How did you get started breaking world records?
In the late 70s, there was a 24-hour bicycle race in Central Park where the winner held a 435-mile record. At the time, my meditation teacher and group members, along with top athletes, were training for weeks aiming to reach goals of 300+ miles. Being a non-athletic, this was not for me, but about a week and a half before the race I felt guilty and decided to join. I started the race and began using meditation techniques such as visualization, breathing, and chanting to help me stay on the bike. Halfway through, it was dark in central park, only top riders were left riding, and I was in the elite pack with no background and almost no training. I was tied for third place and finished at 405 miles. As soon as I got off from the bike, I remembered standing there and thinking, “This was not Ashrita, the human. This was something with deeper meaning. This is my spirit and my soul.” At this moment, I was convinced I could break a record and thought, “I am going to break a Guinness record to tell people about the power of meditation.”
When you were starting out, was there ever a time that you doubted yourself? If so, how did you handle that?
The upstanding feature of what I do is that I try not to use the mind at all. We know that doubt is our enemy and we don’t allow ourselves to entertain such thoughts. As soon as those thoughts come into my head, I immediately throw them out, and that is a technique we use in meditation. Doubts arise, but I quickly reject them. It is just my mind expressing doubt, but I know that I have infinite capacity and infinite strength within myself to overcome it.
Are you profitable at what you do? If so, how do you make money?
I deliberately don’t involve money in what I do. I want to keep it pure. I break records just for the joy and challenge of it. I do it to support the philosophy of self-transcendence which is my meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy that we can always improve or push ourselves further by using our inner strength. So, I won’t accept sponsors, and I don’t make any money from this.
What is the toughest position that you had to make in the last few months?
I haven’t been confronted with a decision of that magnitude. I don’t think that relates to me right now.
What is it inside of you that you believe makes you so successful?
I have a soul. I believe the soul is divine and we are all part of the same supreme being. We all have a soul, and we all have infinite strength, but most of us don’t access it. The way I access it is through meditation, and I try to tell other people about this. Meditation has become a lot more popular, and I think that is a really good thing. I attribute my success to believing that I have this capacity inside and I am reaching that capacity through meditation.
What has been your most satisfying moment in life?
In the realm record-breaking, the most satisfying moments are when you push beyond and transcend your physical limits and overcome challenges or obstacles. There have been a number of instances, and I’ve faced very tough records. For example, completing 12 and a quarter mile of consecutive forward rolls was one of the toughest challenges. There was a point where I thought, “I just can’t go on anymore.” Using chanting and meditation, I was able to continue. So, pushing through those moments are the most satisfying.
What does the future hold for you and what are you most excited about moving forward?
Part of this philosophy that I follow expresses there is no end. It is almost like chasing the horizon; you’ll never get there because as soon as you reach your goal, there is another goal behind it. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t achieve great things. There are various levels of consciousness and states of being that we can reach, but we are always continuing that. One of my favorite aphorisms from my teacher is “There is only one perfect road, and that road is always ahead of you, always ahead of you.” As long as I am able, I want to keep breaking these records because it gives me tremendous fulfillment, it is an opportunity for me to use the practices I’ve learned in real life situations, and it allows me to inspire others. I am never going to stop the journey, and I am always excited for the next challenge.
Are there any books that have inspired you? If so, which ones?
Yes, 100%. The first book that inspired me was “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse which I first read in high school. A second book is “Musashi” by Eiji Yoshikawa. And of course, “Yoga and the Spiritual Life” by Sri Chinmoy had a profound effect on me.
Is there any recent purchase you have made recently that has helped you?
I don’t believe material things can give you truly lasting satisfaction. Instead, I focus on the spirit. So perhaps this question doesn’t really relate to me.
Is there anything you would like to share about the benefits of meditation?
It’s a common belief that meditation can help one achieve peace and tranquility and while that is true, there is another aspect to that deep peace and tranquility which is dynamic energy. After a peaceful meditation I have found that once you reach inner peace, your body is fed with divine energy. I am full of energy! Some of my best workouts have been after a deep meditation. This is something most people are not aware of. Meditation gives you peace, but it also gives you tremendous inner strength and a lot of energy to achieve things that may even be beyond what your mind believes you can achieve.