Latest news and features
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.
What Sri Chinmoy's Canadian students have done this year....
Sri Chinmoy sometimes described his spiritual path as having two wings. The first wing is aspiration - drawing closer to God through meditation, prayer and other spiritual disciplines. The other wing Sri Chinmoy called manifestation - connecting with the Universal Consciousness through sharing peace, joy and love with the world.
Purnakama Rajna, a grade school teacher and student of Sri Chinmoy from Winnipeg, reports on some of the many projects Sri Chinmoy's Canadian students worked on this year:
Despite the vastness of our beautiful country, and often long distances between our Sri Chinmoy Centres, Canada’s oneness-heart has come together to engage in many different types of manifestation recently.
The largest and most recent project was the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, a bi-annual torch relay that finds runners from the Sri Chinmoy centers worldwide lacing up and hitting the open road. As they carry a flaming Peace Torch across the miles, they also meet with people in the communities that they run through and deliver a simple message: Peace begins with me.
The people that they meet with also get a chance to hold the Peace Torch and make their own silent wish for peace.
This year the North American leg of the Peace Run visited Canada, the USA and Mexico. The Canadian part of the North American Peace Run did not cover all of Canada, but it did cover a large portion. It started on the west coast in June when the Peace Run team visited and had many wonderful events in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia. The largest event that the Peace Run was involved in there was called Hands Across the Border, which took place at Peace Arch Park at the border between British Columbia and Washington. It was an event organized by the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and it saw hundreds of children from both Canada and the United States meeting with the Peace Run team, making their own paper torches, and sharing their wishes for peace.
After dipping down into the United States following the west coast visit, the team came back into Canada around Niagara Falls Ontario, and then travelled all the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia stopping at many towns and cities along the way over a three-week period. The team was very fortunate to be hosted by the Sri Chinmoy centers in Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax, on their stay in those cities.
Just like Canada’s many waterways, the Peace Run was like a river flowing with amazing events in each community, from meeting hundreds of children at day camps, planting a peace tree, meeting with city, community and religious leaders, and the grand finale, marching in a parade in Halifax with 40,000 people lining the streets as we marched by with the Peace Run banner.
Being lucky enough to have been one of the participants on the Peace Run, I can say that it was one of the most light filled, joy filled experiences I have ever had.
The Peace Run team did not make it to Winnipeg this year, but the center there came together and organized an event, which saw many children run with the Peace Torch to City Hall to meet the mayor. Mayor Bowman graciously welcomed the children and the local team and gave a very inspiring talk about peace and oneness.
Running is a very important part of Sri Chinmoy’s path, and while the Peace Run was happening in July, another running manifestation was happening in Ottawa at the same time.
On July 28th, the 37th annual 24 hour race took place in Ottawa. Also included in this was a 12 hour and a 6 hour race. This is one of many ultra-running races that are organized by Sri Chinmoy centers around the world and open to any runners in the community who have a passion for running. Started in 1981, the race is the longest-running 24 hour race in the world and also the world's oldest timed ultra race.
Putting on a race of this caliber is no small feat, but this year it was made even more challenging as many of the helpers from the nearby centers who usually volunteer were busy with the Peace Run, and so they had to make do with far fewer volunteers than they are used to. Despite this disadvantage, the Ottawa center rallied together and put on a fantastic race once again.
September 21st was the United Nations Day of Peace. As Sri Chinmoy used to lead twice weekly meditations at the United Nations, many meditation centers around the world like to mark this day with some type of special event.
In Rome they had an exhibition of children’s artwork at the Colisseum to celebrate and commemorate this day. The artwork came from children from all over the world who expressed their own wishes for peace through their art pieces. Hundreds of children from Canada from four different provinces also sent their art to be shown at this exhibition. Many of the summer day camps that were visited on the Peace Run embraced the project and spoke to the children about the motto of the Peace Run - "Peace begins with me".
Their artwork was one powerful way to express that motto and to show the world the true meaning of peace through the heart of a child.
Also on September 21st, several disciples from the Ottawa center took the Peace Torch to Parliament Hill. No matter what time of year, the Canadian Parliament is host to many tourists, so on September 21st many of those tourists from across the country and around the world had the wonderful opportunity to hold the Peace torch and make their own silent wish for peace.
