An Indian In Japan

sri-chinmoy-100-metre-dash

Sri Chinmoy in Japan (right-click to enlarge)

The rich culture of Japan was explored by Indian spiritual master Sri Chinmoy during his numerous visits there. As a runner, in 1993 he participated in the World Veterans’ Championships in Miyazaki.

Video by Kedarvideo, Switzerland*

I am a sentimentalist at heart, and so really cherish this home movie style footage of Sri Chinmoy at the 1993 World Veterans’ Championships held in Miyazaki, Japan. Sri Chinmoy was 62 at the time, and his running form is still wonderful to behold, as is his good nature and ability to immediately get along with a group of strangers of many nationalities.

Due to knee problems, Sri Chinmoy had shifted his athletic attention from running to weightlifting about a decade earlier. This allowed him to concentrate more on upper body strength, with less daily wear and tear on the knees. But in keeping with his philosophy of challenging impossibility, in 1993 he was inspired to attend the World Veterans’ Championships and give his all to the 100-metre dash.

Watching him compete is a joyful experience slightly tinged with sadness for me. It reminds me of how much he suffered in order to inspire others, bring them joy, and offer a living lesson in determination. You can see that after sprinting, when he returns to a walking gait, he’s limping slightly.

I’m also reminded of a still image I captured from a 2001 video. It shows a moment where Sri Chinmoy is rising from a seated position. The occasion as a whole is a joyful one, but you can see the sadness in one close disciple’s eyes as she identifies with Sri Chinmoy’s physical suffering.

Sri Chinmoy in Cambodia, 2001. On a boat trip with disciples, he is seated drawing soul-birds with a green marker, but experiences some pain on rising. He is 70 years old. From a video by Niriha Datta.

Sri Chinmoy in Cambodia, 2001. On a boat trip with disciples, he is seated drawing soul-birds with a green marker, but experiences some pain on rising. He is 70 years old. From a video by Niriha Datta.

People sometimes wonder why I defend Sri Chinmoy so vigorously from those who, after his death, have tried to dismiss or discredit him. One reason is that I know how much he willingly suffered and took on the sufferings of others in order to bring joy to those who had known little true joy. He was many things to many people, including real hope for the hopeless. I would rather remember his smiling countenance:

Sri Chinmoy with the USA team in Miyazaki, 1993.

Sri Chinmoy with the USA team in Miyazaki, 1993.

Finishing up the 100-metre dash

Finishing up the 100-metre dash

A broad smile after finishing

A broad smile after finishing

The Miyazaki footage strikes me as wonderfully Japanese in that you see many different cross-sections of Japanese society represented. There’s an overarching spirit of good cheer, without any sense that the disparate cultural elements would clash — from taiko drummers to kimono dancers to a western-style marching band. The opening ceremonies were clearly modeled after the Olympics, with a sense of pageantry and ritual that’s also very Japanese.

Fireworks at the World Veterans' Championships in Miyazaki.

Fireworks at the World Veterans’ Championships in Miyazaki.

Pageantry predominates at the opening of the games.

Pageantry predominates at the opening of the games.

Some very young children seem slightly bewildered by it all. Unlike the adults, they weren't supplied with sun hats.

Some young children seem slightly bewildered by it all. Unlike the adults, they weren’t supplied with sun hats.

Ms. Ranjana Ghose, Director of the Jharna-Kala Art Foundation, participates in the ceremony and also runs.

Ms. Ranjana Ghose, Director of the Jharna-Kala Art Foundation, participates in the ceremony and also runs.

Sri Chinmoy was a man of diverse talents and capacities. While in Miyazaki, he gave a series of four of his legendary Peace Concerts on four consecutive days.

October 1993: Sri Chinmoy plays the flute at a Peace Concert in Miyazaki, Japan. Courtesy http://srichinmoyphoto.com/

October 1993: Sri Chinmoy plays the flute at a Peace Concert in Miyazaki, Japan. Courtesy http://srichinmoyphoto.com/

It boggles the mind to switch gears and take in the multifarious activities which he pursued as a reflection of an enlightened consciousness. Fortunately, the heart is much vaster than the mind. The heart of intuition, the heart of empathy can clasp him far more easily than the mind can grasp him.

Sri Chinmoy returned to Japan on a number of occasions. He was an accomplished visual artist, and as I note in “Put a Bird on It! Part Two,” he was in Kamakura in July 2006. Shortly before his 75th birthday, 75 of his acrylics on paper were exhibited at the Kōtoku-in Buddhist Temple.

