Run and smile, smile and run
Part I — Question and answersRS 1-15. These questions from world-class runners, were answered by Sri Chinmoy in 1982 and 1983. They were published on a monthly basis in a syndicated column entitled "Run and Become".
Greg Meyer: Why do I get more satisfaction from training than from racing?1Sri Chinmoy: You get more satisfaction from your training than from your racing because when you train, you have more oneness with your inner life, which embodies infinite satisfaction. When you race, you are competing with others because you want to defeat them. The challenging spirit that comes in competition quite often suffers from anxiety, worry, doubt, hesitation and despair. When you are just practising, however, you are performing before the most intimate members of your family — your body, vital, mind, heart and soul. In fact, these intimate members of your own being are practising and performing with you, in you and for you. It is totally a family entertainment.
While practising, you are consciously working to transcend your capacities. At that time, you are listening to the message of the ever-transcending Beyond, and this message itself is complete satisfaction. But when you compete against others, you are more concerned with victory than with self-transcendence. Naturally, at that time hesitation, anxiety and doubt have a free access to your heart and mind, and you do not and cannot have satisfaction.
But when you practise, you and your aspiration, you and your dedication, you and your eagerness to increase your capacities work together for your improvement and perfection. And from improvement and perfection, you are bound to get abiding satisfaction.
Because of the feeling of separativity in the mind, we may get fleeting satisfaction when we defeat others. Your supremacy in the Boston Marathon this year, for example, undoubtedly gave you tremendous satisfaction. But perhaps quite a few times during your practice you have had more illumining and more fulfilling satisfaction, for practice carries the message of oneness and self-transcendence, whereas competition carries the message of division and supremacy.
RS 1. Greg Meyer has held the American record for 15k, 10 miles and 20k. His most famous accomplishment was winning the 1983 Boston Marathon in 2:09:00, which at the time was the third fastest in the long history of that race.↩
Craig Virgin: How do I cope with the pressures of winning or, on the other hand, the disappointment of losing in a sports competition?1Sri Chinmoy: You can cope with the pressures of winning if, a few days before the race or even just before the start, you can imagine the pleasure of rejoicing in your victory. Imagination is not wishful thinking; it is not a baseless reality. Imagination is reality itself in another world. We bring it down to this world the way we bring down fruits from a tree.
To cope with the disappointment of losing, you have to ask yourself whether the mind is disappointed or the heart is disappointed. You will come to realise that it is your mind that is disappointed and not your heart. The mind creates division; the mind is division itself, and division is another name for pain, devastating pain. The heart, on the other hand, creates oneness; in fact, the heart is oneness itself, and oneness is another name for joy, spontaneous joy. When you live in your heart, even if your worst rival wins the race, you will not feel miserable. To your wide surprise, you will find that his joy quite unconsciously and unexpectedly will enter into you and widen your heart. Then you will feel almost the same joy that the winner feels.
It was your heart that was speaking in and through these illumining utterances of yours: "Running is the people's sport. When was the last time the average person played ball with Reggie Jackson? Yet millions of people run in the same races and rub elbows with the top runners. In what other sport can the average player run the same course and go through the same trials as the top stars?"
You have already established yourself as a supreme runner. No matter how many races you lose from now on, even if you lose every race (which is absurdity on the face of it), no disappointment on earth will dare to challenge the flood of joy that you have received from and offered to the world running community as a result of the innumerable races that you have won in a variety of distances.
Some good runners, unfortunately, are not sharp. In your case, you are sharp, very sharp; bright, very bright; quick, very quick. And something quite rare in the running world — you have intuition. Your intuitive faculties remarkably add to your success in racing. To our great joy and satisfaction, your body, vital, mind and heart speedily and breathlessly follow your intuitive flashes. You have brought considerable name and fame to America, your beloved country. For that, America's great speed is richly proud of you and America's deep pride is unmistakably grateful to you.
RS 2. Craig Virgin has the distinction of being the only American ever to win the World Cross-Country Championship, with back-to-back wins in 1980 and 1981. A fine track and road racer as well, Craig dominated his sport in the USA in the early 1980s. His personal best in the marathon, 2:10:26, gave him a second place finish in the 1981 Boston Marathon.↩
John Dimick: What should a good runner do when he finds that the pressures of his family, community and job mean he cannot train at high mileage or undertake frequent racing?1Sri Chinmoy: In order to become such an excellent runner, you have already made a great many sacrifices in terms of expending time and energy and giving up the comfortable, pleasure-loving world. Now, if you go one step ahead and train at high mileage or undertake frequent racing, you may lose your job, but you will not lose your family or community, to be sure. As a result of your tremendous successes, the temporary pressures you have to undergo from the members of your family will all be transformed into innocent and enriching treasures. And there is every possibility that you will get a better job at a higher salary because of your greater successes.
