Soul-illumination-shrine, body-preparation-temple, part 1


My answers to these questions are purely based on my inner aspiration. In no way do I dare to claim to be an authority on bodybuilding and weightlifting.

Of late I have started lifting weights in accordance with the express Will of my Inner Pilot. If this new adventure of mine can serve as inspiration-light to bodybuilders and weightlifters, I shall be amply rewarded.

My heart's most sincere gratitude I am offering to all those who have so kindly submitted searching questions, particularly to Mr Franco Columbu, who is himself a supreme authority on this subject, and from whose illumining books I have derived tremendous inspiration.

Sri Chinmoy

SIS 1. 10 December 1985

Sri Chinmoy's progress in weightlifting

This is a record of Sri Chinmoy's progress in weightlifting.

40 pounds — 26 June 1985

50 pounds — 7 July 1985

60 pounds — 16 July 1985

70 pounds — 30 July 1985

80 pounds — 13 August 1985

85 pounds — 6 September 1985

106 1/4 pounds — 9 October 1985

117 pounds — 1 November 1985

131 1/2 pounds — 3 November 1985

140 pounds — 12 November 1985

155 pounds — 18 November 1985

Part I2

SIS 1-4. These four questions were asked by Franco Columbu, Mr World, Mr Universe and two-time Mr Olympia.

Franco Columbu: How important are yoga stretching exercises to the mind?

Sri Chinmoy: If one is practising stretching exercises thinking that he will be able to achieve peace of mind, then he is totally mistaken. No matter how many stretching exercises one takes, no matter how many hours one spends stretching, one cannot get peace of mind. Peace of mind comes only from one's prayer-life and meditation-life. I have a few students who are extremely good at stretching exercises. But unfortunately, their minds can easily defeat a monkey in restlessness. So if a bodybuilder or weightlifter wants to have peace of mind, then he has to be a God-lover consciously and devotedly.

Franco Columbu: Are there yoga stretching exercises which benefit nerve conduction or nerve supply to the muscles?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, there are some Indian asanas that can offer a fresh supply of energy to the nerves, and to a certain extent the muscle-power can be increased by taking these exercises. If one is interested in this, he can go to some Hatha Yoga experts who can demonstrate and teach those particular exercises.

Franco Columbu: What will be the percentage of change or help to the mind when one does bodybuilding?

Sri Chinmoy: Simply by bodybuilding, one cannot help the mind, since the mind is already far superior to the body. We can see many bodybuilders and weightlifters who are extremely, extremely strong, but their minds are not particularly brilliant. But if one can control the mind while bodybuilding, then the body can get tremendous help from the mind and the intuitive faculties.

Again, to some extent the mind does get satisfaction from the strength and dynamism of the body. But if we are talking about the mind that has to empty itself of uncomely thoughts, doubts, fears, anxieties, worries and negative forces, then mere bodybuilding cannot be of true importance from the spiritual point of view.

A strong mind is a mind that has conquered or can easily conquer the power of negative forces when they come to assail it. In order to have a mind that can be of real service to mankind, a mind that is illumined, one has to enter into the spiritual life. For the spiritual life has the secret of secrets to release the mind from the meshes of limitations and the prison-cell of ignorance-night.

Franco Columbu: What will be the change in the mind when someone is training professionally in comparison to someone who is not training professionally?

Sri Chinmoy: There is not necessarily a great difference between the mental attitude of the amateur bodybuilder and the professional. But there is a possibility that a professional will pay more attention to money-power, name and fame, whereas the amateur only practises out of a desire for self-improvement or a love of the sport. To some extent he has freed himself from greed for money or fame or success, which is a heavy load to carry on one's shoulders.

Sometimes the professional gets joy only by displaying his capacities, whereas the amateur gets spontaneous joy merely from developing his capacities. But again, many amateurs also love to display their strength and physical development. To a great extent it is a matter of inner attitude.

While practising, the amateur needs to concentrate only on self-transcendence and self-improvement, which give him tremendous joy. But the professional is obliged to think of contests and competitions if he wants to be successful. He may get joy from his practice as well, but satisfaction will come only when victory descends upon him, and his capacities are recognised by others. He has to work harder than the amateur, because success-life is his goal, whereas progress-life is the goal of the amateur.

