72,000 Burning Candles: A Celebration and A New Guinness World Record

In was in 2005 when Ashrita first came up with the idea of setting a new Guinness world record in order to celebrate Sri Chinmoy’s 74th birthday.   At the time it seemed like an impossibly difficult if not dangerous thing to do.

All of the above of course were true but in the end it turned out to be an amazing and inspiring success.

Of course great records can never last for ever and a few years later Ashrita assembled another large team in order to try and take back the record this time with 48,000 candles.

Fast forward 11 years and once again the record is broken and the goal is to break the new record of 50,000 burning candles

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“It was very exciting all the candles merged into one single huge flame.  It was very exciting.”

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World’s Largest Tennis Ball Mosaic….Love And Serve

It was big, it was colorful, and it was a fitting tribute to Sri Chinmoy, who so loved playing tennis.   The gigantic tennis ball mosaic, made from 10,084 balls, was of course much much more than record breaking.  It was a true piece of art, it was a collaboration, it was a soulful offering, and if nothing else it was good old fashioned fun.  All those who witnessed its brief display, or took part in the many hours of its construction will have their own list of enthusiastic adjectives.

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The creation of the tennis ball mosaic started off weeks earlier as an inspiration managed by Ashrita, who happens to have something like a devoted affection for setting new Guinness book records. Doing a spectacular new record on Sri Chinmoy’s birthday is a tradition that he has been orchestrating now for more than 10 years.

Many, almost impossibly huge things have been hammered, glued, set afire, poured, and blended together each August 27th.  Each one is a fantastic project requiring lots of effort  but at the same time each new Guinness record is uniquely conceived out of an artful blend of vision, whimsy, love, and devotion.

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This August 27th would have been Sri Chinmoy’s 84th birthday and for ideas and inspiration Ashrita consulted with Papaha.  That both loved tennis and each had had the opportunity to actually play tennis with Sri Chinmoy may have played a not small part in coming up with the idea. That the completed piece would than be displayed on the very ground that Sri Chinmoy had played so many games was also no coincidence.

Playing Databir

Playing Databir

The spiritual message of tennis:
Love, serve
And finally surrender
To the Supreme in the winner.
The loser who cheerfully
surrenders
To the Supreme in the winner
Becomes himself a real winner
In the inner world.

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World’s Largest Flower Garland…The Amazing Things You Can Do When You Are In Your Heart

“We are trying to break the record for the world’s largest flower garland.  So we have 185,000 stems of carnations freshly arrived from Colombia.” …. Pavaka

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The sun has just started to brighten up the large playing field in Queens.  Many hours earlier around 5 am Pavaka, had gone and picked up the huge mountain of boxes from a warehouse. Now that the boxes, filled with cool carnation flowers are stacked by the gate.   The real job of breaking the Guinness record has just begun.

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It is not something that Ashrita has not attempted before.  Being the man with the most Guinness records period he continually scours the book looking for new challenges.  But this record is uniquely special.  Tomorrow would have been Sri Chinmoy’s, his spiritual Masters 83rd birthday.

So he, along with the help of Pavaka, and gradually increasing crowd of fellow student disciples are attempting to do something which is not just record breaking but really awe inspiring.  It will take a lot of work, it will not be easy, and as the day progresses it gets hotter all the time.

beginning

Pavaka says, “we had gotten the record 2 years ago.  I think it was 2 and 1/4 miles I think, and that was since broken.  So now we are trying to get it back.  I believe it was broken in India.”

Photo by Jowan

Photo by Jowan Old Record

“The 185,000 flowers is what we calculated would give us a 5 mile long garland.  Which would really break the record.”  Pavaka explains that the flower tops will be cut off of each stem and then a slim wire is inserted through a section of tightly bunched flowers.  This in turn is connected to another section, and so on.  This will continue until all the flowers are looped around the perimeter of the field.  “So it is not like it is 5 miles of a single strand.  There is a wire going through the whole thing.  We are going to assemble it in 3 foot segments.”

