Alan Spence: Giving peace a chance

The world has been marching to war, Sri Chinmoy has been running for peace… those words were spoken at the funeral of the spiritual giant in 2007. Six years later Chinmoy’s defiant message of hope lives on.

Alan-SpenceWe all live and move in our own worlds, our own circles, circumscribed by work, family, friends, the choices we make. But we also live in the wider world, affected by great forces of change – social and political upheaval, the vagaries of climate, the state of the planet. And from time to time something in our own smaller world makes the news, or something out there impinges on us or resonates powerfully.

A few weeks ago, I switched on the TV and tuned in to Channel 4 News. The main story was about the sudden floods affecting Europe. Jon Snow was talking about the damage caused, the lives lost, and film footage appeared behind him. One image in particular stayed on screen for some time. It showed a statue on the banks of the Vitava River in Prague.

The flood waters had risen, flowing round the statue, almost engulfing it, but not quite. What remained visible was the top of the statue, a powerful Buddha-like head above broad shoulders, hands folded in prayer, cleaving the waters. The image was intensely dramatic, visually stunning. It moved me deeply for reasons that were entirely personal. The statue was of my teacher, my Guru, Sri Chinmoy, who passed away in 2007. I knew him for almost 40 years, as mentor, guide, friend, but he had a role to play out there on the world stage.

When I first met Sri Chinmoy

I first met Sri Chinmoy on a cold December night in 1970. He was giving a lecture in Glasgow University’s Catholic Chaplaincy, and I was profoundly impressed, as much by his being, his presence, his sheer poise, as by what he had to say. (At one point, I recall, he chanted a Sanskrit mantra, then stood for a moment in silence, in his Indian robes, hands folded in front of him, in the exact same attitude portrayed, decades later, in that sculpture in Prague). This was someone who didn’t just talk about spiritual truths, he lived them and embodied them. The peace and light he radiated were palpable.

I discovered he’d been born in what was then Bengal, and in the mid-1960s had moved to New York where he held regular peace meditations at the UN. This was an early indication of that wider role he was to play in those 40 years. Throughout that time I looked on in awe as he pushed himself ever harder, finding new, imaginative ways to communicate, to inspire.

I knew him first as a philosopher, a spiritual teacher who also expressed himself eloquently through poetry and song. Later he immersed himself in drawing and painting, producing thousands of pictures, vibrant with color, executed with a vigorous, gestural energy, but often too with a rare delicacy, especially in his depiction of birds – glorious, soaring, joyful.

He did everything with gusto, and brio, and on a grand scale. The late Leonard Bernstein once described him as ‘the very model of abundance in the creative life’ and in this he epitomised his own philosophy of ‘self-transcendence’ – pushing his own limits and inspiring others to do the same. This carried over into the world of athletics. He himself was a keen athlete – a decathlon champion in his youth, a marathon runner in later life. He emphasised the importance of a dynamic approach to living, nurturing body and soul. Countless athletic events have been organised in his name worldwide (including the perennially popular Wednesday night races throughout the summer months at the Meadows in Edinburgh, on a course designated a Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile).

He was the inspiration behind the Oneness-Home Peace Run, a great global relay which has linked many thousands of people worldwide in a spirit of harmony and solidarity.

When his own running was curtailed, in what seemed a surprising development he took up weightlifting, again pushing his limits, as he put it, ‘challenging impossibility’ and tapping in to a source of strength deep within, as if matter itself were bending to consciousness, to spiritual will.

Over the decades, Sri Chinmoy traveled widely, lecturing and giving what he called peace concerts, singing and playing his own devotional music, often to audiences numbering thousands. After one memorable concert in Paris, a reviewer wrote about how astonishing it was to see one man simply stand with folded hands and impose silence on the vast crowd in the auditorium. The music grew out of that silence. The silence nurtured and sustained the music. (Again the image is the same – the folded hands, the power of peace).