Sri Chinmoy was a prolific songwriter, so it comes as no surprise that music plays a very important role in our meditation centers. In Canada we have many musicians and singers who perform at many different events around the world.
Sangit Surabhi, a group of female musicians and singers recently performed in Montenegro on a special Christmas trip attended by disciples, as well as in New York in June and August for a special gathering of disciples there. They also regularly perform for meditation classes in Ottawa and Montreal.
Audio: Sangit Surabhi sing a song composed by Sri Chinmoy about the Christ - taken from a performance on Christmas Day, Montenegro 2017.
Pavaka from Montreal is our wandering troubadour who performs regularly with a concert series called Songs of the Soul, which features musicians and singers from around the world. The concerts are offered free of charge to the public and showcase Sri Chinmoy’s music as interpreted by different disciple musical groups. Most recently Pavaka attended a very successful concert tour in Brazil where he offered his talents on guitar, vocals, and bass.
Audio: A recording of Sri Chinmoy's music by Pavaka's group
And of course, as with Sri Chinmoy centers around the world, offering free meditation classes is one of the most important and constantly ongoing manifestations that we do. Every center puts on their own classes, but sometimes we are fortunate enough to have guest speakers come in from centers from around the globe. In September, the Ottawa and Montreal centers welcomed Prachar from Australia who gave a series of dynamic talks to seekers about meditation.
As well as hosting guest class-givers, we also sometimes send class-givers abroad to give a fresh perspective on meditation classes. Shishir from Winnipeg will be heading to the Ukraine and parts of Europe in early 2019 for a four-week class giving tour. His lively and friendly approach is always well received, and he has become quite a popular guest speaker.
Utsahi from Ottawa, Canada also travelled to give classes in 3 cities in France this year. Ascharjya from France had this to say:
Utsahi, a student of Sri Chinmoy's since 1987, has been publishing articles and books since he accepted a professor’s position in the mid-1980's. He also created and is still directing a scientific journal. He has lectured on social sciences around the world, and participated frequently in the Parliament of the World's Religions, notably in Barcelona, Salt Lake City, Melbourne and this year in Canada.
Utsahi is also the owner of a small gift shop, The Garden of Light, whose name was given by Sri Chinmoy when it first opened in 1999. He is a lover of Nepal, where he regularly goes shopping and offers meditation workshops, and from where he brings back his famous singing bowls, sometimes very old and expensive! It is a pleasure for him to make them vibrate and sing during his lectures and meditation workshops.
During his meditation workshops, he also draws from his experience as a father and from his profession, which puts him in contact with people who, by their culture, their education and/or their life experience, are victims of marginalization and social exclusion. His classes are full of anecdotes, tinged with humor and enhanced by his charming Canadian accent. The classes in France were very successful, with 67 people attending in Nancy, a record for this city. Utsahi also offered three classes in Paris and then moved on to Montpellier for a final series of three lecture in France.
Find out more:
Janaka receives the Order of the Rising Sun
This year, Janaka Alan Spence from the Edinburgh Sri Chinmoy Centre received the Order of the Rising Sun, an honour bestowed by the Japanese government in the name of the Emperor. Janaka, who is one of Scotland’s best-loved poets and authors, received the award for his books of haiku poetry and his novels set in Japan, and for promoting Scottish-Japanese friendship and cultural exchange over many years.
Created in 1875, the Order of the Rising Sun is Japan’s third highest honour, and is (with rare exceptions) the highest that can be given to non-royalty or non-politicians. The award was presented by the Japanese Consul-General, Daisuke Matsunaga, in a special ceremony at his residence in Edinburgh.
Janaka published his first book - a collection of short stories called Its colours they are fine - over 40 years ago. His first book of poetry, Glasgow Zen, was published in 1990, and was followed by The Clear Light and Seasons of the Heart.
I sit inside
the compassionate Buddha
who sits inside
this world of things
which sits inside
which sits inside
the great void
which sits inside
from 'Glasgow Zen'
where last week
the snow lay thick
into the sea I launch
a piece of driftwood –
with great ceremony!
smell of fresh
the flowering plant nods
Haiku poems from 'Seasons of the Heart'
Janaka has also written two novels set in Japan and inspired by Japanese historical events. The first novel, The Pure Land, was published in 2006. Night Boat was published in 2014 and retells the life of the Japanese Zen monk Hakuin.
