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Spiritual experiences on the pandemic frontline
These past two years have been extremely difficult for everyone, especially for our healthcare workers. Two nurses who are members of our Centre, Kritagyata Nicol from New York and Florbela Caniceiro from Portugal, share their experiences of how their spirituality has helped them and the people around them.
Hope, courage, endurance and cheerfulness
by Kritagyata Nicol, New York
I am a neonatal and pediatric intensive care nurse, with a background in psychiatric nursing. In 1991, Sri Chinmoy asked me to co-ordinate his humanitarian service programme The Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
When wondering how we could be of assistance during the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, I recalled my years in the neonatal ICU of Lenox Hill Hospital, where I would silently recite one-line poems of Sri Chinmoy’s while I was working. That one phrase became a powerful vehicle to bring a sense of peace and poise into our daily challenges at the unit.
At the beginning of the pandemic, our team also listened to interviews with doctors and nurses who were working tirelessly in our hospitals to save lives. They spoke of the need for hope, courage, endurance and cheerfulness.
Researching Sri Chinmoy's poems on these themes, we created Thoughts for the Day, which brought inspiring and encouraging words of wisdom to medical teams. Posters and banners were prepared for hospital Emergency Departments and related services.
The response was most inspiring from hospitals in Italy, Germany, Russia and the USA. I would never have imaged a huge banner of poetry in an emergency room, yet doctors and nurses found that the wisdom conveyed by these poems was deeply valued by patients and staff, and provided them with hope, strength and encouragement.
Our Work with Children
As a nurse, I saw first-hand how devastating the lockdowns and restrictions were deeply impacting children’s emotional health. Our experience has been over the years, that once children participate in making things better, it empowers them, giving them a sense of fulfilment in the knowledge that their efforts are really making a difference.
After listening to a speech by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, on the impact of the pandemic on the lives of children worldwide, and being aware of Sri Chinmoy’s dedicated service to the UN for 37 years, we initiated programmes to connect children in different nations.
In Kazakhstan children drew artwork as an expression of gratitude to doctors and nurses. The artwork was displayed as a huge poster at 40 bus stops in the capital city of Nur-Sultan, being placed just before the International Day of Healthcare Workers. The installation will be in place for almost a year.
We have had an ongoing programme called Drawings of Love where children send drawings to support children and adults around the world. This year children in Russia created artwork for children undergoing chemotherapy at the Raisa Gorbachev Memorial Institute in St. Petersburg. As both the donor and recipient children were experiencing a lockdown, this mode of communication coordinated by our team was most gratifying for all participants. Messages of encouragement, friendship and comfort were exchanged and turned into slideshows to share via hospital TV with all pediatric patients.
Comment by Ambassador Mehrotra
We had the opportunity recently to tell Ambassador Lakhan Mehrotra, Former High Commissioner from India to Sri Lanka, about our work with hospitals and children, and he said, "Sri Chinmoy’s words act as balm on bruised souls, and inspire those engaged in serving victims of Corona!"
The inner connection
a personal story from Florbela from Portugal
I have been a nurse for 31 years and a student of the spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy for 12 years. I have been a frontline worker in the fight against the pandemic, either conducting individual or institutional screening tests, treating the sick in their homes, and now most recently doing vaccinations.
The last two years of my life have been like all of us, very difficult. But for health professionals they were beyond difficult. They were frightening and during some periods, absolutely lonely. The move away from our family and the fear of death were always very present.
But what I would like to share with you all, is not the difficult part of this experience, but the fact how much being a student of Sri Chinmoy has helped me personally, and allowed me to help co-workers and – above all – our patients.
Meditating daily gave me the confidence and courage I needed to reassure colleagues that together we would make it! It gave me enough peace to always convey to the patients the relief they needed, for the fear that flooded them.
Reading Sri Chinmoy's books allowed my mind to have a period of rest, optimism, and to be refreshed to continue receiving all the information, which came several times a day and had to be put into practice quickly to protect people.
Sri Chinmoy's music made me feel his presence, his concern and love for all of us. It gave me hope!
Sri Chinmoy's videos were my companion when nothing else made me happy.
The inner connection with my spiritual Master saved me, in the most difficult time I have experienced so far.
But it goes even further. It has enabled me to help many patients during this most challenging time for humanity, and continues daily to enable me to help all the people I care for.
What I have received from Sri Chinmoy during the past 2 years cannot be expressed in words. I can only say: Gratitude! Gratitude for being able to have this life experience, is what I feel inside me the most.
A new book about nature and spirituality
Listen to Nature: Living in Harmony with the Earth is a new book which presents a collection of Sri Chinmoy's writings on the environment. Through poetry, prose and question and answers, Sri Chinmoy explains the root of our own environmental crisis, how we can learn to love nature and why there is reason to be hopeful of creating a better future.
The new book has a foreword contributed by Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist and UN Messenger of Peace.
[Sri Chinmoy] stresses the need for a deep spiritual connection with the natural world of which we are part and on which we depend.. Let us heed the words of this spiritual teacher before it is too late."
The book also includes several practical meditation exercises, where Sri Chinmoy offers us the opportunity to meditate on aspects of nature we often take for granted. Sri Chinmoy feels that developing this inner connection with Mother Earth not only feeds the natural environment, but can also bring peace to humanity.
