The outer running is a powerful struggle for a great independence. The inner running is a soulful cry for a good interdependence. Independence brings to the fore what we have unmistakably deep within: a freedom-smile. Interdependence makes us conscious of what we eternally are: a oneness-satisfaction.
The outer running is a burning desire to achieve everything that we see here on earth. The inner running is a climbing aspiration to receive from Above a vast compassion-sky and to give from below a tiny gratitude-flame.
The outer running is an extraordinary success on the mountain-summit. The inner running is an exemplary progress along Eternity's sunlit Road. Success is the ready and immediate acceptance of the challenges from difficulties untold. Progress is the soulful and grateful acceptance of the blessingful joy from prosperities unfathomed.
The outer runner and the inner runner: two aspects of the seeker-runner. The outer runner does; therefore, he succeeds. The inner runner becomes; therefore, he proceeds.
When he succeeds, the seeker-runner gets a new name: glorification. When he proceeds, the seeker-runner gets a new name: illumination.
The seeker-runner's glorification is a beautiful flower that charms and inspires his entire life. The seeker-runner's illumination is a fruitful tree that shelters and nourishes his entire earthly existence.
The outer running is a colossal satisfaction, although at times it may be quite oblivious to the existence-reality of a quiet perfection. The inner running is a perpetual satisfaction in and through a blossoming perfection.
The seeker-runner has a shadowless dream of his full realisation-day in his outer running. The seeker-runner has a sleepless vision of his God's full Manifestation-Hour in his inner running.
The outer runner challenges the Himalayan pride of impossibility. The inner runner smilingly arranges a feast not only with impossibility but also with Immortality.
The outer runner runs through the golden gate and arrives at the sound-kingdom. The inner runner enters into the unique palace, runs up to its highest floor and places himself at the very Feet of the Silence-King.
Finally, the seeker-runner's outer running says to his inner running, "Look, I am giving you what I now have: my majesty's crown." The seeker-runner's inner running says to his outer running, "Look, I am giving you what I now am: my beauty's throne."
A great champion
A great champion is he who wins all the races.
A great champion is he who participates in all the races.
A great champion is he who does not care for the results of the races — whether he is first or last or in between. He races just to get joy and give joy to the observers.
A great champion is he who transcends his own previous records.
A great champion is he who maintains his standard.
A great champion is he who remains happy even when he cannot maintain his standard.
A great champion is he who has established his inseparable oneness with the winner and the loser alike.
A great champion is he who, owing to the advancement of years, retires from racing or terminates his career happily and cheerfully.
A great champion is he who longs to see the fulfilment of his dreams — if not through himself, then in and through others. It does not even have to be in and through his own dear ones; it can be in and through any human being on earth. If someone who could not manifest his own dreams is extremely happy when he sees his vision being manifested into reality through somebody else, then he is a really great champion.
A great champion is he who meditates on his Inner Pilot for the fulfilment of His Will before the race, during the race and after the race.
A great champion is he who sees and feels that he is a mere instrument of his Inner Pilot and that his Inner Pilot is racing in and through him, according to his own capacity of receptivity.
A champion of champions is he whose inner life has become the Vision of his Absolute Supreme and whose outer life has become the perfection-channel of his Beloved Supreme.
Experience is the pioneer-runner of success.
Illumination is the pioneer-runner of progress.
The inner runner
Each individual on earth is running towards his destination. If the runner is wise, he will be very simple; he will wear only the basic, necessary garments, and not something very heavy or expensive which will draw the attention of the spectators. If the runner is wise, he will also be sincere. Sincerity means that he will yearn only for the goal and not be distracted by the flowers and fruits that he passes along the way. If the runner is sincere, he will run only in his own lane. He will not enter into the lanes of others and disturb them. The wise runner will also be pure. When we are pure, we see clearly with our inner vision that not only are we running toward the ultimate Goal, but the Goal itself is also running towards us.
When we run in the outer world, we have only a few competitors, and the competition will last for only a few hours. But in the inner world we have many competitors, and it may take a long time to defeat them. Our competitors in the inner world are fear, doubt, anxiety, depression, worry and similar forces that are all the time trying to rob us of our joy. If yesterday we defeated them, today they will return to challenge us again. Inwardly we may not be prepared for the challenge, but with our little ego we say: "All right, I accept your challenge." Then what happens? Fear comes and runs ahead of us, while doubt holds our legs and jealousy pulls us backwards. If they were fair competitors, they would agree to run properly, but they don't. So even before we start, anxiety comes and strangles us.
If one day we are defeated, we should not feel that we are lost. We must always take failure as an experience. We should not take it as a finished product or as the culmination of an experience, but as part of an experience. If we think that failure is the end of our experience, then we are finished. In a long race, a runner may start out very slowly, and then gradually increase his speed until he reaches the goal. But if he thinks that because his start was slow he will never be able to reach his destination, then he is making a deplorable mistake. So I always say to take failure as an experience that is just beginning.
Unfortunately, after running a little, some people become tired and want to take rest. But in the spiritual life there is no rest. Once we have started to run, we cannot stop. If we grow tired and stop running, then ignorance will just pull us backwards. The forces of ignorance will attack us mercilessly and pull us back into the sea of ignorance.
Since time immemorial, we have been running side by side with ignorance. But now that we have entered into the spiritual life, we are trying to run fast, faster, fastest. Previously we identified with ignorance-night. Now that we are awakened, we are trying consciously to identify ourselves with wisdom-light. If we can become one with wisdom-light, we will assuredly reach our destined Goal-the ever-illumining and ever-fulfilling Beyond.
When we run in the inner life, we have to feel that we are not only running against ignorance; we are also running with God. In a 100-metre dash, if one runner is 70 metres ahead of another runner, then the one who is far behind will not have any inspiration to run. But if the leading runner is only a few steps ahead, then the one who is behind feels determined to overtake him. That is why, when God runs with us, He uses only a little of His infinite Capacity. Only then will human beings have the inspiration and aspiration to catch Him and run with Him. God stays only a few steps ahead of us so that He can be seen, felt and ultimately realised.
Try to be a runner, and try all the time to surpass and go beyond all that is bothering you and standing in your way.
Be a real runner so that ignorance, limitation and imperfection will all drop far behind you in the race.
Running and the life-game
Life and sports cannot be separated; they are one. As a matter of fact, life itself is a game. This game can be played extremely well, provided the player develops consciously or unconsciously the capacity to invoke the transcendental energy which is always manifested in action.
In the life-game, each soul is running consciously or unconsciously toward the goal of inner perfection. There is not a single individual who has not left the starting point. Now, one individual may be behind another in the Godward race, but all are making progress and running toward the same goal.
When you enter into the spiritual life, it means that you have consciously begun your inner journey. If you are running consciously, then naturally you will reach the goal sooner than those who are still asleep. There are many reasons why you may be inspired to consciously run toward the goal. You may be inspired to run toward the goal because you see so many others who are also running, and this makes you feel that the goal has something to offer. Again, you may want to run toward the goal because you yourself have an intense inner cry. Your inner cry for truth and light and love has increased; so you are running toward the goal. Why is it that in you the inner cry has increased, whereas others are still fast asleep? It is because God has inspired you. It is not that you just come out of your house and decide to run. No, something within you, an inner urge, inspires you to go out and run. And who has given you that inner urge if not our Beloved Supreme?
Spirituality is a one-way road that leads you to your goal. Once you have embarked on your journey, you can't go back. The starting point is gone. Once evolution starts on any plane, you can't go back to the initial point.
If you are consciously running toward the goal, then naturally you want to get there sooner than the soonest. If you want to run fast, faster, fastest, then you have to simplify your outer life, your life of confusion, your life of desire, your life of anxiety and worry. At the same time, you have to intensify your inner life, your life of aspiration, your life of dedication and illumination.
Sometimes when you see your goal in front of you, you think that you should be able to reach it at once, although you may be a little tired. You are tired because your capacity is limited. Nevertheless, your mind wants to just grab the goal. But there is a limit to how fast you can go. Like a runner, you must be careful not to fall just before you reach the finishing line.
Again, you can say that there is no such thing as a fall. Since there is only one road, one way to the goal, it is not possible to fall off the path. It is just that sometimes you take rest or halt for a while. But no matter how long you rest, or how slowly you go, you cannot fall off the path. Purification and illumination are bound to take place at God's choice Hour. At that time, first you will see that the goal is right in front of you. Then you will feel that the goal is within you, and finally you will come to realise that not only is the goal within you, but you are the goal itself. Your own higher self is the goal that your lower self has been searching for.
Morning running is purity's beauty.
Evening running is simplicity's luminosity.
We run, we become
We run. We become. We run in the outer world. We become in the inner world. We run to succeed. We become to proceed.
In the spiritual life, speed is of paramount importance. In the outer world, speed is founded mostly upon inspiration. In the inner world, speed is founded mostly upon aspiration.
Inspiration helps us run — far, farther, farthest. It helps us run the length and breadth of the world. Aspiration helps us become — fast, faster, fastest — the chosen instrument of our Beloved Supreme.
Inspiration tells us to look around and thus feel and see boundless light, energy and power. Aspiration tells us to dive deep within and enjoy boundless inner nectar and delight.
Inspiration tells us to claim and proclaim our own divinity, which is our birthright. Aspiration tells us to feel and realise once and for all that we are exact prototypes of our Beloved Supreme and thus we can be as great, as good, as divine and as perfect as He is.
Inspiration tells us to become our true selves. Aspiration tells us to become God Himself.
Inspiration tells us to feel what we soulfully have: God's Love, God's Compassion, God's Beauty and God's Peace in infinite measure. Aspiration tells us to feel at every moment that we are of the Source and for the Source. We are of our Beloved Supreme the One and we are for our Beloved Supreme the many. Him to fulfil, Him to manifest, Him to satisfy unconditionally in His own Way is the reason we have taken human birth.
We run. We become. At every moment we are running to become something great, sublime, divine and supreme. While we are becoming, we feel that we are in the process of reaching our ultimate Goal. But today's Goal is only the starting point for tomorrow's new dawn. At every moment we are transcending our previous achievements; we are transcending what we have and what we are. By virtue of our self-giving, we are becoming the Beauty, the Light and the Delight of our Beloved Supreme.
O Lord Supreme, may each marathon runner run along Your Eternity's Road to receive from You Your Infinity's Love-Light and Your Immortality's Oneness-Delight.
When the New Year dawns
On the eve of the New Year, a new consciousness dawns on earth. God once again inspires each human being, each creature, with new hope, new light, new peace and new joy. God says, "The New Year dawns and a new consciousness dawns within you. Run toward the destined Goal." We listen to God, to the dictates of our Inner Pilot, and we run toward the ultimate Reality. The New Year energises us, encourages us and inspires us to run toward that ultimate Goal.
When the New Year dawns, we have to make ourselves conscious of the fact that we have to transcend ourselves this year. We have to go beyond our present capacity, beyond our present achievement. When we have that kind of firm determination, God showers His choicest Blessings upon us.
God always wants us to move ahead; He does not want us to look back. We know that while a runner is running fast, if he looks back, he will stumble. Similarly, if we are constantly looking behind at the year that we are leaving aside, we will think of our sorrow, misery, frustration, failure and so forth. But if we look forward, we will see hope dawning deep within us. Every day in this New Year is equally important. Suppose the runner has to run one hundred metres to reach the goal. After covering twenty metres at top speed, he feels that since he is running so fast, he is going to reach the goal in a second. So, relaxation comes. But once the starter has fired the gun, if the runner from the beginning to the end maintains top speed, then only is he able to win the race. Or, let us say, only then will he really be pleased with his speed, proud of his speed.
