Can You Remember The Words To “My Favorite Things”?

Test your R&H knowledge, watch a clip from The Vicar of Dibley, and have a giggle at these song parodies. Yes, the hills of WordPress are alive with the sound of music…

It’s the first day of spring, and though the view from my window is snowy, the sun’s coming out and the snow’s melting — as if it all were being choreographed. (Now pivot to Julie Andrews.) Since I recently posted  about “My Favorite Things,” I feel it’s my civic duty to come to the aid of readers who became obsessed with trying to remember all the words and had to be sat on or sedated. (Not that I’m actually going to tell you all the words, but at least you’ll know you’re not alone in mangling them.) Continue reading

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The Sound of Music in Bengali! (videos and commentary)

The scenic Swiss Alps, a church, a group of nuns playing their instruments and singing — in Bengali. What could be more natural? Nothing, as it turns out…

Do you believe in serendipity? Only last night I watched The Sound of Music for the first time. I was touched by some of the scenes, and by a world which arguably doesn’t exist anymore. (Oops! The YouTube video doesn’t exist anymore, so here’s the film trailer from DailyMotion):

I had been familiar with the music, especially the John Coltrane version of “My Favorite Things” recorded live at Newport, which hangs like a moment frozen in time in my imagination:

Then today, I stumbled on this video:

It’s the girl group Mountain-Silence performing a medley of songs at a church in the town of Zermatt, nestled at the foot of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. Everything is very monastic and nunlike, but if you listen carefully you’ll realize that the nuns are singing in Bengali! They’re students of the late Indian spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy, who composed the songs. The third song in the medley (at 4:00) is “Jishu Avatar,” a song honouring Jesus and Mary.

There’s an old joke that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide things into categories. 🙂

While some people are busy defending their categories, others create a synthesis based on what they believe and feel, and what their intuition tells them is a truth worth living. As the world has grown bigger and become borderless, the Neo-Vedanta philosophy of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda (which is also embraced by Sri Chinmoy) has become a blueprint for innovation. This is a world view which is non-sectarian and sees oneness in diversity. It therefore gives people the freedom to synthesize forms of spiritual practice which combine the ingredients they need. Sri Chinmoy writes:

My personal opinion of Jesus Christ is that he is God’s Son. If you feel that he has not achieved anything, unfortunately I cannot see eye to eye with you. On the strength of my own realisation, I know that he is a real Son of God and a real world-Saviour. He was God-realised and fully illumined. He had a heart full of compassion; his heart was a flood of compassion. He was, he is and he will always remain a Saviour to mankind.

— Sri Chinmoy, from The Avatars and the Masters, Agni Press, 1979

When I look at Mountain-Silence, I see souls who are drawn to meditation and Eastern philosophy, but who also have tremendous devotion to the Christ. This is reflected in their music and pure lifestyle. They’re a living embodiment of what religious freedom looks like, for they could not exist in a world which is rigidly secular, or rigidly Christian, or rigidly Hindu. Religious freedom is ultimately the freedom of the soul to express itself with subtlety and grace.

Mountain-Silence-Soloist

Special thanks to videographer Kedar Misani and to Mountain-Silence. The song “Jishu Avatar” is from their album Christ-Songs. Listen online for free at Radio Sri Chinmoy.

Mountain-Silence-Christ-Songs

Super Sarah Smashes Sri Chinmoy 3100

Another victory in women’s sports, and a record that few men could equal…

Dateline: August 6, 2014
Source/Author: Daniel Bleakman at Ultra168.com

Sarah Barnett, 37, from Adelaide has won the world’s longest certified race for the women in the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race sponsored by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in New York. In the 18 year history of this race, which The New York Times called “The Mount Everest of Ultrarunning,” only two Australians have ever finished the race before and both were men. Sarah is the first Australian female to complete this epic race. Sarah went through 16 pairs of shoes during the race!!!

After 50 days and 3 hours Sarah crossed the finish line nearly 100kms ahead of the two other women (from Russia and Austria) in the race. In a field of the world’s greatest and most accomplished ultra runners on the planet, Sarah’s performance was the second best performance by a female in the 18 year history of the event. She averaged 99.460km per day – this is simply phenomenal.

