July 15: Tree Of Life

We don’t know for sure when it pushed forth its first deep red buds.  When it unfurled its first handful of leaves and felt the sun beckoning it to reach and grow up high and full into the sky.  No one has yet to decipher an exact date of when a tree, or in fact nearly all of the other glorious and mighty gifts that nature creates around and about us are born.

We can speculate however that some time in the early 1970’s a tiny spindly Japanese Maple sapling was first placed into a pot in a nursery somewhere in Connecticut.  With who knows how many other small trees all around, it first felt life within its roots, stem, and branches.  For most certainly it was just one amongst so many, all neatly lined up in long straight rows that stretched out across a field.

tree2

For some years it grew there, slowly getting stronger and developing its own unique shape and look.  One that was just a little different from all the rest. Each year gathering more strength from the earth and the sun and perhaps ever so gradually gathering some small sense of where it would one day eventually grow.  But we cannot truly speculate or divine that a tree sees or knows such things.  But for this Japanese maple a destiny was surely calling it.  The course of time would one day prove this to be true.

Then one day when it was mature enough to go out on its own, a gardener came by and selected it alone amongst all the rest.  All the little maples would most certainly find places to live and grow.  Whether in front yards or in gardens and even beside busy city streets for miles around. This maple though made its way to Queens and there in a small brief ceremony it was planted in this spot on Saturday October the 11th, 1975. Which is now a date for many of us, that brims with so many other thoughts and memories.

atmavir-tree

Sri Chinmoy himself planted the tree that day.  If you look ever so closely at the picture you can just make out a little paper sign that reads, ‘In Honor of Sri Chinmoy’s 100,000 Jharna Kala paintings. An achievement that had actually taken place earlier on the 3rd of the month.  A celebration took place as well inside the school immediately afterwards to mark this moment in Sri Chinmoy’s painting life.  One that would eventually includes not just thousands but millions of paintings of all sorts.

It should also be noted that the very first public Sri Chinmoy race took place, a 7 miler, a few weeks earlier on September 28th in Stamford.

No plague marks this tree now to tell this story.  Just the same it has grown stronger and more beautiful each year now for the past 38.  It has been a silent witness to countless events, both great and small, some sad no doubt and hopefully many more that were joyous and wonderful.

At least we know that for the past 17 summers it has been a bright sentinel on guard in front of the school as the 3100 mile race passed back and forth on the sidewalk so close by.  Catching the gaze at least briefly of the runners as they pass.  Some might know at least a little of its history and others perhaps not.  But most will tell you that if they do look its way they will feel at least from time to time a small inner thrill as they drink in its beauty. Not caring to know or wonder just why it is so, but catching its inspiration just the same.

tree2 copy

We do not know now what Sri Chinmoy said that day as he placed his hands upon its leaves and offered it his own unique sweet blessing.  His life was filled beyond reckoning with so many wondrous things.  Most still reaching out and inspiring the world around it.  This Japanese maple now so much more grand and beautiful continues to inspire those who pass it by.  Whether it be the students and teachers trudging back and forth to school  or the 12 runners who circle around and around it again and again, each and every day.

The tree of life can never be separated from the tree of love. The tree of love can never be separated from the tree of realisation. The tree of realisation can never be separated from the tree of transcendental perfection.

Sri Chinmoy, Arise! Awake! Thoughts Of A Yogi, Agni Press, 1972

Guru-Oct.11,1975

Photo by Bhashwar October 11 1975

 The morning starts and it is still pleasant

pre-camp

Water is poured and drunk early and non stop all day.

pre-water

The ladies getting ready.

pre-girls

Start

start

The first hour at least the running is not so bad

flower3The heat will soon become relentless

sarvagata-behind

The clouds quickly burn away

wide-ananda-lahari

Yuri has seemed to find a method to now endure this sun, this heat, and this humidity.  He ran 112 laps yesterday.

yuri3

Little pieces of inspiration here and there along the way

tree-poem

Vasu holding on and reading the prayer of the day.  He did 117 laps.

vasu4

Sopan passing by the Japanese Maple. He did 105 laps yesterday but struggles with his blisters.

sopan-tree

He has a concoction he hopes will make things better.

sopan-powder

He is still very much in the race.

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Nidhruvi is really showing her strength here.

nidhruvi-behind

113 laps yesterday the most of all the girls.

