Nice Interview on Today Show Mornings with Australian Motivational Speaker Grahak Cunningham on ultra marathon and multi day running. Grahak, a student of Sri Chinmoy, recently finished the 3100 mile race in Queens, NY, in first position. Congratulations!
Inspired by his spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy, award-winning writer Alan Spence considers the meaning of meditation and its practice from a Hindu perspective. This article first appeared on BBC online.
The nice thing about being up early in the morning is the stillness, the silence. The hustle of the day hasn’t really started, and it’s a good time to just sit, quiet and meditate. My spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy – a man I’ve known for over 30 years – expresses it beautifully:
Meditation is silence, energising and fulfilling. Silence is the eloquent expression of the inexpressible.
The key word here is energising. That quiet place inside us is a source of tremendous strength.
Sri Chinmoy tells a story about a pious man who studies the scriptures devotedly, and likes to discuss philosophy with a scholar who comes to visit him. They earnestly discuss the path to spiritual liberation, but deep in his heart, the man knows this endless talk is not bringing him any closer to attaining his goal. Now, it happens that the man has a little caged bird in his room, and he likes to hear it sing. But one morning he notices the bird is not singing at all, it has fallen completely silent. He speaks to the bird, tries to coax it, but it makes not a sound. Eventually the man opens the cage door and the bird, in an instant, escapes, flies out of the cage, through the open window of the room, and soars into the infinite freedom of the sky. The bird taught his master an important spiritual lesson. Silence liberates! We can talk endlessly, argue, discuss, debate. But the real truth of things, we discover in silence. Eventually we have to hush the mind and its chatter, discover that vastness in our hearts and soar into it. That image of the bird in flight, going beyond the mundane, is at the heart of one of Sri Chinmoy’s devotional songs:
Bird of my heart,
Fly on, fly on.
Look not behind.
What the world offers
Is meaningless, useless
And utterly false.
Bird of my heart,
And it recurs in one of his simple, beautiful, mantric poems:
My Lord, a tiny bird
Claims the vast sky.
Similarly the finite in me
Longs to claim
Your Infinite Absolute.
Some years ago I edited a little collection of writings on meditation by my teacher, Sri Chinmoy. I called it The Silent Teaching. I wrote in the introduction that the title might seem strange, even paradoxical. To the mind accustomed to regard teaching as instruction, or practical demonstration, the notion that such a process can be silent, wordless, might be difficult. But in discussing meditation, we are moving in a realm where, traditionally, truth is communicated directly, in silence, by a look, a gesture, a touch. One of the best-known examples is Buddha’s Flower Sermon. The Buddha came to address a large gathering and his lecture consisted of holding up a flower! One of his followers, Maha Kashapa, responded by smiling, and Buddha said in that moment the disciple had received everything. The teaching is not conveyed in words, he said, but in silence.
Sri Chinmoy’s background is Hindu, but he expressed the same truth: All real spiritual teachers teach in silence. But beyond that again, he realises our own ‘real teacher’ is deep within. Your mind has a flood of questions. There is but one teacher who can answer them. Who is the teacher? Your silence-loving heart. This ‘silence-loving heart’ is receptivity itself. It is our capacity to be still, be open, and simply listen. The mind has all the questions. The heart has, and is, the answer. Meditation speaks. It speaks in silence. It reveals that our life is Eternity itself. I’ve been talking a lot about silence. (And that’s a typical paradox in itself – talking about silence!) But clearly there are different levels and qualities of silence.
There’s an Indian story about four monks who decide, as a form of spiritual discipline, to maintain a day of silence. That way they can be more focused and concentrated, not waste their energy on smalltalk or get into useless arguments. Well, everything goes well throughout the day. They go about their tasks feeling very virtuous and showing each other great respect. Then towards evening, it starts to get dark, and one of the monks, who is busy preparing food, says “Somebody should light the lamp”. The second monk turns to him and says, “You spoke!” The third monk says, “Will you two shut up!” And the fourth monk says, “Now I’m the only one who hasn’t broken the vow of silence!”
Maintaining even an outer silence – keeping our mouths shut – is more difficult than we might imagine. Much more difficult is maintaining an inner silence – the absence of thought. (Just try not thinking about anything for a minute!). Yet, as my teacher Sri Chinmoy says, there are deeper levels again. He talks about the outer silence and the inner silence, then about the inmost silence. He writes:
This silence is not just the absence of sound. It is not even the absence of thought. It is the blossoming of our indomitable inner will.
It is that dynamic quality which characterises true meditation:
Beyond speech and mind,
Into the river of ever-effulgent Light
My heart dives.
