The following article was written by Phoolanjaya Beale and published in a New Zealand's 'Rainbow News' magazine in 1999.
When Sri Chinmoy began lifting weights again in September of last year, after a break of almost 10 years, nobody imagined that in less than three months he would be performing some of the most remarkable lifts of all time. At age 67 his chances of making a comeback seemed remote, if not impossible. Yet comeback he did, and on 27 November 1998 Sri Chinmoy defied reason by performing an amazing 33 feats of strength and lifting a total cumulative weight of more than 90,000 pounds!
As one of the more than 1,000 people who attended the weightlifting extravaganza, held at York College in New York, I felt extremely honoured to be there. It was an unforgettable experience. Seeing Sri Chinmoy perform one lift after another with no apparent loss of strength and with such determination and willpower was truly moving. Bill Pearl (five times Mr. Universe and Master of Ceremonies for the event remarked, "It was an amazing show of strength for any man, at any age, of any body weight."
The high point of the evening, however, was Sri Chinmoy's final demonstration – an incredible overhead lift of 145lbs with each arm simultaneously. For me the sight of this small-framed Indian man lifting a dumbbell in each arm, each greater than his own bodyweight, completely shattered my concept of the impossible versus the possible. How could a man of 67 years perform such an astounding lift? At 5ft 7.75in and only 143 lbs, Sri Chinmoy does not have the kind of build one might expect of a weightlifter. His biceps are not particularly large. His overall physical appearance does not give one the impression of physical power or strength. In fact, in the absence of anything to suggest otherwise, one might be tempted to describe Sri Chinmoy as an average 67 year old man. Yet seeing was believing. Sri Chinmoy did what many weightlifters would have considered impossible! "This is the most impressive of all the lifts . . . totally mind-blowing," exclaimed a three time Mr. Olympia, "Lifting two dumbbells is especially difficult because it requires balance as well as power."
Other lifts in the evening programme included a standing calf raise of two grand pianos on a specially built platform, a human pyramid and numerous 'people' lifts to honour and congratulate special guests at the event. Included amongst the guests were body-building, IFBB (International Federation of Body Builders) Judge Wayne Demilia, an 800m Olympic Gold Medallist and several political personalities.
What is Sri Chinmoy's secret? In his own words, "Physical energy has only one source and that source is spiritual energy. As long as we remain conscious only of the body, we are not aware of this. But when we go deep within through meditation, we see that spiritual energy is the source of physical, vital and mental energy." Sri Chinmoy's outer strength comes from his inner strength, his inner strength from his prayer and meditation. He attributes all his success to God's grace and God's compassion. You've heard the saying, 'faith can move mountains', well, Sri Chinmoy explains that if we have faith in ourselves and faith in the divine within us, then our potential is truly unlimited.
Sri Chinmoy first took up weightlifting in 1985 after a knee injury prevented him from ongoing marathon training. Over the next three years he performed a number of significant lifts and in 1988 initiated the 'Lifting Up the World with a Oneness-Heart' programme to honour individuals from all walks of life who, by excelling in their particular fields of endeavour, have inspired and uplifted humanity. To date more than 4,000 people have been honoured in this way for their achievements.
As a runner, Sri Chinmoy has completed over 200 road races (including 21 marathons and 5 ultra-marathons) and has received numerous honours and awards for his contributions to physical fitness. He has offered several hundred concerts worldwide and has met with countless heads of state, religious leaders and luminaries in his efforts to inspire his brothers and sisters all over the world about world harmony.
Sri Chinmoy has visited New Zealand four times, offering free concerts on each occasion. He has also lifted and honoured many outstanding New Zealand individuals as part of his Lifting Up the World with a Oneness-Heart programme including athletes, political figures, mountaineers, musicians and weightlifters including weightlifter Precious Mackenzie. He also met and lifted the late and former New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange.
Through his achievements Sri Chinmoy challenges us to consider what is beyond our physical bodies. Is our potential as human beings limited by the fragile body cage in which we live, or are we actually something much greater? Sri Chinmoy's achievements in the world of weightlifting are a testament to the fact that we are something much greater and that true strength resides not in our physical bodies, but in our hearts.