Guru and Goose Pond Park
(A Disciple History) – May 17
By the late 1990s Guru was nearing the completion of his long and glorious running career, from Ashram sprinter to ultra-runner. Just as in the Mahabharata when Arjuna could no longer utilize his bow, Guru’s days of sprinting and competing in races were coming to a close.
What remained of Guru’s running career were only walking and a handful of 2-mile races in Goose Pond Park.
If you happened to be near Goose Pond Park during the 1990s and early 2000s, and you were there around 5 a.m., you just might have been lucky enough to see Vinaya driving Guru past the park en route to one of his early morning drives or walks.
In Beyond Likes and Dislikes, Guru writes:
“This morning at 5:20, Vinaya was driving me to Goose Pond Park. Vinaya is very fond of the ducks there. I started my one-mile walk. Right from the first step, Swami Vivekananda was walking with me inwardly for one full mile. A very thin crane was watching us. On the earthly level, I saw one Indian, a Hindi-speaker. He was lying down most comfortably on a bench, speaking on the phone. God alone knows whether it was his wife or someone else that he was speaking with. I passed by, and when I came back, he was still talking. I went around again. I walked comfortably for over eighteen minutes, and Swami Vivekananda was with me inwardly, chatting and chatting.”
(Please note: in the photo of the swan, Guru is running on the far side of the lake)
In later years, Guru would rely on his chariots more and more: on the Christmas Trips; at the multi-day races, where a small ‘garage’ was constructed to house them; and also in Goose Pond Park. In Only One Power, Guru writes:
“And here is a cute story. As you know, we have our Goose Pond Park in Jamaica. The manager of that park has appointed me and Rupantar to be his supervisors, so that I will not have any problems when I am riding there!”
The photos of Guru running in this article are from his participation in three 2-mile races in Goose Pond Park—two in 1995 and one in 1996. There are two seasons represented in these races, fall (including a snowfall in one of the races) and winter. On the Sri Chinmoy Reflections site it is recorded that Guru ran 3 official 2-mile races in the park between 1995 and
1996: 2 December 1995, 9 December 1995 and 10 February 1996. The December races were before we took off on our Christmas Trip to South Africa and the last race was when we returned.
Guru’s times for these three races in Goose Pond Park (2-mile time, then 1-mile time) are:
2 December 1995: 27:56 and 13:58
9 December 1995: 24:25 and 12:13
10 February 1996: 23:31 and 11:41
As a footnote to Guru’s times, it will be noted that Guru participated in many races during the South Africa Christmas Trip—possibly accounting for Guru’s faster time when he returned to Queens. After the South Africa trip, Guru ran 8 more races in Goose Pond Park (all 2-mile races), as well as a handful of unofficial runs on the remaining Christmas Trips, but the 10 February race would remain his fastest time for those remaining races.
Often when Guru ran, there would be monitors/helpers on the course as well as photographers and/or someone videoing his running. If you look closely at the above photo of Guru running in the snow you will see a red tricycle ahead of Guru: that’s Mridanga sitting in the back facing Guru while videoing. We have enjoyed watching that video of Guru’s determined walking in the snow many times during our functions at Aspiration-Ground. The special 3-wheeler used by Mridanga required quite a bit of effort by whoever was pedaling, as it was a very heavy industrial model. Needless to say, with all the hills in the Park, that was a real workout for the peddler. The bike was purchased by Mridanga specifically for the purpose of videoing Guru running. It was a good thing that the boys tested the bike before videoing Guru, as they got a flat on their test voyage! To prevent this from happening again, special puncture-proof tires were purchased. Well done!
During one of these 2-mile races a photo was taken of me kneeling next to Guru. As I remember, this was the time when Guru asked if we could have our ultra-races in Goose Pond Park. At that time the Queens Parks Commissioner was our dear friend Richard Murphy.
After I consulted with Richard about the feasibility of the project, alas, either because of a lack of enthusiasm or a lack of faith on my part, nothing happened. But perhaps Guru’s dream was manifested in a different way when the 12-Hour Walk, organised by Pratyaya, was moved to the Park, where it continues to be held today. Wish fulfilled?
