Precious Beyond Measure

p1020602New York city residents can perhaps be forgiven if they boast or claim to have seen just about everything.  When you are living in a melting pot, for just about all the world’s cultures, and in addition, you are the home of the United Nations, most New Yorkers will not be surprised much by what they see taking place in and around the city’s 5 boroughs.

On April 14h, if they happened to be passing by City Hall park, even the most jaded of the city’s 8 million residents would have been justifiably surprised to see something, no one has ever seen before.  In addition, to also have an opportunity to listen to a Guinness World record taking place before their eyes and their ears.  A poem, written by the late Spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy was recited by his students in 111 different languages.

p1020600For Ashrita Furman, who organized the event, it was his 100th current Guinness record. As someone who has been breaking all manner of Guinness records for 30 years it was also unique and special.  Though he has always dedicated his efforts to his teacher, in this one he had to be assisted by more than 100 of Sri Chinmoy’s students who had come to New York for the anniversary celebrations marking Sri Chinmoy’s arrival in the West in 1964.

from My Flute by Sri Chinmoy.

p1020649The old record for reciting a single poem in different languages was 79.  Ashrita, when asked, why attempt this record, told how the poem was appropriate in particular to the philosophy of Sri Chinmoy. “We thought this would be a really great way to honor his vision of World Peace.”

The poem ‘Precious‘ was chosen because he said it was one of Sri Chinmoy’s favourites and that it would be inspiring for everyone.

He said, “Sri Chinmoy really loved this poem.”  Ashrita was the last speaker in the alphabetical order and recited the poem in Zulu, which he had been practicing for a few days.  The demands of this record are quite different than most of his other records, in that it is not physically demanding but instead presents for him a very large organizational challenge.  He is thrilled of course to be part of this project.  With enthusiasm he says,”No poem in the history of the world has ever been translated and recited in more than 79 languages.  We are doing something unprecedented. It is a thrill to do something that has never been done before.  In this case it has a broader meaning because we really believe in the oneness of the world.”

Ashrita interview

p1020623p1020622The event was of such significance that Danny Girton jr., an adjudication executive with Guinness World records was there to observe the event.   He says, “Ashrita and I had discussed the details of his attempt extensively before today.  Including what the languages would be, who was going to speak the languages, what the translations were and who did them, just to ensure all the background work was done.   That, I noticed, is the common thread in all Guinness World Record achievements.”

Danny Girton jr. interview

p1020608City Councilman Jim Gennaro helped to get permission for the event to take place in City Hall park.  He was also the first speaker to start off, reciting the poem in English.  He said, “this is the kind of event that should happen in the seat of government here right in New York city.  It is the greatest city in the world.”  He p1020609also talked about the inspiration from the event as being one of the most memorable experiences of his life.

Ashrita opening remarks

p1020641p1020629“You really inwardly have to go deep within and feel the inner feeling the inner vibration and somehow come up with words that best reflect that.”  Nirbhasa Magee from Dublin Ireland (Gaelic).

Prakashita Bercic (Slovenia) says, “when you say it in your own language somehow the poem gets closer to you.”

Prakashita interview

p1020631p1020643Bangshidar Medeiros recited the poem in Hawaiian, the translation was provided by a family member.  “To hear Sri Chinmoy’s poetry in that type of musical language moves me especially.” He grew up in Maui and feels the language is still deep inside of him. Bangshidhar interview

Dundubhi Dikel from Switzerland performed for the entire record.

p1020640p1020645Prabhavati Evans recited the poem in Welsh.  It was translated by a colleague at work who thought the poem, “was absolutely beautiful.”Prabhavati interview

It is a very deep philosophical poem and so makes you think of very many very serious and deep questions. Tejomayi (Ukraine) Tejomayi interview

p1020642p1020614Some reciters of course recited in several languages.  Deeldar Sedjav from Mongolia used both Bhutanese and Tibetan.  Gombosuren Luvavsandorj, also from Mongolia represented that Country and another from the region.  For Deeldar it was as he describes it, “a very sweet experience.”

Deeldar-Gombosuren interview

p1020612p1020625Shardul Dillicar from New Zealand recited the poem in an Aboriginal dialect from Australia.  He describes that his translation was too difficult to read in the actual language and he read instead its phonetic translation.  Shardul interview

Valishtha Upmane from Latvia says about her work on the poem, ” the more you do something about it the more value or depth you find there.”Valishtha interview

p1020613p1020636Hemabha Jang from Korea says, “Poetry is the universal language.  Sri Chinmoy’s poetry has the universal feeling of it.”Hemabha interview

Gangane Stefansson (Iceland) keeps track of the number.

Vijay Mishra interview…no picture

Stefano interview…no picture

p1020626Meriem Alt Ouyahia from Algeria recited the poem in three languages.  She describes how the very nature of the project required many people to participate.  The translator from Togo said to her, “O wow what a beautiful poem. Thankyou so much for making me part of this project.”Meriem Alt-Ouyahia interview

p1020628p1020633Padmasini Guillet represented France

Aparajita Fishman represented Indonesia.”I loved the whole event there was a charm to it.  Each language is an instrument in the symphony of humanity.”

p1020630p1020632Kailash Beyer represented Germany

Snatak Matthiasson represented Iceland

p1020650p1020634The line of reciters moves slowly along.  All prepare for their brief time dealing with a language that may be second nature or may be foreign.  All will have one common bond.  They have recited a single poem in a group effort that was all about harmony, oneness, and expressing the eternal beauty that lies so close within us all.


Danny Girton-speech

“What I saw today demonstrated true character, and commitment, and resourcefulness.”

Question: What is poetry?

Sri Chinmoy: I always say that man writes prose, but it is God who writes poetry in and through man. In poetry, each word carries us into the Unknowable, where there is tremendous joy. We may think that when we enter into the Unknowable, we will be totally lost. But we are not lost; we are flying.Poetry is intuitive, so we should not try to understand it. It is not the mind we need in order to derive joy, but the heart.