When we aspire to achieve a life-goal, we progress gradually. But during this gradual process, we have to maintain the same type of aspiration. Suppose a runner is going to run five miles. When the starter fires the gun, the runner is inspired and he begins running very fast. But after two or three miles, he becomes very tired. Running becomes tedious and difficult. If the runner gives up running just because he is tired and because his inspiration is gone, he does not reach his goal. But if he continues running, he will finally reach the goal. Then he will definitely feel that it was worth the struggle and suffering of the body.
Every day, when morning dawns, we should feel that we have something new to accomplish. We are running and every day we are advancing. If we are aspiring, we are always in the process of running. When we start our journey in the morning, we should feel that today is the continuation of yesterday's journey; we should not take it as a totally new beginning. And tomorrow we should feel that we have travelled still another mile. Every day we should feel that we have travelled another mile. Then, we know one day that we will reach our Goal. Even if our speed decreases, we have to continue running and not give up on the way. When we reach our Goal we will see that it was worth the struggle.
He who has inspiration, soulful inspiration, is constantly running towards and crying for the Beyond.
The whole man
In all walks of life — especially in the athletic world — from the spiritual point of view the whole man represents perfection; the whole man represents satisfaction — perfection for satisfaction and satisfaction in perfection.
Present-day human life, unfortunately, is a far cry from perfection for satisfaction and satisfaction in perfection. Indeed, it offers us a most deplorable picture. Man the body is ignorance. Man the vital is arrogance. Man the mind is doubt. Man the heart is insecurity. But there is also man the soul. The soul, which is inside the body yet far beyond the earth-bound body-consciousness, is the direct representative of our Inner Pilot. Man the soul is aspiration-flight. And finally, man the God is Satisfaction-Delight.
All athletes, without fail, are potentially great and good. A great athlete is a little man tirelessly inspired. A good athlete is a simple life sleeplessly awakened. The great athlete in us seeks excellence. The good athlete in us seeks transcendence. Excellence quite often arrives at a dead end. Transcendence always reaches an ever-new beginning and an ever-new dawn. Excellence is success and transcendence is progress. The athlete in us is the discoverer of success and the inventor of progress. The outer world is success-thirst. The inner world is progress-hunger.
What about the poor and ill-fated athlete in us? O poor, ill-fated athlete, your prayer will one day change your attitude towards God's Will. Your ultimate oneness with God's Will will give you infinitely more happiness than the supremely successful athlete can ever hope to achieve.
There are two worlds: the outer world and the inner world. Even so, there are two competitions: the outer competition and the inner competition. The outer competition begins and ends. The inner competition has a beginningless start and an endless finish. In the outer competition, we compete with the rest of the world. In the inner competition, we compete with our fear, doubt, anxiety, worry and so forth. In the inner competition, we compete with our ignorance of millennia.
Just because time and again we have had deplorable defeats and failures, we must not retire from the athletic world. No, only we have to aspire more soulfully, more devotedly and more unreservedly. We are the connecting link between our aspiration and our inspiration. Aspiration we are; inspiration we offer.
Our aspiration-longing is our ultimate becoming. Because we long for something, eventually we become that thing. Our longing is our self-transcendence. Transcendence will always lead us far beyond the domain of cancerous fear and poisonous doubt. Freed from fear, we become great. Freed from doubt, we become good. Greatness influences the outer man. Goodness inspires the inner man. Greatness, no doubt, eventually triumphs; but goodness eternally reigns supreme in the heart of aspiring mankind. Greatness haughtily and incorrectly says, "I have everything. I am everything." Goodness humbly and soulfully says, "My Beloved Lord Supreme is all Compassion to me. Out of His infinite Bounty, at His choice Hour, He will grant me what He has and what He is."
Let us all aspire. To aspire is to widen our horizons. Our eternal journey's eternal cry is man the God. Our infinite Goal's infinite Smile is God the man. Let us share this unparalleled wisdom with the rest of the world and thus liberate bondage, radiate love, lengthen peace and strengthen oneness. Oneness manifests fulness, and fulness is the whole man.
Since we are primarily dealing with the athletic world, let us go to its source: the Olympics. The Olympics are an unprecedented, auspicious, glorious and precious Greece-vision. And what is this vision? This vision is nothing other than world-happiness. Happiness is love bubbling forth into the newness and fulness of true life, illumining life and fulfilling life.
The Olympics tower above all man-made differences. They are infinitely bigger than race. They are eternally brighter than colour. They are supremely better than religion. They are not only constantly one with the evolution-hunger of aspiring mankind but are also humanity's satisfaction-meal and perfection-nourishment
The human athlete in us clings to great expectation. The divine athlete in us clings to an existence-life which is surrendered to God's Will, Him to please in His own Way. The Supreme Athlete in us is God. God the Supreme Athlete has three members in His immediate Family who walk in His Footsteps: His son, Speed; His daughter, Skill; and His son, Strength. Skill helps her brother, Speed, and this way Speed achieves supreme victory and supreme glory. When necessity demands, Skill also helps her brother, Strength, and Strength achieves boundless glory and boundless victory. Again, when it is necessary, the sister helps both the brothers together to achieve supreme victory and supreme glory. Meanwhile, all the time the Father watches. While watching, He blesses His daughter, Skill, inside the gratitude-hearts of His sons, and the three children, in return, offer to the Father their victory's breathless silence and deathless sound.
Faith in oneself and faith in God must run together.
Who is the winner?
Who is the winner? Not he who wins but he who has established his cheerful oneness with the result, which is an experience in the form of failure or success, a journey forward or a journey backward.
Who is the winner? Not he who wins the race but he who loves to run sleeplessly and breathlessly with God the Supreme Runner.
Who is the winner? Not he whose glory we sing but he who embodies God's Compassion-Light in abundant measure.
Who is the winner? Not he who has acquired tremendous name and fame and amassed a big fortune but he who requires only one thing: God-Satisfaction in God's own Way.
Does God run?
Yes, He does.
He runs with the help of man's heart.
Part II — Questions and answers on running
Question: Why is it so difficult to progress or excel in sports?
Sri Chinmoy: In life, fortunately or unfortunately, nothing is easy. If things are easy, then we will be satisfied with our self-complacent life. Like a frog, we have to jump, jump, jump! If things are easy, if we always succeed, then we won't value our capacities or appreciate our achievements. At every moment we must value not only our successes and achievements but also the efforts we make. We must value at every moment not only what we become but what we are doing in the process of becoming. We cannot separate the effort from the result.
Unfortunately, we do not appreciate our efforts. We admire and adore only the result. For years and years we practise hard. Then, in ten seconds the race is over. Afterwards, the world only remembers that there was a champion in Helsinki or Melbourne or Mexico. But for that, how many years of preparation did it take? Four, eight, ten, twelve years! This the world doesn't appreciate. It only appreciates the victory, not the preparation.
Question: Is there a limit to any record?
Sri Chinmoy: There is only one limit: how much God wants to reveal Himself through each individual. The only limit is God's Will. God waits and waits and waits. Then, if He sees that somebody is receptive or that somebody has worked very hard, He may do something through that individual.
For God, this is quite natural, but we call it a miracle. If we feel that something is a miracle, then we have more faith than if we feel something is natural. At night the flowers are closed, and in the morning all of a sudden the petals open. Because we are seeing it every day, we feel it is natural. We go to sleep at night and are totally unconscious. The following day we get up, and we feel it is perfectly natural. Again, one day we don't get up, and then it becomes unnatural; we call it death. But if we take it from another angle, everything is a miracle. After four or five hours of sleeping, all of a sudden we get up, like the flower opening its petals. Everything that we experience, we can take as a miracle. Is there anything that is not a miracle in life?
Records will always be broken. But that doesn't mean that someone will be able to run one mile in a minute. In the inner world it is quite possible to run a mile in a minute. Occultists can do it. In a fleeting minute they will be able to run a mile. But that is something else. At that time they are not in the physical, whereas you are talking about achieving something in the physical. But on the earthly plane, Bannister, Lande, Scott, Maree, Coghlan and all the other great runners will go on breaking records, and the world will continue to progress.
Question: How much importance should we give to physical exercise in comparison to our regular work?
Sri Chinmoy: You are working very hard at your business, but you are thinking that that is the only work you have to do. You are giving one hundred per cent of your attention to your business and not even one per cent to your body. You have to feel that the body is also something necessary. So when you are here taking exercise or practising sports, you have to think that this is the only thing in your life. Otherwise, while you are practising sports you will still be thinking of your business. Each time you practise sports, feel that this is the most important thing, more important even than selfless service or meditation. If you give importance to this, you will get extra energy from it for your work.
Question: How do you feel about bicycle training to improve running?
Sri Chinmoy: I did a great deal of bicycling when I lived in India in my youth. For at least two and a half hours every day I used to cycle as I did errands around the ashram. It does not increase running speed at all, but something is better than nothing. Sometimes cycling can actually be a hindrance to running speed, because it develops special kinds of muscles which do not complement the speed muscles. Bicycling does help for endurance, but if you want to increase your running speed, then I don't advise it. You can cycle for endurance, or if you are injured and cannot run. For a little bit of stamina you can do it. But again, cycling stamina is totally different from running stamina. If one wants to become a good runner and maintain a five-minute pace, then cycling is not the answer. Quality road work is the answer.
Question: What is a good exercise to strengthen the legs when they get tired from standing all day?
Sri Chinmoy: If your legs get tired from standing all day, there are two exercises that are very good to strengthen them. One exercise develops the knee muscles. You sit on the floor with one leg straight, and the other leg bent with the knee up, both hands on your hips. Then you switch, bending the straight leg and straightening the bent leg. Then keep switching.
The other exercise is to do a deep knee bend on one leg, with the other leg out in front of you, and then stand up again, still keeping one leg in front of you. First you do it with a flat foot, then on your toe. If you can do it three or four times, your legs will have tremendous strength from top to bottom.
Question: If one is in generally good health, what would cause pain and aches in the body?
Sri Chinmoy: It is one thing to have good health and another thing to deliberately maintain good health. Unless you are consciously keeping good health, at any moment you may be attacked by some forces. It is like having a large amount of money without knowing about it. If you are not conscious of it, you may easily lose it. If you are not conscious that you have a flower, you are likely to lose it. Anything that you have must have some place in your awareness. You may have good physical health, but perhaps in two months' time you have not thought of your body once, let alone tried to increase the strength of your legs or arms or to get some extra capacity.
Unless you touch something every day, it does not shine. Often I have told people to touch the furniture in their homes every day. As soon as you touch something, it gets new life. If you are aware of something, immediately it shines and gets a new luminosity. If you have good health, if you touch your health every day, it gets new life. By giving attention to something, you give new life to it.
Question: Why do we get injuries for no apparent reason?
Sri Chinmoy: There is always a reason, either in the inner world or in the outer world. In the inner world, if something is dislocated — if your consciousness has descended or if some hostile forces have attacked — you get an injury. Sometimes you are totally innocent, but the wrong forces, the malicious forces which are hovering around, can cause injury.