You are a superb runner. For you the hour has struck. Those who are even unconsciously stand ing in your way will one day cheerfully and unreservedly support you. Please feel that you have already started a race. Now your only aim is to reach the goal, no matter how many obstacles you have to surmount on the way. Your victory will ultimately be the victory of your dear ones and also the victory of the world running community.
It is my earnest request to you that you practise as many miles as you want and run as many races as you want. When the pressures you now face are transformed into treasures, not only your dear ones but also all and sundry will deeply value and gratefully enjoy them.
RS 3. John Dimick ran 2:11:53 to win the New Orleans Marathon in 1979 and took second place in the 1981 Copenhagen Marathon with a time of 2:15.↩
Dick Beardsley: Recently I ran a 2:08:53 marathon with primarily a road-racing background. Would it improve my chances of making the 1984 Olympic marathon team if I partake in training and racing the 10,000 metres on the track? If I get the speed down in 10,000 metres, will I run a faster marathon?1Sri Chinmoy: Definitely you will improve your marathon time if you run 10,000 metres on the track. Running is a physical subject, a mental subject, a philosophical subject and a subject of the Beyond. In the physical aspect, nobody will be able to tell you more than you already know. In the mental aspect, if you become used to running shorter distances, it can really help you.
When you are running a marathon, mentally try to feel that you are running only thirteen miles rather than twenty-six miles. If you can convince the mind of this fact, and if the mind can convince the body that it is running only thirteen miles and not twenty-six miles, then it will be a great advantage for you. This is not a mental hallucination. A new discovery has dawned in the mind and the mind is passing it along to the body. Both the mind and the body will have to act together in order to reach the ultimate goal.
In the philosophical aspect, you have to feel that your problems are as insignificant as ants and pay no attention to them. You have had problems with cows, dogs, puddles and road hazards of all kinds. You should take these problems philosophically. Although these things are extremely unfortunate and discouraging for a great runner like you, you have to feel that they are almost part and parcel of a runner's life. If you can see them in this way, then when discouragement and temporary lack of enthusiasm attack you, you can easily, successfully and fruitfully overcome these obstacles on the way to your sublime goal.
Finally, if you can think that through your running you are doing something that has a direct connection with the ever-transcending Beyond, which is far beyond the domain of the earth-bound physical mind, then you will get tremendous inspiration. This inspiration embodies added strength, added joy and an added sense of satisfaction. In your case, if you can consciously think of another world — which we call 'the Beyond' — if you can add another vista or dimension to your already surprising approach to running, then you are bound to be more successful.
In your case, it seems to me that mentally you are not confident of your fastest speed. Either because of your own personal experience or because of ideas that others have thrust upon you, you feel that you do not possess extraordinary speed — specially towards the end of a race when speed is badly required.
To get rid of this absurd notion for good, twice a week try to run between thirty and fifty metres as fast as possible, at intervals of a minute or even longer, for twenty-five or thirty consecutive times. Your mind will all of a sudden be fully awakened to a new discovery of your own speed, which has all along been unnoticed, if not ignored. This mental discovery will help you considerably.
Kindly try this new method and the other suggestions that I have offered. Although you are a great runner, you still have not yet reached your highest potential. Your world-surprising potential is ahead of you and beckoning you.
RS 4. Dick Beardsley won the Grandma's Marathon in Minnesota in 1980 in 2:09:36 and the London Marathon, a tie, in 2:11. His best marathon time was in 1982 when he duelled with Alberto Salazar in Boston. Ahead of Salazar through the latter stages of the race, Dick traded surges and then sprints during the last mile. Finally, Salazar won out with a 2:08:52 to 2:08:53 for Dick, whose time was the fourth fastest ever recorded for the marathon and the fastest non-winning time in history.↩
Rod Dixon: Am I being reasonable to expect my family to understand my physical urge to pursue my running life? I want to please my family, yet I also want to please my running career.1Sri Chinmoy: You are a great runner. Already you have achieved astonishing glories in your running career. In order to achieve such sublime heights in the running world, you have made tremendous sacrifices, and the members of your family also have made tremendous sacrifices. This kind of mutual sacrifice is in no way an indication of your negligence towards your family. In the course of thinking of the ultimate or meditating on the ultimate, along the way you make apparent sacrifices. You have to know that eventually these sacrifices themselves will become a source of illumining satisfaction or they will pale into insignificance when you are repeatedly crowned with Himalayan success.