Excerpt from Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 7 by Sri Chinmoy.

Akbar the Great

p1020390In the world of competitive athletics and adventure sport, whether or not you have succeeded or failed is easily measured.  A stopwatch, a tape measure, or simply crossing the finish line are the incontrovertible guides, as to how your achievement can be objectively judged.   If you are setting a world record than your effort and your struggle to succeed will be watched closely by a global audience.

Some sports have set standards that remain fixed, which can easily capture the popular imagination of a world audience.   The great tests of speed, power, and endurance remain elusive and almost certainly unattainable to the vast sweep of humanity.

p1020414You will be extolled for climbing Mount Everest and be but a footnote if you fail.  That is if you fail and still return to camp.  You achieve a different sort of notoriety if you do not survive the journey back to Terra fir-ma.  It has been more than 50 years since the 4 minute mile was first broken but still it remains a significant indicator of excellence for runners who manage to attain it.

Amateur theater is an art form that is glaringly difficult to perfect and grudgingly difficult to be objectively judged.  The odds of even creating a memorable original script and then producing something noteworthy on a stage is statistically slim to impossible to achieve .  As one who was once a Theater Major in University I understand all too well the incredible challenge of writing a captivating script, find willing and talented actors, and then to stage a production in which you will be rewarded, if you are lucky, with only heartfelt applause.  The staging of an original Historical drama pushes the odds of success even further into the realm of impossibility.

p1020394Yet on April 12, before an audience of his fellow students of Sri Chinmoy, Tejaswi Van Der Walt, along with the writing and directorial assistance of Devashishu Torpy, staged an amazing monumental play. It was an original production called, ‘Akbar the Great’.  That he selected as his subject a 16th century Mughal emperor is not surprising.  Sri Chinmoy himself had written many short stories about this, perhaps the greatest of all the Mughal Emperors.  A man born into power and wealth, who throughout his lifetime sought not just more power but also Spiritual enlightenment for himself and the world he ruled.

The play was performed with almost no real rehearsal under weather conditions that were uncharitably frigid, before an audience, who the majority of which, English was a second language.  These obvious elements just begins to show the tip of the colossal challenge confronting the production.  Add to this a running time of almost 2 and a half hours and the recipe of catastrophic disaster should have been it’s inevitable downfall.  Nothing of course would be further from the truth.

Akbar the Great was in my estimation a supremely enjoyable and lastingly memorable experience for all who were present that cold April night.  That the audience endured several hours of uninterrupted hard bench seats, had to rub their hands and stamp their feet simply to maintain circulation, will just add to the brilliant memories of the performance.   Akbar shone, if not with the radiance of perfection, than certainly with the luster of true brilliance.   There was an harmonious balance and evenness in all its elements, right from the cast, down through the set, script, costuming, and direction.  The audience can say that it was offered a work in which they could both laugh and cry and in the end see, that the sum of all its hard working parts, were something special, powerful, and self transcendent.  Tejaswi’s motivation he describes simply, “I wanted to inspire people.” That he succeeded so undeniably is a mark of his courage, talent, and commitment to an astoundingly difficult project.  Keep in mind that he was also able to swim the English channel in his first attempt in 2000 (13 hrs 21 minutes) and you can have some idea of his courage in jumping wholeheartedly into the frigid and impossibly challenging theatrical waters

p1020395Devashishu who co authored the play was the director as well.  He had first talked with Tejaswi about doing a play the previous August.  Two celebrations by that time had taken place since their teachers passing and they both felt it was time to do something big.  Performing skits and plays was an endeavor that Sri Chinmoy himself had always encouraged in his students.  Tejaswi had said to him, “if I have an idea will you help me.  I said sure.” In October Tejaswi he said came up with the idea of doing a play revolving around the life of Akbar.  He said, “that would be cool, and then I didn’t do anything.”

Tejaswi proceeded to do research throughout the fall and early winter.  What the study provided was clear evidence that the life of Akbar was more interesting and compelling than they both imagined.  Devashishu says, “He did more work than anyone else to bring all religions together.”

He confesses, “I don’t get going unless the deadline is approaching fast.”  It was only in January that he started to read in detail the history of Akbar and then it was not until late February and March that Tejaswi started to send him scenes that he had written.  He admits that he procrastinated and admits that he had never co-written on such a big production before.  His most shocking admission, “I didn’t really get something down on paper until perhaps 3 weeks before the production.”

Devashsishu interview

cimg1869cimg1909The play is less than 2 days away from being performed and the massive stage is being slowly constructed under very wet conditions.  Sudhip has designed a monumental stage for a mammoth production.  The play in many ways fits comfortably under the Umbrella of a performance group that Sri Chinmoy created some years ago.  It was called Udar’s Unbounded troop.  This performance will require a very large cast and also a very large work crew.

cimg1913 cimg1905 Udar who will perform in Akbar is comfortable in wearing many hats.  Including one as part of the construction crew.

Abhijatri oversaw construction of the set.



Gangane has an important part on stage and in finding a useful place for this screw.

Devashishu, the director chose not to act in the play in order to oversee all elements of the production.

p1020455p1020456It is the afternoon of the 12th and the play is to be performed that evening.  The set is not ready so the actors rehearse in a nearby back yard.  The rehearsal has been carefully timed so that the actors know when to arrive for their scenes.  For the first time blocking takes place, admittedly on a lawn without props but at least the actors have some idea of the staging.  Tejaswi has the most difficult role of all.  He is Akbar and though he has written most of his own lines the job of memorizing them all is immense.

Tejaswi interview

Gangane is a Jain priest.


Budhsamudra will play Akbar’s evil foster brother Adham Khan.  He has a long history of acting and enjoys the chance to entertain and inspire people.


