PTED 2-20. Sri Chinmoy answered these questions about tennis at Aspiration-Ground, his tennis court and meditation park, on 9 July, 1988.
Question: Do you root for a tennis player to actually win a match or doesn't it matter to you whether someone wins or not?
The divine in me immediately takes the side of the divine and says, "Whoever God wants to win is the person I also want to win." But the human in me sees the good qualities or the divinity in the two players and immediately takes the side of the one who is the most divine or who has the most good qualities. In every case the human in me is hoping for the manifestation of the divine victory. In fact, my whole life is dedicated to working for the divine victory and increasing the divine in human beings. So I always want the victory of the best instruments of God — whether it is in weightlifting, body-building, tennis or any other field of endeavour.
Again, you have to know that this is only my simple, childish wish — just as when you say, "How I wish so and so would win!" In no way am I using my will-power in order to help someone win. If an individual loses in spite of my good wishes, I don't feel at all sad. The divine in me, which has already taken the side of the divine, says, "Let Thy Will be done." So I am happy that God's Will has been fulfilled.
Question: McEnroe hits all his ground strokes with a backhand continental grip and many people say it would improve his game if he would change to a more standard forehand grip. What do you think of this theory?
Theories are not always correct. His game would badly descend if he changed his grip. A supreme player like McEnroe is not bound by hard and fast rules. Who makes the rules? People have said that if you do not have the proper style, then you can't run. But Zatopek was the radiant proof that this is not true. His style was worse than the worst, yet he killed himself when he ran and kept on winning. Previously, people used to say that you had to do the high jump in one way; now people do it an entirely different way. Previously nobody could imagine anyone playing with an over-sized racquet. They asked, "How will people be able to handle it? It will be dull and heavy." Now the theory has changed and most of the players use over-sized racquets. So styles are always changing.
Most athletes follow the general rules. But there will always be champions who don't have to abide by the well-established rules. From the very beginning they will rebel against the past and try to do something totally different, for it is their very nature to invent something new. Geniuses like McEnroe break out of the old boundaries and limitations. If they did not, everything would be fossilised and there would be no new creation.
Question: What is the main quality that it takes to win a match? Is it something spiritual, mental or physical?
Suppose you are an excellent player and I am a useless player. What will my spiritual capacity do for me? A saint will come and box with Tyson, and Tyson will destroy him. Only if the saint has occult power and decides to use it will Tyson not be able to beat him. In one of my stories I tell about a great military man who had killed so many people on the battlefield. A spiritual Master said, "Lift up this ballpoint!" The soldier could not do it because the Master had used occult power to take away the soldier's life-energy.
Again, if two players have similar outer capacities, then the one with stronger inner capacities will definitely have the advantage. During a competition, if one player can bring tremendous determination to the fore, then naturally he will win. But this determination has to come from the dynamic vital and not from the aggressive vital. The dynamic vital has to transform the physical and the mind into good instruments. It has to energise the physical, which is normally lethargic, and tell it, "You have to be as dynamic as I am." It has to command the mind to give up its doubt. The mind may be saying, "Oh, my opponent's service is most powerful. How am I going to return it?" The vital has to tell the mind, "You have to throw away your doubt! Do not waste time doubting your capacities. Be one-pointed like me and have confidence!"
If the dynamism of the vital enters into the body and the body becomes fully one with the vital, and if the doubting mind surrenders to the dynamic vital, then there is every possibility that the individual will win the match. If the dynamic vital can take full control of the game, then even at the eleventh hour you can change the course of the game and win. Many times this happens, and it is the vital which deserves full credit.
Question: Do you think that the huge prize money involved in professional tennis is ruining the game?
Good professional players have to stop being so concerned about money. It is not true that money is necessary to inspire great players. Kramer, Gonzalez and many others were great players, but they didn't compete for such prizes.