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Nidhruvi and Surasa linked in so many ways.

wide-nidhruvi-and-surasa

Surasa’s real strength an awesome thing.

surasa4

She did 112 laps and makes it look so easy.

surasa

Sarah always determined to go on.

saarah4

Strength comes in so many shapes and sizes

baladev-and-parvati

Baladev had a good day for him of 103 laps.

baladev3

Just behind this flower are his shoes

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And then behind the bouncing ball is Atmavir who had 114 laps yesterday in the heat he so much does not like.

atmavir

Sarvagata may have returned to the shocking and wonderful days of old.

wide-sarvagata

The days when nothing seems be in his way.

sarvagataYesterday he ran more laps than anyone else.  A very incredible 124.

sarvagata6

For Pranjal it is another ring out your t shirt regularly day. He still managed 114 laps,

pranjal-shirt

It is because you are never dry that rashes come and irritation of all kinds adds to the runners torment.  Something that somehow Pranjal is able to endure.

pranjal3

No barriers to beauty.

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No reason not to have peace and joy like Ananda-Lahari

ananda-lahaari

But stay on the right side of the fence.

baladev-fencer

Food has arrived so carefully prepared and packed.

lunch

The camp crew keeps busy.  Jagadhata making lists of things to buy.

jagadhata

The camp an always busy place.

flower

He says he has narrowed down his hat options to 2.  “I like this one and that one.” He has one that looks like a lampshade and he says that people are making fun of it though he likes it.  “It is good to have some joy.”

He adds that everybody has made a comment about that particular hat and that it is getting to be a little boring.  “At some point after 5 days it is not funny for me any more but it is a great hat.”

Just a little while earlier he crossed the 2,000 mile mark.  He joked when he crossed the half way mark he celebrated with half a cup of water.  This time I notice he picks up 2 full cups.

ashprhanal2

Sound of 2,000 miles

2000miles

It is the 12th time he has done this thing in this race.  Without overstatement he says, “12 times so that is pretty good.  Today I have got two thirds done.  Now there is one third to go.  Tomorrow I will have less than 1,000 to go.  The really nice thing is when you reach under 700 miles to go.  Then you know if I am close to doing 70 miles a day then it is like 9 days more.  Than 8 days, then 7 days, you can kind of feel the days.  That is kind of nice.”

“I am looking forward to doing some mountain climbing and rock climbing.  I would like to climb a few nice mountains.  That is like my other goal.  One goal is to run these races and the other is to climb some Sri Chinmoy Peace Blossom mountains.  I would like some change.  12 years is a lot of one block.  But I still love it.”

ashprihanal-2-cups

“The thing is that here you make so much progress.  It is a struggle but it is good. But still nowadays I feel like I need some change.  It will be interesting to see a what point I run this not as a race.  More like an inner journey.  It is moving towards that for me I feel already.”

“In the beginning it was, what’s going on, it was definitely like a race.  Now that I have run it so many times it has changed a little bit.  Like now I don’t get psyched up easily or anything.  I don’t know if it is good or bad.” (laughs)

“Who knows what is good or bad but now I no longer have to win, this kind of thing.  Everything is good.”

We then run into a very large pack of kids who fill the sidewalk.  He veers out onto the road to avoid the congestion.

ashprihanal-and-kids

“I have been dreaming about the Peace Blossom mountains.  I want to do manifestation.  I like adventures, all my life I have liked adventures.” He then porceed to list many of the things he has done.  “I like adventures but this block is becoming familiar adventure.  But Sri Chinmoy really liked this race and he used to come here 3 times a day.  It is a great place to make progress.”  He lists all the adversaries he has to deal with while here.  Then he says, “Just keep going always.”

ashprihanal3

ashprihanala

From life comes forth more life.

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Prayer of the day

prayer

Read by Kaneenika

Prayer

Enthusiasm Awakeners

parvati

parvati

A single breathless act of surrender
Has granted him
A beautiful dream-tree,
A soulful truth-tree
And a fruitful love-tree.

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 4, Agni Press, 1983

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3 Comments to “July 15: Tree Of Life”

  1. uddipan says:

    Dear Utpal, I have been reading your coverage of this race for years. Almost as compelling as your peerless commentaries on the challenges these runners face is the challenge that faces you, every day, every year: What to write about within this seemingly tiny restrictive framework of a half mile city block? As we know, Sri Chinmoy placed great value upon simplicity, not just as a quality, but as a goal. To me you both embody this quality and move ever closer towards it through this blog.

    What have been the changes over the years? Well for starters there are now more pictures and less words. Now we get to experience marvelous occasions that carry a far more subtle link to the race, for example your opening to today’s chapter. I knew nothing about that tree, but now I look forward to making its aquaintance very soon this August. Bhashwar’s riveting black and white photos and your narrative bring substance to the legend of our Golden Age and for this every day I feel truly blessed and hungry for more, always more.

    In Gratitude, Uddipan

  2. Francesco says:

    Thank you Utpal!

  3. Kuladhara says:

    Wow! I have been visiting the place for over twenty years and did not know anything about that tree. Thanks a lot!

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