Snatak introducing Sri Chinmoy at the Icelandic Parliament 30 Oct 2000
Late August, 2019 has been tinged with sadness at the news of the passing of a wonderful friend and meditation teacher, Snatak Mathiasson, a longtime colleague who has struggled with the rare affliction ALS for many years. In some mysterious way we are connected to each other, and the departure of those dear to us leaves us with a curious sense of loss. Although there is no death, and although we can celebrate his release from a captive, frail body to some higher realm, we still grieve – our kinship with others consoles and strengthens us, but its absence opens up trapdoors to loss and loneliness, our regrets, the mirror of our own mortality.
‘Do not go gentle into that good night…’ writes the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Our brother Snatak was true to this pronouncement and fought for so long to share his wisdom and his love of meditation with others in his failing years. Among his legacies, the a cappella men’s choir Oneness-Dream which he inspired and founded; the Sri Chinmoy meditation group Icelandic Centres and enterprises; the inspiration he brought to so many lives.
And all praise to those who cared for him with such dedication and love – we are full of admiration for the astonishing service of his close friends and outstanding caregivers who faithfully, tirelessly looked after him in his declining years.
In Sri Chinmoy’s play about the life of the Buddha, Prince Siddhartha sings at his final enlightenment:
“No more my heart shall sob or grieve.
My days and nights dissolve in God’s own Light.
Above the toil of life my soul
Is a Bird of Fire winging the Infinite.”
Our salute to our departed brother, free now to wing the infinite.
And Dylan Thomas’s beautiful poem ‘Fern Hill’ ends with a few further apposite lines…
“Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of His means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.”
Touching video entitled ‘SEEKER’ by Sanjay Rawal featuring Snatak Mathiasson still practicing his spiritual discipline despite his illness.
This was premiered at the 2017 Reykjavik Film Festival:
Over the last weekend of June we had a great meditation retreat weekend at the Aio Wira Retreat Centre in the Waitakeres. 16 people came for an overnight stay which included yoga and meditation, several hikes along the Te Henga coastal trail at Bethells Beach, ocean swims, glow worm walks in the night forest, vegetarian food cooking, challenging games, and lots of fun.
We were fairly tired after lots of physical stuff – a hike around a forest encircled lake, races up the famously steep Bethell’s sand dunes, night hikes to meditate under a sky blazing with stars, a game of frisbee golf on the new Long Road course in the Waitakere Ranges.
Everyone loved it and wanted to stay longer and repeat the experience soon. Another retreat is planned in September.
Travel always widens us, inspires us, ushers in new insights and adventures – our recent tour of the UK proved the truth of this conclusively! Fourteen members of our a cappella music group, Oneness-Dream, have just concluded a seven-day tour around parts of England, visiting and performing in some of the great cathedrals and other fabled and sacred places – the impressive and grand cathedrals in London,Oxford, Cambridge, Wells, and Glastonbury among them.
Members of the international Sri Chinmoy Centres from ten different countries, we performed songs from a chosen repertoire of fifty compositions, all drawn from the vast musical legacy of the late composer/musician Sri Chinmoy. Travelling across these long inhabited hills and valleys was very interesting for a New Zealander like myself, for these are the landscapes of legend and fable and folklore and if you close your eyes, stop your thoughts, you can easily feel the breath of past millennia, the vanished generations, the long sweep of centuries.
Everywhere, scraps of history litter the green fields – castle ruins, cottages crumbling back into the earth, the rib cage of an ancient wooden boat, an overgrown path leading to a destination that has vanished, tiny graveyards of twos or tens with their granite memorials or slate headstones now moss-covered and indecipherable.
In a green field adjacent to the ruined monastery at Wells, I sat for a while by a small sign before the supposed grave of King Arthur and Lady Guinevere, those characters immortalised in countless historical tales – Lancelot; the knights of the Round Table; Merlin the magician – those great legends originating over 1500 years ago. And in the huge and splendid Ely Cathedral, its construction dating back to 673 AD, I felt overwhelmed by the astonishing grandeur of its architecture, its art and stunning beauty, the extraordinary achievements of its artisans and builders and the genius of its vision.
