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Peace Week in Palermo, Italy
Recently, a week of peace activities, inspired by the life of Sri Chinmoy, was held in Palermo, Italy. The aim of the week was to involve a range of people in initiatives including art, sport, interfaith meeting and a Peace Parade through Palermo, Sicily. The events were well attended and the week of peace was embraced by the local communities.
Sri Chinmoy dedicated his life to offering a message of peace. He wished to be remembered as a 'student of peace' as he felt peace was a subject we should deeply value and try to embody in our lives.
“This world of ours has everything save and except one thing: peace. And this peace has to start from within. If I have peace of mind, then only can I be of help to you. If you have peace of mind, then only can you be of help to me.”
– Sri Chinmoy
A global team of runners from the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run were present at many of the activities - meeting local schools and communities to share the message of the run, which is "Peace Begins with Me." The Peace Run was founded by Sri Chinmoy in 1987 as a practical way to allow people from all walks of life and backgrounds to come together and share the common aspiration of humanity to work towards a more harmonious and peaceful world.
The Peace Run was warmly welcomed by local dignitaries, hospital staff, schools, interfaith leaders and were given a special welcome at the University Games.
President of the European Peace Run, Devashishu Torpy said: "It was a really good experience to meet so many welcoming people and feel their genuine wish to support the aims and aspirations of the Peace Run."
Paintings for World Peace and Harmony
During the week, the Jharna Kala paintings of Sri Chinmoy were displayed at 14 locations in the city, including Falcone Borsellino Airport, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Botanical Garden, the Faculty of Law, the Polididactic Hall of Viale delle Scienze, the Court of Palermo, and the Sant’Antonino University Library. Some of the art exhibitions were also the venue for short music concerts, by groups such as Mountain Silence.
Parade for Peace
A very significant event was a Parade for Peace, joined by many local people. It included a 100-meter long "Canvas for Peace" which was drawn by young school children, who all contributed their own artistic thoughts on themes of peace, harmony and brotherhood. The long Canvas for Peace was also joined by other groups to reach a total length of 150 metres.
This is just a snapshot of the many varied activities, which took place. More events and photographs can be viewed at the Peace Run website.
Impossibility Challenger was an event founded in 1982 by Sri Chinmoy with the idea to give people the chance to transcend their limitations and make an effort to set a new world record or personal best. The event is organised by members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre and, in the past few decades, has been held in several cities around the world The unique event attracts a diverse range of participants who are keen to test themselves in the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of 'Impossibility Challenger'.
This years edition was held in Den Haag, Netherlands, and attracted a range of record breakers from quickest time to solve a Rubik's cube and tests of memory - to physical challenges such as the fastest running whilst skipping.
Sri Chinmoy encouraged this event because he felt that the personal effort and discipline of trying to better oneself could give a more meaningful understanding of our latent capacities and this effort to reach new achievements would give a genuine sense of happiness. Sri Chinmoy often described this effort of challenging ourself as a philosophy of 'self-transcendence'.
Either forget impossibility’s challenge
Or challenge impossibility’s pride
To become truly happy.
- Sri Chinmoy
At this year's event, one of the participants was Ashrita Furman, who holds the Guinness World Record for having the most world records. In a record-breaking career, since 1979, he has set over 700 Guinness Records and currently holds more than 200. At this event, he set a new record for cutting 59 kiwis in a minute and also - completing 66 rounds of juggling a burning torch, within one minute.
The event attracted a range of self-transcendence feats - including push-ups, paper folding, skipping, sack racing and fastest one-handed hand-clap. It also included an epic feat of poetry recital. American Mahiruha Klein recited, over a period of several hours, 1,000 poems of Sri Chinmoy from the poetry series "The Golden Boat" He later commented that he recited from memory 965 absolutely correct, with just a few slips in the other 35 poems. For Mahiruha, the long period of recital was not about the outer display of memory, but a very rewarding inner experience to become immersed in a world of spiritual poetry.
