Sri Chinmoy – Beyond Limits

The Sri Chinmoy Centre has been my life, my journey and my home for many, many years. I hope these pages offer a small glimpse into the joy, the grace and the wonder that is Sri Chinmoy.

       by Animesh Harrington

ONE GROUP OF RUNNERS who not only compete in races but also organise them for other runners of all standards is the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. Though Sri Chinmoy Races are known widely throughout Australia as some of the best organised and friendliest runs around, not much is generally known about the man who is the inspiration behind these events.

It was during 1979 that the name of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team first appeared in running calendars around the country. In the cities of Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra, organised runs became a regular feature encouraged by Sri Chinmoy’s interest and participation in long distance events. Sri Chinmoy’s involvement in running is not, however, only a recent undertaking — his athletic career spans a lifetime of active endeavour.

As a youth, Sri Chinmoy was heralded as a champion athlete in the area of Southern India where he lived. He held Ashram records for 100 metres and 200 metres and the decathlon — his best for 100 metres being 11.7 seconds.

Then, as now, life was for Sri Chinmoy, a balance of active sport and meditation. To him, these early days of intense spiritual practice and athletic discipline were important in shaping his philosophy that in later years became the basis of his work in the West.

Nowadays, Sri Chinmoy can be seen any morning in the New York suburb of Jamaica Hills, practising his sprints and training for veterans’ championships. This quiet tree-lined portion of the borough of Queens is just a few blocks away from the harsh backdrop of the parts of New York usually portrayed in media images. It is in this city of contrasts that Sri Chinmoy chose to start his spiritual mission, which has now grown internationally.

It has been 20 years since he first left India to be of service to the Western world. For the first few years in America, Sri Chinmoy held a job at the Indian Consulate while he worked ceaselessly in his spare time towards manifesting his spiritual vision by giving free lectures, offering meditations and performing concerts.

These days life is only a little different, in that he can easily support himself as an author, but the same enthusiasm and dedication is still very much in evidence. His former boss at the Indian Consulate, the now Consul General of India, L. L. Mehrotra, spoke of Sri Chinmoy at a concert just a few years ago:

“He brings to you a spiritual tradition which sprang and flourished in the mountain-vastness of the Himalayas several thousands of years ago and which is carried across the seven seas by Everest streams and rivers. Sri Chinmoy is part and parcel of that eternal stream. Sri Chinmoy belongs to that stream of thought and sentiment which has shown us the light for ages.”

Sri Chinmoy practising sprints in preparation for the World Masters Games, 1983.
In concert, Sri Chinmoy plays meditative music on the esraj. His music can be heard in Australia later this year at a free concert in Melbourne.

Each morning at 4 am Sri Chinmoy meditates on his disciples. At around 6.30 to 7.00 am he is already heading to the track for warm-up sprints; afterwards, he will use the exercise machines at his tennis court.

Tennis is one of Sri Chinmoy’s fondest sports. He often plays non-stop for hours, once playing as many as 453 games in one day. However, during the week there are usually more urgent matters which require his attention. To guide over 60 spiritual centres throughout the world is more than a full-time job. Twice a week he will travel to Manhattan to deliver lectures and meditations at the United Nations. More often than not he will discuss spiritual aspects of the world’s problems with ambassadors and UN delegates.

He is also fond of meeting with people from every country who have excelled in their field. He greatly admires the significant contributions that so many people have made to the world, especially when their influence for good has extended well beyond their chosen vocations — athletes like Emil Zátopek, the immortal Czech distance runner; and Jesse Owens, hero of the 1936 Berlin Olympics; as well as musicians like Leonard Bernstein, composer and conductor; and Pablo Casals, the virtuoso cellist.

He loves diversity, but his life has a single aim — to spread peace wherever and whenever he can — and each minute of his day is packed with commitment. After a busy daily schedule, some evenings there is perhaps still time to hold a public meditation or concert.

