Artist in focus - Vilas Silverton
Vilas Silverton has been a student of Sri Chinmoy for approximately two decades. He is an accomplished artist - cultivating a unique and soulful approach to ceramics. His work has been extensively displayed throughout Great Britain. In this short interview, he talks about some of his artistic inspiration.
Could you tell us a little about your art?
I specialise in Ceramics, but also enjoy painting and drawing. My ceramic work is made up mostly of figures, heads and busts of fictional characters. They come generally from my imagination but refer to artists and styles that inspire me, as well as things I see around me every day. As I am drawn to different influences over time, my work also changes. Yet there seems to be a recognisable style that pervades my output. It is not something I try to control, it just comes out that way.
This is probably because my artistic work comes from a place inside me, and this is a place I am trying to get to know better through my inner life of prayer and meditation. I have been practising meditation actively for over 20 years under the guidance of my spiritual master, Sri Chinmoy.
His approach is to base one’s practice on the spiritual heart, an energy centre in the centre of the chest. I find this to be a place of peace, stillness, love and oneness with others. It encourages a childlike simplicity and spontaneity in my life which then guides and shapes my artwork.
For yourself, what is the link between your art and your spiritual life?
For me, the link between my spirituality and art is everything. When I consciously started on my journey of self enquiry, I realised that if my art had no underlying foundation of deep conviction, it would be only a shallow attempt at producing amusing distractions.
Although my work may appear childlike, I am not trying to be childish. I am committed to producing things that make the world a better, happier place. This conviction comes from deep inside as a result of my spiritual practice but also from seeing unhappiness, misery and suffering around me. I have no desire to comment on society or use my art as an outlet for dissatisfaction and angst. Nor am I inspired to produce representational art, i.e. drawing what I see before my eyes. I am trying to offer a positive contribution to the world by offering things of beauty that do not yet exist on earth. My works come from a realm inside my heart that is both simple and beautiful, happy and positive. It is these aspects that I try to bring to this physical world through my art and life.
To try and make things of value, I treat the making process with utmost respect. I try to meditate before working so that I am in a good space and commit to trying my best. While making I also try to keep thoughts to a minimum with no distractions from the radio or chatting with others. When I finish a session of making, I again meditate. This time I offer my gratitude for the gifts I have received, and I try to unconditionally offer my output to the earth atmosphere for its improvement and peaceful happiness.
What do you hope to achieve/offer with your art?
When I have finished a piece and offered it as mentioned above, I loose my claim on it to determine its role in the world. As a result, I don’t have any set notion of what I hope to achieve with a piece. I realise that fame and fortune do not determine the value of work. For me, the only thing that matters is how successfully I have been able to translate my hearts inner cry into physical form, be it a painting, drawing or piece of ceramics. I can tell if I have been successful in this regard by the joyful feeling I get in my heart when something is good, right and true. If I can offer my goodwill to the world through my artistic output then I am more than happy and grateful for that opportunity.
Who are your main artistic influences?
My main artistic influence has to be the practice of my inner life as mentioned above.
In terms of outer influences, I grew up reading comics and watching cartoons and so I associate that type of art with happy childhood memories. I try to translate this simplicity and clarity of line into my three dimensional work in particular.
My influences in the fine art world are many and varied. For drawing skill I love Degas and Ingres, Daumier and Rembrandt. For power and emotion I love Zurbaran, Goya and Massacio. For playful inventiveness I love Miro for his capacity to transfer his creativity with integrity across Painting, printmaking, Sculpture, Ceramics and beyond.
In the world of Sculpture and ceramics, I am especially fond of the tomb figures of the Japanese Haniwa period. They have a simplicity and charm that I find fascinating and endearing. I am also fond of English 18th Century slipwares that display a warmth and humanity in decoration.
As my interest in spiritual enquiry developed, I started to look more closely at different world traditions and came to love Indian folk art. This includes the ritual objects left under village trees and painted decorations that permeate and enrich living spaces. The themes of simplicity and devotion really capture my heart in such works and inspire me to make works that have a meaningful depth to the best of my ability.
Apart from art, what else do you enjoy doing?
Since my youth I have loved cycling and continue with the sport. Due to some long standing injuries, I have recently changed my focus from racing short distances to riding long distances. This has brought me new perspectives on dealing with life situations and is giving me satisfaction and fulfilment in taking up new challenges. In Sri Chinmoy’s spirit of self-transcendence, I am trying to ride further/faster and yet keep cheerful, positive attitude, even when things get difficult.