With their human hearts, the members of your immediate family want to possess you and have you all the time around them. Your affection and love for them and their affection and love for you mean everything to them. Perhaps your running laurels are secondary to them. But again, these same members of your family each have a divine heart. Unlike the human heart, which wants to possess and be possessed, the divine heart wants only to give of itself, widen itself, receive the vast world and be received by the vast world. These are the messages that the divine heart receives from the higher worlds and offers to the outer world at large.
Those who live in the divine heart are meant for the whole world. The messages that this heart gives them they do not keep secretly and sacredly inside their immediate family. No, they offer these messages to all of humanity. So if any want to possess you or want to claim you as their own, very own, they should try to live in the divine heart, just as you are doing.
If you and also the members of your immediate family can all live in the divine heart, then your commitment to your dear ones and their full understanding of what you were, what you are and what you are going to become will eventually and unmistakably bring boundless joy and boundless satisfaction to you and also to them.
You come from New Zealand and you now live in America. Like the members of your family, New Zealand may think that it has lost you. But if we look at the truth from a new angle, then we see that, like the members of your family, your country does not actually lose you when you go abroad to run. The way the members of your family have offered you to the world at large, to be claimed by the entire world, New Zealand also has offered you to the world. Yet it can and does still claim your astounding triumphs as its own, very own.
Not only are you bringing tremendous glory to your beloved country, New Zealand, but you are also bringing glory to America and to the entire world. Nobody loses anything. All of us only gain — not only for our personal selves or for the members of our immediate families, but also for the community of nations, for the entire world.
When we use our wisdom-light, we illumine our ignorance-night and add abiding satisfaction to our own small worlds and also to the vast world that is around us.
RS 5. Rod Dixon was ranked first in the world in 1979 in 5,000m and 2 miles. He received a bronze medal in the 1972 Olympics (1,500m) and fourth place in the 1976 Olympics (5,000m). He won six major races during 1982, including the Bay to Breakers 7.6-mile race, the Auckland Marathon, the Pepsi 10k Nationals and the Pepsi Challenge 10k. Rod went on to win the New York City Marathon in 1983 in a close duel with Geoff Smith. His time of 2:08:59 still ranks as the fastest time by a New Zealander.↩
Eamonn Coghlan: Given an Olympic final, when ten competitors are lined up in the race, and all are 100 per cent physically fit and prepared, what does it take for one runner to win over the others?1Sri Chinmoy: Suppose there are ten runners. They are all ready for the race and they have practically the same capacity. It is not just a matter of luck as to who wins. There are two ways to become the winner. One way is to concentrate on each runner and, like a magnet, draw into oneself the will-power that each one has. In that way, you empty the other runners of their will-power or life-energy. This is called sheer determination-power. The determination-lion devours the weaker animals.
The other way is to identify oneself with the sources of the fastest speed and endurance. Here one consciously becomes one with the higher realities that are invisible, yet infinitely faster and stronger than the outer realities or, let us say, outer capacities. If a runner is a conscious truth-seeker and God-lover, then he will adopt the inner way and not the outer way. The outer way is the way of the lion: roaring and devouring the rivals.
Sometimes inspiration, encouragement and determination can come not only from one's fans, but also from a departed soul. In your case, after your father left the body, on the one hand you were stricken with grief. On the other hand, you have to know that definitely his soul has considerably helped you to add substantially solid glory to your already immortal glory.
RS 6. Eamonn Coghlan, nicknamed the 'Chairman of the Boards', held the world indoor best for the mile at 3:49 for many years. He won the prestigious Wannemaker Mile seven times at New York's Millrose Games. He placed fourth in the 1980 Olympics in 5,000m and fourth in the 1976 Olympics in 1,500m. In 1987 he won the World Championship 5,000m race in Rome. A crowd favourite in New York running circles, Eamonn once ran the New York Marathon to experience a long race with a lot of other people alongside. He still competes in Masters events.↩
Don Kardong: Why do you think that runners often are able to achieve a meditative state while running?1Sri Chinmoy: Concentration, meditation and contemplation are three members of the same family. When a runner focuses all his attention on a particular race, he is in a position to free his mind, liberate his mind, from uncomely distractions. Here one-pointed concentration is the pathfinder for a deeper meditative consciousness. Your personal experiences are in perfect harmony with the experiences of a seeker-runner.
