Sharing Happiness

It is a quality that we all cherish and ironically it is perhaps one we yearn and strive for most when it is absent or tenuous in our lives.  Yet when our lives are bountiful with happiness, we simply take it for granted, believing perhaps that this is a the most natural state of being that all humanity was meant to exist at all times in this way.

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From time to time Governments have actively sought to enshrine the concept of happiness as a fundamental part of life.  Recognizing that the society we all live within should be able to exist whereby all people can attain and have access to happiness.  Though most certainly most of us have our own unique concept of happiness, there certainly exists some fundamental truths about happiness.  That on a pure and in a fundamental way happiness is never exclusive to the rights of others.  Rather when one person seeks out true happiness we also enable and make it possible for others to have access and find happiness more easily.  That when one person benefits than so do we all.

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This quality has been deemed so important and so necessary and fundamental to life, that on June 28, 2012, The United Nations General Assembly declared March 20th of each year as the International Day of Happiness.  Bhikshuni Weisbrot, a staff member of the United Nations Development Programme, and is President of the UNSRC Society of Writers, was inspired to create a unique exhibit at the Queens Museum of Art this past March.  It was a display that was up for several weeks dedicated solely to Happiness.  On the 17th of March a diverse panel of speakers were invited to come and speak about this most significant subject. She was helped by many others in creating this truly wonderful exhibit which she called, ‘Happiness: A Visual Poem.’

At one point Bhikshuni mentions that it was 50 years ago that she was first at this spot, when the World’s Fair was held here in Flushing Meadow.   I ask her how it feels to be back in this same location after such a long time.  Experiencing perhaps in a more direct way what the World’s Fair had set out to do back then.  “It’s funny, but I think it has always been my theme.  I think it has just come to fruition now.”  She recounts a conversation she once had with her mom in which she told her Mom, “I just want to be happy.”

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A Precious Gift

Can I Help You?

While I was running 47 miles, one person came up to me and said, “You do such nice things for people. Sir, can I be of any help to you?”

I said, “Thank you, I do not need any help right now.”

-27 August 1982

Sri Chinmoy, Run And Become, Become And Run, Part 11, Agni Press, 1983

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

This little story was first printed 30 years ago in a collection of running stories.  While Sri Chinmoy was still actively running he wrote dozens of stories about many of the experiences that would take place while he practiced his distance running.  Today there are hardly any recorded comments that he made about his own participation in the 47 mile race.

Yet we know, that not just for him, but for all of us who have participated in this most unique and challenging distance, that running those long hilly 47 miles was a golden opportunity.  That here on this dusty track and broken road one could experience and find something within that no other race could offer or compare.

How is it even possible to describe the sweet secrets that are to be experienced when you commit and offer all that you have, to the dark tranquil beauty of running throughout the night on August 27th, Sri Chinmoy’s birthday.

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

For all those who have done so and now continue on this brave grand path, running the 47 mile race is the most precious of gifts.  One that is offered from within the subtle silent realm of the runner’s own heart. Based not on time or place but simply on the gratitude the runner has for their Spiritual teacher, who even now continues to shape and guide us on our marvelous and mystifying divine journeys.  An offering that cannot be packed or wrapped or explained beyond the simple understanding, that gratitude knows no measure and cannot be explained fully by either thoughts or words.   But if perceived simply as a selfless offering of oneself, then only can it be grasped and appreciated instantly and fully.

This act of running, this gift of body and heart is not without some pain, some of the discomfort of asking more of ourselves than we are used to giving.  But the greatest moments are those with a joy you can only experience when you discover that your gift of offering 47 miles to your teacher is in fact instantly returned to you.  Returned in only the way that Spiritual Masters are able to do for those who have taken their guidance and strength as we forge ahead into the twinkling realm of our own self transcendence.

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World’s Largest Incense Stick

If your life is swimming
In the river of sorrow,
Then burn the incense of your heart
And inundate your entire being
With Eternity’s Light and Infinity’s Delight.

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 81, Agni Press, 1983

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Trying to harness inspiration in our lives is one of those most illusive of things.  For most of us it’s appearance is fleeting and ephemeral.  Then when it is confronted by our own stubborn reluctance and lethargy it quite often  slips away, before we can grasp it and allow our beings to be surcharged and renewed.  Ashrita Furman seems unique in that he has for more than 30 years now found himself with inspiration as an almost constant companion.

sri_chinmoy_with_ashritaYet when you are like him, seemingly imbued with an almost continual enthusiasm for self transcendence it is not difficult to see why inspiration calls upon him so often. It is his unfailing appreciation for new opportunities to challenge himself, along with a deep inner aspiration for spirituality that has shaped and molded his life in ways, that this once upon a time skinny teenager from Queens never probably dreamed was possible.  Yet even when he was young there were unmistakable hints that his future would eventually lead him towards some pretty spectacular achievements.

“As a kid I was always interested in the Guinness book of records. I never thought I would get in them because I wasn’t very athletic, and I was not even interested in sports.  Then I started meditating with Sri Chinmoy, and his philosophy is that we have to use every aspect of our being to try and get closer to God.  So I stated doing sports and I found, that using different meditation techniques that I could actually break records.  As I broke more and more it became more exciting for me.  I found greater and greater challenges, and I found that really there are no limits.  That if we go deep within and find that inner strength, calm our minds, feel our hearts, then we can do anything.”  Currently Ashrita is closing in on 500 world records since he started in 1979.

Record for 2012

Record for 2012

He has for more than 3 decades now been continually exploring all the eclectic realms of possibility within the Guinness record book.  Achievements that all are as diverse as they are difficult to better.  At the same time his unfettered imagination allows him to create totally original records that Guinness seems happy to accept in order to continually widen the realm of possibility for other wannabe record holders.

ashritaHe says that it is we who set barriers for ourselves, usually within our own minds.  Over the past few Augusts, in honor of his Spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy’s birthday on the 27th of month, he has attempted much different kinds of records.  Usually the building of incredibly large things.  Last year he and a team created the world’s largest tennis racket.  But all these big things require the assistance of quite often a large and diverse group utilizing many different skills and talents to order to make it all come together.

This year he is attempting to build the world’s largest incense stick.  One that he says, “is more for joy, for fun.  It is really fun working with a team.  Because usually when you find these obstacles, and we had many obstacles building this incense stick.”

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