Press Conference with Sri Chinmoy
in Queens, New York
Question: Why, at this point, are you having this press conference?
Sri Chinmoy: My students wanted me to have this conference so that we can serve more people with our inspiration and our dedication. Our philosophy is to aspire and inspire. A few reporters are here; they too can be of great service to humanity. We are all trying to do the same thing in our own way. I am lifting weights and you are writing articles, but all of us are trying to serve and inspire humanity according to our capacity and in our own career.
Question: When did you start weightlifting?
Sri Chinmoy: Last year, on 26 June, I started seriously. With difficulty I lifted 40 pounds with one arm at that time. Only by practising regularly and faithfully is one able to make progress. About four years ago a few of my students and I tried to lift a 50-pound weight with one arm. Some of my students did it seven or 10 times, but I could not do it even three times properly. Fifty pounds was such a struggle for me! And yesterday when my students and I were practising informally, I lifted a 50-pound dumbbell 40 times. So this is progress.
Yesterday when I lifted 50 pounds 40 times, I offered the result to my Inner Pilot. Again, the time I lifted 50 pounds only three times with such difficulty, that result also I offered to my Inner Pilot. In no way was I less happy four years ago than I was yesterday. I got the same joy then as I did yesterday. To be able to lift the weight three times was the capacity that God gave me at that time, and this is the capacity He gave me yesterday. So yesterday's capacity I offered to Him cheerfully, just as I offered my previous capacity to Him. We should always offer our capacity cheerfully to God. What we have, we will give. If we have one flower, we will give it, and if we have 10 flowers, we will give them with the same joy.
Question: Weightlifting seems a most appropriate athletic sport to express our concentration. Is this why you started it?
Sri Chinmoy: I did not choose to start lifting weights. If one prays and meditates sincerely, somebody within him talks to him and tells him what to do and what not to do. You use the term 'God'; I say my 'Inner Pilot'. Last year, when I was praying and meditating, that somebody within me — you can call it an inner voice or a source of inspiration — asked me to start weightlifting. That is why I am doing it.
Now, about concentration, let us say somebody can lift 60 pounds with only his muscle-power. If the same person prays and meditates for a few minutes before he lifts, then he will have the strength not only of his body but also of his mind and his vital. Now he is getting help only from his physical. He is not getting inner determination from the vital or the tremendous will-power that is inside the mind. He is not even aware of these things. But if he prays and meditates, immediately he feels that his mind has tremendous will-power, tremendous concentration-power. If he thinks of his vital, he sees that it is full of determination. And his body is full of energy. All these good qualities he can feel when he prays and meditates. He feels that his vital, mind, heart and soul are all the friends of his body, and he takes help from them. If somebody has friends, then those friends come to help him when he needs them, and naturally his weightlifting becomes easier.
I am trying to inspire people who are not praying and meditating. I am telling them that everybody has a vital, everybody has a mind, everybody has a heart, everybody has a soul. But they are not utilising these members of their inner family the way I do. Otherwise, if I had to depend entirely on the physical, I could do next to nothing. My biceps are not even 14 inches, whereas the biceps of other weightlifters are 21 or 22 inches. My calves are not even 13 1/2 inches, and theirs are 20 inches. Their muscles are gigantic compared to mine. I can lift as much as I do because I am taking help from the strength within me. My friends the vital, mind, heart and soul are helping me from within. They are my inner friends. So I am telling those people who are not now aware of the inner life that inner strength is something real. They will be able to increase their capacity tremendously if they also take help from their inner friends.
Question: I am familiar with the weightlifting that you have done. Maybe you can give us a little better idea how you prepare for lifting the heavy weights, because I'm sure you don't just work out with heavy weights all the time.
Sri Chinmoy: It is mainly a question of my mental preparation, my mental attitude, towards the weights. To start with, I do stretching exercises for 40 or 50 minutes. Sometimes I may take up to an hour. Then I do repetitions with a 10-pound dumbbell and then with 20 pounds. From 20 immediately I go to 300, 310 and 320 — like that. So it is not a gradual progression. I just use my prayer, my meditation and my surrender-life to God's Will. I pray and meditate and, at the same time, I surrender the results to God's Will. This is what I do.
Question: Do you have a regular physical training schedule that you go through?
Sri Chinmoy: I take exercise for each part of the body: arms, legs, back and whatever muscles are required to keep the body fit. I do at least 20 different exercises daily for my upper and lower body. Then I come here every morning to do calf raises and play tennis. If there is time in the afternoon, I play tennis again. At least three hours I spend on weightlifting and bodybuilding. Running is now out of the question because of my knee, but if I am able to jog some days, then I feel really happy.