The event attracted substantial media coverage from the local Dutch press who covered the unique challenges of the event.
Songs for Peace in Hungary
Recently, at the world-renowned Kodaly Centre, in Hungary, over 800 school children performed a special concert for Peace. The concert to promote peace and harmony was held in honour of the UN International Day for Peace. The concert also featured 15 different songs by composer Sri Chinmoy. The songs were in English, Bengali and some translated into Hungarian.
The children came from 23 different schools across Hungary and were led by the music group Mountain Silence. Mountain-Silence have performed at venues across the world for the past 25 years, but this was a unique experience as they were joined by so many other singers, to create a wonderful harmony of voices.
Sri Chinmoy was a prolific composer who composed many songs on the theme of the heart's aspiration and inner peace. One of his songs on peace reads:
A new world of peace,
A new world of light,
A new world of height,
Can alone give me
- Sri Chinmoy
The event created a positive and vibrant atmosphere in the famous concert hall, with the children enthusiastically entering the spirit of the music and creating a dynamic and uplifting sound. To further the aims of the Concert for Peace, members of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run made a brief presentation on how they have been running for peace around Europe.
On 12 October, the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team held their annual two-mile 'Sri Chinmoy Heart-Garden Run' at the site of the Sri Chinmoy Heart-Garden in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, New York.
The aim of the race is to celebrate Sri Chinmoy's belief that sport can be a vehicle for personal transformation and can make a small contribution to a better world.
The race is very much run in a spirit of appreciating the joy of running. After the two-mile race, there was a short peace walk with the Peace Torch - a torch carried by Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run to over 160 countries around the world. This short walk and ceremony gave everybody the opportunity to share in the Peace Run's message of oneness.
During this year's event, participants from all other the world were joined by several special guests and friends who shared their thoughts and wishes for creating a better world. We were joined by Ida Keeling, a 104 year old sprinter and former Bronx Borough President. Ida recently broke the world record for women aged 100-104 for the 100m sprint, completing the distance in 1 minute and 17.33 seconds (WR link). Still vibrant with life-energy, Ida is an inspiring example of Sri Chinmoy's philosophy of self-transcendence and never quitting because of age. After the race, she shared her secrets of old age, which involve eating well, staying positive and doing daily exercise. Ida was accompanied by her daughter Shelley Keeling, who is an accomplished masters athlete and who is the one who introduced her mother to sprinting. Shelley recently 2 Gold medals and 1 Bronze at the recent European masters games at the age of 68.
Also speaking at the event were Nadirah and Askia Muhammad from the Jamaica area of Queens, New York. Dr. Askia Muhammad is an imam who ministers to the Muslim community in Jamaica and is President of the Ummah Group, an organization dedicated to interfaith dialogue and spiritual development. He shared a very powerful opening prayer during the event. The Muhammads are parents of current 400m hurdles Olympic and world champion Dalilah Muhammad - asked about the success of his daughter, Dr. Askia modestly replied his greatest success was not to interfere with her God-given gifts - but only to gently encourage and support her daughter's decisions. Dalilah won the gold medal at the recent 2019 World Championships in Tokyo, setting the current world record with a time of 52.16 seconds.
We also were delighted to welcome our long-time friend Coach Jim Hurt, Head Track and Field Coach of nearby St. John’s University. Coach Hurt has spent 36 years with the St John's track and field and cross-country teams (the Red Storm); 29 of those years were as head coach, and he has had a tremendous amount of success in those years. Our final guest was Ms. Najibe Burger, who has served the Queens community in so many capacities - she is currently on the boards of the Queens Council of the Arts and the Queens Family Court, as well as being the President of Latin American Cultural Center of Queens.
Flushing Meadows Park has a very special connection with the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, having played host to our running events since the late 1970s and our multi-day ultra races since the 1980s. On October 11, 2006, exactly one year before Sri Chinmoy's physical passing, this iconic section of Flushing Meadows Park was dedicated by the New York Parks department as the Sri Chinmoy Heart-Garden to celebrate the legacy and vision for world peace that Sri Chinmoy had encouraged.
