Sri Chinmoy loved running. In his early years in India, he was an excellent sprinter; and in his mid-forties, he took up long distance running, completing 22 marathons and several ultra-marathons, with a best marathon of 3:55:07 in Toledo, Ohio in 1979. He continued practising sprinting up to his mid sixties.
He believed that running could also be an integral part of a spiritual life, and that the inner life and running were complementary. Here are some excerpts from his considerable writings on running:
“Running helps us considerably. Running is continuous motion. Because of our running, we feel that there is a goal — not only an outer goal but also an inner goal.” (1)
“In the morning if we can energise ourselves with physical activities, then we can accomplish so many things during the rest of the day. That is why I say sports and physical fitness are of supreme importance. If we neglect the physical and let the body become weak, then the mind also becomes weak.” (2)
“Runners deal with freshness, freshness of the mind. While they are running, nature is helping them. Every day, early in the morning or in the evening, runners go out to practise in the street or at a track. When you run, it is just you and Mother Nature. From the sky, light is flowing. Here, there, you get so much inspiration. Everything helps you to achieve your goal.” (3)
Meditation and running
Sri Chinmoy showed how meditation could be of help to aspiring runners, from his writings and also through his own example.
“Before running, however, meditation is good to make the mind calm and quiet so that wrong forces do not enter. When you meditate, your mind acquires some poise. Then, while you are running, if you can bring forward this poise, it will help you overcome the mental frustration that often comes while running long distances.” (4)
“In sports we need energy, strength and dynamism. When we meditate, we make our mind calm and quiet. If inside us there is peace, then we will derive tremendous strength from our inner life. That is to say, if I have a peaceful moment, even for one second, that peace will come to me as solid strength in my sports, whether I am running or jumping or throwing. That strength is almost indomitable strength, whereas if we are restless, we do not have strength like that.” (5)
“When a runner focuses all his attention on a particular race, he is in a position to free his mind, liberate his mind, from uncomely distractions. Here one-pointed concentration is the pathfinder for a deeper meditative consciousness.” (6)
The meaning of running
“Running means continual transcendence, and that is also the message of our inner life.” (7)
“These long distance races remind me of our Eternity’s race. Along Eternity’s Shore we are running, running, running. We are running and running with our birthless and deathless hopes. We are running and running with the ever-transcending Beyond.” (8)
“Running is a symbolic sport in the sense that it reminds us of spiritual seekers continuously running towards the goal; it resembles the seekers running inwardly to achieve the ultimate goal in meditation.” (9)
The philosophy of running
Question: How does running relate to your philosophy?
Sri Chinmoy: The body is like a temple, and the soul or inner reality is like the shrine inside the body-temple. If the temple does not have a shrine, then we cannot appreciate the temple. Again, if we do not keep the temple in good condition, then how can we take proper care of the shrine? We have to keep the body fit, and for this, running is of considerable help. If we are physically fit, then we will be more inspired to get up early in the morning to meditate. True, the inspiration to meditate comes from within, but if we do not have a stomach upset or headache or any other physical ailment, then it will be much easier for us to get up to pray and meditate. In this way the inner life is being helped by the outer life. Again, if I am inspired to get up early to meditate, then I will also be able to go out and run. Here we see that the outer life is being helped by the inner life.
Both the outer running and the inner running are important. A marathon is twenty-six miles. Let us say that twenty-six miles is our ultimate goal. When we first take up running, we cannot run that distance. But by practising every day, we develop more stamina, speed, perseverance and so forth. Gradually we transcend our capacity and eventually we reach our goal
We can say that our prayer and meditation is our inner running. If we pray and meditate every day, we increase our inner capacity. The body's capacity and the soul's capacity, the body's speed and the soul's speed, go together. The soul is running along Eternity's Road. The outer running reminds us of our inner running. In this way our body reminds us of something higher and deeper — the soul — which is dealing with Eternity, Infinity and Immortality. Running and physical fitness help us both in our inner life of aspiration and in our outer life of activity. (10)
Winning and losing
Sri Chinmoy taught that running and sports is an opportunity for self-transcendence, not just individual glory. The real champion is one who can be detached from the outer result, but endeavour to gain joy from both winning and losing.
“He is the great winner
He is the greater winner
Who is the cheerful loser.
He is the greatest winner
Who gives equal value
To victory and defeat.
He alone is the real loser
Defeat from victory.” (11)
"A great champion is he who wins all the races.
A great champion is he who participates in all the races.
A great champion is he who does not care for the results of the races — whether he is first or last or in between. He races just to get joy and give joy to the observers."
A great champion is he who transcends his own previous records.A great champion is he who maintains his standard.
A great champion is he who remains happy even when he cannot maintain his standard.
A great champion is he who has established his inseparable oneness with the winner and the loser alike."
- Sri Chinmoy [continue reading)