Our Oneness-Dream members are not professional singers but incorporate singing as part of their spiritual practice. We come from 14 countries – Finland, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Scotland, England, USA, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and Colombia – and each year meet together to share our love of music in temples, monasteries, ashrams, sacred places worldwide.
Oneness-Dream have recorded six CDs – In Vastness-Peace (2011), from a tour of the churches of Iceland; In Oneness-Light (2012), sung in the temples and pagodas of Myanmar; Oneness-Dream at Tarpan Studios (2016), recorded at Narada Michael Walden’s Tarpan Studios in San Francisco; and CDs from tours of churches and monasteries in Ireland (2016), Tuscany (2017) and Czech Republic (2018)
Sri Chinmoy saw music as a pure language of the heart, a pathway to meditation, an expression and revelation of the our innate spirituality. His songs, flowing from the depths and heights of meditation, are unadorned with harmony or accompaniment – just the purity, beauty, simplicity, intimacy and immediacy of word and melody.
April 13, 2019 – today in New York several hundred people from 40 countries have gathered at a beautifully decorated outdoors meditation space to commemorate and remember spiritual master Sri Chinmoy’s arrival in the West. That historic arrival day was in the long-ago April of 1964, the very beginnings of an unknown Teacher’s mission to share India’s teachings with a spiritually awakening Western world. Then a humble and quiet yogi, Sri Chinmoy would emerge from his secluded years in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram to become a great leader who would inspire millions of people and establish a great mission that would reach out and touch the whole world. The 60’s were a time of spiritual revolution, of Woodstock, the Beatles and Joni Mitchell, of anti-war sentiment, environmental activism and a huge groundswell of cultural change like an incoming tide. Leaving behind the peaceful haven of an Indian ashram, Sri Chinmoy ventured out into this turbulent and hungry world to share the perennial wisdom-teachings of his homeland with the countless truth-seekers in America and the West.
Today is Sri Chinmoy’s arrival date, April 13th, a high point in our lives and always a day to remember. Daybreak, the dawn sunlight is coloring the budding springtime greens of the elms with a golden light, a lovely silence blankets our world before the traffic and the awakening sounds of streetlife. Down in the courtyard of our function space, a walking meditation is beginning and I slip into a long queue. There are four hundred people people here from faraway places, many of the women in a bright multitude of colours and wearing saris on this special occasion, a traditional garment honouring the sacredness of spirituality itself.
In the daybreak’s early silence, we are stilling our minds, summoning our deepest receptivity, accompanying the slow shuffle of the body with an effort at silencing all thought, to see how deeply within we can go. There is sincerity, intensity, bringing to the solemnity and sacredness of this occasion our highest aspiration. The shuffling procession of feet are now stirring up a thin, grey dust – looking down at my brown feet in their tattered sandals, I am reminded suddenly of the dust and heat of some other place and time, the image floating up and tugging at the edges of memory, an ever-so-faint echo from some irretrievable past. We were seekers from some timeless inner landscape and I could feel my soul’s memory of the long centuries spent in the search for enlightenment and the quest for God. Captivated by this feeling I was stumbling in the wake of the others, body barely upright, immersed in the stillness and free of all thought, the mind an empty clear sky.
On a vine covered wall that I pass by, I am drawn to a photograph of the late Sri Chinmoy, himself captured there in meditation. In the calm and peaceful face, I try to feel that in him I am seeing the highest possibilities of myself, like a mirror reminding me of something deeper and better about myself that lies beneath the human and the familiar. Yes, to see in another the highest flowering of the Divine is to more fully understand the final end of one’s own life quest. Beyond all book knowledge, all speculation, all discussion, there, in front of you, a face steeped in God, a being at the end of all journeying, at the summit height of all striving. Deeply moved I slowly walk away, feeling inside me the lovely benediction of the Master’s lingering smile and with it the promise of my own liberation. One day, yes, we too shall all fulfill our purpose and our promise to scale the highest heights of self-discovery, to attain the great enlightenment and freedom and God-discovery that lies at the end of all experience and effort.
Untamed landscapes always inspire and humble us, and our recent hike over the Tongariro Crossing was all of this, a 21 km tramp over the Central Plateau’s old volcanic wonderland with it’s big massifs and plains of buckled lava and jutting cones of mountains. A perfect day save for some early mist, blue skies all the way up the long ascent to the base of Ngaruhoe, then lunch at the red crater before crossing the ancient, flat crater beds of Mt. Tongariro.
