visits to New York always turned out to be a whirlwind of activity, combining meditation with musical and artistic performances, athletics and a whole host of other activities. Since Sri Chinmoy's passing, I have visited New York in both April and August this year, and revelled in the same unique blend of inner stillness and outer activity. This time however, the visit was different - it was all about meditation, silence and inner reflection.
Sri Chinmoy would gather with his students in a beautiful open-air meditation space called Aspiration-Ground - and it is here that his body was laid to rest upon his passing. Over the weekend of October 11 (the day when Sri Chinmoy passed away) Aspiration-Ground wes open 24 hours a day, and we could come and go as we wished to melt into the atmosphere permeated with spirituality. During the day, we had the opportunity to offer candles, flowers and incense at the Samadhi, or burial place, and meditate there. Musical groups and singers - the very same musicians Sri Chinmoy loved to hear perform - filled the air with beautiful performances of the many mantric songs Sri Chinmoy composed during his lifetime. When night time fell, the entire grounds were lit up by what seemed like a million and one candles, giving the place an unearthly beauty.
The days and weeks following our teacher's passing was a very special time for all of us. Aside from the sadness we all felt at not having our teacher physically present anymore, it was also a incredibly spiritually transformative experience, as we could feel the inner guidance more powerfully than ever before. Once, Sri Chinmoy remarked “as long as I am alive, I will definitely tell the whole world that the soul exists. For me, the body, mind and vital are all unreal. Only the soul, which is eternal and immortal, is real.” Now that we no longer have him physically with us ,we are truly coming to learn what that means. For me, this,visit served both as an affirmation of that inner guidance and as a reminder that in the spiritual life, there really is no death, just a transition from one phase to another.
"When you go to sleep, you do not say, "O my God, I have no idea if I will ever wake up tomorrow!" No, when you are tired you go to your bedroom, and the next morning, when your body is refreshed, you wake up. Similarly, in your existence-house you have one room called death and one room called life. When you become tired and want to take rest, you will go to your other room, which is called death. You have to feel that both rooms belong to you and are part and parcel of your existence. Right now you feel that when you enter into your sleeping room, all the happiness that you are presently enjoying will be destroyed. But that is not the case. If you pray and meditate, you will realise that death is only a temporary rest." - Sri Chinmoy
A Weekend of Teamwork
Organising free classes of yoga and meditation for the general public can be expensive, especially when one takes into account rental of city centre venues. Now and again we have to have little fundraising projects to help us along. Whilst our objective is to raise money, the ultimate goal is to see these projects as being opportunities to transcend the logistical challenges involved, having joy along the way and not placing too much importance on the results.
This weekend found us running a stall and operating parking facilities for a weekend event that was taking place close to where Paula grew up. Thankfully, we had a lot of help from folks outside the Dublin Centre.
Paula’s family were extremely supportive and let 6 of us stay with them on Saturday night, smiled as we ate them out of house and home and even let us play croquet on the back lawn despite our best attempts to turn it into a contact sport! Mangala’s brother kindly lent us a canopy and equipment to from our stall.
During the weekend, we managed to perform an impromptu concert for Paula’s family, and we had our center meditation at Paula’s house in the country late on Sunday evening before dinner and heading home.
Being together in this way gives each person a focus on the important things in life – sometimes it’s hard to see these on your own.
Projects like this are wonderful for bringing people from different backgrounds and areas of expertise in a spirit of oneness and working together as a team:
- Shane was our tour-de-force behind the counter and even managed some flute playing between the roar of arriving vehicles.
- Alex was on tea / coffee duty ensuring that kettles were full and boiling at all times and was to be seen on ‘kettle walks’ several times each day.
- Vinnie arrived from work on Sunday to bolster up the team on the busiest day.
We had a very successful outing where everybody in the Centre enjoyed the experience. For a young and growing yoga and meditation center, this weekend demonstrated that working together in a spirit of oneness and joy one can easily overcome challenges both physically and inwardly along each of our journeys!
Cycling trip to Kerry
The Dublin Centre (plus many visitors from overseas) enjoyed a four-day Cycling trip, all around the beautiful county of Kerry.