Nature has its own rhythm, its own harmony, its own peace and joy. When you are identified, consciously or unconsciously, with universal Nature, it is all vastness and immensity. There you lose your own outer existence, the feeling that you are separate from other persons. In that state of unified oneness, you become totally one with universal Nature; you become part and parcel of the Vast and the Infinite. You forget your ordinary life, which is your physical frame, your name and your outer existence. In that state, you do not have to make your mind calm and quiet, for the mind is not functioning; you have already become identified with the treasure of universal Nature's consciousness.
Whilst Sri Chinmoy expresses his sadness at the way humanity has damaged Mother Earth, he explains this damage to the environment is a manifestation of the division, fear and greed which are predominant in human minds.
At the same time, Sri Chinmoy offers a message of hope, that through prayer, meditation and identification with Mother Earth we can help to heal the planet and restore the natural beauty of earth.
We must not underestimate the power of spirituality. Prayer and meditation mean new life. When we pray and meditate, at every second we are invoking God’s Compassion. We are saying that Mother Nature is being destroyed. But we have to know that Mother Nature is nothing other than God the creation. We are praying to God the Creator to save God the creation. So He who created this earth can once again create a new creation on the strength of our prayers and meditations.
This medium sized book is an excellent gift for anyone who has love for our planet and wishes to understand both what is going wrong, but also how we can help to protect and renew our connection with nature.
Exhibition of Sri Chinmoy's Jharna-Kala art
A week-long exhibition of artwork by spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy took place in Sofia, Bulgaria in November. Sri Chinmoy began painting mystical artworks in November 1974; he called them Jharna-Kala, which means fountain-art in his mother-language, Bengali. In 1991 he expanded his artwork to include bird drawings representing the freedom of the human soul. Many of the 102 artworks on display in Sofia displayed these bird drawings.
For me, birds have a very special significance. They embody freedom. We see a bird flying in the sky and it reminds us of our own inner freedom. As I said before, I am a Truth-seeker and a God-lover. So I feel that inside each of us there is an inner existence which we call the soul. The soul, like a bird, flies in the sky of God’s Infinity. So the birds we see flying in the sky remind us of our own soul-bird flying in the sky of Infinity.
Sri Chinmoy 1
The opening night featured a concert of Sri Chinmoy's music performed in Indian classical style by Kanala Auer (Austria, sitar), Sadanand Magee (Ireland, tabla) and Ushika Muckenhummer (Austria, tanpura). Ambassador of India, Mr. Sanjay Rana and his wife attended the concert as special guests. After the concert, Ambassador Rana said: "We really moved to a different world. Thank you for bringing Indian music to our hearts here in Bulgaria.”
Messages of hope from Portugal
Since the onset of the pandemic, the Sri Chinmoy Centres throughout the world have sought simple, humble ways to make the situation more tolerable. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, we offered food from our restaurants in the USA and Europe to local hospital doctors and nurses. Sri Chinmoy founded the Oneness-Heart Tears and Smiles humanitarian organisation in 1991, where members of the Sri Chinmoy Centres could work together on humanitarian projects such as these.
One initiative that has brought a lot of joy: sharing large colourful banners with messages of hope, perseverance and encouragement from Sri Chinmoy's writings.
It was first started in Italy, and since then it has become an international project. The following stories are related by two members of our Sri Chinmoy Centres in Portugal:
Inspiring Messages of Hope for Children During A Global Pandemic
by Simone Tome, a professor at University of Porto, and graduate student Vera Marques
In Portugal, we were energized by the international Happiness-Banners initiative, and we contacted schools, hospitals and homes for the elderly to see if they would like to have a banner. Five pioneer Portuguese primary and secondary schools have chosen to participate in the project so far. Each institution made its own selection from a group of 27 aphorisms, and these aphorisms were printed on banners in different colors of the rainbow.
Even though it was already the end of the school year, after exams and while final meetings were still taking place, ceremonies were organized for the delivery of the banners in two of the participating schools. At one of the school ceremonies which took place on the last day of classes, there were students singing and playing Sri Chinmoy's song, Your Heart is as Beautiful as the Rainbow. They had prepared to perform in record time, as they had only one day to learn and rehearse the song.
As I listened to this melody, I felt as if I were rocked, enveloped in an inner peace, and felt so happy to see my students transmitting, in such a harmonious way, this message of hope that remains in our hearts. Many thanks to the humanitarian organization for these moments.
There were students at schools that received the banners who were inspired to show what they experienced inwardly from the messages of hope on the Banners.
Even after the school year ended, there were students who made drawings with their own encouraging messages to give to children who are patients at the Raisa Gorbacheva Memorial Institute of Oncology in St. Petersburg, Russia. (The Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles organization has offered much medical equipment and many medical supplies to the Institute over the past two decades, and maintains an ongoing relationship with staff there.)
Comments by Teachers at Participating Schools
When the clouds shake our certainties, a breeze of strength and hope brought by Sri Chinmoy's inner peace comes to heal our hearts and souls
Professor Helena Fonseca
I felt an inner strength that made me feel that everything in life is worth it. Every day is born to present us with so many opportunities! Let us allow ourselves to be carried away by the breeze of peace and love and by the current of harmony, hope and goodness and, in this way, we build, day after day, a more fraternal and colorful world. This initiative is a hymn to solidarity and a call to do well.
