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.


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.


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
To the Supreme in the winner
Becomes himself a real winner
In the inner world.

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My Heart’s Perfection-Flame

Photo by Bhashwar

I play tennis every day
To join my Lord’s Vision-Play.
I am the surrender-ball:
All joy in a body small.
Tennis, tennis, tennis game,
My heart’s perfection-flame.

Sri Chinmoy, I Play Tennis Every Day, Agni Press, 1994.

“Guru loved tennis.  Guru gave us a lot of joy when he played tennis, and he got a lot of joy playing tennis.  So we thought by making the worlds largest tennis racket we would give other people joy.”   This conversation with Ashrita, took place a little more than 5 days before what would have been Sri Chinmoys 81st birthday on August 27th.  Around and about him a crew of boys is busily shaping rather ordinary bits of lumber into something quite unbelievable.  Though it really doesn’t look like it now, in a short time it will somehow all come together making a world record 50 foot long tennis racket.

For several years now Sri Chinmoy’s birthday has been an inspiration for Ashrita and others to create something extraordinary in honor of their late Spiritual teacher.

Last year Ashrita organized the world’s largest floral garland which extended around Flushing Meadow.  This year he decided that building a 50 foot long tennis racket, “was as big as we could do.”

When asked whether or not the Guinness record people ever get amazed at these ideas for new records he says no.  “They have seen it ALLL.  They are serious about it.   They just want to see that it has been done properly.  They gave us permission to use a wooden racket as the model.  That was the conditions.  It has to be made completely to scale, and of the same exact materials.”

“It is a huge challenge but it is going to be amazing when it is done.”  At different times of the process the crew size has varied but by late afternoon everything stops.   The team has been careful about not working into the night and disturbing the neighbors.”

Photo by Prashphutita

Back in the 80’s Sri Chinmoy played tennis for hours every day, with quite a few of his students who were good tennis players.  Ashrita was one of those and I asked him why Sri Chinmoy enjoyed playing tennis so much.  “He loved it.  He was an athlete, and I think he just loved to move.  He made progress.  He got better and better, until his knees started getting bad.  I think it was also a way for him to relate to people on a human level.”

He says that it also gave joy to people who were also there to watch. “It was a way for him to show his love and concern and affection for people, and he loved the exercise.”

He says that whenever he played Sri Chinmoy he never had much time to think about the experience.   “You were just constantly running from side to side and front to back.  There was no thought.  You were just in the moment and trying to get the ball back.”

At this moment with the time remaining there seems like an almost insurmountable amount of work yet to be done but Ashrita says.  “Somehow it will get done.  The big work is done.  Now you might say is just the finishing touches, although there is quite a bit of finishing touches.  I think we are there.  When it is done it is fun, when it is finished.  The actual process is rewarding and it feels good.”

Ashrita interview


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