Today thousands of doors
Closed for millennia
Are opened wide.
Meditation is not an escape exercise
Recently I went to a performance by American artist Laurie Anderson. In the middle of the show she made a point about silence. She stood quite still, centre-stage, held total silence for a couple of minutes. The silence was fairly comfortable – this was a sophisticated audience, we knew our minimalism, our John Cage – this was one of those silences, right? Then she made the point that when that happened on radio, or even worse, on TV, it was cause for panic. Dead air! The void had to be filled! Socially too – round a dinner table say – if a silence falls there’s a nervousness, a clearing of throats, before someone kicks in with “Say… I, uh… saw this show on TV…” In such situations, there’s a fear of silence, an embarrassment, a sense of feeling exposed. And it’s true, I think, at a deeper level, that silence is something we fear. Dead air. Fill the space. Switch on the TV. Plug in the headphones. Shout down the mobile phone. Anything rather than face the emptiness, for that would mean facing ourselves. Meditation is that very act of facing ourselves, accepting the silence.
Sri Chinmoy writes:
Meditation is not an escape exercise… The seeker who meditates is a divine warrior who faces suffering, ignorance and darkness and tries to establish the kingdom of wisdom-light.
And with perseverance, we reach the depths of our being, our true self.
When we meditate, what we actually do is enter into a vacant, calm, still, silent mind. We go deep within and approach our true existence, which is our soul.
At the start, I quoted from my teacher Sri Chinmoy, talking about meditation as a diving deep within. Here is another passage where he expands on that idea:
How do we meditate silently? Just by not talking, just by not using words, we are not doing silent meditation. Silent meditation is totally different. When we start meditating in silence, we feel the bottom of a sea within us and without. The life of activity, movement and restlessness is on the surface, but deep below, underneath our human life, there is poise and silence. We imagine this sea of silence within us, or we feel that we are nothing but a sea of poise itself.
And the ideal is to carry this poise into everyday life. The spiritual life is one of balance – silence at the heart of action, but also dynamism at the heart of silent meditation. Sri Chinmoy once described the difference between prayer and meditation as follows: “When I pray, I talk and God listens. When I meditate, God talks and I listen”. Meditation is that listening, attentively and in silence, to the voice of the Absolute within us. There is a special way to listen to the Voice of God, and that is to meditate in silence. Then there is no tomorrow, there is no such thing even as today. It is all now. The eternal Now is the only reality.
In this episode of LIFE Voices, Prachar Stegeman from Canberra, Australia shares his thoughts on spirituality, music and meditation. Prachar is a meditation student of Sri Chinmoy and helps to organise a range of sporting events in Australia and the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run. The episode is entitled ‘A Deeper Sense of Peace’ and Prachar explains how he became interested in meditation to help his work as a concert pianist. Prachar also talks about how studying meditation under Sri Chinmoy opened up a whole range of new possibilities from singing to sport. Length: 18:34 min. Produced by Kedar Misani, kedarvideo Switzerland.
Enjoy another episode of MEDITATION-SILENCE” with a quote and meditation of spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy (19341-2007): “If you can become consciously and constantly aware that you are of the Source, that you came from Light and Delight and your ultimate goal is to go back to Light and Delight, then you will have no sense of insecurity. As long as the tiny drop retains its individuality and separateness, it will remain insecure; the waves and surges of the ocean will scare it to death. But when the tiny drop consciously enters into the ocean, it becomes the ocean itself. Then it is no longer afraid of anything.” (from the book “Wings of Joy”). Length: 5:18 min. Produced and filmed by kedarvideo, Switzerland. Narration: Kanan Roberts. Music: “Flute Music for Meditation” © Sri Chinmoy.
For the first time I am offering a one-hour meditation with nature scenes, captured over the past 15 years all over the world. The soundtrack is by New York based musician Premik Tubbs, who was inspired to interpret with his flute many soulful melodies composed by his spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy. Sit back, relax and enjoy the beauty of Mother Earth which is especially important in today’s time of changes. Filmed and edited by Kedar Misani.
