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
Sri Chinmoy was one of running’s great spokesmen, advocates and torch bearers, reviving ultra distance running and promoting some of the most remarkable endurance events ever witnessed or attempted. Several of his students have chronicled these races and talked of the philosophy behind them, including filmmaker Sanjay Rawal. For almost three years, Sanjay has been exploring the significance of running in different cultures across the world, spending time with the Gaolo-San bushmen in Botswana, the legendary Japanese gyoman-san running monks, and Navajo runners in the deserts of Arizona. A large part of his time was spent following the 52-day journey of the 3100 Mile Race, documenting two runners – a record holder and 14-time finisher Asprihanal Aalto from Finland and first-time entrant Shamita Achenbach-König from Austria – as they bravely embarked on this modern day running odyssey.
The result of all that hard work – the compelling 80-minute long documentary 3100: Run and Become – is now being released in theaters across the USA and early next year in New Zealand.
“This film shows how great anyone can become when they transcend their limits.” – Tegla Laroupe, women’s marathon record holder.
You can see the trailer for the documentary 3100: Run and Become here.
Click here to watch an interview with Sanjay about the documentary 3100: Run and Become.
Sanjay, a keen surfer, also co-scripted and produced an earlier film about the relationship between meditation and surfing, a delightful 20 minute feature titled ‘Ocean Monk’.
How far can you walk, run or shuffle during 6 hours or 12 hours of continuous forward motion – or way out there on the far frontiers of impossibility, how far in 24 hours? How many miles or kilometres will your legs, lungs and heart carry you, how much determination can you muster in challenging impossible and frightening distances? These questions brought 47 athletes from as far away as Holland, Buenos Aires and the United States to the Millennium Stadium on Auxkland’s North Shore recently, a multinational, cheerful bunch bound by their shared quest for an inspiring and empowering answer.
Held annually around a 400 metre track and hosted by the supremely efficient Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team members, this year’s race started at 9am on an uncharacteristically sunny and windless morning, October 6th, a welcome change from the often fierce winds and relentless rain that visit this event and multiply the challenges facing the long distance runner. Behind this race, the life and message of its founder, the late spiritual master and sports lover Sri Chinmoy is evident, seen in the trackside aphorisms that speak of self-transcendence; the encouragement of the volunteers who themselves have run in ultra-marathons, even multi-day events; and embodied in the very nature of the race itself with its belief in the unlimited potential of each and every human being when body and mind are harnessed to will and spirit.
Newcomers to the world of ultra running start with the 6 and 12 hour event, a manageable distance – each will choose when to run, walk, rest; what type of nutrition and fluids work best; and draw too upon all of the knowledge honed through training. Veterans will come for another go at the 24 hour epic, a more grueling confrontation with oneself, with exhaustion and pain and the effort to pass beyond them into further realms of self-discovery.
In mild, sunny conditions men’s winner Greg Yee from Dunedin completed 188.28 km in 24 hours, and women’s finalist Kim Allen from Papakura ran 167.6 km to become the 2018 Athletics New Zealand 24-Hour national champions.
Rob Robertson (USA) and Joanne Aitkin both race-walked for the entire 24 hours, each covering 161.6 kms – observed by walking judges, they became New Zealand Centurion Walkers, having walked 100 plus miles in 24 hours and joining an elite band of athletes. For many, the experience of the race will be a life milestone, a time when everything else fell away and there was only that single-pointed determination to persevere, to push past the usual constraints of tiredness, the mind and body’s capitulation to comfort and relief, the constant challenge of exhaustion. Few venture to these shadow lands, but those who do are never quite the same again, experiencing very often an exhilaration that might best be described as the souls joy. And realizing that running is a life metaphor, that if one can overcome the restraints and hurdles here, one can achieve anything in any endeavor.
Sri Chinmoy founded the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in 1977 as a service to the running community and to promote physical fitness and self-transcendence through sports. Over the years the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team has become one of the world’s largest sponsors of ultra-distance running, while also organising short races, triathlons and multisport events around the world.
Humanity has always wondered about its future, devising myriad ways to look beyond the present moment to prepare and shape its destinies and its fortunes. Since ancient times, shamans have looked for patterns in the spiraling contours of smoke, taken hallucinogenic plants to unveil the mysteries of life and to access other dimensions; Tarot cards are still widely consulted and interpreted; clairvoyancy has flourished and messages channeled from Ascended Masters and psychics; and there have always been tea leaf auguries, prophecies and visions, gazing into crystal balls, interpreting the flight of birds, the prognostications of dreams.
Prediction is also now a developing science, venturing into the hugely complex world of advanced computers, with algorithmic capacity handling cascading terabytes of data. Researchers may still fall far short of predicting outcomes with the precision that policy-makers long for, but the scenarios that they can now envision are modelling outcomes used in governance and world economies.