Again, sometimes in the inner world or in the thought-world you have done something wrong, and this can also cause an injury. Thought can be more destructive than a hydrogen bomb. Wrong thoughts, which are so destructive, may come and attack you, especially your physical, which is in ignorance most of the time. The wrong forces find it very easy to attack the plane which is fast asleep, because they will encounter no opposition there.
So, in the inner world either your consciousness has descended because of wrong thoughts, or some hostile force has attacked you, and that is why you get an injury which you cannot see any reason for.
Question: Always when I become very interested in the physical and playing sports, I injure myself to the point where I have to stop completely. Why does this happen?
Sri Chinmoy: What actually happens in your case is that when you enter into the physical world — playing tennis or other things — you do not give value to the physical as such. You remain in the mind. A portion of your existence you throw into the game and another portion you keep totally in the mind-world. It is like cutting yourself in half. You are keeping your body on the first floor, but your consciousness is always on the upper floor, in the mind. If you can direct more of your mental energy into the physical when you play, this will not happen.
You want to play; you want to win. But actually the concentration of the mind, the real concentration, is not in the physical itself. You know that you are playing tennis, but the concentration that the body needs from the mind is not there. There is a gap. The body without concentration from the mind is helpless. So, when you play, do not think of your mental work. Your mind may not be aware that it is thinking of the wrong thing, but it is one thing not to be aware of doing the wrong thing and another thing to concentrate consciously on the right thing. Inside you and all around you there are many beings. Because there is a gap between the mind's concentration and the physical activity, these beings can attack the physical. They need not actually be wrong forces, but they may create unfortunate experiences in life.
Question: How can we spiritually heal injuries?
Sri Chinmoy: It is a matter of inner capacity. One kind of capacity is to heal the injury by bringing down peace and light from above. Another kind of capacity is to ignore the pain altogether. During your meditation, if all of a sudden you have intense aspiration, then you can bring down more light from above to cure your injury. But you have to do this consciously during your meditation. If during the day you casually say, "Oh, how I wish I didn't have any pain!" that will be useless. But while you are meditating, if you suddenly remember your pain, that is the time to pray and bring down more light.
Again, you can increase your capacity to tolerate pain. Now you have pain, let us say, but still you run; whereas if you had had the same kind of pain four years ago perhaps you would not have been able to run. Again, sometimes the pain is unbearable and it is absolutely impossible to run. Then what can you do? But if it is bearable, try to run according to your own capacity. At that time, don't think of how fast this person or that person is running. Just go according to your own capacity and remain cheerful. All the time think that you are running only against yourself.
Again, if it is beyond your capacity to ignore the pain, in addition to praying and meditating, you can also go to the outer doctor. Light is also inside the doctor. But in some cases there is no way to cure the pain.
Question: How do you run through inner pain?
Sri Chinmoy: Inner pain is a joke. Outer pain I believe in. Sometimes I can't place my foot on the ground without getting such pain! But inner pain, which comes from frustration, depression, jealousy and insecurity, is a joke. Inner pain should be discarded like a filthy rag! Outer pain you cannot so easily ignore, but inner pain must be discarded.
If you have inner pain, if you are jealous of someone or are in an undivine consciousness, then the outer running will actually help you. When you are running and perspiring, when you are struggling, at that time the inner pain goes away to some extent. Otherwise, if because you are depressed you don't go out to run, then you are just a fool.
If you feel depressed while you are running, you can sing loudly and deliberately try to sing wrong notes. Then laugh at yourself. Some of my friends used to do this. They were good singers, but deliberately they would sing wrong notes while they were walking, and it would make them laugh. In that way they got rid of depression.
Question: When I run I sometimes get a slight knee pain. Should I stop running at that time?
Sri Chinmoy: If you get just a slight pain in your knee, and if the pain is bearable, then you should continue running. At that time, feel that if you run a hundred metres more, the pain will go away. Then, after you have covered a hundred metres, feel that the pain will definitely stop if you run another hundred metres. If you do this five or six times, then most of the pain will go away. Even if some pain remains, the mind has already taken away your awareness from it. Your mind has forgotten about it. But if the pain is absolutely unbearable, what can you do? You simply have to surrender to it and stop running, at least for a while.
Question: Sometimes I feel pain in my foot, and I start worrying that if I keep running, I might get a stress fracture. This happens even if the pain is not that bad and I know that probably nothing will happen.
Sri Chinmoy: If it is unbearable, excruciating pain, then something serious might happen. But if there is just a tiny pain in your foot, this kind of fear is only false anxiety that is coming to your mind. If you are worried, you can take rest for a few days and see if the pain goes away. If it leaves in just a day or two, you will know that it was nothing serious. In this way you will become more confident that nothing will happen to your foot if you run.
So if the pain is not that serious, you do not have to worry. Your foot is not going to give out. It is only that fear has entered into your mind, and the mind has created false anxiety in you, a false alarm. You should not cherish these fears.
Question: Should we run even when we are extremely tired?
Sri Chinmoy: As a rule, when we are extremely tired it is not advisable to run, for it will not help us in any way. At that time, running will be nothing but fatigue and self-destruction, and it will leave in our mind a bitter taste. But sometimes, even when we are not extremely tired, we feel that we are. At that time we are not actually physically tired. We are only mentally tired or emotionally tired, but the mind convinces us that we are physically tired. Our human lethargy is so clever! It acts like a rogue, a perfect rogue, and we get tremendous joy by offering compassion to our body. We make all kinds of justifications for the body's lethargy and make ourselves feel that the body deserves rest.
So we have to be sincere to ourselves. If we really feel extremely tired, then we should not run. But we have to make sure that it is not our lethargic mind, our lethargic vital or our lethargic physical consciousness that is making us feel that we are extremely tired. This kind of tricky cleverness we have to conquer.
With our imagination-power we can challenge the tricky mind and win. We weaken ourselves by imagining that we are weak. Again, we can strengthen ourselves by imagining that we are strong. Our imagination often compels us to think we cannot do something or cannot say something. We often use imagination in a wrong direction. So instead of letting imagination take us backwards, we should use it to take us forward toward our goal.
Question: How can I go faster? I find it so uninspiring to run slowly.
Sri Chinmoy: To a great extent, speed in running starts with the mind. You have to develop more imagination. Imagine that you are running fast and appreciate your speed. Then let the thrill and joy that you get from your imagination inundate you. This joy will increase your speed. You can also think of some people who really do run fast and try to identify yourself with them.
In your case, you do not have to look very far. Your husband runs much faster than you do. You have seen him running fast many times, so you can identify your legs with his. The next time you go running, as soon as you start, feel that you have borrowed his legs and from then on, whenever you want to run, feel that you will be able to use his legs.
This is all based on imagination. Of course, you can take quite a few exercises to increase your speed. Limbering and stretching exercises will help a little. But imagination plays a great role in increasing speed.
Question: Recently, in a mile race, I ran the first two quarters on my pace, but in the third quarter my concentration went.
Sri Chinmoy: At that time a kind of relaxation or complacent feeling came. You felt that you had achieved your goal. You should have said to yourself, "I have achieved my goal for the first half, but I have another goal." If you always try to go beyond, to transcend, then you will have a better speed. Satisfaction is good, but it is also good to have hunger. God has given you an iota of peace, so you are satisfied. But you should want to have more peace. This hunger for something more we call receptivity. You can increase your receptivity. When you come to a particular standard, you have to say, "Is there anything more I can do?" Then do it.
Question: If someone is near me, I find it easier to maintain the speed I want to maintain. But if no one is in front of me, I find it difficult to concentrate on speed.
Sri Chinmoy: At that time you have to use your stopwatch. If you know you can do under a five-minute pace for seven miles, then try to increase your capacity. You may be ahead of the other runners, but you are not ahead of your best possible time. Suppose you were planning to run at a 4:30 pace, but everyone is behind you, so you are not getting any inspiration or challenge. Just look at your stopwatch and think of it as another rival or competitor. Then you will be inspired to run faster.
Question: Do people really need more sleep when they are training for athletics?
Sri Chinmoy: For ordinary people, it is true. If they run a few miles, they need more sleep. But for spiritual people, especially advanced seekers, it is not necessary. By drawing down cosmic energy, in two minutes they can get the rest of two hours, three hours, four hours. It depends on how effectively you can draw in cosmic energy. But ordinary runners do have to sleep longer.
Question: What time of day is best to run?
Sri Chinmoy: It depends on the individual runner. Whenever the individual feels most physically fit, most vitally fit, most mentally fit and most psychically fit is the best time for that individual to run.
Question: How do you keep your enthusiasm when you start to get tired and exhausted during running?
Sri Chinmoy: In short distances — from one hundred metres to a mile — it is easy to maintain enthusiasm. You get a burst of energy or inspiration and you go. But for long distances, to maintain enthusiasm is very difficult. There are many, many ways to keep your enthusiasm when you are getting tired in long-distance, but here are two ways that are particularly effective.
While running, do not think of yourself as twenty-five or thirty years old. Only think of yourself as being six or seven years old. At the age of six or seven, a child does not sit; he just runs here and there. So imagine the enthusiasm of a young child and identify yourself not with the child but with the source of his enthusiasm. This is one way.
Another secret way, if you are running long distance, is to identify yourself with ten or even twenty runners who are ahead of you. Only imagine the way they are breathing in and breathing out. Then, while you are inhaling, feel that you are breathing in their own breath and that the energy of the twenty runners is entering into you. Then, while you are exhaling, feel that all twenty runners are breathing out your tiredness and lack of enthusiasm.
While you are running, it is difficult for you to feel that cosmic energy is entering into you. So occultly or secretly you will breathe in the breath of twenty runners at a time. This energy which you get, which is nothing but enthusiasm, will let you go ten steps forward. But you have to remember that you are breathing in their breath, their inspiration and determination, and not their tiredness. You have to feel that their breath is like clean, distilled water. If you think of someone who is dying, that person's breath will not help you. But if you think of someone who is running faster than you, his energy will help you. You are not stealing it; only you are taking in the spiritual energy that is all around him and inside him, just as it is inside you. But because he is running faster, you are more conscious of it in him.
Question: How would you describe it when someone "hits the wall" during a marathon?
Sri Chinmoy: Each person has his own description of the wall. What does hitting the wall mean? It means that your exhaustion has touched its ultimate height. You are totally exhausted. You have come to realise that if you run a few more steps, or even one more step, you will collapse. When you reach this point, everything may go blank before your eyes or you may see all black. You might feel that there is a thick wall right in front of you that you can't penetrate, or a vast ocean or a big mountain that will not allow you to go further. It is an obstacle that you cannot push aside, penetrate or go beyond.
If you have really hit the wall, then even with adamantine will you can run only one or two more miles. Hitting the wall is like feeling that all your life-energy has deserted you. It means that you have an absolutely real sense of collapse. Your body gives you the feeling that death is imminent. At that time, real discouragement — physical, vital and mental — assails your life. When you really hit the wall, all your strength and determination desert you.
Question: Why is a short run sometimes less comfortable than a long run?