The standard of tennis has definitely improved compared with the past. Today's great players are far better than those in previous generations. But we cannot say that today's players are taking the sport more seriously because of the prize money. This higher standard would have come into existence even if there had been no prize money. And these same players would be far better if they were thinking only of winning and not also of the prize money. It is not that money has made them aggressive. No, it has actually ruined their capacities.
Before they even start to play, the players are thinking of money-power rather than the beauty and the divinity of the game. They have forgotten about the joy of tennis. Money-power also takes away the joy of the spectators. Thousands of people go to a match to see the capacities of two individuals and to enjoy the game. But sometimes when they think of the thousands of dollars the players are getting, they become jealous. These negative forces from the spectators are entering into the players. Then, this same jealousy-force the players send to other players. Let us say a player is not participating in a particular tournament. When be thinks of the huge amount of money the winner is going to get, he immediately sends his jealousy-power. So, wrong forces are moving all about in the tennis-world.
For so many years Hillary and others were trying to climb up Mount Everest. They failed and failed, but finally Hillary did it. What kind of money did he get? He didn't get any money. One hundred or two hundred years ago people didn't get any money for doing these things. What they cared about was the expedition and their own capacity. Football players are not making as much money as the tennis stars are making. Still, their standard is going up! But in tennis, money talks. I have not seen a single player who, in the back of his mind, is not thinking about money rather than the beauty of the game or the perfection of his own capacity. These players could play much better if they were not trying to become millionaires.
Question: In ultra-running they are talking of bringing in money. Will it ruin the consciousness there as well?
It is already being ruined. You can see it. On the one hand, the runners are saying that they need money because this is how they earn their livelihood. But it is one thing to need money to live on and another thing to be greedy. Good runners definitely should get some money — but not $10,000 or $20,000. If they want that kind of money, they should go into another field. If someone wants to dedicate his life to running, he should open up a business — a running store or a health food store and use the money from that to support himself. Then he can run for the joy of it. But when a runner expects thousands and thousands of dollars for winning a race, he is only feeding his greed. In these cases the money is taking away all the cheerful, enlightening joy of the sport.
It is not a question of sour grapes; we are not criticising money-power because we ourselves are not good enough to win prize money. No! I am seeing how money-power has captured some good runners and is devouring them. When people competed in sports twenty or thirty years ago, they had much more innocent joy. Now, from the beginning to the end, some runners are only thinking about winning the prize.
If a runner is looking for real satisfaction, he will never get it from prize money. The New York Marathon gives $20,000 to the winner. But the runner who gets it may feel miserable that he did not run the Chicago Marathon or Boston Marathon, where the prize may be $30,000 or $40,000. He may say, "Why did I not wait for that one? If I had waited two more weeks, I could have run the Boston Marathon and gotten more money." Perhaps he has gotten $20,000, but because somebody else is getting $40,000, all his joy is going away. Joy is infinitely more important than money. If he did not care for money, he would say, "I have done my personal best here. I am so happy. Who knows if I would have done as well if I had joined the Chicago Marathon or the Boston Marathon." So when you keep money-power away, real wisdom-power comes.
Question: An interviewer once asked Agassi what was the first thing in his life, and Agassi said 'faith'. Do you think there will be a time when he will start inspiring people to have faith in God?
It depends on whether he continues to maintain his spiritual approach to tennis. During a recent interview he said that even if he cannot immediately bring his determination to the fore and loses points, he does not mind because he and his opponent are giving one another such joy playing together. This kind of attitude is so spiritual! He is reaching the hearts of so many people and he has become very, very popular. If he continues to maintain this sincere, spiritual approach throughout his career, then he will be able to inspire many, many people. I do hope he will continue and not let his business manager and others instigate him to start thinking of money-power.
Question: Sometimes one player is way ahead, and it seems like the match is over. Then the other player somehow comes back and actually wins. I saw that once in a match where Borg defeated Tanner. What is it that made him win?