Pavaka actually works in the flower import business and he tells me he is familiar with the very farm in Colombia where the flowers were grown.  He told them that he wanted flowers for a special project.  “So they sent us very short carnations, at a very good price.  Those flowers flew from Colombia last Monday to Miami.  A week ago they were cut.”  He says that the short stems meant the flowers were less expensive to ship and also that only the blossoms will be used.

“Carnations are one of the hardiest flowers out there.”

 

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I ask him, as one who works all the time in the flower business what he enjoys about this project.  “I am personally doing this as a volunteer.  It is quite a unique project and everyone working in the chain of it was quite interested in what we were doing.” There is also, to add to the pressure, a time limit on how long the project can take.  Pavaka says they have use of the field only until 1pm.  Now just 6 hours away.

He says he will stay no matter how long it takes.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

 

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“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.”

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“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.”

Interview

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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

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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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Day Three: Listening To His Own Heart

With so many nationalities represented and so many different languages spoken, sometimes communication can be a little awkward at the Self Transcendence race in Flushing Meadow.  But when you strip away the runners origins, eliminate personal habits, and simply just forget all the little idiosyncrasies that make up our fragile humanity something very powerful and genuine remains. It is of course the heart.  It beats in the core of each runner and is the true engine that powers each and every one who runs here.

Some arrive so naturally gifted that when they run you might think you are seeing some ephemeral mirage.  Yet within the super talented, if their heart and will is not strong,  you will sense pretty quickly, as you watch them run that something is missing.  It is perhaps what we all seek as well, that spark of indomitable life force.  When we see it in others it can ignite our imagination and inspire us, as we see it burning within them.

In others as well, you sometimes find such incredible determination and energy that their bodies can barely contain it.  Yet, despite this great capacity, the physical can only give so much.  The body not really capable of harnessing this phenomenal life force.

When you watch Yuri Trostenyuk, 47, Vinnitsa, Ukraine, you cannot help but notice that rare combination, of both a strong body and a superbly strong will.  A fellow Ukrainian admiringly describes him as the epitome of the Ukrainian spirit.  For him this is a resilient toughness, that simply never ever gives up.

There is nothing pretty about his running style, but it doesn’t take to long to appreciate that he has an efficient and economical stride, as much as anyone on the course.  He simply looks as though he is built to run, not at high speed, but simply to keep going and going forever.  This is the 5th time he has come, last year he won the race and set a personal best of 693 miles.  Currently, after 48 hours on the course he is leading with 189 miles.

I was able to run with him today accompanied by a translator.  He tells me that he loves the race because it gives him a special experience that he can get in no other way.  I wonder why he would pick such a difficult task like running 10 days to achieve this.  He laughs and tells me that the goal may be hard to find, but when you at last reach it you see that it was worth all the effort.

He tells me that his first race here was very difficult for him.  Yet despite this it was so fulfilling that he wanted to come back as often as he could, and do it again and again.  He compares each new race here as if they were individual lifetimes.  Each one evolving in its own way and hopefully reaching new heights with each attempt.

Even though he is leading the race at this moment Vladamir is just a few miles behind.  I ask him if he feels any pressure from those who are so close behind.  He tells me that the God that lives in his heart inspires him to do this, and so presumably he does not listen to the footsteps following so closely behind.  Instead he just listens to his own heart.

There is one, not so secret inspiration he has that he hopes one day to fulfill, and that is participate in the longest race in the world, the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race.  His message to all runners is simply to never stop.  Never be discouraged by problems, or when things get difficult, there is a sun in front of them.

click to play interview (English/Russian)

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Reaching New Heights

In many ways it is a typical Queens backyard.    There is a nice Cherry tree in the back corner and a chain link fence by the street that keeps the rambling expanse of green secluded and private.  For 50 weeks of the year you wouldn’t pay much notice to it at all.  It is in those 2 special weeks in late August however that for the past few years it has become a place of playful wonder and amazement.

Car drivers zipping past are probably unaware of what takes place just yards from the street.  The gaze of pedestrians making their meandering way up the sidewalk however must certainly be drawn in befuddlement at the unique creations that begin to appear there just over the fence during the steamy heart of every late summer.

