Sri Chinmoy's Weight-Lifting Skills Wowed Fans

Sri Chinmoy, the Indian-born philosopher and guru who died this past week in Queens, N.Y., used exercise, including lifting enormous weights, to spread his message of world harmony and inner peace.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

(Soundbite of grunting)

SEABROOK: That's the sound of spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy, demonstrating his incredible weightlifting powers before an adoring crowd. What he was actually lifting was two stone lions and an enormous body builder. He did use an apparatus.

Until his death this past week in Queens, New York, Chinmoy wowed his followers by hoisting up airplanes, boulders, and people - among them Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. For Chinmoy, lifting was an act of prayer and meditation which he used to spread his message of world harmony and peace. With this physical feat, he also inspired others like Olympic track star Carl Lewis.

Mr. CARL LEWIS (Track and Field Athlete): My relationship with Sri Chinmoy in vast. I mean, it started - it just spiritually for me. Like you never hear him talk down or say negative and a lot of times that's - to a lot of people religion is negative. You're going to hell or it's bad, and you ought to change your life and Sri Chinmoy is the total opposite. It's always lifting, and love, and togetherness.

SEABROOK: Chinmoy was born in India, moved to Queens, New York in the '60s and began opening meditation centers. His philosophy involved more than tests of physical strength. He preached abstinence, meditation and vegetarianism. And he believed that art could be an agent of peace.

Chinmoy created paintings, poetry, plays and music with the same intense focus that he applied to weightlifting. He claimed to have broken a world record by writing 843 poems in one single day.

Sri Chinmoy's last book of poetry ends with this verse: My physical death is not the end of my life. I am an eternal journey.

Sri Chinmoy died Thursday. He was 76 years old.

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