The message of peace, inner and outer, was always at the heart of Sri Chinmoy’s teaching. Imagining a world ‘flooded’ with peace, he wrote, ‘Who is going to bring about this radical change? It will be you, you and your brothers and sisters.’ His work for peace brought him into contact with some of the great peacemakers of our age. Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Mikhail Gorbachev all expressed their admiration and respect.

He was deeply honoured when significant sites around the world were dedicated to peace in his name, as ‘Sri Chinmoy Peace Blossoms.’ These included, in Scotland, the Forth Bridge, the Isle of Skye, and the City of Edinburgh. Finally Scotland itself was dedicated as a Sri Chinmoy Peace Nation, in a declaration signed, with a flourish, by the late Donald Dewar in 1999. Sri Chinmoy wrote a song about Scotland, celebrating the country’s qualities. The key words were invention, action and discovery, as always looking at the positives (perhaps no bad thing as we move towards next year’s referendum).

On his last visit to Scotland, in 2005, he held a ceremony at Edinburgh University, in his turn honoring men and women who had contributed greatly to the life and culture of this nation. In a unique extension of his weightlifting activities, and giving a new meaning to the words ‘spiritually uplifting’ he literally lifted each of them above his head on a specially designed platform. Among those he lifted that day were artist Calum Colvin, poets Tom Leonard and Valerie Gillies, and Iain Torrance, then Moderator of the General Assembly. It’s an occasion none of them is likely to forget, and Professor Torrance spoke eloquently about the unusual nature of the ceremony, and how important it was to find new ways of communicating the timeless truths.

1-Statue-of-Sri-Chinmoy-flooded-in-Prague-2-Apaguha-VeselySo that’s something of the background, explaining just a little about why that news footage of the statue in Prague affected me so deeply. I’m immensely grateful to have known this spiritual giant, for my life to have been touched and enriched by him. But beyond the personal, the image itself seemed iconic, symbolic. The figure stands, hands folded in supplication, invoking something higher, the highest and best in ourselves. It’s profoundly human, and at the same time transcendent.

At Sri Chinmoy’s funeral in 2007, US Congressman Gary Ackerman spoke movingly about the man and his work. “The world has been marching to war,” he said. “Sri Chinmoy has been running for peace.”

Swimming against the tide

He also made the point that Sri Chinmoy had always had to “swim against the tide.” In an age of ugly materialism and greed, he championed the life of the spirit, a philosophy of oneness and inclusiveness. At his last, informal meeting with so few of his followers, he had spoken of the power of hope in our lives. Let us not underestimate the power of hope. No matter how fleeting its life, it offers to us the most convincing and fulfilling power. And perhaps that’s why this image itself, of the statue in Prague, is so powerful. In the face of everything, the floodwaters rising, we hold on to hope, we keep our heads above water, we go on.

As it happens, another similar statue is being installed tomorrow in a Peace park in Ipswich (where Sri Chinmoy once meditated, and where regular races are held in his name). I’ll be giving a short talk at the dedication ceremony, as I did a year ago when another statue was unveiled on the waterfront in Cardiff. The statues are the work of sculptor Kaivalya Torpie from London, himself a lifelong devotee of Sri Chinmoy. (That’s what gives him the 
insight, the empathy to be able to capture something of the inwardness, the power of the subject matter).

Returning to the statue in Prague, there’s a song Sri Chinmoy wrote, in his native Bengali. His own English translation begins, “The wave subsides and the wave rises. And it ends, Everything eventually blossoms.”


“Happiness” in the Amazing Stength Restaurant in Zurich

“These sweet gems of wisdom by my dear friend Sri Chinmoy
are timeless truths full of encouragement, love and goodness.”
– Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Since the opening of the new vegan Restaurant AMAZING STRENGTH at the Müllerstrasse in Zurich (not far from the main station) I was fascinated and attracted by the enterprise owned by the Soyana company, a very dynamic production place for organic tofu and related products. It all started with a Vegelateria, the first Swiss ice cream shop serving ice cream with natural and organic ingredients, not using milk products and white sugar, end of of January of this year. In the meantime the next step could be reached in offering 25 seats in the restaurant adjunct to the Vegelateria. And yesterday the third in a series of exhibitions and events opened: color panels with quotes by Sri Chinmoy on happiness.

