At 1 a.m. on 30 January 1987, in his home in New York, Sri Chinmoy lifted 7,063¾ lbs. with his right arm. During a function in 2014 to commemorate the event, Unmilan Howard described the run-up to this miraculous feat:
I am very, very grateful to have been given the receptivity to please Guru in his own way in the weightlifting world. It was not something I did — I know where it came from. This is my account of what happened.
At the end of the Christmas Trip to South America, in the airport on the way back to New York, Guru asked me to build him a 3000-lb. dumbbell. With the 1,000-lb. dumbbell we had built, the bar bent in the middle when Guru lifted it — it was not strong enough. Now I had to do 3,000 lbs.
I am no engineer; I don’t even have a brain! I can only say I was lucky enough to be in the heart for all that time, and I did things from my heart. Previously, we had used 50-lb. plates. We thought if we could find 100-lb. plates then we could keep the weight closer to the centre of the bar and it would not bend. I got a very high tensile steel rod for the centre. First, we had to find 100-lb. weights, because Olympic weights and most others are 50 lbs. Databir found Dan Lurie, who had an exercise equipment shop. Dan had just gotten a container of new plate weights — 100-lb. weights. They had only arrived a month or so before. And where did they come from? India! We think we are doing everything, but it is all a big plan — plan or joke, I don’t know which!
We assembled it in Guru’s house. We put the bar up and then started to put the weights on. We only got about three-quarters of the way when the whole thing crashed — and it bent the rod. From that experience, we thought we would try a truss. As soon as someone — I think it was Himangshu — mentioned a truss I said, “Yes. Got it. That’s what we’ll do, and it will work.” The truss — the metal above the dumbbell — is to hold the rod straight, so it carries the weight, and it goes up with the dumbbell when it is lifted.
We made it. Everything with Guru had to be NOW! You work 16 hours or whatever, but you get one smile from Guru, and that’s all you’re working for — and it does everything. We assembled it in Guru’s house on the 8th of January 1987, and Guru was so happy. He said that we could never imagine his joy, and that Lord Krishna was in the room and he was overflowing with joy and laughter at the size of the weight. Lord Krishna thought it was funny!
I was so open to things when I came to the path. I was not looking for a path, but Guru found me. I never had any experience of any other Masters — I didn’t know they existed, but I was very clean and open to things. So when Guru talked about Lord Krishna being in the room, or Hanuman’s tail coming through — I couldn’t see it — but the minute Guru said it, I could feel it happen just like Guru said. There was no doubt, and it was just beautiful! There was a power around Guru at this stage, and an urgency to lift these things. It was as if the Supreme was saying, “Do it now. I am giving you the power now. Do it.”
So on the 20th — two days later — Guru lifted that 3,000-lb. weight. When Guru prepared for a lift, he’d hold the weight, he’d look at his arm, and so on. We asked him what he did because we don’t see flashing lights or thunder, but it was like he was channelling the energy up. Guru said he would do things like, imagine the weights are balloons; everything to trick the mind because Guru’s mind was as frightened as anyone’s. Guru said that if he was in the mind he would be frightened, but he did all these things — like imagine balloons or pump light into the weights — and then it would just go. He probably had help inwardly, too, from the gods and goddesses — I don’t know! It was powerful to be there with Guru. Guru is such a gentle person; you see Guru play the flute and there is this tiny, gentle hand that can reach these little buttons, but when Guru went into the weight room, he changed. You could see him just swell, and this power was percolating in him.
When Guru lifted 3,000 lbs., in the inner world, his mother was hitting him on the head and saying, “Enough, enough!” You might think Guru would just stop then — but we know our Guru. We celebrated the next day — a thirteen-hour meditation, and then Guru played 100 instruments. After killing himself doing something, he always went even further.
About the 25th of January, in private, Guru said to me, “I want to lift 7,000 lbs. Can you do it?” I said, “Yes, Guru.” Guru said, “It has to be stronger.” “Yes, Guru.” “It has to be twice as big.” “Yes, Guru.” When Guru first said to me, “Can you do it?” everything was inside of me; I knew I could do it. Guru put the whole thing there. I hear boys say now, “It’s got to be two inches and three quarters,” and that sort of thing, but I just felt what I had to do, I did not even know the size of the metal.