Of course, in success there can also be progress, since one usually has to reach a certain standard in order to defeat others. But while practising, the professional may not keep in mind the supreme necessity of progress. So the professional carries either consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly, a heavy burden to his difficult destination, while the amateur just walks, runs and flies to his beckoning destination.

Part II

These questions were asked by:

Mary Roberts, 1985 International Federation of Bodybuilding Women's World Professional Champion.

Ken Hall, Mr America over 50, Mr America over 40, Mr Eastern America, Mr East Coast, Mr North East America, Mr New York State, Mr Empire State and Mr New York City.

Terri LoCicero, Miss Eastern America, Miss Tri-State and 1985 New York Golds Classic Champion.

Nina Schoenbaum, Miss Colonial America and New York State Representative for the American Federation of Women Bodybuilders.

Jean Laguerre, Mr New York State, Mr Eastern America and Mr Teenage Hercules.

Mary Roberts: I have been bodybuilding for approximately seven years. I find that now I am very interested in helping other women learn to compete. Do you feel this is a proper attitude for a champion to have?

Sri Chinmoy: If you are a truth-seeker and a God-lover, then it is absolutely the proper attitude, for it means that you have enlarged and expanded your inner capacities. You have established your oneness with other competitors and you are helping them. By helping others, you are increasing your own power of oneness. From the spiritual point of view, you are doing absolutely the right thing. If you live only in the world of personal success, then perhaps it would be a mistake for you to teach others. But if you live in the world of your own inner progress and if you are for the world of universal progress, then undoubtedly you are doing the best possible thing.

Ken Hall: I've been bodybuilding for over 40 years now. I've watched many changes come to this sport. One of the most significant changes in recent years is the ever-increasing number of women who are entering this field. I feel this is a wonderful change, both for women and for bodybuilding in general. Do you agree?

Sri Chinmoy: Indeed, women should be encouraged to practise bodybuilding and weightlifting. Nothing good should be the sole monopoly of men. Women practise running, jumping, throwing, swimming and many other activities. As long as women practise and compete among themselves, then it is an excellent experience and an excellent achievement for humanity.

Terri Locicero: When I'm competing on stage and it is not going well — for instance, if the audience is not applauding or there is a technical problem with my back-up music — I have to struggle not to lose my concentration. How can I keep poised when problems arise?

Sri Chinmoy: Either you have to be clever or you have to be spiritual. If you are clever, you can say to yourself that it could be infinitely worse. By saying this, a kind of relaxation and mental peace or poise comes. But if you are spiritual, then before the performance you can meditate most powerfully for 15 or 20 minutes. This will enable you to acquire tremendous mental power, and when you have this mental power, the problems that may arise during the performance will not be able to disturb you at all. Your mental power will be able to silence the power of the so-called problems before or during the performance.

Terri Locicero: When I win a contest, I'm on top of the world; I'm so happy! When I lose, I worry too much about why that happened. How can I learn to keep a proper balance when I compete in a contest?

Sri Chinmoy: There is only one way and that is through meditation. If you meditate, even when you lose you can easily feel the same joy that the winner feels. And something more, you can feel the joy of the winner as your own, very own. It is not self-deception. Meditation gives you the power of oneness. So the winner and the loser can easily become one on the strength of their meditation. Also, if you are the winner, on the strength of your meditation if you can for a few seconds establish your sympathetic oneness with the loser, you will not only get the joy from your victory but you will also get added joy. You will increase your happiness by becoming one with the loser. Your sympathy and concern will offer you great satisfaction, a kind of satisfaction that you will not get by winning.

Nina Schoenbaum: They say in bodybuilding, "No pain, no gain." To me, that sounds ridiculous. I've never been in pain. Bodybuilding is the fountain of youth — you get stronger as you go along. I've made gains without pain. Why do people feel they have to hurt themselves to improve themselves?

