27,000 Handshakes


In early 1998 Sri Chinmoy completed what was then his most prodigious poetic work – the 270 volumes of his monumental 27,000 Aspiration-Plants –  and so concluded an epic venture spanning almost fourteen years. It was another of those relentlessly sustained and patient undertakings which together coursed like a braided river through his life, those multiple strands of inspiration, of paintings and Soul-Birds and music and wonderfully original things.

One evening we were with Sri Chinmoy shortly after the last poem in this series had been written. He asked my wife Subarata and I how New Zealand intended to commemorate the culmination of this vast poetic work, and watched us while we discussed various ideas, mostly predictable and rather unimaginative ones.

Unhappy with our own thoughts, we asked him if he instead would think of things that would really make him happy. Sri Chinmoy rose and went through a doorway into an adjoining room for two or three minutes – then came back with a series of ideas that quite astonished us. It was as though he had also stepped through an unseen portal into another world where the future, the unimagined, the possible, lay awaiting its manifestation – and gathered from there a few trinkets to bring back. The first of these? – that we shake 27,000 people’s hands, giving each of these people a card of poems and a sweet!

This unique challenge quite consumed us for some time. We visited school assemblies, announcing a handshaking record attempt to honour this achievement; stood at escalators in shopping malls with a microphone to announce ourselves, armed with a hand held manual counter to accurately record numbers; visited universities and busy streets; toured towns, distributed 27,000 sweets, gave away 27,000 large cards – each carrying an explanation of Sri Chinmoy’s achievement and a sample sprinkling of 27 poems:

“If you want to remain always happy

Always perfect and always fulfilled,

Then always keep inside your heart

A pocketful of sweet dreams.”

Everything about this unusual commemoration charmed people a lot, and left 27,000 spirit-awakening, heart-warming mementos with their 27 inspirational poems scattered throughout this peace hungry world .


~ Jogyata Dallas