The omens weren’t spectacular for the first day - as soon as we started the rain began and it poured until we arrived at our accommodation 3 hours later and 50km away! We had to climb up the legendary Conor Pass through the mountains (it’s really steep). The scenery was beautiful but with rain falling and the mist all around we could only see a little bit in each direction. It was a great experience all the same and Ambarish had a great feed of Pasta ready when we arrived (soaking wet) at the hostel in Dingle.
The second day it didn’t rain at all. Most of the cycling took place on two large mountainous peninsulas and we had lovely cycle all along the coastline. We even did some cycling on the beach. Overall we did just over 100km, which was a nice work out for our legs. The was more than enough for everyone except Tejvan who, as one of the best amateur cyclist in England, clocked up more and more miles as he cycled back and forth. On Saturday morning we set off on a boat trip to the Skellig Islands, 8 miles off the coast of Kerry. We were blessed with the weather all day long. The Captain of the boat said it was the best day he had seen for at least two weeks.Once we left the protection of the estuary the fun began. The swell of the sea was quite strong and the boat dipped up and down as it sailed onwards. It was now evident as to why the Captain had handed each of us rain ponchos as the water occasionally swept over the side of the boat and drenched a few of us! As soon as we docked on Skellig Michael the clouds dispersed and the sun began to shine. What a beautiful Island this is, it looks just like a mountain rising from the sea. In medieval times early Christian monks settled on the Island and built a monastery on top. It’s incredible how they managed to sur- vive on this small, secluded island. The monastery itself was an amazing array of stone huts built in a honeycombed fashion with surrounding stonewalls. There was a great sense of peace there.
After a relaxing lunch in the sun we set off for the mainland once more. Some of us even managed take a nap on the way back despite the bumpy ride. Back in Caherciveen once more, we began our cycle into the countryside. This time we had only thirty kilometres to do in to the mountains and through the valley. For an hour or so we cycled along at a leisurely pace with only one or two steep hills tackle. Then we cycled further into the wilderness and down into the valley. The only problem was that there was a road entering both sides of the valley but a mountain ridge cut one side of from the other. No problem! The map showed a walking trail so we assumed (never assume!) that we could easily walk over with our bikes. Not the case! It was open country so we spent the next hour hiking over the ridge carrying our bikes on our backs! The upside was that we witnessed the unparalleled beauty of the scenery and when we finally made it to the road on the other side we enjoy a beautiful cycle by a serene lake. Not far from the lake we arrived at our hostel were we enjoyed a good nights sleep. On Sunday we set off for Killarney and on pathways winding through woods and along the Lakes of Killarney national park. All good things have to end sometime, and so from Killarney we set off for Dublin, but not before poilishing off a sizeable amount of tea and dessert. Heres to an even bigger and better cycling trip in 2009!
World Harmony Run in Ireland
May saw the arrival in Ireland of the World Harmony Run, the world’s largest grassroots running event....
Founded by Sri Chinmoy in 1987, the World Harmony Run unites millions of people behind a shared feeling that all of us have much more in common than what divides us. We do this using the most simple and yet the most inspiring of metaphors - an Olympic- style torch, which teams of runners carry from country to country and from community to community. Along the route, we visit schools, running clubs, community groups and local and national governments, seeing time and again examples of how the things that make humanity special - kindness, generosity, a sense of joy and humor and a largeness of heart - are things that people from every country and race and religion possess, and so we can share this first hand expeience with everyone else we meet. As the Run goes from country to country, various branches of the Sri Chinmoy Centre help to take care of the core logistics, but we also encourage the schools and communities to add their own unique contribution, and indeed the Run would not be able to exist if it were not for this grassroots involvement from ordinary people all over the world. The Run spent four days in Ireland, arriving in Belfast and visiting the Giant’s Causeway before making its way down through Armagh, Monaghan, Kells and Navan on its way to Dublin.
In Dublin we held a special welcoming ceremony held for the runners in Irishtown Stadium, with distinguished guests and children from local schools in the area who welcomed the run with their own singing and instrumental presentations of the Theme of Harmony. The international team also gave a presentation of the Run and, of course everyone got a chance to hold and run with the Torch and add their own wishes for harmony. The event ended on a very beautiful note - the children had written little messages expressing their hopes and dreams for a better world. We had attached these messages to floating balloons, all waiting to be released to the air, symbolically spreading harmony far and wide. At a count of three - two - one - the balloons were let go, sending our wishes for world harmony soaring into the heavens. The Run then departed for Wales - Colm and Matthias went with them as they scaled Mount Snowdon with an ITV news crew in close pursuit. The European leg of the Run will visit all 49 European countries before finishing up in Prague in October.