The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team released a brand-new version of the book “Sport & Meditation – The inner Dimension of Sport” in English. It mainly quotes Sri Chinmoy in his numerous statements on the subject with photos and many poems. The book presents itself in a modern layout and gives you many insights that have never been published before. As a teaser please read this foreword by Olivier Bernhard from Switzerland, winner of 6 Ironman races, 3-time Duathlon Champion and a Triathlon Coach:
For me, sport is meditation. Athletes in many sports speak about experiencing a state of energy flow when being in perfect balance with their mind and body. It is a state where pain and fatigue do not exist. I can still remember, it was at the Duathlon World Championships, I was getting off the bike to put my running shoes on. The first time I realised that I was running, I had already passed the 10 k mark. It felt like my body was not touching the surface of the road at any time. I was sure that I was just dreaming it. I had tears in my eyes. I was not pushing myself nor was I aware of being in a very important race. I felt as if outside of my body and felt that somehow I myself was not performing. Those very special and rare inner moments still mean a lot to me. All of my life any sport activity has been connected with strong passion. As a child I had the urge to run around and be outside most of the day. Later, as a professional athlete, I realised that besides the physical there is another higher level. Some call it the mental, some call it the heart or soul, or even a dimension beyond that. By becoming conscious of this inner dimension and by training it, I overcame obstacles that I could not have overcome if I had trained the body only. I soon experienced that true sports is not just pushing your body to new limits. To become a complete athlete you have to train your inner capacities with the same intensity and at the same time as you train your body. As an athlete you can only achieve the impossible when being in balance with your body, mind and heart. Let’s take the Olympic Games. All athletes standing at the starting line are close to the same level of performance. The one who meditates and is in perfect balance with him/herself therefore has a better chance to overcome possible obstacles.
Throughout my entire career I came to the following conclusion: the longer the race, the more you have to draw energy from your inner athlete. The outer athlete will fade and is going to knock on your head after four to six hours – “Hey, I am hurting here, I am tired. Just stop and rest for a moment!” You need to be able to control and calm your mind. Always be aware of your abilities and believe in your strengths and never let go of your focus towards the true goal. During races I have often observed athletes’ faces being stressed. It has been one of my keys to success never to show how my legs felt. I did this by having a relaxed face all the time. Don’t tighten up and don’t force it too hard. Let it happen, it’s not just you! You have all the forces of the universe that will support you if you open up. People have often asked me before a race: “Will you break the existing record?” But that’s not the point! It’s not about any records, it’s about the best you can be! As long as I reached my full potential I would be happy at the finish. Not because of the time or place or record but because I was pleased with the performance I achieved. It’s not about winning, it’s not about money, it’s about making constant progress and becoming a better person on the lasting journey. – Olivier Bernhard
Sport & Meditation, Sri Chinmoy, The Golden Shore Verlag Nürnberg, 198 S., ISBN 978-3-89532-213-6, English (A German Edition is planned at a later state). Available in Switzerland from Vallabah Kaul: email@example.com
In connection with the IMPOSSIBILITY CHALLENGER Games in Munich in 2002, Guinness Champion Ashrita Furman from Queens, NY, gave a most inspiring talk on his many adventures in regard to his records and how meditation was the key to all his success. This is a live recording with the English original sound and Jwalanta Voelkner simultaneously translates into German. Ashrita combines the facts with a lot of humor. It’s a must to watch. Length: 53:28 h Filmed and edited by Kedar Misani.
The 26th episode of the series Meditation-Silence is now online. The theme: Correct meditation. And here is the text of the episode, taken from the book “Wings of Joy” by Sri Chinmoy: “If you are meditating properly, you will feel spontaneous inner joy and peace within and without. But if you feel mental tension or disturbance, then the kind of meditation that you are doing is not meant for you. If you have a good meditation, you will have a good feeling for the world. You will see the world in a loving way in spite of its teeming imperfections. Also if you have a dynamic feeling right after your meditation, if you feel that you have come to do something and become something – to grow into God’s very image and become His dedicated instrument – this indicates that you have had a good meditation.” – The meditation sequence shows Sri Chinmoy meditating during the famous first Peace Concert in Cologne in 1984. Video by Kedar Misani; narration by Kanan Roberts.
On March 24, 1984, Sri Chinmoy offered his first major PEACE CONCERT, entitled “God’s Beauty in His Oneness-Home”, in which 8,000 seekers from all over Europe attended. It took place in the Kölner Sporthalle in Cologne, Germany, and tickets were free. On March 24th, 2012 the European students of Sri Chinmoy celebrated the 28 year anniversary of this historical concert. I recently discovered a VHS recording of the event which In would like to share with the world in full length. It is also available as a DVD in a Pal and NTSC version, produced by kedarvideo, Switzerland. During his lifetime, spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007) offered more than 770 free concerts worldwide, performing at such venues as the Royal Albert Hall in London; Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the United Nations Headquarters in New York; Tokyo’s Nippon Budokon; and the Sydney Opera House.
New York based Ashrita Furman was featured in a report on ABC Nightline on 9 March, 2012. Meet the super athlete who holds more than 300 Guinness World Records and who takes all his inspiration from his spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.