Sri Chinmoy: You had spirituality in your background, in your heart. That is what I wanted to know, because some people do not believe in God's Grace. They believe only in their own physical prowess. They practise for their event and then they feel that the results will come because of their training.Again, others have a different opinion. They practise, and then they try to get another Friend to help them. Who is that Friend? God. In your races, you have a rabbit. He helps you and then he disappears from the track. So also we have a Friend. He is already there, inside us, but sometimes He also appears before us. While we are thinking of Him, we feel that He is right in front of us. Then when we do not think of Him, He disappears inside us. He is hiding somewhere deep inside us and we have to search for Him.
In your case, you are fully aware that there is a third Person, Somebody else. You may not be praying to Him before the race, but you are aware of His Presence. Again, there are some runners who have trained a lot before the race, but at the same time, they will pray to God, "O God, help me, help me." God alone knows what is going to happen during the race—perhaps some accident or something untoward will take place—so they pray to God for protection. Otherwise, many runners fall down right at the finish line. It is a matter of two or three metres. They could have won, but at the last moment everything changes.
So we feel that if we can pray for protection before the race, it helps immensely because we are invoking a higher Power to come to our rescue.
Then gradually, gradually, as we become more aware of God's Grace, we leave it entirely up to Him. At that time, we pray to God, "You do whatever is best. You run in and through me, and I will place the results at Your Feet." That is the highest form of prayer.
As an athlete, I was nothing according to world standard, but according to our Indian standard, I was quite good. During practice, I was able to run 100 metres in 11.2 or 11.3 seconds, but my competition time was always 11.7 seconds. We used to run in bare feet on a cinder track. Anyway, I am coming to the point. For sixteen years, I stood first in our sports competition. It was almost like a village competition. At one point, after I had won for nine or ten years in a row, I wanted to feel the sufferings of those who came in second or third or even last. It was all because of my spiritual life. I said, "Let me sympathise with those runners. For so many years uninterrupted I have stood first." I decided to lose only to have the feeling of what it was like. The other runners were my friends. Each year, when I saw how sad they were at the end of the race, I felt miserable. So I decided to lose deliberately.
This is how I did it. In those days, I had the capacity to take away fever and to give fever. So I deliberately gave myself a very high fever. Then I decided that I would not do any warm-up exercises. Usually I took between thirty and forty minutes to warm-up. I used to go around the track and also do all kinds of stretching exercises, lying down. But on that particular day, it was in 1953 or 1954, I said, "Here is the thing, I have given myself a real fever. Now I will not do any warming up. Definitely I will be at the very end of the race. It is out of the question for me to get any place."
Everything was decided and pre-planned. Alas, when the starter said, "On your marks! Set! Go!", something happened. As soon as he said, "Go!", a force worked in and through me and then I stood first.
On other days, without warming up, if I had run at that speed I would have got severe cramps. I would have fallen down on the track or something else would have happened. But, you see, the forces do not care. The Grace will never care for the outer circumstances. If, from high Above, Somebody has decided to make one individual first, then no matter how many stupid things that person does, it does not affect the result.
Again, another athlete may be killing himself, practising so much. He is sure that he is going to place first, but alas the result is completely different. So we have to surrender, surrender, surrender.
Then if you have an inner communication with the higher Forces, they may say something very ridiculous. And then, if you do not listen, you are in trouble. In 1944 I joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and that year we started our athletic competition. That year something very significant happened during the pole-vault event. According to our standard, I was by far the best. The event was at four o'clock and about three hundred spectators had gathered to watch. The starting height of the pole-vault was next to nothing. For no rhyme or reason, I had to drop the bar twice. Only one chance was left, otherwise I would have been disqualified. Everybody was so surprised. They were asking, "How could he fail at the starting height?"
There is a particular Indian Goddess who is my dearest Mother. Her name is Mother Kali. At that moment, she came to me. I saw her vividly. She said to me, "Now go home and put ink on your left heel. Make a circle. If you make a circle on your left heel, easily you will be able to succeed."
The house where I lived was only a block and a half away. My mind was telling me, "This is ridiculous! What has ink on my left heel to do with my pole-vault? Is there any connection?" That is what my mind was telling me. But another voice within me was saying, "Go! Otherwise, again you will fail. You will feel miserable."
Again, my mind had greed in it. I knew that if I failed once more it would be very painful. So I listened to my Mother Kali. I went running to my place and put ink on my left heel. Then I came back. When it was my turn, I easily crossed the bar. Then I went on, higher and higher. At least one foot higher or even more I jumped on that day.
If I had taken the path of the heart, I would have gone immediately. But my mind's doubt was so strong that I hesitated. Luckily, in the end, faith took me to my house. We have to surrender to a higher Power. I knew that this Goddess, Mother Kali, was examining me. This particular Goddess is like this.