The presentation ceremony was attended by a few dignitaries and friends from the arts, along with friends from the Sri Chinmoy Centre. Janaka sang one of the many songs that Sri Chinmoy wrote in honour of Japan, in both English and in Japanese:
By way of thanks, Janaka later sent this poem by Sri Chinmoy to the Consul-General:
A RISING INNER SUN
If you love knowledge-light
And if you love and need
Then every day,
Just for a few fleeting seconds,
Dive deep within.
You are bound to see
A rising inner sun
With ever-increasing golden rays.
Related articles and videos by Janaka:
The Oneness-Fountain-Heart restaurant celebrates its 20th birthday
The Oneness-Fountain-Heart, a vegetarian restaurant in New York run by Sri Chinmoy's students, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The restaurant is located in the Flushing area of Queens and over the past twenty years has welcomed locals and faraway visitors alike to enjoy its peaceful ambience and tasty food.
The restaurant was founded in March 1998 by Sri Chinmoy's students with his guidance and encouragement; he offered advice about creating a welcoming atmosphere that was light, peaceful and with a delicate touch. The restaurant aims to serve an international cuisine through natural ingredients and is dedicated to conscious living and healthy eating.
The design of the restaurant is inspired by the Japanese qualities of simplicity, subtlety and beauty while also having a sense of cosmopolitan grandeur; this international feeling is also reflected in the range of dishes. The restaurant frequently hosts themed nights, featuring concerts of meditative music and talks by special guests on subjects ranging from Thomas Jefferson to the 16th century Moghul Emperor Akbar.
The dedicated staff at The Oneness-Fountain-Heart state it is hard work, but also very rewarding due to the positive responses from the customers, who often say this is their favourite restaurant. Shashanka, who took over ownership of the restaurant in 2008, says that Sri Chinmoy's advice for running a successful restaurant has proven invaluable - maintaining a vibration of cleanliness and purity, plus a feeling of concern and warmth to all the customers who come to the restaurant.
As Sri Chinmoy said at the opening of the restaurant: "As much as possible, make the customers feel that they are guests — they have not come just to make a business transaction. Try to make them feel at home.”
New Guinness Record for Sri Chinmoy's birthday
In honour of Sri Chinmoy's 87th Birthday on August 27th, a team of volunteers led by Ashrita Furman created a new Guinness World Record for the largest logo created using tennis balls.
The composition of tennis balls shows the logo of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, which was founded by Sri Chinmoy in 1987 and has since grown to become the world's longest relay run for peace - traversing 146 nations and passing through a route of over 600,000 km.
The project was co-ordinated by Ashrita Furman, who for over two decades has been the holder of the most Guinness World records, with over 200 to his credit.
“This tennis ball logo expresses our sincere wish for world peace and is our modest offering of joy to the world. With thousands of tennis balls we want to honour the memory of Sri Chinmoy, who was the founder of the Peace Run and an avid tennis player.”
Ashrita also talked about how the driving force behind these kinds of projects is Sri Chinmoy's philosophy of self-transcendence - the goal of achieving more and bettering our previous efforts.
“We are constantly striving to push ourselves to a higher and higher level. Like to not listen to our mind and doubts that tells us: We can't do things. And try to go within our spiritual heart and draw on that power, that strength that we all have and constantly pushing higher and higher and further and further. And so it is in the spirit of self-transcendence that I break records personally, that many of my friends swim the English Channel or run ultra marathons, run the 3100 Mile Race. This is the same principle. We try to, you know, as a team to do something greater than we did before.”
To complete the record took seven days of hard work. It also required ingenuity and a considerable degree of trial and error to make a logo from large tennis balls. Artist Papaha Gosline, who oversaw the design, said:
“When you are tacking tennis balls to represent a piece of art, it is a very low resolution. And so you have to kind of figure out how do you make an “e” with only 70 or 200 balls.”
The design spreads over a distance of 53.41 square meters and is made up of 12,393 tennis balls in five different colours.
Sri Chinmoy passed away in 2007, but his students from around the world still come to New York to celebrate his birthday with meditations and other events, just as they did when Sri Chinmoy was with us. Some of the other events included Songs of the Soul concerts, running races, music performances and a Poetry Festival.