Sri Chinmoy: When you do a long run, you can go slowly and steadily like an Indian bullock cart. But when you run a short distance, in ten seconds it is over, so naturally you will feel uncomfortable. In a short distance, as soon as the gun is fired, you have to reach the goal. The starting point and the goal are at practically the same place. But in a long-distance run, the goal remains for some time a far cry. During the time that it takes you to reach the goal, you can discover your own way to be physically more comfortable during the run. You can measure your distance mentally and calculate your capacities in your own way; you have the time. But for a short distance, in only a few fleeting seconds you have to reach the goal. You have to give your body, vital, mind, heart and soul most forcefully, if not willingly, to the goal. Therefore, it becomes most uncomfortable.
Question: If your goal is to run fifty miles per week, is it better to run seven miles a day or to vary the distance?
Sri Chinmoy: It is always good to have easy and hard days. It is best to have two easy days and then one hard day. Even having alternate easy and hard days is not good enough. If you run fifteen miles one day, it is not good to run seven or ten miles the next day. Instead, on your hard days cover twenty or twenty-five miles or even a full marathon. Then take two easy days. In this way, you can cover seventy or eighty miles a week.
Only those who are very strong and who are seriously training for long-distance running should do more than seventy miles a week. They can run one hundred miles or one hundred twenty miles. Otherwise, to run more than one hundred miles a week is useless.
Question: Sometimes for days on end I don't feel like running, even though I know it is good for me. How can I overcome this reluctance?
Sri Chinmoy: We have to practise self-discipline. It is by doing something, by becoming something — not necessarily something great or famous — that we can overcome our reluctance. It is through moving — which is progress — and achieving — which is another type of progress — that we can overcome reluctance. In order to overcome reluctance, we have to have a goal and we have to try to reach that goal. By always moving and progressing toward a goal, you not only become a better runner but you also become a better instrument of God.
Question: Sometimes when I start to run I get angry, even furious.
Sri Chinmoy: See if you have had enough rest. Perhaps you are compelling the body to run, but the body is not cooperating because you have not had sufficient sleep on those days. You have a very mild and kind nature, so I think that you are not getting enough rest at night. Then the following morning you curse yourself and ask yourself why you are running. You need more rest to calm your nerves.
Question: Sometimes I feel like going out for a run, but something inside holds me back. It's like an inner battle going on. Yet when I do run I feel very happy.
Sri Chinmoy: We are composed of the body, the vital, the mind, the heart and the soul. These parts are members of the same family. They are supposed to go together. The eldest brother is the soul. Then comes the heart, then the mind, then the vital, then the body. If they stand in line, one after the other, then the soul will be able to pull them — like a string. If they are lined up in this way, then it will be very easy for the soul to pull them along.
Unfortunately, it does not happen this way. The soul will go first, but the heart will not be there. Then with greatest difficulty, the soul will run to find where the heart is hiding. Meanwhile, the mind becomes rebellious and revolts. It says, "No, I won't go behind you." Then the vital becomes absolutely stubborn. It says, "No, I am not going at all!"
What will the body do? The poor body wants to go, but it is not getting any inspiration because the vital and mind are not supporting it. The body wants to go with the soul, so that the outer running will go along with the inner running. But the body sees that the mind does not want to go, the vital does not want to go and the heart does not want to go. Then the body starts doubting if it is doing the right thing. The body says, "If I am doing the right thing in following the soul, then how is it that the heart and the mind, my elder brothers, are not doing it? Perhaps I am not doing the right thing. Perhaps the soul is not telling me the right thing."
If the soul says to pray and meditate, it will be very easy for the body to believe. That is because as soon as we say 'soul', we think of God. We think that inside the soul is God, or that inside God is the soul; the soul and God go together. God has given the message of the inner and outer running to the soul. Now the soul is trying to bring the younger members — the heart, mind, vital and body — along with it. But when the heart, mind and vital do not join with the soul, then suspicion starts in the physical consciousness.
Early in the morning, first the heart says, "Why go out and run? It is time to pray and meditate." Then, after a few minutes, this same heart will have no more energy left to pray and meditate. It will say, "Let me go back to sleep." Then the mind is such a rogue! Whenever the heart is not in tune with the soul, at that time the mind listens to the heart and fully supports the heart. When this kind of separation starts, it is extremely difficult for the body to achieve anything here on earth, on the physical plane.
Question: How can we sustain enthusiasm and freshness in our training and keep it from becoming tedious and boring?
Sri Chinmoy: We can prevent training from becoming tedious and boring if we keep in mind that running is nothing short of a newly-blossomed flower which we are placing each day at the Feet of our Beloved Supreme. We have to feel that this newly-blossomed flower is our soul's daily awakening, a self-giving reality that each day we are offering to our Beloved Supreme. If we can maintain this experience while running, then we will never find our training tedious or boring.
Another way to sustain freshness and enthusiasm in our training is to have a sense of a clear, meaningful and fruitful goal. If we keep in mind this meaningful and fruitful goal, then enthusiasm and freshness will automatically dawn. If we value the goal, then the goal itself will give us enthusiasm and freshness. We are not aware of our goal's conscious eagerness to help us reach it. We think that the goal that is ahead of us is indifferent to us. If we can come to it, well and good; if we cannot come to it, the goal is not going to come to us. We feel that the goal is something stationary. But it is not like that. In the case of a spiritual seeker, the goal is always progressive and this progressive goal is more than eager to help us.
The mother will stand at a particular place and wait for the child to come crawling or running toward her. But the mother is not only passively waiting and observing; she also has tremendous eagerness for the child to reach her. If the mother sees that the child is trying but not succeeding, she will come running toward the child. Similarly, in the inner world the goal actually comes toward the runner. If we value the goal and feel that the goal is something worthwhile, if we feel that it has boundless things to offer us, then naturally the goal itself will inwardly help us. The goal does not want us always to feel that it is a far cry; it wants us to reach it.
Question: I find that sometimes I go through a period of making very good progress in running: increasing my mileage, feeling great, getting good speed. And then after some time everything falls apart and my running goes downhill.
Sri Chinmoy: It happens to everyone. Life is not always smooth sailing; it goes up and down. The main thing is to get satisfaction. While running, when you touch your peak you are very happy. When you are unable to reach your peak, you should not feel that it is your fault. It is not that you have deliberately injured yourself. You have not said to your body, "I fed you so many times; now I want to starve you." If you are deliberately enjoying your lack of speed or lack of enthusiasm then you are to be blamed. But if circumstances have led you to this condition, please try to maintain your equanimity and peace of mind. Feel that you are going through a phase that may last for three or four weeks, but that eventually it will pass.
While you are in this deplorable condition, try to think of the summit which you reached two or three weeks earlier, and try to remember the joy that you felt. Then you will see that the joy you got from your previous achievements will carry you through, and very soon you will not only reach but transcend your previous height. You are not fooling yourself; you are only bringing happiness into your system, and this happiness is confidence. Again, confidence itself is happiness. Try to feel that your problem is just a small obstacle, a hurdle that you will soon overcome. Then you will be able to diminish the frustration that you now feel. Once you diminish your frustration, again in a week or so you will be able to regain your capacity. But if you maintain or increase your frustration, then the problem will linger. It may go on for two or three weeks.
These downhill periods happen to everyone. Is there any runner who can say that he has never had any difficulties? Only for short-distance runners is it possible to maintain their performance. If they are not injured, then for months and months they can keep the same speed. But for long-distance runners it is not possible.
Question: Some days I run much better and faster than others. How can I remain cheerful about my running on days when I cannot run my fastest?
Sri Chinmoy: Your running capacity changes every day because every day you are in a different consciousness. One day you feel light. One day you feel heavy. One day you feel inspiration and another day you feel no inspiration. But once you have been running for a while, you will have developed a basic running capacity, and this capacity will determine how fast you can run even on your slow days. If you can run a seven-minute mile, then one day if you are not in a dynamic mood, you will go at a nine or ten-minute pace. You will not go at a fourteen or fifteen-minute pace. Even on your worst day, you are not going to run slower than a nine or ten-minute pace.
On a slow day, if you want to maintain the same joy that you have when you are running well, you can play a trick on yourself. Imagine that instead of being forced to run at a ten-minute pace that day, you decided to run at that pace. If you feel that you are compelled to run slowly, then you will feel that your freedom has gone away, and you don't want to be anybody's slave. But if you feel that it was you who commanded your body to go at a ten-minute pace, then you won't feel miserable. Right from the beginning, if you feel that it was your decision to run at that speed, you will be as happy as if you were running at a seven-minute pace.
Question: How careful should I be about choosing a running coach? What qualities should I look for?
Sri Chinmoy: Some coaches know many things worth learning, but they lead a very undivine life. If a coach has some spirituality in him along with his coaching capacity, then consider him. However, even if he is a good coach, if he is also full of aggressive, lower vital qualities, then be careful. Indirectly or unconsciously you will invite his undivine qualities into your own life.
We unconsciously try to emulate people. Many, many students ruin their lives when they are learning something from their teachers. A teacher may be good in his specific field, but when students become enamoured of the teacher's capacities and the teacher is not spiritual in the vast sense of the term, then unconsciously the students suffer. They lose their ideals. That is why very often I do not advise my students to take special instruction.
You have to be very careful and determine how much you can learn from a teacher without affecting your spiritual life. If you are very good in the spiritual life and start learning from a coach who is not very spiritual, even though you may start shining in your outer running, your life may be adversely affected. It may happen that your goal in life becomes totally different and you start to ignore your spiritual life. That would be a bad mistake. But again, you may be lucky enough to get a good coach. He does not have to be a disciple of a spiritual Master — far from it. He may be a spiritual person and not even be aware of his spirituality. There are many like that. If he has goodness, kindness, a clear mind and a sympathetic heart, then he is more than spiritual.
A runner may develop a very strong inner relationship with his coach. Then what happens? At the start of a run, or even during the race, if the runner invokes the presence of his coach — his style, his encouragement, his inspiration and dynamic push — at that time the runner can draw extra energy and extra force from his coach. Again, suppose there is some great runner that you look up to and idolise. Even if he is not your coach, if you consciously invoke his soul during the race, you can get added strength and added inspiration from him.
Question: I find that during races my aspiration varies a lot, sometimes going up, sometimes going down. Is there any way that I can maintain my aspiration throughout the whole race?
Sri Chinmoy: This is my simple suggestion. Before the race starts, meditate most soulfully for five minutes. Try to make yourself feel that you are not the runner, but that somebody else is running in and through you. You are only the witness, the spectator. Since somebody else is running, you are at perfect liberty to watch and enjoy. While you are running, sometimes it is very difficult to enjoy the race. Either the competitive spirit or frustration is killing you, or your body is not abiding by your mental will and you feel that you are literally dying. So many problems arise.
But before you start, if you can convince yourself that you are a divine observer and that somebody else is running in you, through you and for you, then fear, doubt, frustration, anxiety and other negative forces will not be able to assail your mind. Once these thoughts occupy the mind, they try to enter into the vital and then into the physical. Once they enter into the physical, they create tension, and this makes you lose all your power of concentration. But if you feel that you are not the runner, if you feel that you are observing the race from the beginning to the end, then there will be no tension, and these forces will not attack you. This is the only way to overcome these forces and maintain the highest type of concentration from the beginning to the end.
This is what I do. As a runner I am useless, but right at the beginning I try to become an instrument and make myself feel that somebody else, my Beloved Supreme, is running in and through me. Right at the beginning of the race I offer my gratitude-heart to the Supreme, and at the end, after I finish the race, I also offer my gratitude. If I can offer my soulful gratitude to my Inner Pilot before the race and after the race also, then there can be no frustration, no decline of aspiration. The aspiration and power of concentration will remain the same throughout the race.
