An Epic Journey….Performing the Sri Aurobindo Play…Installment 3

A great swath of time has passed since the project first began.  A lot of time.  Yet as Kaivalya and his sons and a troop of male actors prepared for the 3rd installment of the Sri Aurobindo play the goal was now almost in sight.  Though at best current estimates the final piece of the puzzle would not be in place place until August of 2018.

Sri Chinmoy standing before Sri Aurobindo samadhi in Pondicherry

Kaivalya was in the midst of some last minute costume preparation as he once again recounted the story of how it all began.   For certain episode 3 of the play was minutes from being performed.  He believes the whole great project was first was set in motion in 1998 when Sri Chinmoy called him and said, “I would like you to do my whole, Descent of the Blue. (his play dedicated to Sri Aurobindo).  Take as long as you like, use as many disciples as you like,  and spend as much money as you like and make it a big job.  So I said fine and started working on it.”

Unfortunately an unforeseen set of circumstances came up and the project was put on hold.  “As you know when something is intended to happen and then it doesn’t happen it never reoccurs for a long long time.”  It was only after many years when he was performing in a small scene from the play that the spark was once again reignited.  “Then it came back to me what Sri Chinmoy had first asked me many many years ago.”

The trajectory of the play from then until now has seen the project influenced by a number of inspirations.  Not the least of course were the crucial contributions of his 2 sons Devashishu and Sahadeva.  They felt that breaking the play into instalments would heighten the overall experience and tell the story better than in just one long 4 hour performance.  Devashishu volunteered to write the scripts and Sahadeva offered to provide musical accompaniment.

Ultimately the first section took place in August 2014 and was followed by part 2 the next year.  After a gap of of one year in 2016 part 3 followed this past August which will hopefully see the 4th and final installment performed in August of 2018.

“We felt the first 2 performances worked well, then last year didn’t happen and we were all quite happy to wait a year.”  Kaivalya then mentioned all the bits of the actual story that will have to be concluded in order for the story to at last be complete.

Kaivalya’s role during the play is to act as the narrator and performs in character as the elder Sri Aurobindo.  “I have a very strong feeling of the play.  I feel really strongly connected.  In the play what I do is recall my whole life through all the other actors.  It will be quite nice next year when the 2 Aurobindos meet in heaven. (younger played by Abhinabha)

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Speaking with Abhinabha as he gets into costume in the final minutes before the performance starts it seems almost incomprensible to imagine that earlier in the day he was running a very fast marathon up at Rockland State park.  He says his race plan didn’t work out but he is being incredibly modest about his time for the race.  He was 3rd in a time of 2:39. “I was hoping to do a couple of minutes faster.”

He says that he was not in the least distracted by his role in the play which would follow fast on the heels of his marathon.  “Totally separate chapter.  The marathon was just a marathon and then when I came back this thing started.”  Abhinabha confesses that he had to learn a long and complicated script but that the blocking of the play and in a sense the one and only rehearsal took place only in the afternoon.  “It was the first real rehearsal.” Interestingly he suggests that running a fast marathon is a harder challenge for him then performing in a play.

“The marathon is a good reality check.  You can’t cheat it.”

This is now the 3rd time he has taken on the challenge of performing as the young Aurobindo.  “Every time I play the part something special happens, especially the first time.  It is not so much a mental or learning experience it is a spiritual experience I feel.  You are embodying a spiritual master of a very high caliber.  That does something to your consciousness.  The first time I felt tremendous peace, both after and during the performance.  I always feel so comfortable in that role.   It is a very very special experience.”

“I have always had an affinity for Sri Aurobindo both for his writings and his poetry.  So it was a huge honor for me and so it was a dream come true that I could play the part.” He also appreciates greatly how Devashishu was able to mold the original play into 4 self contained and meaningful portions.  “He knows how to draw a story into it while at the same time doing justice to the original play.”

Despite there being a gap of one year between parts 2 and now part 3 Abhinabha says, “I always had confidence.  I knew Devashsishu was planning for this year.  I was confident that it was going to happen.  I am looking forward to the last part because that is where Sri Chinmoy moves to the ashram with his family.   That is going to be very sweet for us. ”

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“People need humor, especially after running 26 miles.”  Devashishu was speaking just after completing his own theatrical marathon.  One in which he had to overcome a different set of obstacles.   Namely writing a hour plus script and then having a minimal amount of time to rehearse.

