Auckland’s active interfaith movement was recently on show when the Sri Chinmoy Centre organised a memorable and inspiring evening of music on Monday, May 28, 2018. Ten local performing groups representing various spiritual traditions came together for a free concert of peaceful, meditative music at the Fickling Centre in Mt Eden. Singers and instrumentalists from Sikh, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Tzu Chi and various other musical traditions shared an evening highlighting both the diversity of Auckland’s cultures and their spirit of co-operation. The evening concert – ‘Sounds of the Sacred’ – was filled to overflowing and offered an experience of inner peace through music.
Interfaith initiatives have a long history. The 1893 Parliament of World Religions, where the great Swami Vivekananda spoke and came to prominence, is often regarded as the birth of the modern interfaith movement and the most inclusive gathering of people of all faiths and traditions in history. Yet initiatives go back much further, even to the 16th century and beyond when in Mughal India, the Muslim Emperor Akbar promoted and encouraged tolerance and respect for other faiths and controversially married a Hindu princess.
Encouragingly, in our modern world there is a growing accommodation and a widening acceptance and goodwill towards the many faces of religion, and sporadic extremism and religious wars only remind us of their folly and cruelty.
Sri Chinmoy, who for four decades led the inter-denominational ‘Peace Meditations at the United Nations’, spoke of the need for ‘oneness’ and of the loving quality of the human heart:
“In religion, just as in all other aspects of our life, the feeling of our oneness-heart has to prevail. If we live in our oneness-heart, we will feel the essence of all religions, which is love of God. True religion has a univ
ersal quality. It does not find fault with other religions. Forgiveness, compassion, tolerance, brotherhood and the feeling of oneness are the signs of a true religion.”
Interfaith efforts are evident in many world forums including the United Nations, where the promotion of tolerance, peace and mutual respect is enshrined in the UN Charter and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations also has interfaith breakfasts, sports competitions and cultural programs, and includes spiritual activities as well, such as the ongoing ‘Peace Meditations at the United Nations’ bi-weekly program for UN delegates and staff.
Speaking of the inner, spiritual dimension of world peace, Sri Chinmoy writes:
“There must be a great synthesis between the inner life and the outer life. The inner life wants love, and the outer life wants power. Now we are all exercising the love of power. But a day will come when this world of ours will be inundated with the power that loves. Only the power that loves can change the world.”
‘Sounds of the Sacred’ was also supported by the Auckland Interfaith Council, and included among the performers were local Mt Eden duo Monk Party; an instrumental/vocal women’s group from the Sri Chinmoy Centre; choirs from St Marks church groups; Sikh Youth performers; the Sathya Sai International NZ organization; and musicians from the Family Federation for World Peace.
Ten of us from the Sri Chinmoy Centres in New Zealand recently visited Indonesia – Yogyakarta, Lombok, Bali. We were there to bring Sri Chinmoy’s global torch relay to old friends and new friends in a year that is the culmination of 30 years of Peace Run editions, a milestone achievement.
During our month long stay the relay, manned by runners from 18 different countries, visited villages and communities in many beautiful locations and we were met everywhere by the smiling faces of hundreds of children, responsive hearts, moving civic receptions.
It was memorable to be so immersed in another culture, predominantly a Muslim one, and to find such openness, humility, generosity, acceptance and a deep interest and recognition of the Peace Run message – that we are one world family, that in our individual lives we can contribute to a better, more peaceful world. And so many remarkable people, products of a simpler world where community and spirituality are cornerstones of life.
In Bali we joined over 300 students of Sri Chinmoy, travellers from all over the globe converging on the Ayodya Resort for 10 days of meditation, recreation, swimming, twice daily functions that included concerts, plays, Peace Run activities and fun. Sitting on an evening beach, I was reflecting on all the countries I had once visited with Sri Chinmoy – 54 in all ! – and remembering both the uniqueness of each place but also feeling the underlying commonality of the human experience, the one world family. How easily such deep kinships can form with strangers, the recognition of others we have never previously met, the heart’s embrace of our wider human race – travelling reminds us that a part of us belongs anywhere and everywhere, we are world citizens and everyone is our family.
