Mary Slaney (formerly Decker-Tabb): It is known that some female athletes, because of drugs, have a chemical advantage over their competitors. How can a natural athlete, such as myself, justify the use of world rankings, knowing that other athletes using drugs are consistently ranked higher than so-called natural athletes?1

Sri Chinmoy: Sometimes it is good and necessary to know what others are doing. If one is a runner, this can encourage one's competitive spirit. Again, sometimes it is a great hindrance when we know what others are doing. It puzzles us and, at the same time, we have no inclination to adopt their methods. In cases like this, it is always good to depend on one's own natural ability.

Nature embodies the cosmic energy. This cosmic energy is infinitely stronger than any man-made chemicals. This energy comes from the ultimate Source and it leads us to the ultimate Source while fulfilling and satisfying us along the way. Chemicals and other artificial things will ultimately fail, for they are unnatural. Anything that is unnatural is like a balloon. For a while it will dazzle us and puzzle our human mind, but eventually it will burst.

One of my poems speaks about naturalness. It says:

Live in naturalness
If you want to grow
Into the fulness
Of God's Vision-Reality.

Stay with your natural ability. Already you are a radiant example of nature's unquestionable supremacy over the so-called chemical miracles. You have been chosen as the US Athlete of the Year. You can definitely bring high, higher and highest glories in the running world not only to your beloved country, America, but to all mankind.

  1. RS 15. Mary Slaney set her first national junior mark in 1974 at 800 metres (2:01.8) as a high school student, a record which still stands. Her stellar career has lasted over 20 years. She still holds American outdoor records for 1,500m (3:57.12), set in 1983; one mile (4:16.71), set in 1985; 2,000m (5:32.7), set in 1984; and 3,000m (8:25.83), set in 1985. Her still-standing indoor American records are: 1,000m (2:37.6), set in 1989; 1,500m (4:00.8), set in 1980; and one mile (4:20.5), set in 1982. She won an exciting World Championships 1,500m gold medal in 1983. She has been a member of three Olympic teams.

Part II — Talk

Talk at the opening of the United States National Senior Olympics1

O Senior Olympics, I bow to the indomitable courage of your body and I bow to the unhorizoned dream of your soul. You are the perfect embodiment of yesterday's blossoming inspiration, today's mounting aspiration and tomorrow's fulfilling satisfaction.

O Senior Olympians, your hearts' wisdom-light is telling the entire world that you belong to Time eternal, running along Eternity's Road, challenging the giant pride of self-doubt on the battlefield of life. You are the supreme hero-athletes who look forward, upward and inward. Forward you look to declare you can. Upward you look to declare you will. Inward you look to declare /you are,/ eternally are. You can conquer the limitations of the body. You will transform the teeming imperfections of the body into perfection. You are the Olympian pilgrims who smilingly and proudly shake hands with impossibility. Already you are in the galaxy of immortals. You are creating a oneness-world-home with the physical fitness of your body-fort and with the universal fulness of your heart-victory.

O Senior Olympics, O Senior Olympians, O self-giving sponsors and organisers of this unprecedented Senior Olympics, to you I bow, to you I bow. With my mind's prayerful admiration and with my heart's soulful gratitude, to you I bow.

  1. RS 16. Sri Chinmoy offered this talk on 27 June 1987 during the opening ceremonies of the first US National Senior Olympics, held in St. Louis.

Part III — Interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

RS 17-25. The following is an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that took place on 27 June 1987 prior to the opening ceremony of the US National Senior Olympics.

Question: Do you have a philosophy on physical fitness?

Sri Chinmoy: As a truth-seeker and a God-lover, I feel the supreme necessity of physical fitness. To me, the body is the temple, and inside the temple is the shrine. If there is no temple, then there can be no shrine. The shrine is our soul, our inner life, our inner hunger for truth, for delight, for beauty, for perfection. The body and the soul must go together, like the inner life and the outer life. If I have a good thought inside my mind, then I can express it to the world at large. If I have a pure heart, then in my outer actions and dealings also, I will be pure. The inner and the outer must go together. This is my simple philosophy.

Question: Which comes first — the inner life or the outer life?

Sri Chinmoy: God always comes first. The creation did not create God. God is both God the Creator and God the creation. Then they become one, inseparably one. But we have to say the Vision of God came first, then the manifestation of God. The manifestation cannot come before the vision. You envision something and then you try to give shape and form to it. So the Vision of God came before the manifestation of God.

The physical strength or physical capacity that we have is the result of our inner aspiration. That is to say, how we behave inwardly is of supreme importance at the beginning, and then how we behave and react in our outer life. Our inner life of aspiration must come first; then comes our outer life of dedication. They go together, but the one will lead and guide the other. If we are not guided by our inner thoughts, inner goodwill, inner strength, then we will be nowhere in the outer life.

Question: How does exercise and competition help the inner life?

Sri Chinmoy: In my case, I use the term 'self-transcendence'. I do not compete with anybody. I compete with myself. It is like a seed that germinates and becomes a plant. Then it becomes a tree and, finally, it grows into a huge banyan tree. I always try to transcend myself. In the weightlifting world, I started lifting 40 pounds with one arm and then I went up and up.

There are many athletes who get inspiration and enthusiasm only when they compete with others. I cannot blame them. If someone is in a position to compete with somebody else, that means he is inspired, he is enthusiastic. If he is competing with someone, then he can bring to the fore his utmost capacity. Otherwise he may be lethargic. He may not practise daily. The physical discipline in his life may come into existence only when he knows that he has to compete with somebody else. Otherwise, he may not take these physical exercises seriously.

But with God's Grace, I practise daily for physical fitness and at the same time I try to better myself, I try to improve my capacity.

Question: Is improvement and building on previous records important, or is the main thing to exercise daily?

Sri Chinmoy: I feel improvement is necessary in order for us to make progress. In this world we are happy only when we make progress. When I studied English, in the beginning I had to learn the alphabet, the ABCs. Now at this age, if I had not studied hundreds and thousands of English books, I would have felt miserable because my teacher taught me the ABCs so many years ago. So that is called progress. This progress is giving me satisfaction. What we want is satisfaction. If we are satisfied with what we have right now, and we do not want to go forward, then we will not be happy.

Again, we have to know that there is a great difference between competition and progress. When we want to compete with others, sometimes we adopt foul means — by hook or by crook we try to win. Then we bring to the fore our feelings of rivalry and almost animal propensities, animal qualities. We are only thinking of how we can defeat others, how we can lord it over others. But when we are competing with ourselves, we know that we have to purify our inner existence in order to improve. So here is the difference. When it is a matter of self-transcendence, we have to depend on our inner purity, inner love, vastness and oneness with the rest of the world. We try to develop universal goodwill, whereas, while competing with others, we may not have those feelings. At that time, we may see others as rivals, we are on the border of enmity with them. It can be as if we are fighting with enemies when we are competing. But when we are trying to transcend ourselves, we cannot fight with ourselves. If we can go ten steps ahead today, tomorrow we will try to cover twenty steps, and the day after thirty steps.

Question: Spiritually, what can we get from games? Volleyball, for instance, is one of those sports that they will be doing in the Senior Olympics.

Sri Chinmoy: Very good. I happened to be a volleyball player in my teens. I was the captain, the main instructor, in the place where I was brought up in India for many, many years. I used to play volleyball quite well.

From the spiritual point of view, there are many things we can learn from games. One is fellow feeling. Then, in volleyball there is something called a serve. Let us take the term 'serve'. By playing, we are serving mankind. You will say, "How?" Let us say you are playing volleyball, and I am in the audience. You are giving me joy and inspiration. You are playing so well, you are smashing the ball and doing all kinds of things.

Why do we watch sports? The world needs inspiration and enthusiasm. You play volleyball extremely well, and I am inspired by it. Then I go and play tennis. You have given me the inspiration, and I go and play some other game. But you gave me the joy, you gave me the inspiration, you gave me the courage. Like that, each person can get inspiration from another person to do better in their own respective fields.

Question: Why is the development of the Senior Olympics important?

Sri Chinmoy: I am very happy because those who participate in the Senior Olympics are utilising time in a divine way. There are two kinds of time. One is fleeting time. Another is eternal Time. Here these people who are advanced in life are trying to defy the attacks of self-doubt, frustration, failure and so many negative things. As we advance in age, incapacity lords it over us. We can no longer do this, we can no longer do that. Ten years ago we did it, but now we cannot run fast, we are unable to do so many things. Then we become frustrated.

But the Senior Olympians are saying, "No! We are still walking along the same road. Sometimes we are sprinting, sometimes we are running, sometimes we are jogging, and sometimes we are crawling. But as long as we keep to the same road, we will reach the destination." We often see a marathon runner running very fast. Then, to wards the end of the race, how difficult it is for him to run. He is obliged to walk. But when he reaches his destination at the end of 26 miles, he gets tremendous joy. So here also the Senior Olympians, after the age of 55, may not run as fast as they did in their prime. But the fact that they are still willing to run and eager to run deserves tremendous appreciation and admiration from us.

Question: In your remarks tonight, what do you anticipate saying to the Senior Olympians?

Sri Chinmoy: I only wish to encourage them and inspire them. I will tell them that they have developed wisdom. I use the term 'wisdom-light'. These senior athletes do not belong to the fleeting time. They belong to Time eternal. They are running along Eternity's Road, challenging the giant pride of self-doubt. Self-doubt so proudly declares, "I cannot do this, I cannot do that." The giant pride of self-doubt stands against us in the battlefield of life. These Senior Olympians are challenging their own self-doubt. They are shaking hands smilingly and proudly with impossibility. People say, "It is impossible — a person of that age cannot do pole vault. They cannot do shot-put or hurdles." But these Senior Olympians are proving that there is no such thing as impossibility.

Question: Could you talk about the concert that you will be giving?

Sri Chinmoy: It is a Peace Concert. This world of ours has everything save and except one thing: peace. And this peace has to start from within. If I have peace of mind, then only can I be of help to you. If you have peace of mind, then only can you be of help to me. This peace of mind we can get from our peaceful meditation and our prayerful life, not from political talk. Not by talking, but by praying and becoming something good can we offer peace to others. So I play quite a few instruments and offer soulful music — not the music that stimulates our vital, but the music that increases our inner hunger, which is love of God.

Question: What is the relationship between meditation and sports? I know in martial arts, which is something I've done for many years, there is a direct relationship, but does it also exist with sports?

Sri Chinmoy: In sports we need energy, strength and dynamism. When we meditate, we make our mind calm and quiet. If inside us there is peace, then we will derive tremendous strength from our inner life. That is to say, if I have a peaceful moment, even for one second, that peace will come to me as solid strength in my sports, whether I am running or jumping or throwing. That strength is almost indomitable strength, whereas if we are restless, we do not have strength like that.

Look at an elephant. An elephant has tremendous strength. It is not restless like a monkey which is moving here and there. It is exactly the same for us. In our inner life if we have the strength of an elephant, then only in our outer life can we be peaceful. A lion is very peaceful. Then when something happens, he starts roaring. But its strength is the peace that it has. It has confidence. But a monkey and other animals that are very, very restless, what kind of strength do they have? Meditation gives us inner strength. Once we have inner strength, we are bound to be successful in our outer life.

Part IV — Question and answers

RSSR 26-27. The following two questions from super long-distance ultramarathon runner Suprabha Beckjord were answered on 26 January 2000 and 20 February 2000.

Question: For a very long task, such as an ultramarathon that goes on for many days, do I need to have patience or should I just try to have dynamism?

Sri Chinmoy: Every morning, when you are starting to run, you have to feel that this is the only day that you are running. Then, when tomorrow comes, again think that this is the only day. Otherwise, you may lose patience when you have to run more than a month. To try to always maintain dynamism is out of the question. If you try to have dynamism, you will fall down so many times! The best thing for you to do is to fool the mind by saying, "Oh, this race is only for one day." Then you will take rest. When tomorrow comes, again you will think, "This race is only for one day." Always divide it. Every day when you start, if you can convince yourself that it is only for one day, then you will think, "Oh, I can easily do it. Only last year I ran 3,100 miles. Today I cannot run 60 miles? Easily I can do it!" Since quite often the mind is fooling us, we have to use our wisdom to fool the mind.