Sri Chinmoy felt that sport and running gave us the outer dynamism and the inner aspiration to transcend our previous achievements. He also saw sport as an opportunity to promote happiness and goodwill amongst competitors.
"In competitive sports, our primary aim should be not to surpass others but constantly to surpass ourselves. In the outer life, when we run with our friends, we are seeing who is actually the best. And we cannot properly evaluate our own capacity unless we have some standard of comparison. But we compete not for the sake of defeating others, but in order to bring forward our own capacity."- Sri Chinmoy
In the past few weeks, the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run has begun its journey across the African continent. Starting in Lesotho, the run is travelling through South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The African Peace Run is part of a journey across the whole southern hemisphere.
The aim of the Peace Run is to bring people together in a spirit of peace, oneness and friendship. The run combines both the outer dynamism of running and the aspiration of cultivating inner peace and happiness amongst individuals.
“Lasting peace must begin within the depths of the individual, and from there spread in ever-widening circles as a dynamic force for world change.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Sri Chinmoy considered himself a student of peace, who sought to give people the opportunity to give voice to their own hopes and aspirations for creating a better world. During his lifetime, he visited the African continent several times to meet with political leaders and fellow peace-lovers.
Sri Chinmoy met with President Nelson Mandela on several occasions including On 9 March 1999, when he visited President Nelson Mandela in Pretoria at the President's Residence to honour the President with a "Lifting up the world with a Oneness-Heart" award for his magnanimous spirit in moving South Africa to a better future. On several occasions, President Mandela offered warm words of encouragement for the Peace Run, and the spirit of Sri Chinmoy's activities.
“I am happy this moment has come. Your powerful group carries an equally powerful message for the world.” - Nelson Mandela
As well as the Southern Hemisphere Peace Run. Other Peace Runs are simultaneously occurring in Europe and Russia.
Vajin Armstrong is a successful international ultra-distance runner from Christchurch, New Zealand. In this video, he talks about the benefits of running and an experience where the cultivation of gratitude helped to improve his performance.
On Sri Chinmoy's Path
Gabriela explains different facets of Sri Chinmoy's Path and why it appealed to him. He also explains what Sri Chinmoy means to him.
Finding happiness on a spiritual path
Gabriela explains the joy of embarking on a spiritual life. In this video, he talks about finding a real and genuine path to happiness, after many years of trying different approaches. Gabriela also explains how he learnt about the path of Sri Chinmoy through reading his writings and meeting fellow disciples.
Inspiration from this year's 3100 Mile Race
After 52 days of self-transcendence, this year's Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race drew to a close, with seven of the eight runners completing 3100 miles within the allotted time. Between them, the eight intrepid runners covered a total of 27,577 miles, or 50,252 laps of the humble 0.5488 mile loop located in the Jamaica neighbourhood of Queens, New York.
For the outsider looking in, these statistics only give a partial insight into this unique race, which is a test of physical, mental and spiritual fortitude. During this summer, the runners had to contend with two mini-heatwaves which sent temperatures soaring to almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Yet every morning at 6 am, the runners came to the start line to begin their inner and outer quest towards personal self-transcendence. The race has no sponsorship or financial rewards; each runner and helper must give up their own time to take on this unique challenge. Asked why they come to the race, the runners hint at an inner satisfaction which can be gained from pushing themselves to the limits of what they think is possible.
“I think so often in our lives, that we fashion ourselves to be well within our comfort zone. It is only when you challenge those comfort zones that you find real fulfillment, but some times you can trick yourself into what a real challenge is. This race is definitely a real challenge. It brings out a lot of things in me that are challenging but also so extremely rewarding.”
Each individual runner undertakes his/her personal journey, but the race has also inspired many people around the world, who are captivated by the simplicity yet dauntless nature of this challenge. The race has been featured on many international news outlets, such as the BBC, Wall Street Journal and NZ's News Now - and this media coverage and online coverage has inspired many to follow the race and pick up on the inspiration of those running in New York.