“It’s always last minute but this time it is a little more last minute than usual,” says Sahadeva who plays the narrator Jauhar.  He says of these productions, “It is one of the rare times in which we all come together.”  He describes how the intense effort of such a project is exactly the same as when Sri Chinmoy was still present.  He says, “I think he would be proud of us.  He is the one who trained us, to be the like this, and give so much of our time.  It is the sense that everyone is giving everything they have that the magic comes.”

Sahadeva interview

p1020530There is one short run through on the set.

Jauhar….part of opening monologue

I have a tale to tell.  Now, you may look at this tired body, these crooked legs, my tufted ears and these rheumy old old eyes and think to yourself, what kind of tale could this dried root have to tell?  But my friends, by the grace of God, these tired eyes have seen such sights that the celestialsth envy these ears have imbibed ambrosial discourses that shimmered on the air like jewels adorning the most enchanting princesses.  This wizened body has served he whose peerless vision penetrated the veil of the Divine, whose dauntless valor echoed and re-echoed throughout the world and whose compassion and wisdom were a beacon in an age of savagery and wickedness.

p1020518p1020526Nobody seems panicked.  It will be the first and only run through for the lights, audio, and musicians who have very simple cues as to when and what to perform.

p1020522Sheikh Salim: God sees inside the secret hearts of men and knows that your mighty soul is not satisfied with the worldly trappings of name and fame.  Yours is a mystic soul, Jalaluddin.  It is restless for God.  You will never find peace until it dives into the ocean of God’s love.  Then it will merge and become the ocean itself.  You know deep within yourself, that the things of this world are ultimately meaningless, useless  and utterly false.  They lead us away from our true destiny which is the Divine Intelligence within us.  God wants me to tell you that great though your earthly destiny is this lifetime, your spiritual destiny in future lives will far eclipse it.  Your soul will be a beacon for humanity that will illumine all of the worlds.


The veil that divides you from God is so thin, Jalaluddin!  It is gossamer!  A butterfly’s wing!  Seek Him!  Seek him earnestly and you will find Him!  The bliss of God union will be yours forever!

Gangane interview


Atga Khan (kaivalya) is a loyal Prime Minister to the Emperor Akbar.

Adham Khan (Budhsamudra), foster brother to Akbar was the notable villain of the performance and met a gruesome end.

p1020538Bairam Khan (Purnendu) ruled Akbar’s empire when he was made Emperor at the age of 14.

p1020539I am ashamed.  What have I done with my strength?  I curse my life more than anybody else on earth.  Becasueth and power, I have offended you and caused the death of so many innocent people.  If I did not have such strength, such capacity, then you would not have had to sen me away.  This strength of mine it a blessing or a curse?  I am going to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.  I will pray to God to forgive me.  You have been gracious towards me, Jahanpanah.  Your father would be extremely proud of you.

p1020546Mehboob:This is the King’s seal

Habeeb: I know.  If he is telling the truth and we turn him away, and the Emperor hears about it, we will lose our heads.

Mehboob: Yes. Mmmm, It’s a difficult one.

Habeeb: Not It’s not a difficult one. We let him in.  Then we don’t lose our heads.

Mehboob (Udar) and Habeeb (Mukul) are the comedic elements in a story that might otherwise be too heavy on betrayal and intrigue.  Mukul says, “my character was culturally challenged.”  Udar says, “playing stupid comes naturally to me.”

p1020547Birbal (Bijon)

The distance between Truth and Falsehood is three inches. It is the distance between the eye and the ear. What we see with the eye is the truth, and what we hear with the ear is all gossip, all falsehood. So the distance between truth and falsehood is about three inches.

p1020554Let me rest and I promise to return as your divine warrior armed with Your Supreme weapons: love, compassion, peace, light and bliss! Together let us rend the veil of ignorance that engulfs the world. O Allah, O God, my beloved Lord Supreme, take this drop and merge it into Your ocean of Compassion Infinite

I shall listen to Your Command, I shall.
In Your Sky I shall fly, I shall fly.
Eternally You are mine, my very own.
You are my heart’s wealth.
For You at night, in tears I shall cry.
For You at dawn, with light I shall smile.
For You, for You, Beloved, only for You.

Excerpt from My Flute by Sri Chinmoy.

p1020558The audience offers to the performers what Sri Chinmoy would have no doubt asked.  Give them a thunderous applause.

castThe appreciative cast offers up its own grateful applause.

Heaven and Hell by Sri Chinmoy

Akbar once asked Birbal, “After death, who are the people that go to Heaven and who are the people that go to hell?”

“Your Majesty,” replied the Minister, “only clever people go to Heaven after death. The fools go to hell.”

“Why is that?” asked the Emperor. “Why do the clever people go to Heaven? How do they become clever?”

“They become clever by knowing that there is only one thing worth having, and that is love. When they give love to the world and receive love from the world in return, everything is done. Only those who love the world and get love from the world are clever, and they go to Heaven. Those who do not love the world and do not get love from the world go to hell.”

The Emperor was silent.


Birbal’s answer is almost perfect. His only mistake is to say “clever” when what he really means is “wise.” Now we have to know whether we love the world for its own sake, or whether we love God inside the world. If we feel that the Creator and the creation are one, then by loving the Creator of the world we can love His creation as well. Otherwise, we will love the world and expect love from the world in return. And if we do not get love from the world, we will feel sad and miserable.

According to spiritual philosophy, only those who love God in mankind and do not expect anything in return go to the real Heaven. Only those who offer love constantly and unconditionally to God in man can go to the highest abode of peace, light and bliss after death. Those who do not do that will naturally go to an inferior world where these divine qualities are found in less than sufficient measure.

Again, where is Heaven? Heaven is not just a place where we go after death. We go to Heaven and hell every day. Heaven and hell are states of consciousness. In the perfection of the mind, in the peace of the mind, Heaven abides. In the frustration of the mind, in the depression of the mind, hell lives. Every day we experience Heaven and hell in our lives. Frustration, depression, insecurity, worry, doubt, fear, anxiety and jealousy all make us live in hell. Security, beauty, joy, peace, light and love all allow us to dwell in Heaven at every moment.

