Part VIII — Conversation between Sri Chinmoy and his studentsMJW 10-12. These are excerpts from an informal conversation between Sri Chinmoy and his students on 20 February 2000 about his 1,000-pound double dumbbell lift.
Student: People who do not know you, Guru, are wondering why you are doing this kind of strength lift which is outside the traditional weightlifting categories. They are scrutinising your lifting technique.Sri Chinmoy: When you invent something, there will always be people to criticise. God’s creation is full of critics, but has God given up His creation because of the critics? Again, there are many people who love God and pray to Him because He is good. For us, let us say, the moon is so beautiful. We adore the purity of the moon. But a scientist will come with a telescope and point out the dark spots on the moon. Are we going to listen to him and have a negative feeling about the moon or are we going to use our own hearts and continue to get joy and inspiration from the moon?
My philosophy is to forget about the critics. There will always be critics. Is there anybody who is free from critics? On the other hand, there are many world-famous figures in the weightlifting and bodybuilding line who are encouraging and appreciating me.
Why should we remain always with the same lifts? If there is only the dead lift and other standard lifts, then there will be no newness, no invention. Should there be only one game? No, hundreds of games have been discovered. Then shall we play only football, volleyball and basketball? There should be more games. In a garden will we keep only four types of flowers? If another type of flower appears, we will not cry, “Oh, this is not a flower because for years and years in our garden there have been only four flowers.”
Unfortunately, when one invents something, it is frequently not accepted. Then a day comes when people forget about the criticism. At first, how much Newton and Einstein suffered! Afterwards, everybody accepted them. In the beginning, newness will always be suspected. It will not be admired and adored. But then, based on that newness, people go forward.
My weightlifting is also invention. When you invent something, people criticise it because it has not been practised for fifty years. They say, “Only our grandfathers’ way is correct.” The old theory is that whatever our grandfathers discovered is real. If we do something new, it cannot be real. If we subscribe to this stupid theory, there will be no newness in the sports field or in any other field.
If others are saying that my way of lifting is something very easy, let them try. When the Canadian boxer Donny Lalonde saw my lifting, he shed tears. He is such a strong boxer, but he knew that he could not do it. So people who are inclined to criticise my way of lifting should stand under 1,000 pounds and try to lift it.
I am reminded of a story of a 90-year-old Indian widow. When she heard that Hillary and Tensing had climbed Mount Everest, she said, “I could have done it, if I had practised!” I say, who asked her not to practise?
Who can silence the mouths of the critics? They always use the word ‘if’ — if they had been… if they had also practised…. Who asked them, for God’s sake, not to do it?
There will always be critics, but we have to go our own way. Al Oerter, a four-time Olympic gold medallist in the discus, has very kindly said that I am a new pathfinder. From the very beginning of my weightlifting career, I have tried to do new things. Why should I go on always with the old system as if that is the only way? I feel that people who come to break the traditional barriers are the ones who are the real heroes. They can make their contribution in any sphere of life.
For example, at first there were only rhymed poems. Then some immortal poets came who wrote epics in iambic pentameter blank verse. How they were criticised! But why should epics follow the form of sonnets or other rhymed poems? It is a completely different style. If these same critics had tried to write an epic, it would have taken twenty incarnations!
Anything new will be criticised, true. But should we allow our newness to be thwarted by the jealousy of others? If someone feels that the thing that is new is so silly, then he should prove it by trying to do the same thing. Once, when I lifted up people in Seattle, one bodybuilder was showing off his huge muscles. Then what happened? After I lifted him overhead, he came down, tore off his T-shirt and said to me, “I could not do it.”
Of the 2,000 people that I have lifted, was there anybody to come and say, “Now I am going to lift you, Sri Chinmoy”? There were people who were much, much stronger than I am. Not even one individual said, “Now you go up the ladder. I will lift you.” Here is the proof. Out of 2,000 people that I have lifted, not even one individual challenged me. At that time I weighed 150 or 160 pounds. I lifted many people who were over 250 pounds and some even exceeded 300 pounds. But nobody, even out of sheer affection, came forward to do the same thing.
Once, in Germany, I went to a gym. I had had my breakfast and I was wearing my Indian garments. I was not wearing any kind of weightlifting belt. I wanted to try a particular kind of calf raise machine. Quite a few bodybuilders and weightlifters were there, and they were watching me curiously and laughing at my clothes. Then, when I lifted 800 pounds on the calf raise using one leg, they all went away. They could have made fun of it and said it was not conventional. They could have tried it. But not even one tried, and they were twice as large as I was. The gym did not have more than 800 pounds. Otherwise, I was willing to go higher. Who can forget that incident?
The world is for newness, not for oldness. New, new things we have to create. Then only the world will progress. If not, we will come to feel that there is nothing new under the sun. We have to create new things to keep our joy. If there is no newness, how can we have enthusiasm? And if there is no enthusiasm, do we make any progress?
There are so many musicians who are breaking the old systems. For a few years they are criticised. Then afterwards they are immortalised because they found a new road.
In my case, also, I am finding new roads. In my music-world, people criticised me. Now people in the audience are getting such joy. They say that I create a unique vibration or power. Similarly, in my art-world people criticised me in the beginning. Now in the art-world I am accepted. In everything, if you continue and continue and do the thing without caring for criticism, then you become something. If we have to depend on the critics, if we value their opinion, then there will be no newness in this world. Everything will be old, old, old.