Professor Júlia Miranda
“It was with great pleasure that I attended the session to hand over the banner presented by the organization Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles. This banner will be an instrument for changing the school climate, by stimulating positive feelings such as joy, kindness, happiness and hope”.
Professor Conceição Vasconcelos
(the messages on the banners) provided students, in class assembly, with true moments of community. They were able to analyze and reflect on various subjects, such as: children's rights; the importance of play to our ability to grow and be happy; the Importance of interaction with others; our need to dream and strive to achieve our goals; the impact that a simple smile can have on another; and the acceptance of the others, with all their differences.
In your meditation you see beyond the superficial distinctions of race, sex, language or religion, as the Charter encourages us to do. You concentrate on the truths and the ideals which unite all mankind: the longing for peace, the need for compassion, the search for tolerance and understanding among men and women of all nations.
United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar 1
after meditating in his private office with Sri Chinmoy on January 13, 1983
It is very beautiful to see how these initiatives are making children feel part of a global family, fulfilling the principles of the UN in such a natural and simple way. Inspired by the phrases of hope on the banners that their schools received, they took action, drawing pictures with messages to make another human being happy.
This is a golden opportunity, also, for the children who offer these drawings, as they offer their good will and encouragement to human beings who are like them but who find themselves on the other side of the world, in totally different circumstances.
This is a story of UN principles in action, as is Sri Chinmoy's legacy. His life and work are an exceptional testimony to the ideals of the United Nations and are also the source of inspiration behind this initiative of Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles.
- 1. Sri Chinmoy (1995). The Garland of Nation-Souls: Complete Talks at the United Nations. Florida: Health Communications, Inc.
Andrea Marcato wins the World's Longest Race
On Sunday 17 October, Andrea Marcato won the 2021 Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile in a superb time of 42 days plus 17 hours 38 minutes and 38 seconds. The time placed him as the third fastest runner of all time. Even more remarkable is how during the race he was able to increase his daily mileage totals towards the end of the race - running 30 consecutive days of 70+ miles.
On the final day, he ran 76 miles, to finish towards the end of the day. After nearly 43 days of running 16 hours a day, he was inspired to run very fast the last few laps to beat the previous 3rd best runner by just one minute 21 seconds. Andrea reported feeling unaware of his body for these last momentous laps, a reflection of the real self-transcendence runners can achieve during the race. It was Andrea's second consecutive first place in the race, and 18 hours faster than his previous time in the 2020 Salzburg edition. In an interview, after the race, he explained why he wanted to do the race and paid tribute to his helpers:
“It is a drive that you feel from within. Once you do it there is this inner call.”
“Without my helpers, I would not be able to perform at that level. Definitely I could finish the race, but not in this way.”
To Andrea, like other runners, the race was as much about the inner challenge as the physical feat.
“The inner part of the race, somehow I realized that the race for me was already done. It was meant to be like this. When you struggle in the race you think it is about you, and your effort. But in the end I realized it was already meant to be like this. The inner part already knows in advance what is going to happen.”
Marcato a student of Sri Chinmoy, grew up in Lughetto, a suburb of Venice in Italy. He currently works in a vegetarian food factory in Zurich, Switzerland. To complete the race he had to eat about 10,000 calories per day in small portions while running or walking. He did not take a nap but ran almost continuously for 18 hours per day. He went through 15 pairs of running shoes and consumed over 10,000 calories a day. He ate an alkaline diet of avocados, watermelon, mandarin oranges, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, steamed vegetables. Despite consuming 10,000 calories he lost 10kg during the race.
The Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race started on September 5 and continues until October 26. The contestants each have 52 days to complete the race. To meet their goal of 3100 miles (4989 km) in 52 days, the participants must log an average of 59.6 miles per day - more than 2 marathons. This adds up to a total of 118 marathons in succession. The race has been described as the "Mount Everest of ultrarunning".
However, more than 4,000 people have reached the summit of Everest since 1953. Only 49 have completed a 3,100-mile race in 24 years.
Seven elite runners from seven countries took up the challenge in the world’s longest certified running race.
The only woman competitor 46-year-old Harita Davies (USA), who was born in New Zealand, will finish the race late in the evening on Monday, October 25 if she keeps up the pace.
Taiwanese runner Lo Wei Ming (58) is expected to finish second on Saturday, 23rd October. He runs in sandals, is known as a rock star in the running world of Taiwan. Vasu Duzhiy (Russia) is in position to finish third. Takasumi Senoo (Japan) is hopeful to finish on Day 52, the final day of the race. The other competitors are Stutisheel Lebedev hailing from Ukraine and Ananda-Lahari of Slovakia.
The 25th Annual 3100 Mile Race is taking place on a 0.5488 mile loop around Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School (165-65 84th Ave). The 3100 Mile Race was initiated by Indian born spiritual teacher, athlete and musician Sri Chinmoy in 1997. Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007) himself participated in many marathons and ultra-races. He described the benefit of a multi-day race in the following way: "Self-transcendence is the only thing a human being needs in order to be truly happy. So these races help the runners tremendously, although outwardly they go through such hardship. Eventually, when the race is over, they feel they have accomplished something most significant."