A long line of humans, tiny as ants against the big canvas of ochre-colored earth, wending their way slowly over the beautiful tapestry of ridges and skylines, the far-off silhouettes of the Kaimanawa Ranges, green meadows of distant farmlands, shimmering distance. Then on down across Ketetahi’s northern flank and the long, long descent back to a roadhead and civilization.
Shared adventure always unites people, and we talk to strangers everywhere, many from faraway places and distant countries but sharing the calling of wild places. ‘Where are you from, what have you done, where have you travelled..?
Here too we are confronted by our limitations, our level of fitness, our daring, our fears and constraints – and here we challenge and surpass them. Sun-reddened, sore, thirsty, but happy out on these frontier lands that are as much about our self-discovering as of landscape. My companion takes a thousand photos, relishing it all, the sheer grandeur.
Then an overnight in Turangi near the river, all night long the murmurings of water at the edge of sleep, an owl – ruru, the message-bringer – calling from the dark shadows of a kowhai tree near our open window. Nature is always a haven, bringing us back to a wider understanding of our lives, of what is important and what is not, the diminution of all our problems against the backdrop of indifferent mountains and that unburdening, calm sky.
The saying ‘Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness’ has a poignant relevance to our country after the shadows cast by the Christchurch tragedy. The sense of national grief at the misfortunes of our fellow countrymen, the wonderful outpourings of support, the growing aspirations for a true multi-culturalism and our emerging unity in the face of great challenges, these are evidence of an evolving new identity we are discovering in ourselves and cherishing as a nation.
Co-incidentally, our relay team from twelve different countries has been running from Cape Reinga to Bluff this month as part of a 44 nation peace run promoting cultural understanding and world harmony, and visiting every nation in the Southern Hemisphere. The Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run forms the longest, largest peace run in history, visiting six continents and over 120 nations this year in a wonderful initiative to foster a brighter future and involving hundreds of thousand children.
One of our Auckland team members even spent four days in Antarctica, sharing the torch and it’s message with scientific research personnel and tourists. The symbolism of the torch the runners carry is hugely relevant: ‘We are one world family, peace begins with you and me.’
The Peace Run’s founder, the late Sri Chinmoy, shares the sentiment of Mahatma Gandhi, another of India’s luminaries who likewise commented on our individual responsibility to foster a better future: “First become the change you wish to see in the world..”
Tragedy always carries hidden its wings the seeds of new hopes and brighter tomorrows, like the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes. In the aftermath of the Christchurch tragedy, we are seeing our nation’s identity reshaping itself in response, finding unity and coherence and a choice of itself as compassionate and empathetic, an almost evolutionary jump in our understanding of what we want to be. The diverse nationalities of the Peace Run team found it deeply heartening to see the reflexive goodness in our people, the extraordinary dignity of the Muslim community, and to witness a nationwide generosity of spirit.
History’s longest and largest participation relay for world peace ever seen passed through the Auckland region this week, part of an epic 2,700 km length of New Zealand event. Runners are visiting more than twenty towns and cities throughout March, carrying the ceremonial torch on its month-long nationwide and global journey. An 80-nation initiative seeking to encourage cultural understanding and a more peaceful world, the Peace Run fosters international friendships and offers educational peace programs to the world’s children – this year the relay will visit every one of the 44 nations in the Southern Hemisphere. Following the March 4th opening ceremony on the Aupouri Peninsula in the far north, runners from twelve different countries are relaying a burning torch from Cape Reinga to Bluff, with political and civic leaders, sports personalities and some 40,000 schoolchildren nationwide participating.
Now in it’s 15th edition in New Zealand, the relay is part of a six continent journey covering 70,000 km globally and offering the simple message that world peace begins in our own lives –‘Peace begins with you and me.’ Throughout the event, runners visit schools and community groups to offer interactive programs highlighting the many ways in which we can contribute to a brighter future. Along the way, people from all walks of life join the Peace Run relay to support it’s simple purpose. From Bluff, volunteers will take the torch on through Oceania – Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Rarotonga, Tuvalu – and then across the Pacific for the relay’s continuing journey through South America.
