Sri Chinmoy’s weightlifting: a case study in listening to the inner voice

If Sri Chinmoy had not embarked upon the path of spirituality and attained such high meditative states, he might still have been a poet and singer, and perhaps even also an athlete – these are activities which have always given him tremendous joy and satisfaction right from his childhood. However weightlifting is something that, as a young man growing up in a spiritual community in South India, he never dreamed he would be doing 50 years later. He recalls disliking weightlifting intensely back then; he would lift 20 pounds twice a year so that he would do well in the shot put event in the decathlon.

And yet many years later, fast approaching the age of 76, Sri Chinmoy is regularly lifting astounding amounts of heavy weights. This new phase of his service to the world started in 1985, when Sri Chinmoy received an inspiration in the depths of his meditation: “I did not choose to start lifting weights.”, he says in an interview he gave a year later. “If one prays and meditates sincerely, somebody within him talks to him and tells him what to do and what not to do. You use the term ’God’; I say my ’Inner Pilot’. Last year, when I was praying and meditating, that somebody within me — you can call it an inner voice or a source of inspiration — asked me to start weightlifting. That is why I am doing it.”

Sri Chinmoy says it is only because he is able to act from the heart due to his meditation that he was able to take up weightlifting and embark upon the many feats of strength he has performed over the years. He has often spoken about the difference between the mind’s fear and hesitation and the heart’s spontaneous eagerness: “
When I look at the weights with my heart, I am not frightened at all, no matter how heavy they are. But when I look at them with my mind’s eye, I am filled with fear. I have no idea how I am going to lift them.

Therefore, when he lifts the weights, he tries to keep his mind completely silent, so that he can become an instrument for a much greater strength to operate in and through him: Through God’s infinite Compassion and Grace, from my concentration, prayer and meditation I am able to bring forward inner strength, inner power, and use that power to increase my outer strength. The inner strength that enables me to lift elephants and airplanes is not my sole monopoly. Far from it! It is available to anyone who prays and meditates. Everyone can get inner strength from prayer and meditation.”

Sri Chinmoy has published several books of anecdotes detailing his experiences with weightlifting: they are an eye-opening view not only of a weightlifter, but of a spiritual Master trying to push out the boundaries of the possible. In these first-person accounts, we observe a contrast common to all spiritual Masters who try to offer what they have and are to help mankind progress – a contrast between the finite human frame which experiences discomfort and pain at these arduous activities, and the infinite consciousness of peace and delight, housed within that ‘still small voice’ which spiritual Masters can access at will through their meditation. Time and again, Sri Chinmoy invokes the Infinite to help him perform these feats:

Absolutely the fastest way to make progress in the inner life is through gratitude. When I look at my 350-pound dumbbell, believe me, perhaps my mind is more frightened than yours! But when I offer my gratitude to the Supreme early in the morning, there is no fear at all. (11 September 1986)

The two following entries give a very direct insight into how spiritual Masters are able to surrender to the inner command all the time:

I am seriously thinking of stopping again after November 17th. I want to walk outside again in the fresh air with Nature. This gives me so much joy. During these last twelve months with my weightlifting I have reached a very high level. Now I want to concentrate on other things. (2 October 1999)

I had been planning to give up my weightlifting after the 17th, but the Supreme Himself has asked me to continue. This weightlifting brings joy and inspiration to thousands of people. So I will be taking my weightlifting equipment to Brazil and I do hope that I can make some progress there. (29 November 1999)

These diaries are also full of appreciation for all the distinguished figures in the weightlifting and bodybuilding world who inspired Sri Chinmoy and encouraged him to go further. Sri Chinmoy has always seen inspiration as being a two-way street – it is not just a case of him inspiring others, but of contributing alongside his fellow world-citizens to make a better world. Indeed he has frequently used his weightlifting to show his appreciation to men and women who have given inspiration to the world in their own fields, in an award ceremony called “Lifting Up the World With a Oneness-Heart. In this ceremony, Sri Chinmoy will lift these inspiring figures overhead in both body and spirit using a specially constructed overhead platform.

Resources:

Sri Chinmoy’s weightlifting anecdotes have been published in the books My Weightlifting Tears and Smiles (Parts 1 and 2) and A Mystic Journey in the Weightlifting World (Parts 2-4). Other excerpts used in this article come from the Sri Chinmoy Answers series of books and also the book Aspiration-Body, Illumination-Soul. These books can be found on Sri Chinmoy Library.

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