Question: Could you compare running to weightlifting? Does one give you more pleasure than the other?
Sri Chinmoy: In my life running is unparalleled; it has no second. Weightlifting was never my forte. Right from my early years I disliked bodybuilding and weightlifting. I was a sprinter and decathlete, and I did not care for weightlifting at all. It was something foreign to me. But last year I started weightlifting because of an inner command. I always listen to the dictates of my Inner Pilot, and my Inner Pilot asked me to enter into weightlifting. That is the main reason, the inner reason, why I took up weightlifting.
The outer reason, one can say, was severe knee pain, which prevented me from running. So I have to do something to keep my body fit. But the inner reason is because my Inner Pilot, my God, has commanded me to lift. For that reason I do it cheerfully. But if I am asked to make a comparison between running and weightlifting, running will always remain my most favourite sport.
Question: Did your feeling about weightlifting change as you started to do it? Do you now like it?
Sri Chinmoy: Unfortunately, even now I do not really enjoy it. Only my surrender to my Inner Pilot compels me to do it. But I do it obediently and even cheerfully, and definitely I do it devotedly. As I said, I pray and meditate. As soon as I pray and meditate, I become a devoted instrument of God, and then automatically I become cheerful.
Question: Do you feel that your weightlifting will be an inspiration for others?
Sri Chinmoy: I do feel there are countless people on earth who do not believe in the inner power, the inner life. They feel that the outer strength and the outer life are everything. I do not agree with them. There is an inner life; there is spirit, and my ability to lift these heavy weights proves that it can work in matter as well.
We have to bring to the fore our inner capacities and inner power with our prayer and meditation. Standing against us is ignorance. But if our outer determination and our inner aspiration can go together, that means that two friends of ours are fighting against one enemy in our life's tug-of-war, so we are bound to win. There are professional bodybuilders and weightlifters who have also come to the conclusion that there is something called the spirit, inner power, and it helps them considerably in their bodybuilding and weightlifting. These things are like friends. If I have an extra friend, I will take help from that friend.
Question: How does your weightlifting relate to your many other aspects of working for world peace?
Sri Chinmoy: Weightlifting goes side by side with this work. Everything that inspires a human being to be a better citizen of the world is good and divine. As a poet, if I can write inspirational poems, then definitely they will serve humanity's aspiration. As an artist, if I can draw something beautiful and soulful, then again it serves and inspires mankind. As a singer and composer, it is the same. No matter what I do, if there is aspiration behind it, then that aspiration enters into mankind as inspiration. When I am composing or performing or doing anything else, the capacity of my aspiration will eventually enter into human beings as inspiration, and they will derive much benefit from it.
The things that I am doing are not my sole monopoly. Everybody can try them and everybody, if they are sincere and dedicated, will reach their goal. When I do weightlifting, I pray and meditate. When I compose songs, I pray and meditate. It is the prayer and meditation in each and every activity of mine that is helping me and others. But this aspiration-life is for all. Everybody wants to succeed. Everybody wants to achieve personal goals in his inner life or his outer life. Everybody wants to be a better person, to make progress, to go beyond. And the best and fastest way to do these things is to use prayer and meditation along with the outer things that are required to achieve the goal.
Question: When you were practising to lift 303 pounds, how did you maintain your enthusiasm in spite of failing so many times?
Sri Chinmoy: I failed 213 times. So many times I failed and failed. But now I am trying to do 320 pounds. God knows how many days it will take. What I did yesterday was a personal record. But all the time I am competing with myself. This also is what I teach my students to do. Always compete with yourself; do not compete with anybody else. It is stupidity on our part to compete with others. If I think that I am the best boxer, immediately I will turn around and see a Muhammad Ali there. In any field, if anybody claims to be the best, I tell you, he is a fool, because sooner than at once somebody else will come up out of the blue and defeat him. But if we compete only with ourselves, we will remain not only the present but also the future champion.
Today I have lifted 300 pounds. Tomorrow if I can do 310, then who is defeating me? I am defeating myself. So here there is no defeat; there is only progress, and progress is what we want. Success we cannot depend on, because somebody will always come along and make our success pale into insignificance. When we live in the success-world, sooner than at once we are doomed to frustration. But when we live in the progress-world, always there is tremendous joy. This joy comes not only from transcending one's capacities but from the effort itself. Say I have set my goal at 300 pounds, and I cannot do it. The very fact that I have been devotedly practising and practising gives me joy, and the tenacity or perseverance that I am showing is itself progress. Anything that we do devotedly and soulfully helps us make progress.
So always we have to compete with ourselves in every field. If I have teeming doubts, then I will pray and meditate to minimise and decrease my doubts, and that will be my progress. If I have 10 desires — I want a Cadillac, three houses and so forth — then I will reduce my desires to nine, then eight and like that, finally, to one or no desires. This is how we can have peace of mind. If we have wisdom, we will try to minimise our earthly necessities and increase our Heavenly necessities. With our prayer-life and meditation-life we will try to become a better person by minimising our uncomely qualities like jealousy, insecurity and impurity. But if we have an iota of purity or an iota of love, then we will try to increase it. Positive qualities we shall try to increase and negative qualities we shall decrease and diminish. This is our philosophy.
In order to do that, we have to accept the world and live in the world. Here on earth each of us has to become a good person. If we can become a good person on earth and leave behind us our good qualities, then the whole world will make progress as we go farther and deeper and higher. In this way, each individual has the capacity to offer something for the betterment of the world.
Question: Do you feel that the races you sponsor also help and inspire people?
Sri Chinmoy: Running is helping and inspiring people considerably, and in our races we have been inspiring thousands of people all over the world.
Question: It seems that everything which you are involved in is for mankind. Do you ever do anything for your own personal satisfaction?
Sri Chinmoy: Everything I do is meant to please God, my Inner Pilot. While pleasing Him, I am being satisfied. I do not have a sense of separativity. If I can consciously and soulfully please Him in His own Way, then I feel that I am more than rewarded. If I establish my oneness totally with you, then on the strength of my oneness, whatever gives you joy definitely gives me joy. My Inner Pilot is my highest reality-existence, and I am part and parcel of Him. So when I please Him in His own Way, I am more than pleased.
Question: If you want to use your weightlifting as an inspiration, why not use a more conventional type of lift that is more recognizable to the general public?
Sri Chinmoy: What you are asking is an excellent question. Why do I not do something conventional so that everybody can accept or reject it? There are two reasons. The outer reason is this: we have to go forward with new ideas. Why should I only follow the old system? Every day science is making new discoveries. If we go on reading the same old book, although it may be a good book, an excellent book, it becomes boring. So if somebody finds a new book, written in a different style, with different ideas, then everybody is delighted.
In a garden there are many beautiful roses, and you have been seeing these roses all your life in that particular garden. Now if you add some totally new flowers, will they in any way take away the beauty of the garden? It may no longer be a conventional rose garden, but the new flowers will only add to the beauty of the garden. Roses are extremely beautiful, and we appreciate their beauty and fragrance. But if other flowers also can be added, then we appreciate them also.
If a tree has many branches instead of only one or two, and if these branches are of different sizes and shapes, then each one will offer new interest and new beauty. So this is the outer reason why I do the lifts that I do.
The inner reason is that if I want to please somebody in my life more than anything else, if I want to please that person at every moment consciously, soulfully and unconditionally, then I will do it. The person that I want to please is my Inner Pilot, my Beloved Supreme. My Inner Pilot wants me to do it this way, so I am doing it happily, cheerfully and unconditionally. But if He changes His Mind, if He wants me to do it in the conventional way, then I will do that. The inner reason is the main reason why I do these kinds of lifts. But if you are looking for outer justification, it is because if you have more than just roses in a garden, it only adds to the beauty of the garden and in no way diminishes the beauty and fragrance of the roses. Something new is always interesting and charming.
Question: Do you get discouraged that there are no signs of the world accepting peace?
Sri Chinmoy: I am not discouraged because anything that is great, anything that is enduring, anything that is going to last forever, takes time to come about. We sow the seed and gradually it germinates. After some time it becomes a tiny plant, then a sapling and finally a huge banyan tree. It takes such a long time for a seed to grow into a giant banyan tree, but that tree is something really remarkable, and it lasts for a long time. If just yesterday I sowed the seed, and today I look for the plant, then I will be doomed to disappointment. Everything takes time. I am in kindergarten, but my goal is to get a Master's Degree or Ph.D. Why should I be discouraged if I cannot achieve my goal overnight?