One more incident I wish to share with you. It is about my 400 metres. Again, I always stood first. My best performance was 53.6 in competition. In practice, the timekeepers recorded 52.7 or 52.8, but my competition time was always slower. This incident happened when I was thirteen or fourteen years old. The race was supposed to start at six o'clock, early in the morning. The night before the race, I went to our Ashram doctor. I said to him, "I am feeling constipated. Would you help me?"
He said, "Yes, I will help you. It is nothing. I will give you a very mild dose of milk of magnesia." So he gave me a very mild dose. Alas, I had to go to the bathroom ten or eleven times during the night, and I became so weak. By taking milk of magnesia, I suffered so much. Here I had practised 400 metres, and undoubtedly I was going to be first, but at the last moment I had become so weak. I did not know what would happen.
The race started and I began running. I ran the first 300 metres faster than on other days because the body was so light. The second runner was at least 50 metres behind me. Then, during the last 100 metres, I could not see anything; everything was white. My body could barely move. The race was taking place on a Pondicherry street. Some elderly women were taking their morning walk. They were about seventy years old but they were walking faster than I was running!
Anyway, I finished. I crossed the line just two metres ahead of the second place runner. Then I collapsed. My soul left the body and it was going away. I know what actually happened because by that time, I had already had many experiences of the soul. As my soul was going away, my Mother Kali grabbed my soul and brought it back into my body. Then I was taken to my sisters' place. For three days and three nights I could not budge an inch. But I was seeing this Goddess in a particular corner of the room looking at me, twenty-four hours a day. Whenever I looked, that Goddess was there.
So I am coming back to the point. Grace was there for me on that day. I did an absolutely stupid thing, taking milk of magnesia. The doctor gave it to me and I suffered so much. But the Grace of my Mother Kali saved my life. Otherwise, I would have died. So even when we do stupid things, absurd things, there is a higher Force to help us and protect us. Why? Because throughout the year I did not do that kind of stupid thing. I prayed and meditated most sincerely.
In pole-vault, my style was horrible —- horrible is the right word! In those days, our pole-vault pit was the same as the long jump pit. You do long jump and in the same pit you will do pole-vault. Nowadays, the mattresses are so high for these athletes to land on. But we landed in the sand, without any mattress. Once my bamboo pole broke when I was in the air! My body was half this side of the bar, half that side. But I was not hurt.
My spiritual Master was Sri Aurobindo. As I said, I had a very, very bad style. My body used to twist in different directions. Where was my head, where were my legs? But each time I jumped, even in practice time, I used to see my Master at a particular tree, watching me. Then, when I fell down on the hard sand, nothing happened. While I was running towards the box with the pole-vault, I was not praying to him, "Please, please protect me."
At that time, my only goal was to vault over the bar. But he was there to protect me. The higher Force does exist, but this higher Force will help us only if we pray to Him for peace, light, bliss and protection throughout the year. Otherwise, if we do not keep any connection with our soul throughout the year and then we try to invoke the Supreme's protection during our competition, it does not work.
So many sprinters lose at the last moment. I will never forget one relay race. The American team was the fastest. Then they dropped the baton. If they had prayed together in silence before the race, they would have been protected; they would definitely have won. But they were so confident. They knew they were the best, so they did not think of invoking a higher Force. Then the higher Force made fun of them.
The higher Force is always there to help us. As a matter of fact, it is because of the higher Force that we are able to practise throughout the year. Those athletes who are spiritual realise that if it had been left to them alone, they could not have practised so regularly and punctually.
We have one disciple who has not missed a day of running for years and years. It is all because of his spiritual life. If he had not followed the spiritual life, the inner life, at least two or three months during the year he would have missed. But something inner, higher and deeper is inspiring him. He could easily have said, "Oh, I am so tired! Last night I went to bed so late. It will not matter if I miss one day." But no, the higher Force is inspiring him. It is telling him, "Go, go, do not miss, do not miss, do not miss."
So, my dearest Joaquim, I am very glad that all your life you have believed in a higher Force, in the spiritual life. The spiritual life does not mean that you have to go to church every day and spend hours and hours, no. It is only an inner feeling that there is something, some substance, something deep within us, that is watching us, protecting us. You may use the term 'soul' or 'spirit' or 'God'.
The more we pray to God and meditate on Him, the more capacity He gives us to pray and meditate. Here in the ordinary life, we may ask somebody to give us ten dollars. A few days later, if we ask him to give us another two dollars, he will be disgusted. He will simply say, "What? I just gave you ten dollars. I will not give you any more. You go and work."
But in the spiritual life, it is different. When we ask God for an iota of peace or love, God gives it to us. Then the following day, if we ask Him for more, He is so eager to grant our request. The more we ask for His Love, for His Blessings, for His Concern, the greater joy He gets.
