6 & 10 Day Race… Day 4

This Self Transcendence race provides a lot of experiences to lots of people.  To the runners first and foremost it offers a one of a kind opportunity to really test and expand upon who and what they are.  When an athlete comes to this race it is impossible not to be challenged in every part of your being. It is simply too long and too hard not to feel its effects.

It may be possible in the early stages to offer up some resistance to its transformative nature but ultimately after a couple of days or a couple of hundred miles you cannot help but become part of a world that has been uniquely created only to make your view and experience of the world transformed.

Most of the time we can so easily observe our lives as static and attached to thoughts, notions, and situations that are comfortable to us.  But even to non spiritual individuals this concept can be at the best of times boring and at others, we cannot help but realize that a life that does not expand and grow is simply not right.


As you watch the faces of the runners now and compare them to even a few days ago you can notice changes.  Yes there is tiredness and ripples of pain, but beneath the dull sheen of their exteriors a positive brightness is building within each and every one.

Almost 30 years ago now the Sri Chinmoy marathon team helped count laps for a 6 day race sponsored by the New York Road Runners club.  It was the first steps into the multi day world that the team took and from then on never looked back upon. Creating more and more challenging events not just in New York but also around the world.

Sri Chinmoy with Nathan Whiting


But many others who are drawn to this race also are positively affected as well.  You don’t just have to be a helper who comes every day, you can also be a supporter from far far away.

I have already heard from many who are great fans of all the races the Sri Chinmoy marathon team sponsors.  Their identification with what is happening here is always moving and profound.  The support you offer the runners is always a wealth of inspiration that will come back and touch your own life as well.

Earlier today a young girl walking in the park with her Mom came by and was enthused by what she saw.


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6 & 10 Day Race… Day 3

No one would ever say that watching a multi day race is the most exciting thing to do, particularly on a bright Spring day in New York city.  The one mile loop of the Self Transcendence race meanders around an odd corner of Flushing Meadow park.

With just 53 runners stretched out along the course, the action at times for spectators could generously be described as ……slow.  For most park goers on such days they might not even notice that a race is going on.  Preferring instead to catch up on their reading.


The most important spectators are of course the runners themselves.  As the days pass they become increasingly more aware of just how each one of this small group is doing.  Taking inspiration when someone is running strong and alternately, feel the harsh reflection of the pain that others are at times also enduring.

Early this afternoon I just happened to watch as Ashprihanal Aalto crossed the finish line.  What caught my eye as he passed was a particular glint of satisfaction as he looked towards the board.  For those who know anything at all about this gifted world class athlete they might have wondered why he even looked at all.  After all he still has 8 more days to run.

For a man who has run the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race 12 times, how could anything go up on the board that he has not seen countless times before?


What mesmerized Ashprihanal was the number 200 beside his name.  A quantity of miles he was able to achieve in just a little more than 48 hours.  Something this 43 year old Finnish distance runner has never achieved before in all his years of competition.

So if he looks over to the board and grins just a little.  We shouldn’t be surprised, for this is his expression of absolute satisfaction and transcendence .  No doubt, for a while at least, when each of the other runners pass they will also enjoy seeing that great round number hanging beside the name of the man in first place.


But then their eyes will no doubt shift to their own names.  Gather some inspiration from what they too also have achieved over 2 long days.  Enjoy the briefest of pauses before stepping off into the seemingly eternal, another 8 days more.  Ultimately each runner here is their own competition and the their own spectator for the race of their lives.

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6 & 10 Day Race …Day 2

Anyone who has ever run a marathon has probably experienced those nagging moments when your mind is bombarded by countless pointless thoughts.  Culminating in one of the most foolish, ‘Will I make it to the finish line?’


Scanning mileage markers, checking on your impatient time piece, and seriously questioning your own ability to push through the nattering fatigue and ponderous doubts.  That experience, in one variation or another, most runners have endured.

Then, not much later, when the race is done, they question themselves.  Did they really need to go through that at all.  Then, wonder of wonders, did they not have more to give.