The peace movement has been going on for a long time. But in terms of its success or progress, it is nowhere near the goal. Humanity's search for peace has been going on for millennia, whereas our own peace movement has just begun. As long as we know that we are walking along the road and have not given up, then we know that eventually we are bound to reach our destination. So I am not discouraged. I will be discouraged the day I give up offering my peace concerts or peace prayers and meditations at the United Nations and elsewhere. If I give up, only then do I really fail. But while walking along the road, although the destination is far, far, far away, the very fact that I am trying and struggling gives me satisfaction.
As long as I am still on the road, even though I am only walking or crawling, one day I will be inspired to jog, the next day I will be inspired to run faster and the third day I will be inspired to sprint. If I do not have the capacity to run or sprint, then I will crawl. But if I give up and turn around and say, "This road is not meant for me; the world is never going to be peaceful," then real disappointment will come into my life. If I stop my prayer-life or service-life, that is when I will be truly disappointed.
The success of our peace movement is up to the world. Today the world is not receptive, but perhaps tomorrow it will be. Every day we are not in a cheerful consciousness; every day we do not see the sun. But we cannot say that there is no sun. The sun eventually does appear.
Question: How can an athlete establish peace inside himself to give him strength?
Sri Chinmoy: An athlete can have the same kind of peace as a seeker who is consciously praying and meditating for world peace. An athlete can have peace on the strength of his oneness. Before he starts his competition, he can just take a fleeting second to feel: "No matter who is first, I will be equally happy, for whoever wins is my brother or sister. If I did not run or jump, there would be no competition, so that person could not be a winner. Again, if I win, it is only because others have also run and jumped."
Now, if I have won the race, then naturally I will be happy. But when I look around and see that my friend or my brother, who has not done well, is unhappy, at that time do I get real happiness? I am being extolled to the skies because I have won, but my brother who has lost is doomed to disappointment. I sincerely love my brother, so how can I be happy? How can I have peace?
I will only have happiness if I can identify myself with his failure-life, if I can enter into his heart and feel the same sadness, suffering and shock that he is experiencing. I have already identified myself with my success-life, and I am very proud and happy. Now, if I can immediately enter into my friend's sadness and be implicitly one with his suffering, then I will be really happy. At that time my victory will give me joy and my sincere identification with the other person's defeat will also give me joy. This joy and happiness, you can say, is peace. Because of my victory I am getting happiness, which is peace, and also on the strength of my oneness with my friend's loss I am getting peace.
Then I will offer my achievement to the Source, who has given me the capacity to win, and I will offer my friend's sadness and failure-life equally to the One who alone can give victory and defeat. If an athlete can offer up the results to God, then no matter whether he is first or last he will be cheerful. This cheerfulness, along with his oneness with the winner's or loser's life, will definitely give him peace of mind.
This applies not only to athletics but to everything that we do on earth. Oneness, oneness, oneness! If we think of oneness before we do something, if we can maintain this feeling of oneness while we are acting and also at the end of our action, then there will always be peace. From the beginning to the end, we have to sing the song of oneness.
Let us say we are running in a marathon. There are thousands of other people going to the same destination. Bill Rodgers will run; I will also run. Bill Rodgers will be first and I will be last. But if I have established oneness with the other runners, then I will be equally happy because they are all part and parcel of my life. Then again, if Bill Rodgers has established his oneness with me and I come first, then he will get the greatest joy. He will not feel miserable that one part of him has reached the goal before another part. No!
Without oneness, no matter what we do, we are unhappy. Even when we are successful, the joy we get does not last. Immediately somebody will bring the news that another person has done better, or doubt will enter into our mind and we will feel that tomorrow somebody will defeat us. At that time imaginary unhappiness we bring into our lives. How can one have peace when he is all the time thinking that his achievement is not the best, or that somebody else will do better? But if we have established our oneness not only with the past and the present but also with the future, then we are bound to have peace all the time. If somebody does something better than we do, we feel that that person is only an extension of our own lives. Yesterday I did something with one name and form, and tomorrow, under the name of somebody else, I will do the same or better.
Krishna, Buddha, Christ and others are spiritual Masters. They came into the world at different times, yet they are all one. Only they have different names and forms. With ordinary people also, when somebody does something great, he doesn't have to worry that tomorrow his capacity will be eclipsed. No, tomorrow again it will be he, with a new name and form, who will accomplish something better than what he did today. In oneness there is always peace.