The next day I went to the steel merchants. I went with no measurements, I just looked at steel and then felt what I had to use. I bought all the steel that same day. When Guru asked me about this, he had said, “I want it in ten days, it has to be within ten days, because it is urgent.” Guru has never given me ten days to do anything! Guru wants everything now! He always did. I thought to myself, I’ve bought all the steel; it should take three days to make it, four days in all. Guru rang up and asked me when would it be done. I said, “Guru, I’ve bought the steel, four days altogether.” Guru said, “Very good, very good.” There followed three days and two nights with very, very little sleep — about an hour or so. I was working in a workshop about 8 feet across, by 8 feet, by 7 foot high, so when you flicked your helmet down to weld you were hitting the roof. In those days, Agni Press was very, very small; I only had a little area to work in, so I could not assemble it there. To build the length of the truss, I had to work in the passageway leading into the room.
Nothing was pre-assembled. Nothing was like I see Bishwas do things now — he gets it all to a fine measurement, all calculated out, and then he’ll make something and it will fit together. I just worked off stick drawings, and then made it, and if it went together, good. If it didn’t, I would have to quickly adjust it — but it did always go together! It just wasn’t that precise — I am not in that mind state. I had no idea of what I was building — weight, size, anything. Roughly I knew, in here [the heart] but not here [the mind].
There was a lot of cutting, a lot of welding. When you weld metal, you’ve got to see the two pieces of metal, you’ve got to see where the fire’s going, so you are down low. You’ve got to see the metal — both pieces— melt, and you’ve got to see the molten pool in the middle. If you don’t see that, you could be welding to the side and not joining the metal. One day I was welding away, and there was Guru smiling back at me. I swear Guru was smiling out of the weld — smiling away at me. It was such a nice feeling.
I have had beautiful feelings of gratitude, but I haven’t tried to express it before. The whole thing, the whole 7,000-lb. project, was like living in a dream because I knew I’d done it. I knew it was done. You know how Guru says that when he does things, in the inner worlds it’s already done. I knew this was done as if it was déjà vu and all I have to do is see it through. It felt like that the whole time. On the third day of building, Guru rang up in the morning because he thought I should have had it at the house that morning, and it wasn’t till later that evening that I could finish it. He was going to sue me in the court of the Supreme! We got to the house with all the metal, all the parts and all the weights — Databir was bringing them. I think he put so many weights in his car one time the springs just collapsed. Seven thousand pounds is like 3½ tons, and you don’t realise, until it is in one piece, just what that weight is. We got to Guru’s house, but I had forgotten there was a basement: we were assembling it on a floor with a hole underneath! We put down plywood to spread the weight. In the basement, we had to get floor jacks to make sure the floor would hold because the three and a half-ton weight was going to be right over that area — and then when Guru stood in the middle of it, it would be an even smaller area where the weight would be concentrated.
We jacked up the basement and kept our fingers crossed. Then we started to build the dumbbell in the house. This was the first time it was being assembled. Guru was there. There are a lot of people, always, involved in these things; Guru was always the happiest when Russians, Americans, Puerto Ricans, everyone, are all working together. Guru loves that — it is the happiest you can make Guru. I am bad at names, bad at remembering names, but every one of them I can see in my heart. A lot of people helped with these things, in the background. But this is my story! We were assembling it. I knew where I was in my consciousness — I was serious — I am always serious when I am doing big projects like that. A lot of people were happy and cheerful to be in Guru’s house and helping with the weights, but they were trying to go too quick. I couldn’t get the bolts to go in as we were getting to the end. This machine is four times my width; it went within ten inches of both walls of the gym; it was monstrous. We couldn’t put a weight on just one side of the dumbbell arm; you have to put on two opposites together. We put on five each side and then a little bar that hooked onto the truss, that would hold it straight at that point. Then another five at each end and another bar to hold the truss, and so on. But the people helping were trying to do it a little bit too fast, and it was a little noisy — I couldn’t concentrate. Guru came in at that time, and said, “Oi, oi, oi.” I was getting a little frightened of what could happen because there were boys everywhere, and if it fell — it was five feet up in the air — it was dangerous. But then Guru said, “Be very, very careful and be in a soulful consciousness.” I was trying to do these bolts up, and when Guru said that all the bolts just slipped into place, and all the finishing bolts went on. But it didn’t go smoothly until Guru said that; Guru put that energy there, and it went smoothly. When it was finished, we looked back, and we couldn’t believe what we’d built. We had to make sure it went straight up; the truss had to go straight up because if it tipped to the side, that truss wouldn’t hold anything, it would just fall and the whole lot would go. From experience, I knew that Guru always found the centre of the bar. Imagine that weight, it’s only hooked a little bit apart on rods and Guru has got to get his hand in the middle and then take it up evenly or else it will tip — and once it starts, that weight will just go. It was very dangerous. We finished around midnight. Guru said, “Go home, shower and come back.”