Daily aphorisms by Sri Chinmoy
During his lifetime, Sri Chinmoy composed many thousands of short poems and aphorisms, which all relate to aspects of the spiritual life.
These nuggets of wisdom and inspiration give seekers a thoughtful insight to finding a deeper meaning to life.
At Sri Chinmoy Poetry, we will be publishing a daily aphorism/photo. The photos are from a range of photographers within the Sri Chinmoy Centre.
Follow: Daily aphorism at Sri Chinmoy Centre
They are also published in calender by The Golden Shore.
Nataliya Lehonkova wins Dublin Marathon
Samunnati Nataliya Lehonkova (34), a member of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team recently won the elite women's race of the 2017 Dublin Marathon. Despite testing conditions, Lehonkova from Ukraine, posted a personal best time of 2.28.57 to take her second win in the Dublin marathon.
A record 20,000 runners completed the 2017 SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon in a course that passed through important landmarks of Dublin including Fitzwilliam Street, Phoenix Park and finishing in Merrion Square.
Samunnati Nataliya Lehonkova completed in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
'Seeker' screened as part of Reykjavik International Film Festival
This year, the Reykjavik International Film festival took place from 28 September to 8 October. Among the films shown was Seeker - a short documentary about Snatak Matthiasson, a student of Sri Chinmoy from Iceland since 1985.
Trailer for Seeker
For many years, Snatak was one of the fastest runners in the Centre, as well as being an exceptionally good singer and pianist. In 2004, Snatak was diagnosed with ALS; over the years he has lost much of the capacity of his upper body, but it has not deterred him from living spiritual life to the best of his ability.
In 2011, Snatak had the inspiration to form a singing group dedicated to singing Sri Chinmoy’s songs in their pure acapella form. The group would go to places of worship of different religions all around the world, to underscore the underlying unity behind all religions. Thus, many of Snatak’s friends from all around the world came together, and the Oneness-Dream singing group was born. The group had their initial concert tour in Iceland, and over the years have toured churches, temples and spiritual places in Finland, Myanmar, Ireland, Scotland and California.
Earlier this year, the group went to the Italian region of Tuscany to sing in the churches and cathedrals there. As you can see from the below slideshow, the group has attained quite a high standard of technical excellence.
Along with the group came Sanjay Rawal, a documentary maker who has worked on award-winning documentaries such as Food Chains (2015), as well as a 2011 documentary on Sri Chinmoy’s weightlifting titled Challenging Impossibility. As a result, a 9-minute documentary titled Seeker was made, which had its first viewing at the Reykjavik Film festival.
Snatak was getting medical treatment in South Korea for much of the festival, but he was able to make it home in time for the last screening of the documentary, and afterwards answered questions for the audience as part of the Q&A session after the film.
Many of the members of Oneness-Dream came to Reykjavik; the day after they held a concert in Frikirkjan, a well known church in the centre of Reykjavik.
The concert was also used to launch an album, containing recordings from the Italian tour (some of which you can hear in the above slideshow).
“Soulful music is the music that wants to eventually transform our consciousness. It carries us into the Universal Consciousness and makes us feel that we are in tune with the highest, with the deepest, with the farthest.”
– Sri Chinmoy 
- Video of Frikirkjan concert on Sri Chinmoy TV
Peace Run in the Faroe Islands
Recently, the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run visited the Faroe Islands where the runners were warmly welcomed by local dignitaries, local schools and ordinary people from the island.
The Faroe Islands is one of 155 countries that the Peace Run has visited, since its inception 30 years ago. During this visit, MPs from Iceland passed on the torch to fellow politicians from the Faroe Islands - sharing a message of peace with its island neighbour.
The Peace Run seeks to share a universal message of peace and friendship amongst different peoples of the world. It seeks to celebrate the diversity of the world, whilst sharing the underlying unity of different cultures.
Is not the fault-finder
Of the world.
Is the fault-mender
Of the world.”
Sri Chinmoy 
The Run is also a physical challenge with volunteers who support the run, completing the distance between countries on foot - illustrating a tangible way to take this message of peace across the globe.
In this video, some of the volunteer co-ordinators talk about the meaning and significance of the Run and what motivates them to take part in this unique event.
Songs of the Soul in Slovakia and Hungary
From 19 to 23 September, a group of Sri Chinmoy’s students from all around the world played five concerts in Hungary and Slovakia as part of the Songs of the Soul concert series. The Songs of the Soul concerts were begun in 2008 as a way to acquaint music-lovers with Sri Chinmoy’s music, and since then over 240 concerts have been held in 40 different countries.