Top 5 Finishers of all time
1. 40:09:06:21 Ashprihanal Aalto,44,Finland
2. 41:08:16:29 Madhupran W. Schwerk,50,Germany
3. 42:17:38:38 Andrea Marcato,39, Zurich SUI (Italy) (2021)
4. 42:17:39:59 Galya V. Balatskyy,43,Ukraine
5. 43:10:36:39 Grahak Cunningham,35,Australia
A 'channel triathlon' from Dover to Prague
Abhejali Bernadova from the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Zlin, Czech Republic completed a unique 'channel triathlon' - swimming the English Channel from Dover to Calais, then cycling through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, and finally a 182km run to Prague - a total of 1111km. It took her 7 days, 12 hours and 5 minutes.
Sri Chinmoy encouraged his students to practice sports as part of their spiritual life, and some of his students have been inspired to use their inner spiritual capacity to achieve remarkable feats of endurance. In 1985, members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre first crossed the English Channel, and since then members our group have completed almost 50 channel crossings.
When you climb a mountain or swim the English Channel, you may call it a silly adventure, but I take it as part of our manifestation. In the world of manifestation, there is an outer history and an inner history. One is in the mind and one is in the heart. The mind’s history we will forget the next day, but the history of the heart we will forever remember.
....In an adventure, if you do not meet with immediate success, you have to feel that eventually you will succeed. In the beginning, the idea of swimming the English Channel seemed impossible. Now a number of our girl disciples are doing it, and one older man is defying age and conquering the Channel. So if somebody else fails, you should not give up. Either you will do it, or there will be somebody else to come who will succeed.
Abhejali started on Monday September 13 at 3am from Dover. Contending with a force-5 gale, she completed the crossing in 15 hours and 33 minutes. The only other successful crossing on the same day was a 5-person relay team. It was her last chance to swim this year and the swim had already been postponed a few times.
Current restrictions did not allow her to stay in France, so she had to take a detour back to Dover and then take a ferry to France.
She then cycled from Calais to her hometown of Cheb, near the Czech/German border. The cycling leg, which took her 4 days, was approximately 900 kilometres through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
She arrived in Cheb on Saturday afternoon, then ran 182km to Prague, arriving on Monday afternoon. Her daily average was 220km cycling and 2 marathons running.
Abhejali completed her first English Channel swim in 2011. Seven years later she completed the Oceans Seven, a list of seven noted long-distance swims around the world. With her swimming she tries to inspire others to overcome their own limits and show that many of these limits exist only in the mind.
Peace Week in Bulgaria
Inspired by Sri Chinmoy, our members not only organise meditation events, but also joyful and dynamic events for the public, to spread the feeling that the world is one human family. The most popular event is the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, which is a global torch relay that has visited over 155 countries. It is founded on the simple idea of passing a peace torch from hand to hand, to millions of people around the globe.
In September 2021, a Peace Week was held in Sofia, Bulgaria with many peace-themed events. The highlight was a ceremony where we presented the Peace Run Torch-Bearer award to some of Bulgaria's most talented athletes.
I believe that this award is a bridge between the countries of the world and unites them in a unique way, because sport is a language that does not need translation wherever you go. Ivet Goranova Olympic karate champion
I am honored to receive this medal of kindness and peace. I want the world to be better and I think sport is the strongest weapon to live in a more peaceful world. It is no coincidence that all wars have stopped during the Olympic Games. I am a dreamer and I know that we can live in a beautiful fairy tale with a good ending. Stanimira Petrova. World and European boxing champion
Thank you for this invaluable award. We must appreciate the real things and stand firmly on the ground. Let's be more humble, better, to live in harmony and to help everyone around us. Ivaylo Ivanov European champion, No 1 Bulgarian athlete 2020
It is a great pleasure for me that you are awarding me with this title. We have come a long way in the last few years in preparation for the Olympics, a lot of pain and hardship. It is a great honor for us athletes that people respect what we do. Hristo Hristov European weightlifting silver medallist
The honorees were congratulated in a video message by Bulgarian footballing legend Hristo Stoichkov:
Not just a prize or a medal in your glamorous collection, this award is a symbol of the pursuit of peace and understanding of all mankind and you are its most worthy bearer.
The event also featured a concert for peace by Mandu and Visuddhi Trummer from Austria.
The week featured a lot of school visits! Visiting schools and youth groups are a huge focus of the Peace Run when we travel around the world. The children always love holding and running with our Peace Torch, and from the children our runners get a huge amount of inspiration and hope for the future of the world.
During the Peace Week, we planted many Peace Trees with the help of the children.
We also had a lecture on Peace, the UN and personal responsibility, given by Angikar Djorjevic from Serbia. Angikar has swum the English Channel, and also was able to speak about the importance of the UN from a personal perspective, having worked for many years at UNICEF in New York and Geneva.
3100 Mile Race starts again in New York
Sri Chinmoy founded the 3100 Mile Race in 1997, and this year for the first time, it will be starting in Queens in September instead of its usual summer timeslot. The race started on September 5; runners have 52 days to complete the distance before the race ends on October 26.
Seven runners are participating, including two new runners: Lo Wei Ming from Taiwan, and Takasumi Senoo from Japan.
Last year, the race could not be held at all in New York, and was instead held in Salzburg, Austria. The race also features the winner of that race, Andrea Marcato from Italy. There is one female runner; Harita Davies, a New Zealander living in the USA, who won the race in 2019.
You can keep up with the latest race updates on the 3100 Mile Race site
Celebrating Sri Chinmoy's 90th birth anniversary
Sri Chinmoy would have been 90 years old on 27 August this year. When he was with us, he would often use occasions like these as a launching point for inspiring and joyful projects for himself and his students. (To give one example: he played on 74 pianos in one sitting to celebrate his 74th birthday.)