Excerpt from The Moghul Emperors by Sri Chinmoy.

A Window Into the Infinite

guru-walkingIn August of 1978, when Sri Chinmoy turned 47 he initiated the first 47 mile race.  It was the first ultra distance event in the center and was created solely to inspire his students and give them an opportunity to challenge their notions of what their perceived limitations might be, both inwardly and outwardly.  He loved the sport of running himself so it created as well, a unique opportunity for his students to identify in a close and tangible way, with his unique and ever evolving vision of self transcendence.

Throughout his sporting life he himself trained often and trained hard.  There were times when injuries prevented him from his favorite sport of running but he still would go out and walk, often several times a day.  In April of 1980 he invited his students to take part in a new and unexpected challenge for the first time, the 12 hour walk.  In this first event he himself will take part and he will complete 45 1/4 miles.

Sri Chinmoy walking at Night

Click to play Movie….courtesy of Abakash

cimg2020In its early years the race would start at midnight.  The number of participants was small enough in number that the little dusty Jamaica High school track was good enough to accommodate all participants.  The race of course has continued almost uninterrupted over the past 29 years and it still attracts an enthusiastic field, that represents a broad cross section of Sri Chinmoy students that have come to New York for April celebrations, from all over the world.

cimg2019I also took part in the first race and did so for many years afterwards.  I see old film of myself taking part which I can now barely recognize the young man striding along.  There is a look of hard concentration etched across my face as I move through the still dark night.  I look at film of Sri Chinmoy and he is also moving with intensity and with effort.  On this cool spring morning with the race about to start at 7am there is nothing but joy and fresh faced enthusiasm in the expressions of the 80 plus participants and those who will count and help them on their long long journey ahead.

cimg2022cimg2033Pratyaya and other Canadians have been organizing the race since its inception.  The race of course takes lots of manpower to allow it to operate smoothly and there are no shortage of volunteers from many other countries who look forward to helping.

In 1993 Pratyaya made some notes about what Sri Chinmoy said at the start of the race.  He said, “Today you will be walking along eternity’s road.  As you are walking you will be encouraged, guided, and inspired, by divinity’s beauty, and fragrance.”



For the counters, their job is to remain cheerful and focused for their entire 6 hour shift.  For the walkers it is an opportunity to embark upon a modern day pilgrimage.  One, in which they may or not defy or challenge their previous bests, but still they will be required to step boldly forward towards new horizons within their own consciousness.

cimg2017cimg2025Tarit has entered this race many times himself.  Today he is acting as an official but understands as well as most what takes place in the bodies, minds, and spirits of those who enter the 12 hour walk.  He says, “What you have here is very inspiring.  What you have here is a big mix between the talented and the well trained and the not so talented and the not so well trained.”  He has always participated as one who is both well trained and talented.  But he describes the cimg2026inspiration he receives from those who still participate cheerfully without preparation.  He says of those, “it is inspiring to watch because it is hard for them.”

Tarit interview


Despite the cool weather the walkers will be drinking lots of fluids over the 12 hours. 

cimg2035cimg2036“It’s very tough because it is long, and if you want to be competitive you have to be fast.”  Smarana is doing this race for what he believes is his 10th time.  The last 3 years he has won the event and so for him the race will provide a challenge that most in the field will not experience.  Across the street, is where for the past 7 summers he has participated in the 3100 mile race.  This summer he will not return.

Start of 12 hour walk

cimg2042cimg2043Lauren Armstrong from New Zealand is in many ways typical of most of the walkers here today.  Her quest is less about miles and more about her  own inner journey.  She says, “It is not about the distance.” She was able to participate in the walk when Sri Chinmoy was still alive and says emphatically the experience for her now without him is no different. She still feels the same sweetness and strength he was able to inspire her with then, now.

cimg2055cimg2056“I am trying not to expect anything,” Emma says and laughs with open delight.  She is from the Czech republic and this is the first time she has done the race.  An injury kept her from participating last year and this year she has trained for walking because she knows that one uses different muscles than when one runs.  Her goal is simple, “I want to be happy, and be happy at the end.”

Emma interview

cimg2041Jogyata admits that he was trapped by his own wisdom into doing the 12 hour race this year.  This 60 year old plus New Zealander had been giving a talk about the spiritual importance of the race when someone asked him if he was going to do it.  He admits that he was caught and had to reply that yes he was.  Telling this story he laughs with delight.  Prachar, who is walking along to briefly support his friend enjoys this as well.  It has been 4 years since he last did the race and describes that when you train for it you can be amazed at how well your body can do during the race.  He does confess that when he entered in the past without training, it was quite a different story.


He says that when one participates in ultra events like this it can give you confidence in any other field of endeavour. He describes the 12 hour walk like a metaphor, “of the infinite possibilities that each and every human has.  It is like a window into the infinite, the possibilities of the human spirit.”

Jogyata interview

cimg2049 Ashanka from San Francisco has been doing the walk for so many years she has forgotten the number.  She once held the women’s record in the event of just over 58 miles. She has no expectation today regarding her mileage, just that she stay and be happy for 12 hours.


cimg2052“There are 3 phases.  The first one is the cheerfulness phase.  Then there is the determination phase, and then the surrender phase.”  Pataka is recounting what Sri Chinmoy once said happens to those who participate in marathons.  For the most part he is one of those rare individuals in which the cheerfulness realm is the place he most often can be found. He admits to not having any ambitions regarding the distance he will cover this day.

cimg2054Pataka interview



The hours pass and the day remains pleasant.  It is a far cry from the days when there was a midnight start and many could not wait for the dawn to come. The budding brightness of those hours brought new strength to tired legs eager to make the final push until noon when the race would end.

Vladimir (Moscow) seems to be tireless and full of life and energy all day long

cimg2126“I am a kind of person who loves to reach goals,” says Sergey from Donetsk.  He is moving along strongly in the very late afternoon and is very solidly in third place.  He says he does not pay attention to the board to see who is in front of him or behind. He just concentrates on his own race experience.  He says he would like reach 60 miles but more importantly, “I want to be happy along the way.”