Sri Chinmoy: I see eye to eye with you. Not only bodybuilders, but also many other athletes are of the opinion, "No pain, no gain." But I wish to say that if God is standing at a particular place and I am supposed to reach Him, will it please Him more if I hurt myself and then run towards Him on one leg, or will it please Him more if I use both legs and run in a normal way? Either I can use my wisdom-light or my stupidity-height. If we say that only by hurting ourselves can we improve ourselves, it is almost like saying that we should overeat in order to strengthen ourselves, that we should eat voraciously so that overnight we can become stronger than the strongest. That is not possible! Slowly and steadily we shall try to increase our capacities, not by leaps and bounds, which can cause us injuries.

I find it difficult to accept the theory that physical pain is unavoidable in order to improve. True, we may at times get pain as we struggle with an exercise or with heavy weights. But that is a totally different matter. If we deliberately torture our body beyond its limited capacity with the hope of becoming stronger overnight, then there is every possibility that the body will revolt. This kind of training will tell upon our health.

Everything has a capacity of its own. This capacity has to be increased intelligently, and, in the case of a seeker, also soulfully. A seeker knows that he does not have to disable or damage any part of his body to prove to God how much he loves Him. He does not have to say, "Here is my love for You: I have come to You with my arms and legs impaired." It is ridiculous. God wants us to come to Him as soon as possible. Injuring our bodies will in no way increase our speed. I am speaking here about spiritual progress, but even from an ordinary point of view, wisdom will not tell us to inflict pain upon ourselves just in the hope of gaining something valuable. Wisdom can show us the way to our destination without the intervention of pain.

Jean Laguerre: When I feel that I've honestly done my best, how can I feel that the outcome of the competition has been fair and just, if I didn't win?

Sri Chinmoy: You have to have a spiritual attitude in order to feel that the outcome of the competition has been fair and just, depending entirely on the capacity that you have shown. Inwardly you have to compete only with your own capacity. If you feel that you are in your top condition, then you will be satisfied even if the authorities judge in favour of someone else. Otherwise, if you are comparing yourself only with others, then naturally you will be dissatisfied if their capacity eclipses your capacity. It is quite possible for a seeker to feel satisfied with the outcome as long as he does his best in everything.

Part III

These questions were asked by disciples of Sri Chinmoy.

Question: How much of heavy lifting is mental preparation and how much is physical preparation?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on the individual. By this time I have read quite a few books and magazines on weightlifting and bodybuilding. The great champions are of the opinion that 70 or 75 per cent is mental preparation. They use the terms concentration, meditation and so forth. But in my case, 99 per cent is God's Grace and God's Compassion. For the remaining one per cent, three quarters is mental preparation and one quarter is physical preparation. Although I spend considerable time practising, I know how much God's Compassion acts in and through my weightlifting. So, in all sincerity, I must give at least 99 per cent of the credit to the Grace of my Inner Pilot, my Lord Supreme. Many times when I look at the weight that I have lifted, my mind gets confused and bewildered. If you live in the mind, you will find only doubt, fear and confusion. But if you live in the heart and the soul, you will come to realise that everything is His Grace, His Compassion. I was not a weightlifter, I don't claim to be a weightlifter now and I will never claim to be one, although I do practise lifting weights. But I know it is not my own capacity that is lifting; it is my Beloved Supreme who is having an experience in and through my body, especially through my right arm.

Question: How do you mentally prepare yourself to lift a weight that is much heavier than your training weight?

Sri Chinmoy: You have to realise that the physical world is not the only world. The mental world is as real as the physical world. If you are having difficulties at a particular place, then you can go to another place. Who knows, that place may be more inspiring and encouraging. If you don't get inspiration to practise running on the running machine, then you can go outside where there are beautiful trees and fresh air. Then, once you get inspiration and joy from the outer world, from nature's beauty, you may be more inspired to practise on the running machine. Similarly, if you are not getting enough joy from your training on the physical plane, then you can enter into the inner world and meditate. On the mental plane first you imagine that you are lifting weights beyond your physical capacity. Then you can bring that mental capacity to the physical plane and turn your imagination into reality.