The simple logic of a 10 day race should dictate that there is never any real demand or pressure to go on, because the real goal is to simply endure 10 days on the track.  The total mileage gained is up to each runner.  Yet we mortals are designed to push and test our boundaries always.  Aware often of what strength we think we have and then surprised when really challenged that there is so much more to us then tired legs and doubting minds.

That transcendence is an indisputable and irresistible part of who we really are.  Our true happiness is only gained when we reach and strive for what we cannot see within us.   Which is ultimately and inevitably what we also must become.

Ashprihanal Aalto ran 110 miles in the first 24 hours

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6 & 10 Day Race….First Day

10 days from now these 53 people will have accomplished something momentous and truly great.  For now the space besides their names remains blank, for they have yet to set out upon their way, to take their first eager steps, to begin a journey that so few have taken and yet now lies unavoidably before each one of these courageous runners.

We all who support, encourage, and in any small way aid them hope that their journeys be fine, bright, and fulfilling.  But a 10 day race is not a sporting event that does not allow a runner not to be shaken, molded, or left untouched in ways both simple and profound.  Even if you are torn down while doing the task, be assured, that once again you will arise up anew.  To be rebuilt and transformed in some way that is all simply an unavoidable part of our personal growth and self transcendence.


Not all will look upon the 10 days yet to come as a spiritual journey.  Nor each will feel that each step and mile is a test or battle.  Numbers will accumulate beside each name.  Some in abundant and glorious fashion and others struggled for each one.

No matter your training, no matter your fitness, and no matter the buoyant brightness of your dreams that compelled them all to come here.  Whatever the outcome,  it will all be worth it in the end.


Pain, fatigue, and suffering with different faces will come calling and be dismissed, fought, and every once in a while surrendered to.

But there is already victory here.  Just to stand up and step forward even one step from the line is its own great achievement and reward.  The numbers by each name will come gradually and accumulate each and every day.  By this time, 10 days from now, they will be put aside though.  The great green board, the village, and all the trappings of this 10 day race will vanish.

What will remain in the hearts and minds, and within the very fiber of each and every runner, is something that is not so easily lost or found.  It will be the inner experience, the change, and transformation that will push and guide each one to the next great challenge in their lives beyond.

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6 & 10 Day Race…..Setting Up

For 355 days a year this little piece of Flushing Meadow Park doesn’t look like very much.  But for 10 days, and perhaps just a little more, each April it becomes something quite wonderful.  All that planes that soar in and out of LaGuardia airport close by, just might see out of the ordinary, is a momentary puzzling flash of blue and white plastic tarpaulin as they cross over this fragment of a New York City park.

Depending on how kindly you look down upon it, there is a wide assortment of landscaping here even at the best of times.  Some tired patches of dirt, crumpled roadway, great swaths of lawn, and trees spreading their towering canopies across the pathways.   Depending upon where you sit in a plane that crosses over, you just might catch a brief glimpse of it all.

But how is it possible, when you are soaring past, can you really tell at all what it is that you are seeing just beneath your window, and more importantly, know at all about the marvelous things that happen here over those 10 sweet hard days each Spring.


A few days ago the construction of the 6 and 10 day village began in earnest


To see how it all comes together is a miracle in and of itself… Bipin is the main manager of the building and Rupantar the Captain of the Sri Chinmoy marathon team.


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World’s Largest Peace Torch

The moon has been growing full for some days now.  It is hard for us to resist its pull and attraction when it glows so bright and inviting in the clear Spring night.  But on this past Sunday evening there was another lofty brightness illuminating the darkness that caught the attention of several hundred people in a little corner of Queens NY.  It is a neighborhood not unaccustomed to the large and the extraordinary.  This April 13th however saw the creation and lighting of something that even this, a place where the unexpected often shows up, the World’s largest Peace Torch.


The threads of this particularly story are both very simple and yet also extraordinarily complex and profound.  Ashrita Furman is the first name that comes into the mix as the driving force behind this new Guinness record, for he has more of those records than anyone else.  (Something like 182) But he himself would say the real inspiration for this unique creation is his late Spiritual Teacher, Sri Chinmoy.  Who first came to America 50 years ago, on April 13th 1964.

