Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Whole World Behind You

She doesn't feel that she is very special, and yet every day Suprabha, has come to this hard and unforgiving course, of the 3100 mile race and has performed a miracle here. If you did not know her, and saw her only briefly passing by, you would probably say she can do just a few laps here, and then no more. But she has defied the limits of her human frame, and she continues to defy the physical world itself. She does not stop after one day, one week, one month, or even after running here every summer for 12 long years. If you ever wanted to put a human face, to the expression, 'never give up,' it would be that, of this 52 year old gift shopper owner, from Washington DC.

What the outside world cannot always see in her, her spiritual master saw most clearly. He knew, that if she ran, she would, with each step forward, make spiritual progress within. She was, and continues to be so fortunate, in having a very real and tangible way in order to reach her own highest. For her of course, this is not, or could ever be a solitary and self reliant journey. For in her determination, in her sweet and yet relentless pursuit of the goal, she feels that she is doing nothing at all to accomplish this. It is only in her surrender, and faith in her divine connection to Sri Chinmoy that she is able to run even one step, all day and all night, for every mile after unbelievable mile.

And she of course does not do this impossible thing, ever for herself alone. It is in her utter selflessness that others, if they are also fortunate, can see that she is offering up to her teacher, every step, every pain and every glory along the way. This is why others come to her, and try to serve the divinity blossoming and glowing within her. When there is doubt or fear, or worry of any kind she offers them all up to her teacher. When there is joy, satisfaction, and ultimately victory, she offers this as well. She holds nothing for herself alone, Nothing that is, but her confidence, faith, and deep heartfelt connection with her Guru.

What began as a whim, entering a 200 mile race to honor her teacher in the 1980's, has now grown into a long and distinguished lifetime of multi day running. If she had ever for a moment thought, years ago, how long and how far she would have traveled over these years she might not ever have put on shoes, or stepped up to the starting line at all. But every year she goes on. One step at a time, one race at a time, year after year. And if we were to search for another marvel, it would of course have to be, that she is even here at all this year. At a time, when she could so easily say, "no more". With Sri Chinmoy's passing last fall, the race has lost the unbelievable divine gift of his regular and routine visits to the course.

Yet she, like so many who come and run, and serve, and work here. They feel that he is still here. Though all, do so miss, his celestial smile, and grace, and the way he seemed to bring the heights of heaven to a little patch of Queens concrete. They feel, that he is still here nonetheless, and so they go on, as does Suprabha, because she knows this is what she should and must do. She is one, of unchallengeable devotion, whose faith is so clear, present, and strong, that she can feel his love and strength even stronger now. She feels this, even though the little red car no longer passes by, with the divine radiance of her teacher, behind the wheel.

My heart-home
is my Lord's

Guru Sri Chinmoy

If you came upon this scene, and did not know her, would you, or could you ever imagine, even for a moment, that she has been here every morning, every day, for 57 days. That every day during this time, she has averaged better than 2 marathons a day, 54.6 miles to be exact.

There will be another, joining Suprabha briefly on the starting line this morning. Ananda Lahari has just a few laps to go in order to finish 5000 km. This day belongs to Suprabha, and the one who inspires her to run to the highest.

The Enthusiasm Awakeners start the day for her, as only they can do.

Pavol, who just finished his race yesterday, has already signed on to be the morning counter. He is showing Rupantar on his camera, the marvel, which was Ananda Lahari's sprinting to the goal last night.

Rupantar has seen everything with joy, done everything with selflessness, and tomorrow will not be back. Not back that is, until next year.

She has no equal, and yet looks so much, like all of us mortals. What she has done and continues to do, defies belief. Yet she makes it all look so easy. We all could do it as well perhaps, if we too had her same fire within, her light and glow, her unshakable, and unflinching faith in her Guru who still lives within her heart.

The Day begins

We seem to float along the course this morning. Her steps prancing so lightly, her movements economical, and one pointed. She is reluctant to speak about herself, and instead, is quick to compliment others, who have shared this divine path with her all summer, that she now treads so lightly upon it now. We talk for a while about what the absence of Sri Chinmoy has meant to her this year. She feels that working on her meditation has become even more important to her now. She says, "I still work on it." As for her accomplishment here, it is crystal clear, "my running is all Guru's grace."

