The Year of Endless Surprises

Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration plants was published in 270 volumes between 1983 and 1998

In early 1998 Guru completed what was then his most prodigious poetic work—the 270 volumes of his monumental Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants—and so concluded an epic venture spanning more than fourteen years. It was another of those relentlessly sustained and patient undertakings which together coursed like a braided river through Guru’s life, those multiple strands of inspiration, of paintings and soul-birds, literature and music and wonderfully original things.

One evening we were with Guru shortly after the last poem in this series had been written. We asked Guru for suggestions for how his New Zealand disciples could celebrate the culmination of this vast poetic work.

Guru 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!

All I needed was the Supreme, and I would always win

For three years, starting in 1977, some 200 New York area students of Sri Chinmoy trained as a group for the Pepsi 24-Hour Bicycle Marathon in Central Park, as he encouraged us to challenge our limitations and thus discover our deeper capacities.

Starting a month before the race, which was held on Memorial Day Weekend, Sri Chinmoy would lead us on daily training rides in Flushing Meadow Park. The Pepsi Bike Marathon drew thousands of amateur participants, but also a core group of professional riders who competed seriously for the prizes. None of our team members had experience in racing, though a few of us did cycle regularly and take road trips. The first year we entered as a team was a bit of an experiment, though I think we won a prize or two for the size of our team and for our uniforms. But the second year, 1978, we trained more seriously, and I felt that Sri Chinmoy was determined to show us the limits of what was possible.

A week before the race, Sri Chinmoy chose who would be on the two small teams that would compete for the team prizes. I felt honoured that I was the only woman on the first-string team of ten, but I was quite alarmed when Sri Chinmoy solemnly called us up in front of the whole group and told us he envisioned each of us doing 300 miles in 24 hours!

Don't expect

One day I was having a really difficult time. It had something to do with some other disciples. When I was driving Guru somewhere, I told him about the problem. Guru just pointed to my dashboard, which had his New Year's Message taped on it:

Don't expect, don't expect.
Just give, give and give
If you want to really survive.

Sri Chinmoy 1

That was Guru's answer to my problems that day.

I did my job

A bad fall, a broken ankle, a cast on my leg, a sudden sharp pain in my chest . . . events cascading with increasing speed left me unable to breathe, as each time I tried to take a breath my chest muscles snapped back from the pain.

I was staying with my parents in my family’s home while recuperating from my fall. Now here it was, 5:30 a.m., and I was in agony from the pain in my chest. I knew enough from nursing school to suspect the worst: a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in my lungs. Unable to take more than the shallowest of breaths, I could not call for help. So I had to use my cell phone to wake my father in the next room.

The look on his face when he entered my room confirmed my worst fears⎯a blood clot had formed in the leg under the cast and had now entered my lungs. My father the surgeon quickly called 911, then in his best professor-of-medicine style, explained that I was at immediate risk of a stroke (if the clot traveled to my brain) or a heart attack (if it went to my heart). Thanks, Dad!

While Dad went to greet the ambulance, I called Ashrita in New York, who fortunately answered despite the early hour. I later learned that he had immediately called our restaurant Annam Brahma, as the workers there would have had the quickest access to Guru at that time.

I ended up spending a week in the hospital on life-saving drugs⎯but I know it was really Guru who saved my life. A few hours later I would have been on the train back to Boston, and if the clot had showed up then, I would have been unable to call for help, explain my predicament, or ask Amtrak to arrange for an ambulance at the next station. Plus, the stops between Delaware and Boston can be almost an hour apart⎯I might not have survived until I got to a hospital.

A few weeks later, arriving in New York for August Celebrations, I ran into Dipali, who looked like she was seeing a ghost, she was so startled to see me alive. She told me the “inside story”: Guru had told the restaurant staff at Annam Brahma that my soul was leaving the body and he had to bring it back.

“I did my job,” Guru told them.

Believe, take a step and proceed: a 6-day race experience

In April 2022, Susan Marshall ran the Sri Chinmoy Self Transcendence 6 day race. At the end of the fifth day, she had sat in second place, 16 miles behind the lead runner. But, on the last day of racing, she managed to complete an astonishing 84 miles, to win the race with a total of 442 miles. This is Susan’s report of her experience.