A.W. Dänzer at the opening of the “Happiness” Exhibition in Zurich

The book in connection with the exhibition is called “The Jewels of Happiness”. Author, creative artist and renowned peace visionary Sri Chinmoy offers timeless wisdom and simple exercises for readers of all backgrounds. The complete audio book was released on March 12th with a launch on March 19th in New York City. Luminaries from all walks of life reach read a chapter from The Jewels of Happiness – including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Addwitiya Roberta Flack, Narada Michael Walden and Sudhahota Carl Lewis! Perfectly suited to our fast-paced lifestyles, The Jewels of Happiness includes short, insightful sections full of uplifting wisdom, charming aphorisms and easy to learn exercises. Each section stands on its own-with the entire book forming a tapestry of inspiration. “You can have the most joy just by imagining a child infinitely more beautiful than any child that you have seen in this world,” writes Sri Chinmoy. “You have inside you a child who is infinitely more beautiful. Just imagine it. While imagining it, you will get utmost joy.” Each of the 13 chapters in The Jewels of Happiness is on a different theme, such as peace, joy, patience, enthusiasm, sincerity, love, self-giving, humility, compassion, self-trascendence, simplicity and forgiveness.

At the opening of the exhibition there was also a screening of the film “happy” by Roko Belic. The movie takes us on a journey from the swamps of Louisiana to the slums of Kolkata in search of what really makes people happy. Combining real life stories of people from around the world and powerful interviews with the leading scientists in happiness research, the film explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.

Viewers’ Comments: “Happy is one of those movies that will make you a better person for having seen it! An excellent, thought provoking movie that will grab your attention and your heart. This should be required viewing for everyone… There is a well done piece also about what doesn’t make kid’s happy. A great movie that will warm your heart, stir your soul and hopefully make you think about a practical application in your own life.”

“Important movie for the young. This is a movie where the subject matter is far more important than the quality of the movie itself (which is good). Had I received messages like this when I was young, I am sure I would have made fewer mistakes. Young persons understand that happiness is a life goal but they are often confused among conflicting messages on how to get there. By illustrating those who have achieved happiness as well as those who have not, the movie could potentially be very useful in helping young people make responsible and fulfilling life choices. So hopefully this little movie will be recognized as a motivational tool for the young and used in our classrooms and in other venues where teens might be receptive to its message.”

“Amazing. This film will make you happy! What an amazing feeling I had after watching this film. Film may not be the correct term in describing this passion project of genius, Roko Belic… I think the word experience is apt. Funded and executive produced by comedy directing legend Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura, Evan Almighty), Mr. Belic takes us around the globe in a search for what it means to be happy…and we find it! It is hard to put into words what he has accomplished in this riveting and eye-opening documentary, but we see and feel that true happiness is pretty easy to attain. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor.” 

The exhibition will be on display at Müllerstrasse 64 in Zurich until October 17th 2013 and is available daily during the opening hour of the restaurant from 11 am to 9 pm from Monday through Saturday. Check it out and don’t forget to taste the “best ice cream of Switzerland” as many say…

Brook Forest Voices announces download distribution for “The Jewels of Happiness”

Jewels-Sri-ChinmoyBrook Forest Voices (BFV) audiobook producer and publisher has signed an agreement with Heart-Light to download distribution of Sri Chinmoy’s inspirational “The Jewels of Happiness: Inspiration and Wisdom to Guide Your Life-Journey.”  “The Jewels of Happiness” is an audiobook containing poems and prose by peace leader Sri Chinmoy. A video message delivered by Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated, “These sweet gems of wisdom by my dear friend Sri Chinmoy are timeless truths full of encouragement, love and goodness.” The audiobook was released March 19 at the United Nations headquarters in New York on the eve of the first UN International Day of Happiness and contains chapters read by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, singer Roberta Flack, Olympic champion Carl Lewis, musician Michael Walden, actress Judith Light and Musician Boris Grebenshikov.

