Run and Become: Sri Chinmoy's athletics
Run and become, become and run.
Run to succeed in the outer world
Become to proceed in the inner world
Sri Chinmoy's love of sport began in his youth. After the loss of both parents when only twelve years old, the young Chinmoy left Bengal and went to live with his elder siblings at a spiritual community in South India.
Here, at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the ashramites practised an "integral yoga", which included western sports such as track and field athletics, volleyball and football in addition to the more typically eastern practises such as yoga meditation, devotional music and writing spiritual poetry. Sport was seen as an essential ingredient in a holistic way of living, bringing the optimum health required for a dynamic spiritual life.
Sri Chinmoy soon became the champion decathlete at the ashram, training at the track for a long time each day in addition to the many hours he spent in meditation. Although he competed with all his ability, he always did so in the spirit of "Self Transcendence" - competing with himself rather than the other athletes, striving to reach personal goals and then go beyond them, setting ever new and challenging targets.
After coming to the west in 1964, Sri Chinmoy became a spiritual teacher to a small but dedicated group of students in the mid to late sixties. His following grew to many hundreds through the early seventies, and the Sri Chinmoy Centre began to expand internationally. Around this time, Sri Chinmoy began to introduce sports as a centre activity. He had resumed his running career, focusing now on road running rather than track work, and training for marathons and later ultramarathons. Again, the philosophy was one of Self Transcendence, each individual seeking to go beyond their own limits and bring forward their inner, spiritual potential. As well as the obvious health benefits that running brings, Sri Chinmoy saw an inspiring spiritual dimension in running.
Running offers us the message of transcendence. In our running, every day we are aiming at a new goal....every day we are running towards a goal, but when we reach that goal, we want to go still farther. Either we want to improve our timing or increase our distance. There is no end. Running means continual transcendence, and that is also the message of our inner life.
Sri Chinmoy founded the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in 1977 as a service to the running community and to help promote spiritual growth through sports.
Over the years, the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team has become the world's largest sponsor of ultra-distance running and a major organiser of road races, marathons,triathlons,multi-sport events, long-distance swimming events and Master's track-and-field meets. It has hosted several national championships, and numerous world records have been set in its races.
In the early years of the "running boom," these events established standards and levels of service to participants that have now become commonplace: regular drink stations, post-race food and prizes right up the age groups to 70+ years. Sri Chinmoy and his students have always seen competition as a positive thing, provided it is taken in the right spirit - as a vehicle for achieving one's own full potential.
Competition is good, provided it is the competition of Self-Transcendence and not the competition of ego-demonstration.