Part I

SCA 962-978. Excerpts from an interview with Nils Lodin of Spring-Time, a Swedish running magazine, which took place at the United Nations on 26 October 1982, two days after both Mr. Lodin and Sri Chinmoy had run the New York City Marathon.

Sri Chinmoy: Congratulations on your marathon! You did so well! Was it your best time?

Nils Lodin: Yes, it was my best time by about 55 seconds, but I feel that I could have done better.

Sri Chinmoy: It is always best to think that way. Then you can have hope and determination to do better in the future.

Nils Lodin: I always try. Do I understand correctly that activity and meditation form the essence of your teaching?

Sri Chinmoy: Our philosophy does not negate either the outer life or the inner life. Most human beings negate the inner life. They feel that the inner life is not important as long as they can exist on earth. Again, there are a few who think that the outer life is not necessary. They feel that the best thing is to enter into the Himalayan caves and lead a life of solitude, since the outer life is so painful and full of misunderstanding.

We do not believe in living either a life of solitude or an ordinary human life, the so-called modern life that depends on machines and not on the inner reality, the soul. We would like to synthesise and harmonise the outer life and the inner life. The outer life is like a beautiful flower, and the inner life is its fragrance. If there is no fragrance, then we cannot appreciate the flower. Again, if there is no flower, how can there be any fragrance?

Nils Lodin: I have read that you write hundreds of poems every day. Is that true?

Sri Chinmoy: Whenever I get inspiration, I do it; not every day. At one sitting, if I want to write non-stop, I may write hundreds of poems, but this is not a daily affair.

Nils Lodin: You seem to try to accomplish as much as possible every day. Are your outer achievements related to your inner beliefs?

Sri Chinmoy: I feel that quality and quantity can go together. People often think that if you care for quantity, then you have to sacrifice quality. I feel this need not be true if there is inner guidance. If we can have a free access to our Inner Pilot, who inundates us with inspiration, then quality need not be sacrificed for the sake of quantity. If we know how to pray and meditate to gain a free access to the world of inspiration, if we have an inner communication with our Pilot Supreme, then quality and quantity can go together. I have composed thousands of songs and poems and painted thousands of paintings. For all my achievements I entirely depend on the Grace of the Supreme. His Grace gives me inspiration and guides me in everything I do — whether I am writing a poem, composing a song, painting a painting, running a marathon or giving a lecture. Everything I do depends on the inner guidance, and this inner guidance is nothing other than Compassion and Grace from Above.

Nils Lodin: How does running relate to your philosophy?

Sri Chinmoy: The body is like a temple, and the soul or inner reality is like the shrine inside the body-temple. If the temple does not have a shrine, then we cannot appreciate the temple. Again, if we do not keep the temple in good condition, then how can we take proper care of the shrine? We have to keep the body fit, and for this, running is of considerable help. If we are physically fit, then we will be more inspired to get up early in the morning to meditate. True, the inspiration to meditate comes from within, but if we do not have a stomach upset or headache or any other physical ailment, then it will be much easier for us to get up to pray and meditate. In this way the inner life is being helped by the outer life. Again, if I am inspired to get up early to meditate, then I will also be able to go out and run. Here we see that the outer life is being helped by the inner life.

Both the outer running and the inner running are important. A marathon is twenty-six miles. Let us say that twenty-six miles is our ultimate goal. When we first take up running, we cannot run that distance. But by practising every day, we develop more stamina, speed, perseverance and so forth. Gradually we transcend our capacity and eventually we reach our goal

We can say that our prayer and meditation is our inner running. If we pray and meditate every day, we increase our inner capacity. The body's capacity and the soul's capacity, the body's speed and the soul's speed, go together. The soul is running along Eternity's Road. The outer running reminds us of our inner running. In this way our body reminds us of something higher and deeper — the soul — which is dealing with Eternity, Infinity and Immortality. Running and physical fitness help us both in our inner life of aspiration and in our outer life of activity.

Nils Lodin: Running has no value in itself?

Sri Chinmoy: Running helps us considerably. Running is continuous motion. Because of our running, we feel that there is a goal — not only an outer goal but also an inner goal. Running helps us by showing us that there is a goal. Again, running itself is a goal for those who want to keep the body in perfect condition.

Running offers us the message of transcendence. In our running, every day we are aiming at a new goal. It is like a child who studies in school. First he studies in kindergarten, then he goes to primary school, then to high school, college and university. After getting his university degree, still he is not satisfied. He wants to achieve more wisdom, more knowledge. Similarly, every day we are running towards a goal, but when we reach that goal, we want to go still farther. Either we want to improve our timing or increase our distance. There is no end. Running means continual transcendence, and that is also the message of our inner life.

Nils Lodin: I understand that you sleep very little. Why do you not sleep more?

Sri Chinmoy: It is not necessary. If there is something which you do not need, then you feel that it is a waste of time, so why do it? If you need something, then you will try to derive benefit from that thing. But if you do not need it, then what is the use of having it?

Nils Lodin: Then, may I ask you, why do you not need it? Other people need to sleep seven or eight hours.

Sri Chinmoy: This started many years ago, when I used to meditate eight, nine, ten hours a day. When I was in India, I used to go to bed at eleven or twelve o'clock and get up at two o'clock in the morning. Then I used to meditate for hours and hours. Now my meditation is continuous.

Nils Lodin: Do you think that meditation is a kind of sleep?

Sri Chinmoy: No. Meditation brings down peace. This peace energises the entire body. When your whole body is surcharged with peace, you do not need so many hours of rest. Sometimes two hours of rest will give you ample energy. Again, sometimes you may be in bed for hours and hours and not get any real rest.

Nils Lodin: You are a Guru, but what is a Guru?

Sri Chinmoy: 'Guru' is a Sanskrit word. It means 'he who illumines others'. The Guru brings light. Light itself is the real Guru. In my case, I always say that I am a server. I am a child of God, and you are also a child of God. We are members of the same family. The one who came first into the family perhaps knows more than the ones who came after him. In terms of spirituality, I know a little more than my students. Being the elder brother, I know more about our Heavenly Father, God. I teach them how to pray and meditate so that they can also have a free access to our Heavenly Father, their Inner Pilot.

Nils Lodin: Are you quite sure that your advice is always right?

Sri Chinmoy: My advice is not coming from me as an individual. I have no personal motive. I do not want to gain anything from my students. I am like a bridge between this shore and the other shore. Or you can say that I am the messenger boy. I carry the heavy load of suffering from this shore, and I bring back the Smile from the other shore. I am one with the suffering of my students and with the suffering of humanity at large. I go upward with that suffering and then, when I come down again, I bring the Smile from Above. When I am on this shore, I take the cries from my students, from my friends and dear ones, from humanity. Then, when I pray and meditate, I go to the other shore, where I get the Smile and bring it down to those who are suffering. The best way to describe what I do is to call me the messenger boy, carrying messages to and fro.

Nils Lodin: When you tell your students that they should act like this or like that, have you got the message from the other shore?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes. Then it is up to my students whether they execute the message or not. If they do not execute it, then they suffer and I also suffer along with them. I will not be able to ignore their suffering and just tell them that they are suffering because they did not listen to me. No, on the strength of my oneness with them, I will also suffer. Parents tell their children to do the right thing. But at times the children do not listen. Then the parents suffer as much as the children. If the children do not listen to their parents and they suffer, will the parents not feel miserable if they are real parents? They may say, "You did not listen to us. That is why you are suffering." But they cannot say, "We will have nothing to do with your suffering." They have to bear the same suffering as their children.

Nils Lodin: When you are running a marathon, are you suffering?

Sri Chinmoy: It is a kind of experience that I am having!

Nils Lodin: It is a tough experience.

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, it is not a pleasant experience.

[Nils Lodin laughs.]

Sri Chinmoy: I get two kinds of experiences. On the physical, vital and mental planes, I get the experience which you can call suffering. It is an unpleasant feeling. From the beginning to the end, the body is being tortured. Again, there is also the inner experience. I feel that the outer experience which I am going through is something that my Inner Pilot wants me to do, and I surrender the results. I know it will take me more than four and a half hours. But if I can offer the results to Him, then I am getting a divine experience, the experience of surrender. One experience I am getting on the physical, vital and mental planes, and another experience I am getting on the psychic plane. Whatever I achieve, cheerfully I will give to Him; this is my inner experience. The outer experience that I am getting is torture, right from the beginning to the end, but that also I am offering to Him. Both the inner and the outer experiences I am offering to God, my Inner Pilot.

Nils Lodin: But I think that you benefit, not only as a Guru, but as a person. I always say to my friends that you do not know anything about life until you have run a full marathon. It gives a dimension to life that I have never encountered before. The pain in those last six or eight miles is a pain that you cannot meet in other situations.

Sri Chinmoy: Right! We get a very unusual experience. We expect at every moment that the members of our inner family — the body, vital, mind and heart — will come to our rescue. I as an individual will think that since I have a body, a vital, a mind and a heart, naturally, now that I am in need of their help, these members of my family will come to my rescue. But after a few miles, they all revolt. They all say, "Give up! Get off the course!" We beg the body to carry us to the finish line, but the body is not listening. The vital also is not listening and the mind is constantly rejecting the idea. Determination we lose. So you are absolutely right. When one runs a marathon or any long distance, one knows what life is — a struggle from the beginning to the end. A marathon gives us a prime example of the struggle of human life.