The 3100 Mile Race is held on a 883 metre course around a school perimeter in Queens, New York. To finish within the 52 day cut off, each runner must run a minimum of 60 miles (96km) a day average, which is 5649 times around the course. They run from 6am to midnight every day.

Sarah finishing her 3,100 miles in just over 50 days. WOW.

Sarah finishing her 3,100 miles in just over 50 days. WOW.

Sarah is not one of those names in our ultra running circles that springs to mind immediately. She’s quiet, unassuming and goes about her business, yet I’d say she is one of Australia’s most accomplished female multi-day race runners, having won events in Morocco, New York, Sweden and Greece amongst many others. There’s always a point of debate as to where this kind of racing ranks on the scale of ultra running. Is say, a fast 100 miler with plenty of mountains such as Hardrock ‘tougher’ than running 100kms a day for 50 days?

The simple answer is that both disciplines have their place in our sport, and both should be respected for their diversity, which is what makes ultra running awesome in my book. On a personal level, this type of racing is not for me (yet!), but I have the most immense respect for those people who do this type of running. I believe the 3100 to be one of the toughest races on the planet, not just because of the physical undertaking, but the mental focus that’s required for 50 days. Completing this type of event is utterly life changing. You’re encapsulated in a bubble for 50 days, running around a block that becomes your sole focus for a month and a half. Some people may call it crazy, I call it immensely disciplined and astounding.

For Sarah, this is her second attempt at the race. Last year she entered and covered 2573 miles (4,116kms) within the 52 days. She has been extremely consistent throughout the race averaging 61.70 miles (nearly 99kms per day) and shown tremendous improvement from last year’s attempt.

Sarah comments: “I am so grateful everything has gone well for me in this year’s race. I can’t actually believe it. I have dreamed of finishing this race for so many years. It is the toughest, most challenging, relentless task I have ever tackled. Every day there are so many unimaginable challenges. All of us runners are in this together. There is such a special feeling at this race. There is no room for the ego, we are all here as a one family discovering such strength within ourselves.”

The first Aussie lady to finish what I think is one of the two toughest races in the world alongside Barkley

The first Aussie lady to finish what I think is one of the two toughest races in the world alongside Barkley

The late Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual teacher, who was an accomplished musician, artist and champion athlete himself, founded this race. Sri Chinmoy believed that within each human being there is unlimited potential and goodness. He is the inspiration behind many world-class running events hosted throughout the world by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team.

Sri Chinmoy sprinting

Sri Chinmoy sprinting

“We are all truly unlimited if only we dare to try and have faith,” said Sri Chinmoy.

Sarah went on to say, “We are all, each of us, capable of so much more, but we have to strive to reach our goals. That is what makes achieving them so glorious. I hope this achievement inspires others, in whatever it is they love to do, to keep striving and reaching for new goals.” Sarah said one of her favourite quotes by Race Founder, Sri Chinmoy, was present in her mind through much of the race:

“Always take one more step than you intended to. You can, without fail, do it! Lo, you have done it.”

— Sri Chinmoy

Race director, Rupuntar LaRusso from New York said that Sarah’s performance was truly remarkable. “She has been incredibly solid, smiley and displayed formidable determination. Australia can be extremely proud of her. This is another historic day for the 3100 Mile Race and for women in ultra running.”

The men’s winner, Sarvagata Ukrainskyi, from the Ukraine finished in 45 days.


Special thanks to Dan at Ultra168 for this story.

Update! Watch the video of Sarah’s finish & celebration:

After a leisurely run of 3100 miles, Sarah Barnett is serenaded and congratulated. She deserves it!

Sri Chinmoy – I want only one student: heart

A story about the power of silence and the significance of the spiritual heart.

Source: Sri Chinmoy Library

There was once a spiritual Master who had hundreds of followers and disciples. The Master often gave discourses at different places — churches, synagogues, temples, schools and universities. Wherever he was invited, and wherever his disciples made arrangements for him, he gave talks. He gave talks for children and for adults. He gave talks for university students and for housewives. Sometimes he gave talks before scholars and most advanced seekers. This went on for about twenty years.

