My spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy, who is the most peaceful and dignified of men, has an unexpected devotion to extreme sports, or what he calls "feats of self-transcendence." A decathlon and 100-metre sprinting champion in his youth, this septuagenarian has run 22 marathons and 4 ultramarathons, played literally hundreds of games of tennis in one day, thrown shotputs weighing up to 50 pounds, walked in weighted vests of more than 100 pounds, done 2,230 pushups in under an hour, performed crunches with 367 pounds resting on his stomach and lifted two dumbbells weighing 650 pounds each overhead simultaneously. – Dr. Vidagdha Bennett, November 2004
He has inspired his students to put on the world's longest footrace (3,100 miles around a loop in Jamaica, Queens), to hold "triple triathlons", to conduct races across the Zurich Lake, to swim the English Channel, to climb some of the world's tallest mountains and to run the arduous Marathon des Sables in Morocco.
One of his students, Ashrita Furman, has pogosticked underwater in the Amazon, somersaulted the length of Paul Revere's ride, and walked for 81 miles carrying a milk bottle on his head, establishing new Guinness records in the process.
But all these feats pale in comparison with what Sri Chinmoy himself has recently undertaken. Last week, in a three-day weightlifting spree, the 73-year old lifted a cumulative total of 290,527 pounds. His logbook reads like something out of Ripley's Believe It or Not:
Thursday, 11 November 2004: Lift one helicopter, one plane and one gigantic spruce tree.
Friday, 12 November 2004: Lift one sailboat, one camel and an elephant carrying a Russian Olympic gold medallist.
Saturday, 13 November 2004: Lift 10 Olympic athletes, 2 stone lions, 3 Mr Universe winners, 4 grand pianos and a car!
How can the mind grasp deeds of such magnitude, deeds which are so far outside our realm of experience? In my case, the question of "believe it or not" does not arise. I personally witnessed each of these lifts, literally from only a few feet away. Had someone merely described them to me, perhaps my mind would have cast forth a crore of doubts, but fortunately "seeing is believing." To try to understand how such Herculean feats are possible, that is another matter entirely!
Sri Chinmoy has said, "For a oneness-heart, nothing is impossible. For a division-mind, nothing extraordinary is possible." Immersed in prayer and meditation from earliest childhood, this spiritual teacher has established his oneness with all human beings. His writings reveal that he identifies with each emotion of the human heart, each experience that we encounter in our day-to-day lives. His words offer strength, encouragement, consolation and wisdom. Similarly, his beautiful songs and paintings uplift our hearts and remind us of the inner reality.
In 1985 Sri Chinmoy turned to weightlifting as a means of manifesting this inner reality in a most striking way. Now, nineteen years later, he is lifting more than he has ever done in his life, to the point where bodybuilding experts, those who study the ageing process and physicians all shake their heads and exclaim: impossible! Sri Chinmoy's succinct reply: "Impossibility is just a dictionary word" echoes Napoleon's famous letter to one of his obdurate generals: "You write to me that it is impossible; the word is not French."
Sri Chinmoy clearly prefers to dwell in that realm which we mere mortals label "impossible". He has drawn more than 15 million bird drawings, painted 200,000 paintings, written 1500 books (producing as many as 1300 poems in 24 hours), composed over 18,000 songs and offered more than 700 concerts around the world, performing on more than 150 musical instruments.
On November 13th, during four and a half hours of non-stop weightlifting, Sri Chinmoy raised four grand pianos at once in a standing calf raise; lifted an Olympic gold medallist in a seated shoulder shrug; did a standing calf raise of 2,400 pounds and a seated calf raise with 1,495 books -- all his own works -- resting on his knees.
For his finale, Sri Chinmoy stood atop a huge steel and wood tower, with a car suspended from his shoulders, meditated in silence for a few moments and then lifted the car off the ground simply by raising his heels and straightening his back. The large audience gasped in awe as the car swung back and forth in the air. Sri Chinmoy released the load and the platform returned to terra firma once more. He then stood with folded hands and bowed, offering gratitude to God whose boundless Grace enabled him to transform such impossible dreams into reality.
I sift through the English language for some way to convey the grandeur of that moment and all that it represented in terms of the courage, will, faith and majesty of the human soul tackling overwhelming odds and succeeding. Sri Chinmoy's weightlifting in itself is utterly extraordinary, but even more extraordinary are the limitless spiritual dimensions that it opens up for mankind as a whole.
I wonder how many more cars, boats, animals and luminaries this messenger of the inner world will have to lift before his lofty message finally sinks in. One day perhaps we shall all square our shoulders, face our own limitations -- and gloriously transcend them.
Dr. Vidagdha Bennett