New book: plays based on stories by Sri Chinmoy
This month marks the release of a new book of ten plays by Sumangali Morhall, based on stories by Sri Chinmoy. Each play contains between one and thirteen stories, set to rhyming verse. Sumangali comes from York, UK and this is her second book, her first being Auspicious Good Fortune, an account of how she came to the spiritual life.
In the introduction to the book, Sumangali explains how she began writing these plays:
"These rhyming plays began on a Christmas Trip with Sri Chinmoy in China, December 2004. On our winter retreats, as well as meditating with Sri Chinmoy in person, we had the privilege of immersing ourselves in his new creations: songs, prayers, aphorisms, stories and artwork. In the evenings it usually fell to us, his disciples, to entertain one another on stage. Much of the programme consisted of plays based on the Master’s stories – some of which are tales retold from Indian folklore, others anecdotes from Sri Chinmoy’s own experience, others born of his own creative imagination, and many seemingly from delightful worlds between.
I rarely involved myself in plays up until then. I was – and still am – terrible at acting. My self-consciousness and inability to handle pressure led to a chaos of forgetfulness on stage. It saddened me not to contribute though, so that year in China I decided to take a risk and play to my strengths. I like to write. I could reliably read something out from paper. I could draw some faces on card, cut out holes for eyes, and tie them back as make-shift masks. The characters would mime, while others – including myself – would read their lines into a microphone off-stage. Hence everyone was hiding, which suited me well. The actors did not need to memorise their lines verbatim, which suited them too.
I was quite sure it would end in disaster even before it began, but to my surprise there were no accidents, even amongst the short-sighted, and any confusion was only a minor distraction. Sri Chinmoy was attentive, and I dare say even seemed quite pleased, which astonished me no end. So a new tradition began, and has continued beyond the Master’s passing, as the Sri Chinmoy Centre meets each year for Christmas Trips."
While striving to preserve the original teachings, the plays are embellished – often in a humorous way – and sometimes carry a modern interpretation.
As the actors mime behind masks while the poetry is recited off-stage, the plays perhaps combine two ancient spiritual traditions – rendering spiritual stories into verse, and masked performances.
The Ramayana, one of the great epics of the Hindu tradition, is known as the adi-kavya, or first poem. Great spiritual writings – for example, the Mahabharata and the Christian Bible – have been wrought into poetry through the ages, as an act of spiritual discipline and devotion. Sri Chinmoy himself set to verse the works of Sri Aurobindo, his own Guru - at the age of fifteen, he created 188 lines of Bengali verse from Sri Aurobindo's short story Ksharma Adarsha. In 1956 he translated it into 107 lines of English iambic pentameter verse. He set the Bengali poem to music in 2002, and it remains his longest song.
The use of masks in spiritual ceremonies dates back thousands of years, and later extended to various theatrical traditions throughout the world. In Asian countries such as India and Indonesia they are often used in elaborate performances of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. In the Middle East, folk theatre includes masked acting and puppetry, which has been a part of religious occasions for centuries. Actors in Ancient Greece wore masks, especially when depicting a powerful character such as a god. In Japan, Noh theatre evolved from more ancient forms of masked acting.
Book available for purchase
- Plays based on stories by Sri Chinmoy at Amazon
The spiritual value of running marathons
Sri Chinmoy encouraged running as a complement to meditation and the spiritual life. He saw how it could help people transcend themselves, both inwardly and outwardly. Running helps both our physical health, which is needed to meditate well, and also helps to bring forward qualities such as concentration, discipline and a quiet mind.
Running is a symbolic sport in the sense that it reminds us of spiritual seekers continuously running towards the goal; it resembles the seekers running inwardly to achieve the ultimate goal in meditation.
Many members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre run as part of their daily spiritual practice and often complete one or more marathons a year - the gold standard of distance running. They also organise marathons and other distance events for the general public as part of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. Sri Chinmoy events are well known for creating a friendly atmosphere and seeking to maintain high standards of service to runners.
Sri Chinmoy himself took up long-distance running at the age of 47, showing that age need not be a barrier to running and physical fitness. He completed his first marathon on 3 March 1979 in Chico, California in a time of 4:31:34, and went on to do 21 more marathons and 5 ultras. This weekend, members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre around the world completed marathons to mark the 40th anniversary of Sri Chinmoy's first marathon run.
In Melbourne, Australia, around 50 students of Sri Chinmoy took part in a marathon event. They were joined by an international team of runners from the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run who had recently run from Brisbane to Melbourne as part of a global torch relay which began in February and will run until November, visiting all the countries in the Southern Hemisphere along the way.