BFV President Diana Andrade points out, “Brook Forest Voices corporate motto is taken from a native American saying, ‘It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story’, so it’s a bit of kismet that we’ve been chosen as the distribution partner for this wonderful book narrated by so many influential people. We are thrilled.” “The Jewels of Happiness” is now be available from Brook Forest Voices and their distribution channels as an audio download. A portion of the proceeds will go to charities for children worldwide: Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Philani Nutrition and Development Project in South Africa and Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

Brook Forest Voices is a complete audio production studio located just west of Denver in Evergreen, CO, specializing in audiobook narration, production and publishing. BFV is designed to help large and small publishers, as well as authors, with all their audio needs. Publishers and authors wanting to learn more can visit

Tomorrow is the San Francisco Earth Day Festival 2011

New on the Earth Day scene this year is Earth Day San Francisco, happening tomorrow April 23rd: a free public event focused on helping our community take action steps toward creating eco-sustainable solutions to our local and global ecological challenges. This robust new educational festival and multi-cultural entertainment event will keynote pressing environmental issues & promote solution oriented community action. Music, performance and well-known speakers & activists will grace our three stages, Earth Day Main Stage, Speaker’s Stage and Earth Mama Stage. Exhibitions, hands on workshops and solution-based talks on eco-green topics are major components of the event in our Permaculture Zone, Alternative Energy Zone, Holistic Wellness Zone and Youth Zone. Join leading members of the business and indigenous communities, artists and artisans, civic community leaders, local “eco-green” politicians, traditional ceremony keepers, workshop leaders, eco-green & youth activists and environmental & social justice organizations in an inspirational day of hands-on local solutions. Founders of Earth Day SF are Green Zone Productions and One World-One Voice, co-producing the event in cooperation with the National Organization for Women, Living Mandala, Solar Living Institute, Raw Bay Area, Visionary Culture, Sustainable Living Roadshow, and with the support of Harmony Festival, Global Exchange, Earth Island Institute,, Green Kids, Teens Turning Green, Grind for the Green / Green For All, Hope and Beyond and more.

The public will experience interactive learning and art projects, green jobs info, organic food offerings including a Sustainable Feast Raw Food Chef Demo, organic beer and wine tasting, green film festival, cutting edge eco fashion shows, alternative vehicle showcase and much more! Participants have the opportunity to learn how we can all become more connected by creating solutions to pressing environmental issues and learn to live more sustainable, regenerative and meaningful lifestyles…while having FUN!

Soon to be released: Voices Out of Stone

This jointly written book was inspired by an inner prompting, an impulse that sent me on a journey to Carnac on the south coast of Brittany in France. It was the first of many extended visits to those magnificent sites, where the megaliths are strewn across vast areas of the landscape and at some places reach into the sea. I was unaware then that ten years earlier Carolyn had also had been inspired to follow clues and inner promptings that led her to make the same journey to Brittany, to the same stones at which Hamilton Hill and I spent so much time, the result of which was our first book, Let the Standing Stones Speak. It seems that certain stones can record information from the Universe, held there by what we may call angelic resonance, by beings we did not see, but in other ways were fully aware of. Each of us – Carolyn and Hamilton and I – from our first meeting with the stones, felt that they were reaching out to hug and welcome us, but also to warn us of how necessary and urgent it is to change human consciousness.

We live in England and France, Carolyn in California, and to this day we have not met. But Carolyn had kept a journal of her time in Carnac, a record of the messages she heard when in the presence of these ancient stones, of their healing powers and friendly guidance. In a family of sceptical scientists, her journal was a long-kept secret until one day in a San Francisco bookshop she found a copy of our book, detailing the remarkably similar experiences that Hamilton and I had shared at the very same stones. Carolyn, who is the author of eight other books, contacted us after reading it and sent us extracts from her journal.

