by Mark Juddery
over matter’ - once applied more frequently to such activities as spoon-bending
and levitation, the phrase is now commonly used by athletes and weight-lifters,
aware that their sport requires mental as well as physical discipline.
Sri Chinmoy adds another twist to that concept - meditation over matter.
The Indian-born athlete, meditation teacher and long-time vegetarian,
well-known for his remarkable feats in a number of areas, first added
weight-lifting to his repertoire in 1985. Though he could initially lift
no more than an 40 pound (18 kilo) dumbbell, he soon progressed to heavier
items: human beings, animals, and eventually, objects such as aeroplanes,
trucks and elephants. Most of these were lifted from platforms specially
designed and built by one of his helpers, Queensland engineer Unmilan
After a nine-year break from the sport, he returned to weight-lifting
in 1998. Within a month he was able to lift his own body weight - 145
pounds (66 kilos) - with each arm. These lifts were performed publicly
in New York, in November 1998, and subsequently shown on television around
the US. At the time, Sri Chinmoy was 67 years old.
Over the next year, Sri Chinmoy continued to transcend his own weight-lifting
capacity. By the end of 1999, in another public ceremony, he hoisted 600
pounds (270 kilos) - 300 (135 kilos) in each arm, simultaneously - using
an overhead rack. Hosted by Bill Pearl, five-time Mr Universe, the presentation
was witnessed by a large audience of Sri Chinmoy’s students and invited
guests including Olympic legend, Carl Lewis, Aussie politician Tony De
Domenico, a group of elite sports people and the media, who avidly reported
on this astonishing feat through CNN, NBC and other networks.
One of the night’s guests was Canadian boxer, Donny Lalonde (a former
world champion) who later went backstage to attempt the feat for himself.
Unable to move the weights with brute strength, he finally gave in. “Today
Sri Chinmoy woke me up,” he said, “and made me realise the human potential
It was far from over. In his books, Sri Chinmoy often advocates ‘self-transcendence’
- the constant progress of your own achievements, however great they previously
were. Willing to teach by example, he continued his training, lifting
weights in his New York home in the early hours of each morning.
On February 16 this year - captured on video footage - he raised and supported
two 500 pound (227 kilo) dumbbells, concurrently, from an overhead rack
- a total of 1,000 pounds (454 kilos), or six times his own body weight.
The weight-lifting community was astounded, of course. “This is the most
weight that anyone has ever supported overhead,” said Bill Pearl. “It
boggles my mind.”
So how does a 68-year-old man, with relatively little weight-lifting experience,
achieve such a lift? Answer - a lifetime of meditation. “I do not have
the muscle mass of a bodybuilder,” he admits. “I do not have the strength
of a weight-lifter... I pray and meditate so that I can establish my oneness
with each and every human being in the whole world. My lifting is all
done on the strength of my heart’s oneness with the world.”
History is filled with legends of miraculous feats of strength, whether
by warriors or holy men. Unlike many of those tales, Sri Chinmoy’s weight-lifting
prestige has been verified through official channels and in many cases,
photographic and video evidence.
“Physiologically and anatomically, it is far more difficult to lift a
weight over your head than to lift it off the ground,” says Jim Smith,
registrar of the British Amateur Weightlifters’ Association. “And nobody
in the world has ever even lifted a dead lift of 1,000 pounds. Now Sri
Chinmoy is lifting 1,000 pounds overhead with dumbbells. It is just stupendous.”
(In order for such a lift to be counted as successful, it need only be
lifted high enough to enable a sheet of newspaper to be removed from under
it. In Sri Chinmoy’s case, the height can be clearly observed even when
viewing the video in an auditorium.)
If we have established how Sri Chinmoy does it, an equally pertinent question
is: why? When discussing his weight-lifting, he does not boast about his
feats of strength, but simply suggests that, with faith, such feats are
possible. “There is no such thing as impossibility when you depend entirely
on God,” he says. “It is one hundred percent due to God’s grace.”
In whichever area he enters, Sri Chinmoy tries to bring the same message.
Poets might be impressed by the beauty (not to mention the sheer volume)
of his verse. Artists might be intrigued by his colourful matrix of abstract
art. His work as a musician and composer has been equally commended, while
in his athletic activity, he has shown the same powerful determination
as in his weight-lifting. “People who care to break barriers are the heroes,”
he said recently. Perhaps it explains his own philosophy.
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