Question: Do you actually meditate on the weight itself before you lift it?

Sri Chinmoy: I do not meditate on the weight before I lift. I meditate on the Lord Supreme, especially for His Grace and Protection, but I do not meditate on the weight.

Question: If a seeker has physical strength, what other quality does he need most?

Sri Chinmoy: What he needs most is surrender to God's Will. Then the seeker will use his strength only at God's Command, Him to please in His own Way. The seeker will use his strength for nothing else.

Question: How do the qualities of strength and power differ?

Sri Chinmoy: There is a great difference between power and strength. Strength is predominantly in the physical, with the physical and for the physical. Power has a higher and deeper source. But again when a seeker-lifter or bodybuilder invokes the higher power, it can come and act inside the physical and also for the physical. Strength is an outer achievement. Power is an inner achievement. If there is a tug-of-war between strength and power, power will always win, for the source of power is infinitely greater than the physical strength that any human being can have.

Question: How can an athlete use his soul-power to increase his mental and physical strength?

Sri Chinmoy: The athlete must sincerely feel that he has a soul and not just think so because someone has said it is true. Many people don't have direct access even to their heart, so how can they have access to their soul? It is through meditation, continuous and regular meditation, that we can feel the presence of the soul and eventually see the soul. But even if we do not see the soul, if we just feel the presence of the soul inside the depth of our heart, then gradually we can bring its light into the vital, mind and physical. But first we have to know that the soul exists. It must not be just mental belief but a real psychic experience.

Question: How can I use my strength to please God?

Sri Chinmoy: You have to know first of all that the strength that you have has come directly from God Himself. Then pray to God and meditate on God. He Himself will show you how to use your strength to please Him.

Question: What type of strength challenges overwhelming ignorance?

Sri Chinmoy: Self-discipline at every moment is the strength that can most powerfully challenge overwhelming ignorance.

Question: What is the connection between weight training, will-power, determination and spiritual aspiration?

Sri Chinmoy: They can all go together. Determination is on the physical plane, vital plane and mental plane. People may think that will-power is in the mind, and to some extent this is true. But real will-power comes from the soul, the God-representative on earth. Spiritual aspiration encompasses both determination and will-power. On the one hand, we get determination and will-power as a result of aspiration. On the other hand, birthless and deathless aspiration itself actually embodies the will-power of the soul as well as the determination of the physical, mind and vital.

Question: What is the inner aspect of the quality of virility?

Sri Chinmoy: The inner aspect of the quality of virility is to embody adamantine will-power and, when necessity demands, to bring it to the fore.

Question: Sometimes I wonder why we take the trouble to compete in weightlifting or bodybuilding.

Sri Chinmoy: At times we ask if it is worth taking such trouble, time and concern. But we do everything in life in order to achieve satisfaction. We will not do anything unnecessary if we do not see or feel that there will be satisfaction at the end of our achievement. This satisfaction can be either fleeting or lasting. Satisfaction will be lasting only if we offer the results of whatever we do immediately to God. If we do not offer the results to God with a gratitude-heart, then the satisfaction that we get cannot remain permanent.

Question: If a person has a job in which he does heavy work or heavy lifting, is that as beneficial for the body as weightlifting?

Sri Chinmoy: No! There are many who work hard and do heavy work, but if they are not doing it consciously, then they will not get the same result. Many can do physical work, but if they are not consciously trying to develop their strength or to feel the presence of a higher force in their action, then they will not get the same experience. If both a seeker and a non-seeker have physical strength, the seeker will get more benefit when he works than the non-seeker, for he is doing it consciously. He tries to be constantly conscious of what he is doing and why he is doing it. A desire-man, a non-seeker, does not know why he is working and for what he is working. Because he lacks oneness-power with the Inner Pilot, he will not get the same sense of satisfaction as the one who is a seeker-weightlifter.

Question: When one acquires physical strength, do other positive or negative qualities come with it?

