A happy birthday with 101,000 roses

NYNewsday.com/August 28, 2004
By Merle English

Sri Chinmoy, a global peace advocate and prolific author, poet, artist and musician, was presented a record-breaking bouquet of 101,000 roses as an international gathering of more than 2,000 celebrated his 73rd birthday.

The multi-colored roses formed a 24-by-102-foot display on the lawn at the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Center in Jamaica that Chinmoy's followers believe set a Guinness World record for the world's largest bouquet.

The fragrant, $10,000 bouquet was a gift from students from 50 countries to Chinmoy, leader of a spiritual movement that incorporates prayer and meditation.

Working nonstop from 9 a.m. Thursday until 9 a.m. Friday, 51 devotees built a low platform, cut and arranged the roses.

The dazzling array included about 50 different varieties in such colors as red, orange, yellow and white.

They were imported from Ecuador, Colombia and Guatemala by Malik Erven, a Sri Chinmoy student who has a floral business in Vancouver. Three devotees approved by the Guinness World Book of Records witnessed the count.

Commenting on the gift, Chinmoy said: "This morning I was simply amazed. Each flower is offering its beauty and fragrance to us. My students come from all over the world to bless me with their love, affection and concern. It is all love, all love."

Ashrita Furman, 49, manager of a health-food store in Jamaica and a long-time Chinmoy devotee, organized the tribute, obtaining contributions from other students to make it possible.

Furman, who himself has held more than 86 Guinness records for such feats as pogo stick jumping, juggling while running 50 miles and playing the most games of hopscotch - and holds 20 records currently - said a similar floral tribute arranged for Chinmoy's 70th birthday set a record of 70,000 roses but was surpassed by a flower company in Holland with 88,000.

"We love our teacher," said Furman. "It's a gift for him, but we all get joy from it. We believe in self-transcendence, going beyond your preconceived limits."

According to his followers, Chinmoy has written more than 1,500 books of poetry, essays, plays and short stories. He has drawn more than 15 million birds; created over 300,000 paintings; composed over 17,000 songs. He also plays more than 12 instruments and has performed at more than 600 concerts. He is a marathon runner and a weight lifter.

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