Fascinating e-mail exchanges followed and it became clear that the only way we could continue the conversation was to write a book together, using the contents of her journal, and our information that was not in our first book. Amazingly she agreed. Hamilton and I had felt that our work at Carnac was unfinished, and in this sequel with Carolyn we feel we are continuing that work and helping to recharge the energies at Carnac. Ancient voices, heard through us, are being reawakened; perhaps they are among the truest voices of our time of essential change. Rarely have I heard a human voice speak with such understanding or depth of love, as in the mysterious messages from the megaliths. They provide us with guidance, tenderness and joy to help us all towards a higher level of consciousness and soul awareness. The messages in Voices Out of Stone are intended for the wider human family but they are often of a very personal nature. They remind us of the natural energy patterns of ancient landscape and the place of the human being within that landscape.  I have illustrated the book with some fifty pen and ink line drawings. –Natasha Hoffman (Findhorn Press, published 18 June 2010)

What Chlorella and Spirulina can do for you

Both Chlorella and Spirulina are microscopic plants that grow in fresh water. They’re actually called micro-algae, since they are microscopic forms of algae.  And they’ve been around for quite some time: a few billion years, actually. These are some of the earliest and simplest life forms on the planet, appearing way before animals roamed these lands. These micro-algae contain an astounding array of nutritional elements: vitamins, macrominerals, trace minerals, essential fatty acids, protein, nucleic acids (RNA and DNA), chlorophyll, and a vast spectrum of phytochemicals. They are thought to contain every nutrient required by the human body. Yes, you could literally live off these micro-algae. You wouldn’t need to eat much, either, since they are so nutritionally dense. The “micro” part of their name is no joke: these superfoods range in size from 2 to 8 microns, which is about the same size as a human blood cell. They appear green due to their chlorophyll content. Harvesting them requires special centrifuge equipment, which is one reason why individuals don’t grow their own micro-algae for consumption. You have to get it from commercial processors who grow these superfoods in vast water farms located in regions of the world where the climate permits (the closer to the equator, the better, since there’s more sunlight).

Of the nutritive substances we know about, however, here’s what you find in chlorella and spirulina:

  • High-quality complete protein that is more dense and more digestible than any animal-derived protein. (Chlorella is 58% protein.)
  • All the known B vitamins, including vitamin B12 which is almost never found in plants.
  • Vitamin C.
  • Vitamin E.
  • Macrominerals: calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium and many more.
  • Trace minerals.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids including GLA.
  • Mucopolysaccharides.
  • Beta-carotene.
  • Nucleic acids (RNA & DNA).
  • Chlorophyll.

Looking at the nutrients it provides, a well-informed nutritionist can only stare in awe: these are many of the nutrients needed by every human body, in near-perfect ratios! It’s almost as if Mother Nature herself reached down from the heavens and said, “Here’s the perfect food for all human beings…” and gave us micro-algae. They’re that impressive. The true healing benefits of these superfoods are virtually unknown by Western medical professionals. The use of chlorella and spirulina in patients can not only prevent millions of cases of serious disease each year, it can actually reverse conditions like cancer. It can even be used as an adjunct “complementary” therapy to help those who choose the Western medicine route and allow themselves to be subjected to chemotherapy, for example.

I’ve already mentioned many of the vitamins found in these micro-algae: all of the B vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, provitamin A, and so on. But what’s important about these vitamins isn’t just that they are present: it’s the fact that they are found in their natural forms in these micro-algae. In other words, if you take “bulk” vitamin supplements, you are often taking synthetic vitamins that have been manufactured in a chemical plant from ingredients that you’d never normally eat. These synthetic vitamins may be molecularly similar to the vitamins found in plants, but clinical trial show that they aren’t the same in effect. There’s something almost magical about vitamins found in plants: they’re simply more healthful, more absorbable, and more effective at getting the job done. That’s why I never recommend people take isolated vitamins in pill form. There’s simply no need to. The best way to take vitamins is to eat vitamin-rich superfoods like chlorella and spirulina. In this way, you get all the vitamins you need, in the proper natural form that the human body was meant to digest. And you don’t have to worry about dosages, either. If you take both chlorella and spirulina, you automatically get near-perfect ratios of the most important vitamins and nutrients your body needs. That’s one reason why these superfoods are called “perfect foods.” In fact, you can eat these in large quantities without any worry of overdosing on individual vitamins. Whatever vitamin you need: C, E, B, A, and so on, chances are that it’s found in either chlorella or spirulina.

