|At his home in New York, Sri Chinmoy raised and supported two 500-pound dumbbells simultaneously from an overhead rack.
As we enter the Third Millennium1, Sri Chinmoy continues to challenge the age barrier. In his 69th year he is lifting prodigious weights and follows a strenuous training schedule on a daily basis. His recent lifts are phenomenal for a man of his age and have impressed such sports luminaries as Bill Pearl, five-time Mr. Universe; Al Oerter, Olympic gold medallist in the discus; and super Olympian Carl Lewis. There is no stopping this world-renowned advocate of peace who has combined the highest physical and spiritual aspects of humanity to a degree unknown since the ancient Greeks. Regardless of age or circumstances, he lives out his philosophy of self-transcendence to inspire humanity to have a new vision of itself.
On Wednesday, February 16th this year  at his home in New York, Sri Chinmoy raised and supported two 500-pound dumbbells simultaneously from an overhead rack. It was the triumphant culmination of a series of lifts, which began in 1998 with a lift of 100 pounds, 50 in each arm, on September 29th. The poundage increased steadily and in November ’98 he lifted his own body weight (at the time) of 145 pounds simultaneously in each arm. Throughout 1999 the lifts increased in magnitude and several were performed in public and were broadcast on television worldwide.
Sri Chinmoy’s age alone makes the succession of lifts leading up to the 1,000-pound lift of February 16th an incredible achievement. He weighs a mere 170½ pounds, so he lifted six times his own bodyweight. When did you last meet someone who could lift their own bodyweight? Few athletes can do this, regardless of age, and most would not attempt it. Only those involved in the weightlifting and powerlifting worlds can truly appreciate these lifts. They know the finely tuned balance and co-ordination required to lift two dumbbells of this magnitude simultaneously. Immense preparation is required before an attempt is made to lift such weight, which imposes such great strain upon the human frame. Sri Chinmoy does not have the usual powerlifter’s physique. His training involves workouts for almost every muscle in the body — as each is integral to the total co-ordination required. Few men of Sri Chinmoy’s age would undertake the gruelling schedule of daily exercises involved in preparation for lifting let alone attempt such lifts.
For Sri Chinmoy it is a dedicated way of life. Most of his lifts are done in the early hours of the morning as his days are full of many activities and commitments. His home in New York contains a fascinating collection of exercise machines specially made for his needs by his assistant Unmilan Howard, an Australian metalworker who shares Sri Chinmoy’s vision of a peaceful world in which individuals can realise their true potential and serve humanity effectively. Each day Sri Chinmoy offers his soulful prayers to the divine source of all earthly achievement and in meditation he draws on the inner resources which make his feats possible.
“I rely upon the inner power that I bring forward on the strength of my prayer-life and meditation-life.” — Sri Chinmoy
His way has always been to set himself goals which he works towards with a relentless determination. Those who assist Sri Chinmoy never cease to be amazed at his tenacity and by his resilience in the face of failure. He simply refuses to give up and increases the intensity of his training. He also has a remarkable recovery rate. Lifting dead weight against the force of gravity imposes enormous strain and weightlifters need time to recover between lifts and strenuous workouts. They also cannot sustain the level of concentration required for extended periods and need quality rest. Sri Chinmoy’s years of meditation enable him to concentrate almost indefinitely and he is able to relax fully and regain strength quickly. On numerous occasions after a public display of lifting he has gone on to perform concerts with no outward sign of strain or exhaustion.
Sri Chinmoy as he ages does not become a prisoner of time — he uses time, every minute and every hour as a God-given opportunity to manifest the divine potential within. Like the true Olympians of Ancient Greece he challenges the very limits of mortality with grace and humility. Al Oeter’s comment on Sri Chinmoy’s 1,000-pound lift was:
“For Sri Chinmoy there are no limits to the human body... He is exposing the wonderful limits of what we are... He is exposing capabilities that humans have never tapped before. Sri Chinmoy is the first, the pioneer, and he is leading the way for others to break barriers in all different fields in their own lives.”
Many times, in various aspects of life, Sri Chinmoy has shown that with prayer and meditation there are no limits to what can be accomplished. His weightlifting is also an expression of his work for world peace.
“If someone is really strong inwardly, he is always at peace. When you have confidence and strength within you, you do not quarrel or fight with others. It is insecurity that leads to conflict. When we are strong inwardly we feel oneness with the world. It is out of the feeling of oneness that solid peace comes. Oneness, based on inner security, is the only foundation for world peace.” — Sri Chinmoy
Those who witness Sri Chinmoy’s lifts are aware of another dimension at work. Before each lift he focuses his entire concentration inwardly, the concentration then goes through touch to the dumbbells. The tremendous strain on his body is apparent, and there is always a point when an upward movement seems impossible, as wrists, arms, shoulders, back and legs take the weight. In a successful lift this is followed by a movement of sheer grace, when the dumbbells move simultaneously away from the metal frame holding them and are held clear. There is a resounding crash as the dumbbells are released and the ground vibrates. Bill Pearl thought it was humanly impossible for the body’s joints to even budge this kind of weight until he saw it for himself. Now he is at hand to support Sri Chinmoy on the occasions he lifts in public — intuitively knowing the moments of greatest strain and giving encouragement. His comment:
“Sri Chinmoy is unique. He is working from the spiritual not the physical. He is not merely lifting a dumbbell, he is trying to lift the attitude of the world. This man is of Godly strength, he is of absolute Godly strength.”
The Olympic spirit of old finds true expression in Sri Chinmoy. He affirms as did the athletes of the Hellenic world, that the human spirit, for all the dark forces that surround it, is in essence heroic. In the moments of victory the ordinary, shadowy consciousness is transformed in a divine brightness. The poet’s task was to catch and keep the fleeting divine moment — to reveal to men what was really important in their lives. Now we have the camera to record such moments for posterity, there are some immortal photographs of Sri Chinmoy.
Attempting to lift weights of this magnitude can be seen as entering a battlefield, with one’s own physical strength pitted against gravity. The weightlifter and the dense mass of weight stand in opposition to each other. In Sri Chinmoy’s case everything he does is done in a soulful way. Instead of opposing the weight, in his supreme effort and deep meditation he accepts and encompasses the dead weight. We witness the oneness of the human spirit with earthbound matter and it is to this unconditional oneness that the inconscient weight yields. Sri Chinmoy has often said that it is not the power to conquer others, but the power to become one with others that is the ultimate power on Earth.
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1 This article was originally published in India Link International • 16th March 2000/15th May 2000