The philosophy behind Sri Chinmoy’s races is one of self-transcendence - getting joy by transcending one’s own capacities. However, he felt that competitive races did have their own value, provided it was done in the proper spirit. Here are some of his writings on the best frame of mind to approach competition:
In competitive sports, our primary aim should be not to surpass others but constantly to surpass ourselves. In the outer life, when we run with our friends, we are seeing who is actually the best. And we cannot properly evaluate our own capacity unless we have some standard of comparison. But we compete not for the sake of defeating others, but in order to bring forward our own capacity. Our best capacity comes forward only when there are other people around us. They inspire us to bring forward our utmost capacity, and we inspire them to bring forward their utmost capacity. This is why we have competitive sports.
The value of competition is that you will try to transcend your capacity. If you lose to somebody after trying your best, it is absolutely immaterial. But if you don’t make progress even here on the physical plane, then you won’t try to make progress on the spiritual plane. At that time you will say, “I get up at 7:00 or 8:00 and then once in a blue moon I meditate. Who is going to see?” If you are sincere about making progress on the spiritual plane, then you can start your sincerity with the physical plane. Then the progress you make will spread to the mind and to the heart. I wish to say that there is nothing wrong with a competitive spirit, provided it is competitive in a good sense. You are competing with yourself.
While competing with others,
We see that our competition
Is actually with ourselves.
I always say that the goal is not static; the goal is an ever-transcending reality. Satisfaction is our goal, but we see that the goal itself is climbing high, higher, highest and running far, farther, farthest and diving deep, deeper, deepest.
A child's goal is to learn the alphabet. Then his goal becomes kindergarten, primary school, high school and college. And when he completes his university course, if he is sincere, he comes to realise that there is much more, infinitely more, for him to learn. Once a university student was boasting of his achievements. He said to Mother Earth, "I have completed my course. So look at me, look at what I have achieved." But Mother Earth said, "My son, you have just learnt the first letter of the alphabet. Now sit down and learn the rest."
The goal is constantly going high, higher, highest. Whatever we achieve can be today's goal, but it can never be tomorrow's goal. Tomorrow's goal is something infinitely higher, infinitely more illumining and infinitely more fulfilling. Perfection, which is satisfaction, is nothing short of constant self-transcendence. So here I wish to say that we do compete, but we compete with ourselves, with our own achievements, not with others.
The above writings were taken from Sri Chinmoy’s books The inner meaning of sport, A Twentieth Century Seeker, The body: humanity's fortress and Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees