Sri Chinmoy quite often spoke about the English Channel and in the 1980s encouraged a number of his students to swim it. In fact, with over forty swims, the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team now has the largest number of succesful channel swimmers of any organisation or group. Coming very much from a background of meditation and spirituality he emphasised the importance of physical training but firmly believed and demonstrated that ultimately it is our own inner determination and will power that enables us to achieve these things.
Here are some excerpts of his words of inspiration that he offered to his students.
11th of September 1985
My spiritual daughter, Vasanti, and my spiritual son, Adhiratha, you two have immortalised my heart-calendar of aspiration, dedication and manifestation, three days ago and yesterday. These two deeds are genuinely significant in my heart of aspiration and in my life of dedication.
The English Channel frightens the human body. The English Channel challenges the vital. The Engish Channel puzzles the human mind. The English Channel invites the human heart. The English Channel treasures the human soul.
In the outer world, the world of separation, the Channel separates England and France. In the inner world, the world of union, this Channel unites England and France. When it separates, it separates most powerfully, and when it unites, it unites most significantly. In the world of aspiration the English Channel teaches humanity how to reach God’s Feet quickly. In the world of dedication the English Channel teaches humanity how to bring down God’s Heart soulfully. In the world of imagination the English Channel is singularly charming. In the world of reality the English Channel is unimaginably frightening. But she or he who braves the Channel, in the world of reality is an immortal friend of the Channel. So you two, spiritual son and daughter, you have braved the strength of the Channel and by conquering it, you have become its birthless and deathless friends.
I am proud of you two. That means you two are great. My soul is proud of you two. That means you two are good. My Beloved Supreme is proud of you. That means you are His supremely choice instruments to manifest Him in an unprecedented way in our world of God-manifestation.
She is the first girl in entire Germany, so she gets boundless blessings from the soul of Germany and boundless love from the heart of Germany. And he is the first swimmer at the United Nations. So the soul of the United Nations is blessing him most powerfully and the heart of the United Nations is loving him most soulfully. All the souls of the garland of nations have a very special place for him. He lives in America, he is an American and he works in America. But he gets very, very special blessings from all the missions that are working together at the United Nations. In Vasanti’s case the length and breadth of entire Germany is celebrating her stupendous success.
Yesterday’s impossibility has surrendered to today’s reality. And this reality has to be transcended to prove that our message to the world at large is the message of self- transcendence. And self-transcendence is perfection in a very special way in the Heart of our Beloved Supreme. We call it perfection and our Inner Pilot calls it satisfaction. His Satisfaction in His own Way.
11 of September 1986 (at Progress-Promise meditation centre).
Undivine and divine qualities constantly fight. The undivine will eventually surrender to the divine. But if the divine does not continue but gives up the fight, then the undivine will always remain undivine. You know how high you can go in you own consciousness in a fleeting second. For half an hour you may concentrate so that you will have the confidence to do something. You will pray and meditate so sincerely to bring forward your confidence. But it does not take even a fleeting second for you to lose that confidence and for the results of your concentration, prayer and meditation to be totally ruined.
If you say you won’t allow doubt to enter, if you are roaring with conficence, then how can anything stand in your way? Only say, “I can do it, I have already done it!” Keep saying this; then you will be able to prove it. But if you say, “I will try; who knows if I can do it or not?” then already you have surrendered to your doubtful mind. At that time you have already failed.
If you are starting to swim the Engish Channel, use your adamantine will. No matter how foul the weather is or how cold the water is, see that you will do it. You have been practising for a year or two. How much sacrifice you have made, how much will power you have used. One day you have swum three miles, another day you have swum 10 or 20 miles. Put together all your scattered pieces of will power and say, “I am bound to go to the end. I have to cover infinite miles walking along Eternity’s Road, so easily I can swim 21 or 22 miles!” Think of the Ultimate, the highest Infinity, the eternal Road. Countless miles you have to cover, even if on the way there are hurdles. In the English Channel, let us call the waves, the cold and the tide ‘hurdles’. So for 21 miles you have many high hurdles to cross. These hurdles you have to conquer.
People are failing in their attempts to do the English Channel. I am one with them and I feel sad for them. They have practised so hard, but they say they are failing because the weather is bad. There are many excuses. Since I cannot do it myself, what can I say? Only I can say that they have had enough practice. But also they have to develop the adamantine will power that they will do it.
Unfortunately, as soon as they start, fear, doubt, anxiety and worry come. All the wrong forces come and touch them. Are there any negative forces in God’s creation that remain hidden? Not even one single swimmer among my students should fail. They fail only because right at the very start half their determination is gone. If they hadn’t practised, I would say they didn’t have the capacity. But they have practised and they do have the capacity. If one is really serious, it does not take a year. Five or six months of practice is enough. Some of them have had one year – or even more – of practice. From the very firstthey had the capacity. But on the day that they swim the wrong forces come and attack them, and they make themselves helpless.
Adhiratha is one who had determination from the beginning to the end. If all the swimmers had his determination, they would not disappear from the water. After one hour ofswimming some of them stop. It is not that a water animal has come to devour them; it is their own doubt that has devoured them from the very start. If they fail, they have to blame their own lack of willpower. If they have to blame anything, let them blame their own negative forces and lack of willpower. Otherwise, none of my students should fail !
29th of November 1986 (Progress-Promise meditation centre).
As soon as you jump into the water, you have to imagine that behind you is fire. If fire does not frighten you, then think of any kind of animal that frightens you most – a lion or a tiger or an alligator or a jelly fish or anything. As soon as you enter into the water, feel that the animal is behind you, chasing you. So you have to go forward and not backward. At the same time always feel that something most beautiful is beckoning you. Try to imagine a most beautiful garden or golden shore in front of you. That is another reason why you are going forward.
While you are in the imagination world, you will definitely feel less tiredness because you are in the dream world. Only be careful that you are still swimming. Otherwise, you will enter into trance, and your trance will take you downstairs. Imagination is reality in its own world, and imagination has strength in it. Always draw as much strength as possible from your imagination. I have written thousands of poems and thousands of songs all from imagination, because imagination is a reality and a world of its own. So if you can imagine fire behind you, you will also want to go forward. So in one way your imagination is pushing you forward, and in another way it is pulling you forward. This is how you will swim the Channel.
When you swim, you should sincerely pray to the Supreme in you or to the Supreme in me. Always pray and meditate. In my weigntlifting, before I attempt each lift, I pray and meditate for three or four minutes. I go to this side and that side to pray and meditate. I really, sincerely pray and meditate; how sincerely I pray and meditate! On the video we have condensed it so you see only the lift, but before I start each lift, I concentrate and meditate on each metal plate and do many other things. So you also should pray and meditate before you swim, and not only on the day that you are going to swim the English Channel.
I finally did my 300-pound one-arm lift on my 214th attempt, but on the other days that I was practising, I also concentrated and meditated before each lift. So you have to do this as well. For us, the physical is just a vehicle for our soul’s expression. The body itself can do nothing. When I see that my wrist has held 2000 pounds, it is unimaginable, unbelievable. But I did it. How? Because of the soul’s strength. So you also have to depend on your soul’s strength. You people all have sound health and are in good physical condition. But don’t think that this stroke or that stroke depend on your shoulder or your arm moving in an particular way. You are my spiritual children, so you have to depend, like me, 100 per cent on the divine Grace. You have to know that your own capacity is next to nothing. So you dont have to depend even one per cent on your own capacity. You will depend 100 per cent on the divine Grace and feel that some higher force is pushing and pulling you forward.
Then you should be grateful that you are the one who has been chosen to be in the water. You have been chosen by the Supreme to swim the English Channel – not me and not these people here in Progress-Promise. You should be grateful that you have got up early inthe morning and that you have been able to get into the cold water. If you don’t want to offergratitude to the Supreme, if you try to take the credit, then you will see how many miserable experiences you will get.
So depend on the Grace of the Supreme. To depend on human capacity is allstupidity. It is only the divine Compassion acting in and through human capacity. When we succeed, we call it our capacity, but there is no such thing as human capacity. It is all Grace from Above. So next time, do it! You will be able to try in a matter of a few months.
