Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Silence & Sound

Rageshri smiles as she tells me, “It was not easy, I was not a professional. I am a massage therapist.” It is a cool and rainy afternoon, on a spring day in New York. I have just heard her, and her friend Kushali, perform a song, composed by their spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy, in a conspicuously empty Panorama cafe. Their musical group, called Silence and Sound, have been performing for 8 years. They are closing in on their 600th concert and I, an audience of just one, not counting Phillip, who is washing dishes off in the distance, have just heard one of the most amazing musical performances of my life.

To be honest, if most people had known, that they were going to be playing their music on this wet and nasty afternoon, the place would have been packed. I had asked the girls to come here, so that I could video one of their arrangements and have this interview. I was selfishly happy to not have any others around to interrupt, but could not help but think, “who wouldn’t enjoy this exquisite music.”

Rageshri tells me, about receiving her Soul’s name, on Sri Chinmoy’s birthday in 2003. She tells me, that she was so surprised when she heard the meaning of her name. It was, “The Beauty and fragrance of Soul Melody in Aspiration Heart, in boundless measure.” She says, this confirmed for her, her whole connection to Sri Chinmoy’s music. She says, that since becoming his student, she would often wake up in the morning hearing his music inside her. She says with confidence, “This is the mission of my soul, to spread Guru’s music, to share it with the world.”

Kushali who has been sitting quietly next to her nods with approval. She tells me how they feel it is a great privilege to perform Sri Chinmoy’s music, and because the music has so much within it, and is so rich with possibility, that it is an easy task for them to do. I nod at this, but also remember, that earlier, I helped carry a very heavy keyboard into the cafĂ©, and that giving roughly 100 concerts a year is no joke.

They tell me about their joy, in performing in front of audiences large and small. Please note, I, as a private audience of one, do not count in their impressive record keeping statistics. Rageshri who has given many talks on Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy tells me how difficult it is for people to understand, what he is all about, just through words. They feel, that performing his music does it all, faster and easier, and does it immediately. They tell me, that when they perform, they can see the audience out in front of them as flower buds. As they play their music, they see these buds opening, until before too long, there is a whole garden blossoming in front of them.

Their route to playing Sri Chinmoy’s music was not a direct one however. When they first started playing together, they played only classical music, their first arrangement, that of a version of Ave Maria. Rageshri, who had only 4 years of formal musical training, while Kushali was a full professional, was not confident at first, playing with her more experienced partner. Kushali says though, “When I heard her the first time, touching the keyboard, it was amazingly professional. Technique was not important.” She felt that her touch was deep and delicate. She was so confident in her friend’s ability, that when she was hesitant of her abilities, she would tell her, “just remember your last incarnation, PLAY It, that’s all.”

Kushali tells me, that during an interview once, she was asked the meaning of her name. She told the interviewer, that her name meant, The most powerful the most surprising in aspiration dedication activities to please our Lord Beloved Supreme in his own way. The interviewer said to her then, “so, that means you are the boss.” Both girls laugh at this.


They had been playing classical music exclusively for one year when in 2001 a friend asked them, “why don’t you play Guru’s music?” They describe their friends question as an obvious next step for them. They describe her as an instrument, in their musical careers, and wondered at the time, why they had not done it before. Very soon after, they were asked to perform at a concert in Moscow. They live in Kiev in the Ukraine. They had just 2 months to prepare a program. Each had full time jobs, Rageshri was selling software, and Kushali was teaching music to kids. Their predicament at the time, was that neither of them had any experience in arranging music. They quickly learned however to find an intuitive approach to Sri Chinmoy’s music. They quote for me, one of his aphorisms when describing what this meant, “My Gratitude Heart, always knows the way.” They felt that Sri Chinmoy himself, was guiding and showing them, how to arrange his music inwardly. Now they have arranged something like 100 songs.

In June of 2001 they performed 2 of his songs for him for the first time in Oslo. They were on the same stage as he was. At the time he was drawing pictures close by on the small stage. They describe how afraid they were at the time, to perform Sri Chinmoy’s music in front of him. They laugh as they describe how much they were shaking only to realize that the shaking was being caused not by their own nervousness but by the power of Sri Chinmoy’s hand on paper as he drew pictures.

