The Self-Transcender and the Perfect Psychologist | Inspiration Sun
- By Hiyamallar
Picture this: it is a beautiful summer morning, and you are awakened
by the sound of Bach being played on the violin as the sun splashes
through the windows of your room in a lovely tree-lined city with
almost fairytale architecture-idyllic, perhaps.
Add a few details; you are crazy cold, hugging your blanket, because
this is Edinburgh, a city which has no decent respect for the seasons,
and your flatmate, in addition to churning out hundreds of difficult
notes at 7:30 am has already a) gotten up b) gone to the Commonwealth
Pool (in the early morning!) and c) swum laps for hours.
Thus, you do what any sane person would do: roll over, curse him, and
try to catch more sleep. So begins another day in Scotland (which
actually can be a kind of Paradise) in the flat of Karteek, swimmer
Pretty much all of you know something about Karteek's Channel swimming
efforts, and I refer those interested to his own account of swimming
across Lake Windemere, as well as the often funny and excellent
article by Devashishu, loyal helper par excellence, chronicling his
experiences during one successful Channel crossing in 2003 (both
gut-wrenching and gut-retching, if you will forgive the joke!).
But there were some things about which I wanted to know more. So with
only a little difficulty, I was able to have my ever-modest, if not
self-effacing friend, talk about some aspects of his swimming not
I began by asking how he got the initial inspiration to take up
long-distance swimming. It seems that in 1994, after reading some of
the thrilling adventures of our earlier Channel swimmers, Karteek had
the idea that he might like to try doing this.
However, unlike most people (such as 99.99% of us), he went down to
Dover shortly after and spent only a few weeks swimming in the harbor,
perhaps doing one six-hour swim, his longest swim ever up to that
time! (to put this in perspective, he routinely does two back-to-back
days of six hours each for his crossings these days)
Three weeks later he attempted his first Channel swim, and achieved an
incredible twelve hours in his first experience of swimming in open
water, before his inexperience and relative lack of training led to an
end of that try.
The following year, after having had more time to prepare, he was
fully trained and ready to go, but one hour prior to the scheduled
departure of his boat, the weather turned and he lost his spot. Due
to other commitments, he was unable to stick around and try again.
In 1996 the Edinburgh Center hosted a memorable concert for Guru, and
for obvious reasons there was not enough time to prepare that year.
Finally, in 1997 he had his breakthrough first successful Channel
crossing, which he describes as a "long hard swim" that took 11 hours
and 57 minutes, which he describes in his own words on our website.
A few months later, at August Celebrations he was called over to see
Guru. He was ushered in and was told to meditate in front of Guru,
who then gave him an envelope. Being somewhat in a daze, Karteek was
still unaware what was happening, despite the fact that Guru told him
to "repeat 100 times" the contents of the envelope.
It was not until he was leaving the court that he realized that he had
been given his spiritual name, of course 100% appropriate, the basic
significance being that of the "Divine warrior", who "places his
teeming victories at the feet of the Lord Supreme".
In 1999 Karteek successfully entered and completed the Lake Zurich
26-km race put on by the disciples. He had an excellent experience,
and this reenergized his swimming. Thus inspired, he wondered if he
could repeat his earlier crossing and decided to give it another go in
What followed was one of his most difficult races, in windy conditions
and with the development of sea sickness, which took him over fifteen
hours to complete!
At this point begins one of the most charming sequences which
perfectly characterizes the divine play between master and disciple.
CKG called the Edinburgh Centre and asked him how many times he had
swum the Channel. When he was told that he had done it twice, Guru
then asked Karteek to swim the Channel two more times. Ever
obedient, Karteek agreed readily and proceeded to do just that,
undergoing adverse conditions and having difficult crossings on each
After four successful crossings, Guru again called the Edinburgh
Centre and this time told Karteek that he needed to swim the Channel
three more times because, "Seven is our number"!
In reminiscing about these phone calls, Karteek remembers that while
outwardly at times he might wonder what the point would be in
repeating the swim, in each case Guru acted as the "perfect
psychologist" as he puts it. To quote Karteek, he "picked up on my
wish" to keep challenging himself, and his request came at just the
right moment each time.
