Eternal Friends, Eternal Rivals, Eternal Brothers

“You are not going to play this ever again.”

Bhashwar jokes as he watches an old film of himself and Sakhshat competing in a 400 meter race that took place back in 1980. It is the first time that either of them has seen it. In this event Sakhshat is the clear winner. At the time Sakhshat was 30 years old and Bhashwar 34.

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I am showing the film to them on my lap top. Of course I don’t want to embarrass either of these 2 incredible athletes. Both are gifted runners, who competed against each other many many times over the years. Not just in the Sri Chinmoy annual sports day but also in Masters competitions.

I have filmed and videoed many of their Sri Chinmoy centre competitions. What is remarkable about the particular race that I am showing both of them now is that this 400 meter race is the very first time that they competed against each other.

The two friends sit side by side as they relive an intense brief experience that took place 36 years ago. The screen is small and the reflection glows brightly in their faces.   Their eyes stare transfixed upon an event that signaled the very beginning of a unique and significant phase in both their lives. Something that inspired them both, not just physically but also most definitely spiritually as well.

As Bhashwar watches their first 400 meter race he is enthralled. He repeats the word “wow”, again and again. Sakhshat leads the race from start to finish, he is silent.

Sakhshat: “I think Guru wanted me to have a good experience.” He laughs, “I lost all the rest of them, except one or two.”

The film continues and shows a few other races.

Sakhsaht: “Look at Guru.”

Bhashwar: “He is into this stuff.”

Clearly as you watch even this short piece of film it is abundantly clear just how enthusiastic Guru was about sports day. I have filmed him competing in a number of events. He looks most enthused though when he is standing at the finish line and holding his own stop watch, and timing some of the faster disciple races.

Click to Play Interview Part 1:

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Guru stop watch-05

Photo by Bhashwar

B: “The 400 is my favorite race. Not because I am best at it but because it is challenging.

S: “Me too. It brings out so much more in you. I look at sprinters like prima donas. Would you like to just be a 100 guy?”

B: “The 400 you have to go deeper.”

The two friends then watch a 100 meter race in which Sakhshat wins again. Neither can remember times though Bhashwar mentions that he has records of all his races.

S: “We didn’t know anything about each other then. That is when the rivalry really started.”

B:”I heard you were from San Francisco.”

S: ”That was my center for a year and a half.”

They now watch the 400 meter race again.

B: “You are really good in this race. You are running it at your pace, and you know what you can do.”

Sakhshat describes participating in sports day as something he hadn’t quite expected when he first became a disciple. His connection to Sri Chinmoy was the most important thing. Participating in sports was an added bonus.

S: “It was available. I just wanted to do it. I didn’t even know who would be there.”

He describes that all he knew about sports day is what he heard from others in the group in San Francisco. He says, “I knew what to expect. Guru was into sports and he was into sports day. So when I came I was prepared. I used to train out in San Francisco.”

I mention to Sakshat that it must have been a good day for him. He did after all win both the races that I had recorded.

S: “There was no agenda at all for me that day other then to run and compete. I ran a few races and did good, but that was pretty much all it was.”

“It was a while for me before this real intense kind of concern about performance. How Guru had transformed it.   How important it is to really excel. All that came later. With Bhashwar and me it became something to focus on year round. It got to the point where I was training 6 days a week for years.”

I ask Bhashwar about his first recollections of Sakhshat.

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“I was totally surprised.”

Then Bhashwar recalls a significant experience that he had at the end of sports day competition that year.   He remembers approaching Sri Chinmoy.

“He started to talk to me. He said, good boy. Not to worry. You were defeated in all your events this year, but you are running faster then the fastest in the inner world.”

“The most striking thing was that I reached over and touched his feet. I had no idea what I was doing. It was just an inner thing and I reached over and touched his feet. I can never believe that I did that.”

(c) Copyrights Sri Chinmoy Centre Photo by Pulak

(c) Copyrights Sri Chinmoy Centre Photo by Pulak

 

B: “I was definitely injured that year and my times reflected it. Sore hamstrings.”

They both laugh as Sakhshat says, “Guru had no mercy on any kind of injuries.”

