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Janaka receives the Order of the Rising Sun
This year, Janaka Alan Spence from the Edinburgh Sri Chinmoy Centre received the Order of the Rising Sun, an honour bestowed by the Japanese government in the name of the Emperor. Janaka, who is one of Scotland’s best-loved poets and authors, received the award for his books of haiku poetry and his novels set in Japan, and for promoting Scottish-Japanese friendship and cultural exchange over many years.
Created in 1875, the Order of the Rising Sun is Japan’s third highest honour, and is (with rare exceptions) the highest that can be given to non-royalty or non-politicians. The award was presented by the Japanese Consul-General, Daisuke Matsunaga, in a special ceremony at his residence in Edinburgh.
Janaka published his first book - a collection of short stories called Its colours they are fine - over 40 years ago. His first book of poetry, Glasgow Zen, was published in 1990, and was followed by The Clear Light and Seasons of the Heart.
I sit inside
the compassionate Buddha
who sits inside
this world of things
which sits inside
which sits inside
the great void
which sits inside
from 'Glasgow Zen'
where last week
the snow lay thick
into the sea I launch
a piece of driftwood –
with great ceremony!
smell of fresh
the flowering plant nods
Haiku poems from 'Seasons of the Heart'
Janaka has also written two novels set in Japan and inspired by Japanese historical events. The first novel, The Pure Land, was published in 2006. Night Boat was published in 2014 and retells the life of the Japanese Zen monk Hakuin.
The presentation ceremony was attended by a few dignitaries and friends from the arts, along with friends from the Sri Chinmoy Centre. Janaka sang one of the many songs that Sri Chinmoy wrote in honour of Japan, in both English and in Japanese:
By way of thanks, Janaka later sent this poem by Sri Chinmoy to the Consul-General:
A RISING INNER SUN
If you love knowledge-light
And if you love and need
Then every day,
Just for a few fleeting seconds,
Dive deep within.
You are bound to see
A rising inner sun
With ever-increasing golden rays.
Related articles and videos by Janaka:
Writing & Poetry
Many of Sri Chinmoy's students have been inspired to write prose and poetry. In this section you can find a selection of poetry and prose by Sumangali and Manatita.Spiritual Poetry — by Manatita — last modified 2006-08-26 10:19 AM An article on spiritual poetry by Manatita manatita_img — by admin — last modified 2006-08-26 10:19 AM Poems about Forgiveness — by Suswara Payne — last modified 2006-08-26 10:19 AM
Three containers in 3 months!
The UK division of the Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles pulled together recently, managing to collect and organise the shipment of three containers of humanitarian aid in just 3 months!
The UK division of the Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles (a worldwide humanitarian organisation run by members of the Sri Chinmoy Centres in 135 countries) pulled together recently, managing to collect and organise the shipment of three containers of humanitarian aid in just 3 months!
In May, a container based on medical supplies and hospital equipment was sent to remote Guinea-Bissau in West Africa – one of the poorest countries in the world. A Portuguese colony since the 15th Century, Guinea-Bissau gained independence in 1974, but civil war has kept this small country's 1.3 million people in a state of poverty and turmoil for many years. Even its main hospital is seriously lacking medical resources.
In June, over 125 used bicycles were collected, repaired and distributed to impoverished children in Northern South Africa. For children that live in rural Africa, a bicycle can be life-changing, helping them get to the nearest school, which otherwise may be impossible.
Finally, at the end of July a third container with milk powder, soya drinks and kitchen utensils was assigned to homeless children living in the squatter settlements near Cape Town. Around one million people live in this area, often in makeshift housing. Many of the children here are malnourished and these provisions will provide them with much needed protein and other essential nutrients.
This shipment also contained boxes of toys, along with several hundred dolls that were part of a special worldwide Doll Project. For this assignment, groups and interested individuals were encouraged to make dolls for these children. In response, handmade dolls flooded in from many countries including France, Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Ukraine and Mongolia.
Pens, pencils and notebooks were also included in each of the three shipments. Unfortunately, many schoolchildren in underprivileged countries do not have access to these basic items.
The Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles does not endeavour to raise money via public appeal; it draws upon the goodwill and support of companies, hospitals, corporations, community groups and the general public to provide the materials and aid needed for its various international initiatives.
Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles in UK
Pictures of our humantiarian aid work
Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles website
Temple-Song-Hearts Tour Europe
After a ten year gap, Temple-Song-Hearts tour Serbia, Macedonia & Bulgaria to great success!
Ten years is a long gap between tours but that’s what it had been since our last concert tour, so we were excited and a bit apprehensive as we made our separate ways from 4 countries to Belgrade. I was very happy to be returning to Serbia and Macedonia as we’d had lovely experiences there years ago, I was also curious to see how much things had changed.