The concerts were very well attended - over 1300 people came to the 3 Hungarian concerts in Budapest, Dorog and Gyõr.
As Sri Chinmoy’s students, we feel that these concerts offer the public a very easy way to immerse themselves in a spiritual consciousness without having to know too much about meditation; indeed, Sri Chinmoy felt that spiritual music was the next best thing to meditation.
Spiritual music is the illumining and fulfilling language of the universal soul.
It is a lot of hard work to put the concerts on, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun at the same time…
More photos at songsofthesoul.com...
Running in rhythm with the heart
“Running in rhythm with the heart” is a new book about one woman's dream to enter and finish the world’s longest running race – the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race.
The book written by Jayasalini explains the preparation, training and epic 52 days of running around a single block in Jamaica, Queens, New York. The book gives an insight into the physical, mental and spiritual challenges which face any runner who takes on this race, often dubbed "The Everest of distance running." For keen runners, it will be of great interest to see how the body and mind cope when pushed to the limit; and for non-runners, it will give a unique insight into a remarkable adventure and the potential of the human spirit.
The book is split into numerous chapters, which give the reader an idea of the many experiences and tribulations which the runners go through. These chapters range from - remedies for injuries - to the friendships made with locals who pass by on the course. While giving an overview of the serious challenges faced in the race, it is also a celebration of running and the ideal of self-transcendence – it is an experience of a lifetime squeezed into 52 days.
“Running is a real meditation: rhythmical breathing and repeated movements help the mind leave its endless flow of thoughts. The inner space begins to exist only for the depth of a silent ocean inside and for the heart’s joy.”
P. 136 “Running in rhythm with the heart”, (2017) Jayasalini Olga Abramovskikh
Q.A with the author - Jayasalini
How did you find the process of writing this book?
I truly enjoy writing. Having returned home after the 3100-mile race one day a beautiful image appeared. I saw that a few years before this race was like a distant star which seemed to be the most beautiful one in the entire Universe, its beauty called me like anything else… I sat to write down this image. The book starts with an essay depicting exactly this experience.
Later I continued writing down some of my memories on the race. I was doing it for myself without any idea of publishing a book. I was writing because I could experience everything again - appreciating every detail of the race. Sometime later I felt a strong urge to share the experience with others, because it could not belong only to myself, it had to be shared.
Completing the book took longer than the duration of the race! To steadily move towards the goal, I committed to spend a minimum of 15 minutes a day on writing/editing the book. It worked! I missed only a couple of days and felt extremely happy to see the progress; it was like watching the birth of a new creation.
The book was first published in Russian and then translated into English. Like the race itself - where many volunteers participate in setting-up the event - publishing the book was a real team work. It would not have happened without many contributing to the design, editing, proof-reading and translating. I am very grateful for the support of everyone.
What was the most memorable aspect of race / or most significant chapter in the book?
The most precious experience for me was the feeling of being guided by the unseen hand and a feeling of complete oneness with all higher forces that aided me in during the 52 days of the race, but also the time before and after the race. Being there I had to find this oneness, to stay in a flow and be receptive to the flow. It was an amazing feeling, and since the race is the real projection of our life I feel that our entire life can become this flow. I tried to describe it in the book through different inspirational stories.
Do you have plans to do the race again in the future?
Exactly this question is answered at the very end of the book, so let me invite you to start reading from the very beginning and to enjoy the entire journey.
Jayasalini is a student of Sri Chinmoy from Moscow, Russia. She completed the 2014 edition of the 3100 Mile Race in a time of 51 days, 12 hours and 31 minutes. She was the first female Russian athlete to complete the race, and she was the youngest female to complete the race (and, at the time, only the 5th women to finish)
Video with Jayasalini talking about the race
Successful crossing of English Channel
Tatiana Kvasova a Russian member of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team successfully completed her first crossing of the English Channel - in a time of 20hrs 13mins; it marked the 47th successful crossing of the English Channel by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in the past 32 years.
Tatiana became a meditation student of Sri Chinmoy in 2004, after meeting Sri Chinmoy during a visit to Russia. Inspired by Sri Chinmoy's philosophy of self-transcendence and the history of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in attempting the 'Everest of long-distance swimming' she undertook intensive training to gain the necessary stamina and speed. Speaking of the experience of training for this epic event, she remarked:
"This (intense) training already made me another person, I have learned to understand myself better, my mind, my body. By working hard in the training and going forward step by step overcoming difficulties you really become a different person, more determined, more confident, and at the same time you become more patient and learn to understand others better."