A few days earlier he had at least expressed some doubts about the project all coming together but now after a flawless performance he can happily confirm, “yes it has worked.”

He confesses that one of the reasons there had been some doubts was that he had gotten sick shortly after arriving in New York for celebrations.  “I was just a little under the weather.” Having written and directed and performed in many plays over the years he describes the enormous amount of energy needed to make it all happen.  During celebrations in particular many are involved in many different activities.  “Some of these guys are in 2,3, or 4 singing groups.”

When I mention how his lead actor had run a very fast marathon just earlier he says, “I can’t imagine.  A 2:39 marathon, rehearsing for a concert that is tomorrow night, and he is in a singing group that is performing every day.  So to do this is something.  But part of the aspect that makes this all so fun is that people are so busy that they are in a mode that is just all giving.  You just have to give as much as you can when you can.”

“There is something about the dynamism that you pour into each of the events.  But you get on a role here during celebrations.  You are doing this and you are doing that. I think it makes you lighter, I think it makes you brighter.  It makes your mind clearer and it gives you tremendous joy.”

When the play is happening he says the most important thing for him to do is to maintain the feeling  “What I am really concerned about is that Sri Chinmoy’s play the Descent of the Blue has such depth and profundity in it, and how it captures Sri Aurobindo’s consciousness that you want to somehow bring that consciousness over.  That is the main thing.”  From both the audience’s point of view and his own he feels that play on this Warm August evening managed to do that.

“There were moments where you really felt who Sri Aurobindo is and what he gave to the world.  Sri Chinmoy captures that so beautifully in his play.” As for if the final installment will take place next August he is not yet certain.  “When I sit down to write the play sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t  happen straight away.  It can take a while and usually at some point some fire pushes it through.  Some ideas come and it all starts coming together.

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2017 Sri Chinmoy Swim-Run Trio

Instructions

Start

Heading out to first buoy

First turn

First out of the water

*Click On Link Below to See Rest of Post*

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Sri Chinmoy’s 47 Mile Race 2017

It has taken me a lot longer than I hoped to gather up all the bits and pieces of the 47 mile race this year and I apologize to all those who have patiently waited to see pictures and listen to the voices of those who took part that wonderful night.

For me the race holds so many precious memories, particularly of course in the years when Sri Chinmoy not only came to watch and inspire the runners but also on those 2 historic occasions when he actually ran himself.

In 1980 Sri Chinmoy ran the race for the 2nd time with a time of 11:27, which transcended his time from the previous year.   I also ran the race that night for the 3rd time.  I was able to complete the race in 6:19 and then get out my film camera to record this footage.

New generations of runners have come and found their own love and inspiration for an event that is like no other.

They are building upon their own memories and yet the core of inspiration that compelled us to stand on the dusty track for the first time, to head off into the unknown 39 years ago remains intact and continually transcendent.  To honor our beloved spiritual teacher on his birthday in a profound and tangible way.

To take part means one sets off running at midnight.  To complete those sacred 47 miles means for most the necessity of  calling forth all of who you are and all that you have within.  To uncover and reveal all of your heart’s dedication and perhaps step up even one tiny rung on our timeless self transcendence journey.

Pratyaya and Mantrita

It is a perfect night

Tarit directing traffic

*Click Below To See Rest of Report*

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Yolanda’s Finish…51 Days 17 Hours

Yolanda’s Finish Video

Final Laps

Empty chair

Smile Baby Smile

Nirbhasa getting a foot massage from his sister

“We can’t wait”

At long last

The smile

Victory

Daughter Tiffany

World Record

Presentation

Trophy

World class supporters Cathy Troisi and Kent Moore

Eddie and Valerie

The 10 Magnificent Runners

Harita’s Finish…51 Days 12 Hours 48 Minutes

Balloons

Yolanda

Dear Friends of Yolanda

Pipasa

Last Lap

photo by Jowan

Finish

At Last to sit

Dad

Feet

Singers

My Own Gratitude Heart

A great story

Day 52…My Inspiration (August 8)

Her story is a miraculous one.  Late in the race reaching the finish line for Yolanda seemed it would be an impossible task.  One, that up until not too long ago,  was receding further and further beyond her grasp.