Sri Chinmoy: When one acquires physical strength, as a result of one's physical capacities there is every possibility that ego can come and take up its permanent abode inside the bodybuilder or the weightlifter. But if one acquires strength with the help of one's aspiration, and consciously feels that this strength is a result of the Grace from Above, then one will have only positive qualities such as peace, joy and oneness along with it. At that time, there will not be any kind of negative or superior feelings.

Question: How can you build a well-developed body and not become vain in the process?

Sri Chinmoy: If you are a seeker, then it is absolutely possible. A seeker knows that he is nothing and he can do nothing unless and until God's Grace operates in and through him. He knows that he is not the doer. It is God, out of His infinite Compassion, who is acting in and through him. This moment God has given him the capacity to do something, and the next moment God can give the capacity to someone else. So if he knows that the capacity does not belong to him but that God, out of His Compassion and Oneness, has granted him the capacity to do something or become something special on the earth plane, then how can he become vain?

Question: Are bodybuilders over-concerned with their physical?

Sri Chinmoy: Unfortunately, many bodybuilders are over-concerned with their physical health and appearance, and they have practically no time to pay attention to the realities which are far beyond the physical.

Question: Does lifting weights cause the vital to become more aggressive?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on the individual. If an individual has aspiration, then weightlifting will make him dynamic. If he has only desire, then naturally weightlifting may make him aggressive, for he may misuse his physical strength and it will be tantamount to brute strength.

Question: Does serious weight training tend to make an ordinary person's consciousness more aggressive?

Sri Chinmoy: If a person is not a sincere seeker, then weightlifting can cause many problems. It can increase the ego. It can increase aggression. It can increase many negative qualities. Again, there are many weightlifters who are not excellent seekers but who have good hearts and a conscious feeling of love. In their case, they do not and cannot have aggression. But if there is no aspiration behind ones weightlifting, then there is every possibility that one can become a victim to aggression.

Question: Why is it that after a very demanding weightlifting workout we feel more relaxed, more at peace with ourselves, purer and less aggressive?

Sri Chinmoy: It is quite normal. When we achieve something great, we get joy. At that time, our negative qualities disappear. Joy has tremendous strength, and when we are flooded with strength, negative forces cannot attack us. Inside joy is a divine force, and this divine force can easily silence the undivine forces.

Question: Is there any difference between the effect of weight training on a woman's consciousness compared to a man's?

Sri Chinmoy: In weight training and bodybuilding, it seems to me that men care more for physical strength and women tend to care more for physical beauty. Although both men and women are trying to have beautiful and powerful physiques, men give more importance to the strength aspect and women give more importance to the beauty aspect.

Question: Can a woman ever be too muscular?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes. If you do not know who Bev Francis is, you can go to Australia and see.

Question: Would women benefit more from weightlifting or from bodybuilding?

Sri Chinmoy: If a woman has to make a choice between weightlifting and bodybuilding, I feel that bodybuilding is the right choice. Beauty itself is strength. Inner beauty and even outer beauty carry strength in themselves. Since women care more for beauty than men do, then it is advisable for them to enter more into bodybuilding than weightlifting.

Question: In weightlifting, how much does the idea of failure hold back your progress in training or competition?

Sri Chinmoy: The idea of failure is a most deplorable thing in one's life, whether in bodybuilding or in any other field. We must never cherish the idea of failure. We must always have the feeling that we shall succeed. There is no such thing as permanent failure. Failure is only temporary. Even if we fail today, tomorrow we are bound to succeed. Again, we have to know that success cannot come at the seeker's own sweet will. God Himself will act through the sincere seeker and grant him success at His choice Hour.

Question: Can you get rid of an injury by lifting weights?

Sri Chinmoy: Because of an injury I have entered into the weightlifting world. But there are many people who are of the opinion that if you use very light weights and do lots of repetitions, then slowly and steadily you can strengthen your muscles and nerves and eventually get rid of an injury. Unfortunately, this is not my personal experience. I don't think my weightlifting will take away my pain. My physical pain, especially my knee pain, will go away only by the infinite Grace of my Beloved Supreme.

Question: Do muscles get happier when they are trained on weights?