For more info: http://www.worldharmonyrun.org/ireland/
A very special concert
On May 19, we travelled to view a a very unique concert that took place in the Royal Albert Hall. Boris Purushottama Grebenshikov is a household name in his native Russia, having spearheaded the underground music scene during the last days of the Soviet Union.
Purushottama and Sri Chinmoy first met in 2006 and a great friendship sprung up between them, and indeed this concert was dedicated in memory of Sri Chinmoy’s life and works. With Purushottama there were a whole range of outstanding musicians from all corners of the world, seven of them playing traditional indian instruments such as sitar, sarangi, tabla and harmo- nium as well as Irish instruments - fiddles, tin whistles, uilleann pipes and bodhrans. These all blended seamlessly into Purushottama’s original Russian compositions to create a cornucopia of musical flavours.
As an encore, a choir from the Sri Chinmoy Centre came up for the last few songs, which included two songs that Purushottama wrote in English in tribute to Sri Chinmoy. The evening ended with all of the musicians and choir contributing to a Sanskrit chant ‘Aum paye Saraswati nama’ which brought a beautiful meditative feel to the whole evening.
A weekend of joy in Scotland
Meditation and fun in the Pentland hills...
The day after our March meditation classes ended (and after a frenetic late night session taking down all our meditation posters) saw us all heading up to Bonny Scotland to join the English, Scottish, Welsh and French members of our meditation family. Sri Chinmoy always encouraged us to get together for weekends of meditation and fun, and now that he is no longer physically here with us, we are very grateful to keep that spirit of joy and oneness which we all felt when we were around our teacher.
The weather was absolutely dreadful when we arrived in Edinburgh – attimes the rain seemed like someome was pouring a basin full of water ontop of us - and we were more than a little worried that it would persist right into Sunday. The Scottish - who were working so hard to make the weekend a success - drove us up to the beautiful village of West Linton at the foot of the Pentland hills.
Thanks to the sterling efforts of Elizabeth, ably assisted by our own Paula who had flown in a couple of days early, we had the most gorgeous food throughout the weekend- the highlight of which was vegetarian haggis, neeps andtatties for dinner, and for which we all went for seconds, and sometimes thirds depending on who you were!
Evening meditation was very nice - a long silent meditation punctuated by chants from the ancient Indian Vedas put to music by Sri Chinmoy. After that we were treated to the heavenly voice of Adarsha from Glasgow (who incidentally will becoming to Dublin to treat us to his music in May), and then the Irish Centre put our recent concert experience to good use by performing a couple of songs. Then we had a couple of extremely entertaining plays - one was a re-telling of a favourite story of the 19th century spiritual Master Sri Ramakrishna, about a thief who pretends to be a monk in order to marry a king's daughter and get all the accompanying wealth – except the 'thief' in this case happened to be two Scousers from Liverpool called Terry and Barry, ably played by Steve and Amit. Afterwards came another short sketch, which Devashishu wrote on the plane over featuring Shane, Colm, Adarsha and Balavan.
The next day we had meditation at 6am, before heading for our Sunday Morning 2 mile race on a very scenic and not too hilly course – about half way through the race the path broke out of the forest and into open mountain country, complete with a very nice rainbow. Adelino from Paris came first, very quickly followed by our own Colm. Despite our fears, the weather was absolutely perfect the whole day. After breakfast we embarked on a hill walk - over 50 of us tramping up and down the mountain and eventually ending up in the scenic village of West Linton.
The scenery was absolutely beautiful, but even better than the scenery was the sight of looking down the mountain and seeing all of us from many different countries making our way up the mountain together. Over the years, Sri Chinmoy's meditation path has brought together so many people of different backgrounds and personalities - creative types and rambunctious athletes, introverts and extroverts, humorous wags and wise heads - all connected by a common love of spirituality and self-discovery.
After great lunch we had afternoon meditation with performances by British singing group Ananda . Some of us had to leave at this stage, but others managed to make it down to Edinburgh to visit the Sri Chinmoy Centre and have a very nice evening meditation. It was a great end to a great weekend - next time will be in London in May when the World Harmony Run will be visiting and renowned Russian musician Purushottama Boris Grebenshikov plays the Royal Albert Hall supported by musicians from the Sri Chinmoy Centre. Can't wait....