5th of July 1987, Aspiration-Ground tennis court (Remarks to Trishakash)
One of the main reasons that our English Channel swimmers are failing is that they are not depending on the divine Grace. They are depending mostly on their own capacity and practice. But their natural capacity as well as their practice capacity also have come from the Supreme. Instead of sleeping early in the morning, instead of watching television, they are practising swimming. It is our Beloved Supreme who has given them the capacity to enter into the water and practice.
I am concentrating and concentrating. Why does it happen that when they are one or two miles away from the shore, they stop? Many people are saying that you have to be a fast swimmer to succeed. But the divine Grace can stop the tide or give them extra energy and the capacity to swim faster. There are so many ways in which the divine Grace is able to act. But they are all the time thinking of how many days they have practised and how many miles they have swum. Instead, if they believe in the Grace from the beginning to the end, there are so many ways in which the Grace can work.
When I was doing weightlifting, even in my wildest imagination I never thought I had the physical capacity to lift 7000 pounds. If I had to depend on my physical capacity, then after 70 pounds I would have stopped. Grace is the only thing that made it possible. Once we accept the spiritual life, is there anything else we need, other than Grace?
Especially in Trishakash’s case, since he is much more mature and not as young as some of the other swimmers, he should feel from the beginning to the end that it is the Supreme’s infinite Compassion and Grace that will enable him to succeed. On the one hand I am so proud of you people. You are practising and trying so hard. On the other hand, you are not invoking enough Grace from Above. Sincerity and determination are there, but along with sincerity and determination you have to feel, “Who has given me the sincerity and determination to practise?” By asking those questions you can develop the receptivity that will allow the Grace to work. Otherwise it is such a painful experience that we are getting.
Still there are a few more of you who are going to swim. So you have to believe in God’s Grace. Otherwise, why are you following the spiritual life? You are following the spiritual life because you believe in a higher force, which is infinitely higher than the mind. Always you have to practise. You have to be sincere, dedicated and devoted. On your part you will try not to make any mistakes. But in spite of making mistakes, if you still want to succeed then God has to use extra Grace. If I make mistakes and then want to succeed, that time God has to use His extra Grace to make me succeed.
It breaks my heart that at the eleventh hour, one or two miles from the shore, you are failing. But that is the moment the Grace can work. For us there is nothing else except God’s Grace. With God’s Grace, to swim 23 miles is not at all a difficult task. But you are missing out on something. That very thing is God’s Compassion. Your are not letting yourself receive God’s Compassion and after that, if God does not want you to succeed in something, it is his business. He may have a special purpose for not wanting you to succeed. But in this case we know that He does want you to succeed.
So you have to be wise enough to feel all the time that it is because of His Grace that you have entered into the water and are able to swim. You should feel that Somebody is pushing or pulling you. You have to feel, “I am doing the swimming, but Grace is an extra help.”
In the tug-of-war, if one person is on one side and two people are on the other,naturally the two people will win. Young people especially find it difficult to believe in Grace. Elderly people at every moment feel it is Grace that is keeping them alive. The young generation feels, “Might is right! I have such power in my biceps and triceps!” But when you are advanced, you say, “It is not biceps or triceps; it is only our heart’s power and our soul’s infinite power.”
If the Grace can operate successfully in and through you, then all of you cansucceed. The Grace will help you go faster or stop the tide. Something the Grace will do! Again, God may want to offer you a special experience of failure; that is a different matter. But it is not that every second God wants us to have that experience. Never, never! Only we are missing something. So dearest Trishakash, go with my heart’s infinite love and my soul’s infinite blessings. Among the disciples you are the oldest swimmer, so you will believe more in the Grace. Then whatever happens, place the results at the Feet of our Beloved Supreme. I am all pride in you.
Talk about the English Channel 1988
“Those who have stamina should concentrate on speed – the last miles think ofspeed, when you start, inwardly write down on the top of your head, ‘No mind, no mind’. Inside the mind is determination, but inside the heart is willpower, psychic willpower. If you can use the willpower the mind has in the form of determination, good. But it is no match for the heart’s psychic willpower. Don’t think of failure, be cheerful. If you failed previously, think that day did not exist. Make your mind fresh and clean. New hope, new promise.”