Sri Chinmoy: In the beginning it seems to me that they revolt. But gradually they become one with the happiness-will-power of the lifter. Nobody likes to be forced. At first the muscles didn't like lifting weights. But when they saw that by virtue of their strength I was able to lift so many pounds, when they saw the accomplishment, at that time they became proud and started cooperating with my will-power happily.

Question: With the advent of plant steroids and the genetic restructuring of growth hormones to eliminate unwanted side effects, do you foresee an acceptance of steroid use?

Sri Chinmoy: I do not forsee anything. I only pray to God that the things that are unnatural, the things that are not healthy, the things that are damaging to the physical or subtle body, people will give up as soon as possible. Anything that is unnatural God does not approve of. The drugs that are making people stronger than the strongest on the physical plane will definitely have immediate side effects on the inner plane. On the physical plane also, slowly and steadily they will have very severe side effects. So my ardent prayer to man and God is for people to use nothing unnatural, for these undivine things eventually will destroy them. These things may bring immediate success but they can destroy the potentialities and infinite capacities that each individual has, to do something not only for himself but for the entire humanity.

Question: A very famous Russian gold-medal Olympic weightlifting champion described intense moments of joy while lifting heavy weights in competition. He called these moments "white light experiences." What was he experiencing?

Sri Chinmoy: He was experiencing the presence of his own inner divinity. What he calls "white light" is the inner experience of his own divinity, which has joy, delight and especially peace in abundant measure.

Question: What is the relationship between God the Supreme Weightlifter, God the Supreme Runner and God the Supreme Musician?

Sri Chinmoy: God the Supreme Weightlifter is transcendental. God the Supreme Runner is eternal. God the Supreme Musician is universal.

Question: How far can your students go as strength athletes?

Sri Chinmoy: They can go as far as they can surrender cheerfully to God's Will. If they practise devotedly and cheerfully surrender their strength-capacities to their Lord Supreme, they will do extremely well. They will increase their capacities and they will be surprised to see their enormous progress.

Question: Is weightlifting an end in itself, or is it better to do it in conjunction with another sport?

Sri Chinmoy: I feel it is advisable to do other sports as well as weightlifting. Otherwise, it may become boring or monotonous, especially since you are dealing with lifeless matter.

Question: How much weight training do we need to do to supplement our running?

Sri Chinmoy: Weightlifting twice a week is more than enough for a long-distance runner. Also, I do not advise any student of mine running long distances to practise lifting more than 30 pounds. Short-distance runners, sprinters, can go up to 50 pounds. For the girls, 20 pounds is more than enough.

Question: Is it really possible to be a great weightlifter and a great runner at the same time?

Sri Chinmoy: It is not possible to become a champion in weightlifting and, at the same time, in running. But if one is a good weightlifter and also wants to become an excellent runner, then it is possible. Sprinters, for example, can be very muscular. Physical strength, especially in sprinting, is necessary. But definitely those muscular runners are not the world's strongest or greatest weightlifters.

Question: You have said that for physical fitness, it is not necessary for your students to lift more than 30 pounds, except for the few who practise weightlifting seriously. But if we practised weightlifting in the past, can we now start weightlifting again with the goal to lift much higher weights?

Sri Chinmoy: If you practised weightlifting in the past and now if you are sincerely interested, then you can try. But since you have changed your lifestyle and have become a great, super-excellent long-distance runner, for you to go back to weightlifting and neglect your running would be a deplorable mistake. You have run through all the fifty states — a supreme miracle itself. Your running career should and must flourish more before you think of devoting yourself to anything else.

Question: As a sprinter, what can I do to make my calves bigger? I've tried many things.

Sri Chinmoy: It is not the size but the strength that matters. There are many excellent sprinters who do not have big calf muscles, but still they have tremendous strength in their calves. Many runners and jumpers whose calf muscles are not so pronounced have enormous strength inside their calves. It is not the size but the strength inside the muscle that is needed.

Question: How much weightlifting should I do in connection with training to swim the English Channel?

Sri Chinmoy: You can do weightlifting three times a week for 40 minutes or half an hour. But use light weights. Ten pounds is more than enough for you.