New film - 3100: Run and Become
A new film 3100: Run and Become offers a powerful glimpse into the world of ultradistance running, including a special look at the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, the longest certified race in the world which was founded by Sri Chinmoy in 1997. A project that took over 3 years to complete, the film is now being shown in screens across the United States.
The film follows the fortunes of two runners in the 3100 Mile race - Finnish postman, 14 time finisher and record holder Ashprihanal Aalto, and first-time competitor and Austrian cellist Shamita Achenbach-Koenig. Through their eyes, the viewer is brought into this unique world of self-transcendence, outer challenge and inner fulfilment. As the course director of the 3100 Mile Race states in the film, it is impossible to enter this race without changing for the better.
Interspersed with the 3100, the film also explores the spiritual significance of running from the perspective of three very different cultures. It includes the Gaolo-San bushmen in Botswana, the legendary Japanese gyoman-san running monks of Mt. Hiei Japan, and Navajo runners in the deserts of Arizona.
Sri Chinmoy believed that distance running could enable a real inner and outer transformation or as he terms it 'self-transcendence.' The 3100 Mile race has been described as the 'Mount Everest of ultra-running' - which is fitting given that in the 20 years to the end of 2016 only 37 different runners had completed the distance. Directed by Sanjay Rawal, the film focuses on the 2016 edition of the race, where record temperatures made the event even more challenging and just five of the twelve runners completed the event. (More about the 2016 race on the race website »)
Whilst the statistics of the race are mind-boggling, the film gives an insight into the very human realities and aspirations of the competitors. In particular, the film picks up on the inner spiritual dimension of the runners who need to tap into hidden reserves to both run and meet the realities of the race.
For a full list of cities, and to request a screening in your own city, visit the official film site...
Celebrating Sri Chinmoy's 27,000 Aspiration-Plants poem series
This year marked the 20th anniversary of the completion of Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration Plants, the second of Sri Chinmoy’s three epic poetry series. Sri Chinmoy wrote the first poem on July 10, 1983 - just one week after completing the first series, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames - and completed the last poem in the series 15 years later. The series was published in 270 volumes containing 100 poems each.
Sri Chinmoy announced his vision of 27,000 poems even before he had completed his Flower-Flames series, during a trip with his students to Japan in December 1982. The first volume was published in time for Sri Chinmoy’s birthday in August 1983, and he gave the book out as a gift to all of his students attending his birthday celebrations, asking them to try to to feel the poems inside their hearts. Sri Chinmoy finished the final poem on 24 January 1998 while on his annual Christmas vacation with his students - at the time they were in Cancun, Mexico. To mark this achievement, he invited his students who were present to form groups to chant the mantra Supreme 27,000 times.
Sri Chinmoy would always find ways to make his students part and parcel of whatever he was doing. and to claim his achievements as their own. At the time, many of his students around the world came up with fun and spontaneous celebrations to mark their teacher’s achievement. For example, in Canada, his students created a huge red and white Canadian flag made from 27,000 snowballs on a prominent hill near the Parliament Buildings. A Reuters cameraman happened to walk by and took a photo of the flag which ended up appearing in newspapers across Canada the next day. In New Zealand, Sri Chinmoy suggested to his students there that they shake 27,000 people’s hands, giving each of these people a card of poems and a sweet. In the words of Jogyata Dallas, one of the organisers: “This unique challenge quite consumed us for some time. We visited school assemblies, announcing a handshaking-record attempt to honour our Guru’s achievement; stood at escalators in shopping malls with a microphone to introduce ourselves, and armed with a hand-held manual counter to accurately record numbers; visited universities and busy streets; toured towns, distributed 27,000 sweets and gave away 27,000 large cards – each carrying an explanation and a sample sprinkling of 27 poems, like this one:”
If you want to remain always happy,
Always perfect and always fulfilled,
Then always keep inside your heart
A pocketful of sweet dreams.
“Everything about this unusual commemoration charmed people a lot, and left 27,000 spirit-awakening, heart-warming mementos with their 27 inspirational poems scattered throughout this peace-hungry world.”
This year, Sri Chinmoy ’s students held various commemorations to mark the 20th anniversary of the poems’ completion in 1998. At the time, many of his students were very involved in proofreading and printing the books, and they vividly recalled what powerful meditative and transformative experiences they had working with such vast numbers of poems.