Race director Rupantar Larusso says that this year there have been innumerable visitors to the race who came for a short time to visit out of curiosity. He says that in many cases, the visitors from around the world ended up spending much longer than planned because they felt a very special atmosphere at the race.
Another reason for the heightened interest in this year's race is the recent release of a documentary film based on this race (and other ultra-distance events) called 3100: Run and Become. For example, after a screening in New York City, the film director Sanjay Rawal described how a few young athletes left immediately to go and see the race and runners in action.
During the race, many runners recorded some kind of personal best or new achievement. For the overall winner, Asprihanal Aalto, it was his 15th finish and eight-time overall winner. Although off his course record, he was happy to finish another race, despite arriving with little training. Despite suffering heatstroke mid-race, 2nd place Nirbhasa Magee set a new personal best of 48 days+09:04:57 and with it a new Irish record. Speaking about one of the motivations for running, he said of the race:
“You have to sense that the race is your job. That while you are here, you are inspiring so many people. That you are doing something beneficial. You need a sense of dedication to that purpose.”
Vasu Duzihy has won the past two races, and this year finished in 3rd place in a time of 49 days+06:13:17. One of this year's most remarkable stories was Ananda-Lahiri Zuscin, who has started the race 15 times, making him one of the most prolific entrants - and yet has not managed to complete the 3100-mile distance in over 10 years. This year he managed to finish the race with some exceptional days of 80+ miles (including one day of 89 miles!). In addition, Smarana Puntigam finished in 5th place, coming back to successfully complete the race after his last two attempts in 2017 and 2018 fell agonisingly short.
Harita Davies was the only woman in the race, and she managed to also set a new personal best and New Zealand record. She summed up the attitude needed to complete such a daunting challenge.
"A huge part of the experience of this race is to just keep going forward. When challenges arise you face them and try to figure them out. Do your best and have faith, that everything will work out.”
First-time entrant Todor Dimitrov faced a real baptism of fire. With six days to go, injuries and sickness had left him 32 miles off the cut-off pace. Yet he kept going to the end and finished with just a couple of hours to spare. Speaking at the end, Todor said:
"The race was a great transformative experience. Thank you all here. It makes me to feel the world is going in a good direction. To proceed with that good direction. So happy to know the runners who helped me to finish. "
Ushika Muckenhumer faced innumerable challenges in the race with getting injured in the early part of the race. But, his battling spirit kept him going for all 52 days. He finished with 2,777 miles. Ushika illustrates the central concept of the race that it is about personal self-transcendence and doing what we can given the circumstances we are in. Towards the end of the gruelling race, he talked about the transformative potential of the race.
“At this stage of the race you go so far out of your mind, that it is difficult to think through answers. Life becomes very simple, especially the mind. It is not the usual way to function. But instead in a very cheerful and simple frame of mind."
The 3100 Mile Race was founded by Sri Chinmoy who initiated the very first race in 1997. In the past 23 years, only 44 different people have completed the 3100 Mile race - which the NY Times once described as "The Everest of distance running."
Sri Chinmoy believed that through ultra-distance running, individuals could discover unknown inner and outer capacities and gain a real sense of satisfaction from challenging their own limits. Sri Chinmoy was also a visionary who saw how the race could inspire many people around the world. Speaking at the first awards ceremony on 2 August 1997, he said of the race:
"This 3,100 miles is an unprecedented journey in our world-peace-manifestation-dream. World-peace can come into existence only when we are inundated with patience and perseverance. Infinite patience we need in our inner life and perseverance we need in our outer life.
These 3,100 miles remind us of one divine and supreme reality: we can and we must do everything at our command to transform the world of lethargy and unwillingness to be dynamic. Unwillingness we do not leave behind us. Therefore happiness remains always a far cry. Willingness to give, willingness to achieve, willingness to grow and glow should be the message of our souls. With our souls' blessings we can and will fulfil our earthly life."