Read the whole-ebook by Mike Adams for free on

Sri Chinmoy published 50 volumes of his major poetry project


“Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees” was the latest major poetry project, realized by spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007). More than one year after his Mahasamadhi the 50th volume was published and presented together with the whole book series at “Aspiration-Ground” in Queens, New York, where more than 1000 of his students met for a week long celebration of his coming to the West 45 years ago. The poems in this final volume were mostly written by Sri Chinmoy while he was visiting Malaysia in January and February 2007. The author embarked upon this marathon poetic odyssey on 24 January 1998 at 4:30 am, just three hours after completing his first big poetry series “Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspration-Plants”, which had taken him some 14 years to write. By contrast, he wrote the 50,000 poems of the “Service-Trees” series in just over 9 years – a truly remarkable achievement. Sri Chinmoy began his “Service-Treees” project while he was visiting Cancun, Mexico. He got an inner command to start this ambitious poetry although he knew from the first moment that he might not finish it. The 50th and last published volume opens with the poem: “My life is full of God-hopes and God-dreams” and closes with these words: “My heart’s gratitude-tears every day I place at the feet of my Lord Supreme”.

English publisher digitizes thousands of books

Random House, one of the world’s largest English-language general trade book publsiher, announced on Monday saying that the company will turn thousands of books into digital form. The main objective of this move is to boost revenue from the emerging e-book market. “Random House is in a great position to make (e-books) successful,” said IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian. “Not only have they launched this new imprint, but they have been instrumental in setting the precedent for the way publishers are adopting e-books and producing digital books.” It is said that novels such by John Updike and Harlan Coben, including several volumes of the favorable “Magic Treehouse” children’s series will be digitized. The trend of e-book sales has been always heading up north these few years. According to IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum), US trade wholesale e-book sales boosted from $1.5 million in 1st quarter of 2002 to an extraordinary $13.9 million in the 3rd quarter of 2008.

On Buddha’s Footsteps – new publication by Bruno Baumann

In this impressing and unique new book by Bruno Baumann the reader will be taken on a journey to the different centres of Buddha in Nepal and India and how Buddhism has spread throughout Thailand/Laos/Sri Lanka, China/Vietnam, Tibet, Japan and Korea. Everywhere, the Buddha appears as image in different styles, but it is obvious that it is the same Buddha people believe in. Either with a big belly as displayed in China or more ascetically as in Burma. Since ever Buddhism merged in a symbiosis with culture and the people living there. Interesting to learn is also the aspect how very much Buddhism was influenced by the landscape and different vegetations, like in the scantiness of Tibet where the convents are breathtakingly colourful, or in the magnificent Japan where the convents are basically simple. At every end of a chapter there are interviews with very well known masters of recent Buddhism, like Dalai Lama or the Vietnamese master Thich Nhât Hanh, who both stand for the differently practiced ways of Buddhism. They have their own personal interpretation of ancient Buddha and comment on the different aspects of the apprenticeship which they personally consider important. In this complete works of living Buddhism you will find incomparable photographs and lots of informative text. Short list of content: The prince who became a Buddha, The custodian of Buddhas heritage, Buddhas teachings as the export-hype alongside the Silk Road, The Himalaya – Buddhas mountain fortress, Buddha in the land of the rising sun. For the moment there is only a German edition available. (terra magica Verlag, Hardcover with dust jacket, approx. 208 pages with more than 200 photographs, format: 27,5 x 29 cm, ISBN: 978-3-7243-1004-4).