Precious McKenzie and his wife, Elizabeth
In New Zealand past Peace Run patrons have included Allison Roe, Precious McKenzie, Hall of Fame athlete Rod Dixon, the late and legendary Arthur Lydiard and Olympians John Walker, Ian Ferguson and former All Black coach Graham Henry. Top New Zealand sportspeople such as Valerie Adams and Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon have also expressed their enthusiasm for the relay, joining a long list of national and world leaders inspired by the global event.
Millions of children in more than 140 nations have experienced the Peace Run’s peace education program, which teaches children through peace-themed art, music, drama and sports initiatives how to prevent conflict and build a more peaceful environment in their own community.
David and Malek with the Pullman Hotel running team.
“A peaceful world is a really unifying dream we all share” says local relay co-ordinator Dan Rubin. “This year we’ve had a fantastic outpouring of community support – the welcoming Auckland banquet evening offered by the Pullman Hotel, free vehicles supplied by Campervan World 33 Ltd, petrol and other costs met by Downlights/Illumina and Interworld fundraising to name a few. People love to contribute in some way to help build a brighter future.”
The Peace Run was inaugurated in 1987 by the late Sri Chinmoy, who believed that a global relay dedicated to peace could build international friendships and understanding and have a positive effect on world affairs.
The following interview offers insights into the value and growing popularity of stress management and meditation skills for employers. Course instructor and founder Jogyata Dallas offers the Hour of Peace lunchtime introduction to meditation in company offices, providing an overview of the benefits of meditation practice and teaching several guided techniques for employees and staff to experience firsthand. A number of companies have created dedicated meditation rooms and encourage regular staff practice sessions after noticing the positive benefits.
Question: So what does ‘An Hour of Peace’ entail?
Jogyata: I spend an hour at lunchtime, or any suitable time, with company employees in their own workplace, talk a little about the benefits of meditation, then teach a couple of exercises to get everyone started. I introduce the ABC’s and answer the basic questions about stilling the mind, how long, how often, principle exercises to work with. I also encourage employers to have a weekly staff time together, even a dedicated practice time and space, and quite a few big companies are now doing this. It’s quite simple yet very effective – every HR manager knows the virtues of having happy staff. Meditation today is becoming established and popular in mainstream society, in our workplace, our schools and personal lives.
Question: Why meditation?
Jogyata: Well, meditation and mindfulness are fast becoming catch phrases these days, an acknowledgement of the need to observe and calm the mind in a hectic modern world where stress, clutter and high velocity lifestyles are placing great demands on our composure. Happiness and health are fundamental in any business environment and meditation recognises this, and that a stress-free and happy mind are major factors in our productivity. Meditation can help to create the optimum conditions for vitality and efficiency.
Question: What are the essentials of meditation?
Jogyata: Our minds have never been so overloaded as they are today. The many techniques employed in learning meditation share a common theme – harnessing and concentrating the power of the mind. The mind is like the waves on the surface of the lake, constantly moving – meditation stills this restlessness so that we can see down into the lake’s depths, the quiet inner spaces. By-products and benefits of this effort are numerous – an ability to focus and concentrate quickly, enhanced memory, a stillness in the meditating mind which enables us to access deeper, intuitive, creative and inspirational parts of our being. Silence and stillness are immensely potent, creative.
Question: And the principle benefits?
Jogyata: They’re numerous – a reduction in stress levels, a deepening sense of purpose, better sleep, renewed vitality and energy, a growing self-confidence and inner poise. Further into our practice there’s the slow awakening of our spiritual nature as well, and you’ll wonder ‘Why am I feeling more peaceful, happy, why am I getting on better with everyone?’ As our practice deepens the benefits flow out into all of life, into how we understand and deal with each passing moment – it’s a life skill that changes our existence from the inside out.
Question: You mention happiness as a real positive…
Jogyata: Yes, most of our efforts at happiness rely upon external things that are often unreliable and changeable…like better jobs, new relationships, material things, travel plans and so forth. But our endless search for some ideal combination of these doesn’t ever solve our anxieties or discontent, and a lifetime of exploring always brings us back to ourselves as the source of happiness. We will never be satisfied by only the ephemeral things of the world. Happiness is more an inner achievement – simplicity, calm mind, desirelessness, a clear sense of purpose that gives our life meaning and direction.