Yesterday I could lift 40 pounds, today I am lifting 60 and tomorrow I will do 70. I know that I am the same person who is doing the lifting, so I am not unhappy each time my previous record is surpassed. But if division starts, then I will be in trouble. There is always so much division even in our own being — especially between the mind and the heart and between the body and the vital. When I lift something, if there is division, immediately my mind will try to take the credit. Then the vital will say, "No, it was my determination," and try to take the credit. The body will say, "Who lifted it up?" The heart will say, "It was I, part of my existence." And the soul will say, "You know, if I don't remain inside the body, all the rest of you are dead — heart, vital, mind and body." So every part of me will want to take the credit for my success.
But because there is oneness, the soul is not telling the mind, vital and body, "Because of me you have won." The body is not telling the other members of my life, "No, because of me you have won." The body knows that if the vital does not offer determination, I cannot succeed. Again, the vital knows that if the mind is not properly controlled, I will not be able to lift. My soul, heart, mind, vital and body could have revolted, but they did not, because I have already established my oneness with them. Each one separately could have fought against each other, but they are not fighting because we have established oneness. So we have to always feel oneness the way the body, vital, mind, heart and soul of an individual feel oneness with one another and work together to reach the goal. In this way we are bound to have peace.
Question: Would you have any message for coaches who are training athletes?
Sri Chinmoy: My simple message that I can offer to coaches is to have a childlike heart, a oneness-heart with their students. They should try to feel constant oneness not only with their students' outer needs but also with their inner needs. Most coaches help their students outwardly, but inwardly they are unable to help. But if they pray and meditate along with their students while the students are performing, they can help their students considerably. Coaches should practise the prayer-life and meditation-life and also encourage their students to do the same. On the outer plane they have wisdom; they know much more than their students. But if they do not take help from their own inner resources and also help their students on the inner plane, then their students may not or cannot develop to their greatest potential. Coaches should dive deep within and bring to the fore their own inspiration, aspiration, dedication, determination and will-power and offer these capacities to their students. In that way the students and the coaches will work together in their inner lives of aspiration and their outer lives of dedication, and the success they have will be tremendous and will last forever.
Question: Is there any kind of relationship that you feel you have with the weights when you step up to them?
Sri Chinmoy: On the strength of my prayer and meditation I try to enter into the material consciousness and become part and parcel of the weights that I lift. When I deal with matter, I try to become inseparably one with it. So when I lift up the weights, I feel that my life-breath has entered into the metal plates and that from the metal this life-breath has entered back into me. This is how I try to establish my oneness with the weights. In this way I feel life in the weights and the weights feel life in me. Otherwise, if I just touch them, they do not reciprocate, and we do not offer our life-breath to each other.
Question: Now that you have achieved a certain standard in the one-arm lift and calf raise, do you have other goals?
Sri Chinmoy: Ours is the philosophy of self-transcendence. Based on this philosophy, every day I am trying to become a better instrument of God. So in my case there is no such thing as an ultimate goal. As soon as I reach a goal, I know that my Inner Pilot will not allow me to stop. He will always want me to continue. As long as He grants me inspiration, aspiration and dedication, I will continue most faithfully attaining new goals.
Question: If I am compelled to adopt a sport which gives me less joy, can my inner progress be as great?
Sri Chinmoy: Your inner progress will always remain the same if you have a good attitude and the right approach to the goal. Because of some injuries or owing to circumstances, let us say that you cannot do the particular thing you want and you have to do something else. At this time you have to know whether you are doing this new thing to please yourself or to please God. If you are doing it to please yourself, then you may feel miserable, for you may feel that the old world which you were compelled to give up has given you so much joy, whereas you will not be able to derive the same kind of joy from your present life.
In my case, for instance, I have been running all my life and have derived tremendous joy from my running life. This new life — bodybuilding — is something totally new to me. I have had to say good-bye to my old, long-established friend and to make somebody else my close and intimate friend. Now, if I approach weightlifting thinking that I have discarded an old friend and am now trying to make a new friend, then naturally I will feel miserable. But there is another approach. I can feel that my old friend has played his role in my outer life, and now I have a new friend who is encouraging me and whom I am encouraging. That does not mean I will have nothing to do with my old friend. No! Still he is deep inside my heart, and whatever joy I got from him or gave to him I still have with me. I am full of love for my old friend and I am full of gratitude to him. But in the outer life, my old friend is unable to help me in any way, and I am unable to help him at the present moment.