Question: Before a 400-metre race I am full of anxiety. I feel afraid of becoming too exhausted, even though I know from experience that this fear is baseless. Why am I so anxious?
Sri Chinmoy: You have run 400 metres many, many times and you are still alive. The 400 metres is a most difficult race because it demands both stamina and speed. In most running, you need either speed or stamina. For long-distance you need stamina and for short-distance you need speed. But the 400 metres demands both stamina and speed. So first of all, you should recognise that this is a most difficult race.
But since you have run it many, many times, you know that you are not going to die. The difficulty, in your case, is not actually fear of exhaustion, but a subtle fear that you may not be first, which creates anxiety. You do not actually worry that after 400 metres you are going to collapse and die. That fear would be absolutely baseless. The real fear is that someone is going to beat you.
You have to learn the difference between anxiety and alertness. Anxiety and alertness are two different dynamic energies. With anxiety, you are always worrying about others and comparing yourself to them. But with alertness, you simply want to do the best you can. When the starter is about to fire the gun, you should be alert but not anxious. You should not say, "If he comes in first and I come in last, no harm." No, let him do his best; but you also have to do your best, and this requires alertness.
When you run, try to feel that you are the only runner in the race. Before the gun goes off, do not think of others; think only of yourself — that you are going to run at your own fastest speed. You want to see your capacity. Whether you come in first or last is for God to decide. So you will remain alert, but you will not think of others. In this way there can be no anxiety.
Question: How can our outer smile help our running?
Sri Chinmoy: Your outer smile can help your running considerably. When you smile, you disarm your opponent. Take running, for the time being, as your opponent. While you are fighting or struggling with your enemy, which is running, if you give a smile, naturally your enemy will lose some of its strength. So play a trick on your enemy by smiling. This may sound absurd, but I assure you it is true. Just think of the running world as an enemy and weaken the strength of this enemy by giving a smile.
Question: What should my attitude be when someone else wins a race I am running in?
Sri Chinmoy: As children, we learn how to walk only after repeated falls. We stumble and then we get up again. We become a fast runner after losing the race many times. We become good wrestlers by being defeated many times.
If I feel sad when I observe someone else winning a race, this will not help me. He has the capacity, so he will win. I do not have the capacity, so I will not win. But if I can appreciate his speed, automatically some of his capacity will enter into me. Through sincere appreciation we gain capacity.
When I see that somebody is running the fastest, I really feel that I am that person. Ask me to run with the fastest runner and I will be nowhere. But when the person runs, I get great joy because I feel that it is I who have run the fastest. If you can identify with other people's successes instead of envying them, you will get a great deal more joy out of life. And of course, if you can identify with their defeats as well, you will learn sympathy and kindness as well as enriching your own experience.
Question: What is a winning attitude?
Sri Chinmoy: A winning attitude, from the spiritual point of view, is a self-giving attitude. If you have a sincere self-giving attitude, then you are more than ready to conquer your own ignorance. In ordinary human life we try to win by defeating others. In the spiritual life we try to win by conquering the unaspiring and the undivine in ourselves. The winning attitude is our eagerness to conquer the qualities that are not willing to progress or that are trying to destroy us.
Question: What do you think is the best attitude for an athlete to have during training and during competition, and how should these two attitudes work together?
Sri Chinmoy: The athlete, during practice, should feel that he is preparing himself to become a beautiful flower. Then, at the time of competition, he has to feel that he has grown into the beautiful flower and now is all ready to place himself at the Feet of his Lord Supreme. But I am talking about the seeker-athlete. If the athlete is not a seeker, then he has to feel that there is a special day for each and every thing in life. To observe that special day, we have to prepare ourselves for a long time. It is like a final examination. At the time of the final examination, we see the results of our preparation. So it is a momentous, most significant day. An athlete cannot maintain his seriousness, his willingness and his enthusiasm at the same level throughout the year. So on one particular day, the day of competition, he can maintain all the good qualities that are needed to prove to the world at large that he is an excellent athlete.
Question: During training an athlete sacrifices a great deal of time, and yet on the race day itself he may not be able to do well. What do you think is the attitude he should have toward this sort of thing?
Sri Chinmoy: It entirely depends on what kind of athlete one is. If one is a spiritual athlete, a seeker-athlete, then every day is a golden opportunity. No one day is special. Every day every hour, is a golden opportunity to become a better instrument of God; it is a life-long process. Therefore, every time one practises, one has to devote and surrender oneself to the Will of the Supreme.
If someone is not a seeker, but an ordinary athlete with abundant capacities, then he should feel that life is not a matter of self-giving or sacrifice. Life is only a matter of giving and taking. When he is training, which means he is preparing himself, at that time he is giving. Then, on the particular day when there is an athletic meet, on that day he is receiving world recognition. So the athlete gives and gives and gives for a few months and then there comes a time when he receives appreciation, admiration and adoration from the world. So how can there be any sacrifice? It is all give and take.
An athlete practises seriously for three or four months, and then during the competition he has to show his capacity. If he does poorly, he may think, "Oh, I made such sacrifices for so many months. Now what a deplorable result!" But it was not a sacrifice. He was only giving for a period of time, and now he is receiving the result in the form of an experience. The seeker who recognises his inner oneness with the rest of the world will not feel sad and miserable if he does poorly. Only he will say, "I did what I could during my practice, and now the result I am taking as an experience. Whether I was first, last or in between, the result has been given to me by my Lord Supreme as an experience." This kind of experience — both success and failure — is absolutely necessary for everybody in every walk of life.
From the spiritual point of view, we say there is no such thing as sacrifice when there is a feeling of oneness. The husband is offering something to the wife, or vice versa. On the strength of his oneness, the husband is doing something for his wife, and on the strength of her oneness, the wife is doing something for her husband. So here there is no sacrifice. I pick up a fruit with my left hand and put it into my right hand, and then with my right hand I eat it. My left hand comes to my right hand, and my right hand comes to my mouth; it is all oneness. But if you want to separate the different parts of my being, you can say that the left hand made a tremendous sacrifice when it gave the fruit to the right hand, and that the right hand made a tremendous sacrifice when it put the fruit into my mouth. If there is a sense of separativity, there is always sacrifice; otherwise, it is all oneness, all oneness. It is all part of God's Cosmic Game that I do this and you do that. There is no I, there is no you, there is no winner or loser. It is all one reality, a oneness-reality.
Question: Does an athlete who has spiritual purity have greater capacity than an athlete who does not care for the spiritual life?
Sri Chinmoy: Suppose there are two athletes who, on the physical plane, have the same standard. If you are pure and the other is impure, what will happen? If you really have the same standard, then definitely you will be able to defeat the impure one. As soon as you touch the shot, you will be able to control your vital thoughts, mental thoughts and physical thoughts. But when the other one holds it, he will look around to see if others are looking at him. When he is thinking of the audience, some of his strength goes away. As soon as he identifies himself with the audience, what he gets is their worries, anxieties and tension.
But when you are throwing, as soon as you hold the shot, there is only you and the Supreme. You are not allowing your vital to come forward. You don't open the physical door. You don't open the mental door. Purity is your bodyguard. It does not allow any wrong force to come. You have no idea who is good, who is bad, who is your enemy. Your purity-guard is very strict. It will not allow anything wrong to enter into your mind. So if one athlete has the same capacity as someone else, the one who is purer is bound to win, because he will not allow himself to be attacked by outside forces at the time of competition.
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.
Question: What should athletes do, from the spiritual point of view, to increase their performance?
Sri Chinmoy: If one is a seeker-athlete, then before he runs or jumps, before he enters into physical activities, he should offer a few moments of gratitude to his Inner Pilot for inspiring him to become an athlete. An athlete is he who runs, who values time, who values speed and who believes in a goal that ever moves forward. There are millions and billions of people on earth who are not athletes, but he already is an athlete. So if he can offer his gratitude for that, then he increases his receptivity-power.
If he increases his receptivity-power, then he automatically increases his athletic capacity. For it is receptivity that increases capacity. The moment he increases his receptivity, he is blessed with more capacity, abundant capacity, boundless capacity. And to increase his receptivity there is only one way: to offer his gratitude-heart for what he has already become.
Question: Does the concentration that athletes use help them in any way spiritually?
Sri Chinmoy: Although their concentration is in the physical plane and the vital plane and not in the psychic plane, still it does help. It is a power, like money-power, which can be applied to any purpose. But if you want to buy something subtle, with money-power you cannot do it. For subtle things you need a different type of concentration.
There is a great difference between psychic concentration and physical or vital concentration. Psychic concentration is really difficult — much more difficult than physical or vital concentration. It is like the elder brother. But the younger brother can definitely help the elder brother. The concentration-power that you learn from athletics will definitely add to your psychic concentration. And if someone has psychic concentration as well as physical concentration, vital concentration and mental concentration, then that person can easily be a great champion in the athletic world as well as in the spiritual world.
Question: Is it better to concentrate or meditate when running a marathon?
Sri Chinmoy: It is always advisable to concentrate while running a marathon. If you meditate, then you will feel that you are either on the top of a snow-capped mountain or at the bottom of the sea. That is the very highest type of meditation, but that will not help your running. But if you concentrate on running, then at every moment you will be able to regulate your steps and your forward movement. Also, discouraging, destructive and uncomely thoughts will not be able to lower your consciousness. If your consciousness is not lowered, then naturally you will run faster.
Before running, however, meditation is good to make the mind calm and quiet so that wrong forces do not enter. When you meditate, your mind acquires some poise. Then, while you are running, if you can bring forward this poise, it will help you overcome the mental frustration that often comes while running long distances. When you are running long distances, all kinds of frustrating thoughts will come and make you feel that what you are doing is useless. Or the mind will say, "Oh, this is boring," and you will not want to take one more step. But if you were able to meditate earlier in the day, then you will have acquired some solid inner strength that will carry you mile after mile. Also, meditation teaches you how to empty your mind of thoughts. And if you can keep thoughts out of your mind while you are running, it will help you tremendously — far beyond your imagination. At that time a new creation will be able to dawn inside you, and this will give you added inspiration and receptivity.
But while you are actually running, it is better to concentrate rather than meditate. Another thing you can do is chant or sing spiritual songs soulfully and powerfully. This will also help keep your mind from becoming tired and frustrated and interfering with your running.
Question: Suppose a race is very close and the capacity of two athletes is the same, but one of them is aspiring. Does God's Grace let the one who is aspiring win?
Sri Chinmoy: It depends on the Supreme's Will. If someone is very aspiring, the Supreme may tell the person, "All right, since you are sincerely dedicated to My Will, you don't have to win in the Olympics." Again, if someone is a seeker and he also has very great potential as an athlete, then the Supreme may give him just a little bit of success in sports. But if somebody with great aspiration becomes only an athlete, it will be a waste of his capacity.
Question: How can we effectively channel physical energy into spiritual energy?
Sri Chinmoy: We have to know that physical energy has only one source, and that source is spiritual energy. As long as we remain in the body-consciousness, we are not aware of this. But when we go deep within, we see that spiritual energy is the source of physical, vital and mental energy. When spiritual energy enters into the physical, it becomes somewhat polluted. It is unable to maintain its pristine purity. What we need is purity on the inner plane and dedication on the outer plane. Inner purity we can get through aspiration, and outer dedication comes through gradual inner purification and inner awareness. When we have both inner purity and outer dedication, then spiritual energy enters into physical energy, and physical energy at that time becomes an added strength to spiritual energy.