Sri Chinmoy in Kamakura, July 2006.

Sri Chinmoy in Kamakura, July 2006.

Kamakura is the home of the Great Buddha, or Daibatsu. Nearly four decades earlier, on his first trip to Japan in 1969, Sri Chinmoy wrote:

To Kamakura

Kamakura! You in the Buddha
Are his Reality’s Face.
Kamakura! You with the Buddha
Are his Divinity’s Grace.
Kamakura! The Buddha’s Life for you
Is the limitless consolation
Of descending mankind.
Kamakura! Your life for the Buddha
Is the boundless promise
Of ascending mankind.

Sri Chinmoy emerged from the Hindu Yoga tradition, but had a universal outlook which allowed him to be of service to seekers of many different faiths. His book of plays Siddhartha Becomes The Buddha, as well as his focus on meditation, have endeared him to many a Buddhist seeker. Here Sri Chinmoy performs some of his songs honouring the Buddha, as well as the traditional “Buddham Saranam Gacchami” or “Three Vows”:

Listening to Sri Chinmoy’s soulful chanting, we are connected with an ancient tradition, still living and unbroken for thousands of years. The song “Nidra Bihin Buddha Debata” translates roughly as:

Borobudur, lap of the deep peace of the Buddha
Where divinity is present
Coming here, completely silent all the world’s waters.

Comparing Borobudur and Kamakura — two places of Buddhist pilgrimage — Sri Chinmoy writes:

Borobudur is the Buddha in the process of blossoming. Kamakura is the Buddha who has already blossomed. Borobudur has simplicity in purity and purity in simplicity. Kamakura has silence in power and power in silence. Both are totally different.

An unending thank you to Sri Chinmoy, and a big thank you to the videographers and webmasters who have worked tirelessly to chronicle his amazing life.

*Most images based on screenshots of the video by Kedarvideo, Switzerland.

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

Other Items of Interest

Hiya Bhasha Group performs “E Shubha Pranate E Buddha”

Listen to the full album on Radio Sri Chinmoy.

hiya-bhasha-buddham-sharanam-gacchami-3

Challenging Impossibility: Challenging the Oscars
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-juddery/challenging-impossibility_b_1788390.html

Sri Chinmoy’s Sporting Career
http://www.srichinmoycentre.org/sri_chinmoy/sri_chinmoy_sports

Sri Chinmoy: 1998 Interview on Weightlifting
http://www.srichinmoylibrary.com/mjw-2


Sidebar: Sri Chinmoy — “My Japanese Companion”

In 1979, Sri Chinmoy was still an avid runner who delighted in running and would travel great distances to enter marathons. Later, when he could no longer run due to a right knee injury, he would often speed walk. He filled book after book with reminiscences about running. This is the Run and Become, Become and Run series. Part 2 includes anecdotes from his visit to Greece to run in the Pheidippides Marathon, which he completed with a time of 5:39:41 at age 48.

My Japanese Companion

My first evening in Greece I went out to run. It seems that taxi drivers and car owners there are insane, especially at night. How badly they drive!

At every moment you are at their mercy, even in the park. I don’t know how, but they manage to drive right into the park itself. There is no street or anything; far from it. But they drive right into the park, and so speedily. Then they leave their cars there while they go to a party or some place. And we are trying to run there!

Inside the park an old Japanese man — very short, very skinny — started following me as I was running. I thought I was shorter than the shortest, but he was practically at my shoulder. And he was very old.

With such affection, such affection, he started running with me. Then we started talking. He told me all about his running experiences. I was very happy.

He was about 70 years old and he said he had come all the way from Japan for the marathon.

He was staying at the same hotel that I was. There were quite a few Japanese staying there. They all had come to run.

The following day also we ran together. I always make complaints about my strides, but his strides were shorter than mine. I ran two miles with him, very slowly.

I saw him once more after the marathon. He took seven hours and fifteen or twenty minutes. He was so delighted that he had completed it. Who would not be proud of him!

–Sri Chinmoy, 7 October 1979


Book Cover Project

Here are the book covers for this post, courtesy Sri Chinmoy Libary:

sri-chinmoy-my-salutation-to-japansri-chinmoy-siddhartha-becomes-the-buddhasri-chinmoy-the-world-experience-tree-climber-part-6sri-chinmoy-run-and-become-part-2

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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!