February probably wouldn’t have been the month of choice to visit Serbia, confirmed by the pilot announcing, as we readied for take off, the temperature in Belgrade to be -10C! But it was gloriously sunny when we landed and the frosty temperature rose steadily during our stay.
It was great to be back in Belgrade, we were royally looked after by the ever generous Belgrade disciples, fed to bursting point and given the space to practise the day before our first concert. It was an intense day, starting with a TV interview at 9am followed by hours of practising (so necessary as we all live in different countries and only meet up a few times a year) and then the concert.
Unfortunately our visit coincided with some political unrest and there was a degree of tension on the streets (though none of ever felt remotely unsafe) so the audience numbers weren’t as high as had been hoped for, but none of that mattered, the people who came seemed to really appreciate the music and identified with the abundant peace that Sri Chinmoy’s songs embody. We loved being back on stage and singing our hearts out.
After the concert it was off to Sladja’s new restaurant, a great little place in the heart of the city, for a delicious supper of rice and dal. We were all so impressed with the way she had put the place together and wish her great success, people are bound to love the food, it was very yummy!
The following day we were due to perform in Novi Sad but there had been a devastating fire in a local club and 7 people had perished, so the city announced a three day morning period and our concert was cancelled. As sad as this was for us we were touched by a community spirit so strong that it collectively mourned the loss of its citizens. We thought this meant a night without a concert but we underestimated the Serbs! Within less than 24 hours, they arranged a substitute concert in the beautiful city of Subotica and managed to find a small audience too! The concert was probably my favourite of the tour as we really felt the audience entering into the music and it seemed everyone was meditating, the feedback from the audience was so peaceful and they made it very easy to perform.
Next we were off to Nish where the concert was in a puppet theatre. It was great, all these amazing puppets in the wings and a very atmospheric hall. Then it was off to the Bulgarian border and a concert in Sofia, everything went smoothly – and we fought through the endless Sofia traffic to a big concert hall with a lovely grand piano. It’s so great when we have a real piano to perform with rather than a synthesizer pretending to be a piano!
The concert went very well, 200 people came, and we only wished we could have spent more time with our Bulgarian friends, but the next morning we had to be across the border once more, into Macedonia, and at a TV station in Skopje for 8.30 am. No joke considering the drive is a good three and half hours and you have to add on time for the border crossing.
After a inhospitable starting time and a very scary drive down the mountains after the border, we screeched up to the TV station just after 8.30, were rushed straight onto stage and promptly interviewed by a charming lady with impeccable English. Then we were treated to a full spread breakfast at a little hotel owned by a member of the Skopje centre. It was a beautiful place with a touch of old England in the decor, very comforting and perfect after a 4am start!
The concert that night was in a proper concert hall and Eshana, our pianist, was over the moon to find she’d be playing a Steinway - talk about being spoiled on our last concert! The hall held 500 and demand for seats had been so great that we were asked to give two concerts, one at 8 and one at 10pm! It was a great finish to the tour, the hall was amazing to sing in and the audience was full for the first concert and fairly full for the second.
Come midnight we could barely stand but were very happy; to sing Sri Chinmoy’s songs is rewarding in itself but to sing your heart out and share the music with an audience brings something extra alive in the songs. I left the hall that night so grateful for the experiences we’d had over the week, each concert had been different, rewarding in unique ways, we had been in the countries we love so much, and we’d experienced the great hearts of Serbia, Macedonia and Bulgaria once again.
Driving back over the border the next day (to Sofia airport) we had time to appreciate the great beauty of the region. Our tour had been quite different to the ones we remembered 10 years ago but the satisfying feeling at the end was the same, and maybe more precious after such a long break.
So now I’m busy dreaming of the next tour!
The Singer of the Eternal Beyond
Performed at Barons Court Theatre and The Questors in London, Bristol, Ottawa, Toronto, Graz, Vienna and New York.
This was the first play performed in a theatre by Immortality's Flame Waves. It follows the story of the Mahabharata, another ancient Indian epic, and portrays the relationship between Krishna, the fully enlightened being, and Arjuna, his disciple. Krishna convinces Arjuna to fight against the Kaurava's, his own cousins, to liberate the kingdom from their rule and save Dharma. We hear Krishna's illuminating conversations with Arjuna as he explains the inevitability of the Kaurava's defeat, and the divine purpose behind the war. He tells Arjuna that although the body dies, the soul, man's true essence, is indestructible and immortal.
Pictures from The Singer of the Eternal Beyond
View the script of the play.
Concert in the Cave
Music Group Ananda play in Rydal Cave in the Lake District.
The instrumental group Ananda gave a concert on Sunday 4 July 2004 in a unique location: a large cave half way up a hill in the beautiful Lake District of England. Rydal Cave is a well-known local beauty spot and often gets visited by the many hikers in the area. The cave is a little dark at the back, so many candles were lit and placed on rocks all around the cave. Some were placed in the pools of water that are inside the cave. It looked very beautiful.