Question: Is there some spiritual quality that I can invoke during the 3,100-mile race this year or something new I can do to really please the Supreme? Outwardly I know the goal is to finish the race, to transcend my best time and so forth, but is there something I can do inwardly to please the Supreme?1

Sri Chinmoy: There is no 'inwardly' and 'outwardly'. If we feel that there is any difference between the inner life and outer life, then we shall always be failures. There should be no difference between the inner life and outer life — not even an iota. If we have a good thought, that very good thought we have to manifest in the outer life. Inside and outside we have to take as the obverse and reverse of the same coin. A coin has two sides, but no matter which side you are looking at, the coin has the same value. Each side is equally important. Whatever you have inside, whether it is a good thought or a bad thought, automatically gets expressed.

Now the question is, what qualities do you need to bring forward from your inner life while you are running? The first one is enthusiasm. Who embodies enthusiasm? A little child. Who can be more enthusiastic than a child? He enters into a garden and runs here and there, here and there, appreciating everything that he sees. Then, in addition to enthusiasm, you need eagerness. Again, who has more eagerness than a little child? If he plays with a toy, he is so eager, his whole world is the toy.

Every day when you run, you have to feel that it is a golden opportunity to appreciate the One who is inspiring you. Always you have to feel that the Supreme is inspiring you to run this longer than the longest distance. Somebody is begging you, urging you, to do the right thing. Again, when you agree and say, "Yes, I will do it," then that Somebody Himself runs in and through you. First God comes and begs us, "Be a nice person, be a nice person." Then when we have decided that we should become a nice person, when we have said, "Yes, my Lord, I have decided to become a nice person," God Himself becomes that nice person. Similarly, when you run, if you offer the prayer, "God, please make me a good runner. I want to make progress this time in my running," then this is a good prayer. At that time God Himself will become a good runner inside you.

Now, while running 3,100 miles, you have to deal with fatigue — when you are tired, exhausted, dead. As long as you are in the mind, you will always have fatigue, tiredness, weariness and everything. But the moment you enter into the heart, there is no fatigue. What you will find is constant energy.

When you are doing something for the Supreme and you are in the heart, you can work hours and hours, day and night. When we love something or someone, this is what always happens. Yesterday is an illustration. In spite of being tired, your best friend made such beautiful decorations for your birthday. Her tiredness disappeared because of her love. But if she had been in the mind, she would have only worked for a short time and then given up. Then she would not have created such beautiful things.

If you are in the heart, there is a constant supply of energy and sweetness. We all have to develop sweetness. Sweetness is not masculine or feminine. People say that only girls can have sweetness and not men, but sweetness is not something masculine or feminine. Sweetness is a reality which is constantly supplying us with newness and freshness.

Early in the morning when you get up, if you have a sweet feeling inside you, then everything is beautiful. If inside you there is sweetness, the whole world is beautiful. But if inside you there is bitterness, then no matter what you see — even if you look at my Transcendental picture — you will not get any joy. Even if you look at a beautiful flower, there will be no joy. But inner sweetness sees the world as most beautiful.

While you are running this long distance, you are seeing hundreds of cars passing by and so many people are making noise. But you should feel that you are not running around that big block; you are only running inside your own heart-garden where there are beautiful flowers, plants and trees. If you can not only see but feel that each time you are going around you are only running inside your beautiful heart-garden, then you can bring sweetness into each and every step that you take.

The surface that you run on is solid concrete. I cannot even walk on it. When you are running around, after an hour or two hours or a few days, this solid thing that you feel you are striking against starts striking your mind. You start thinking, "This is so bad. Every day I have to do sixty miles," this and that. But who counts the mileage? It is the mind. The mind is saying, "Oh my God, today I have to do sixty miles, and I have not yet done twenty miles!" Then you are finished! The mind, your worst enemy, is coming to torture you.

But the heart is not counting the mileage. The heart is only running, running, running. Then at the end of that session, the heart says, "Now let me see how many miles I have done." By that time, perhaps you have done forty miles already. The heart does not calculate. The mind calculates from one to two, two to three, three to four and so on. The mind tries to go to the destination by cutting, cutting, cutting. But the heart tries to see and feel the starting point and the end at the same time. For the heart the destination is not somewhere else. Only for the mind is the destination somewhere else.

The heart will simply say, "Please take me to my destination." Yesterday in the prayer I gave before lifting up 1,300 pounds, I said to the Supreme, "Take me to my destination. It is a very long journey." While I was giving the prayer, it was my heart that was talking. How soulfully I was saying it! So inside the heart the starting point and the finish line are together.