Ashrita, has always dedicated his achievements to Sri Chinmoy, and so wanted this 50th anniversary to be more than just special, that it also be historic.  He, along with a team of helpers wanted to create a Guinness record that would be original, powerful, and at its heart, symbolically represent some of the deep inner values and aspirations that Sri Chinmoy himself tirelessly championed.  In particular Sri Chinmoy’s Oneness-Home Peace run, in which a team of runners carry a peace torch.  This event has been taking place in more than 140 countries around the world for more than 20 years.


May the flames of peace-torch
Kindle and awaken
Each and every world-citizen.

Sri Chinmoy, A Love-Bathed Heart, Agni Press, 1993


The Guinness record people informed Ashrita, when he first proposed building a giant torch that he could not simply create an original designed torch.  Instead it would have to be modeled after a previous Olympic torch and be at least 10 times the size of it.  After examining pictures of all possible torches Ashrita selected the 1998 Nagano winter Olympic torch to be the most beautiful.  Yet now the dilemma arose.  How to find blueprints or even a copy of an almost sacred object that was built 16 years earlier in far off Japan.

Ashirvad just happened to be giving meditation classes in Tokyo when the original idea happened to be formed.  Setting up an appointment with the torch creator, he took a 3 hour train trip to Nagano to speak to people there to see if it would be somehow possible to get technical information on the original torch.

“A gentleman from the company received us and he was very happy to see us.”  The man was Akio Haruhara who actually designed and created the torch.  In order to give him some idea of what Ashrita was planning he showed him a video of some of Ashrita’s other records.  “He was extremely inspired by the video.”

Mr. Haruhara then showed them the real torch.  “It was really beautiful.” They were also allowed to take measurements.  He then asked if they needed anything else.  They asked of course for more precise diagrams of the torch and mr. Harahura apologized.   He said that Olympic rules forbade that he do that.  Then after taking a long look at Ashirvad he said, “Just take the torch. So he gave us a real torch.”  Upon returning to New York he mentioned to Ashrita only that he had been quite successful in his search.  Not revealing the full extent of his success until he delightfully handed  Ashrita the actual torch last December.



“He was like a kid who receives the nicest toy at Christmas.  The one he was hoping for.  He wasn’t expecting to get the torch.  It was a big surprise.”

When Ashirvad was originally with him, he told Mr. Haruhara, “of course if you come (when it is constructed) you will be welcomed.  They don’t speak much English so I didn’t feel that he would do it.  But his wife was very excited about the idea.  She said, yes, you need to go to New York.”  Time passes and it was only a few weeks ago that Mr. Haruhara and his wife confirmed that they would come.  “It is really nice.”


“There is something about this project, and I have seen many records.  That the level of commitment that was put into it that I don’t think I have seen before.  Everyone is so focused on making this torch the best way we could.  Every little detail was given a lot of attention.  From the materials used to the finish, colors, every little thing is an exact copy of that torch.  It is just amazing.”


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It Is All Within Us Playing

His instrument rests gently on his knee.  His right hand confidently plucks the taut steel strings.  The fingers of his left hand dance rhythmically up and down the fret board releasing a cascade of beautiful notes.

There seems to be nothing separating the musician from the instrument he is playing upon.  They are one.  His eyes closed he plays a song that seems to come not just from months and years of practice.  But instead originates from a far deeper source.  Of course Vijay can look back and see a long musical family tradition.   He is after all the 6th generation to grow up where playing and hearing classical Indian music was as natural as drinking water.

Yet as I sit near his feet, on a hot afternoon in Thailand,  his audience of one.   I cannot see that great lineage that stretches out behind him.  All I can only hear is what is pouring out from his heart right now. What is undeniably clear, even to my own untrained ears, is that I am listening to a master musician.  One who is sitting upon the ground in front of me while simultaneously reaching out to the celestial realms beyond.  This, the very  essence of who Vijay Shankar Mishra is.