Question: Why do some runners love running while others hate it?
Sri Chinmoy: Life is like that. Sometimes there are things that I don't like, but I know that they are good for me. I like Indian food best, but I do eat other kinds of food. Similarly, some people will like tennis or volleyball best, but they will still run a few miles a day, in the same way that a runner might play a few games of tennis.
It is all a matter of interest. Somebody may have interest in only one item. Again, he may be interested in two or three things. I may like one kind of food best, but if I eat the food that you like, I am not going to die; and you are not going to die if you eat the food that I like. It is only that each individual has developed different interests. If someone does not like to run, he may still run, but he may not be as good as someone who runs all the time with real enthusiasm.
Spiritual people often like running because it reminds them of their inner journey. The outer running reminds them that a higher, deeper, more illumining and more fulfilling goal is ahead of them in the inner world, and for that reason running gives them real joy.
Question: What are the best qualities of running as opposed to playing tennis?
Sri Chinmoy: Running reminds us of our inner journey, which is ahead of us. The goal is ahead and we are running towards the goal. It is a great feeling, which eventually grows into a great achievement. Playing tennis reminds us of being an instrument. The tennis ball is a self-giving instrument, always trying to please us in our own way. Whichever way we want to strike it, the tennis ball surrenders. It is always ready to listen to us, according to our capacity. So tennis reminds us of a divine goal, which is to become a perfect instrument of God and to please God in His own Way, and running reminds us of our continuous journey along Eternity's Road toward the destined goal. Tennis and running are like two paths going to the same goal; they both ultimately reach the goal, but they reach it from different directions.
Question: I consider myself a tennis player, not a runner. On the one hand I get more joy from playing tennis, but on the other hand I get more satisfaction if I run a marathon. Why is this?
Sri Chinmoy: You can play tennis for hours and hours. It is easy for you to do well and you enjoy it. But people get more satisfaction from doing the thing that they find most difficult. On the one hand, we like to do things that are easy. On the other hand, we also want the joy that comes from doing whatever is most difficult.
The grass is always greener on the other side. To accomplish something that is more difficult for us to do gives us much more joy. If we have a tennis ball to play with, we will start looking for a basketball, just because we don't have one. But if we had a basketball, we would start looking for a tennis ball. Again, some people will say that they need both a tennis ball and a basketball.
There is also another aspect to this. Even though we may want to run only 100 metres, we want to get the glory that comes from running a marathon. When somebody runs a marathon, he is appreciated and admired. So we feel that a marathon is more important than a 100-metre run. The most difficult thing impresses us most. This is human nature.
Question: How can we benefit spiritually from training for and running marathons?
Sri Chinmoy: The marathon is a long journey. Of course, there is also the ultramarathon, but the marathon is unique and it will always remain unparalleled among long-distance runs. Just as the marathon is a long journey on the outer plane, so is spirituality a long, longer, longest journey on the inner plane. Your own spiritual run is birthless and deathless; it is endless.
When you run a marathon, you are trying to accomplish on the physical plane something most difficult and arduous. When you do this, it gives you joy because it reminds you of what you are trying to accomplish on the inner plane. As you are determined to complete the longest journey on the outer plane, the marathon, so are you determined to reach the Goal in your inner journey. The one journey will always remind you of the other. The outer journey will remind you of your inner journey toward God-realisation, and the inner journey will remind you of your outer journey toward God-manifestation.
Question: Does the triathlon have any spiritual or symbolic significance?
Sri Chinmoy: I have the deepest admiration for those who participate in triathlons. Swimming reminds us of our spiritual life. Right now we are swimming in the sea of ignorance, but we are praying to our Beloved Supreme and meditating on Him to be able to swim in the sea of Light and Delight. When we are running, we are reminded of our birthless and deathless journey along Eternity's Road. Then, while we are cycling, we are reminding ourselves of evolution, of how the world is evolving in cycles. When we think of our planet, we think of a wheel turning; our life also is evolving like a wheel. So cycling reminds us of the process of evolution and of how everything goes in cycles. Once upon a time, in the hoary past, we lived in an era of truth. Now we are living in an era of falsehood. There was a time when truth reigned supreme, but now we see at every moment and every place that falsehood is reigning supreme. Our goal is to bring back again the golden age in which truth will be our inner guide and will reign supreme. So cycling reminds us of evolution, inner and outer.
I appreciate and admire the athletes who have tremendous capacity in these three major events: running, cycling and swimming. Each event is so significant. We want to swim in the sea of Light and Delight and not in the sea of ignorance-night. We are running along Eternity's Road. And in the process of evolution, our life-process, our life-energy — everything — is spinning so fast. The faster we can go, the sooner we will be able to have outer success and inner progress. And with our outer success and inner progress, we will be able to arrive at our goal infinitely faster than otherwise.
Question: Sometimes I feel that running a marathon is like the struggle of life.
Sri Chinmoy: You are absolutely right. When one runs a marathon or any long distance, one knows what life is: a struggle from the beginning to the end. We expect at every moment that the members of our inner family — the body, vital, mind and heart — will cooperate. But after a few miles the problem starts; they all revolt. They all say, "Give up! Get off the course!" We beg the body to carry us to the finish line, but the body is not listening. The vital also is not listening and the mind is constantly rejecting the idea. Then we lose all determination. So the marathon gives us a prime example of the struggle of human life.
Question: Why do you encourage your students to participate in and to organise endurance events like triathlons or long-distance races?
Sri Chinmoy: I encourage and inspire my students to organise and participate in triathlons, long-distance races and short-distance races precisely because I feel that the world needs dynamism. The outer world needs dynamism and the inner world needs peace. We are all seekers; so we pray and meditate in order to have peace. Again, we feel that if we can be dynamic, then we will be able to accomplish much in our outer life. To be dynamic we need physical fitness at every moment, and running helps us considerably to keep physically fit. Also, running reminds us of our eternal journey in which we walk, march and run along Eternity's Road to our eternal Goal.
Question: What is the spiritual purpose of competitive sports?
Sri Chinmoy: Our aim is not to become the world's best athlete. Our aim is to keep the body fit, to develop dynamism and to give the vital innocent joy. Our aim should not be to surpass others but to constantly surpass our own previous achievements. We cannot properly evaluate our own capacity unless we have some standard of comparison. Therefore, we compete not for the sake of defeating others but in order to bring forward our own capacity. Our best capacity comes forward only when there are other people around us. They inspire us to bring forward our utmost capacity, and we inspire them to bring forward their utmost capacity. This is why we have competitive sports.
Always there should be a goal. Having a goal does not mean that we have to try to defeat the world's top runners, far from it. In the spiritual life, there is no competition. But there is something which is very essential, necessary and inevitable, which we call progress. Our goal should be our own progress, and progress itself is the most illumining experience.
Let us say that we want to make progress; we want to transcend ourselves. Now, if somebody else is with us, immediately his mind or our mind will think that we are competing. In the ordinary life, we compete with others to gain supremacy. But in the spiritual life, we are not in competition with others. We are only trying to transcend our own capacity.
We can think of ourselves as two halves: imperfection is one half, and our sincere cry for perfection is the other half. One side is weakness, and the other side is strength. With our inner cry for perfection, let us run towards our destination and reach the illumination-shore. When our being is fully illumined, then dark, ignorant forces are afraid to come near us. Before we reach the destination, they challenge us. But once we reach the illumination-destination, the ignorant forces do not dare enter into us because they feel that they will be totally destroyed. They do not know that they will only be transformed and illumined.
Question: Does the spiritual life actually change the physical form?
Sri Chinmoy: Yes, the spiritual life does change the physical form if while practising spirituality you care for the physical. There are many spiritual Masters who practise spirituality and also care for the physical. I am one of those. Even while I was in India I took regular physical exercise as well as meditating. Again, there are many Masters who don't care for the physical.
The spiritual life does have the capacity to change the physical, but if we do not consciously use the spiritual life to help the body, then naturally the body will respond only to a limited extent. It depends on the seeker — whether he wants his spiritual life to enter into his body-consciousness or whether he wants to have two separate existences. I feel that the two should go together. But again, it is useless if the body becomes strong but one is not aspiring. The body and soul have to go simultaneously on the spiritual journey.
Question: How important is it for a spiritual aspirant to remain physically fit?
Sri Chinmoy: Physical fitness is of great importance in our life. If the body is in good condition, then we can perform all our life-activities well. So it is important to run or do physical exercises every day in order to become strong, healthy and dynamic. If we are physically fit, we will be able to keep ailments and other uninvited guests from entering into us.
In the past, people cared for the fitness of the body because they knew that if they had a healthy body, then they would be able to stay on earth longer. If they were spiritual people, they felt that a healthy body would enable them to continue praying and meditating for many more years. Today also we know that if the body is full of sickness, then we will not be able to pray and meditate well. For weeks and months we may suffer both physically and spiritually.
We have the body and we have the soul. A spiritual person has to give equal importance to both the body and the soul. If he pays attention only to the body, if he becomes physically strong but spiritually very weak, then for him there will be no peace of mind or inner happiness. Again, if he pays attention only to prayer and meditation and neglects the body, then his body will not be a fit instrument to reveal and manifest God. In the morning he will try to pray to God, but he will have to stop because he has a headache, upset stomach and so forth.
If someone does not get any exercise at all, then the physical will remain unlit, lethargic and a real hindrance to the aspirant. If the physical consciousness does not aspire, it will remain separated from the soul. Then rest assured, you will never be able to achieve perfection. The physical has to aspire in its own way to increase its capacity so that it can hold light. Then the physical will contribute to the spiritual and you will be able to aspire and manifest much more. So physical fitness and spirituality must go together. It is like having two legs. With one leg I cannot walk; I need two legs to reach my destination.
Question: Is the practice of sports contrary to spiritual tradition?
Sri Chinmoy: There are many Indian ashrams where they say that running is not meant for spiritual people. They also say that singing is a waste of time. Some spiritual Masters will say, "Singing is all vital. Running is for animals in the jungle." So when I ask my students to sing spiritual songs and to practice sports, already we are fighting against an old tradition. Again, it is not very old. In the absolutely ancient tradition, in Vedic times and in the time of the Mahabharata, they practised archery and all sorts of things; they were physically strong. Then came an era for lethargy-prone people, so they separated spirituality very nicely from the physical, the vital and the mind. They created a big gap between the two and said, "If you are spiritual, you cannot do physical things, and if you are physically active, you cannot pray and meditate." But we say, "No, spirituality can be in the physical and the physical can be in the spiritual." This is our philosophy.
You are praying in the morning and then you are going out running. So everything you are doing together. This moment you are taking a step with your left leg; the next moment, with your right leg. Outer running you are doing and inner running you are doing. Inwardly you are concentrating and outwardly you are taking exercise. So for you, the body and the soul are going together.