An article about ‘Songs of the Soul’ by Daniel Rubin
It’s a long way from Europe to New Zealand. For those living up in the northern hemisphere and Oceania-bound, it’s a 28 or 35-hour plane ride, chasing the moon through a long restless night, tossing about in an economy class seat and flying south across the equator and the vast black Pacific before finally touching down to a sunrise in faraway New Zealand.
So we were very happy when some thirty-five European and UK members of the touring Songs of the Soul entourage chose to do just that – musicians and technicians descending upon Auckland for the first of this popular concert series ever to be held in our part of the world, the first of six performances in Australasia.
We seldom have visitors – so how delightful to welcome our weary travelers. In Christchurch around 300 people came to the first concert at the fantastic new hall, ‘The Piano’, then over 400 to our free concert in Auckland at the Dorothy Winstone Centre on November 7th. And so many accolades from the audiences, among whom were city mayors, music luminaries, interfaith representatives, yoga teachers, sporting greats, media – everyone loved the concerts!
Songs of the Soul is a polished and well thought out presentation of the music of spiritual master Sri Chinmoy. Poet, artist, author, musician and one of India’s most prolific composers ever, in more than 770 peace concerts Sri Chinmoy touched countless hearts with his simple, joyful, deep and powerful songs. Like many musicians, he saw music as a way of bringing people together, of fostering a more peaceful world.
In concert, Sri Chinmoy himself would often perform on dozens of instruments from around the world and was a maestro on the little known Indian stringed instrument, the esraj. In his lifelong dedication to fostering a more peaceful world, he saw music as a way of uniting people, music as a common language of the heart that transcended cultural divides and nationality. To his musically gifted students he said: “Give the world music that comes directly from the soul. Soulful music is the music that immediately elevates our consciousness to the Absolute, to the Highest. Soulful music is next to meditation, and it carries the beauty and fragrance of silence, the message of the inner and higher worlds.”
In ‘God the Supreme Musician’ he writes: “God has created a universal language, and that is music. The universe itself is music. Unfortunately, most of the time we do not hear the music of the universe. But in everything, if we can become aware of it, there is music. Everything in God’s creation embodies music. We can hear it only when we dive deep within.”
Performers made up a truly international cast: Zurich musician Mandu played the haunting Chinese Erhu, accompanied by his wife Visuddhi on harp beautifully; Heart of Joy were a group of young women offering vocal and instrumental arrangements with clarinette, cello, harmonium, guitar; Monk Party, an Auckland based duo, sang and played ancient Indian mantric songs influenced by kirtan devotional music; brilliant Viennese cellist Shamita Ackenberger teamed up with Auckland’s piano accordion maestro Toshala to play three immensely difficult, high velocity songs that thrilled the audience and sent a palpable ripple of delight around the concert hall; and a finale led by London pianist Sahadeva featured an all-male choir as a triumphant last act.
Interestingly, the concert program and the Master of Ceremonies requested the audience to refrain from all applause until the end of the evening – this led to a sustained meditative feeling throughout and the sense of the concert being interactive, performers and audiences together co-creating an experience of peace and stillness. Songs of the Soul was very much an inner journey, a glimpse into the realms that Sri Chinmoy often referred to.
“God is the Supreme Musician. It is He who is playing with us, on us and in us. We cannot separate God from His music. The universal Consciousness is constantly being played by the Supreme Himself, and is constantly growing into the Supreme Music. God the Creator is the Supreme Musician and God the creation is the supreme Music. The musician and His Music can never be separated. The Musician Supreme is playing his Music Supreme here in the universe.”
You can view Sri Chinmoy and his various disciple’s groups in concert at: https://www.radiosrichinmoy.org/. Another remarkable and very inspirational site worth visiting is the official website offering an overview of the life and accomplishments of the late Sri Chinmoy: https://www.srichinmoy.org/
History’s longest and largest participation relay for world peace swept through Auckland and the central North Island in recent weeks, with thousands of school children clamouring to touch and hold the ceremonial peace torch that luminaries such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Mother Teresa once held aloft.
