Question: Many great athletes tell of having experiences of higher consciousness in the form of visions of their performances or oneness with the elements. Where do these experiences come from?

Sri Chinmoy: It is not because these athletes are very spiritually developed that they are having higher experiences. Many people practice spirituality and do not get them. So how can they get these kinds of experiences? Sometimes it happens that God tries to inspire people in a very special way, at a very special hour. These athletes have killed themselves practising sports for so many years, and now God wants to show them that there are higher realities in life. He wants to tell them, "Do not halt, do not stop here! Now you are doing something for name and fame. If you come in first, you will get joy, and if you come in last, you will feel miserable. But there is another world. In that world, even while you are doing something, you get tremendous joy. Here you are thinking that there are so many things you have to do, so many things in front of you, and you feel that you cannot do them all. But in that other world, you will not only be able to do many more things at one time, but you will also get joy while you are doing those things. You will not have to wait for the results to get joy."

The spiritual life is like that. People who pray and meditate most soulfully get tremendous joy while they are praying and meditating. They do not expect to get some result at the end of two or three hours which will make them happy. Praying and meditating itself gives them joy.

There is also another reason why God gives them these experiences. Sometimes the father shows the child a hundred-dollar bill and says, "All right, take it." The child is so happy, so excited to have a hundred-dollar bill because for him even to get one dollar is such a difficult task. Then the father says, "Like this I have a bundle of hundred-dollar bills. If you study and go to school now, and when your studies are over, if you start working, you will be able to get this wealth. But first you have to earn it. Right now I am only showing you that such a large amount of money does exist." For a child, a hundred-dollar bill is something very great. He cannot imagine that he will have that much money, let alone a whole bundle of hundred-dollar bills. Similarly, an ordinary person, even if he is a great athlete, will be so pleased and excited if God gives him an inner experience. God is telling him inwardly that he has to practise spirituality, that he has to pray and meditate and work hard in order to earn this inner awakening, this inner wealth.

So, these are the two main reasons why God gives athletes so-called higher experiences even while they are not consciously praying for the inner life.