In Chico, California, 70 members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre took part in celebrations to mark the anniversary. The Chico marathon - called the Bidwell Classic - is still run as an event 40 years later, albeit over the half-marathon distance. Some runners then proceeded to do the half-marathon a second time to complete the full marathon distance.
In addition, marathon events were held by Sri Chinmoy Centres all over the world, including in Augsburg (Germany), Bristol (UK), Dublin (Ireland), Zlin (Czech Republic), New York (US), and Sao Paulo (Brazil)
Sri Chinmoy on marathons
Long-distance running gives us a real feeling of accomplishment. We can run 100 metres forty times during the year and not feel the same sense of accomplishment as when we run one marathon. But speed and endurance are both important, especially in the spiritual life. If one has only speed, then one cannot ultimately succeed; we need endurance because the goal is quite far. Again, if one has only stamina and no speed, then it will take forever to reach the goal. Only if someone has both qualities will he be able to make very good progress in his spiritual life and achieve something really great in life.
How running and meditation go together
More on our other sites
- Video: Samunnati on meditation and running - Samunnati Lehonkova is a marathon runner who took up running at an early age after becoming a disciple of Sri Chinmoy, and ended up competing in the Olympics in 2016.
- Seven Steps to a Successful Marathon Arpan DeAngelo has been a student of Sri Chinmoy since the early 1970s; he has completed over 300 marathons.
- Sri Chinmoy's Philosophy on Running - at the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team website
Quotes by Sri Chinmoy are taken from his book The outer running and the inner running.
Sri Chinmoy's esraj anniversary
Sri Chinmoy began playing the esraj on this date - 17 February - in 1976. Despite being fluent in many instruments, the esraj soon became Sri Chinmoy's favourite musical instrument, and he would frequently play specially constructed esraj at his Peace Concerts offered around the world. Quite often Sri Chinmoy would give an esraj concert on 17 February to mark the date when he began to play.
The esraj, an Indian stringed instrument played with a bow, emerged in India over 500 years ago during the time of the Moghul Emperors. Compared to other Indian instruments such as the sitar or tabla, the instrument is relatively unknown, but can create a haunting, reverberating tone - evocative of deeper realities.
Sri Chinmoy was rare in playing the esraj solo, unaccompanied by any other instrument. He would play his own songs or improvised extemporaneously. A few of his esraj instruments were hand-constructed by his students, who sought to create an ever deeper and richer sound. When he performed on one particular esraj for Maestro Ravi Shankar during a private performance in New York October 10th, 2002, the great musician was deeply moved by the music and he gave the instrument the name "Chinmoy Beena".
I pray, I meditate, I contemplate while I am playing. I try to be in close communion with my Inner Pilot, who is the Supreme Musician. And according to my capacity of receptivity, I try to offer His Light and Peace to the world through my music. So when I play, the esraj is not the real instrument; it is I who am the instrument.
- More on Sri Chinmoy's music at Sri Chinmoy Centre
- The esraj - Sri Chinmoy's favourite instrument at Radio Sri Chinmoy
Source of quote
Peace Run begins its journey around the world
Recently, the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run started a new journey, in which it will visit all 44 countries in the southern hemisphere. It will be the first time the international team of runners will encircle the globe in a single Peace Run.
During its journey, the Peace Run gives countless people the opportunity to join in with the spirit of the run by holding the Peace Torch and spread a message of peace, friendship and harmony.
This momentous Peace Run began in Bali on the 1st of February and is now in Australia, having visited Vanuatu, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea. The entire journey will take the best part of a year and is scheduled to finish in Bali in November 2019.
The route will take in Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific islands, South America, Southern Africa and islands in the Indian Ocean.
The Peace Run was founded by the late peace visionary Sri Chinmoy in a spirit of love, harmony and oneness. This spirit permeates the relay and touches the hearts of all those who participate. An athlete, philosopher, artist, musician and poet, Sri Chinmoy dedicated his life to advancing the ideals of world friendship and oneness.
“We do not need
But just earth-born seekers
Who believe in peace
And want to live in peace.”
Sri Chinmoy 1
Spiritual Significance of the New Year
Happy New Year! Sri Chinmoy loved newness, encouraging us to keep our spiritual life fresh and spontaneous. “Every day, when morning dawns, we should feel that we have something new to accomplish,” he said. Thus, Sri Chinmoy saw the New Year as a golden opportunity to renew our inspiration for the spiritual life, and to make new promises to our souls – similar to making New Year’s resolutions.