Finally there came a time when the Master decided to discontinue his lectures. He told his disciples, “Enough. I have done this for many years. Now I shall not give any more talks. Only silence. I shall maintain silence.”

For about ten years the Master did not give talks. He maintained silence in his ashram. He maintained silence everywhere. He had answered thousands of questions, but now he did not even meditate before the public. After ten years his disciples begged him to resume his previous practice of giving talks, answering questions and holding public meditations. They all pleaded with him, and finally he consented.

Immediately the disciples made arrangements at many places. They put advertisements in the newspapers, put up posters everywhere to announce that their Master was going to give talks once again and hold high meditations for the public. The Master went to these places with some of his favourite disciples, who were most devoted and dedicated, and hundreds of people gathered together to listen to the Master and have their questions answered. But to everyone’s wide surprise, the Master would not talk at all. From the beginning to the end of the meeting, for two hours, he would maintain silence.

Some of the seekers in the audiences were annoyed. They said that it was written in the newspaper and in the posters that the Master would give a short talk and answer questions as well as hold a meditation. “How was it that he did not speak at all?” they asked. “He is a liar,” said many, and they got disgusted and left the meetings early. Others remained for the whole two hours with the hope that perhaps the Master would speak at the end, but he closed the meditations without saying anything. Some of the people in the audiences felt inner joy. Some stayed only because they were afraid that if they left early others would think that they were not spiritual, and that they could not meditate at all. So some left, some stayed with great reluctance, some stayed in order to prove themselves to others and very few stayed with utmost sincerity, devotion and inner cry.

It went on for three or four years this way. There were many who criticised the Master mercilessly and embarrassed the disciples, saying, “Your Master is a liar. How do you people justify putting an advertisement in the paper that your Master is going to give a talk, answer questions and hold meditation? He only holds meditation, and we don’t learn anything from it. Who can meditate for two or three hours? He is fooling us, and he is fooling himself.”

Some of the close disciples were very disturbed. They felt miserable that their Master was being insulted and criticised. They pleaded with their Master again and again to give just a short talk and to answer a few questions at the end of the meditation. The Master finally agreed.

Now on the next occasion, the Master did not actually forget, but he changed his mind. He went on meditating, and this time instead of two hours, he conducted meditation for four hours. Even his close disciples were sad. They could not get angry with their Master, for it is a serious karmic mistake to get angry with the Master. But they were afraid that someone from the audience would actually stand up and insult the Master. In their minds they prepared themselves to protect their Master in case some calamity took place.

When four hours had passed and there was no sign that the Master would either talk or close the meeting, one of the very close disciples stood up and said, “Master, please do not forget your promise.”

The Master immediately said, “My promise. Yes, I have made a promise to you people, so now it is my bounden duty to give a talk. Today my talk will be very short. I wish to say that I have given hundreds of talks, thousands of talks. But who heard my talks? Thousands of ears and thousands of eyes. My students were the ears and the eyes of the audience — thousands and thousands of ears and eyes. But I have failed to teach them anything. Now I want to have a different type of student. My new students will be hearts.

“I have offered messages at thousands of places. These messages entered into one ear and passed out through the other, all in the briefest possible moment. And people saw me giving talks and answering questions. Just for a fleeting second their eyes glimpsed something in me and then it was totally lost. While I was speaking about sublime Truth, Peace, Light and Bliss, the ears could not receive it because the ears were already full of rumour, doubt, jealousy, insecurity and impurity which had accumulated over many years. The ears were totally polluted and did not receive my message. And the eyes did not receive my Truth, Peace, Light and Bliss because the eyes saw everything in their own way. When the human eyes see something beautiful, they immediately start comparing. They say, ‘How is it that he is beautiful, his speech is beautiful, his questions and answers are beautiful? How is it that I cannot be the same?’ And immediately jealousy enters. The human ear and the human eye both respond through jealousy. If the ear hears something good about somebody else, immediately jealousy enters. If the eye sees somebody else who is beautiful, immediately the person becomes jealous.

