This article was published in New Zealand and pays tribute to the person who co-founded the Sri Chinmoy Centre and Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in New Zealand in 1983 and brought the message of the inner life to every part of New Zealand with her pioneering initiatives and dedication.
I first met Irish born Subarata Cunningham in Auckland in 1985. She had a strong clear face, calm eyes and an open hearted quality that made her immediately likeable. A triathlete and long distance runner, she was offering a workshop on meditation for athletes – The Inner Runner – and during a series of post class café stops we formed an acquaintance that was to blossom into a lasting friendship.
She had been a meditation student of spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy for many years and described how, in her early years on this path, she had been given a spiritual name that identified her soul's main quality. "Subarata" she explained "means 'the message from the Highest Height to inspire mankind'." Years later I understood the appropriateness of this name, for before her passing in March of 2000, aged 45, she had taught free meditation classes to over 12,000 New Zealanders, lived a life devoted to and based upon the highest spiritual principles and become a close disciple of one of the great living spiritual Master. Applying Sri Chinmoy's philosophy of self-transcendence – with its belief in our unlimited potential and its quest to always surpass our imagined limitations – to her own interest in sport, she completed over 30 marathons; a host of triathlons including iron man distances; and many 12 hour and 24 hour races.
She later competed in multi-day races and three times entered the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team's 700 mile race in New York, running the requisite 87 km per day for 13 consecutive days to beat the cut-off time limit in a remarkable feat that was less of a sporting achievement than a spiritual one. The Ultra Runners Association ranked her New Zealand women's third-best Multi-Day Runner of the Century. It was her belief in the inner life and her dedication to Sri Chinmoy that provided her own inspiration – her capacity in the outer life all flowed from this.
"The 700 mile race" Subarata told me "has all of life in it – pain and joy, despair and hope, exhaustion and inspiration – and what you achieve and overcome there you establish in your life forever. For me running has always been a metaphor of the inner journey towards perfection. I'm not much of an outer runner so I try to be a good inner runner instead. For 13 days and nights I'm trying inwardly and outwardly to run towards God."
"Our goal" Sri Chinmoy once said "is always to go beyond, beyond, beyond. There are no limits to our capacity because we each have the infinite Divine within us!" Subarata's life was a remarkable testimony to this truth for in her 45 years she touched and inspired the lives of countless thousands of people as Sri Chinmoy predicted she would, and ignited a love of spirituality in everyone who met her. After her passing a flood of tributes came from all over the world and for weeks her room was filled with flowers. Sri Chinmoy himself commented "My Subarata is so precious to me. She has gone to a very, very high plane of consciousness and there she will be in the lap of the Supreme throughout Eternity."
- Subarata's Run Of Faith – Why would anyone want to run 700 miles (1,126 km) in 13 days? Aucklander Subarata Cunningham explains why, and how, she did it.