For over 40 years, Sri Chinmoy gave annual messages for New Year’s encouraging seekers to strive for world harmony, and becoming the best a person can ever be. In the early days, Sri Chinmoy offered these messages during his public New Year’s Meditations, taking place early December at sacred venues such as Riverside Church by Columbia University. Later on, Sri Chinmoy’s travels during Christmas and over New Year’s took him to numerous countries where he befriended heads of states and locals alike, incorporating New Year’s Messages into his free Peace Concerts.
First New Year Message, 1966
Sri Chinmoy offered his first New Year’s Message on January 1, 1966. It was a soulful prayer to become aware of our divine heritage. It reminded us of God’s blessings — sweetness, joy, light and peace — sparkling divinely in us, while honouring our New Year’s spiritual resolutions.
New Year’s Message for the Year 1966
May humanity climb up one rung in the ladder of divine growth, and realise in its soul the Sweetness, Joy, Light and Peace of the Supreme.
Out of the pure fulness of the heart, may the lips of Truth speak and the hands of Truth act in the year 1966.
The New Year — what can it teach us? It can teach us the secret of spiritual self-reliance. It can teach us how we ourselves can be our Masters and Saviours.
From the New Year we can learn that God is God only when God is OUR God and not MY God. From the New Year we can learn that Truth is Truth only when Truth is OUR Truth and not MY Truth.
At every moment it is we who can make ourselves a blessing to ourselves and to the world at large.
May the universal embrace of the New Year flower into a permanent smile of Victory on the Face of the Supreme.
Sri Chinmoy 1
When the New Year Dawns
Sri Chinmoy frequently reminded us that the New Year offers a new opportunity to make spiritual progress, in blessing us with hope, light and firm determination to keep transcending (or improving upon) our present capacities. In his book The Outer Runner and The Inner Runner (1984), Sri Chinmoy’s essay on “When the New Year Dawns” likens a spiritual seeker to a runner:
On the eve of the New Year, a new consciousness dawns on earth. God once again inspires each human being, each creature, with new hope, new light, new peace and new joy. God says, "The New Year dawns and a new consciousness dawns within you. Run toward the destined Goal." We listen to God, to the dictates of our Inner Pilot, and we run toward the ultimate Reality. The New Year energises us, encourages us and inspires us to run toward that ultimate Goal.
When the New Year dawns, we have to make ourselves conscious of the fact that we have to transcend ourselves this year. We have to go beyond our present capacity, beyond our present achievement. When we have that kind of firm determination, God showers His choicest Blessings upon us.
God always wants us to move ahead; He does not want us to look back. We know that while a runner is running fast, if he looks back, he will stumble. Similarly, if we are constantly looking behind at the year that we are leaving aside, we will think of our sorrow, misery, frustration, failure and so forth. But if we look forward, we will see hope dawning deep within us. Every day in this New Year is equally important.
Sri Chinmoy 2
May your New Year’s resolutions stay fresh and illumining every day, fulfilling your life goals!
- All of Sri Chinmoy's New Year messages from 1967 to 2007 were published in two volumes here and here.
- Sources: The photographs are taken from the Sri Chinmoy Centre gallery3, and the aphorisms from Sri Chinmoy's poems and writings 4. The last picture is one of Sri Chinmoy's spontaneous Jharna Kala artworks – one of over 140,000 paintings created by Sri Chinmoy over a span of 33 years. 5
- 1. Source: My Consulate years by Sri Chinmoy, 1996
- 2. Source: The Outer Runner and The Inner Runner by Sri Chinmoy (1984)
- 3. The first three photographs were taken by Sarama Minoli, Kedar Misani and Bijoy Imhof
- 4. Poems in image 1 and image 3 taken from Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, part 39 (2004); poems in image 2 and image 4 from Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, parts 172 and part 169 (1992)
- 5. This particular painting was created in 1976, and is part of a collection donated to the Zürich Sri Chinmoy Centre.
Concert tribute to 100th Anniversary of Czechoslovakia
To mark the 100th Anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia in 1918, members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre offered three special concerts dedicated to the friendship between the Czech and Slovak Republics.
The tour began with a concert in Zlin on 15th November. The second concert was held at Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav Theatre in Bratislava on 16th November. The following day on the 17th November, the final concert was offered at Dvorak Hall, Rudolfinum in Prague. The 17th of November is also a significant date in Czech/Slovak history as it marks the 'Velvet Revolution' and the end of Communist rule.
