10. At the Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile

In 1989 a one-mile loop around the spacious acres of the Auckland Domain was dedicated as a Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile, and our city mayor, parks authorities and various Olympians and notables came to welcome Guru. The brass band from a local girls’ school had also been invited to add a little colour to the occasion – unwisely, as it turned out – and they belted out a series of strangely incongruous Christmas carols, months away from Christmas and all hugely out of tune. At every apparent lull in the proceedings they would start up again, as though responding to some invisible cue – we often had to wave our arms at them to stop! As well, one zealous player always ended her efforts with a loud protesting blast on the trombone as if someone had trodden heavily on her toes. The intensity of Guru’s presence was mixed with a comical element, as though two different worlds had confusingly come together – though Guru himself was hugely relaxed, seeming to enjoy this strange mélange.

Subarata had also invited a clown, another bizarre yet somehow rather endearing oddity, and in all the video footage of this great occasion, there he is in his multi-coloured striped trousers and oversized red shoes, juggling happily or cheek-and-jowl with the mayor or waving at the camera. All of this created an air of informality, a light and spontaneous touch in which Guru himself was complicit. Guru walked and jogged around our newly dedicated Peace-Blossoms mile and organized a spontaneous series of races for the disciples and others present. The mayor demurred, excusing herself from athleticism by pointing to her high-heeled shoes.

I had almost completely lost my voice – the tax from sleepless nights and stress – and my opening remarks on this wonderful occasion, little more than a few inaudible, whispered croakings, rivaled the brass band’s curious contribution. I invited Guru to speak and he took the microphone as though to do so – then he simply meditated for quite a long time.

The power and unexpectedness of Guru’s long silence, his calm disregard for convention, his absolute spiritual authority and composure and the sudden surprise of his meditation swept everything else away and restored the occasion to what it was meant to be, something momentous and deep and lovely – for a great Master had just passed through our little world. Later Guru said, “My silence is my highest offering.”