Sergey interview

cimg2122“It was so difficult for me,” says Darya (Moscow), describing the first time she entered the 12 hour race and it started at midnight.  She also admits that she had not trained enough as well.  It was 3 years ago and she still managed to complete 86 km or 53 miles.  She says her race was very consistent, “it was a scimg2125urprise for me.”  She also says she feels very clearly the presence of her late teacher Sri Chinmoy inspiring during the time she has been out here walking.

Darya interview

cimg2130cimg2129Smarana, like the true champion he is will, in the end, win his 4th straight 12 hour walk.  An unprecedented feat.  During the day he will experience much, both highs and lows.  His distance covered today will be 60.87 miles.  Yet what he will best remember is the intense sense of devotion and gratitude that he experienced today which is the goal of everyone who walks here.

Smarana interview

p1020466cimg2133The counters will have faithfully kept track of each walker’s laps.  As it gets closer to the cut off some have no time for one more lap and so celebrations of the finishing walkers come at dfferent intervals.

Jwalanta is ecstatic.

cimg2134cimg2139Elena from Skopje will finish the race with 51.21 miles.

Darya will better her previous best of 53 miles by coming in second with 56.72 miles

cimg2141cimg2131Emma who walked here today for the first time will finish with 47.86 miles.  She will be in 11th place for the girls.

Garima who has done this race perhaps more than anyone else will finish with 43.61 miles.  Just 2 miles less than what Sri Chinmoy completed when he did the race.


The day is now spent.  The sun nearly gone over the horizon, dusk is offering its last few glimmers of light.  It is 7pm and the race is now over.

Pataka, cheerful throughout, will finish with 48 miles.

We celebrate all those who came here and walked and helped and inspired this brave group of walkers.  Those 12 hours are so brief compared to the great eternal journey that all of us must take.  For those who walked just a few weeks ago, and for myself, whose races are now years ago, the memories will start to dim and fade but never go entirely away.  What remains of course is always the most important thing, the beautiful and sacred experience of participating, is now safely enshrined within our hearts.

The picture below shows Sri Chinmoy finishing the 12 hour walk for the first time.  The joy on his face is clearly evident. Just a very few will recall what it was like to share his dynamic presence churning along the dusty cinder track for 12 hours.  Inwardly that inspiration is of course still available, and will eternally remain available, to all who push the limits of their beings and search for divinity’s beauty within their own hearts.

Sri Chinmoy completing 45 1/4 miles in the first 12 hour walk….courtesy Abakash


To me, life is not

A leisurely walk

But a constant


Excerpt from Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 19 by Sri Chinmoy.

The Hardest Thing

bigalita-4We are all asked, at special moments in our lives, to reach deep within and to bring forth, something  more of ourselves.  We are continually journeying to new heights in life, whether they be just one step up or even to reach the top of our own personal Everest.

Our achievements may go unnoticed by the world at large but there is an innate awareness inside ourselves that always recognizes, that in all of our positive efforts, in each of our extraordinary acts of Self Transcendence, we are making ourselves better people.  There may be more to this as well.  Perhaps, in our self offering we are making this world of ours better as well.

pam-interviewAt noon today In Fushing Meadow Park 80 brave souls were able to sit and to rest for the first time in days.  On the superficial level the course of their lives was exactly the same.  They circled a weaving concrete path that ambulated here and there in and around Meadow lake.  Cars hurtling by on the Grand Central Parkway probably took little notice of the often scruffy characters parading along.  If the cars took the same course each day they may have begun to wonder at this spectacle repeating itself day in and day out.  When they drive by tomorrow it will be all long gone.

dipali-soulfulTheir journeys here are now over.  They will  rest and sleep more easily now.  The aches and pains accumulated over hundreds of miles of running will heal.  Some will be able to say with confidence that they have set new personal records in the world of multi day racing.   Two will be able to say much more.  Pam Reed will be able to say she has now achieved an American record.  Dipali Cunningham will be able to say she has achieved not only a new personal record but a world record as well.

Dipali tying the record

click to play movie

bigalita-268 year old Bigalita Egger had made an improbable journey here.  No real distance running background at all really.  Unless of course you count the puny 26 miles distance of a marathon.  She will return to the certainly sunnier climes of Culver City CA and know that over 10 days she ran 357 miles.  A distance most people she will meet will not erajeshri-and-kushaliven begin to comprehend.  She will know all to well the price she paid but more importantly this transcendent achievement will  be able to speak volumes to her mind and heart for the rest of her days on earth.

Kushali 421 miles

Rageshri 244

radi-and-daniellaRadi Milev say, “there were very many good runners.”  This 60 year old from Bulgaria was of course himself one of the finest.  With 629 miles over 10 days he was just 4miles out of 3rd place.  Yuri Trostenyuk in third place is 45 years old.  His daughter Daniella has been helping him the entire time and if there was an award for constant cheerfulness she may well have been elgible for first prize.  He says, “He is waiting for next year so that he can come again.”

Radi Milev interview

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brian-marshallBrian Marshall 54 from Johannesburg South Africa walked his way into a new record.  With 436 miles he has traveled more than 86 miles further than he has before.  He is amazed at the many changes that have taken place on the course over the 10 days he was on it.  He says, “the whole season has changed.” His wife Brenda has been his biggest supporter during the race.  He tells me,” I came here with negativity and I am leaving with positivity.”

Brian Marshalll interview

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andrey-somovarunAndrey Somov 343 first multi day

Andrey Andreyev 555 35 miles better than last year

Arun Bhardwaj 418 miles

One in a Billion

dipali-and-haritaDipali’s last few laps were not without some drama.  She was helped by several girls but Harita Davies has been her main supporter.  When Dipali tied her record I spoke with Harita and she says that Dipali told her that this race was “the hardest thing she has ever done.”  As a student of spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy she found strength and inspiration in the example of his own life of Self Transcendence.