The concerts contained performances from four different musical groups, along with a video projection of one of Sri Chinmoy's own Peace Concerts. The performers included Alap and Lucas on flute and duduk; the sitar-tabla-tanpura trio of Kanala, Sadananda and Ushika; and Shamita and Bhoiravi from Austria on strings. The finale was the international Sahadeva Ensemble, with over 60 members.
The music performed was composed by Sri Chinmoy and included a rendition of Sri Chinmoy's tribute to Czechoslovakia - a song which Sri Chinmoy wrote in 1990 during his visit. This particular song was first performed in New York, 1996 in the presence of Karel Kovan and Petr Tomek, the then-ambassadors of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the United Nations.
The concert venues were all filled to capacity and the audience expressed their appreciation for a memorable musical experience. The performers came from many different Sri Chinmoy Centres around the world and arrived in the Czech Republic for several days of intense practice before performing in the concerts.
The concert series was given the title Concert for your Heart, in recogition of Sri Chinmoy's approach to music and spirituality, which is to focus on the spiritual heart.
Only the music
Of the aspiration-heart
Can unlock the door
Sri Chinmoy 1
During his lifetime, Sri Chinmoy offered seven major Peace Concerts in Czech and Slovakia. This included a concert for 15,000 people in Prague during 1995. Sri Chinmoy felt that through prayerful music, he could offer seekers the opportunity for a meditative experience.
- Photos by Apaguha Vesely
Parliament of World Religions 2018 in Canada
The Parliament of the World's Religions began in 1893 in Chicago, as an initiative to bring the different religions and spiritual paths together. This gathering became famous for announcing the great Indian spiritual figure Swami Vivekananda to the world, and in doing so became a landmark in introducing Eastern spirituality to the West. A century later in 1993, the Parliament was once again reconvened in Chicago, and Sri Chinmoy was asked to give the opening meditation.
Since 1993, the Parliament has been held in multiple locations around the world. This year Toronto in Canada was the host, and members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre joined with members of many faiths and spiritual paths around the world in offering concerts, meditation events and talks.
Sri Chinmoy often wrote and spoke on the ideal of interfaith harmony, out of his inner experience that there are many different paths all leading to the same goal.
"I fully agree that all religions lead to one truth, the Absolute truth. There is One truth. There is only one Goal, but there are various paths. Each religion is right in its own way."
Sri Chinmoy 1
A popular offering was a heart-centred meditation led by university professor Utsahi St-Amand, from the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Ottawa. Meditation is a powerful way to feel the spirit of interfaith harmony because it connects on a deeper level than the intellectual mind. Members of the Sri Chinmoy also offered talks and presentations on different aspects of Sri Chinmoy's teachings.
Throughout the Parliament, our members shared the message of peace with participants in a simple and moving way, by inviting them to hold the Peace Torch and make a silent prayer for peace. The Peace Torch has been carried throughout the world in relay style by members of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, a global relay run which brings the torch and its message to millions of people and invites them to add their wishes for peace.
This silent wish for peace is very much in line with the opening meditation that Sri Chinmoy gave in 1993; he would again give the opening meditation at the Parliament in Barcelona in 2004.
During my opening meditation I am praying for the oneness of all religions.
Sri Chinmoy 2
Photos: Kautuhalam, Toronto, Canada.
Sri Chinmoy's Jharna Kala Art
Today, November 19, marks the 44th anniversary of Sri Chinmoy's bgain painting his Jharna-Kala artworks. Jharna-Kala, in Sri Chinmoy's Bengali mother tongue, means 'fountain-art' - art springing forth from an inner source of creativity and spontaneity.
As many observers have commented, the art of Sri Chinmoy expresses a great freedom and joy of movement, unencumbered by the confines of artistic trends or mental concepts.
Sri Chinmoy begain his painting odyssey in 1974, with a drawing of a simple rose while staying in Ottawa. Up until that date, Sri Chinmoy said he had never felt any particular inclination to paint, but after receiving an inner inspiration from his Inner Pilot, he sought to give expression to this inner direction. In addition, Sri Chinmoy never received any formal training - his artistic endeavours came naturally from his own inner meditation and prayer. Explaining his approach to painting, Sri Chinmoy said:
“I try to make my heart a receptive instrument so that God, the Supreme Artist, can paint in and through me.”