RS 7-8. Don Kardong finished fourth in the 1976 Olympic Marathon in 2:11:16 and won the 1978 Honolulu Marathon in 2:17:04. For many years he won or placed high at the Bloomsday Race in Washington State, and later organised it and made the race into a mega-attraction for runners in the Northwest. He is currently President of the Road Runners Club of America and has written many articles about running and training for magazines and other publications, including Runners World, Footnotes and Running Times.↩
Question: What role should competition play in one's running?Sri Chinmoy: If the runner is a seeker, then he has a special role. His role is to compete with himself and try to increase his own capacity. But he has to know that he will increase his capacity only by virtue of the infinite Grace of God, if so is the Will of God. So the seeker-runner will try to consciously surrender to the Will of God during his running career.
If the runner is not a seeker, his aim is immediate success and the immediate manifestation of his unparalleled supremacy. He wants to defeat all his rivals mercilessly and, like Julius Caesar, to declare, "I came, I saw, I conquered."
Mike Spino: If higher states of consciousness are possible when running, will this always result in superlative performances? Can there be a poor performance and a gain in the life quest? If so, how can this be recognised?1Sri Chinmoy: It is not guaranteed that if one is in a high state of consciousness, one will perform extremely well. Sixteen thousand runners ran in this year's New York Marathon. I do not want to brag, but I do not think that ten or eleven thousand of them had a higher consciousness than the poor runner in me; but they still defeated me. So capacity is of paramount importance. But along with capacity, if one can invoke a higher consciousness, then one is likely to do very well. Again, we have to know that an increase in capacity comes quite often not only from regular training but also from the descent of Grace, which is part and parcel of a higher consciousness.
RS 9-12. Mike Spino was formerly a track coach at the University of Georgia and at Esalen Institute in California. He is the author of a number of books on running, including Beyond Jogging and The Zen of Running, and has offered new techniques of concentration, meditation and visualisation to help athletes attain their potential.↩
Mike Spino: In our last meeting I was fortunate to have you observe a film of the late Percy Cerutty demonstrating his canter and gallop techniques. You made insightful commentary on the nature of his spirit as it related to this late phase of his life. Could you elaborate further?Sri Chinmoy: First of all, I wish to tell you that your article on the great Australian coach Percy Cerutty is most remarkable. I had read Cerutty's famous book and I learned much about running. But I did not know much about the man. Your article made it clearer to me how he wanted people to run and also told me a lot about Cerutty, the real man.
When I observed your simple but moving and soulful film of Cerutty in the evening of his life, I saw an unusually indomitable spirit encaged in a lean earthly frame. To me, it seems that the power aspect of Cerutty came more to the fore than his compassion and love aspect. Some took him to be an eccentric while others admired him for his staunch belief in people's inner and hidden capacities. To me, he was neither a lunatic nor a fanatic. I found him to be uniquely dynamic. But this dynamism of his was sadly misunderstood by many critics.
Mike Spino: America is seeking a form of an Olympic training centre, yet the American lifestyle negates the use of any mental training that is larger than biofeedback or personality inventory. As a university coach seeking a mental training technique with objective timings, how does one balance the objectives of a programme? Is it a 'given' that as we seek dual purposes of spirituality and performance, we will remain an iconoclast, understood by only a small circle and questioning our own methods?Sri Chinmoy: It is quite likely that you will be understood by only a small circle because most runners are either unaware of the inner realities or are apt to feel that the inner realities cannot be manifested in the outer world. The inner realities are for the inner world; the outer realities are for the outer world: this is what they think. But no, the inner realities, meaning the inner capacities, must be executed on the outer plane. The seed must germinate; it has to grow into a plant and then into a huge banyan tree.
Mike Spino: I have experimented with moving visualisations in an attempt to transfer 'sitting awareness' to running consciousness. What suggestions can you make for this transfer, and is sitting a necessary prerequisite for the development of elated running consciousness?Sri Chinmoy: Always think that you are standing in front of the sea. The surface of the sea is very dynamic; it is all waves and surges. But the bottom of the sea is all calmness and peace. You can identify yourself with the surface of the sea and also with its depths. Similarly, you can identify with both the outer world and the inner world. While looking at the outer life, you see dynamism and speed. But even while you are looking at the outer life you can dive into the inner life, where it is all peace and inner poise. If you dive within and become inseparably one with inner peace, then easily you can bring inner peace to the fore so that it inundates your outer life.