Now, once the body has full faith in the soul and wants to go to the soul directly — without the help of the vital, mind or even the heart — then what will happen? When the vital sees that the physical consciousness all the time is in the soul and the body is radiating light, the vital will become miserable. First it will become jealous; then it will surrender and also go to the soul. Then, once the mind sees that both the body and the vital are with the soul, it will go there also. Then the heart will say, "O my God, I am so stupid. So many times I was with the soul. Why do I not stay there nowadays?" Then it, too, will go. So if the body can keep a direct connection with the soul, then the vital, the mind and the heart will also go. But one of them has to be convinced that the soul is always right. Either the mind or the vital or the body has to be convinced. So if the soul can convince one of the members, then the others will follow.
Question: Would you say that today people are turning to running as a kind of supplement to their spiritual lives?
Sri Chinmoy: You are using the term 'spirituality'. But in this case, let us use the term 'happiness'. Everybody wants to be happy. There are many ways to be happy, but many people have discovered that running is a most effective way to bring about happiness. Running demands not only the fitness of the body but the fitness of the vital, mind and heart as well. Sometimes the body is fit enough to run, but the mind is not ready. Sometimes the mind wants to run, but the body does not want to cooperate. When it is a matter of running, all the members of the family — the body, vital, mind and heart — have to work together.
It is like a family gathering, a family party. The head of the family has invited all the members to come and eat. If one son comes and another does not, the parent cannot be happy. Through running, the soul wants to offer a feast to all its children. Its joy will not be complete if even one member — the body, vital, mind or heart — does not participate. What running is doing is keeping the body, vital, mind and heart fit so that the soul can get complete happiness. The soul is happy when it sees that all its children have come to enjoy the feast.
Question: Does running increase the spiritual purity and speed even of unaspiring persons?
Sri Chinmoy: Definitely it increases the speed of unaspiring persons, and also it helps their spiritual purity. There are various reasons for this. The main reason is that running reminds us of our inner goal. Whether we consciously run toward the goal or not, our very feeling that there is a goal helps us considerably. There are many who are not aware of any goal, and they make practically no progress. Again, there are those who are aware of the goal but, at the same time, do not do what is necessary in order to reach the goal.
It is like different types of seekers in a boat. Some of them are observing the sea and helping the pilot; they are excellent seekers. Then there are some who are not helping the pilot in any way; but just because they are in the boat, they are progressing. And there are some who are not in the boat at all. They are like the people who do not run at all, either inwardly or outwardly. So, if one can run, then unconsciously if not consciously, one will be aware of one's progress, and this awareness is nothing short of an increase in purity and speed.
Question: How can running help me overcome my spiritual weaknesses and impurities?
Sri Chinmoy: While you are running — especially when you are tired — you are much more conscious of your breathing. You are more aware of when you are inhaling and when you are exhaling. While running, when you inhale, you can consciously invoke divine energy to energise you. This divine energy energises the willing reality in you and illumines the unlit reality in you so that you can become a perfect instrument of God. When you breathe in the divine energy, automatically it changes or transforms undivine forces into divine forces.
Each time you breathe in, if you can repeat just one time God's Name, or 'Supreme', or whatever divine name or form comes to mind, then that spiritual thought will increase your purity. Either it turns into purity within you or it grants purity to you. Then, when you breathe out, feel that a new eagerness and a new promise are going out from you to the Universal Consciousness. This new promise is nothing short of your sincere willingness and eagerness to become a good and perfect instrument of the Supreme.
Question: Can running help get rid of frustration and anger?
Sri Chinmoy: Running is an excellent way to rid oneself of frustration and anger. If you are really angry with someone, go and run. After a mile or so you will see that your anger has gone away, either because you are totally exhausted or because the satisfaction that you gain from physical exertion has replaced your anger.
In India one of my mentors used to say that if we were angry, we should jog in place and curse the other person. Instead of telling us to pray to God to take away our anger, he told his students to jog. He always said that we didn't have to cover any distance — just jog in place. Within a minute or two all our anger would go away. He knew that running could be an effective method of ridding ourselves of negative emotions.
Question: Does inner running help our outer running?
Sri Chinmoy: Our inner running definitely helps us in our outer running. Through prayer and meditation, we can develop intense will power, and this will power can help us do extremely well in our outer running. Meditation is stillness, calmness, quietness, while the running consciousness is all dynamism. Again, the runner's outer speed has a special kind of poise or stillness at its very heart. An airplane travels very fast, yet inside the plane we feel no movement at all. It is all tranquility, all peace; and this inner tranquility we can bring to our outer life. In fact, the outer life, the outer movement, can be successful only when it comes from the inner poise. If there is no poise, then there can be no successful outer movement. Poise is an unseen power, and this unseen power is always ready to come to the aid of the outer runner.
Question: For a serious runner, is there any difference between aspiration and ambition?
Sri Chinmoy: There is a great difference between aspiration and ambition. If a runner wants to exert himself to his utmost capacity and reach his best running speed, then that is his aspiration. But when there is ambition, immediately a kind of rivalry starts. Ambition wants to be the best in everything, but aspiration is different. It says, "I will do my best. If I want to engage in sports, I shall have to practise running. But the result, the achievement, will be entirely at the Feet of the Supreme."
Question: In running it is helpful to have a coach. Do we also need a coach for inner running?
Sri Chinmoy: If I want to learn how to sprint, I need a teacher. I may be inspired to run, but if someone has not taught me how to run properly, how to take long strides, how to move my hands and so forth, then naturally I will not be able to run fast. If I want to do anything on earth, I need a teacher to show me the best possible way. It is a matter of how fast I want to go. In the spiritual life I can stumble, I can walk or I can run the fastest. When I have a Master, I can run the fastest because he offers me his own inner strength, protection, concern and compassion and God's Light.
While running, one has to run in a particular lane. If a runner is constantly changing lanes, then he will be disqualified, for he is disturbing others and there will be a calamity. For inner running also, there is the necessity of a particular lane, a particular path. In the spiritual life, one must choose a path. Otherwise, if one is constantly changing his path — today this path, tomorrow that path, the day after some other path — then he is only confusing matters and he will not be able to run fast.
Question: Did God really intend everyone to run?
Sri Chinmoy: In God's case, there is no difference between His sleeping and His running. Even while sleeping, He runs the fastest. And when He is sleeping, He knows that He is running. In the case of an ordinary human being, it is different. When you run, then only do you know that you are running. But when you are sleeping, you do not feel that you are running, unless you have wild dreams that you are running faster than the fastest. But God, even when He is sleeping, knows that He is running.
God created two things for the human mind: running and sleeping. You can say that you have already done your share of sleeping. But God says, "Since you have pleased Me by sleeping, now please Me also by running." So God did intend everybody to run. Running means speed, both on the inner plane and the outer plane. God's Poise is speed, God's Peace is speed. How will He go beyond His Goal if there is no speed? If there is no running, how can there be transcendence?
Question: Do both activity and meditation form the essence of your teaching?
Sri Chinmoy: Our philosophy does not negate either the outer life or the inner life. Most human beings negate the inner life. They feel that the inner life is not important as long as they can exist on earth. Again, there are a few who think that the outer life is not necessary. They feel that the best thing is to enter into the Himalayan caves and lead a life of solitude, since the outer life is so painful and full of misunderstanding.
We do not believe in living either a life of solitude or an ordinary human life — the so-called modern life that depends on machines and not on the inner reality, the soul. We try to synthesise and harmonise the outer life and the inner life. The outer life is like a beautiful flower and the inner life is its fragrance. If there is no fragrance, then we cannot appreciate the flower. Again, if there is no flower, how can there be any fragrance? So the inner life and the outer life must go together.
The body is like a temple and the soul or inner reality is like the shrine inside the body-temple. If the temple does not have a shrine, then we cannot appreciate the temple. Again, if we do not keep the temple in good condition, then how can we take proper care of the shrine? We have to keep the body fit, and for this, running is of considerable help. If we are physically fit, then we will be more inspired to get up early in the morning to meditate.
True, the inspiration to meditate comes from within, but if we are healthy, then it will be much easier for us to get up at five or six o'clock to pray and meditate. In this way the inner life is being helped by the outer life. Again, if we are inspired to get up early to meditate, then we will also be able to go out and run. Here we see that the outer life is being helped by the inner life.
Both outer running and inner running are important. A marathon is twenty-six miles. Let us say that twenty-six miles is our ultimate goal. When we first take up running, we cannot run that distance. But by practising every day we develop more stamina, speed and perseverance. Gradually we transcend our limited capacity, and eventually we reach our goal. In the inner life our prayer and meditation is our inner running. If we pray and meditate every day, we increase our inner capacity.
The body's capacity and the soul's capacity, the body's speed and the soul's speed, go together. The outer running reminds us of something higher and deeper — the soul — which is running along Eternity's Road. Running and physical fitness help us both in our inner life of aspiration and in our outer life of activity.
Question: What does your slogan mean: "Run and Become, Become and Run"?
Sri Chinmoy: If we run, we see our capacities becoming fully manifested. Previously our capacities were dormant; they didn't function inside us. But when we run, we bring to the fore our hidden capacities and are able to do something and become something.
But once we have become something, that is not the end. Still we have to go forward, because we are eternal pilgrims. Everything in us is transcending. It is like a child. To learn the alphabet is his first goal. He studies and learns it. But will he then give up? No. His second goal is to go to school. Then he wants to go to college.
A runner brings forward his capacity and becomes something. Then he looks around and sees some champion runners, and he gets the inspiration to try to become an excellent runner like they are. Perhaps he will one day excel and go beyond them. So there are always higher goals even after we have become something. Once we reach our first goal, we have to run towards a higher goal.
Question: How does your philosophy of self-transcendence, in which you state that mankind should strive for progress instead of success, apply to the up-coming Olympics?
Sri Chinmoy: All the athletes should bear in mind that they are competing not with other athletes but with their own capacities. Whatever they have already achieved, they have to go beyond.
The presence of all the great athletes at the Olympics represents a great opportunity. When an athlete has to compete with the rest of the world, there is every opportunity and possibility that he will transcend his own capacities. This is what is of paramount importance, and not whether he defeats others or not. God, the Author of all good, will be extremely pleased with the athlete only when he transcends his own capacities. We are all God's children, God's creation. If one of His children transcends himself, then the Father will be the happiest person. But if one member of the family defeats another member and gets joy while the other person becomes miserable, then where is the Father's joy?
If we are one with the rest of the world, then we feel joy in others' joy and their sorrow is also our sorrow. But most of us have not yet attained that consciousness. So it is always advisable for the athlete to keep in mind that he is competing with his own previous record. If he can transcend his own achievement, then it will be a true gain and a true achievement for the whole world.
What is of paramount importance is the individual's attitude. The athlete has to feel that he is establishing a new record not for his own glory but in order to increase the capacity and improve the standard of the world. The winning athlete has to feel that he is representing all of humanity. Then, with a devoted and soulful heart, if he can soulfully offer his achievement to the Supreme Athlete, his Source, at that time he is doing absolutely the right thing. If this is his attitude then let him try his utmost to break world records. But if he wants to defeat the rest of the world only to bask in his own glory, then he is making a deplorable mistake.
The Olympic athlete should feel that he is a member of the world-family, and his goal should be his own continuous progress. If he can continually transcend his own achievements, he is bound to achieve satisfaction, for progress is nothing short of satisfaction. The two go always together. If he cares only for success, then even if he succeeds he will not get abiding joy. For in the twinkling of an eye he will look around and see his achievements being shattered here or elsewhere. But his own progress is like a seed that eventually becomes a sapling and then a giant banyan tree which will give him a continuous sense of satisfaction. When he is progressing, at that time he is growing, he is glowing and, like a river, he is constantly flowing to his Vastness-Source, the Sea of Oneness.