With my new friend, which is weightlifting, I now have to establish the same kind of friendship. If I can have the same goodwill towards my new friend, and if my new friend can have the same goodwill towards me, then I will make the same progress. Inside the new friend also, I have to feel my inner Guide. Twenty years ago my Inner Pilot asked me to run, and I did it. Now, some unhappy injury is preventing me from running, but these are only outer circumstances. Even while I was in the prime of my running career, if my Inner Pilot had asked me to give up running and do weightlifting, if I had done it cheerfully, then as a seeker I would have made the same progress by doing weightlifting as I made through running. If He wants me to change my career or to change my way of life and to enter into a new field, then I can make the best progress by doing so cheerfully. A seeker can get lasting joy and make the fastest progress no matter what he does if he is doing it because he wants to please God, his Inner Pilot.
If a seeker wants to make progress, he has to identify himself cheerfully with the thing that he is practising, and he has to remember all the time that it is not personal success or personal glory but oneness-joy and oneness-peace that he is aiming at. Since his goal is certain, his approach to the goal should be sincere and direct, and he should throw himself into each activity soulfully, enthusiastically and unconditionally.
Question: Have you been working with a teacher, or do you set your own training?
Sri Chinmoy: Originally I didn't have any outer teacher, but right now I do have a teacher. Bill Pearl, champion of champions, five times Mr. Universe, is kind enough to teach me. Mr. Pearl has given me a set of exercises. I am a bad student, but he forgives me. The other day I had a talk with him. I told him that I am unable to do all the exercises that he has given me; it is too much for me. But he is very kind. He said, do your own exercises first, and then try to adapt yourself to my schedule." I am not totally fit for all the exercises that he has given me, but I will definitely start doing them very devotedly and faithfully. So Bill Pearl is now my Himalayan bodybuilding Guru, and my inner Guru is God the Supreme.
Question: Do you ever have doubts that you will achieve your goals?
Sri Chinmoy: If I had the doubtful consciousness, after several attempts I would give up. Doubt I gave up long, long ago. We doubt only when we are afraid of failure. But in my philosophy, defeat and victory we accept with equal cheerfulness. Whether my Inner Pilot wants to give me the experience of failure or the experience of success, I will be equally happy because mine is the way of surrender. If God gets joy by granting me defeat, and I have oneness with Him, then on the strength of my oneness I myself will have joy in my defeat.
It is the same with success. When I defeat my spiritual children in tennis, in no way do I get malicious pleasure. As an individual, if I have victory I am happy. But on the strength of my inseparable oneness with my students, if they are suffering, if they are sad that they have lost to me, I try to take their sadness into myself like a magnet, and then I get tremendous joy. So their defeat I take as my defeat, which is only an experience, and my victory I take also as just another experience.
If I take both defeat and victory as an experience, then doubt cannot enter. If I am unable to do something, it is an experience, and if I am able to do it, this is another experience. So how can doubt come? I see the experience that I get from victory and the experience that I get from defeat as equally good experiences; therefore, doubt cannot torture me. Doubt tortures me only when I say, "What will happen to me if I don't do something, if I can't do something?" If I don't do something, the world is not going to dissolve. And if I do it, the world is not going to be saved. If I lose, the experience I am getting is coming from Above; and if I win, the experience is also coming from Above.
When we can see victory and defeat as equal, then there can be no doubt whatsoever. If I cannot do something, I am happy, and if I can do that thing, I am equally happy — because both are, after all, only experiences that I am getting, and these experiences my Inner Pilot is Himself having in and through me.
Question: How does one transfer your regimen and dedication for something like weightlifting toward something like running or something that is intangible, like art?
Sri Chinmoy: First one has to develop inspiration. Right now I am getting inspiration, and I am using it for weightlifting. I can also use it for tennis; I can use it for art; I can use it for composing songs.
Question: You have used the term 'new era' when talking about your achievements. Could you explain what this means?
Sri Chinmoy: Anything that has been done in the past is recorded and is well appreciated. If a new idea or a new goal enters into a human being, then he becomes the pioneer in that particular field. When people normally speak about an era, they are talking about a period of time when an individual or a group of individuals has achieved certain things. An era depends entirely on the individual achievement or collective achievement that occurred during a number of years. But I see an era in terms of vision. I take an era as the vision of human beings for a certain period in life or in history. If somebody comes with new inspiration and new aspiration, he opens a new door for mankind to look forward and upward and offers a new vision. So 'new era' to me means the opening of a new door in our consciousness that allows us to go forward rather than stay with the past. Again, if there is something helpful in the past, we shall not discard it. The old way or traditional way or, let us say, the conventional way, we are not discarding. Because it is helpful and beneficial, we shall accept it. But if somebody discovers something new — a new method, a new approach to reality — then definitely he is embarking on a new discovery. And this new discovery itself brings in a new era.