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I have listened to and admired Vijay’s music for years.  As a musician, when he plays you instantly realize what a master he is over his instrument and as well as a singer.  As a friend he is something else.  His humility, warmth, and charm do not instantly reveal all and what there is about this 58 year old man from Delhi, who now finds himself living in Nepal with his wife and 2 children and also working for a travel and tour company.  Both his daughter Shivani and his son Abhishek have continued in their own way the great musical family tradition.   So one afternoon in February I asked him to tell me more about his life and his music, and how all the bits and pieces fit together to make up his most interesting world.

On Being a Musician

“It is a tradition.  It is pretty natural, you are in a family where the music is happening all the time.  Every weekend we used to go to classical music in different places.  Music was a part of our life.  At home my father used to play at all hours.  Learning started right from the beginning.”  In fact he was also exposed regularly to a wide group of other talented musical artists as well.  “I was never aware of the fact that it was going to be my destiny.  It was just going along.  It happened.  It came so naturally it was in my family it was easy.  It becomes destiny itself.”

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“Our family instrument was the sitar.  My father was a sitarist and my brother is also a professor of sitar in the Delhi institute.  It is quite obvious then that the sitar would be my first instrument.”  But eventually he found himself being drawn to the Sarod and his father agreed to it.  “So one day when I was very young he came to me with a Sarod.”  He points to the instrument in his arms now.  “This was a gift from my father.  It is my father’s love gift.  He said okay here it is, it is all yours.  So then I started practicing and I hope I become one with this.” Laughs



He tells me his father was his teacher and though the fingering is different from the sitar he instilled in him the very core and essence of Indian music, the raga.  “It was pretty natural, I had been seeing my father play, I went to the conservatory and my brother was playing.  It was traditional kind of thing happening.”

He describes that even in performing you are not aware of the audience.  “You see them as a part of you and you become one with that.  I have never been scared of people because they are a part of me.  I watched my father play comfortably and my brother playing so comfortably on stage with thousands of people around so I inherited that thing.”



He remembers that his first performance being a very natural experience.  He was around 19 and how then, just as he does now, he simply closed his eyes and got into it.

He tells me that he never set a goal for himself as a musician.  “For music we cannot set a goal.  Especially in terms of classical music.  It is a transcending factor.  Every time you play you are transcending.  It is always a new thing for me.  A new test, a new exam.  Every time I play it is never ending process.”  He also continues to teach classical music in Katmandu.



He describes his move from Delhi to Nepal as an interesting process.  It all began at about the same time that Sri Chinmoy was visiting Katmandu for the first time in December of 1994, though he didn’t actually meet him at that time.  “It was a kind of destiny.”  They actually never met until 5 years later in 1999.  “I was fascinated.” He says that it is only now as he looks back that he can see the grand picture unfolding of his life.  He certainly had no plans originally to move there.  “When you come from Delhi, Nepal is so much smaller.”  Yet it didn’t take very long before it became obvious to him that his spiritual life as well as everything else now needed to be transplanted to another city and in a different country.  “This is how things work.  It is basically destiny.”



He said that his entrance into a spiritual life and having a teacher was a new thing.  “I didn’t know much about it.  I wasn’t looking for a Guru, but once I saw Sri Chinmoy, I felt this big energy.  It was like a magnet.  It attracted me.  So then I tried to learn step by step.   It is like a baby learning to walk.  It was the same way that happened with me.  I didn’t even know the A B C’s about spirituality.  I had heard about it and read about it, but this was different.  Spirituality is a complete yoga.  It has to be learned.  It has to be felt.  It has to be inherited from the master.  It is not easy.”  He describes that for him his spiritual life could not have even begun without his encounter and then his relationship to Sri Chinmoy.

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“It is a journey.  It is pacing me and helping me in my music as well.  To make the music more divine, more Godly, more beyond words.  I play for him.  That is how the music goes on.”



Vijay performs on Sarod:

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“It does not mean that I play, or your heart doesn’t play.  It is all within us playing.  The listener is also playing.  It is a give and take. Who is giving and who is taking?  Nobody knows.  Only the Supreme knows. There is an amazing exchange.  It is beautiful.”