Sri Chinmoy commented on their performances a number of times over the years.

B: “Here you have a spiritual master looking at us and watching us run for years and years. He is seeing things that we don’t even know exist. We never think about it. When he says, Bhashwar his running is the running of the elite, and you can see the gentleman in him when he runs…….. That just blew me away.”

S: “In my opinion you are the most technically perfect runner that I have ever come across. With your warm up, with your gear, with your form. That is why I had to try so hard. Because I always felt that you were a better runner than me. I just had to do a gut check and train a lot.”

Sakhshat describes that he learned a lot on many levels from Bhashwar. “He was never caught off guard whatever the situation was.”

Bhashwar 100-12

Photo by Maral

During sports day one never knew exactly when each event would be held. Bhashwar says, “I learned to expect the unexpected.”

S: “I think when Guru was really moving into that sports as a major manifestation phase. You know, run and become and become and run. I say this humbly. There are lot of superb athletes out there but I think that Guru thought that we were decent enough role models for what he wanted.”

“Our times were not going to blow away any world records. But the competition and drive and the level of performance (that we put into it) you would get the whole package. We were two guys who were genuinely devoted to him and genuinely trying to aspire. We were really trying to do this.”

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Photo by Maral

B: “I never really considered the rivalry aspect.”
“The thing I like about sprinting is that you run in your own lane. I was a solo trainer most of the time. I would go out and train by myself.”

S: “Me too.”

B: “You don’t have to worry about the runner next to you. Because you have to go out there and run at your pace, and do the best that you can.

S: “The thing about being a disciple of a Spiritual Master, is that he knows where you are going much better then you know where you are going. The outer running for the inner running. It is a metaphor for where he is taking you. If you are not going there, then your athletic performance doesn’t mean anything.”

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B: “Sports day was the biggest day of the celebrations. There were other days that I liked as well but the amount of investment that you put in training for sports day, especially when you are competing in more than one event. It takes a lot of time.”

The two never trained together but would sometimes discuss their training with each other before big events.

B: “Runners respect other runners. Because we know you can’t go out there and fake it as a runner.”

They both competed as well for quite a few years as Masters athletes.

B: “I stopped earlier than Sakhshat did. It wasn’t because I lost inspiration. I just couldn’t do it to my satisfaction.”

S: “I wish he would change that. In 2009 I was rated number 8 in the country for the 400 and number 10 for the 200.” He says that playing basketball unfortunately gave him a severe injury.

“But I am in really good shape now. 2009 wasn’t that long ago. I am going to try and get back. I have made some dietary changes that have really got me training really strongly.”

Sakhshat Japan-18

Photo by Maral

B: “When I turned 70, 18 months ago. Somehow it came into my mind to do the 400 meters in 70 seconds. My best time at 400m was 51.2 seconds. I felt fine. The thing was that I had stopped sprinting for about 4 years.”

“3 months before I turned 70 I started to train.   The first thing I realized was that I couldn’t recover. In order to run the 400 in 70 seconds you have to be able to run the 200 in 35 seconds and faster.”

“So when I tried to approach that speed I just couldn’t do it.”

S: “You have to remember that in 2002 when I ran a 57.3 for 400 meters I feel that may have been the best race that I ran in my life.”

“By not being mental and just being repetitive to build the strength. I do feel like I move further than I used to. I started off trying to do a half mile when my knee was bad at a 30 minute pace. Then trying to do a half mile at a 15 minute pace. I have worked my way down so that now I am doing a half mile at a 7 ½ minute pace.   I feel that if I can do a half mile at a 6 minute pace then I can really do some damage.”

“Guru used to be concerned about fast twitch muscles with you that is why he told you to never run a marathon.”

Sakhshat is positive as he describes some of his ailments over the past few years. He relates it to Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy of never giving up. About problems he says, “there are ways through this stuff.”

Click to Play Interview Part 2:

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Photo Maral

(c) Copyrights Sri Chinmoy Centre Photo Pulak

B: “At one masters games I had a calf muscle that was very very tight. I went to the competition just to watch. I was wearing street shorts and had my regular sneakers on.”