Similarly his students around the world are using the occasion to come up with inspiring ideas both for their own personal spiritual practise, and for the world.
In 1999, Sri Chinmoy formed the Enthusiasm-Awakeners singing group with Parvati from New York as its leader. The group mainly sings Sri Chinmoy's cheerful, dynamic English songs. In total, the group learned and performed 1529 English songs for Sri Chinmoy in his lifetime, including many songs that Sri Chinmoy specifically wrote for the group.
At the end of May of this year, Parvati had the idea to sing and average of 17 songs per day for 90 days beginning on 30 May, so all the songs could be completed on 27 August. As well as the original members of the group, Parvati then felt the inspiration to invite others who had over the years expressed their love of these songs, and she selflessly made all the necessary resources available on her website devotionsongs.com:
View the 90 songs project on devotionsongs.com
(The Enthusiasm-Awakeners group actually performed a similar project for Sri Chinmoy's 75th birthday in 2006 - you can read that story on her website)
Many of our worldwide Centres were also inspired by the occasion to let the public know!
Sri Chinmoy's books in multiple languages
For some of Sri Chinmoy's students who live in non-English-language countries, translating his books (and immersing themselves in the deep meditative writings of a spiritual Master) is a very satisfying part of their spiritual life. Sri Chinmoy's books have been released in over 20 languages.
Czech Republic and Slovakia
Many of Sri Chinmoy's books in Czech are beautifully designed by the Madal Bal studio in Prague. Some of these designs eventually find their way to the English version.
In the Czech republic and Slovakia, you can see billboards promoting the books and also sharing Sri Chinmoy's beautiful writings with the public.
The Italian Centre has recently become a prolific distributor of Sri Chinmoy's works in Italian, this year alone new editions of Sri Chinmoy's meditation book, and his book of commentaries on the Indian scriptures have been released.
In addition, they have also published box-sets of cards containing Sri Chinmoy's aphorisms, which are extremely popular all over the world.
This is a sweet story. Gesiane from our São Paolo Centre was participating in a local 24 hour race, and she had the idea to ask the organisers if she could give each of the runners a copy of Sri Chinmoy's The Adventure of Life to put in their gift bag.
Many of the runners really treasured the gift, and the book ended up being promoted quite widely on social media as a result. Many of our Sri Chinmoy Centre projects start from small simple ideas, just like this one.
Outdoor meditation events in New York
Recently, our New York Centre were able to offer events for the public for the first time in many months. We started with a set of outdoor meditation classes and a concert in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
We are planning to resume our classes again in Manhattan this fall. We are also continuing small ongoing classes at the Oneness-Heart Centre in Jamaica, Queens. Sri Chinmoy established this centre in 2004, and it prides itself in providing a loving, welcoming environment for people of all backgrounds.
Thankfully, one thing we have been able to do is put on sporting races for the public, within the health guidelines. This is an important part of our spiritual life; Sri Chinmoy felt that sport (and the contact with the athletic community that our races foster) keeps our own spiritual lives fresh and dynamic.
We were not able to put on some of our longer ultra races, so we have used the opportunity to put on some new races, including a 12 and 24 hour race for the first time in many years.
Doing things together
Most of our Centres around the world can't offer public events due to the pandemic, but this time has given us the opportunity to focus on deepening our spiritual practice, and spending time together where health guidelines allow.
Sri Chinmoy would often have us come together for Joy Days - gatherings where we would meditate and do lots of spiritual things, but also have fun and delight in each other's company. So we have been finding ways to do that....
Luckily for us, much of our Joy Days are spent in the outdoors anyway - we play sports and games, and go for hikes in the mountains.
The beautiful Lake Atitlan is a regular Joy Day destination for our Guatemalan members. Sri Chinmoy visited this beautiful lake in 1997
Past-incarnation fancy dress
Sri Chinmoy always encouraged his Australian and New Zealand students to do things together, so once the 'travel bubble' between Australia and New Zealand was established, a Joy Day quickly followed. This particular joy day, everyone was asked to appear in fancy dress, representing their past incarnation (or what they thought/wished they were in their past incarnation)
A complete collection of over 1600 of Sri Chinmoy's published books
In 2015, the Perfection-Glory-Press printing company in Augsburg, Germany embarked upon the project of reprinting all of Sri Chinmoy's published books up until that time - 1623 volumes in total.
The books were pre-ordered, and shipped to their owners in instalments over 6 years.
This year, they finally finished their goal, and now many of our Centres, students and admirers of Sri Chinmoy now have a complete collection of Sri Chinmoy's books.
I always was eager and ready to print more of Guru’s books. On the Christmas Trip in Sicily in 2015 the door finally opened wide, all of a sudden all pieces fell into place. During the evening function I saw myself making an announcement that Perfection-Glory-Press would reprint all of Guru’s over 1,600 published books in a period of 5 years. And everyone could subscribe to a set. I remember sitting down with a pounding heart and realising what “just had been said through my mouth.” I did not think or calculate. I felt that someone else had just spoken through me!
