NY Times Feature

A Monument to Strength as a Path to Enlightenment
April 25, 2011, 11:50 AM

An empty storefront at 18 Jay Street in TriBeCa became the temporary home of something called the Feats of Strength pop-up museum last week.

The exhibit just inside the entrance is a puzzling set of four squat, steel devices rigged with cables, pulleys and weights. They are custom-made weightlifting machines for Sri Chinmoy, who was your basic spiritual guru and powerlifter, and the subject of the museum…

Mr. Chinmoy advocated extreme physical achievements as a path to spiritual enlightenment, and he urged his disciples to nurture their spirituality by taking on seemingly impossible physical challenges. He performed his own strenuous feats to spread his message of world harmony and inner peace. He traveled the world lifting heavy objects — airplanes, schoolhouses, pickup trucks — and hoisted on a special lifting platform thousands of public figures, including Muhammad Ali, Sting and Nelson Mandela.

The museum was opened to coincide with the Tribeca Film Festival premiere last Friday of “Challenging Impossibility,” a short documentary about Mr. Chinmoy’s weightlifting made by two of his followers, Natabara Rollosson and Sanjay Rawal. In the film, a newscaster covering one of his bizarre lifting events describes him as “the Dalai Lama meets the Incredible Hulk.”

In it, the former Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis says that when Mr. Chinmoy lifts weights, “It’s like gravity stops.”

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