Harita interview

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joe-and-cherylpete-and-wife69 year old Joe Cleary will be able to go back to Georgetown Ontario with 228 miles.  Which is about half the distance to Buffalo. Cheryl is thinking of running a 24 hour race in the fall.

67 year old Pete Stringer Osterville Ma ran 318 miles.

darrensarahDarren Worts 38, running his first 6 day race won it with 420 miles.  It is an emotional time for Darren and his whole family.  His dad can only say, “it was amazing.”

Sarah Barnett ran 684 miles.

Sarah Interview

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klauskaneenika168 year old Klaus Schultz Berlin Germany ran 320 miles for 10 days.

klaus Interview

Kaneenika Janakova 38 Bratislava Slovakia won the 10 day women with a personal best of 707

mark-dorionmark-and-kidsMark Dorion 49 El Paso Texas ran 353 and had surprise arrival of his wife and kids inspire him over the last few days.

Mark Dorion interview

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elena-prateeshrutiigor-and-vladimirElena Sidorenkova in her first multi day ran 596 miles.   Pratishrutti Kisamoutdinova ran 482

Pratishruti & Elena interview

Vladimir Razumovsky ran 133 miles further than he has before…629     Igor Mudryk ran 179 miles further than he has before……..712

Igor & Vladimir interview

baridhiveacesiavVeaceslav Dodonu 33 Switzerland ran 253 miles in his first multi day

Veaceslav interview

Baridhi Yonchev 28 Bulgaria ran 276 miles in his first multi cay

Baridhi interview

andy-cablechanakhya-finishAndy Cable 43 Monroe Ct 262 miles. He says, “something more than running takes place here.”

Andy Cable interview

Chanakhya Jakovic 55 Jamaica NY, says,”he learned a lot and shared a lot.” Ran 270 miles

Chanakhya interview

michelmichel-and-tommyMichel Gouin 48, Drummondville Quebec ran 538 miles.  His support team was one of the finest.  It included his wife Chantelle and son Tommy who helped others all the time.

karnyatimike-brooksKarnayati Morison 62 Ottawa Canada ran 513 miles.

Mike Brooks raised $10,000 for Camp Sunshine by running 491 miles here.

misha-and-wife-lubatatjannaMykhaylo Ukrainskyl 36 Berdyansk Ukraine ran 540 miles 59 miles further than he has ever done.  His wife Luba helped not only him but the entire race by volunteering to cook.

Tatjana Jauk 38 Slovenia ran 470 miles.

vlastimilvidyutVlastimil Dvoracek 49 Nad Orlici Czech Republic ran 375 miles

Viddyut Balmer 28 San Francisco CA ran 324 miles.

canada-consulGeorges Boisse is a consul with the Canadian Consulate General.  He says seeing all the runners, ” I am carrying with me quite an experience, of courage and persisence.  Something I didn’t know existed.” His wife says, “What impresses me is their capacity to go beyond their limits. They are balanced and happy and share this happiness with us.”

George Boisse interview

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pam-trophyPam Reed says, “It is amazing what we can do. I couldn’t believe that we could still do that.  The name of the race is so appropriate”

Pam Reed interview


Tim Kourounis a distance great

Tim Kourounis interview

For those of us who watched this story unfold from near or from afar, we can never know the highs and lows and the experiences in between that took place in the bodies, minds, and hearts of these champions.  They each will come away with an undeniable experience of Self Transcendence.  It may be new numbers that can be seen clearly on paper and then again maybe it will not.    Within each, a new inner plateau has been scaled, from which they can look back and see that they have transformed some small part of themselves or even their entire beings.  This wonderful world we all share together has become better because of this.


There was a time when I stumbled and stumbled,

But now I only climb and climb beyond

And far beyond my Goal’s endless Beyond,

And yet my Captain commands: “Go on, go on!”

Excerpt from My Flute by Sri Chinmoy.

In a Blink It Will All Be Over

cimg2512It has been a place for celebration and a place to experience pain.  There is never enough sleep for anyone, and yet everyone begins to see sleep as an elusive friend who promises much and sometimes gives back much less than bargained for.  Perhaps all have wished at some time, in the dark of night to take a wrong turn on the course and just keep going until they hopefully found a place called home.  The miserly miles accumulate with such reluctance and at such a exorbitant cost one might logically think it  better to simply to stay in your sleeping bag and dream of a silent and sweet lonesome hilltop.

But there are silly thoughts that vanish almost before they spray carelessly from the mind and then there are heart dreams.  Powerful messages that push through the chaff and clutter of the mind and show the straight true path of life.  For 9 days for some and 5 days for the rest, the Self Transcendence race cimg2514has been their lives. A 24 hour a day reality that never ceases to surprise you and yet in the end inspires you to reach high and travel further than you have ever dreamed possible.

There has been heat and cold and now on this the last day of the adventure the rain pours down out of a black sky and no one knows when it will stop.

The thin plastic roof of the counting shack fills so quickly with water that it cascades down the front like a small river.



It rains so heavily in the late afternoon that most just stay dry in the dugout.  Radi, Pratishrhutti, and Elena.  The rain however proves to be a fickle mistress.  It relents but does not give up.


Dipali is running today with beauty and precision.  At noon today, with 24 hours to go, she learned that she was just 81 miles away from reaching her record.  On the surface it seems doable, and yet who knows what nature will decide to bequeath on this brave and hardy band as they head into the long night and then as the new day blossoms.

