Sri Chinmoy was an avid athlete from his youth and he drew the metaphor of the runner to illustrate his philosophy of the spiritual life.
Having run a few marathons and an ultramarathon he knew what the runner experiences over very long distances.
The Inner Runner
Each individual on earth is running towards his destination. If the runner is wise, he will be very simple; he will wear only the basic, necessary garments, and not something very heavy or expensive which will draw the attention of the spectators. If the runner is wise, he will also be sincere. Sincerity means that he will yearn only for the goal and not be distracted by the flowers and fruits that he passes along the way. If the runner is sincere, he will run only in his own lane. He will not enter into the lanes of others and disturb them. The wise runner will also be pure. When we are pure, we see clearly with our inner vision that not only are we running toward the ultimate Goal, but the Goal itself is also running towards us.
When we run in the outer world, we have only a few competitors, and the competition will last for only a few hours. But in the inner world we have many competitors, and it may take a long time to defeat them. Our competitors in the inner world are fear, doubt, anxiety, depression, worry and similar forces that are all the time trying to rob us of our joy. If yesterday we defeated them, today they will return to challenge us again. Inwardly we may not be prepared for the challenge, but with our little ego we say: “All right, I accept your challenge.” Then what happens? Fear comes and runs ahead of us, while doubt holds our legs and jealousy pulls us backwards. If they were fair competitors, they would agree to run properly, but they don’t. So even before we start, anxiety comes and strangles us.
If one day we are defeated, we should not feel that we are lost. We must always take failure as an experience. We should not take it as a finished product or as the culmination of an experience, but as part of an experience. If we think that failure is the end of our experience, then we are finished. In a long race, a runner may start out very slowly, and then gradually increase his speed until he reaches the goal. But if he thinks that because his start was slow he will never be able to reach his destination, then he is making a deplorable mistake. So I always say to take failure as an experience that is just beginning.
Unfortunately, after running a little, some people become tired and want to take rest. But in the spiritual life there is no rest. Once we have started to run, we cannot stop. If we grow tired and stop running, then ignorance will just pull us backwards. The forces of ignorance will attack us mercilessly and pull us back into the sea of ignorance.
Since time immemorial, we have been running side by side with ignorance. But now that we have entered into the spiritual life, we are trying to run fast, faster, fastest. Previously we identified with ignorance-night. Now that we are awakened, we are trying consciously to identify ourselves with wisdom-light. If we can become one with wisdom-light, we will assuredly reach our destined Goal-the ever-illumining and ever-fulfilling Beyond.
When we run in the inner life, we have to feel that we are not only running against ignorance; we are also running with God. In a 100-metre dash, if one runner is 70 metres ahead of another runner, then the one who is far behind will not have any inspiration to run. But if the leading runner is only a few steps ahead, then the one who is behind feels determined to overtake him. That is why, when God runs with us, He uses only a little of His infinite Capacity. Only then will human beings have the inspiration and aspiration to catch Him and run with Him. God stays only a few steps ahead of us so that He can be seen, felt and ultimately realised.
The Outer Running And The Inner Running by Sri Chinmoy.
First published by Agni Press in 1974.