Question: Why are athletes so appreciated in today's world?
Sri Chinmoy: If athletes are appreciated, it is because the West gives more importance to speed than to anything else. Speed is always given prime importance. In the spiritual life also we try to run the fastest. Then, once we reach our goal, we see that that goal is the starting point for our next goal. So if you feel athletics is given more importance than other fields, I wish to say that God Himself is the Supreme Athlete. All the time He is running, flying, diving and illumining us faster than the fastest.
Question: If a person is already very good in any one field, say in sports, should he spend all of his time in that field or try to broaden himself, even though that may sacrifice his athletic capacities?
Sri Chinmoy: If a particular athlete has already achieved, let us say, tremendous recognition in a particular field, it is advisable for him to enter into other fields if time permits. For if he can manifest his soul's light in more fields, he is in a position to offer more to the world at large. But by entering into other fields, if he loses all his capacity in the particular field in which he has excelled for a number of years, then it will be a deplorable mistake.
Suppose that somebody has become an accomplished musician. In order to become an accomplished musician, he had to practise for eight or ten hours a day. But now that he has achieved a certain standard, even if he practises, say, for an hour or half an hour a day, he will not lose his standard. For him to enter into another field will be advisable. If he can maintain the same capacity in the field in which he already excels and go beyond this to explore other fields as well, then that is even better. For the more fields he can cover, the more he will be able to offer to the world at large. So it all depends on his capacity. If he has the capacity, let him widen himself and branch off into various fields. But if he does not have the capacity, then let him remain with his one achievement.
Question: How can an athlete who doesn't have any artistic ability develop it?
Sri Chinmoy: An athlete is already an artist. Art does not mean a piece of paper with a drawing on it. Art means discipline. The supreme art is a disciplined life. He who has disciplined his life is a great discoverer of truth, light, beauty, peace and bliss. In order to become a good athlete, one has to discipline one's life considerably. One has to get up early in the morning to practise, and one has to practise hard again at noon or in the evening. One cannot become friends with lethargy, indolence and lack of punctuality. So the athlete's disciplined life is already veritable proof that he is an artist.
An artist is he who has disciplined his life to discover the one Truth that manifests itself in various ways. With this discipline he expresses the beauty of life, reveals the duty of life and brings to the fore the Will of God. So, from the beginning, the artist must have a sense of discipline. The athlete already has a sense of discipline — the discipline of the body. The discipline of the physical consciousness is of paramount importance, for the physical discipline takes a very long time to achieve. Through prayer and meditation we can easily discipline the psychic consciousness, the mental consciousness and the vital consciousness. But it takes a very long time to discipline the physical consciousness, because the physical in us is like a mischievous monkey. It takes a very long time to establish a disciplined peace in our physical consciousness. So the athlete who has achieved this discipline in his outer life is undoubtedly an artist from the spiritual point of view.
Question: Why is long-distance running becoming more popular in America these days?
Sri Chinmoy: Previously America's soul cared only for speed. Like a bullet America wanted to run faster than the fastest, and it showed only its speed. Everything it did was faster than the fastest. But when it was a matter of endurance, America got frightened. American speed and American endurance didn't rhyme in those days. But the American consciousness has gone higher in the last eight or ten years. Now America feels that speed is necessary and endurance is also necessary. So now America cares for speed and it also cares for stamina.
Whenever America takes up something, it is only a matter of time before it does that thing well. Now that America has accepted long-distance running, it has improved tremendously in this area. How many excellent, excellent, super-excellent long-distance runners America has already produced, although long-distance running has been part of the American consciousness only for the last few years. Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers and so many others have immortalised long-distance running in the consciousness of America in a few short years. When the consciousness of a country accepts a particular thing, that is the golden time. Ten or twelve years ago it was all short-distance running. But now is the golden time, the opportune time, for long-distance running in America. Several years ago, who cared for the 24-hour races or 50-mile and 70-mile races? Even in the newspaper, one rarely saw anything about ultramarathons. The ultramarathon almost did not exist. But now it is common. All over the world, in fact, there is such interest in long-distance running, especially marathons.
Long-distance running gives us a real feeling of accomplishment. We can run 100 metres forty times during the year and not feel the same sense of accomplishment as when we run one marathon. But speed and endurance are both important, especially in the spiritual life. If one has only speed, then one cannot ultimately succeed; we need endurance because the goal is quite far. Again, if one has only stamina and no speed, then it will take forever to reach the goal. Only if someone has both qualities will he be able to make very good progress in his spiritual life and achieve something really great in life.
Question: You say that America is interested in speed. But sometimes I think that America is running without knowing where it wants to go.
Sri Chinmoy: America is a young nation. It does not want to walk; it wants to run as fast as possible in order to breast the tape first.
I appreciate America for its dynamism. If you are dynamic, you run towards your goal. If you do not know where the goal is, then you may run from this side to that side. But it is better than to remain static. Americans are running. They may not be sure of the goal, but they are constantly on the move. They go to one side and run into a wall and get hurt. Then they go to another side and the goal is not there, so they get another blow. But at least they go.
The best quality in the spiritual life is not to hesitate once you know your goal. But even if you do not know your goal, it is good to run. God's Compassion will dawn just because you are running, because you are on the move. Once you feel that your goal is not where you are, that your goal is somewhere ahead of you, then you have to run. And if you run, eventually you are bound to reach your goal.
Right now we are all ordinary human instruments of God. But we see in this world there are some who are more dedicated and more devoted, more willing and able to manifest God than we are. We are not competing with those who are doing a better job. But by observing them, we see that we can make progress.
In order to make progress we have to be with the world, in the world and for the world. There are many things which the world does that we do not approve of — such as wars and so forth. But we do like other things. We like peace, love and the feeling of oneness. Because of our feeling of oneness, because of our love of peace, we have come to the World Masters Games. People from various countries have come to these Games to show their feeling of oneness.
These Masters Games offer us a special message. They make us feel that even though we may be forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty or even ninety years old, we are still God's children. When someone is fifty years old, it is very difficult for him to think of himself as a child. For us to think of ourselves as children is very difficult because we have developed the mind. But the Masters Games help us feel that we are truly children, for it is only children who like to play. People who are advanced in years will stay home and watch television or read newspapers, but children have boundless energy. They have hope, they have ambition, they have determination. They want to become good, better, best.
Most of the time, elderly people feel that they are finished products, that their life is over. So they don't have any hope or promise. But the Masters Games show us that elderly people can have hope and promise. It shows that elderly people can become inseparably one with children, with the new generation.
We are here at the Masters Games to make ourselves feel that we are children — God's children. For it is only children who have higher goals and make progress. Old people have given up their goals and are only waiting for death's hour to strike. But the people who are participating in these Games are telling death, "We are not ready for you, for we have still many things to accomplish here on earth. You are knocking at our door at the wrong time!"
ORI 86. Sri Chinmoy made the following comments about the V World Masters Games, held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in September 1983, during an interview with a newspaper reporter.↩
Question: Do you feel the World Masters Games will ever become as popular as the Olympics?
Sri Chinmoy: There is every possibility that the World Masters Games will become very popular in terms of bringing real joy to mankind. In the Olympics, each individual is trying to get a gold medal. But the real meaning behind the gold medal is joy. A grandfather may not bring back a gold medal, but he brings back joy. He comes all the way from an obscure village to compete, and when he goes back home, his grandchildren are not going to ask him, "Can you show me your gold medal?" No, the fact that he has gotten such joy from competing is enough. This grandfather perhaps for many months did not smile, thinking of his sport or collecting money to come to Puerto Rico. But now the whole family is seeing that the grandfather is so happy. If the father sees that the son has become an Olympian, he will be so proud. Similarly, if the son sees that the father has gotten real joy by participating in these Masters Games, it will be a happy family. One individual has come from an Indian village and another has come from an Australian village. When they go back to their countries and speak to their children, grandchildren, friends and neighbours about the Games, and when others see such joy in them, then this joy will spread like wildfire in their village, town, city and country.
So it is quite possible that eventually the Masters Games will be as popular or even more popular than the Olympics. Most of the athletes are not expecting to break any record; they are happy just to participate and get innocent joy. But many Olympic athletes will go home really miserable because they had come for a gold medal and perhaps did not even get the bronze. But in the Masters Games, even if your place is last, you are very happy.
It is like the difference between amateurs and professionals. In tennis, for example, as soon as people become good players, they turn professional so that they can become millionaires overnight. Then the real joy goes away from the game. In the Olympics, the athletes are not getting money; they are just getting gold medals. But still, much of the joy has disappeared from the competition. So many people are looking for name and fame for their countries, and the prestige of all the countries is at stake. The countries spend thousands and thousands of dollars on the athletes, and there are so many businesses that act as sponsors. But in the Masters Games, everybody came at their own expense just for the joy of competing. If they can continue like this — doing everything at their own expense — then they will continue getting pure joy and giving pure joy to mankind.
The world is crying for joy, and I think the Masters Games will give more joy because the competition is not on such a vital plane. Here, in the competition there is a psychic touch. People have become more mature over the years; they have gone through success and failure many, many times. When they were young, almost all of them had the same kind of qualities that the young ones have today. But now that they are older, they don't want to manifest these qualities. They are looking only to give and receive joy. Here you have people from various countries coming together and making friends. If I come here and make a friend, and if we both become friends with someone else, then how can there ever be any conflicts in the world? These types of games give us a golden opportunity to become one family, and they contribute tremendously to the joy of the world-family.
Part III — Running for children
Question: What do you feel about children running long-distance?
Sri Chinmoy: It is my inner feeling, my spiritual, yogic feeling, that it is not at all good for children to run long-distance; it is not good for their growth. An Indian child should not run more than one mile if he is under thirteen years of age. But for Americans, I would put the age at ten years. Children under ten should not run more than a mile. If they want to run three miles, they should be at least thirteen years of age.
These children will live on earth for many years. Right now let them do sprinting. Let them do 50, 60 or 200 metres; let them do 400 metres or 800 metres maximum. But children's lung capacity and heart condition may not be strong enough for long-distance running — especially children who are in their formative years. Perhaps doctors will say that long distance running is good for children, but I feel it may lead to some serious problems and is very dangerous.
I really feel very sad that parents are not wise in this matter. They are really doing an injustice to their children. A seed germinates, and then it becomes a plant. If you speed up its growth unnaturally, it may grow a little taller. But if you raise it too high, there will be no roots there. It won't be able to grow into a normal, natural tree. Before it grows into a tree, it will die.
Question: But parents want their children to bring them glory.
Sri Chinmoy: Perhaps they will be happy only when their children go to an early grave! Is it necessary to wait until it comes out in the newspaper that some children have had a heart attack after running a marathon or some other long distance? When the newspaper gives the message, then the parents will not allow their children to run! Even in short distances, if parents are forcing their children to run, it is very bad.
Question: But there are some famous athletes who began running marathons at a very young age.
Sri Chinmoy: And many of them are suffering for it! Some of them look so fragile now, but they have such determination. Sometimes one member of the family can jump into the water and swim, but if others try, they may drown.
From:Sri Chinmoy,The outer running and the inner running, Agni Press, 1984
Sourced from https://srichinmoylibrary.com/ori