Pam Reed is also running well and continues to demonstrate her heart, courage, talent, and will to go on.  The gap between her and Dipali has shifted slowly wider like some tectonic plate beneath the earth.  The presence of the other has helped them both and in the months and years to come they will remember well the look and gait of the other which they saw so often over 6 long days of racing.

cimg2543Pam says, “Its been great.  Its been difficult and I didn’t quite know how to maneuver it.  I think I did what I could do.”  For Pam every step past 300 miles has been new territory.  Even how to juggle rest and the road have been new challenges that have not easily offered up solutions.  As the record of 510 has slipped inexoribly from reach she has found another goal to help push and inspire her through this last day and that is the American record of 487.  A distance that is now just 56 miles away.

cimg2542She says, “It is neat to see how far you can push yourself.”  There is also the reality that all multi day runners have to accept and face, which is, “You just have to keep going.”  She also had a unique experience happen to her yesterday that was completely unexpected.  She describes a moment in which she says she felt a sense of profound inner peace.  She describes it as though it was a meditative experience.  She says, “what it felt like is what I think his message is,” referring to Sri Chinmoy the inspiration for the Self Transcendence race.

She talks about pushing herself to new limits and yet at the same time being detached from the effort and instead enjoy a real sense of peace.  As she looks back at the last 6 days she says, “I guess I learned a lot.”

Pam Reed Interview

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cimg2526cimg2531A long weary experience for me,” says Machupran who saw his goals evolve and change at almost every step.  He now wants to simply finish tomorrow with the numbers 777 on the board.  Yet for this supremely talented athlete I would not be surprised at anything.  One goal which is unlikely to change is as he says, “to end the race with a smile on my face.”

Madhupran Interview

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p1030256p1030257Sarah Barnett says, “I am happy because I went beyond the last race I did. I am very grateful” Like most runners she envisioned some higher numbers but will still easily come away with a new personal record.  Being here with people who share her own love of running and wish to transcend means it is so easy to feel at home and enjoy the little vibrant community.  She is inspired by so many who have achieved new records.  She says, “I hope each race we try and go beyond.”

kaneenika“I have done 437 miles in the 6 day and I hope to do 700 miles by tomorrow.” Kaneenika has pushed past personal bests in almost every front.  She says, “I feel that if I go beyond my physical problems and concentrate more inside, I feel I can transcend myself.”  The distance between herself and her goal of 700 miles is just 47 miles right now.  Her inner goal she has no doubt already achieved.

photo by Jowan

kaneenika Interview

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cimg2523 Joe Cleary says, “I have rescheduled my thoughts and I am running 50 km a day which sounds okay to me.”  His goal of 300 miles has proved a little too ambitious for this 69 year old from Canada.  He has run more than double his previous total mileage and the experience is so positive he wants to come back.  He says about next years race, “I will be here.”

cimg2560His helper Cheryl says, “It is amazing watching all these people it really is inspiring. It makes you think you can do anything.”

Joe Cleary interview

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cimg2536p1030285Darren Worts has 379 miles and his folks survived the night in their car in the parking lot.

Roman Dzieriatka has 185 and will likely take in a baseball game tomorrow after the race is over.

petep1030309Pete Stringer has 279 miles.

A short while ago there was celebrating for Pati Libinova 44 Chelyabinsk Russia who just ran 300 miles in her first multi day race.

p1030254p1030317Nirbili File says, “the hot weather was no good.”  But nonetheless the experience for her and her husband Nick, “was extremely deeply satisfying.”

Nirbili File interview

Vlastimil Dvoracek 49, Czech Republic, says, “I came to have a good race and did better than I expected.”

Vlastimil Dvoracek interview

p1030251p1030244Pradeep Hoogakker 30 Den Haag Netherlands tells me that in the first few days of the race the experience is more superficial than in the later stages, where he says, “you can experience peace and timelessness.”  He is 34 miles from surpassing last years total of 481.

Pradeep interview

Michel Gouin says, “You have to be very strong mentally to run this kind of race.  You have to have an open mind.”  He currently has run 492 miles and hopes to surpass his total from last year of 541.

Michel Guoin interview

p1030281“The whole race I have been pain free,” says Tirtha Voelckner 37 Munich Germany.  When she came to this race last year for the first time the longest race she had previously entered was 24 hours.  In last years race she ran 503 miles and at this point late in the afternoon, with many hours to go, she is just a few miles from last years total.  She says about this years race, “I am very glad I came out again.”

p1030283She feels in this years race she has been relatively pain free by not worrying about the miles but instead, concentrating on each lap as it comes.  To live in the moment and more importantly, concentrate on her heart.

Tirtha interview

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p1030295I have been doing kitchen runs, keeping runners happy,” says Asankita who has come from New Zealand, the last few years, to work on the race from start to finish.  He says that for him there is a joy factor involved with helping the runners achieve their goals that brings him back each year.

Asankita interview

p1030275Visitors of all kinds come to the race.

Sushovita had her birthday party here with lots of cake and song.

p1030247 “10 days is really a very big journey. we cannot compare it to the 6 days.”  When he last came to this race in 2005 Arun Bhardwaj 40, India ran the 6 day race for the first time and ran 346 miles.  He says his experience here is a spiritual journey.

p1030246When he describes pain he looks upon it with a unique perspective.  He feels that nothing can compare to a Mother’s pain when she gives birth.  It is with this philosophy he feels he can endure much more.  He had hoped to achieve 500 miles in this race but has learned from the experience here that, “the mind does not work only the heart works.”

He feels that he also has a mission to accomplish.  He hopes his achievements can inspire and make more dynamic his fellow Indians and the country as a whole.  One of his fellow runners called Arun, “One in a Billion.”

Arun interview

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p1030239“It is the best organized event I have ever been to.”  Brian Marshall is tired going into his 10th, and last day of the race, but seems very pleased with the 415 miles he has achieved walking the whole way.  “Its been great,” he says.  He relates to me a message he received from a friend of his in South Africa.  His friend said to him, “Don’t mess around cause you are going to blink and it will be all over.”p1030234

Brian Marshall interview

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By no means does selftranscendence

Mean an impossible task,

And possibility can and must reach


Excerpt from Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 13 by Sri Chinmoy.