She relates a story, of how once, Sri Chinmoy was visiting DC, and was asked about her, and her running. He said of his disciple, "On her own she would be nowhere. It is with her prayer that she can run." She laughs a little as she relates this story. She says, that he used the word prayer to the reporters, but for her, what he actually meant was, her faith in her Guru.

She looks at the world of athletics and sees little in common with herself. How ironic is it then, that she, who has done more in distance running, than any woman in history, does not think of herself as athletic. How ironic as well, that the world has turned its attention to the spectacle taking place right now in Beijing, when a middle age woman is breaking world records right here in Queens.

It is clear that she misses her Guru very much. She relates how once, in a previous year she felt the urgent need of his help. She does not explain why exactly, but I can easily imagine the elemental things that can come and torture your body, mind and spirit here. In the moment of her greatest need she says, the car, carrying Sri Chinmoy suddenly and miraculously appeared. In an instant all was well. She says, "He used to come to save us all the time." She adds, "he heard my cry."

She tells me about an encouraging note that a friend had sent, in which they told her that the whole world was behind her. This struck her as a wonderful notion, but one in which she at first, did not exactly identify with. She then describes a moment, not too long afterwards, when a van, with Christian symbols on it pulled up beside her. The driver called out from his open window to her, "keep going," and started clapping his hands for her. This was followed shortly afterwards by a couple and their child who showed up one day, as if they had suddenly dropped into Queens from some remote and mysterious part of the world. Yet these same people told her they had read about her in a newspaper, and told her, "you are doing good." On another occasion she tells me of how a young girl gave her such a beautiful smile.

She has slowly and methodically developed this scenario for me. She repeats the expression very carefully, "the whole world behind you." She pauses, and says now with slow and deliberate emphasis, "Guru is the whole world. He couldn't be here himself so he sent these others."

She is unapologetic in her confidence in her Guru. Of her performances, this, or any of the many years she has run, her answer is always the same, "it is not me." That she is able to do this at all, she says, is proof that he is working in and through her. She looks up for a moment from her deep thoughts and gazes down the long stretch of sidewalk in front of her. She speaks so sweetly now, about the grace, that she feels inside her, and that pulls and compels her own. She says, "It is for everyone, and extends beyond this little island."

Augusta, a regular on the block comes by to say hello. She has been coming regularly here since the 80's when she used to play tennis on the courts across the street. She says that the race inspires her, and "its really neat. After you go, people here go back to mothballs."
Resident philosopher, Vajra says, "human beings are meant to go beyond themselves." Of the race he says, "This is just the infant pioneer of something all men will one day be able to do." Of everything that is done and accomplished here, "everything has to be placed at the feet of the Supreme."

The Enthusiasm Awakeners are of course never sad. But those of us who have been blessed by their joy, their smiles, and their song, are perhaps just a little sad to see them go. Parvati and her girls cheer for everybody, and if that were not enough, they have offered up a 13 item prasad.

She has a long day yet in front of her, but Suprabha goes by the Enthusiasm Awakeners, one last time.

Gaurish the chiropractor, who has helped and served so much has come by to pay his respects.
And, it isn't too much later in the day when Kanan's group takes over the same spot. In their own way they offer song, and at least for a moment, a shower of rose petals.

She will finish her last mile, just minutes before midnight. I have asked a few, who have known her well, to comment. Sandhani says, "She has tremendous determination, and is extremely devoted. She consecrates her every effort to Guru. Nobody will ever accomplish the magnitude of her accomplishments."

Sahishnu says, "There is no one else who could take up the challenge of this race like she can. . Her demeanor is one of lightness. She has all kinds of pain and yet is always focussed. She runs like a child."
Savita says of her best friend, "She maintains throughout the race, a cheerful poise, a quiet strength, a determined confidence, and a one pointed focus. This year she has had a strikingly excellent race. I feel this is a tribute to her faith and receptivity in Guru's light, and proof of Guru's unending Grace, and undeniable divine presence."