He manages to blend a respect for the physical world with the aspiration for a higher reality. His teachings and his life express a call for the integration of inner reflection and outer dynamism: “In the heart of action, is the silence of meditation, and in the heart of meditation, is the dynamism of action,” says Sri Chinmoy.

The notion of the integral development of the human being is not wholly a new concept to Western culture. The Greek philosophers looked upon the perfection of man as being the highest attainment of mind, body and spirit. And the ‘Renaissance man’ was deemed to be strong, intelligent, artistic and noble of character.

Perhaps modern man, who has become so specialised, has lost his sense of reality and perfection. Two thousand years of Western civilisation has culminated in an over-powering material society, but it has left many devoid of purpose.

When we look at the past decade, it is running that has offered hundreds of thousands of people a new challenge to life, a chance to become masters of themselves, to break with the bondage of a static and sedentary way of life.

Sensing this growing need for self-expression and self-transcendence, Sri Chinmoy responded by asking his disciples to organise events for runners to provide more opportunities where they could freely enjoy open, friendly competition.

It is the athletic traditions of each nation that seems to point towards a common goal for mankind. Runners in their thousands are taking to the roads, some training with the dedication of Olympians. Never before in the history of the world, have so many earned the right to be called athletes.

For every outer runner there is an inner runner — the soul of man striving to manifest perfection, to bring to the fore the complete universal man:

Your days of excellence-joys
Are ahead of you
Not beside you.
Why, then, do you not
Immediately run and declare:

                                                 — excerpt from the poem, The Goal Is Won, by Sri Chinmoy

In self-transcendent action, Sri Chinmoy is consistently challenging the ‘impossible’. He is a talented writer and poet with over 500 books to his credit. One of his recent accomplishments was to write 10,000 poems, which have now been published in 100 volumes entitled, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames. The first poem in this volume describes his experience in the New York City Marathon, which he has run several times. He compares the marathon race to the challenge of writing 10,000 poems:

One marathon-world
Leads me into another marathon-world.
To satisfy this new marathon-world,
Or to be satisfied by this new one, will be
Infinitely — I really mean it —
More difficult.
For here it is not just twenty-six miles
and 385 yards to run,
But to sow the seeds
Of ten thousand flaming flower-poems
Which at long last I shall place
Devotedly, unreservedly and unconditionally
At the Compassion-Feet
Of my Beloved Supreme.

                                                 — excerpt from the poem, A new marathon, by Sri Chinmoy

He is currently writing a volume entitled Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants.

In the field of art, his painting stands as a monumental achievement. To date over 140,000 paintings have been catalogued — 120,000 of them were created in a one year span.

His creative talent flows on into the world of music, as composer, singer and accomplished musician. Typically, his output is immense but by no means is it repetitive. From the simple lilting melodies of his song lines to the complex movements of his extemporaneous piano playing, his music has, at its heart, the refreshing quality of newness.

The sheer scale of Sri Chinmoy’s achievements is overwhelming. That one man can do so much, is hard to comprehend. Yet, beyond the numbers, there is a point here that Sri Chinmoy is subtly stating — that the mind and body can only grasp a limited part of the reality at any one time. It is the soul that truly embodies reality — it is the limitless, eternal and universal reality within us. 

Sri Chinmoy has lived his life beyond limits; he has achieved inseparable oneness with the soul, and in doing so has revealed vast, new worlds of possibilities. 

If there is a perfect maxim for life, then it can be summed up in Sri Chinmoy’s own words: “We are all truly unlimited, if we only dare to try and have faith.”  

– End –



Postscript: As part of an international tour of 20 worldwide concerts Sri Chinmoy visited Australia (Melbourne) on September 12th, 1984, and performed a free concert entitled 'Peace: God's Beauty in His Oneness-Home'. He also gave concerts in Japan, Europe and in Los Angeles during the time of the LA Olympics.

This article was first published in Guide to Brisbane Running magazine, pages 16-17, June 1984.

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