Unfortunately this set is not available to the general public, however there is another project to make all of Sri Chinmoy's books available to the public by his birth centenary in 2031. To find out more and order books, you can visit ganapatipress.org
Our 6 day race in Sofia
For over 40 years, the Sri Chinmoy Marathon team has been putting on ultradistance races in the USA. Sri Chinmoy saw these races as a way to go beyond your boundaries, and also we get a lot of joy by serving the ultrarunning community in this way.
Since the 1990's we have been holding a 10 and 6 day race in Flushing Meadow Corona park in Queens, but we were not able to hold it in 2020 or 2021. This year, a smaller 6 day race took place in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The race was won by Andrea Marcato from Italy. Andrea also won the 3100 Mile Race last year.
Another runner, Ananda-Lahari from Czech Republic, stayed behind for a little while and gave a very well-recieved class on meditation and spirituality titled The Jewels of Happiness.
Later in the year, we also had another very special running-related event - Klaus Tiefenbrunner from Salzburg, Austria came to Bulgaria and gave a TEDx talk about his experiences in the previous years' 3100 Mile Race.
Other news from Bulgaria:
Television programmes about Sri Chinmoy's life Bulgarian National Television broadcasted two episodes of the program called “Paths” that featured Sri Chinmoy’s life. The program focuses on the spiritual, psychic and physical health. The production team aims to give to the viewers more information about the healthy lifestyle, about spiritual and physical well-being practices that will help them overcome stress on daily basis. The team puts focus on man’s virtues and values, good deeds, good people and man’s significant missions, nature and the environment, each person’s engagements with life-important causes. The first episode talked about Sri Chinmoy’s childhood life, his arrival in America, his lifelong mission and the activities of the Sri Chinmoy Centres in Bulgaria and around the world. The second episode presented the musical heritage that Guru left to the world and the connection between meditation and music.
Running for Peace We celebrated the 34th anniversary of the Peace Run by running a distance of 8,5 km by writing “PEACE 34”, following the streets in the city centre of Sofia. During this one hour run, we met so many happy citizens; it was inspiring to see how encouraging they were and how many people with smiley faces were happy to see the burning flame. People were stopping us to find out what was happening and wholeheartedly were supporting the ideal of peace.
Sudarshana On 29th May we had a musical concert of the new Bulgarian boys group Sudarshana.
During their first public concert they performed meditative compositions woven from the melodious sounds of harmonium, Indian flute bansuri, Persian santur and guitar.
Spring book fair 31st of May – 6st of June We took part in the Spring book fair organized by the “Bulgarian Book” Association. The event is part of the Cultural events Calendar of the capital’s municipality for 2021. We had the opportunity to talk to more people about Sri Chinmoy, to sell quite a few of his translated works and to talk about the benefits of meditation and the Path of the heart.
Musical tour Wife-and-husband duo Shamita and Dohai are musical geniuses from Vienna; they came to Bulgaria to give a tour as part of our programme of the International day of Yoga.
The enchanting music of the unparalleled old cello and the virtuoso tunes of the violin took us on a unique melodious journey in the cities of Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. A special guest to the concert in Sofia was the Ambassador of India to the Republic of Bulgaria, the Indian professor in Sofia University and the general coordinator of the International day of Yoga. The Ambassador Mr. Shri Sanjay Rana was deeply impressed by the activities of Sri Chinmoy Centre. In his speech he said: “This is a beautiful mixture of good music, yoga and the teachings of ancient India and world harmony. Yoga is not only a physical exercise, it is also something which builds community and builds unity. In a simple terms it means that it joins us to ourselves and it joins us to our society, it joins us in a world harmony, which Sri Chinmoy propagated.”
(Un)limited opportunities in uncertain times
The following article was written by Vyavasaya from our Belgrade Centre, Serbia - it captures what many of our Centres around the world are experiencing during this time...
At the moment, we, disciples of Sri Chinmoy here in Belgrade, and Serbia, like our spiritual brothers and sisters around the world, are trying our best to keep our individual and Centre spiritual lives and manifestation going in the midst of prolonged uncertainty. The situation is still that no matter what gathering or event one may be planning in the outside world, in a week or two it may prove too complicated/impossible to carry out.
Outwardly, we live in uncertain times. Inwardly, many of us felt this as an extraordinary opportunity to renew our inner life, aspiration and dedication.
I am convinced that many of my spiritual brothers and sisters share in my personal experience that in those moments when our usual activities, Centre meetings, Joy Days, Celebrations and Christmas Trips were all but out of our reach, we experienced an extraordinary strong inner presence of our Guru, Sri Chinmoy – as if he was inwardly compensating us for what we cannot get in the outer world. To accept these unfavorable external events as they come and inwardly do our best to make progress – that is an extraordinary gift and an extraordinary opportunity which these uncertain times place before us, if we can only use them properly.
In any case, here in Belgrade we focused our outer efforts on projects which seemed possible to continue regardless of the outer circumstances. In 2020, our official publisher Hema-Kheya-Neye published a bilingual edition (English/Serbian) of Guru’s book The Caged Bird and the Uncaged Bird. We planned to have a fitting promotion, yet restrictions made it infeasible back then. Maybe we’ll make it happen by the end of this year, if circumstances allow.
This year Hema-Kheya-Neye also published the bilingual edition (English/Serbian) of the very first book Sri Chinmoy published after he came to the West - Meditations: Food for the Soul. The books are available in bookstores.
Beside this, we finished the Serbian translation of Guru’s book - Samadhi and Siddhi: The Summits of God-Life, and intend to publish it by the end of the year.