It all seems to all happen in a brief yet explosive burst of activity.  One moment there will be piles of lumber, great mounds of bagged sugar, or enough popcorn to feed several circus crowds many times over.  The whys and wherefores of this puzzle are easily understood when you learn that the man behind the unusual goings on is Ashrita Furman.  He is a human tsunami wave of energy and enthusiasm.   It is he who is the creator and breaker of the most Guinness book records ever and is the instigator of the unusual constructions that appear across the wide expanse of rugged green lawn.

It has happened for many years now that Ashrita and a crew of fellow disciples have engineered and manufactured world record marvels in order to honor their spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.  Since his passing in 2007 the tradition has continued.  Last year a giant edible  lollipop was constructed.  This year Ashrita decided upon building the worlds largest see saw.  Don’t ask me why, and came up with the dimensions of 79 feet long to match what would have been Sri Chinmoy’s age on his birthday August 27th.

Yuyudhan is this years job foreman and when I come upon him first he was in the early stages of trying to put together this typical playground apparatus, but of the almost impossible dimensions.  His good humored reply as to how he got involved, “trickery.  We have got 2/3rds of a teeter totter going here, or what some in England would call a see saw.”

It is still fairly early in the building stage and it appears that there are few, if any glitches that are likely to slow the inevitable progress of its construction in time for its final installation on the 27th.  For now Yuyudhan and his crew are trying to just get the object assembled and see if it is going to work.

At this point in its construction he says, “we are just trying to get things going.  We are now assembling 2 of the 3 main pieces of the see saw.” He then admits that some wrong bolts where purchased which will have to be replaced.  Only a small inconvenience.

He has been working for almost a week at this point and it becomes clear that there has been a real collaboration on its design.  In some mysterious way, a crew seems to come together almost spontaneously, of the right capacity and number, at just the right time each year as well.  He says that Bishwas was principally responsible for designing the stand and that he did much of the structural fine tuning of the see saw portion.

When asked  where the ‘trickery’ came in with his involvement he says, “I was supposed to build it, and not get into the design and all that.”  Clearly though he is relishing his involvement in constructing the world’s biggest see saw.  As simple as it appears it takes real skill to super size such a simple device.  He came up with some important ideas that would allow the see saw to achieve its great length with a minimal amount of weight.

He goes into some technical discussion on how and why he chose certain materials.  At this point it looks close to being operational but he says that is still a day away.  It will take at least 12 guys to pick up the see saw and put it in place on the stand.  This will happen in the next 24 hours he says.

The almost constant rain has been a major factor in slowing down the early production.  At this point he has August from Iceland and Keith from New Zealand as his crew.  He says, “It is not that hard for one or two people to put most of it together.  The problem is that once you get the sections together one or two people cannot lift this thing.”

He describes how the pivot in the middle will be 10 feet high and that the rider on the end of it will rise up 20 feet.  With all the trees in the yard I wonder how it is even possible to adequately test the see saw.  “It will fit,” he states categorically.  He also has been designated as one who will have the dubious distinction of being the first test pilot, I mean rider. He is convinced all will go well.  “It is going to be a great teeter totter and a record breaker.”

Yuyudhan interview

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The Sweetest Item We Could Think Of

ashrita and small one 2It has to be one of the humblest of all confections.  The lollipop is simply a small piece of hard flavored candy on top of a stick.  With absolutely no nutritional value.  Its sole purpose is to offer a modest measure of sweet joy to the consumer and perhaps allow them some brief time to enjoy its diminishing glistening sweetness in their hand as it is slowly licked into oblivion.

For Guinness champion Ashrita Furman, who has often taken on simple child like pleasures and escalated them into herculean accomplishments the task of constructing the world’s biggest lollipop seemed like a worthy challenge.

On the anniversary of his spiritual teacher’s birthday he has often turned to creating extraordinary sweet treats to honor him.  In what would have been  Sri Chinmoy’s 77th birthday last August 27th he and a large group of students created a birthday cake with 47,000 lighted candles.

http://heartlotus.blogspot.com/2008/10/lighting-up-world.html


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