On every occasion that CKG asked him to swim the Channel, he had the
feeling of intense joy, adding that he "never felt forced" to do this
event, recognizing that Guru was confirming what he already felt
(despite the fact that the fifth, sixth, seventh (and even the eighth)
crossings were all accomplished under difficult conditions and took
over sixteen hours!
Even better, he got specific advice from Guru, who told him that while
patience was needed to do long distance swimming, "you also need to
develop speed," as "speed is determination," and Karteek retains the
command of "conquering the waves."
At present, with no one pushing him outwardly (alas), Karteek feels an
inner urge to continue his Channel swimming; even if the training has
become somewhat longer and more difficult, it is "actually joyful" in
So, he is looking towards a ninth crossing of the Channel; he remains
in about the eleventh place for the most crossings of all time
(although he is quick to point out that some have swum the Channel
over 30 times, and one even over 40 times!)
The message he has been given is the same one we have been fed so
lovingly, that of self-transcendence, and his story is especially
sweet because of the gentle but perfect way he was nurtured and gently
prodded. Many of us will recall the Master's way of doing this so
perfectly, and his hand behind our greatest achievements.
Oh, by the way, in Karteek's case, this urge towards
self-transcendence doesn't end with his swimming: he is still hoping
to better his 3:28 marathon, 11:20 two-mile, and 5:20 mile times! (I
should also mention that he is pretty much fluent in German, Italian
and Spanish)-it's no wonder one can't get any rest at his abode!
Karteek and Mate v The English Channel
From: Inspiration Sun edition 5
- this is awesome stuff! The closest I've ever come to channel swimming
was in the 1980's when Praphulla-the-great was recruiting girls for a
relay channel-swim. I love swimming but my stroke is breaststroke and
she said it would not be fast enough. So I took lessons and learned
how to swim crawl. (At least I have something to show from that dream.)
As we lived by the sea in Lowestoft I tried to swim in the sea every
day, as training. Unfortunately I would get very cold, especially in
winter, and sometimes I was seasick. I'd never heard of anyone being
sea-sick from swimming. As a result my determination and enthusiasm
for this particular form of transcendence evaporated.
I guess if I do ever swim the channel it will be in a future
incarnation. But every time I swim front-crawl I think of the great
channel swimmers in the Centres and smile. I am so proud of their
achievement. I think we all bask in the glory of our great heros and
heroines. What an incredible family we have!
Karteek and all the other great swimmers, I salute you.
with love from Durga-Mata
- The funny thing is, since Praphulla needed a 6th swimmer for the
relay in 1989 (the idea was to get our team name into the annals) and
there was noone else, Vedika was allowed to step in - breaststroking
for 2x 1 hour each! That was her first Channel experience. Afterwards
Vedika started swimming the Zurich lake (26 km), learned to crawl and
ended up doing the Channel 5 times (crawl), including the first
Channel- triathlon by our team, Dover-Paris! And she has never been
fast even with crawl. That shows from where to where you can go if
you follow your inner inspiration and dare to dream high and have
Of course, not everyone is made to do the Channel, no matter which
incarnation. There are many other challenges out there!
- It is very inspiring to read this. I felt quite sad to have let
Praphulla down by not managing to get into shape to take part in the
relay. But now I see how Guru can use even our failures to bring about
success. Perhaps if I had swum Vedika would not have had this
opportunity. I am feeling a thrill of joy to read about her achievenents.
If anyone dreams up another relay swim I would certainly like to take
part. I think I could get in shape to do 2x 1 hour at least, specially
if I could mix some breaststroke in with the crawl. Who knows, maybee
it will happen and let the ghosts of my former disappointment be laid
- There are dreams to do another Channel relay as a "World Harmony Run"
swim - but very much a dream still. However, who knows - it may
manifest if there are enough people to want it!
I met an Indian girl in Dover who still remembers the "pujas" with our
disciples who were training in Dover in 1987 - she got so much joy
just from seeing Guru's name on my t-shirt and memories coming back alive!
- Please keep me in touch so if a Channel-Relay does start to
materialise I can try to take part. Swimming is one thing that you can
continue despite increasing age and 'girth.' It has always been my
gest and favourite sport and I will definitely be interested in
manifesting this long-dormant Channel-swimming dream. All the best in
all you are working on, Vasanti.