Bahula says, "It is such an honor and such a privilege to be part of her race."

She crosses the finish line in 56 days 17 hours and 51 minutes. And if we want or need to put a number on Self transcendence it is her fastest time since 2003. She is 32 hours faster than her time last year.

The victory song is sung, one last time this year.

A young neighbor girl named Erika, has come by with her family, and wants a picture taken. She used to see her every day all summer. She is all admiration that a woman can do something so remarkable as this, amongst all the boys. She says, "this is really nice to see."

All her many helpers are not in this picture. So many have gladly helped this amazing woman in her journey. She says of this help that she and all the other runners have received here, "no way we could do it without their help."

There is spontaneous applause and song.

And if we can no longer hear his applause, we can still, so easily feel his love for Suprabha, and for this divine child of his, the 3100 mile race. And for all those who served, who cared, and who continue to see and dream, that his supernal vision of a better world, is still being fulfilled. Not an imaginary one, but in a very real way, right here, on the streets of New York, and, in the divine hearts of humanity everywhere.


Jan said...

Thank you for your wonderful insights into each of the runners and their individual journeys throughout this year's race.

Anonymous said...

Resident philosopher, Vajra says, "human beings are meant to go beyond themselves." Of the race he says, "This is just the infant pioneer of something all men will one day be able to do." Of everything that is done and accomplished here, "everything has to be placed at the feet of the Supreme."
This resident citizen is more than right, he said the absolute truth in a way only Vajra can say it. Since years at every celebration I see him piloting the Food-Van for us all hungry disciples. Vajra deserves a post of his own on your bloc, Utpal.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Utpal, for reporting so diligently and so eloquently on this amazing race. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the course daily and witness these remarkable heroes (and heroine!). But it was through reading your articles that I really felt a better understanding of – and oneness with -- their achievements of self-transcendence.

These runners are truly, authentic spiritual seekers whose bravery is unequalled. Their unwavering soulfulness astounded me. The physical aspect of their feat left me awe-struck. And their devotion broke barriers – within themselves, true – but I strongly feel that for the world at large as well.

A special note of appreciation for the race directors, volunteers, handlers, cooks, counters and others who, like me, just came to cheer the runners on. It is a shared victory for sure.

Anonymous said...

Dear brother Utpal,
We are very, very, very grateful to you and to the Supreme in you and to our Beloved Guru in you. Your selfless and self-giving labour of love has been instrumental in keeping the inspiration and aspiration flame alive with revitalized inner pride in our Guru, His Legacy, His Vision and HIS ETERNAL AND IMMORTAL REALITY. Your camera and your penmanship have been nothing short of instruments of your own beautiful heart. You and only you have brought the enthusiasm, determination, pains, joys and victories of our 31,000 Mile Race Heroes and "Sheroine" right in front of the eyes of the world thus transforming the unbelievers into believers. Thank you my brother!

As for the runners, I want to say that apart from their stupendous achievement and their solid-gold determination and their unshakable faith in themselves and in our Guru, their sweet and simple HUMILITY is the most visible and palpable GIGANTIC FORCE that each an everyone of them embody.

The critics talk about and sometimes even ridicule these God-serving and God-fulfilling divine warriors, the organizers and the Event because their is "no prize" to win or because of the unimaginable length, etc . If these nice people could only receive, assimilate and hold on to one "nano drop" of the humility that our runners spread around like magic dust , their understanding and reporting in their stories would have really capture this history making and life-transforming Race. Thank You Guru for Utpal, the unparalleled Reporter supreme.

Anonymous said...

I think the race-prayer goes like this;
God remains seated always inside the heart-body, do not seek Him elsewhere.
Guru Sri Chinmoy.

I love to be part of the one's who did so many comments. If you love it or not but I love it. At the end the Supreme asks you only one question; are you happy? I say I am perfectly happy. Then the Supreme says to you: I don't need anything else. --With these reports supreme it is easy to be all right.