He had the will to win and he refused to surrender. Most of the time Borg plays a defensive game, and so many times he wins. Therefore, he has confidence that his opponent will eventually get tired and not be able to attack him anymore. It is like a boxer who lets his opponent keep on hitting him. He knows that after a while the opponent will become tired and lose confidence. Similarly, if the other player strikes the ball hard ten times, and you keep on returning it, your opponent's determination will go away and he will give up.
Question: Some players are very undivine on the court. Does that mean they are really bad people?
There is a great difference between the outer life and the inner life. There is one player whose tongue is absolutely fouler than the foulest. He behaves so badly that everybody who sees him is ashamed. But that is only on the physical and vital plane. His soul is very, very progressive, but the soul is not able to offer its divine qualities to the outer being. The outer being is dominating him. In his case, there is no bridge between the inner and the outer.
Question: Guru, when we put on Sri Chinmoy Tennis Classics in our cities, how can we make it an experience that will be beneficial to the inner life and not just another tennis tournament?
First of all, we should not give the players prize money. Then, whoever is the organiser could give a five-minute talk. He could say that in order to do anything successfully in life, you always need friends. It is like a tug-of-war: If you have more people on your side, then you are bound to win. It is the same in tennis. You already have talent as a friend. You also have parents, dear ones and so on. One more friend that you can have is a good thought. A good thought can be your best friend. If you have good thoughts and good will toward your opponent, then these realities will enter into him and you will also receive good thoughts and good will from him.
Both of your good thoughts will meet together, and from these good thoughts something special will develop. If I am good to you and you are good to me, then from our goodness a deeper reality will come to the fore: the feeling of oneness. Without oneness there can be no goodness, and without goodness there can be no oneness. Goodness means oneness.
If you take the other approach and think that your opponent is a bad fellow, then you will want to defeat him by hook or by crook. Your negative feeling toward him will bring an even stronger negative force to the fore in you. Even after the game is over, you will be thinking and saying nasty things about him. This will further lower your consciousness and, in the end, you will be the loser. But good thoughts will only increase your capacity in every way, and even after the match is over, there will be happiness in your mind.
Question: Borg never won the U.S. Open and Lendl, of course, has never won Wimbledon. Is it a karmic thing, just bad luck or just not being good enough at the time?
Sometimes the players are overconfident. Because they have won three of the four Grand Slam tournaments, they feel that easily they are going to win the fourth. Again, sometimes after winning three tournaments, they lose all their confidence and fear comes. After covering hundreds of miles, when somebody sees that he is finally near the shore, the beauty or the enormity of the shore frightens or puzzles him.
Also, negative forces can come into the picture. Sometimes people who were eliminated right in the beginning are dead set against somebody's winning the Grand Slam. Or people who used to be good players many years ago become very jealous if they see that someone is about to win the Grand Slam. They didn't get that kind of joy and that kind of prize when they were playing, so they don't want anyone else to get it. They use their negative power and put out a tremendous wrong force.
If someone becomes a good player, ninety per cent of the people do not want him to get any better. Only ten per cent want him to improve. I am not only talking about the players who are his rivals. It is a human tendency not to appreciate others' good qualities. We always try to destroy the good qualities of others even though we know perfectly well that we have accomplished nothing ourselves. I am lame, let us say. But if I hear that Carl Lewis or someone else is doing well, then immediately I will put out a negative force, saying, "Let him lose, let him lose!" And this negative thought enters into that person like a current.
Another reason why some players don't win the Grand Slam is that the destination itself does not want them. The destination — the Grand Slam — has its own consciousness and sometimes it does not want certain individuals to reach it. So when the destination sees that so and so is approaching, it just recedes. The destination should be neutral, but sometimes it is not.
Again, the destination does not have the capacity to actually decide whether or not somebody will reach it. If God is the destination, then God can decide. But if the destination is the finish line of a race or something like that, it cannot decide who will win. The destination in this case has its own limits. Again, God is inside the destination. In fact, God is the destination of everything.
Question: Why is the destination partial to certain individuals?