Lots of joy in England
February 2008 - Shane, Colm, Matthias and Ambarish take a trip to Middle England to meet up with fellow students of Sri Chinmoy for a weekend of joy, meditation and fun....
The weather, it appeared, had decided to stop sulking and be good for a change. We were staying in an area of Derbyshire known as the National Forest, although you had to look pretty hard to find trees worthy of the name. We arrived hours before everyone else, so we took the opportunity to going running along some of the local trails, and then unearthed a game of Tension Tower back at our accommodation.
In the evening everyone had arrived from the various parts of the country and Steve from Cambridge cooked a fantastic meal to satisfy any hunger. We then had a meditation with lots of singing and inspiring video footage of Sri Chinmoy’s September 2007 trip to St. Petersburg.
Following meditation bright and early the next morning we met outside the hostel for the traditional two mile race. We had found the perfect course for the race right beside the hostel - it was frosty and very very VERY chilly but that didn’t dampen any spirits. In fact with the added enthusiasm everyone managed to run excellent times: Colm came home in a personal best of 11:14 with Shane only a few seconds behind.
The morning and afternoon was spent with meditation, music and fun and games. The first game of the day was one where we had balloons tied to each other’s legs and had to burst everyone else’s whilst keeping your own unbursted. Shane was spotted bursting away long after his own was burst, although he innocently maintained he never heard the sound.
Next we had a hilarious quiz – the previous night we wrote down all kinds of weird and wonderful things about ourselves were now read out and we had to guess who the person was. We had a lot of fun trying to guess who participated in a dance troupe in Japan or who turned a car upside down whilst learning to drive! Then it was time for a game of Pictionary, with five teams competing against each other. There was joy and laughter all around as one team member tried to draw and the rest of team would frantically try to guess.
There was a short break before an afternoon of music. Some of the boys took this opportunity to play a game of soccer while many others just enjoyed the beautiful weather and went strolling along walking paths. Once we reassembled we enjoyed music performances from the Cambridge Centre and the English music group Ananda. Our day ended with a trip to an artificial ski slope nearby, which had a long toboggan ride and also snowtubing. It’s hard to believe you can pack so much fun into a weekend, but it really recharges the batteries and leaves you coming home with a new lease of life.
The essence of India
One Monday in late February we went to see Colm playing in the National Concert Hall – he was supporting a performance of several classical Indian ragas. After the National Concert hall performance we had the idea. “Why don’t we have a similar concert on Saturday night in the meditation centre and along with Indian Classical music we can have a performance of Sri Chinmoy’s songs?” And so it was set for six days time. We started putting out leaflets and posters, wondering how many people could we get to come in six days...
On the evening itself, the performance area had a beautiful Indian feeling about it - laid out with Indian carpets, flowers, candles, burning incense and some of Sri Chinmoy’s beautiful bird drawings hanging behind us. The Sri Chinmoy Centre music group (we still have to find a concert name for ourselves!) began the night of music with songs and bhajans whose serene and peaceful melodies embraced the curious audience. The melody of the flute and the rhythm of the drums brought soulfulness and dynamism at once and we were very warmly received by the audience.
The room continued to fill up with people even as the performance of Indian classical music began. We announced that our performance would be quite informal and totally spontaneous seen as the three of us had only played together twice before. The evening was a wonderful and varied exploration into Indian music with raga, Indian folk song instrumentals from sitar player Dara, and a tabla solo performance with Colm and his tabla teacher Dhiraj, who was actually leaving Ireland for India the next morning. Dhiraj would ‘sing’ the tabla pieces before playing them – this drew many an appreciative cheer from the crowd. Looking up during the concert, we could see the room filled to maximum capacity, with people sitting practically at our feet. We estimate around 75 people came – I don’t think the room could have taken any more! Afterwards many people stayed around to partake of refreshments and talk to the musicians, and it was very late indeed when the place was finally empty.
We will be having our next concert during March meditation classes, and we are really looking forward to it – they are proving to be very special indeed, both for us and for the audience.
Our new newsletter and our first concert!
January 2008 saw us kick off the new year with a new newsletter and the first of what we hope will be many concerts...