Among these arts and sciences, astrology has always enjoyed an undying, even resurgent popularity, and many aficionados of this discipline use it to determine their way forward and guide them in their decision-making. During his lifetime, spiritual master Sri Chinmoy was often asked about astrology and the following excerpts are drawn from his responses to a number of questions about the scope and power of astrology. In a talk titled ‘Astrology, the Supernatural and the Beyond’ he comments:
“Astrology is the song of the stars. That which has been decreed and that which has already entered into the world of manifestation is recorded in the stars. When astrology deals with the past, with what has already been recorded, it is nearly always correct. But astrology also lets us see potentiality, and it seeks to tell the future on the strength of the past. Expert astrologers are adept at entering into the truth of this realm. In most cases, when it is carefully and scientifically done, astrology is absolutely correct for ordinary people who have no faith in God or in themselves.
Astrology is one hundred per cent correct when one is totally in the physical world and is living an ordinary human life. When one enters into the inner life, the spiritual life, it is sixty or seventy per cent correct. If the aspirant is in touch consciously or unconsciously with his inner being, and if his inner being is constantly in touch with the Source, there will be many, many bad things that he can avoid. Finally, when one is consciously in communion with God, astrology does not function at all for that person, because everything in his life comes directly from God. True oneness with God is far beyond astrology.
Even if people have faith in themselves, with this faith they can transcend astrology. That is why we say that faith changes things by an unchanging will. If we have an unchanging will, fate can be changed. True, all our past deeds are recorded in the stars. But if we want to obliterate fate, it is like obliterating something on a tape recorder. I say something and it is recorded, but if I want to erase it, I can.
On a deeper level there is always a higher force called God’s Grace. God’s Grace can change anybody’s fate. This Grace is almighty; it changes the possibilities and transcends the laws of astrology, which are God’s cosmic Laws. Sometimes an astrologer’s prediction is actually true, but it does not happen because of the divine Grace. Furthermore, we have lines in our palms that show how many years we shall live on earth. In some cases, anybody who knows palmistry will say that a person’s life-line is only for, say, thirty-two or thirty-three years, but this person may be seventy-two or seventy-five years old now. How does it happen? Some higher power has been responsible.
In India there are quite a few systems of casting horoscopes. The Bhrigu system is most significant. It was introduced thousands of years ago and now there are volumes upon volumes written about it, with everything recorded. You just give your chart to the brahmin, the astrologer who is dealing with this system, and he will turn the pages in front of you and tell you everything about your life. Very often it is true. In horoscopes we see that many times death is written for a person. Astrologers mention that there will be danger and the person will die. But many of these
people are still alive. There is nothing that cannot be changed by the infinite Grace of the Supreme.
Astrology does not have the power to change our fate, but spirituality or Yoga does have this power. The difference between astrology and Yoga is that astrology only indicates; it indicates the future on the basis of the past, but it does not change it. Yoga, however, can actually defeat the past and shape the future. Astrology plays its role most effectively until one has entered into deeper spirituality. There astrology bows down. Before one accepts spirituality, astrology is very powerful, like a lion. Then when one enters into a deeper spiritual life, astrology becomes a tiny household cat.”
Reprint with the kind permission of NZ Indian Outlook
Auckland’s 17th Diwali festival, colloquially referred to as ‘The Festival of Lights’, will soon be enlivening our city streets and temples and bringing gaiety, color, dance, music, theatre, workshops and a wonderfully irresistible array of multi-ethnic food stalls to our nation. Signifying the triumph of light over darkness and originating centuries ago from the time of Lord Rama’s return from exile, it celebrates hope, life’s spring times and renewals, humanity’s brighter future. The candles and celebrant lights of Diwali also convey the deeper, spiritual symbolism of the festival, reminding us that ‘light’ is an intrinsic property of the soul and originates in the beauty and mystery of an omnipresent Creator.
The late Indian spiritual master Sri Chinmoy answered many questions about Light – below are some excerpts from his responses.
What do you mean by Light?
Light is the power of the Supreme that illumines and transforms ignorance. Anything that transforms our existence is Light. Light, you can say, is the life-breath of the Supreme. Each colour of light has a special meaning. Blue light is Infinity, vastness; white light is purity. Green Light is life-energy, new life. Like that, each colour has a significance.
What is the purest Light?
The purest, highest Light is the Light of the Absolute Supreme. This Light can be seen and, at the same time, it can be felt or experienced. When we have established our constant, eternal and inseparable oneness with the Highest, the experience that we get is purest Light. If we have to define the purest Light, we can say that it is nothing but an experience of the Supreme in the Supreme. When we consciously feel our permanent and complete oneness with the Absolute Supreme, we get an eternal and everlasting experience of real, purest Light, and the purest consciousness of the Supreme is put at our disposal.
How can we attain the experience of purest Light?
We achieve this experience on the strength of our inner cry. If we work outwardly for material wealth or power, eventually we achieve these outer things. When we want to do something or achieve something, we have to work for it. Right now our goal is purest Light. In this case, our work is to cry inwardly. We have to inwardly cry like a child for inseparable oneness with the Supreme. The child cries for what it wants, and the mother always comes. No matter where she is, she comes to offer the child whatever it wants. But everything depends on the sincerity of our inner cry. If our cry is sincere, God is bound to grant it. If we cry inwardly for spiritual things — for Peace, Light, Bliss — then we are bound to achieve these divine qualities.