Question: Do you feel that your weightlifting represents one of your greatest physical achievements?

Sri Chinmoy: On the physical plane, with the body and for the body, undoubtedly this is one of my greatest achievements.

Question: How did you decide to start lifting weights? Did it happen gradually or just suddenly?

Sri Chinmoy: In my case, as far as I can remember, it happened suddenly. Over the years, on rare occasions I did lift weights — once in a blue moon. But from the 26th of June of this year I have been regular. So it was a sudden inner decision. Of course, my decision is nothing other than obedience, immediate obedience, to my Inner Pilot.

Question: Why have you taken up weightlifting?

Sri Chinmoy: I am always trying to achieve something. Then, when I achieve something, I feel that I have done it for the world.

No matter what I achieve, I feel that unconsciously or consciously the world has helped me. Therefore, I am extremely grateful to the outer world — God the creation. Again, I am also grateful to God the Creator, for He is all my inspiration, all my aspiration, all my realisation and all my satisfaction.

From the outer point of view, I have taken up weightlifting because my knee injury has kept me from running and compelled me to do something else. So the unconscious human in me thought of weightlifting. But the conscious being in me took up weightlifting at the express command of my Inner Pilot. The conscious being in me has listened to and has obeyed implicitly the dictates of my Inner Pilot.

Question: What warm-up exercises do you do before you try a heavy lift?

Sri Chinmoy: First I do exercises without any weight for about 20 minutes. Then I start with 40 pounds, pressing it three times with the left hand and five times with the right hand. Then I go up to 50, 55, 60, 65 and so on up to 80 pounds. Sometimes I go up to 100 with the right hand, but with the left hand I stop at 80. So this is my warm-up. After 100, I don't do 110 or 120. I go to 145. This is for the military press.

For the leg press, I start with 40 and then go to 80, 120, 160 and 200. After 200 I go to 280, and still I am increasing.

When I lift up 40 pounds with my legs, it is like lifting a feather, and I get tremendous joy. Then that joy gives me enormous strength. The cheerful happiness that I get from 40 pounds carries me and I feel, "Oh, easily I will be able to lift 280." When I am doing 40, at that time I am thinking of 280. That joy tries to disappear a little after 200, but still a little remains. Because I lifted up 40 so easily, the little joy that remains carries me to 280.

Always it is good to start with a light weight. It gives tremendous joy and confidence. Then, as with everything in life, the joy tries to disappear. But before it disappears, you try to reach the goal.

Question: Is there any particular exercise that you do not feel like doing when you first start training in the morning?

Sri Chinmoy: I am very clever. For years I have been doing stretching exercises, starting with sit-ups. I do not like sit-ups as much as I should, but I always do this exercise with the hope that it will help me to flatten my stomach. So my hope is stronger than my liking or disliking. Therefore, I do sit-ups, although they may not appeal to me.

Question: When you lift those incredibly heavy weights, do you feel that you are lifting a little bit of the darkness and ignorance of the whole universe?

Sri Chinmoy: When I lift weights, I don't have the time to think; thinking capacity disappears. But after I have lifted up the weight, I feel that I have lifted lifeless inconscience.

Question: When you lift extremely heavy weights, are you using the cosmic strength that comes from Heaven, or is it actually human physical strength? When I saw you lift the 106¼ pounds, I felt I saw the spark of energy that created the universe!

Sri Chinmoy: In my case, it is a combination of divine Grace and human effort. The divine Grace is 99 per cent and the human effort is one per cent. This is what the aspiring man in me knows and feels. But from the realisation of my Inner Pilot, I know perfectly well that it is 100 per cent God's Grace in every possible way — from the very day I embarked on this journey.

Question: In your strength training, which quality is your greatest ally?

Sri Chinmoy: In my strength training, my aspiration to become one with the weight itself is my greatest friend.

Question: Are there any tricks that you use to help you concentrate when lifting?

Sri Chinmoy: The trick is only to surrender to God's Will. That is the only trick I use.

Question: When you achieve a goal that you have set for yourself, such as lifting 155 pounds, what inner experiences do you have?

