Part 3

July 12th in New York was a day of squalls and ceaseless rain. Most people, if they ventured outdoors at all, did so in head-to-toe wet weather gear. Not so Sri Chinmoy who had privately chosen this as the day on which he would make his next major advance in the standing calf raise.

During the previous two weeks, he had initiated a regular training schedule using weights up to 1,100 pounds. He had also begun to supplement these workouts with up to 30 repetitions of 300 pounds on a seated calf raise machine. Both aspects of his new programme had greatly increased his base strength.

After warming up extensively at home, Sri Chinmoy arrived at the rain-soaked court around 9:30 a.m. Changing into weightlifting shoes and donning his large leather belt, he seemed not to notice the rain that was falling steadily all around him. He completed two repetitions of 400 pounds, and proceeded briskly to 2 x 600, 2 x 800, 2 x 1,000 and 2 x 1,200. Between lifts, the machine was wiped dry and Sri Chinmoy took shelter in a little pavilion. The machine was then set for 1,400 pounds—100 pounds more than his own personal best.

Around the foot of the machine, a score of witnesses immediately assumed various unusual positions in order to detect even the slightest separation between the plates. Some were lying on the ground, others were in crouched positions, craning forwards.

Following his usual custom, Sri Chinmoy maintained absolute silence prior to the lift. As he stepped out of the pavilion to take up his position in front of the machine, his movements were deliberate and careful. He was fully cognisant not only of the enormity of the great set of weights but also of the inherent danger in his attempt. The machine, made slippery with rain; the cold that had begun to seep into him through sodden clothes, causing tightness in the lower leg muscles;

the sheer fact that no other human being had ever attempted to support this much weight in a standing calf raise and then elevate it - all these factors in combination made the odds seem impossibly high against him.

Sri Chinmoy stood for a few moments with folded hands, silently invoking the Supreme's Grace to work in and through him. Then he turned and bent forward to position his shoulders underneath the padded bars. Suddenly his hands tightened around the grip and he began to exert himself against the tremendous gravitational pull of the weights. As his heels moved higher and higher the pile of weights began to shift. Sri Chinmoy completed three repetitions before allowing the weights to return to their starting position.

It was an astonishing feat to witness, more so perhaps, because Sri Chinmoy had not only overcome the unconscious metal world but because, in the process, he had defied the elements. It harkened back to the great warrior feats of old, where man was pitted against the insoluble mysteries of a seeminglv hostile universe. Like Arthur drawing the mighty sword Excalibur, or Arjuna stringing the great bow Gandiva. Sri Chinmoy's feat was tinged with the miraculous.

Above and beyond the material level, those who were present intuitively realised that the heaviness of the weights and their stubborn unresponsiveness to light were somehow linked with our human condition. The image of a spiritual man, such as Sri Chinmoy, lifting up such massive weights gave new meaning to our understanding of the oppressive weight of ignorance and, conversely, it reinforced our belief in the eventual transformation of human nature.

After a lapse of only a few moments, Sri Chinmoy created another "Human Mountain" lift, this time with three men standing astride his machine. A thick plank was placed across the arms of the machine and they positioned themselves on top of it with the lightest of the three supported on the shoulders of the other two. Their combined weight, together with plank and moving parts of the machine, was 670 ¼ pounds. In addition, the machine was set at 300 pounds to give a total load of 970 ¼ pounds.

As he waited inside the pavilion, wrapped in a blanket, Sri Chinmoy seemed undaunted by the 13' pillar of metal and human beings that now confronted him. As soon as the three men signalled they were ready, he meditated and took up his position. The sight of the entire structure resting across his back and shoulders brought gasps of awe and surprise from those who had assembled to watch. Sri Chinmoy braced himself for the lift and began to raise his heels. Suddenly, the great pillar swung upwards with a force so powerful that the three men had to struggle to retain their balance.

Sri Chinmoy returned the weights to the ground and immediately asked that a further 300 pounds be added to the machine, for the previous weight was too light for him! The total poundage now stood at 1271 pounds. Only the rain broke the pin-drop silence that had fallen on the crowd as Sri Chinmoy readied himself one more time. Grunting with the strain of his exertion, he quickly raised his heels. High above him in the sky, the great pillar could be seen to move upwards with a jolt.
Three days later, ABC Television Channel 7 and the New York Post arrived at Sri Chinmoy's outdoor gym in the hope of catching one of these phenomenal "training sessions." Although hardly any significant time had elapsed since his previous mammoth lift, Sri Chinmoy was able to repeat it exactly —doing two repetitions each of 400, 600, 800, 1,000, 1,200 and 1,400 pounds. He then called forward the same trio and lifted them, first with the addition of 400 pounds on the machine and, subsequently, with the addition of 700 pounds.

Once more he hoisted the great pillar skywards, proving not only the consistency of his strength but also his rapid recovery interval. How many champions at world class level can maintain the same standard from day to day? Sri Chinmoy was clearly out on his own, developing training techniques which few people would be capable of sustaining over any length of time and only competing against his own capacity.

Sri Chinmoy's weightlifting adventure had become an open book where all could come and watch and draw inspiration. What did we see? On one level someone who represented a resurgence against drug-based size and performance and who, in its place, offered a stronger force than any drug, the vast reserves of spiritual power within each person. And again, as Sri Chinmoy continually reached for the impossible, we saw his heroic fibre, an iron determination never to give up, a stature and a presence that had begun to touch the imagination of aspiring bodybuilders and weightlifters the world over.


Sri Chinmoy Calf Raises