Now in its fourteenth running of the event in New Zealand, the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run featured two relay teams visiting greater Auckland, the Waikato and Rotorua/Tauranga areas and schools, sharing with city mayors, sports personalities and hosts of children the simple message that world peace is founded upon peace in our own lives – peace begins with you and me.
Named after its founder the late Sri Chinmoy, the Peace Run has visited over 140 countries and all seven continents in the past decade, with the peace torch having circumnavigated 15,000 kilometres around Australia, travelled from Cape Reinga to Bluff and inspired the dedication of over 200 cities to world peace. The Russian cosmonaut Gennady Strekalov even took the torch on the Mir space station to orbit the earth, a symbolic planetary gesture for a peaceful oneness-world. Organised entirely by volunteers, the Peace Run members are made up of runners from all walks of life, with eight different nationalities joining the recent relay in New Zealand.
Past and present supporters and patrons have included Pope John Paul, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Olympic great Carl Lewis, current and previous New Zealand Prime Ministers and Olympians and a host of world leaders. As a symbol of harmony, runners carry a flaming torch and pass it from hand to hand in thousands of communities the relay passes through, touching the lives of countless people in a truly grassroots event. “While running from one country to another in this Peace Run,” commented Sri Chinmoy, “we are transcending our capacities and at the same time, we are inviting the whole world to feel the supreme importance of oneness”.
An avid sportsman himself, Sri Chinmoy saw the Peace Run as an opportunity to give people a dynamic way of expressing their own hopes and dreams for a brighter future. As in the Olympic ideal of world peace through friendly games, over the past two decades the Peace Run relay has manifested the timeless ideal of bringing people together, looking for the things that unite us rather than divide us. In this spirit the Peace Run also honors notable peace servers in each community it passes through, offering a Torch Bearer Award to individuals who in their own lives have contributed to peace, cultural understanding and harmony.
Local runner Daniel Rubin was deeply inspired by being on the whole two weeks of the New Zealand event, and especially by the peace education program it shares with schools. “ Children can learn to be peaceful, to get on very well with each other from the very beginning of their lives – it’s part of their cultural growing and training. The opposite is also true. But watching the torch pass from hand to hand, I was struck by the innate goodness in the hearts of all the children we met. The kids everywhere were so inspired by the torch and what it means and embodies. Those who touch the torch are truly touched by the torch in return. It was a beacon of inspiration and somehow brought to life the simple message of the relay, that in our own lives we have the power to positively contribute to a better world. We each can make a difference!”
Sri Chinmoy had great faith in the children of the world, seeing in them the promise of a new era for mankind. In his popular book about children, A Child’s Heart and a Child’s Dreams, he writes:
“God’s creation is like a lotus or a rose. Each petal is unique in its own way. A child is an especially significant part of God’s creation, since God is dreaming in and through every child and manifesting Himself in an unprecedented way. Each child is bringing down a new message from God which was not known before. Naturally, if the world accepts it, the world is getting new light, new power, new joy and new love.
On today’s child depends tomorrow’s future. We talk about perfection, but this perfection that we speak of will come only from children — from a child’s heart and a child’s dreams. The old creation has to surrender to the new. The old creation means the life that does not want to see the truth, accept the truth or fulfil the truth. Who wants to see, accept and fulfil the truth? The child. Only a child has the capacity to feel that every day is a new dawn. Only a child is inspired to run, to do something, to give something to the world every day”.
Oct 15, 2014 | Farida Master | Howick and Botany Times
HIS artworks have been exhibited all over the world.
And the venues are illustrious – the School of Visual Arts and Carnegie Hall in New York, the National Gallery in Ottawa, the United States Senate Building in Washington DC, Parliament House in Canberra, UNESCO in Paris, UN Headquarters in New York, Sydney Opera House, and the Russian National Museum of Decorative Arts.
The paintings of Indian spiritual master, Sri Chinmoy, have been showcased in October this year at Highland Park Library.