Yes, that seems a common theme in the different approaches to meditation, happiness as a state of mind above everything else.
Meditation explores the inner path to happiness and gradually brings about a desireless contentment that has nothing to do with where you are, who you are with, what you own…it’s an inner achievement, the reconnecting to our deeper nature that many of us have forgotten even exists. With practice, meditation brings inner happiness, a life free of stress and anxiety.
Question: Why is ‘An Hour of Peace’ free?
Jogyata: I’m a member of a well-known meditation group, the Sri Chinmoy Centre, which has been offering free meditation courses for almost 40 years around New Zealand. Our founder, the late Sri Chinmoy, saw meditation as an important aspect in fostering a more peaceful world – he asked that we share our own love of meditation freely, that money should never disadvantage anyone from learning. I like this very much!
Question: Any final comments?
Jogyata: If you’re keen to try this at your workplace, give me a call, there’s no cost involved and it’s very well received and practical. I wrote an online aid to meditation: nz.srichinmoycentre.org/meditation/learn_meditation_online
New Zealand’s cities and landscapes are dotted with statues, artworks and monuments celebrating our short but eventful history. In civic squares, on roadsides and highways and across parklands and paddocks you’ll see them, the memorabilia of wars; monuments to our deceased founders; rural images of giant gumboots, shearers crouched over iconic sheep and frozen in bronze, giant kiwis, cows, sheep dogs, mounted equestrians; Maori carvings; Greek and Hindu gods and religious monuments; famous All Blacks and poets; Antarctic explorers, giant meditating Buddhas and leaping trout.
They celebrate our great achievers, the sacrifices of soldiers, notable shipwrecks, political luminaries, our unique culture and the way we see ourselves, the human imagination itself.
Memorials and public art represent our values and our view about who and what should be remembered in New Zealand, part of the narrative of our nation’s journey and identity. Our understanding of the past ― our selective celebration of it through our artworks ― also helps to determine our choices as to the future. And here our choice of statues and monuments can undertake a deeper purpose, encouraging reflection about a better world and inspiration about our individual role in fostering this. Our bronze generals on horseback and our Anzac fields filled with the white crosses of the fallen are worthy and meaningful, saluting the dead and remembering the sad lessons of history, but art also needs to look forward towards a brighter future for humanity, one free of the blight of war and suffering. In this way, our public monuments can be profoundly important.
Taupo recently embraced this positive concept of inspirational, interactive art by installing and unveiling a life size sculpting titled ‘Dreamer of World Peace’. The bronze work was created by the noted English sculptor Kaivalya Torpy and commemorates Taupo’s 1993 dedication to peace, a proclamation issued by former mayor Joan Williamson and district councilors of that time. The October unveiling, attended by councilors, peace advocates, schoolchildren, national athletes and iwi representatives, marked the 25th anniversary of that dedication.
The commemorative statue is modelled after the late peace visionary Sri Chinmoy, who founded the 150 nation Peace Run and dedicated his own life to world peace. Sri Chinmoy visited NZ on four occasions and met successive Prime Ministers, founding a legacy of peace initiatives around our nation. Over 12,000 people attended his many free Peace Concerts in New Zealand. He personally visited Taupo for 12 days in 2002, meeting some of its famous locals including rugby great Colin ‘Pinetree’ Meads.
New York and Boston marathon winner Allison Roe and Taupo’s Mayor David Trewavas at the statue unveiling.
Taupo is the first location in New Zealand to install the popular statue, and joins nearly 30 towns and cities around the world that have embraced this artwork – an international family of peace monuments in India, Russia, the United states, all across Europe and in three cities in Australia. The occasion saw a host of out-of-town visitors, including former New York and Boston marathon winner Allison Roe.
Taupo event co-organiser Muslim Badami commented: “In a world where humankind is confronted with so many pressing challenges, it’s heartening to focus on the positives and to remind ourselves of the power we each have in our individual lives to help in building a better world. And this is the message of the statue – that we are each peace makers, bridge-builders and harmony dreamers, and that world peace starts with each one of us in our own lives.