“So then here comes the 400m and the runners are lining up to do the race. “

“So Guru put me in this race. He said something like (about the injury) it is all in your head, run. I said Guru, my calf is hurting. I don’t want to hear it. Run run.”

“So I get in my lane, and I am afraid. But in a way it was good because then I didn’t go out full blast. So because of that I am doing a better pace. I go out easy.”

He describes that the man who usually won the event was ahead of him at 250 meters, but when they got to the final straight away he was able to run past him.

“I felt bad having done that but at the same time. The fact that Guru says run. It is all in your head.

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Photo by Maral

S: “You got to go!”

B: “You learn your lesson.”

There is a momentary pause as Sakhshat remembers one of the final sports days before Sri Chinmoy passed. It is clearly a tender and special memory.  One that sums up the long loving relationship he has with Bhashwar.  Guru told him they were he says, “Eternal friends, eternal rivals, and eternal brothers.”

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Physical brothers
Appear and disappear,
But spiritual brothers
Follow the path
Of eternal friends.

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 240, Agni Press, 1997

Sri Chinmoy running the 47 mile race in 1980…..Time 11:27:24

 

 

14 Comments to “Eternal Friends, Eternal Rivals, Eternal Brothers”

  1. Bipin says:

    Guru once said that for him the most important day of the year next to his birthday was sports day. Those who took part in and helped organize the event saw first hand both inwardly and outwardly how high Guru set the bar on these days ! Thanks . Bhashwar and Shakshat for continuing to represent the gold standard !

  2. Uddipan says:

    Totally inspiring. You three guys just made my day and reminded me why we run. I sincerely hope that I will still be running and striving like Bhashwar and Sakhshat when I reach their age. Thanks Utpal for showing me that when we walk into Aspiration Ground, we are surrounded by living legends.

  3. Savyasachi Brown says:

    Very inspiring brothers who have inspired us for more than 35 years… continue to inspire us with their dedication and devotion to self-transcendence . Thank you Bhashwar! Thank you Shakshat!

  4. Ambaish says:

    Thanks Utpal,
    Definitely ‘Eternal’ and inspiring to all.

  5. chanakhya says:

    Always enjoyed Sports day and watching these guys. One of the most fun times was when Guru decided to have a 4×100 relay with all the officials, shortest against the progressively taller 🙂 Awesome thank you Utpal 🙂

  6. Abhinabha says:

    So inspiring to read! I heard about Sakshat and Bhaswar’s running rivalry, but this is the first time I got a real inside look at what they did. How amazing! I wish we could bring back the glory days of the Sport’s Day.

  7. Salil says:

    Great memories. Brings it all back to life. Thank you

  8. Utsahi says:

    Dearest brother, What a mine of divine moments you have accumulated over the years and these gifts you unwrap, one by one, for our appreciation, our joy, our amazement! Our gratitude to you and, through you, to the divine Architect of infinite wisdom! Wow, Wow, Wow!
    Gratitude, Utpal

  9. Kamalakanta says:

    Thanks for the inspiration! I needed to read this so badly…it will keep inspiring me, as I try to get my running back!….

    Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude!

  10. Vidura says:

    If their is anything called beauty it was seeing Bhaswar and Shakhshat running the 400 meters. Two well trained runners literally flying like two gazelles gracefully to the finishing line. It was the most thrilling, exciting, and exhilarating event of sports day. Gratitude Utpal
    For reminds us of these great moments.
    Vidura

  11. Papaha says:

    Sakshat and Bhaswar’s races were thrilling! Each time you saw them compete you were awed by their speed and focus, but, even more deeply moving, there was always a moment when you were brilliantly inspired by the inner discipline and devotion it took to express this outer spectacle. May they both continue to sprint towards the beyond!

  12. Mark Dorion says:

    While many adjectives and superlatives can be over-used and become cliche, I do not get tired of the word “inspiring”! And this historical footage of these two great athletes is MOST inspiring!

  13. manatita says:

    I remember them well. Those were exciting times, even watching the girl runners also. I mean those who made us shout and urge our favourites on.

    I always admired looking at Shakshat and Bhashwar. They were the best of the best, and Guru always seemed happy when they were running. Two awesome Souls who gave their best!

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