Question: What would you like our readers to get from the example of your weightlifting?
Sri Chinmoy: It is very simple. It is said that Indian teachers do not accept society as such. It is said that they do not care for the world but they care only for their spiritual life, that they like to be in the Himalayan caves and practise austerity and so forth. As long as they can get their own realisation, it is more than enough for them. But the philosophy that I have been taught from deep within is different. My philosophy says that we have to be in the world and we have to be for the world. We have to be like a boat. The boat is in the water, but the water does not enter into the boat. This is the boat that is taking us from ignorance to knowledge-shore.
Also I would like to tell the world not to neglect the body-consciousness. God has given us the body. The body is the temple, and the heart is the shrine where the deity within resides. If we do not pay the necessary attention to the body, then the temple will be weak or defective. Without a fit temple, how can you help the presiding deity inside? So I feel that the body must be kept fit. But I will never say that one must have larger-than-the-largest muscles. No, only I say that physical fitness is of paramount importance, and by taking exercise, one can keep the body fit. Again, through my weightlifting I wish to tell the outer world that the world of spirit does exist. People see that my physique is nothing in comparison to the physiques of the professional bodybuilders. Their biceps will be 22 inches whereas mine are not even 14, and their calves will be 18 to 20 inches while mine are 13 1/2 . Yet I can lift weights that many of them cannot lift So what does it prove? It proves that the inner spirit, or the mental and psychic power, can be of great assistance to the body when it is brought to the fore. Otherwise my physical body would never be able to lift this kind of weight. It is my prayer-life and meditation-life that, through God's Grace, are enabling me to do this. I am also trying to show that the inner world has to be a source of inspiration to the outer world. They should not be like opposite poles — North Pole and South Pole. No, they have to be united. The body and the soul must go together.
Question: Quite a few people in the past and even in the present have divided the physical and spiritual development.
Sri Chinmoy: People are clever. But cleverness and wisdom are two different things. Seekers in the hoary past wanted their own salvation, their own liberation, their own realisation. The spiritual seekers had problems of their own, but they were able to overcome these problems on the strength of their aspiration. But as soon as they dealt with the world, the problems they encountered were enormous, and they could not cope with them. As soon as they started mixing with human beings who had not reached the highest, they met tremendous problems. So they withdrew. They said, "I will remain at the top of the mango tree. I climbed up the mango tree and now I will eat mangoes to my heart's content. I am not going to come down to share with you. Your ignorance is like a hungry wolf. If I come down to share with you, then you may devour me instead of taking the mango from me." So they did not accept the world. Instead, they became clever.
But if a seeker is wise, then he will develop his oneness with the world. The same God who created me also created you. He who gave me the capacity to have illumination is infinitely higher than I am. But out of His infinite Bounty, He gave me the little capacity I have. If He could give me a little capacity out of His boundless Compassion, then will I not share it with you? If I have got something nice from somebody, if I am a good person, then definitely I will share it with others.
If one is a seeker, at every moment the world will ridicule him. But if the seeker feels the necessity, the command from within, to help the world, then he sees that the world is only one step behind him. If he has wisdom-light, on the strength of his oneness he will say to the world, "I know a little more than you; I am a little more aware than you because of my spiritual practice. But we are still brothers." He takes the outer world as his younger brother and feels that he has a little more knowledge and wisdom. So he tells his brother, "I am not the Father, but I will take you to Him. I am not taking you to myself but to the One from whom I have received my own illumination. I know where our Father is. I will take you to Him, and He will give you Joy. Just come with me." The spiritual figures must say, "I am not the Goal, but I know the Goal. I am the guide."
When the mother feeds her child, sometimes the child does not want to eat. But the mother feels it is obligatory on her part to feed her child. Otherwise, the child will not be able to live on earth. Sometimes the child is very bad and will resist the mother in every possible way. But the mother keeps trying because she knows that the child has to eat. Similarly, people who are fully awakened feel it is their bounded duty to be of service to the world, which is their little brother Even though the little brother is not listening to them, they keep trying because they know that they have something really good, which will be of tremendous help to their little brother. This is the attitude of the modern-day spiritual Masters. It is like the mother and the child. You may not accept me, you may kick me countless times, but still I keep coming to you because of my oneness with you.