The destination likes you because it sees some good qualities in you, whereas it doesn't see those good qualities in me. If I am a bad person, let us say, and you are a good person, the destination may not want to be touched by me. But the destination may like you and want you to reach it. If I am spiritually awake, I will realise the reason the destination allows you to touch it but does not allow me. The next time I have to start the same journey, I will see that it is not my capacity that the destination wants from me but my good qualities. Then I will try to develop the same good qualities that you have. Outwardly I may not know what they are, but I can pray to God to give me the good qualities that allowed you to win.
Question: Last year you mentioned that five tennis stars on the inner plane had volunteered to help improve your game. What happened with them?
They had the capacity to teach me and they were ready to help me. But I have such knee pain. What can I do? You are willing to help me to become a good runner, let us say. But if I am lame and can't even get up, how can you help me? Their promise to help me was very, very sincere, and even now they are eager to help me. But they do not have the capacity to cure my knee injuries. So my present incapacity has destroyed everything. Otherwise, in two or three months you would have seen my tennis game become totally different.
Question: Sometimes when I play tennis badly I get very, very frustrated and when I'm playing well I get so much joy. Is there some way I can be more consistent instead of playing badly one day and playing well the next?
Everybody has the same problem — even the professionals. For nine days Lendl plays so well. Then on the tenth day, he plays badly and loses. Since you are following the spiritual life, you have to depend more on divine Grace than on your own capacity. On the day when you have a match, many hostile forces may attack you. Either doubt comes and you feel, "I may not be able to defeat so and so," or overconfidence comes and you say, "Yesterday I played so well, so today also I will easily be able to defeat my opponent."
What you have to do for a few minutes is pray and meditate with the idea, "By Your Grace, O my Supreme, I will play my best." You have to depend on His Grace, rather than on your own capacity, because even our own capacity is His Grace. So you have to depend on Him to give you the capacity to fight against doubt; you have to depend on Him to purify and illumine your consciousness so that you do not have nervousness, overconfidence or anything else.
Again, there is an even higher prayer: "By Your Grace I will play the way You want me to play, and I will be equally happy no matter who wins." Unconditional surrender is the highest prayer. Second best is to pray to play extremely well through the Supreme's Grace. Let us not bring unconditional surrender into the picture right now. If you use the second best prayer, then God's Grace will enter into your nervousness, insecurity, doubt and other wrong forces and you will always be able to maintain your regular standard.
Question: Databir and I played a lot together when you were in Bali and I noticed that every time we played one person was dominant right from the beginning. Why did this happen?
What was happening was that one of you was bringing your dormant determination very powerfully to the fore. Let us say that right from the beginning you are playing very well. Although you have not invoked your determination-power, spontaneously it is coming to the fore. Sometimes it takes such great effort to bring the capacity you have inside you to the fore, and sometimes it spontaneously comes forward and becomes part and parcel of your life.
It is as if you have something inside a box. Sometimes that thing wants to enjoy sleep and sometimes it wants to come out of the box. You may not even be asking it to come out of the box, but it is eager to come out. So when you started playing very well, you may not have been consciously mustering your determination, but God wanted to express this kind of determination in and through you.
Question: What should you do if there is a very close match and you hit a ball that seems to strike the line, but your opponent calls it out?
At that time you have to know whether the joy you are getting from the game is more meaningful to you than the joy you will get by fighting a losing battle for justice.
Question: You said that McEnroe brings forward intensity when he gets mad. Steffi Graf does the same thing. Is it good to get angry in order to win a match?
McEnroe does not deliberately try to get angry. Far from it! Spontaneously he loses his temper and starts saying bad words. But a point comes when he says, "Instead of wasting my time using bad words, let me concentrate on the game itself." Inwardly be decides that he will not allow his thoughts to dominate him. He tries to control his thoughts and then his game improves.
Question: In a match when you see a ball you know you can put away, how do you use dynamic power instead of the aggressive vital?