What is the source of the higher Light?
This Light actually comes from the soul; it is inside us. The moment we can have free access to our inner being or to the soul, we will see that this Light is coming to the fore to permeate our whole outer existence.
Can you tell us how we can bring down light from Above or from within?
It is very easy. Just invoke light. When you pray, pray to God to inundate your body, vital, mind and heart with light. There is nothing wrong in doing this. It is absolutely necessary to pray to the Supreme to inundate your inner and outer existence with light. Our Upanishadic seers prayed to God for light, light, light. For us also, there is only one thing we need: light. If you want to bring down light from Above, prayer is the answer. Or, while you are meditating, you can invoke God the Light. Through our prayer and meditation, we are growing into God’s boundless and infinite Light and becoming all that God is and all that God has.
What is the purpose of ignorance?
This life, as you know, is a kind of game that we play; we call it a cosmic Game. What we call ignorance is nothing short of an experience which God is having in and through us. If we become conscious of the fact that we are only His instruments, then we are not bound by ignorance. We see that there is someone, the Inner Pilot, who is playing His cosmic Game in and through us. If we know that we are mere instruments, then there is no ignorance, there is no light; there is only the Supreme, who is everything. He is the Doer, He is the action, He is the result; He is everything.
Is there any relationship between the light that the seeker receives and the light the earth receives?
The Light of the Supreme is descending to earth in infinite measure. It is up to the seeker either to accept it or to reject it. According to his capacity of receptivity, each seeker is receiving the Light of the Supreme. Earth embodies the seeker and, at the same time, the seeker represents earth, Mother Earth. When the seeker accepts Light, immediately this Light enters into the consciousness of the earth-mother in him. Again, when earth receives Light, when the mother receives Light, she offers it to her children. When the soul of the earth receives Light, it shares this Light with the seekers, its children. And when the children receive Light, they also share the Light with their mother, earth. One moment the son is earning the salary; the next moment the mother is earning the salary. Then they share their achievements with each other.
Isn’t it necessary to control the mind first in order to receive divine Light?
If we want to control the mind with our will, it will be like asking a monkey not to bother us. The very nature of the monkey is to bite and pinch us. It is impossible to stop it. But we can bring to the fore the light of the soul, which has unlimited power. In the outer world, when somebody is superior in strength or power, he tries to punish the one that is bothering him. But in the spiritual life, the light of the soul and the light of the heart will not punish the mind. On the contrary, the light will act like a most affectionate mother. It will come forward and try to transform the mind. It will feel, as a mother does, that the imperfection of the child is its own imperfection. The heart will feel the obscurity, impurity and darkness of the mind as its own limitations and, at the same time, it will be in a position to offer its light — the light it gets from the soul — to the mind. We have to use the superior power, the light of the soul, to control the mind. If we try to control the mind before bringing down divine Light, we will sadly fail.
How do we bring light into the subconscious?
You should aspire for the light that will transform your nature. Only by bringing light into your entire system can you illumine your inner darkness. No matter how many hours I dwell in a dark room, the dark room will not be changed into an illumined room. But if, just for a second, I can enter into an illumined room, then I may be able to bring light into the dark room and illumine it. When you meditate, you drink the light which permeates the atmosphere. This light will be able to illumine and purify the dark and impure things that you have inside you.
When you start your concentration or meditation, try to feel that you have come from light and that your whole existence exists inside light, that you not only embody light but are light itself. This is not imagination or mental hallucination. Far from it! It is a real, solid, concrete truth. If you can realise this, you will see a spontaneous flow of light from within. First you will feel it inside your heart. Then you will feel it in your forehead — in the third eye; and finally you will feel it throughout your entire being.
There are also other ways of seeing light. One way is through your breathing. Each time you draw in a breath, please feel that you are breathing in something that is feeding, purifying and energising everything inside you. And what is the thing that you are breathing in? It is nothing but light. After a while you will feel that this light you are breathing has totally filled your being. At that time you will see and feel that you are nothing but light itself.
Why is darkness impermanent and light permanent?
Light is permanent precisely because our Source is all Light. We come from Light, in Light we grow and through Light we fulfil our inner task. God is the eternal Source and we are His children. God-realisation, the flood of infinite Light, is our birthright. The more we go deep within, the easier it becomes for us to realise that there is something within us which is everlasting. Right now we are enveloped by darkness because we have been sleeping for a few years or a few incarnations. But a day will come when the infinite Light will dawn in us and make us feel what we truly are. Since our Source is God, who is all Light, eventually we also have to grow into Light. It is the Creator who has created us and eventually we have to grow into His very image. Our inner sun, which is infinitely brighter than the physical sun, will dispel the ignorance-night of millennia. Let us try to go deep within and enter into our inner sun, our cosmic sun. There we shall see the infinite, permanent Light waiting for us and crying for us.
Reprint with the kind permission of NZ Indian Outlook\
by Jogyata Dallas