'Sitting awareness' is stillness, calmness, quietness, while the running consciousness is all dynamism. Again, the runner's outer speed has a special kind of poise or stillness at its very heart. A plane travels very fast, yet inside the plane we feel no movement at all. It is all tranquillity, all peace, and this inner tranquillity we can bring to our outer life. The outer life, the outer movement, can be successful only when it comes from inner poise. If there is no poise, then there can be no successful outer movement. Poise is an unseen power, and this unseen power is always ready to come to the aid of the outer runner.
Gary Fanelli: Sometimes when I am racing, I ask myself, "What am I doing here, beating my brains and body out?" I've had some injuries, but I continue racing. What is the best attitude toward this?1Sri Chinmoy: Dear Gary, you are an excellent runner. When you run fast, please try to feel that your speed itself is a great success. Try to feel that through your success in running, humanity is taking one step forward in its march towards its ever-transcending goal.
You are an American. Americans take life as a challenge from the cradle to the grave. When you run, you are challenging yourself and nobody else. When you work very hard in your running and get severe injuries, you should try to have a divine attitude. Try to feel that the constant increase in your capacity to endure pain is of paramount importance. When you increase your capacities, automatically you establish a glowing hope and a soaring promise for your fellow runners all over the world.
RS 13. Gary Fanelli has been dubbed 'the Clown Prince' of road running. He is the first American to win the Umbria, Italy 60-mile, 6-day race (1982) and has won numerous US races as well, including the 1980 Philadelphia 10k, in which second and third places went to Bill Rodgers and Rod Dixon. Also a respectable half-marathoner (1:03:58) and marathoner (2:14), Gary is more known for his antics of running a marathon dressed up in a suit or other costume. He would often run at the head of a pack of fast runners in a serious competition or set a blistering pace as a rabbit for 10 or 15 miles.↩
Cahit Yeter: After averaging nearly 7,000 miles over the past three years, I believe I have satisfied my thirst for very long, long runs. Meanwhile, I am still entering many long races. Most of the time, winning itself does not come into my mind, but sometimes I think of running beyond the records most other men have run. I'd like to know, since winning is everything in America and I am part of it, why I have lost my desire to win.1Sri Chinmoy: My dear brother-friend, you are an ultra-marathoner par excellence. You have covered thousands and thousands of miles in the past few years. You have also given us, your dear friends, boundless joy. It is true that winning is everything in America. Again, you have to know that there are two kinds of races: the outer race and the inner race. There are also two kinds of desire: the outer desire and the inner desire, which we call aspiration. The outer desire says, "Run, reach, then smile." The inner desire says, "Smile and run, run and smile. The goal is nowhere else save and except in smiling and running, and running and smiling."
You have won an amazing number of races on the strength of your outer desire. Now aspiration, the inner desire, has come to the fore. It wants to play its role most significantly in you, just as the outer desire has played its role over the years. Until now you have exercised your outer desire to conquer the world and show what you possess in order to draw the world's attention and admiration. You are now trying to exercise your inner desire to show the world what you have to offer for the world's improvement, which is an intrinsic part of your own improvement. Previously you wanted victory for your own satisfaction, and that victory you achieved by defeating others. Now you want the victory that comes from the satisfaction of establishing oneness, genuine oneness, with others.
A radiant example of your oneness we saw recently when you ran in our Sri Chinmoy Marathon held in New York. Out of your loving, sympathetic oneness-heart you asked that your prize be given to the runner who came in last. Such is your feeling for your fellow runners! For you, they are like members of your own family. As the older one, who is more experienced, you encourage the younger ones to come forward by spreading your joy and satisfaction all around. Fortunately or unfortunately, one of the members of our Team stood last, and she was deeply moved to receive your trophy.
RS 14. A prolific racer and marathoner, Cahit Yeter once ran 2:13 for the marathon in his native Turkey. Later emigrating to the USA, he began a resurgence in his running after an accident had severely damaged his legs. At age 44 he ran 2:26 at the Boston Marathon. In 1981 he ran 155+ miles in a Sri Chinmoy 24-hour race, setting a North American record. He later set a Masters record for 100 miles on the road (13:33) which stood for several years. He also ran 468 miles in the New York Six-Day Race in 1984.↩
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?1Sri 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.
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 Olympics1O 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.
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-DispatchRS 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 answersRSSR 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?1Sri 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.
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.↩