During the entire last year and until this July, public gatherings were restricted to up to 5 people and we did not gave talks and meditation classes. As a kind of compensation, we renewed and improved our meditation website Meditacija.org. Apart from adding relevant texts and meditation instructions, we posted several guided meditation exercises the way we do them in our classes, recorded by our Centre members in Serbian. We encouraged our website visitors to use these for meditation practice at home.
Individual projects by our members
After his excellent first book titled On Traveling and Searching, published in 2018, Pedja Predrag Knezevic finished and published his second book, On Peace and Friendship, during the restrictions. This book, written in the third person, speaks of his experiences while preparing for a 10-day ultradistance race.
During the restrictions, Tyagananda, Sri Chinmoy’s first disciple in former Yugoslavia, and certainly one of the first ones in Eastern Europe, finished his book My Life on Sri Chinmoy’s Path.
Highly motivating and inspiring, it preserves historical memory for coming generations of seekers. The book is in print now and we expect it published quite soon. This first edition was written with fellow disciples in mind, with the view of also making future editions available for the public.
In March this year we were delighted to see an article dedicated to Ashrita in Politikin Zabavnik, a leading magazine popular with Serbian schoolchildren and youth. None of us had anything to do with it, so it was a complete surprise. The article praises Ashrita’s relentless effort in accomplishing Guinness World Records, and speaks about Guru as a spiritual teacher, philosopher, artist and athlete.
(Ashrita Furman is a student of Sri Chinmoy in New York who uses meditation to break Guinness World Records; he currently holds over 200, more than anyone else on earth. You can find out more on his website)
Sport, our savior
While we were unable to have regular Centre gatherings due to restrictions (we did at some points organize meetings in shifts, with groups of 5 maximum), the regular two mile Self-Transcendence Races gave as a precious opportunity to meet and share inspiration and experiences.
Also, to mark Guru’s 90th birthday, we are now holding 10km races biweekly - there will be nine in total. And they really give us enormous joy!
In place of a conclusion, kindly allow me to express a personal impression about the period we are experiencing. I feel that in spite of these new limitations in the outer world, unlimited possibilities are opening to us in the inner world. This might mean that the emphasis in our spiritual life is shifting from outer manifestation to inner improvement, and we could indeed feel grateful to our Guru for giving this to us, versus complaining on outer circumstances for not allowing us to do things the way we used to.
Belgrade Centre, Serbia
Denali: a Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossom
Sri Chinmoy strongly believed that the world was one big family, and he came up with countless initiatives to bring to the fore this message of inner and outer peace. One of these initiatives was the Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossoms Programme - in which thousands of cities, countries, natural and architectural wonders were dedicated to Peace, including famous landmarks such as Niagara Falls and the Sydney Opera House.
Denali, in Alaska, is the highest peak in the USA, and in North America. It was dedicated a Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossom in July 1993. This year, we redesigned the commemorative plaque and it now has a new location - the Talkeetna Roadhouse - where travellers can reflect on the ideals of peace as they view this sparkling natural jewel.
Founded in 1917 as a respite for frontiersmen, the Talkeetna Roadhouse is listed on the US National Historic Register, and today is still popular as a stopping point and base camp for travelers and climbers on their Denali expeditions.
10 years of Madal Bal in Guatemala
Quite a few of Sri Chinmoy's students in Guatemala work in a divine enterprise called Madal Bal. Madal was Sri Chinmoy's nickname as a child - it means 'kettledrum', and he was affectionately called this name by his family due to his boisterous (and sometimes mischievous) nature.
Sri Chinmoy originally asked the owner, Purnahuti, to open an icecream store, but now Madal Bal has grown to be a wide-ranging enterprise that, among other things, distributes Sri Chinmoy's books in Spanish all over Central and South America.
Madal Bal is now 10 years old, and naturally had a big anniversary party!
50th Anniversary of Sri Chinmoy's first European Lecture Tour
50 years ago - during the winter of 1970 - Sri Chinmoy made his first European Lecture Tour, offering several university talks at prestigious universities around the UK, Ireland, France and Switzerland.
Sri Chinmoy's students in those countries have released a commemorative booklet to mark the occasion, with many charming and illumining stories about their own spiritual lives.
Sri Chinmoy's first university talk was at the ancient city of Canterbury, at the University of Kent with the title Is death the end? Other university lectures included How to conquer fear in Paris and The University at Oxford's Keble College
In these early talks, Sri Chinmoy sought to demystify spiritual philosophy, and offer a practical and direct understanding spiritual life of the world and spiritual life we face. The talks have a very mantric quality, with sentences that could serve as mantras in their own right.
Sri Chinmoy would often begin a talk with a short meditation and, after the talk, invited questions on spiritual topics. The talks were well received by audiences of up to 300, with many attendees offering comments of appreciation after the talk; a common observation was how Sri Chinmoy appeared to be imbued with peace, even whilst giving the talk and answering a variety of questions.
Aspiration. What do we mean by this term? The inner cry, the mounting flame within us. Aspiration is reality’s constant necessity.
Receptivity. How can we have receptivity? We can have receptivity if we grow into purity and sincerity. When sincerity and purity loom large and important in our earthly existence, then we can easily have receptivity.
Talk: The Higher Worlds, University of Cambridge, 23 Nov 1970.