God gave me my oneness with Him; then He gave me His oneness with His creation. So God the Creator and God the creation are one in my life. God the Creator and God the creation I have to accept together. If society and the outer world are God the creation, then how can we separate them from God the Creator? They are inseparably one, like water and ice.
Published in Aspiration-Body, Illumination-Soul, part 1
Sri Chinmoy is interviewed by Mark Teich from Omni magazine at Aspiration-Ground in Jamaica, New York.
Question: Lifting up human beings looks very easy for you.
Sri Chinmoy: Tomorrow I shall complete 1,300. It will be my last day of lifting.
Question: Why do you want it to be your last?
Sri Chinmoy: Somewhere I have to stop! I have been to six continents and I will have lifted 1,300 human beings. It is enough for me.
Question: You have not puffed up exactly. You do not have a huge frame. What are the principles you use? What has made you this strong without looking huge?
Sri Chinmoy: Prayer and meditation. I pray and meditate and I entirely depend on God's Grace, God's Compassion.
Question: Before you used to run and then I understand that you hurt yourself?
Sri Chinmoy: I ran beyond my capacity and hurt my right knee. I should not have run 22 marathons and a few ultra-marathons. It was not meant for me. In India, I was a sprinter.
Question: You are built more like a sprinter.
Sri Chinmoy: I was brought up in a spiritual community. There I practised sports — running, jumping, throwing and so forth.
Question: The prayer and meditation you do, are they more or less helpful according to what type of training you do?
Sri Chinmoy: It is prayer and meditation that bring to me the things that are necessary, essential. Prayer and meditation determine beforehand what is needed. To give you an example: here in America, I needed some special weightlifting equipment. God envisioned the fulfilment of His Dream in and through me, and God chose an Australian student of mine as the instrument to build my exercise machines. I sincerely feel it is a great blessing and God's boundless Grace. He has helped me tremendously, far, far beyond my imagination, in my weightlifting world for the last four years.
Question: But God wanted you to work to achieve it.
Sri Chinmoy: Yes, physically and spiritually. Matter and spirit must go together. Spirit is within, matter is without. We have to sow the seed under the ground. Then only it germinates and becomes a tiny plant, and then a huge tree, a banyan tree. But the seed was sown under the ground. Similarly, our inner life comes first. When the inner life comes to the fore, it accepts, assimilates and transforms the outer life in order to make us perfect.
Question: Right before you lifted, I saw you focussing. In sports now the big thing is visualisation. Were you doing anything of that or was it just prayer?
Sri Chinmoy: At that time, I was only silencing my mind. When I do anything, to start with I silence my mind. When I silence my mind, tremendous energy flows in and through me; I draw cosmic energy. As soon as I silence my mind, cosmic energy enters into my entire being.
Question: Are you thinking anything?
Sri Chinmoy: Just the opposite; my mind is absolutely blank. Once you silence the mind, it becomes as vast as the sky, as vast as the ocean. When we think, we limit ourselves. Thoughts enter into our mind in a fleeting second. It is like a tug-of-war or a zoo. But if we silence the mind, then we feel that we are flying in the sky like a bird. The sky is not affected by the bird flying and the bird is enjoying itself and getting energy and inspiration from the sky itself.
Question: It is very similar, really, to what they talk of as the white zone in sports. The athlete gets to the purely instinctive level where there is no thought. When you are first learning, you analyse what you are doing. At a certain point, you stop.
Sri Chinmoy: When you reach a certain level, it becomes automatic. A singer takes lessons for years, but once he develops a haunting voice, he does not have to go through all the preliminary exercises. When he is actually performing, he does not have to worry. A dancer learns all the steps while practising, but at the time of the actual performance, his movements will be spontaneous. Something reveals itself from within.
Question: The irony of it is that it is trained instinct.
Sri Chinmoy: There is no time to think, you just do it. There is a spontaneous joy. When we practise, we develop confidence. If we do not practise, we have no idea what we can do, how much can be brought to the fore.
Question: What is the nature of your training? p
Sri Chinmoy: Every day I do not lift people, but weight training I do every day. I use free weights up to 120 pounds and then I use about twenty different types of machines to strengthen my muscles and different parts of my body. I do this for at least three hours early in the morning. Around eight o'clock I come here to Aspiration-Ground and take some more exercise.
[Sri Chinmoy lifts Mark Teich]
Question: Thank you very much. That is a very strange sensation. Am I one of the numbers now?
Sri Chinmoy: You are number 1,299!
Published in Conversations with Sri Chinmoy