He’s barely 145 pounds and stands about 5-feet-8, but Sri Chinmoy has mastered the art of mind over matter. That enables the 69-year-old Hindu-born spiritual leader to honor other religious leaders committed to peace — by literally lifting them up for praise. During a lighthearted ceremony in his Jamaica headquarters recently, Chinmoy praised five clergymen and a nun as models of the ideal that all religions are united by a spiritual path of love toward God and thanked them for promoting peace. Then he lifted them above him using a simple bench-press-like apparatus. Chinmoy said the Lifting Up the World with a Oneness Heart program, which he created more than a decade ago, aims to unite the world’s religions in one path of love. “I am trying to reach people in various walks of life who have inspired others in politics, in literature, in science and in sports,” Chinmoy said. “When somebody does something great, he is cheered by his colleagues. Here also I am trying to congratulate them with my inner oneness with them.

“Among the honorees last week were Msgr. Tom Hartman and Rabbi Mark Gellman, aka “The God Squad,” who are co-hosts of a show promoting interfaith understanding on Long Island’s Channel 25. Hartman also helped establish the Christa House Jerry Hartman Residence, a shelter for poor AIDS patients in West Babylon, L.I. Jerry Hartman, the priest’s brother, died of AIDS. Chinmoy, hardly straining and letting out only a slight groan, lifted Gellman with his left arm and Hartman with his right — a total of 521 pounds. He held them about 2 inches off a platform for five seconds. Also honored and lifted were a Tibetan lama, Kunsang Detchen Lingpa Rinpoche; Hindu Pandit Ram Lall; Muslim Imam Mohammed Shrazad, and a Catholic missionary, Sister Eileen Storey. Chinmoy, who has written thousands of poems and songs, is an internationally recognized spiritual leader. For 31 years, he has led peace meditations at the United Nations twice a week. But Chinmoy, who has more than 7,000 students worldwide, is also a world-renowned weightlifter. The spiritual leader has lifted more than 2,000 world figures, including former South African President Nelson Mandela, former U.S. track and field athlete Carl Lewis, Knicks point guard Mark Jackson, singer Roberta Flack and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside). Chinmoy, who began weightlifting in 1985, relies more on meditation to lift weights of more than 2,000 pounds. “I am doing these lifts with the physical body, but the strength and power are coming from within,” Chinmoy said, “Prayer and meditation are my inner secrets and my outer secrets.”

Published in NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, MAY 29, 2001