Ranjana was the only one in the room, taking photos of Guru during the lift. He was in the gym, we were in the next room, and I sat down. I’d been moving for three days and three nights, so when you sit down, of course, you go to sleep. I was very tired and dozing off. When Guru first started, his scream woke me up. The scream — then you look at Guru, and the power! You and me, we would go up to it and think this is a joke; you couldn’t move it; you couldn’t even dream of moving it. But here is Guru, with all his effort, 100 per cent effort, trying to push this thing into the air. Unbelievable! You’ve got to have no mind. Unbelievable! The strength that was there.
Anyway, I think it happened on the fourth attempt; I could swear I saw it go when I first woke up, I could swear I saw it move. I knew Guru would do it. And he did it. That was 1:00 a.m., and if the photos didn’t clearly show it, Guru was willing to lift it again at 7:00 a.m.
One thing about Guru — all the bodybuilders admired Guru for it — he’d do two workouts a day, seven days a week. You don’t do that! If you go to a gym, you work out your biceps one day, your legs the next day, have a rest and then go on. That’s how they all do it. Or they do upper body and lower body differently. But Guru would do two workouts every day, and because of his purity and meditation the energy just percolated into his body, just re-energised everything so that he could do it. His recovery was so quick. At 3:00 a.m., Guru told everyone to go home and come back for meditation at 6:30 a.m. I didn’t dare lie down; I went for a run, showered and then went back at 6:30. We had to sit in the meditation room, they let me sit on the spot where Guru stood to lift the weight —and I nicely went to sleep! Next thing someone is bumping me and telling me, “Come out to the porch. We’re having cake with Guru.” I didn’t feel guilty about sleeping. I was just pleasantly happy, and I couldn’t control it. It was exhaustion. But the gratitude that was inside of me wouldn’t stop, it wouldn’t leave. I was filled with gratitude. But with Guru, nothing stops. At 11 a.m., I went to sleep and at 3 p.m. we were to go to Madison Square Garden to see Carl Lewis — Sudhahota — run. Guru was non-stop. Before that, at 11 o’clock, when Guru said to go home and rest, Guru blessed me, and he said that I may never realise what I have done in this incarnation, but everything is recorded in the inner worlds.
After that, we had to move the plates to Progress-Promise. We undid them very carefully and got them all out of the house. So far, so good. Guru had a long day that day, and it wasn’t till late in the afternoon that Guru said to move the weights. So we got all the boys and trucks together, and we did it. But there was going to be a function that night at Progress-Promise, an early function. We had to carry all those weights upstairs. We had become very strong, 100-lb. plates we were taking up, plus all the equipment. We had to assemble it on the stage. When we got up there, we thought we’d better check the stage. Luckily it was strong — it could take the weight. We started assembling it, but we were racing, trying to do it quickly, because people were already coming into the meditation room at Progress-Promise. We got towards the end, and we were going a little too fast, and it started to fall. Luckily it wasn’t up five feet. Here it was just three inches off the ground, on a stand.
We realised then — there were five of us on the other side trying to stop it — and it’s like standing in front of a three and a half-ton truck running downhill, that you’re trying to stop. We couldn’t stop it. It tipped over and it bent the bar. That was the other thing, the bar was straight when we assembled it in Guru’s house. After Guru’s lift, that bar was bent. Where he pushed it, right in the middle, it was bent. I totally believe in my heart Guru could have lifted it right to the top if he wanted to, if he pulled on his whole strength — but how could we relate to that? Guru says he is our highest self, “Come with me,” and be like him. But I always felt, if Guru showed his true strength, we couldn’t compare ourselves with him, we couldn’t comprehend it.
But then when we asked Guru about that, why he just did that [short] lift, he said it was to create faith in the world, because there were people around the world who only had to be told that Guru had done it, and they totally believed it — there was no doubt. It was to create faith.
That falling over of those weights showed us how dangerous it was. If that had fallen over in Guru’s house — what would have happened to Guru?
At a celebration on February 14, Guru said (paraphrasing):
“Open your heart and you will be able to see the countless miracles that have been done. The heart is oneness, and this oneness-heart is all for you. And if you also have a oneness-heart, then I am sure it is all for me. Those who are with me, and for me, I am for them at every moment. Each heartbeat of mine is only for you.
“This is the happiest day of my weightlifting career.”