Yet today, on Day 52 it is just 60 miles away.  Something, that as she confidently walks this morning, the last day of the race, knows is an achievable goal.  One she has worked unbelievably hard for.

Her run this summer has not just given her impressive running resume a grand new prize, but also has rewarded her with transformative experiences and shown her surprising strengths that she had known that she had within herself.  Qualities that all of us have but are seemingly only brought to the fore when we are confronted by true challenge and adversity.

“This is my last day and if I get emotional it is only because of all the love and support that I have gotten over the past 52 days.  Everyone has been so amazing.  They welcomed me in.”

“Most of all they believed in me.  Even when I was 44 miles behind.  I did a great come back.  It is going to be a long emotional day.”

I remind Yolanda that in our first interview she had hoped at some point to have a powerful emotional experience.  When asked if this is what she hoped for. “YES!  I said I wanted to cry.  I wanted to feel something special.”

“I have done over 540 marathons and ultras and I have never cried at any of them.  Now I haven’t even finished. I am only on mile 3 and I am already crying.  It is beautiful.”

Yolanda was incredibly confident when she started this years race but I am curious if when she was behind she had doubts about reaching the finish line.  “Yes, when I got sick the 3rd time.  I prayed and I talked to God.  I asked him why was this happening to me.  I know you never give me any more than I can handle.  But I can’t handle being 44 miles in the hole.  When I also have to keep doing 60 miles every day.”

“I was crying.  I was really upset and I actually said that I quit.  So I went to my aid station and got my phone and I was calling my husband and all the notifications just kept beeping and beeping.”

“They said, Yolanda you are my inspiration.  Yolanda I walked today because of you.  Yolanda you motivate me.  That was God saying to me……these people need you.  You can’t quit.”

“Then I just took off walking and kept doing the 62 miles every day and here I am.”

“I see a new me.  I see a growth.  A strength that I never ever had and I see a lot of love.  It is just overwhelming all the love and joy.”

To all those who have worked hard to fulfill Yolanda’s 52 day challenge she says, “Thank you and I am so proud of everyone of you who have taken the 52 day challenge.  The main thing is that you did it.  We did it.”

“I did my 60 plus miles a day and you all did many miles a day and you stuck with it.  52 days of working out is amazing.  You did it and I am proud of you.”

He who has inspiration

Soulful inspiration

is constantly running towards

and crying for

The Beyond

Sri Chinmoy, The outer running and the inner running, Agni Press, 1974

* This will be the last of my Daily Posts.  I am very grateful to all those who have wandered over to this blog every day and even if just from time to time.  The Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race is impossible without the contributions, both inner and outer of so many people.  But of course the primary inspiration is Sri Chinmoy himself.  Who’s light and love continues to make miracles like this happen*

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Day 51…The Race Of Life (August 7)

“I guess I am starting to.” This is how Harita answered my question about whether or not she can now see the finish line.  It is now day 51 and Harita has just 108 miles more to run.  When she soon reaches 3000 miles she will be on what Suprabha once called, the bell lap.

“It seems pretty definite now, by the way the past 50 days have gone that I am going to finish, but every lap is a miracle.  I am still really praying that nothing goes wrong.  I definitely feel that I can see the finish line.”

“Each day is completely different.  Every day has so many ups and downs in it.  Some days over all are a little easier than others.  But most days are pretty tough in many different ways.  Physically, mentally, or emotionally, so I definitely don’t think it gets easier.”

“In a way having the finish line coming closer is challenging because you keep thinking of finishing but you find every lap is full of new surprises, new challenges, and new experiences.”

“In a way the race is just one big blur.  Because there is so much intensity the whole time.  You are so focused in the moment and then you move on to the next moment.  The past moment is in the background.”

photo Jowan

“Overall there have been a lot of experiences.  Overall for me is the spiritual experience.  And really the opportunity to really see the power of the inner life and the power of our souls, of prayer and meditation.  The more that we can make that a reality in our lives then everything else flows from there.”