If you can feel that you are a five-year-old or six-year-old child, tiredness will not come into your mind. A child does not know what tiredness is. He knows only enthusiasm and eagerness. Never think of sixty miles or 3,100 miles. Never take the distance in that way — never! Only run for the joy of it. When you run for the joy, even while you are running, sometimes you are thinking of me or of something very divine and sweet. Then by the time you would have normally come to nineteen miles, you will have covered twenty-three miles. You will ask, "How did I run so fast?" It is because your heart was enjoying some divinity when you were thinking of me or thinking of your soul. When the heart starts operating in and through the legs or the body, then the distance will always become much more. Otherwise, you will run five miles and then give up. When the heart runs, you will have already run twenty miles, and then you will say, "How could I have come so far?" The answer is because at that time you were in another world. The divinity of that other world was constantly helping you and supporting you.

When you run, never think that you are forty-three or forty-four years old. Only think that you are six or seven years old. If you are only six or seven years old, then why do you have to worry? When I lift heavy weights, at that time do I say, "Oh my God, I am sixty-nine, nearing seventy years old. How am I going to lift?" Then I would be finished! I will only go there and say, "Oh my God, it may drop on my head! I will die or have to live in the hospital the rest of my life." This is the kind of ideas that the mind will supply me with.

But the heart does not see the weight in that way. The heart sees the weight as a big toy. When a child gets a toy or when my dog Chela gets a toy, it may be so big that he cannot move it even, but he is so happy that such a big toy has now come into his possession. In my case, I take the weight as a toy. In your case also, when you think of the long distance, try to imagine that it is something to play with. Do not think of distance as something you will cover. Do not think that you will be tired, you will be exhausted or you will die. You have to take running as a game you like to play. Any game that you like, feel that you are playing that game. Do not feel that you are running such a long distance, and that every day you are getting tired. No! With tiredness comes sadness, and then you become upset — everything!

A child plays every day with new toys. Today's new toy can be quite inferior to yesterday's toys. But just because it is new, the child gets tremendous joy. My dog Chela has so many good toys. But if you bring him a new one, even if you bring one that is exactly like the toys he already has, he will be so excited! The same way, each day when you go out to run, you should see newness, newness, newness. Always think of the heart-garden. When you walk or run in a garden, you do not become tired because of the beautiful flowers and fragrance. Everything is charming, everything is inspiring. When you think of the street, there are only roaring lions here and there, with deafening noise. But while you are running in your own heart-garden, such a sweet feeling you are getting. It is your own garden; you are the boss.

When your mind is operating very powerfully, you are not the boss. Your boss is self-doubt, self-criticism, fear, worry and anxiety. You are constantly thinking, "Will I be able to complete the race?" Those wrong forces become your boss. But when you run inside your heart, at that time your boss is your love of God; your boss is your surrender to God's Will. If you can keep that feeling in your outer life while you are running, then there will be no problem. Always take it as a garden, not as a street, not as a big block.

Do not run with the mind. Even if today you fool the mind, tomorrow the mind will come back with redoubled trickeries to make your life miserable. You should say to the mind, "You stay with your trickeries. I want to play with my heart-toy, not with you. You consider your toys as beautiful, but I don't agree. In those days I was a fool; I enjoyed you. But now I am wise. I want to enjoy my heart-toy. The heart-toy always brings me happiness and newness, newness and happiness."

When you run, if you can make yourself feel that inside your heart Somebody is running or your heart is running or you are running with your heart, then tiredness disappears, the power of distance disappears. Only the power of oneness, oneness, oneness with God's Will appears.

All my blessings, all my love, all my gratitude, all my pride and pride and pride go to you for running this long, unimaginably long distance.

  1. RS 27. Suprabha Beckjord is one of the most prolific super long- distance runners in the world. In the decade of the nineties, she ran 20,108 multi-day racing miles in fourteen events. She is the only three-time woman finisher in the Sri Chinmoy 3,100-Mile Race and one of only two people ever to finish the race three times. She is the American record-holder for 700, 1,000 and 1,300 miles. She was the first woman in the 1996 Sri Chinmoy 2,700-Mile Race, establishing new records beyond 1,300 miles up to 2,700 miles. She won the Sri Chinmoy Seven-Day Race five times earlier in her career and has held the world best for 1,000 miles as well. Her six-day best of 459 miles ranks sixth all time for women.