So this is the difference. You may lose an earthly friend if you continually ask him for more and more, but in the case of the spiritual Friend, whom we call God, the more we ask Him to give us in terms of joy and love, the more He gives. He gets so much joy by giving us, because we are increasing our receptivity vessel. In the beginning, we asked Him for an iota of light. Then, there comes a time when we ask Him for abundant light. In return, He gives us infinite light. If we are asking for something good, God always gives us much more than we can ever imagine.
God is our only Friend. To maintain friendship with human beings is the most difficult thing. You have no idea at what time you are going to lose your earthly friends. One day you will have some slight altercation, some difference of opinion, and then it is all finished. Your friendship of years and years is gone. But God is not like that. He is the One who knows our present, past and future. His Friendship is eternal. So, by virtue of our prayers and meditations, if we can have an access to that Friend, we are saved.
Again, if you lose in the race, God's Consolation is of a different type than the consolation offered by our human friends. He immediately gives us the capacity to identify with the winner. Can you imagine? Here we have tried so hard to defeat the winner and become the champion and then, let us say, we come in second or third or even no place. But God immediately gives us the capacity to identify with the winner and enjoy the feeling of the winner. The joy that he is getting, we also get. Then we become the real winner.
Once upon a time, we thought that the most important thing was to get joy by winning, by defeating others. But if God gives us the capacity to identify ourselves with the winner, then we do not feel miserable when we do not stand first because the winner's joy we also get in exactly the same measure. This is not mental hallucination, far from it; it is absolutely real. And this experience we can get from our spiritual life.
Joaquim: That is so true. Let me add just a few thoughts on that. Even when I started running, my dragons were bigger than life. I never asked God to help me win a race because why would God help me win the race over His other sons? Why should I deserve that? Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that God has already given us something more special than winning itself, which was our body and our potential to make something out of the body. So throughout the years, what I asked God before each race was for the faith and the courage to face my challenges, and that is what has helped me to survive every time.
And that Supreme Power gave me protection, especially in 1983 and '84. The year 1984 was when I really pressed my body to such a challenge. This was not in the Olympics; this was prior to the Olympics because winning the Olympics took me more than one day! It was that whole season of training. When I went to the Olympic Games, I already knew I was going to win. I was so sure.
In the sports life, at first you want to be better than yourself. I wanted to be better than myself. And then I wanted to be better than my opponents. And once I was beating them, breaking records, I wanted to be bigger, better, than life itself. I was already starting to compare myself with God's Power! And when the hour arrives in the Olympics, when you go to compete, in relation to others you are this big. [He stands on a chair] You are bigger. The track becomes shorter and you are in total control of the situation. You have total control of your emotions. And in the Olympics, whoever has that much control of emotions will be the ones to finish first, second and third. One last thing: do you want to know what was the first and last thing that came to my mind when I crossed the finish line? What did I say? You want to guess? Yes! "My God, thank You, God."
Sri Chinmoy: So you started with Jesus Christ's message, "Let Thy Will be done." Whomever You want to choose will be the winner. Then when the result came and you stood first, you thanked God. And I am sure, if you had not won, just after completing the race, you would have said, "Thank You, God. I have completed it." So whichever way, you would have offered the results to God.
I am very proud of you, Joaquim, very proud of your attitude. It is absolutely divine. The most important thing in our life is the blessingful message that Jesus Christ offered over two thousand years ago, "Let Thy Will be done." We shall do everything we can, but if we leave the results to the Will of God, our Inner Pilot, then we are safe.
We had an Indian spiritual Master of the highest order. His name was Lord Krishna. He taught us something most significant. He said, "You have the right to work, but not to the fruits thereof." We have to work. Without working, nobody can live. Even the most idle person, someone who is not moving at all on the physical plane, is doing mental work. His mind is roaming everywhere faster than the fastest.
Lord Krishna says that the results of our work come only in two forms: success or failure. There is nothing else. Either we are successful or we are a failure. If we can offer the results to God equally, with the same happiness, then we get infinitely more joy than the winner himself because the higher Power is working in and through us. Even if we stand last, that higher Power can give us much more joy than the actual winner experiences in the outer life.
So this is our philosophy, and I am so glad that our philosophy perfectly rhymes with yours. You have given us boundless joy and for that we are extremely, extremely proud of you and grateful to you —- not because you are an Olympic champion, but because of something else: your heart. Your heart has blended with our hearts so beautifully and so perfectly. We see and feel your heart inside the very depths of our hearts. And I am sure it is vice versa.
Here did you have a good experience with your New Zealand students?
Joaquim: Yes, it was a great experience. My whole trip was a great experience, and being here with you and hearing so many nice things, it feels like I have been dreaming. I need to go back home and put my feet on the ground!
Sri Chinmoy: Then as soon as you place your feet on the ground, you will have higher dreams, deeper dreams.