Many times there is more than one way to get a point. One way is the way of the aggressive vital. You are fighting, fighting, fighting. Then, all of a sudden your opponent is at your mercy, so you hit the ball very hard and win the point. It is like two bulls fighting: one is at a disadvantage and the other just destroys him.
The other way is to use a simple, delicate touch — a drop shot or some other stroke. If you use a delicate touch, then you will see how much the spectators will appreciate your skill. More people will appreciate you if you use a delicate touch, and you will get the point either way. This is what McEnroe often does. He can easily strike the ball very hard, but when he just delicately drops the ball near the net, people immediately feel that he is a superior player. They say, "Look, the other player is at his mercy, but he is showing compassion."
Question: If a person can hit a forehand shot with either the right or left hand is it necessary to also learn the backhand?
No, it is a waste of time. But you have to know which one of your two hands is more effective. If you know the right hand is more effective, then you have to play with the right hand and use the left hand only for emergencies. You may think they are equal, but one hand is always stronger, and the stronger one you have to make the strongest. That does not mean you should neglect the other hand. You have to try to make it better, but this may take a longer time. So the one that is better you should make best, and the one that is good you can make better.
Question: What is a good way to get inspiration in tennis after you play badly?
You have to watch some very good players. If you don't play well one day and feel miserable, just relax and watch some champions playing. Then you will get new inspiration.
Part III: Questions and answers on the relation between tennis and running
Following are two questions that Sri Chinmoy answered on the relation between tennis and running.
Question: What are the different qualities of tennis and running?
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?
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 do not 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.
God's creation is nothing other than God's Cosmic Game. From time immemorial God has been playing in and through each human being at every moment. The day God created Time, He became the Owner and the Distributor of Time.
Perhaps all of you know by this time that our simple philosophy is the philosophy of love, devotion and surrender. We have just watched tennis on the video. In tennis everything begins with "love." There is also "serve" in tennis. Those who play need dedication or devotion to the game, and at the end of the game one party surrenders to the other. So tennis can teach us how to become good seekers.
You have noticed how many of my students fell a number of times while they were playing tennis because of the rainy and wet conditions. In the spiritual life also, many, many, many, if not all, seekers fall or descend. But they get ample opportunity again to stand up and walk, march and run faster than the fastest. As we have seen on the video, the tennis players fell down only to get up. They fell down deplorably, but again stood up courageously to win in the battlefield of life.
In the spiritual life there is no such thing as failure. We may fall, we may descend, we may have the experience of so-called outer failure. But this is not real failure. Real failure is only when we give up and say, "This is an impossible task; no matter how many times I try, I will fail." If I entertain this wrong feeling and give up, then I have accepted failure and become failure itself. I fail only when I give up — never, never before!
Not to give up under any circumstances should be the motto of our life: "I shall try again and again, and I am bound to succeed. There will be obstacles, but I have to defy the obstacles." During the tennis game you saw, it was raining heavily. Let us take this rain as an obstacle that the players defied. Similarly, in the spiritual life, there will be lots of obstacles: fear, doubt, anxiety, worry, insecurity, impurity and so forth. These are all undivine hostile forces that attack us. We have to conquer them. There have been seekers on earth, right from the beginning of creation, who have conquered these forces. They have left behind their divine treasures on earth, and today's seekers have got these treasures as their divine heritage. So if there are obstacles on the way, we shall not give up.
Although the great tennis stars may not be conscious seekers, unconsciously they surrender their results to God. If they are conscious seekers, definitely they offer their results consciously to their Lord Supreme. There is no human being who either unconsciously or consciously does not or cannot surrender the results of his actions to the Supreme. But if we can become conscious seekers, conscious instruments of God, then we need not wait for the results of our actions, for at every moment we derive abundant joy from what we do. The action itself, if it is devoted action, is joy.
