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"I Am not the Body; I Am the Soul"

Breaking Limits with Sri Chinmoy

An interview with Ashrita Furman
by Elizabeth Debold


Ashrita Furman

When it comes to miracles, it often seems like the past has an almost complete monopoly. Look at just about any religion and you'll see that its spiritual canon is filled with endless stories of extraordinary events, miraculous transformations, and divine interventions. They are inspiring, intriguing, unexpected, and sometimes too much to believe. They mystify, fascinate, and tantalize, and they seem so, well ... so much a part of the past, usually the ancient past. Does that mean that the rise of the scientific age has sounded the death knell of the miraculous? Are the miracles of spiritual transformation that have so long stoked the devotional fires of the faithful merely anachronistic relics in the more rational climate of our contemporary society? For all of the skeptics in the land of the spirit who might be tempted to answer that question with a "yes," let me introduce Exhibit A for the defense: Sri Chinmoy and Ashrita Furman.

Sri Chinmoy, a world-famous spiritual teacher, musician, artist, and prolific poet, is perhaps best known for his near-Herculean efforts to promote the ideals of peace and spiritual freedom on the world stage and for the impressive list of spiritual and political friends he has enlisted in these efforts, including Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last two popes, and a former Secretary General of the U.N. But his accomplishments hardly stop there. A former decathlete and world-class long-distance runner, Sri Chinmoy has made the transcendence of human limitations his own personal sadhana [spiritual practice]. And to hear his list of achievements and records—from creating more than sixteen thousand paintings in one twenty-four-hour period to writing over thirteen hundred books to lifting over seven thousand pounds—is to journey into a world in which normal ideas of what's possible seem to crumble away in the face of the love, devotion, and surrender that Sri Chinmoy cites as the source of his extraordinary talents. But despite his impressive résumé of personal achievements, Sri Chinmoy's most extraordinary feat of all may be his near-miraculous ability to inspire in many of his students the same kind of limitation-shattering abilities that have marked his own spiritual odyssey, and his own accomplishments are perhaps only surpassed by the many accomplishments of those who have been inspired by his example.

Enter Ashrita Furman. A close student of Sri Chinmoy since the early seventies, Furman actually holds the Guinness record for holding the most records in the Guinness Book of Records. Long intrigued by Sri Chinmoy's ability to inspire in his students an almost superhuman capacity to transcend human limitations, WIE caught up with Furman last fall. Speaking from his home in New York City, this mild-mannered spiritual devotee shared with us the secrets of his success and the breathtaking stories of his unique achievements. And while his feats might not come close in spectacle to parting the Red Sea or turning water into wine, Furman's deep surrender and unwavering devotion made it very clear that modernity's long shadow of skepticism has not yet eclipsed the miraculous nature of one individual's faith in a sacred power that works its will far beyond the limitations of the physical form.

–Carter Phipps


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This article is from
Our Transformation Issue