” Music is initially a self motivated art.  The more I please myself the more I please you, and the more deeply I go.  The more deep I go and also the more deeply the listener goes.  Music is a universal language of

“It can transport you to a higher consciousness, in silence.  Silence itself is a soundless sound, and that transports us very easily.  Then we reach a state of silence.  We are from the sound world and we go through to the silence world.  For that we need a vehicle.  It is music that we use as that vehicle.  As transportation to the silence sound of God.”



It was at a concert in 99 that he met his Guru for the first time.  “I really liked his presence.  He was beaming with energy.  He played so many instruments and that really affected me.  He had so many dimensions.  I had never seen anyone like that.  That really attracted me.  So I became close to him and I really liked him.”

At the time he said that both he and his family became disciples that very evening. “There was something happening within me.  He meditated on us, it was very moving.  A very special moment for me.  To become part of his spiritual family.”

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“Guru’s music is a written and composed for the Divine.  The consciousness in Guru’s songs and music is very high.  That transports you to the very highest very easily.”  He is amazed that Sri Chinmoy composed so much music, more than 23,000 songs.  “Even if you sing just a few songs a day it gives you such upliftment in terms of consciousness.”

He remembers how he played for Sri Chinmoy in New York for the first time.  He told me, “very well done.  Very good Vijay, you have played so well, and he gave me a medal.”




“Oneness love is his message.  The whole world is one in peace.  The divine love amongst us is a message.  Even if he is not in the physical, I don’t feel like he is not there.  You may not see him but he is always there to guide us.”

Vijay Sings:

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“My dream is to be always a seeker and always a divine lover of each and every human being through my music.  I love the transcending goal.  I am a seeker of music, I am a student of Sri Chinmoy and I always want to be a student and learn and transcend.  That is my goal.”

Final Performance

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The sound-music tells me
God is Power.
The silence-music tells me
God is Bliss.
The God-music tells me
God is Experience.

Sri Chinmoy, The Wings Of Light, Part 15, Agni Press, 1974



Sharing Happiness

It is a quality that we all cherish and ironically it is perhaps one we yearn and strive for most when it is absent or tenuous in our lives.  Yet when our lives are bountiful with happiness, we simply take it for granted, believing perhaps that this is a the most natural state of being that all humanity was meant to exist at all times in this way.


From time to time Governments have actively sought to enshrine the concept of happiness as a fundamental part of life.  Recognizing that the society we all live within should be able to exist whereby all people can attain and have access to happiness.  Though most certainly most of us have our own unique concept of happiness, there certainly exists some fundamental truths about happiness.  That on a pure and in a fundamental way happiness is never exclusive to the rights of others.  Rather when one person seeks out true happiness we also enable and make it possible for others to have access and find happiness more easily.  That when one person benefits than so do we all.


This quality has been deemed so important and so necessary and fundamental to life, that on June 28, 2012, The United Nations General Assembly declared March 20th of each year as the International Day of Happiness.  Bhikshuni Weisbrot, a staff member of the United Nations Development Programme, and is President of the UNSRC Society of Writers, was inspired to create a unique exhibit at the Queens Museum of Art this past March.  It was a display that was up for several weeks dedicated solely to Happiness.  On the 17th of March a diverse panel of speakers were invited to come and speak about this most significant subject. She was helped by many others in creating this truly wonderful exhibit which she called, ‘Happiness: A Visual Poem.’

At one point Bhikshuni mentions that it was 50 years ago that she was first at this spot, when the World’s Fair was held here in Flushing Meadow.   I ask her how it feels to be back in this same location after such a long time.  Experiencing perhaps in a more direct way what the World’s Fair had set out to do back then.  “It’s funny, but I think it has always been my theme.  I think it has just come to fruition now.”  She recounts a conversation she once had with her mom in which she told her Mom, “I just want to be happy.”

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A Precious Gift

Can I Help You?

While I was running 47 miles, one person came up to me and said, “You do such nice things for people. Sir, can I be of any help to you?”

I said, “Thank you, I do not need any help right now.”

-27 August 1982

Sri Chinmoy, Run And Become, Become And Run, Part 11, Agni Press, 1983

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

This little story was first printed 30 years ago in a collection of running stories.  While Sri Chinmoy was still actively running he wrote dozens of stories about many of the experiences that would take place while he practiced his distance running.  Today there are hardly any recorded comments that he made about his own participation in the 47 mile race.