Sri Chinmoy 1
From these humble beginnings, Sri Chinmoy soon became a prolific artist, painting countless abstract acrylics - in the first year alone, he created over 100,000 paintings. Talking about the prolific output, Sri Chinmoy explained:
“It is a continuous, spontaneous flow. Without any obstruction. It comes from within. Anything that comes from the very depths of our heart will have no obstruction on the way. But if it comes from the mind or the vital, there will always be some obstructions, for the capacity of the mind is very, very limited, whereas the capacity of the heart is unlimited, precisely because it is in tune with the soul... If we go beyond the mind we create infinitely more beautiful things.”
Sri Chinmoy 2
In 1991, Sri Chinmoy's art took a new direction when he began spontaneously drawing birds. He gave this project the name Dream-Freedom-Peace-Birds, and also often referred to these effortless, free-form creations as Soul-Birds. In total, Sri Chinmoy drew 15 million of these unique birds.
“These birds represent unity in multiplicity. Here we have 70,000 birds. Each bird is different, but when you look at them, you feel unity. As soon as we think of the bird-consciousness, it is one. The bird-consciousness represents the consciousness of our soul’s inner freedom.”
Sri Chinmoy 3
Over the years, Sri Chinmoy's paintings and drawings has been exhibited in galleries around the world, such as the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris, the United Nations building in New York and the national parliaments of Australia, Ukraine and New Zealand.
“These are among the most beautiful and stunning paintings I have ever seen. I see in Sri Chinmoy's art the joy of creating beauty. His art is the classic example that creating not only is joy, it should be joy. Through his art he takes his joy and shares it with others.”
Former president, United Nations Society of Writers
Video: Sri Chinmoy talks about his art
Joy Days around the world
Sri Chinmoy encouraged us to come together every so often for Joy Days - spiritual gatherings that contain plenty of meditation, music and spiritual activities, but also games, the company of spiritual friends and a definite emphasis on happiness.
These Joy Days could be as small as a few friends meeting together for an outing, or much larger meetings lasting a few days with several Centres or several countries meeting together.
The largest Joy Days take place in Europe and Russia, often with over 700 students of Sri Chinmoy from many different countries taking part. In Europe, the Joy Days usually take place over a weekend, and is quite an organisational feat, with students from many countries giving soulful singing and instrumental performances, as well as sweet and funny plays and humourous sketches. On the Sunday morning, there is usually a group meditation at six o'clock in the morning, followed by a fun two-mile race - Sri Chinmoy loved running, and felt that the outer running and the inner running (i.e. meditation) complemented each other very nicely.
Sri Chinmoy believed that happiness and spiritual progress should go hand in hand:
If you are happy, it will help you to a great extent. If you are unhappy, you won't make any progress at all. On the contrary, you will be marching backwards. Real outer happiness is not self-deception. It does not come from wasting time and indulging in pleasure-life. Real outer happiness is something totally different. It comes from inner joy and inner satisfaction.
Sri Chinmoy 1
As well as Joy Days, Sri Chinmoy's students often meet together outside of our regular meditation for more formal occasions, for example to mark our teacher's birthday, or the anniversary of his passing on October 11, 2007.
Completion of 2018 Peace Run
Recently, the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run completed its journey for 2018. The European Peace Run began back in Sofia Bulgaria in February. Not even heavy snowfalls could dampen the enthusiasm of those who set off on their 24,000km journey. Between March and October, the team of volunteers covered over 24,000km. A distance which included visiting 40 different European countries.
During the months on the road, the team of runners got to meet a cross-section of society - from schoolchildren to leading government officials. Whoever they met, they shared a simple message of peace and harmony and invited people to participate with their own contribution to creating a better world.
During the closing week in Portugal, the team received a fitting send-off from enthusiastic locals in Lisbon.
In addition to the European section of the Peace Run, there have also been Peace Runs in all the major continents including Asia, Africa, Australasia and America. Each team contributing to a global effort to share the idea of a oneness-world.
"Today’s chaotic world cannot forever remain chaotic. World harmony, world peace: these are not mere dictionary words. These are the realities, divine and supreme realities. For all of us who are aspiring to become good citizens of the world, our Harmony Run is a supremely important inspiration to us all."
- Sri Chinmoy, June 2005
The Experience of being on the Peace Run
Nikolaus Drekonja was on the whole of the North American Peace Run travelling across the US and Canada. The several months of being out on the road was a life-affirming and life-changing experience. In this short video, Nikolaus shares some of the experiences of being on the Run.