An anecdote from Vidagdha:
“The only story I remember from Goose Pond Park is that one time a disciple brought Guru a gift from a Russian disciple. It was a very old kind of dagger. Guru looked at it and said that it had so many hostile forces in it he would not even touch it. So he told one of the girls to get rid of it. That disciple had the idea to take it down to Goose Pond Park late at night and throw it into the lake. She was a strong girl so she thought she would throw it far into the centre of the lake. She drew back her hand to throw it but, as she released it, it sliced the top of her finger. The hostile forces in the dagger would not go peacefully!”
On another note: is it Goose Pond Park or Captain George Tilly Park? Most disciples, and Guru himself, have always known the Park as Goose Pond Park, but technically it is Captain George Tilly Park. The Park is named for the son of a prominent Jamaica family who was killed while fighting in the American subjugation of the Philippines in 1899. At the turn of the century the bulk of the land and the pond (called Goose Pond) was owned by the Highland Park Society. In 1935, city officials renamed the property Captain George Tilly Park in his memory. Guru called the park Goose Pond Park, as do pretty much all the disciples. So in reality it is Goose Pond Park.
The Park had fallen into disrepair by the late 20th century. For years a series of attempts were made at clean-up and restoration, culminating in a $2.4 million renovation by the NYC Parks Department beginning in 2014.
Guru’s presence, both personally and through the activities of the disciples running, singing and enjoying Celebration meals in Goose Pond Park, as well as cleaning in their IJAMAICA HILLS t-shirts, [please verify with Bhitihara] has brought new life to the Park. Even in the early 1970s, Guru’s light started permeating the Park. In 1973, in what is now our meal area, Sushumna of London filmed her devoted presentation of the Centre girls dressed in white saris to commemorate Guru’s new poetry series The Dance of Life.
On July 20, 1980, at the same location in the Park, Guru held a special meditation for the third anniversary of Everest-Aspiration. He sat cross-legged in the middle of the lawn, in front of a large tree that is no longer there. Sarama, one of the original Centre photographers, took a famous close-up photograph of Guru meditating in front of the tree. In 1997, Pulak showed that photograph to Guru because he wanted to offer it for prasad on his birthday. At that time Guru inscribed the photo, “Supreme, I am all Yours,” and added birds, requesting Pulak to copy it that way for the disciples.
At the 1980 function, Guru gave each disciple a tall purple liatris flower which he designated the aspiration flower. He had earlier gone to the flower market with Kanan and Hashi to select a flower to signify the quality of aspiration. To this day, we continue to give out the purple liatris flower for prasad on Everest-Aspiration Day.
The north end of the Park looks up toward the front of majestic Jamaica High School, the largest school building in the country when it was constructed in 1927, and designated a New York City landmark in 2009. In 1985 it was deemed the best secondary school in the United States by the US Department of Education; now, after some difficult years, it houses several smaller public high schools. The disciples have run countless miles on the street between the Park and the school during the 2-mile and 47-mile races over the years.
The following story is taken from Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 24.
“Yesterday morning I went to Goose Pond Park. It was drizzling and I was running slowly. Five times I passed by a man sitting on a bench who was heavily drunk. Each time I came by him, he smiled at me. I could not understand what he was saying, but each time I passed by him, he said something encouraging to me. Now if I had had to consciously try to see the divine in him — if I had said, ‘He is also God’s creation. Although he is drinking heavily, let me see the divine in him’ — I would have been wasting my time. But each time I came by, spontaneously I got such joy. If I had identified myself with his outer life, I would have been disgusted. I do not care for drinking at all. For me, it is something abominable. But while I was passing him, I was seeing the divine in him. His inner divinity immediately attracted me. His heart entered into me and my heart entered into him. Therefore I sincerely got joy.”
P.S. The information for this article comes from the New York City Parks Department Web Site, Vinaya, Vidagdha, Mridanga and myself.