The spiritual guru, poet, painter and world peace dreamer, who taught meditation to the West and lived in New York from 1964 until he passed away in 2007, saw his artworks as spontaneous expressions of a deep, inner reality.
The particular style of art that he used in acrylic and watercolour paintings is known as Jharna Kala.
It means Fountain Art in native Bengali language.
The humanitarian guru who campaigned tirelessly for tolerance and peace did not use his mind whilst expressing himself through art.
“I try to keep my mind as empty, vacant and tranquil as possible,” he said, about the technique he used.
“The outer mind is like the surface of the sea. Full of waves as it surges with restlessness.
The world’s largest torch, a 6-metre tall replica of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics torch, was unveiled on April 13 by Ashrita and Akio Haruhara, designer of the original torch. Following his two Celebrations records, Ashrita holds 184 current Guinness World Records, including the official record for “the most records held at the same time by an individual”.
Stunned by the sheer size of the lit torch, Ashrita dedicated the new record to Sri Chinmoy, whose “50th anniversary of starting all our sports and cultural activities including the Peace Run we are celebrating today.” Akio exclaimed, “Today is one of the happiest days of my life!” Salil, as Director of the Peace Run, presented Akio Haruhara with the Torch Bearer Award during the presentation ceremony.
The flaming torch has a height of 6 metres (20 feet) and a base of 1.5 metres (5 feet). The total height of the torch monument is 7.5 metres (25 feet). The mega torch is 11 times the size of the Olympic torch used in the 1998 Winter Olympic games to carry the flame from Athens to Nagano in Japan, and weighs 1200 kg. Ashrita and a team of 20 including some Aucklanders constructed the torch of aluminium and steel within three weeks.
On 10 April, more than 50 United Nations ambassadors, diplomats and Olympians joined with Ashrita and many Peace Run runners to set a new Guinness World Record by reading a poem in the most languages ever—206! Aided by other Centre members, Ashrita has broken this record on two previous occasions, but this far surpasses the prevous record of 146 (set in 2010). This time, the recitation was Sri Chinmoy’s Poem “O Dreamers of Peace”.
The record was set during the launch of the Peace Run at the Dag Hammarsköld Plaza, across from the UN Headquarters in Manhattan. It was one of Ashrita’s two records at Celebrations, in honour of the Golden Jubilee of Sri Chinmoy’s arrival in America.
Ashrita had been organising the world record for months. “The greatest challenges are in finding translators for languages which are spoken only by a few thousand people. For example, Bislama is only spoken by 6200 people in Vanuatu and New Caledonia,” he said. “The record set today is for the Guinness world record for “A Poem / Literary Passage Recited in the Most Languages.”
The English version of the Guinness Record Poem is:
“O dreamers of peace, come.
Let us walk together.
O lovers of peace, come.
Let us run together.
O servers of peace, come.
Let us grow together.”
Nelson wins our regular Saturday 2-mile race at the Auckland Domain. Held every Saturday at 7:15am by the cricket pavilion, the run is a good opportunity to improve your fitness and watch your weekly times get faster! About 30 joggers/runners enjoy this free early-bird outing.
Peace Run At the Peace Run 2014 launch in Manhattan – ambassadors, runners and participants from 80 nations attend the opening ceremony.
Also in New York recently, Toshala, manager of Mt. Eden’s Blue Bird café in Dominion Road, leads Mukti Giti, a women’s vocal/instrumental group offering Sri Chinmoy’s songs in concerts. Their audience numbered 800!
Performing in New York New Zealand and Australian Centre members performed several songs at an outdoor concert in New York .
12 Hour Walk
In a large international field of competitors, Phillipa from Auckland’s Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team wins the women’s 12 hour walk outright, with 54 miles covered in the epic event.
Preetidutta, with no training, comes third with 51 miles.