The Dublin Centre launched our first issue of Paramananda - a fortnightly (we hope) newsletter giving the latest news and activities in the Dublin Sri Chinmoy Centre. The name means 'heavenly delight' and we'll do our best to serve up as much of that as we can in this and forthcoming issues.
Our first concert!!!!
The Dublin Sri Chinmoy Centre gave their first concert of the year on the last Friday of the months. The concert, consisting of instrumental and choral arrangements of Sri Chnmoy's mantric songs lasted about 40 minutes. whereupon we gave the audience a chance to join in too, which they did with great gusto. There was a very special atmosphere created during this concert which the members of the audience remarked on afterwards.
We hope to start giving concerts at least every month, and introduce a wider audience to the soul-stirring beauty of Sri Chinmoy's music.
An international weekend of joy in County Clare
Last weekend, the Irish Sri Chinmoy Centre played host to sixty-five students of Sri Chinmoy from England, France, Scotland, Wales and further beyond for a weekend of meditation and fun - a 'Joy Weekend' as our teacher, Sri Chinmoy, calls it. As the name suggests, the emphasis on these weekends is on having pure unadulterated joy, some time together with friends where we can be free from the worries and responsibilities of life. We were based in the beautiful Burren area of County Clare in the West of Ireland, with its spectacular mountain views and limestone rock formations.
We all met up on the Saturday evening; due to the remote location, some people had to go to great lengths in order to get there, but hopefully it would be worth it! First came a beautifully silent meditation and singing of soulful mantric songs. In particular, we were treated to an ethereally beautiful singing performance by Adarsha Kelly of Scotland, a long-time student of Sri Chinmoy renowned for the depth and soulfulness of his singing. (You can listen to Adarsha sing on Radio Sri Chinmoy) In the previous week, some of the people present had accompanied Sri Chinmoy on his visit to Mongolia , whilst others had been working on a concert of inspiring music at the Royal Albert Hall, so there were more than a few anecdotes to tell from both events.
The next day began with a 2 mile run: rather than competing with each other, everyone instead competes to beat their own previous standard, which makes for a much more enjoyable and carefree race. After breakfast, it was then time to go to the beach for some games! There is nothing like a few team games to restore that sense of joy and exuberance we somehow lose in the transition from childhood to adult life. We started out with a classic sandcastle building contest: two teams and twenty minutes to build the biggest and best structure. In the end, both castles were so good that we couldn't bring ourselves to vote on a winner and called it a draw! We then had a few more fun games like horseshoe pitching, speed nailing and a balancing relay.
Then we went to the nearby Cliffs of Moher, one of the highest cliffs in Europe. Two years earlier, the World Harmony Run , a global initiative founded by Sri Chinmoy to foster friendship and understanding through running, had passed through County Clare and paid a visit to the cliffs. The resulting DVD of the Run featured the majestic scenery of the cliffs quite heavily and many people who saw it expressed the wish to go there someday - this may have influenced our choice of location :) Then we headed back for lunch, followed by another group meditation. In the afternoon we spit into groups to explore the country side.
Naturally everyone was a little tired at the end of such a hectic day, so after the evening meditation we thought of a way to put a spring back in everyone's step! We divided everyone into four teams, handed them a short story and gave them twenty minutes to concoct a fully fledged play. There were some people who wanted to sing some of Sri Chinmoy's mantric songs instead, so we agreed a 'compromise' where each play had to include at least one of Sri Chinmoy's songs (and also some other songs if they wanted). It is really amazing how resourceful you can be given such a short time limit - every single play ended up being very imaginative indeed, not to mention extremely funny.
The next morning after meditation and an early morning run, we all took leave of each other, knowing that we will be meeting up again at another weekend like this in the not too distant future. Our teacher, Sri Chinmoy, has often spoken of how much joy he gets when he hears his students have gathered together for weekends of fun like this - when his students manage to cast off the heaviness and dryness of the mind even for one weekend, this in turn makes it much easier for the teacher to help them make spiritual progress! A spiritual life is sometimes mistakenly associated with misery and self-denial, whereas in fact we make the fastest progress when we are happy. As Sri Chinmoy says in one of his meditative aphorisms:
If you want to make progress, Only think of your heart's happiness And how you can keep Your entire being happy. Wherever you go, Carry happiness with you.