During these university talks, Sri Chinmoy also established his first European meditation centres. After the talk, seekers often came up to Sri Chinmoy to say they were moved by his talk and would like to become his disciple. Some of the earliest Sri Chinmoy Centres were established at this time, including Janaka and Janani Spence who helped to found the first Scottish centre in Glasgow - a Sri Chinmoy Centre, which continues to this day.
In Ireland, Sri Chinmoy's arrival was covered by the Irish press, which published interviews with him in four major newspapers. Sri Chinmoy gave also gave a talk on Attachment and Detachment at Trinity College, Dublin on 1 December. Sundar Dalton, who was present at that first talk mentioned how he went out of curiosity on the encouragement of a friend:
Sri Chinmoy had a strong spiritual vibration I had never experienced before. I felt he was truly sincere and found myself wanting to continue. After the talk, we went to a small room at the top of Trinity College, where we meditated with Sri Chinmoy.
describing his experiences at that talk
Sundar Dalton helped found an early Dublin Centre, before moving to Paris and then New York, where he has been a disciple of Sri Chinmoy for the past 50 years.
Andrea Marcato wins the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race 2020
The 2020 edition of the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race has ended in Salzburg Austria, with three out of the five runners completing the nearly 5,000km distance within the alloted time.
This year's first place was Andrea Marcato (38) who grew up in Lughetto, a suburb of the city of Venice. His time of 43 days, 12 hours, 7 minutes is a record for a first-time entrant. He also set multiple Italian distance records during his run and is now ranked fifth worldwide.
I am really happy that I basically covered all the distances, which are available in the world. So I am really happy and satisfied now. The feeling of deep satisfaction, inner peace and joy, which I perceived for a whole month after finishing 10-day races motivated me to run the world's longest certified road race. A feeling which I did not get after 24-hour races.
after finishing the race
Second was local Salzburg resident, Austrian Ushika Muckenhumer (52), who works as a manger of a music instrument shop in Salzburg. He finished with a personal best time of 49 days, 14 hours, 13 minutes.
Nirbhasa Magee (41) from Ireland also completed his fourth consecutive race. This was despite a mid race sickness that forced him to walk for several days. Fortunately, he had enough miles in the bank from earlier in the race.
Ananda-Lahari Zuscin, 45, from Slovakia and Milan Javornicky, 46, from Czech Republic could not finish within the allotted time, but cheerfully raced for 51 days finishing with 2799.6 miles and 2,713.9 miles respectively.
The world's longest certified road race took place on a 1 km loop at Glanspitz Park along the river flowing through Salzburg, Austria. The race involves covering the equivalent of over 118 marathons - 4989 km - in succession. They can run or walk as much as they want between 6 am and midnight. Usually the competition takes place in New York, but due to covid-19 it was shifted to Salzburg.
To give an insight into this unique endurance test, Andrea Marcato went through 9 pairs of running shoes and the pain of burning feet. To ease the pain in his feet, he soaked them in ice for 5 minutes every day. The vegetarian lived only on whole-wheat toast with avocado and cheese to achieve the goal of eating 10,000 calories per day and to avoid digestion problems. Despite that, he lost 10 kilogrammes of weight. Second placed Austrian Ushika Muckenhumer gained 3 kg of weight. He preferred ice cream, cakes, whipped cream and mascarpone shakes with chocolate or fruits to take in the necessary calories. When mental crises appeared which slowed him down he listed to or sang meditative songs to regain his speed.
The 3100 Mile Race was initiated by Indian born meditation master, athlete and musician Sri Chinmoy for talented runners in 1997. He himself participated in many marathons and ultra races. Sri Chinmoy describesthe benefit of a multi-day race with the following words:
“Self-transcendence is the only thing a human being needs in order to be truly happy. So these races help the runners tremendously, although outwardly they go through such hardship. Eventually, when the race is over, they feel they have accomplished something most significant.”
The race received significant interest from Salzburg locals and the national press. Many locals remarked on how the race brought a special energy and happiness to the local park where the race was held.
- Highlights of the race
- Salzburg.ORF.at - English translation and link to news article
- Irishman on verge of completing 3,100 miles(link is external) at Independent.ie
Commemorating 50 years of service to the UN
In 1970, with the blessing of then Secretary-General U Thant, Sri Chinmoy began meditations at the United Nations building in New York, and he devotedly continued this service for 37 years until his passing in 2007.
I am extremely fortunate to be blessed by the soul and the heart of the United Nations. Long thirty-four years ago, U Thant, the third Secretary-General, made a request to me to offer my prayerful service to the United Nations. Since then, every Tuesday and Friday I have been going to the United Nations to offer prayers and meditations. All the diplomats, delegates and staff are welcome to take part. We have a well-established Meditation Group at the UN Headquarters to love and serve the United Nations: the Body of the World and the Soul of the World.
The programme, Sri Chinmoy: The Peace Meditation at the United Nations, still has an active series of meditations. To commemorate 50 years of service, the group recently released a commemorative booklet with excerpts from 50 talks that Sri Chinmoy gave at the UN building.
The group also regularly participates in programmes to celebrate other UN events and days, such as the International Day of Happiness and International Day of Peace . Recently, they have also relaunched their Seven Minutes for World Peace programe, which Sri Chinmoy initiated in 1984.
Recently, they have been working on a website detailing the group's work, and their extensive activities over many decades.