In August of that year, they describe their challenging and difficult first concert, at the Aspiration ground in New York. It was to be a short instrumental performance and Rageshri admits to being in a bad consciousness before the performance. In the minutes before they were to go on, she just did not want to perform. Kushali says now, that she told her friend, “You will go, I am the leader, if you do not play now, or we will never play again.” Reluctantly she went forward and performed.

At the end of their performance they say, Sri Chinmoy folded his hands and bowed to them. They both describe it as a “WOW” moment. They say that it was significant, and that it confirmed for them, that he knew what was going on inside them at that moment. They realized, that in performing his music, everything changes. That a transformation takes place within them, when they are able overcome obstacles and to self transcend. In being able to get through this hesitancy in performing, they had gone beyond a personal barrier and he was as much pleased with that, as he was with their musicianship. This was for them the practical evidence of surrender. They say, that from that moment on, for them, “only Guru’s music matters.”

In 2002 their music went in another surprising direction for them, when Sri Chinmoy asked a friend of theirs, whether or not they sang, mentioning how proud he was of them. By August of 2002 they were incorporating singing into their program. By April 2005 Sri Chinmoy asked them after they had performed for him in New York how many concerts they had done. At the time it was 420. He said that they were super excellent musicians, and asked the assembled group that was watching, why could they not invite them to perform outside of the Ukraine. They were shocked at the level of generosity and appreciation that he had for them. They mention that other countries in Europe quickly set up concerts for them, and that in particular Austria was very supportive.

I remind them, as they now sit sipping hot chocolates, that not too many days ago I had witnessed them both doing something quite unbelievable for full time musicians. Rageshri had run 240 miles in the 6 day race, and Kushali had run 407 miles in the 10 day race. Rageshri describes how that she had helped, one of the girl runners in 2004, and had just caught the multi day bug. They felt at the time, that performing 100 concerts a year was already an ultra.

Yet when Rageshri saw how proud of her Sri Chinmoy was, after her first multi day race, it confirmed for her, that ultra running would be part of their lives. Kushali joined in shortly afterwards. She says of Sri Chinmoy that, “He inspires self-transcendence in every field.” They describe the running as a, purification for them. Then they laugh and say, it is also a vacation from music. They call the multi day races, “a real rest, the only place we don’t play.”

They have no doubts about them being unlikely poster people, for multi day runners. But they also recognize, that when others see them run, they have to say to themselves, “If they can run what about me.” They say, that like they celebrate after every 100 concerts, they also celebrate after each and every 100 miles during the race.

Sri Chinmoy has composed thousands of songs and many have been inspired by this impressive catalog of music. There is no other group of musicians, like Silence and Sound however, that have committed themselves to such an extensive and rigorous program of concerts, that is now extending itself to many countries. Clearly, they feel a commitment to the music, that is unparalleled. They tell me, “we felt Guru’s music was not in the professional world enough.” They wanted to fill this hole, with free concerts, wherever they could be invited to perform. However, they do prefer, that they be invited to beautiful venues, where the music can be better appreciated.

I ask them about the name of their group, Silence and Sound. They tell me simply that from true inner silence comes sound. They tell me that a few years ago when Sri Chinmoy was told, that they had given a performance in front of an audience of 900, that he was not surprised. He said, “what do you expect from them, they are super excellent musicians.” When someone tried to remind him that they had run in multi day races as well, he said, “You think I don’t know.” On many occasions he referred to them as the, “2 Ukrainian Greats”, or simply, “violin and piano.”

As they push on towards their 600th concert, and beyond, they tell me they feel that Sri Chinmoy is guiding them. They admit, that a few times they have wanted to give up, but always have found a way to continue. They are really relaxed and enjoying themselves as they reflect on their lives. They tell me, that humor is their savior. Even during some of the wet cold days of the recent race, they held onto their sense of humor. Dipali, who went on to win the women’s race told them in fact, that she appreciated this about them. That in the midst of such a challenge of running 100’s of miles, they could still laugh.

Kushali tells me, that their concert total at this point is 584. Just 16 shy, of 600 performances. I ask the obvious, how many more? They just laugh and tell me, “we will go on, and on, and on.”

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Western Kingdom

It is also known as the Western Kingdom, but Morocco, for those of us who were there for the World Harmony run it was more than just a country. For us, it was a great warm and receptive heart. We met both famous Olympians and children from humble families



We ran across great stretches of country side and saw nature, both tamed, and at its natural best.

When you watch this short movie, I think you will see, that the ultimate experience there, was just to meet its people. To learn about their lives and understand that there are no borders to our world family.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

See the Pyramids along the Nile

We arrived in Egypt with absolutely no preparation and wanted to have a World Harmony run event there. By some incredible stroke of good luck, or perhaps fate, we met the General Manager of the Egyptian Athletic Federation, Hussien Fahmi.

He made everything possible. His receptivity and generosity were more precious to us than any of the antiquities or treasures that this wondrous nation has to offer.

We went to Luxor and had a fantastic time with the kids from the Barat youth center.



On the second day in Luxor we met with some of the kids at the temple of Karnak, near their training ground, and had a short run with them.

Here we learned, as much if not more from them, as they learned from us, about the far off places we came from.


Before leaving Egypt for Tunisia we had a few brief hours at the Pyramids in Cairo. It is a place, where it feels like the citizens of the world converge, in order to honor the glories of the ancient past. We hope that the World Harmony run helps, in some way, to make the future every brighter. That an ever increasing dream of peace is born anew, throughout the length and breadth, of this world we all share.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Night in Tunisia

I had never been to Tunisia before, when I went there in March this year. In fact, I knew very little about the place. Of course, I knew that the great runner, Mohamed Gammoudi came from there, but that was about it. I also knew of a Jazz classic called, "A Night in Tunisia." But when I listened to it before I left, I did not get any feel of a real country that lived and breathed within its melody.



The Harmony run has its own music of course. The torch carries you forward to meet many people, and to have many surprising and fulfilling experiences.


We had just finished the run in Tunis and were about to head off to Spain the next day. We had been on the road for about a week, and by then heard lots of local music, but nothing that captured, at least for me, the true heart of Tunisia.

On our last night in Tunis we were staying in a sports complex on the outskirts of the city. We were shown around the place, and saw all of its facilities. As we went from room to room, some haunting music began to grow louder and louder. When the door opened to this small room, I found these 6 men playing and singing traditional devotional music. It was like entering another world. It also felt like these men were sharing, through their music, the heart and soul of this wonderful country. I cannot remember the name of their group, but I cannot forget their music.

videographer Mario Komak

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Across the Runiverse


This is not something new. In fact it is a few years old but I am sure many have not seen this particular film, on an earlier Self Transcendence race. I put the link here, but on You tube there are problems with the opening. I thought I would show you how it looked originally without blemishes.

It is just a day in the life of the race. I was there at dawn and there at sunset. Of course it cannot tell the whole story like an interview, but it can and does show the joy of all those who participated in this monumental event.

Across the Runiverse


Four Universes

What is really huge?

Material universe.

What is really powerful?

Spiritual universe.

What is always in the Goal?

Silent-universe.

What is always the Goal?

Transcending universe.

by Sri Chinmoy

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Money Power


There has been lots in the news recently, about how poorly the US Dollar is doing, compared to other world currencies.


At the beginning of March I went to Egypt via Zurich and for fun, thought I would see what a dollar could buy.


click on the link above to go to Youtube.







MONEY-POWER

You must know

What you can buy

And

What you cannot buy

With your money-power.

With your money-power

You can buy physical strength,

You can buy vital strength,

You can buy mental strength.

But

You cannot buy psychic strength.

What is psychic strength?

Love, Infinity's Love.

Oneness, Eternity's Oneness.

by Sri Chinmoy

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Exterminator

John corrects me right away when I ask if he is an exterminator. He tells me no. He says, nowadays, people in his profession are called Pest Control Operators.

John has been working for the Bugban company for a year and a half and he really likes his work. He says, though he hasn't been in the business long, it feels to him like it has been much longer.