“Never in my life have I ever been able to just pray to God and God is right there for me.  Sri Chinmoy always talks about crying and having your heart’s cry and I have always seen that as a theory.  But in this race I can just cry like a child.  You really feel that the Supreme is really right there for you.  That is a precious and powerful experience that I have had.”

“The real experience I have had of the true oneness of our world family.  This is my body, my mind, my heart, and my soul doing this but everybody is helping in so many ways.  The people who write messages or who have supported us or who have come out to the race, and the other runners.  It is such a significant part of my whole experience.”

“That is the way that life is.  We may think we are running the Race of Life by ourselves but we are not.  We depend on each other and we need each other, and we influence each other, inspire each other and give each other encouragement.  We would never be able to do anything by ourselves. That for me has been a really beautiful experience.”

Photo Jowan

“One of the things I wanted to say on the practical reality is that out here on the course there are people from all different religions and all different walks of life.”

“Tough, rough, swearing people and spiritual people, and a lot of sports people and just regular people who come and walk around.”

“There is a lot of Muslim women who come out and walk around and lot of them are wearing the full burka.  A few of us have noticed that over the course of te race that a significant number of women who were in the beginning who were coming out walking.  The would always wave and smile and some of them have gradually become more friendly over time.”

“We have noticed that a significant number of these women have started to run.  Which is really amazing because it is not htat common to see.  You really feel that they must be getting something from this race.”

Photo Jowan

“This one little woman who may be in here 60’s or 70’s has been out here every single day.  She as been here for many years.  She always looks so serious so I took it upon myself as a challenge to make here smile.”

“After about 2 weeks she stared smiling at me and waving.  Then yesterday I saw her in front of me.  She was wearing sandals and is tiny and she was kind of running.  I thought, O my God, you are running, and I told her…you are running!”

“I said, please, please, run with me.  So she did it and ran with me for about 30 seconds.  I felt that was such a sweet experience.  Of how we are altogether in this world and we can go beyond so many barriers and experience this oneness with each other in this race in so many sweet ways.”

A most exquisite sweetness
I feel and become
When I think of my own
High, higher and highest experiences.

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Nirbhasa’s Finish 48 Days 16 hours 47 Minutes

The wait

Running with Mom

photo by Jowan

The waiting cake

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Kaneenika’s World Record Finish 48 Days 14 hours 24 minutes

Balloons

Waiting crowd

Sign

Nearly there

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Day 50 Nirbhasa…Just An Experience (August 6)

*Video recorded yesterday…..finish to follow soon*

Yesterday morning I spoke with Nirbhasa as he was completing his final 59 miles.  I joke when I ask if he is thinking about a good nights rest.  “I am not really thinking about that right now.”

“In one way today is just the same as every other day.  You have to take every lap at a time.  Be in the present moment.  Be in a good a consciousness as you can be.”

Nirbhasa says there is no coasting into the finish line.  It is never like that.”

I am curious if he has any advice for others who might be faced with their own great challenges.  “Of course in this race you have some tough times and then you have some very tough times.  But they all somehow pass.  You know at the end of the day that everything is just an experience.  The good times the bad times.  They are all fleeting.”

“The important thing is to somehow rise above and beyond those transient things.  Enter into something deeper.  You are almost an observer of your own good or bad experiences.  There is some deeper part of us that is just an observer of the whole thing.”

“Even if you are having a bad experience.  Even just to be able to solve the issue you have to put some distance from it.  Not get caught up in your own reactions to it.”

“In many way the tough experiences are ones that ultimately become almost in a way your good experiences.  Because at the end of it you really have to use your soul.  You end up ultimately closer to your soul and you feel that your soul is the most real part of your being.”

There are still some hours left and he says, “you have to treat it like every other day.  In other words another day to try and go deep within.  To pray, to meditate, and try to feel happy and grateful.”

Experience is not acquired information.
Experience is not required observation.
Experience is the result of an inner investigation.

Sri Chinmoy, Flame-Goal, Agni Press, 1973

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