The ultimate aim of the spiritual life is enlightenment. But we must not have the wrong notion that enlightenment excludes entertainment. Enlightenment does include entertainment. Real entertainment is not and need not be restless, vital excitement. It can come from an innocent, spontaneous feeling of joy from deep within and be the simple expression of this inner, sweet, tender, soulful feeling. This kind of innocent entertainment gives the rest of the world the same kind of spontaneous, childlike innocent joy. It helps enormously to free us from mental tension and from unforeseen and undivine hostile attacks.
My Guru is the Absolute Supreme, and those who follow my path have the same Guru, the Absolute Supreme. To me, He is everything: He is the creation; He is beyond the creation. He is my Eternity's All. Again, there are cosmic gods and goddesses in Heaven. I know them; I have a free access to them, and they have a free access to me. There is not a single day that passes when there is no divine entertainment in Heaven. Here is the proof that the cosmic gods and goddesses do enjoy entertainment in their own way. Since there is no vital as such in the soul's world, vital excitement is out of the question. It is only the soul's game, the spirit's game, the exchange of sheer psychic delight, the game of ecstasy in the assembly of the cosmic gods and goddesses.
There are seekers who do not find joy in the spiritual life. Why do they not find joy? Precisely because they want to discover something new with the mind. But if they want to discover something new, illumining and fulfilling, then they have to be in the heart, with the heart and for the heart. The heart is all oneness, and this oneness is God's Vision fulfilled in His seekers, servers and lovers. If we live in the heart, with the heart and for the heart, then at every moment there will be newness, and inside newness will be fulness — complete, whole.
The spiritual life is not for the chosen few; it is for all. Some may walk slowly while others may jog. Still others may run fast or even sprint. But we all shall reach the same destination at God's choice Hour, provided we do not stop for good on the way or, what is worse, make a complete turn-around and want to go back to our old life, which is nothing short of an undivine, unaspiring, animal life.
Let us try to run consciously at every moment to our destined Goal. If the hostile forces compel us to descend, then the divine forces are there with their infinite Compassion to lift us once again and help us run the fastest. So do not give up, do not give up! Continue, continue! The Goal is ahead of you. If you do not give up, you are bound to reach your destined Goal.
PTED 23. Sri Chinmoy made these comments after a video showing at a public meditation held at PS 86 on 5 June 1985.↩
You can learn so much from tennis. Whenever I play, please watch very soulfully.
When I strike the ball, see how the ball surrenders and goes wherever I want it to. Each time I strike the ball, please identify yourself with the ball, and feel that you are surrendering to the will of the Supreme in me. Inwardly you can say the word "surrender." And no matter in which direction I hit the ball, unconditionally it goes there. So feel that you are making your surrender unconditional.
Then when I am serving, please feel that you are serving the Supreme in your Guru. Whenever I serve, please feel that you are serving the Supreme in me with utmost love and devotion.
If you can do these two things, you will get tremendous joy and make tremendous progress when you are watching me play tennis.
PTED 24. Sri Chinmoy made these remarks about tennis at the Bali Beach Hotel on 15 January 1988, during a visit to Indonesia.↩
Part V: Poems
The spiritual message of tennis
The spiritual message of tennis:
And finally surrender
To the Supreme in the winner.
The loser who cheerfully
To the Supreme in the winner
Becomes himself a real winner
In the inner world.
I go to God twice a day
I go to God twice a day.
In the morning
I go to my Beloved Supreme
With the surrender
of a tennis ball.
He tells me I am on my way
In the evening
I go to my Beloved Supreme
With a basket of
He tells me I am all perfection.
Tennis, tennis, tennis game,
I play it not for name and fame.
Tennis, tennis, tennis game,
I play, my monkey-life to tame.
Tennis, tennis, tennis game,
I play to feed my climbing flame.
God's Tennis Court
God's Tennis Court
Is meant only for those
Who like to play all the time
From:Sri Chinmoy,I play tennis every day, Agni Press, 1994
Sourced from https://srichinmoylibrary.com/ted