Winter in Auckland. Slow veils of rain drift across the city, slide westward across the dark bulk of mountains that crouch on the horizon, fill my windowpane in silhouette . The grey refrain of winter drums on the roof like a break-in. It has been a busy time, meditation classes three nights a week, public concerts, a two week flurry of reconstruction work at Goldengrove – our Auckland Center’s primary school – and redecorating the Blue Bird café. As well, much effort has gone into a Jharna Kala exhibit, a thankfully warm gallery on the edge of the city’s downtown area.
Our exhibition opening night was special, as is always the case when Sri Chinmoy’s soul birds and paintings are unveiled to the world. There were the welcoming speeches, a performance of Guru’s music by two vocal/instrumental groups, a video presentation, hot chai and snacks, mingling and befriending, a visitor’s book brimming with thoughtful and appreciative words: “ Sri Chinmoy – I salute you! Always you disappear over a far horizon where few will ever go, trailing like a comet this long blazing beauty of your achievements, your beautiful words, beautiful worlds, splashes of bright color, this feeling left in my heart. Thank you.”westward across the dark bulk of mountains that crouch on the horizon, fill my windowpane in silhouette . The grey refrain of winter drums on the roof like a break-in. It has been a busy time, meditation classes three nights a week, public concerts, a two week flurry of reconstruction work at Goldengrove – our Auckland Center’s primary school – and redecorating the Blue Bird café. As well, much effort has gone into a Jharna Kala exhibit, a thankfully warm gallery on the edge of the city’s downtown area.
Not only the paintings but the many quotations by Sri Chinmoy touched the hearts of our audience so memorably. We had sprinkled them among the three walls of paintings in large, bold type and these commentaries and insights caused much reflection and thoughtfulness. “Art is the embodiment of the unfathomable dance of the soul.” “Art, like love, is a force of oneness with the infinite. When we create a piece of art, we are really re-creating or reflecting some beauty of the Infinite.”. “The role of art in the spiritual life is first to awaken oneself and then to awaken the sincere seekers around one.”
I like very much this juxtaposition of art and aphorisms, a complicity of two ‘beautiful worlds’, each medium reinforcing and enlivening the message of the other, inviting the audience into a world of spirit and charming them with an awakening sense of their own sacred life. These birds are the beauty of your own soul, the unremembered self – can’t you feel it? The paintings are reflecting that ‘beauty of the Infinite’ which is inside each one of us.
We had unleashed the eagerness of three teams of disciples – each small team responsible for one of the three feature walls –to encourage participation and variety and newness, and this proved successful. The wall of Guru’s bird sketches was unstructured and free, capturing a sense of bird flight, playfulness, happiness. These were laminated, block-mounted prints uninhibited by framing and glass, flowing across the wall and interacting with the audience in their accessibility. Among their joyful scattering the aphorisms catch your eye, dissolve into the mind, explanatory: ‘My Lord, a tiny bird claims the vast sky. /
Similarly, the finite in me longs to claim Your Infinite Absolute.” “ We all want freedom and we all need freedom. The birds teach us to liberate ourselves from earth’s bondage. This teaching of the birds is indeed sublime.”
The avian images tug at your heart: the soul as a bird, ever free; feelings of liberation, joy, Godward flight; stirrings of the unremembered Self.
With the luxury of much space, a second wall of acrylic prints was equally unconventional, two staggered rows eye-pleasing in their defiance of orderliness and proclaiming their unique beauty. You ponder at the titles – ‘Hope’, ‘Harmony’ ‘Compassion’, ‘Love’, ‘Forgiveness’ – and slowly come to feel how these great abstractions are the banners of our humanity, the lodestars that will always point our way home. Here at the Te Karanga gallery, these lofty works of art have captured that ‘ oneness with the infinite’ that always inspires and awakens, scatters the stardust of the Heavens to a hungry world.
“Never see anything with your mind’s eye,” writes Sri Chinmoy the artist. “ See everything with your heart’s eye. Then you will see that everything is beautiful.”
Outside in the sodden city the perpetual rain falls, a winterscape, but in the warmth of the Jharna Kala gallery everything indeed is beautiful, your heart is filled with flying birds, bright colors, images and words that lift and charm the spirit.