Sri Chinmoy: As soon as I reach my goal, I get a sense of satisfaction. I feel that this sense of satisfaction has come directly from my Inner Pilot, for I know it is not my capacity that is responsible for my success. It is His Grace that unconditionally acts in and through me. Therefore, right after the achievement, I offer gratitude soulfully and unconditionally to my Inner Pilot. My happiness I express through my most soulful gratitude.

Question: In the one-arm military press, what do you feel is the ultimate a human being can do right now?

Sri Chinmoy: I have simply no idea! I am struggling and dying with 170 pounds, but I see no shore — only a sea.

Question: Do you appreciate weightlifting or bodybuilding more?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on my mood. Sometimes I appreciate bodybuilding and sometimes I appreciate weightlifting. While lifting up weights, one has to feel that weightlifting is more important. Again, while one is taking exercises to build sound muscles, then one has to feel that bodybuilding is more important. We have to pay utmost attention to whatever we are doing at the time and appreciate and value it much more than other things.

Question: Do you feel any younger since you have been lifting weights?

Sri Chinmoy: Unfortunately, no! I will feel younger only when I can start running again. Although I do some stretching exercises along with weightlifting, I don't feel younger in any way. But when God blesses me again with running capacity, at that time I will feel a little younger.

Question: Did your physical get more tired from the intense training when you were running a lot than it does from the intense weight training?

Sri Chinmoy: When I used to run long distances, I used to become very tired. After a long run I needed to relax at least for four or five hours. But when I do intense bodybuilding, in two hours I gain back my energy. The tiredness is not of the same type. When I used to run, my entire body — from the soles of my feet to the crown of my head — used to feel tired. But after weightlifting I mostly feel tiredness inside my arms, especially my right arm, for it lifts much heavier weights than the left arm.

Question: If you had a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Frank Zane, would this give you great joy?

Sri Chinmoy: I am quite satisfied with my body. Only I wish to develop more strength and more life energy in this body. I do not want to be another Arnold Schwarzenegger or Frank Zane. God has created them with His own Vision-Light, and He has created me with His own Vision-Light. I don't want to interfere with God's Vision-Light. I wish to be God's Chinmoy and not God's Arnold or Frank.

Question: What lessons can we learn in the inner world and in the outer world from your weightlifting?

Sri Chinmoy: You can learn the importance of two things: determination in the outer world and God's Compassion in the inner world. God's Compassion is absolutely necessary along with our own determination. Man's determination has to be receptive to God's Compassion. One has to have determination in order to receive God's Compassion. Determination on the physical plane and Compassion on the psychic plane must go together.

Question: Because we can see your new physical strength with our outer eyes, does it help us spiritually?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, seeing my physical strength definitely helps you spiritually because you are seeing my aspiration-determination. I do not give up. If I fail today, again I try tomorrow. If I fail tomorrow, again I try the day after tomorrow. As I do not give up, I also do not want my students to give up their aspiration and dedication, but to work more devotedly and more soulfully. It is not an impossible task to have continuous aspiration and dedication.

Editor's preface to the first edition

Since he began serious weight training on 26 June 1985, Sri Chinmoy has quadrupled the amount of weight he can press with one arm. With less than five months' training, the 54-year-old spiritual teacher has progressed from 40 pounds to 155 pounds. On 18 November he did two sets of one-arm dumbbell presses (first 10 and then 14 repetitions) with 155 pounds — his own body weight at the time. In the strict military press style — straight body, level shoulders and locked knees — he began with his elbow parallel to the shoulder and then slowly and steadily lifted the weight until his elbow locked. In this book, Sri Chinmoy answers questions on weightlifting submitted by professional bodybuilders and by his students. For a spiritual Master like Sri Chinmoy to give such importance to physical strength signifies a new direction in spirituality. It acknowledges the supreme contribution that the body is capable of making to the ultimate perfection of the heart, vital and mind in human life. More important, it attests to the significant role that the physical can play in God's self-transcendent aspiring universe.

From:Sri Chinmoy,Soul-illumination-shrine, body-preparation-temple, part 1, Agni Press, 1985
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