Yet we know, that not just for him, but for all of us who have participated in this most unique and challenging distance, that running those long hilly 47 miles was a golden opportunity.  That here on this dusty track and broken road one could experience and find something within that no other race could offer or compare.

How is it even possible to describe the sweet secrets that are to be experienced when you commit and offer all that you have, to the dark tranquil beauty of running throughout the night on August 27th, Sri Chinmoy’s birthday.

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

For all those who have done so and now continue on this brave grand path, running the 47 mile race is the most precious of gifts.  One that is offered from within the subtle silent realm of the runner’s own heart. Based not on time or place but simply on the gratitude the runner has for their Spiritual teacher, who even now continues to shape and guide us on our marvelous and mystifying divine journeys.  An offering that cannot be packed or wrapped or explained beyond the simple understanding, that gratitude knows no measure and cannot be explained fully by either thoughts or words.   But if perceived simply as a selfless offering of oneself, then only can it be grasped and appreciated instantly and fully.

This act of running, this gift of body and heart is not without some pain, some of the discomfort of asking more of ourselves than we are used to giving.  But the greatest moments are those with a joy you can only experience when you discover that your gift of offering 47 miles to your teacher is in fact instantly returned to you.  Returned in only the way that Spiritual Masters are able to do for those who have taken their guidance and strength as we forge ahead into the twinkling realm of our own self transcendence.

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World’s Largest Incense Stick

If your life is swimming
In the river of sorrow,
Then burn the incense of your heart
And inundate your entire being
With Eternity’s Light and Infinity’s Delight.

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 81, Agni Press, 1983


Trying to harness inspiration in our lives is one of those most illusive of things.  For most of us it’s appearance is fleeting and ephemeral.  Then when it is confronted by our own stubborn reluctance and lethargy it quite often  slips away, before we can grasp it and allow our beings to be surcharged and renewed.  Ashrita Furman seems unique in that he has for more than 30 years now found himself with inspiration as an almost constant companion.

sri_chinmoy_with_ashritaYet when you are like him, seemingly imbued with an almost continual enthusiasm for self transcendence it is not difficult to see why inspiration calls upon him so often. It is his unfailing appreciation for new opportunities to challenge himself, along with a deep inner aspiration for spirituality that has shaped and molded his life in ways, that this once upon a time skinny teenager from Queens never probably dreamed was possible.  Yet even when he was young there were unmistakable hints that his future would eventually lead him towards some pretty spectacular achievements.

“As a kid I was always interested in the Guinness book of records. I never thought I would get in them because I wasn’t very athletic, and I was not even interested in sports.  Then I started meditating with Sri Chinmoy, and his philosophy is that we have to use every aspect of our being to try and get closer to God.  So I stated doing sports and I found, that using different meditation techniques that I could actually break records.  As I broke more and more it became more exciting for me.  I found greater and greater challenges, and I found that really there are no limits.  That if we go deep within and find that inner strength, calm our minds, feel our hearts, then we can do anything.”  Currently Ashrita is closing in on 500 world records since he started in 1979.

Record for 2012

Record for 2012

He has for more than 3 decades now been continually exploring all the eclectic realms of possibility within the Guinness record book.  Achievements that all are as diverse as they are difficult to better.  At the same time his unfettered imagination allows him to create totally original records that Guinness seems happy to accept in order to continually widen the realm of possibility for other wannabe record holders.

ashritaHe says that it is we who set barriers for ourselves, usually within our own minds.  Over the past few Augusts, in honor of his Spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy’s birthday on the 27th of month, he has attempted much different kinds of records.  Usually the building of incredibly large things.  Last year he and a team created the world’s largest tennis racket.  But all these big things require the assistance of quite often a large and diverse group utilizing many different skills and talents to order to make it all come together.

This year he is attempting to build the world’s largest incense stick.  One that he says, “is more for joy, for fun.  It is really fun working with a team.  Because usually when you find these obstacles, and we had many obstacles building this incense stick.”

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