Susan Marshall
Susan Marshall at the 2022 6 Day race

The first time I did well in a multi-day race, I felt that it was a gift from God. My expectations of what I thought I might achieve were shattered, well beyond my training and experience. It came out of the blue and presented itself to me, something I had never wanted, asked for, or needed – a hand shunting me in this direction, an illumined marker on the picture of my being, a little x on the map of what might lead me towards peace and happiness. From here, I began to equate my success in running with my worthiness as a human being. If I was doing well it meant some higher force was supporting me, validating me. This wasn’t a terrible litmus test of life, after all, if you’re doing well in one area, it tends to flow into other areas as well, but assuming a perpetual correlation leads to expectation, and in my case, despair when my body bucked under pressure.

This year's race was a little different. The night before it began, I went to meditate at Aspiration-Ground, our meditation garden in New York where we used to meditate with Sri Chinmoy, and stood in front of the portrait of Sri Chinmoy that stands at the entrance. Normally meditation takes a concentrated effort from me, but occasionally I get a reminder that there is something beyond me, the thing I am trying to reach, that really powers my meditation. In that moment I felt God’s Immortal Peace. It was above all human deeds, all human acceptance of light.  Whether or not the Earth was receptive to it was inconsequential. The mind that believes in crime and punishment, karma and retribution demand a slower process than that which came from this source. This mind looks for repentance before forgiveness, worthiness before favour, yet somehow hopes for a miracle. It longs for something that will grant it what it can’t reach, restore what it has lost and broken. The Grace simply was, and it was waiting there for anyone with the aspiration to reach out and touch it. And I felt that all of the runners at this race, who dared to come after the travel bans and social drought of 2021, however they ran, were a part of something divine, illumining, and special – a new hope.

For the first time, I wasn’t nervous before the race started. I had been all-consumingly occupied right up until three days before the race started, and as such the hopes, doubts and possibilities hadn’t gathered enough traction to sink their claws in. The race started and we simply went.


Day One is always fast. You can move at a good speed, the tendons aren't burning in the body's panic to clamp down and hold you from moving forward. So no matter how much it rained, it was nothing to whinge about. The one-mile loop with its dips and troughs formed at least three serious puddles, in this case, known as lakes. Most people went around the outside but I preferred to crash through. Once the major puddles had established themselves as permanent features, enough to be assigned names, someone would come and lay down planks. The runners would clatter over, one or two at a time, rebounding each other's body weight on the downward stride.


One of the mental brakes any runner puts on is fear of injury – running their body into strain in the first few days. The impending possibility of achilles trouble, the fear of the unknown, cautioned my approach, suggesting I dare not even knock at the gates lest they not open. A cautious approach is sometimes wise but for what I wanted, it was not enough. It was do or die. I knew troubles would come, but instead of staying on meerkat monitor – jumping at every sign of tension and predicting doom – I accepted troubles as part of my lot, and I let go of my resistance to them.

The first day I ran 100 miles. By noon, (start of day two) I had issues. Usually, I get two clear days before they rear their obstinate heads. Some of my aims for this race had been to a) assess the progress of my ongoing Achilles issues, b) if they cropped up to see if my body and brain would cope with them and c) translate this information into the feasibility of running a longer distance. My calf cramped up which was the reliable precursor of worse to come. However, my handler Bhauliya massaged this away and for the first time in forever, it didn't come back. This was progress. The whole achilles/peroneal was inflamed though and the whole ankle swelled by about 20 %. This was an ongoing battle of the race, which we managed with compression sleeves and marijuana cream I was given with strict instructions to apply topically only.

Helper Bauliya (left) and Susan (right)

I decided I would learn to run with pain, and I did. While the burning in the achilles subsided quite a lot with the cream, the swelling never went away. But don’t worry, I had plenty of other problems. The pain in my feet was so bad that in my last couple of hours every night I would walk the course, biting my fist, and gripping my head in an imaginary tearing out my of hair.  Only a few weeks after the race ended, when I was pondering how and why I came to have such terrible foot trouble, did I twig. My entire year of training for the race had been done predominantly on trails, and while this probably helped me in millions of other ways, didn’t prepare me for the cold hard impact of the pavement. Since that little epiphany, in my lead up to my next race, I’ve adopted a strict concrete diet, with the most minimalist of footwear, and the occasional barefoot foray.

I cautioned my approach - running and a lot of walking, particularly in the afternoons. Long miles, long days stretched into a mindset of drudgery and defeat. My race plan became an artificial imposition composed of caution, self doubt and past experience resulting in a boring and mentally executed experience. And as it turns out, it was not helping me. Walking is actually harder on the feet, it involves more contact with the ground. But these are all things you don’t know until you do. And this was actually one of my goals of the race – to unconditionally proceed, regardless of inspiration or condition.

