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'I am the serenest!' he says
                        HIDDEN ARTICLE #1
              - MONK GLOATS OVER YOGA CHAMPIONSHIP


 LHASA,  TIBET - Employing the brash style that first brought him
to   prominence,   SriDhananjai  Bikram  won  the  fifth   annual
International  Yogi  Competition yesterday  with  a  world-record
point total of 873.6.
  "I am the serenest!" Bikram shouted to the estimated  crowd  of
20,000  yoga  fans,  vigorously pumping his  fists.  "No  one  is
serener than Sri Dhananjai Bikram - I am the greatest monk of all
time!"
  Bikram  averaged  1.89 breaths a  minute  during  the  two-hour
competition, nearly .3 fewer than his nearest competitor, second-
place  finisher  and  two-time champion Sri  Salil  "The  Hammer"
Gupta.
 The heavily favored Gupta was upset after the loss. "I should be
able  to  beat that guy with one lung  tied,"  Gupta  said.  "I'm
beside myself right now, and I don't mean trans-bodily."
  Bikram got off to a fast start at the Lhasa  meet,  which  like
most  major competitions,  is a six-event affair.  In  the  first
event, he attained total consciousness (TC) in just 2 minutes, 34
seconds,  and set the tone for the rest of the meet by repeatedly
shouting,  "I'm blissful!  You blissful?!  I'm blissful!" to  the
other yogis.
 Bikram, 33, burst onto the international yoga scene with a gold-
mandala  performance  at the 1994 Bhutan  Invitational.  At  that
competition  he premiered his aggressive style,  at one point  in
the  flexibility event sticking his middle toes out at the  other
yogis.   While  no  prohibition  exists  against  such  behavior,
according  to  Yoga League Commissioner  Swami  Prabhupada,  such
behavior is generally considered "unBuddhalike."
 "I don't care what the critics say," Bikram said. "Sri Bikram is
just gonna go out there and do Sri Bikram's own yoga thing."
  Before  the Bhutan meet,  Bikram had never placed  better  than
fourth.  Many  said  he had forsaken rigorous  training  for  the
celebrity status accorded by his Bhutan win, endorsing Nike's new
line  of  prayer  mats and supposedly dating  the  Hindu  goddess
Shakti.  But  his performance this week will regain for  him  the
number one computer ranking and earn him new respect,  as well as
for his coach Mahananda Vasti,  the controversial guru some  have
called Bikram's "guru."
  "My  special  training diet for Bikram  of  one  super-charged,
carbo-loaded  grain  of rice per day was essential to  his  win,"
Vasti said.
 The defeated Gupta denied that Bikram's taunting was a factor in
his inability to attain TC.  "I just wasn't myself today,"  Gupta
commented.  "I wasn't any self to day.  I was an egoless particle
of the universal no-soul."
 In the second event,  flexibility, Bikram maintained the lead by
supporting himself on his index fingers for the entire 15 minutes
while touching the back of his skull to his lower spine. The feat
was  matched by Gupta,  who first used the position at  the  1990
Tokyo Zen-Off.
 "That's my meditative position of spiritual ecstasy,  not  his,"
remarked Gupta. "He stole my thunder."
  Bikram denied the charge,  saying,  "Gupta's been talking  like
that ever since he was a 3rd century Egyptian slave-owner."
 Nevertheless,  a strong showing by Gupta in the third event, the
shotput,  placed  him  within a lotus petal of the  lead  at  the
competition's halfway point.
 But event number four, the contemplation of unanswerable riddles
known as koans, proved the key to victory for Bikram.
  The koan had long been thought the weak point of his  spiritual
arsenal,  but his response to today's riddle - "Show me the  face
you  had  before  you  were born"  -  was  reportedly  "extremely
illuminative," according to Commissioner Prabhupada.
  While koan answers are kept secret from the public for fear  of
exposing  the uninitiated multitudes to the terror  of  universal
truth, insiders claim his answer had Prabhupada and the two other
judges "highly enlightened."
  With  the  event  victory,   Bikram  built  himself  a   nearly
insurmountable lead,  one he sustained through the yak-milk churn
and breathing events to come away with the upset victory.

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