Something Special to Offer to the World

p1030211“I think I am being shown that age is in the mind.”  Dipali Cunningham is 50 years old and with each new mile she runs she is drawing tantalizingly closer to doing something miraculous, which is to break her own world record.  In the spring of 2001 she ran 510 miles for 6 days which was not only good enough for the record books it also made her the overall victor of the race, beating all the men as well.

As we run smoothly along she has so far run 367 miles, 105 of those miles came on the first day alone.  With 2 days to go she will need to run another 143.  Yesterday she ran 86.  Of course her running is not about math.  On the human level the presence of Pam Reed has been an important inspiration for her to reach new heights of performance.  Of Pam she says, “I feel that incredible determination has pushed me to my critical limits.”  This has pushed Dipali to run on average more than 80 miles a day, something she says she has not done in years.

p1030203She admits that earlier in her running life she had been reluctant to join the multi day experience.  Yet in 1991 her spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy inspired her to take part.  She says in the beginning, “I was the classic case of someone who wanted to go home.”  It just seemed all too difficult to her and yet here she is still running multi day races 18 years later.

Dipali trains hard for these events, but the inspiration she receives for these distance races comes from within herself.  The importance of this  factor can never be calculated.  She still feels a deep inner connection to her late Spiritual teacher.   She feels that as he continued to transcend himself late into his life, that this was a philosophy that is an inspiration, not just for herself, but for everyone.  Sri Chinmoy once said of her, upon hearing that she had an injured foot, “Dipali does not run with her feet, she runs with her soul.”

cimg2496As she talks to me with such enthusiasm and joy, it is hard to imagine how little sleep she has had over the past 4 days.  She looks almost as though she is taking a little afternoon jog and not that she has run a distance that would almost take her to Cleveland.

We all, in our own lives have to listen to, and then sort out the wishes and demands of various parts of our beings.  Knowing what our physical, mental, emotional requirements are can be confusing, even at the best of times.  Generally it is easier to listen to the weakest part and give into lethargy or inertia or all the temptations that dance and jabber for our attention.  For Dipali at this point in her race the dialogue has become something quite simple and pure.  What keeps her going now is an inspiration which says simply, “you have to go further than you have gone before.”

cimg2495Dipali Interview

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Dipali is being helped this afternoon by Suprabha Beckjord who will spend this summer doing what she has done for the past 12 years and that is run the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race.

Suprabha Interview

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p1030182p1030184Sushovita tells me that her kitchen crew this year is the best ever. Everyone is a little camera shy but none is short on commitment to helping create and serve the mountains of food that will keep the fire burning in the races of each of the 80 runners.  I ask her how many people she feeds every day and Sushovita is not sure.   She just knows that no one ever goes hungry in the camp.

Tomorrow is her birthday, but for her it will be just another day to do what she and her helpers are so inspired and at the same time grateful to do.  Serve the Self Tanscendence 6 & 10 day race.



Luba is working in the kitchen for the first time

Luba interview

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p1030190Darren Worts tells me, “I was looking for the next challenge.”  He has come to this race with no experience beyond running for 48 hours.  At that time his mileage was 191.  As of today he has run much further, a total of 319.  By noon on Friday it will be further still.

p1030192He has the fortune or misfortune to be in the same race as Dipali Cunningham and Pam Reed who will most certainly both surpass his total.  For this 38 year old runner from New Jersey it is not a factor.

p1030191What is helping him however is the presence of his folks Howard and Doris, who have helped him in  previous races.  Darren tells me that a lot takes place during the event.  He says, “you have a ton of highs and lows.”  Ultimately he says it is a great experience in that, “you have to work through them all.”

Darren Worts interview

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p1030193Howard Worts says that both he and his wife are not only happy with the experience their son is having but also are having a great time themselves.  He says about being here, “You just make friends and everybody is just so great.”

“It is amazing,” says Doris Worts.  “It truly truly is the most wonderful experience, the people are just great.” Darren is just about to take a sleep break.  His folks meanwhile are planning to spend the night in their car in the parking lot instead of heading back to New Jersey.

p1030202p1030225Larry Philips 48 Red Hook NY had a hip resurfaced a year ago.  He could not run for a year and yet he is here for the 6 day race.  He is a little disappointed with his miles but he enjoys coming back to the race after an absence of 6 years.

Larry Phillips interview

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Fred Davis having a low patch but happy for his Cleveland Cavaliers.

cimg2506Pete Stringer 67 Osterville MA., knows perhaps better than most about lows in ones life.  He says, “the name of this race Self Transcendence means everything to me.”  It is through his running life that he has been able to transform his world into one that is both positive and with real focus.  Of the 6 & 10 day race, “I would never miss this race, because this race and the people that put it on are so giving and into world harmony.  I just feel it speaks for itself.”


Pete is currently in 10th place in the men’s 6 day.

Pete Stringer interview

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p1030198p1030222Sylva Stradalova 30 Czech Republic is running her 5th multi day race.  She is just 67 miles away from breaking her personal best.

Connie is getting ready to present a floral garland to Tatjana who is about to complete 400 miles.

p1030226p1030196Nandana New Zealand has been helping at the race since day one.  For her it is a fun experience.

Nandana Interview

Nancy from Tampa says, “It reminds me of what the world should be like, and of how everyone helps each other.”

Nancy Interview


Elena Kareva 466

Kushali Trantsova 347

Radi Milev 534

cimg2508p1030227“I love everything about this race,” says Lenka Svecova 34 Czech Republic.  She laughs when I ask how many multi days she has completed. It must be hard to keep track, because in 17 years of running she has run at least 14 multi day races.  She is in 3rd place in the 6 day race but has no particular number of miles that she is trying to reach.  She feels her training has not gone well and instead has come for the experience.  She tells me, “I am very happy.”

I ask her what can people learn from the self transcendence experience.  She says,”I believe that every body has something special to offer to the world.  They just have to discover it.”


For the betterment of this world,

I am able to offer only three things:

My soul’s promise,

My heart’s hope


My life’s service.

Excerpt from Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 61 by Sri Chinmoy.