However, what was even more fantastic for me (as a singer) was the acoustics in the cave. You can sing, even quietly, at the back of the cave and it can still be heard at the entrance. There is so much natural reverb! When I listed to someone singing there it really reminded me of monastic chanting in a cathedral, where the sound just carries and carries...
There are a few practical problems to playing in a cave. For a start, we had to carry all the instruments about half a mile up a hill to get there. It rains quite a lot in the Lake District, and although we were blessed by sunshine at the time of the concert, previously there had been a lot of rain and there were quite a few drips coming from the roof of the cave. Apart from getting everyone a little wet, it makes a really nice background noise.
To see more pictures click here.
To listen to Ananda on Radio Sri Chinmoy click here
Jharna Kala exhibition — Sri Chinmoy Centre
An exhibition of Sri Chinmoy's Jharna Kala artwork at the Nehru Centre in London
Sri Chinmoy Rose
Sri Chinmoy Rose, inaugurated in 2004. A beautiful golden yellow with tinges of pink on the fringes of the petals.
With Sri Chinmoy's permission, a new strain of rose has been named after him. Fittingly, the Sri Chinmoy rose has a beautiful golden flower.
Sri Chinmoy described this as a Scottish Blossom Fragrance.
The first bush was planted at the Hidden Gardens in Glasgow, at a Joy Day in June 2004. The intention is to plant 40 roses in significant parks and gardens throughout Scotland to mark Sri Chinmoy's 40 years of dedicated service.
Sri Chinmoy Rose outside Edinburgh Sri Chinmoy Centre.
Sri Chinmoy has declared, "The significance of the rose in the inner world is most important. The rose, like other flowers, has fragrance and beauty, but it also has something special, unique. There are very few flowers in God's creation that please God most. The rose is one of those."
We are in a position to offer the Sri Chinmoy Rose as a rose bush or as a rose root which can be planted in your garden.
Picture Bottom: Pavitrata Taylor
Festivals of Light
Adarsha Kelly and other members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre performed at this year's Festivals of Light in Glasgow.
I would like to thank (albeit belatedly) all who attended the event we recently held at a beautiful garden location in Glasgow. This was a very significant event for the Scottish students, and helped raise spiritual awareness in the country. The event was largely sponsored by the developers of the Gardens, as part of their Festivals of Light programme. The setting was a sanctuary garden using themes from Moorish, Persian, Italian and English formal gardens.
The music programme was well-received, with Udasina and Suswara leading the audience through a delightful festival of bhajans (devotional songs). Udasina's and Suswara's groups, along with Sahana and the Scottish boys, helped create a beautiful programme. Afterwards I received very favourable comments from the Director of the Gardens. He said he felt that Sri Chinmoy's students created a uniquely peaceful atmosphere. He also couldn't believe the high standard of the singing.
Inevitably, the Scottish weather played its part. We had planned for rain, so the Gardens' staff had bought tents to protect the performers. What we got though was cold - almost sub-zero temperatures. This did keep audience numbers down (about 300 members of the public came into the Gardens to listen and watch at various points), but none of them stayed long because of the cold.
At the mid point of the performances, Irene from Helensburgh planted the Sri Chinmoy Rose and a massive bonfire was lit. This improved audience figures for a while.
At dusk I went to a part of the Gardens which has a circular stream. So I sat in the middle of the circle (not in the middle of the water) and sang until dawn (about 4.5 hours). Some members of the public braved the cold for about three hours, but only Sri Chinmoy's students managed the whole thing. As lots of people went up to Loch Lomond during the evening, there were only about 5 students left at the end. My thanks to them though; they meant I always had an audience to sing to. I was frozen to the marrow by the time I finished, but I am happy to say that the voice held put (more or less) and a hot shower was as much as I needed to recover.
Sanjaya captured the evening on video, so there may be an opportunity to see the event at some point.
The most important thing is that the rose bush has blossomed and it budded three perfect roses. Click here to view a picture of the Sri Chinmoy Rose.
Concert in the Lake District, 2007 — Sri Chinmoy Centre
A free concert in Ambleside in the Lake District. An opportunity to relax, meditate and immerse yourself in the meditative compositions of Sri Chinmoy, performed by members of British Sri Chinmoy Centres on a variety of instruments. Sublime music with a unique blend of Eastern and Western traditions...
Musical groups Ananda and Shindhu combine haunting devotional melodies with simple accoustic arrangements using instruments from both East and West. Our music is an expression of inner experience of meditation.
We welcome you to join us and enjoy the tranquil and uplifting atmosphere of our spiritual music in the beautiful surroundings of the Lake District.
Unfortunately, due to a recent rock fall we cannot play in Rydal Cave this year, so we have opted for the beautiful Ambleside Parish Centre.