“The ears and the eyes have played their role. They have proved to be undivine students, and I could not teach them. Their progress has been most unsatisfactory. Now I want new students and I have new students. These students are the hearts, where oneness will grow — oneness with Truth, oneness with Light, oneness with inner beauty, oneness with what God has and what God is. It is the heart-student that has the capacity to identify itself with the Master’s Wisdom, Light and Bliss. And when it identifies itself with the Master, it discovers its own reality: Infinite Truth, Peace, Light and Bliss. The heart is the real listener; the heart is the real observer; the heart is the real student who becomes one with the Master, with the Master’s realisation, with the Master’s vision and with the Master’s eternal light. From now on, the heart will be my only student.”

— Sri Chinmoy, from The ascent and the descent of the disciples, Agni Press, 1974

Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy

The ACLU and Religious Freedom, Part 5

What is freedom of heart, and how does it differ from freedom of mind? Are the two compatible? Should we follow our hearts?

In Part 4 we talked about various methods used by oppositional groups to abridge the civil rights granted by the U.S. Constitution, and by laws guaranteeing freedom of choice in spiritual matters. Some of those tactics include spreading alarmist misinformation, or attempting to portray minority choices as unethical, irrational, or even criminal. Yet, the many spiritual groups which dot our land are part of America. They do not lie outside her borders, and participating in them can be an ethical, sensible, and (dare I say?) joyful choice for someone who feels a genuine spiritual calling.

Many people inherit secular beliefs and values by default and accept them unquestioningly. But of course, the whole point of laws guaranteeing religious freedom is that they’re there to protect minorities from maltreatment at the hands of aggressive majoritarians.

An analogy to freedom of speech can be made in that the latter is hardly tested by walking down Main Street at high noon whistling “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Free speech is only tested when one whistles a less popular tune or acts in some unexpected way, such as opposing a popular war.

The attempt to crack down on unpopular views and unpopular religions often entails looking for some excuse — some way of redefining matters so that the crackdown no longer appears as an affront to human rights, but rather as a necessary imposition of social control. The reason some Commonwealth nations (such as our next door neighbour Canada) have passed laws against religious vilification is that they rightly perceive such vilification as leading to religious persecution (which historically it has). First come the angry denunciations, then come the townsfolk with flaming brands to burn down the convent, synagogue, mosque, or temple.

In Part 4, after exploring the question of whether faith arrived at by nonrational means can be moral and ethical, we closed by noting that mystical experiences play an important role in many spiritual traditions; and while mystical experiences are themselves nonrational, they’re often explained within a larger philosophical framework which is rational and consistent. Thus, many living, vibrant spiritual traditions can be described as practising techniques which lead to direct spiritual experiences, and as proliferating a philosophy and culture in which these experiences make sense, become comprehensible.

Yet, as the secular world becomes increasingly estranged from the spiritual world, secular do-gooders want to wage war on spiritual groups in order to “rescue” adherents from “magical thinking” and other fates apparently worse than death. (See “Putting The Wind Up Richard Dawkins” for a humorous look at the effort to “batten down the hatches of reality so that no trace of imagination can infiltrate the 39th parallel of dull and boring.”)

One way of describing these conflicts is as relating to differences between “freedom of heart” and “freedom of mind.” The latter has become a cornerstone of Western democracies, but the former is sometimes thrown into question. One method used by anti-cultists to circumvent constitutional protections is to impose a host of conditions on faith, including the requirement that faith be arrived at through a rigidly prescribed course of critical reasoning.

At first glance, this requirement seems modest, since as a society we find critical reasoning immensely helpful in science (which it certainly is). However, spirituality is a quite different field, and critical reasoning is not always beneficial to faith — in fact, it may sometimes be an impediment, not because faith is bad or because it inherently conflicts with reason, but because faith is intuitive or “of the heart” and relates to matters which cannot be resolved empirically. As we discussed in Part 1 via William James and Carl Jung, conversion experiences tend to come as personal revelations rather than analytical conclusions. Like Saul on the road to Damascus, we are each entitled to our personal revelations, and to act on them in a positive way which does not harm others. Continue reading