A few years back, a problem was not something I could live with – it was something that consumed my attention. I wasted so much time – stopping after every lap, trying this, trying that. It was like waiting for perfectly clear weather to play a game of cricket. But at some point, while I fought with my insoles and sulked in the corner, I noticed other runners going round and round, not stopping, slowly but surely building up miles. The joy of their momentum entered into me, and I resolved to change my approach. So I had learned something, but I still needed to learn more. And while I was aiming for more time spent on the course, I work better when I take more breaks, run a little faster while I’m actually out there and recover better for the next leg.

I planned many escapes from the race. On the third morning (end of day two. By the way, this is actually a seven-day race, spanning six 24 periods. This had one of my supporters in Australia emailing me, endlessly confused, telling me the results were always delayed, reassuring me the race was nearly over when it wasn’t) I woke up with my tonsils inflamed. I whined to my helper, hoping to be presented to a doctor as soon as one was available, but the relentless Bhauliya chirpily administered me with Vitamin C and kicked me back round the track. On the sixth morning (day 5) I took a COVID test – the dry cough and goops of snot surely manifestations of serious illness but escape denied – the test was negative.

I had mental escapes in dreams of the end. I fantasised about being at the laundromat, washing off what I’d spilt on my red jacket that was now permanently stuck with me. I eyed the sleeves of my green jacket that were darkened with the sweat I’d wiped from my face and visualised attacking them with a brush. My running clothes were feeling like prison garb, civilian dress the finery of the free. Waking from one brief nap I became transfixed by my terrible toenails. Bhauliya summoned my attention back to the race, repeatedly insisting this was not the time. (Although we could have sent a photo to my mother, who loves to proclaim upon each sighting of my quite classic runners feet that they should both be amputated.)

The possibilities were dwindling. From a goal of 450 miles, I was facing a strategy that would get me to 400. And I was in second place, about which I was ambivalent. I’d basically accomplished my goal. I’d proved I could run 60+ miles a day without grumbling and moaning. I’d shown my mind I could have a physical problem and still do okay. But I was not overjoyed.  The heart is never happy with anything less than full speed, and I was limiting myself.

At this point a friend of mine who has done much much better in these races than I have taken this moment to make me face what I was trying to hide from. She could see I could do better than I was, and encouraged me to aim much higher. She said I was running from the mind again, and if I opened my heart much more was possible. I’m very shy with pushing beyond. We tend to think that failure is worse than lack of success, but actually, failure and success are inconsequential compared to our effort, and what we achieve through just trying. I also knew it was going to be painful, I mulled on her recommendations for a lap, then next time I came round to Bhauliya said “We’re going for the top now.” Of course she was right in.

Finally, I was enjoying the race. The hours became less long because I needed and valued each one. Each mile was precious, each lap either a gain or loss of position. I was knocking upon the walls and barriers in my own mind and finding they were illusory. The joy in a multi-day race is that it does take you beyond your mind. It invites the unknown directly into every part of your being. Slowly but surely my mileage climbed and by the end of the night, I was in the first position.

If you’d ever like to see a live action zombie experience, do come along to the end of the six day race when year, especially when there’s been a good competition on between a couple of the runners. I had slept two hours and by the final hours was slightly broken on the course, moving on autopilot, running weird mathematics through my head calculating my pace and resulting mileage. I was walking, trying not to cry, and almost disbelieving I had done it.

final results
Final Results 2022 - 6 Day Race

At noon the race ended – I had reached 442 miles. While the other runners slapped each other on the back and participated in the camaraderie, I slunk into my tent. I was feeling sick, weird, and totally exhausted. They brought me lunch whereupon I demonstrated it is possible to eat salad lying down. (Why did they give me that?).

It took me more than a few days to recover and I was left with an unusual sense of how thin the line is between victory and defeat, often the result of a single decision. Although looking kindly at myself I see that a crossroads is only reached after many before it, and each decision we make is bolstered by the wisdom of all our good and bad experiences. The decision to finally step into the heart came when I saw that my mind had got me somewhere, but not where I wanted to be. My heart called me in and showed me what it could do for me.

The end of the race

We all believe in miracles. And what is a miracle but a power beyond our comprehension (working in our favour)? But through persistence, through determination, through gradual development of awareness, knowledge and capacity that comes from the heart’s aspiration to transform itself and all, we become that miracle. Conditions are never right. We are never perfect. But when we proceed, accepting the challenges not as obstacles, but as the explanation for why we are not where we want to be, and taking this opportunity to transform part of our world. Although our limitations are our present story, we take a walk, a run, or a leap of faith, because our inner eyes are seeing that we have more to give to this world around us. And through our efforts, these miracles become real. We carve them into the soil of time, we create tracks for others to follow.