The statue is intended as an interactive public artwork that invites everyone’s participation. You’ll be amazed at how much people respond to it! The folded hands are a traditional gesture of welcome and they say to each visitor ‘I greet you, I bow to the peace-lover in you’. This wonderfully expresses our own community’s welcome to our thousands of visitors and guests. The folded hands are also a prayer or request to a higher power, however we choose to imagine that, to bring down peace into our troubled world.”
“The statue has a lovely stillness and presence and provides a focal point in our parkland and our community for reflection and peace. It inspires us to understand that we each truly matter, that a peaceful world requires peaceful people, that a brighter future for humanity can only be founded upon our individually peaceful lives. ‘Dreamer of World Peace’ is in fact all about you and me and how much we matter. “
Reprint with the kind permission of NZ Indian Outlook\ by Jogyata Dallas
In our popular Western perception of ageing, our advancing years are often associated with decline, frailty and incapacity – we plan for our uncertain tomorrows, make arrangements to safeguard our last years against a time when infirmity renders us dependent or enfeebled. Age too is invariably measured against the calendar of time, though our earthly, chronological age is seldom the same as our biological age and other measurements of age – the age of the mind, the heart, the soul – are seldom considered. But youth can equally mask an old soul and a wise heart, the fruit of unremembered other lives, while an old person may have a young soul, a closed heart and mind. The reverse too is equally true – the elderly can be youthful, enthusiastic, open-hearted, young – the young elderly, close-minded, narrow. When someone inquires as to your age, which aspect of your being and your real age should inspire your reply?
India’s inspirational master Sri Chinmoy spoke a great deal about the significance of the spiritual heart in remaining youthful, happy and positive, and of the heart’s theme qualities of love, happiness, compassion, spontaneity and youthfulness. Responding to questions in an interview, he comments:
“The moment you think of your old age, you destroy all your inspiration, aspiration, joy and enthusiasm. The moment you think of your old age, that very moment is your death. You have to feel that everything is a series of experiences. Do not take life and death as two separate things: this is life, that is death — no! Death is just a passage we are going through. There is life, and on the way we meet death. In the Eternal Life, there is life, then death, then again life. It is a game that is going on.
We talk about our physical age, but the truth is that the moment we take a physical body, death becomes an inevitability. Again, inside the body, if you can be in touch with the soul, then you can take the body as a toy. You are playing with the toy, and then afterwards you are finished with the toy. It is a game. At this moment, God is playing a particular role in and through you. In a few years, in the same Cosmic Play, He can play another role. After another twenty years, He can play yet another role. We make a serious mistake by feeling that when we are fifty or sixty the role that God is playing through us is sometimes not as important as the role that He gave us to play at the age of twenty. We have to feel that whatever role God plays through us at the age of twenty, forty or sixty is equally important. For Him, sixty is not old age. After the age of eighty or even one hundred, when you go away to the other world, you will see that there He is still playing His role inside your soul.
So, every phase of life is equally important because our good qualities must develop slowly, slowly, slowly. Continuously a new game is starting, a new part you have to play. Each time you are given a new role, you have to play it well. When you become a huge tree, at that time more responsibility comes. A tree has to give so much, so much. Under the tree at first only one pilgrim can stay. Later many individuals can come and stay. Finally, the tree has to feel the responsibility of giving shade, protection and shelter to all. The higher you go, the more shelter, protection and illumination you have to give to others. In terms of human age, you may be only sixty or seventy, but in terms of divine light and divine wisdom you will become hundreds and hundreds of years old.
Light, delight, peace and so on do not belong to an earthly calendar. They came from Infinity, they remain in Infinity and they will always remain in Infinity. We have to consciously try to grow into that Infinity. Our life-river is flowing, flowing, flowing and entering into the ocean. Do not take the life-river as something that can be divided into years. It is a oneness-flow that is going towards the infinite Light. The important thing is not to use the mind when age is descending upon you. Only use the heart. Just say, “At this point I have to blossom in this way; at that time I had to blossom in a different way. A few years from now I will have to blossom in a totally different way.” Each moment has its own most significant beauty. When the time comes, when your life-flower is fully blossomed, then it will be able to give much more joy and fragrance to mankind and be of more help to sincerely aspiring seekers.”
Reprint with the kind permission of IndiaNZ Outlook
Contributing writer Jogyata Dallas