He tells me, that he got into the business in a round about way. That he had been working as a porter for 13 years in a building in Jackson Heights, that was serviced by the Bugban company. Derek, the guy who worked the building, asked if he wanted some part time Saturday work. He tried it out, and forgive me for this, he caught the bug.

He tells me that he worked with a guy from the company for quite a while to learn how it was done. He then had to take an 8 week 40 hour course to get his license. Now he works on his own and says, "I like the Freedom." He says when he worked as a porter and cleaned floors nobody really cared about how well he did his job. But on this job, where most businesses should have, and every restaurant definitely does, his work is really appreciated.

He tells me the long list of critters that he has to eliminate. Nothing phases him. He says that he is taking new courses all the time and that they are making the proverbial, "better mouse trap" all the time. He said he got so excited recently, when he was watching the Discovery channel, and saw of a new technology, that he called his boss Walter.

The work, comes down to good old sleuthing, in some ways. You have to use your intuition but also you have to be able to read the signs. He says, "the more knowledge you have, the better chance you have to catch them." He tells me about a recent seminar he attended called the New York city rodent academy. Remember, the school is not about building a smarter mouse, but a better pest control operator. John says the course was great.

Please look away now if you are squeamish


I ask him what his biggest problem is, and he says it is this critter on the right. This is a bed bug, and he says, that they are scary for the industry and the public, because they are not connected to dirt. He says, "bedbugs are a real nuisance and the most dangerous." He tells me, that he can be working on getting rid of them on the job, and if he is not careful, he can bring them home by mistake. He laughs, and says, "I am never ever going to bring a mouse home."

He tells me that taking care of roaches is easy. He says that when he is called in, it is a last resort. He says that most places can solve their problems by having proper sanitation.


I ask John what he likes most about working the job and he says it is simple, "I am a people person." Then I ask if there is anything spiritual about his work. He pauses thoughtfully and remarks, that it is funny that I should ask. He says, "I get a satisfaction to myself that I am making people happy, by doing this I am fulfilled."

Thank you John and Pest Control Operators everywhere.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Walk in the Park

They put up this new sign by my local park not too long ago. The official name of the park is Captain Tilly, but most folks around here know it as Goose Pond park, and for good reason.

There is a very good historical reason to call it Captain Tilly of course, because long ago the land around here was owned by the Tilly family. Cpt. George Tilly was just 36 when he was killed while serving in the Philippines in 1899. His mission was to take some men to a small island and fix the telegraph there. He was told that the natives there were peaceful but just don't wear your uniform when you go. The local folks, he was told, just plain don't like men in uniform.

Well I guess he was a little proud, and a lot head strong, and went there anyway with his men, in uniform. Sure enough the folks there got upset. Things were said, guns were fired, and Captain Tilly tried to get out of there as fast as he could. The trouble was, that some of the men panicked. They got in the boat, and started to row from shore, as fast as they could, before everyone was on board. Captain Tilly and a few men, therefore had to swim for it. Captain Tilly was the only one who did not make it.
The park is looking pretty good these days, except for the lamp on the corner. Back in April on a foggy day it looked mysterious and nice. Today the shade is busted, but I guess and hope it still lights up at night.

Click on any picture to make bigger

There are lots of geese in Goose pond park and I thought you might like to meet some of the folks who live and wander through.

Can't a guy get some sleep around here




Goose pond Smoose pond what about us pigeons







How do you like the family?







So you took ballet and can stand on one leg....your a goose for crying out loud.









You talkin ta me!










Trick or treat






Palak and his family are enjoying the park today. Or at least I hope they are. His folks says Palak enjoys the park, but it looks like he just might like a nap.







Johnny come back to me. I didn't mean to call your momma and big fat duck








The Geese may rule the roost most of the time. A young pit bull has his own ideas as to whose boss.




Tony seems to like the squirrels off in the woods, more than the geese. It just might be a fur over feather thing. He is obviously a stylish guy and has a peanut in his hand to give the first available nut chomper.







I guess you know now why we call it Goose pond park. No offense to the good Captain