Winning the race was not a miracle. A miracle is every runner there who believed they could do something unbelievable, and every person who knows that despite their conditions, despite themselves, despite the world around them, we will all soon be more if we believe, take a step and proceed.

Further reading

When a great person helps you to discover your soul


Irina Malikova was the head of international relations for the Gorbachev Founndation, and a dear friend of President Gorbachev and Sri Chinmoy. The following are some excerpts from their video interview.

Irina: When Guru came to visit where where we were staying at Dimitri (my son) immediately rushed towards him, sat on his lap embraced him and said this is my grandpa.

Agraha: Guru tells a story too - this is direct quote from Guru:

Sri Chinmoy with gifts for Irina and Dmitri, 2004

This is a story about Dimitri, Irina Malikova's little son. Today I was talking to him on the phone. I said, “Lotika will be here shortly. When she goes back to Moscow, I will send lots and lots of gifts for you.”

Then he said, “But Guru, you are the best gift.”

Sri Chinmoy

Serving the Lord in Joy


Rabbi Marc Gellman is a beloved Rabbi and author of many children’s books. For many years he co-presented The God Squad, a nationally syndicated interfaith programme, with his best friend Monsignor Tom Hartman, who was known to all as Father Tom. Father Tom had a lifelong friendship with Sri Chinmoy, and introduced Rabbi Gellman to him at a ceremony where Sri Chinmoy honoured both of them for their outstanding service. Rabbi Gellman is interviewed here by Dr Agraha Levine.

Rabbi Gellman: So I'm happy to be with you. Honoured, really.

Dr Agraha: Oh, my God, we're the ones honoured. You know, by the way, I took the opportunity and looked up the date - it was May 23rd, 2001, when you and Father Tom were with Sri Chinmoy.

Rabbi Gellman: Right, and it was Tom's birthday, the 21st was his birthday. That's why we were there. It was actually, I kind of forced my way in. It was really a meeting between Sri and Tom about his birthday. And Sri was gracious enough to include me in that day. And I was so anxious and so happy and thrilled to meet him and to with Tom to get lifted by him.

A joyful meeting with Father Tom, Sri Chinmoy and Rabbi Gellman

How my spiritual search led me to Sri Chinmoy


I was searching for spirituality for about two or three years on my own. I can't remember exactly my age. I must have been around 21 or 22.

I saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a meditation. It had a picture of Guru’s Transcendental photograph, the one his students meditated on. To me, the picture was very strange but something about it attracted me, and I decided to go with my brother. Guru gave two talks at Carleton University and Ottawa University. I think it was October or November. It was very cold. This was in 1971 or 1972.

Sri Chinmoy in Ottawa, 1972

The room was filled with people. Guru was meditating. It's very hard to describe this. Guru was meditating and he started to talk, but very, very slowly. And he smiled. To me, the smile… I never saw a smile like that. I was taken aback and it really struck my heart to see him smile. I couldn't quite understand what it was, but I could feel something from Guru.

Guru was talking about yoga and the spiritual life. He was speaking in a normal tone, but very softly. I realised that he was in a very high state. It was quite amazing.

Sri Chinmoy is going to be with us forever


An interview with scholar and National Book Award-winning novelist Professor Charles Johnson.

Dr. Agraha: Do you remember when you were the head of the creative writing programme, and you presented the World Peace Literature Award to Sri Chinmoy?

Prof. Johnson: That's correct. And I had that award made down the street from my house at a store that makes trophies. And I wrote the copy, I wrote the words. It was a great pleasure for me to do that, because Sri Chinmoy's publications, his writing of a spiritual nature, is voluminous. It's many, many, many, many books. And I think they are all very valuable, which is why it's for spiritual writing, this award.

Professor Johnson presents Sri Chinmoy with the World Peace Literature Award

Sri Chinmoy offered to humanity what humanity needs the most


Rudolf Moge was a member of Parliament representing the Slovenian city of Maribor, and a dear friend of Sri Chinmoy.

Maribor will always remember Sri Chinmoy with gratitude, as he was the only one who turned religion in the direction of bringing peace and progress to humanity at large. You could say that he is a modern Buddha, a modern Christ, a modern Muhammad.

The biggest message in his book Wisdom of Sri Chinmoy, which I call the Bible for this Millennium, is that if you want to get to the basic insights, to the truth or, as some say, to enlightenment, then you have several paths that lead to that goal. And there’s nothing wrong with going this way, that way, or any other way. The only thing that matters is our aspiration and the direction towards the goal.

Hon. Moge greets Sri Chinmoy, 2004