Question: One of the things that you talk about a lot in your writings is self-transcendence. We were talking to Ashrita about his breaking the brick-carrying world record, which was certainly an example of self-transcendence. He said that after he had walked around the track with a nine-pound brick for forty miles, he was on the verge of collapsing. Then you came and your presence and a few things you said put him into a state of self-transcendence. What do you do? How can you catalyse a person, or how can a person catalyse himself to transcend what he believes are his normal limitations?

Sri Chinmoy: Self-transcendence is not only possible, but practical and practicable, provided we sincerely feel in the very depths of our heart that we are not the doer but Somebody else is the Doer. Who is that Somebody else? It is our highest part, our Absolute Lord Supreme.

In our Bhagavad Gita, the Song Celestial, Lord Sri Krishna taught us, nimitta matram bhava savyasachin — “Become a mere instrument.” In my case, I tell my students never, never to think that they are the doers, because only God is the Doer. They should only offer their gratitude to Him at every moment because He is acting in and through them to do something special for Him.

There are many feats that Ashrita has performed over the years that are far beyond my own imagination-flight. He has succeeded because he has implicit faith in me and I have implicit faith in the Supreme, who is my students’ Guru, my Guru, everybody’s Guru. I always tell my students, “I am not your Guru. There is only one Guru on earth and in Heaven, and that is the Absolute Lord Supreme. He is our Eternity’s All.”

I tell all my students that I am like the elder brother in our spiritual family. As the elder brother, I know where our Father is. My job is to bring my younger brothers and sisters to the Father. Then my role is over and the younger ones can deal with the Father directly. On the strength of my inner awakening and realisation, I can say that I have been praying for quite a few years, even centuries. So I know an iota more about aspiration and realisation than Ashrita does, and I try to create faith inside him so he will come and follow me to the Father. I try to increase his own faith in himself so that he will see and feel that he is a supremely chosen instrument of God.

I am praying to God to bring to the fore only one quality in each individual: the faith that he is a special member of God’s family with a special purpose in life. Through each individual God is trying to manifest something unique. God does not want each and every human being in this world to perform the same task. No, He wants multiplicity in unity. A tree has one trunk but so many branches, flowers and fruits.

Our philosophy, as you so kindly mentioned, is self-transcendence. I happen to be an athlete. Let us say I have reached a certain standard and I am very proud of myself. But the moment I look around, I will see that somebody else can defeat me easily. So if we enter into the world of competition and try to defeat the whole world, we will be doomed to disappointment. Perhaps this moment we will stand first, but the next moment there will be somebody else to defeat us. So in the world of competition there is no peace; always there is somebody who is better. But if we try to compete only with ourselves and continually improve our own standard, then we are always happy.

In the spiritual life also, we are always trying to transcend and go beyond. If today I do twenty things wrong, then tomorrow I will try to do only nineteen things wrong. I will constantly try to improve myself, and in this way I will get a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I am not competing with anybody other than myself. This is how I can feel that I am arriving at perfection. Again, today’s perfection is only the starting point for tomorrow’s higher perfection.