With relatively little experience of open water distance swimming, Tatiana successfully managed an arduous 20 hour swim with currents her up and down the coast, with the finish insight. Tatiana completed the swim with a crew of helpers from the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. Her pilot was the very experienced 'King of the Channel' - Kevin Murphy - Kevin has completed the English Channel crossing, 32 times and was once honoured by Sri Chinmoy in a 'Lifting Up the World With a Oneness Heart Award' for his services to long-distance swimming.
Tatiana from Moscow joins a select list of people who have completed a solo (no wetsuit) swim; she was only the fourth Russian female to make the crossing.
“I do not have any set goal; my goal is self-transcendence. I always try to transcend myself. I do not compete with the rest of the world. I compete only with myself, and I try to become a better human being. This is my ultimate goal.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Tatiana after her 20-hour crossing of the English Channel.
New Guinness World Record: World's largest crayon
In honour of Sri Chinmoy’s 86th birthday celebrations, Ashrita Furman and a team of volunteers set a new Guinness World Record for the world’s largest crayon. The giant crayon is 5.22 m with a diameter of 56 cm.
Speaking of the inspiration for this new Guinness World record, Ashrita stated:
“Our teacher came from India to inspire joy in other people. He created thousands of soul bird drawings with crayons in various colours to convey the joy experienced in meditation to others. With tremendous gratitude we are honouring what would be Sri Chinmoy’s 86th birthday with the world's largest crayon.”
Ashrita, manager of a Health Food Store in Queens, New York, holds more than 190 Guinness World records and says the power of meditation and Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy of self-transcendence help enable this unique collection of records.
Sri Chinmoy was born 27 August 1931, and many of his students from around the world come to Queens every August to partake in his birthday celebrations. Amongst other activities, Sri Chinmoy was a prolific artist drawing, in his lifetime, nearly 16 million soul bird drawings - a unique style of art which reflect the soul’s aspiration and inner freedom.
Soul-Bird drawing by Sri Chinmoy.
Photo credit: Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team.
New women's world record in 3100 Mile Race (2017)
48 days and 14 hours after starting the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, Kaneenika Janakova,47, of Bratislava, Slovakia set a new women’s world record for the distance. Her final time was 48 days+14:24:10, averaging over 63 miles for nearly two months of daily racing.
Kaneenika broke the previous women’s record set by Surasa Mairer by over 17 hours. Her performance was also sufficient to finish 2nd overall.
After a difficult opening few days, Kaneenika was a model of consistency averaging well over the required minimum daily distance of 60 miles. She remarked how over the course of the race she felt stronger - despite the accumulation of miles and physical fatigue.
“At the beginning of the race I actually didn’t feel so strong, the first week and maybe even 10 days. But then all of a sudden it felt as though I was gaining the strength. It just all started happening. It was all coming from inside.”
The overall winner of the race was Vasu Duzhiy 51, of St Petersburg, Russia, who won the 21st Annual Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race for the second time in 46 days+17:38:22. It was Vasu’s sixth consecutive finish and his second consecutive first place. His performance was all the more remarkable for a serious back accident eight months ago, which left him unable to train and barely able to stand. Speaking after the race, Vasu expressed his joy of competing in the contest.
“I love this race. I don’t know why I love it. I just love it and do it. I am happy here and I am able to do self transcendence. I hope that I can inspire some people to be better citizens of the world. They inspire me and I inspire them.”
Over 100 spectators came to see the finish of the runners who had braved extremes of temperature, sickness, and the unremitting nature of the concrete block which had been their home and sporting pilgrimage for the past several weeks.
On Saturday night, Nirbhasa Magee, a native of Dublin, Ireland finished second man, third overall in a personal best time of 48 days+16:47:01. It was Nirbhasa’s second attempt at the distance, managing to improve his finish time by two days plus 19 hours faster than his previous effort in 2015. For Magee, the spirit of self-transcendence is the essence of the race, remarking:
“It is nice to transcend yourself… I am not leaving anything on the table. It is not like I am taking it easy. What you see from me every day is my absolute best that I can put out
The race continues for a few days with Harita Davies (NZ) and Yolanda Holder (US) within striking distance of finishing the race within the allotted time of 52 days.
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