One of the real joys for me in breaking records and sharing my experiences is that hopefully it inspires others to go beyond their own capacities and travel into the realm of “self-transcendence.” Of course, any transcendence requires appropriate training. With extreme events, you’ll often hear, “Don’t try this at home.” Well, this record attempt is one of those!

There are many members of my meditation group who are medical doctors. Most of them are amused when they hear about my Guinness records, but some of my doctor-friends express genuine concern for my health and safety. One pediatrician in particular-Garima (from San Francisco) -always laughs when I tell her about my Guinness exploits, and she usually follows with, “Don’t overdo it and be careful of those knees!”

A few months ago, Garima was visiting New York when I was actively training for an unusual record-drinking the most tobasco sauce in 30 seconds. When I told her about it, I expected her usual chuckle. Instead, a worried look came over her face. I assured her that tobasco sauce drinking was harmless and that I had just recently drunk 2 bottles of the stuff with no ill effects.

The good doctor wasn’t buying it. If I wanted an eating challenge she suggested I practice for the onion or garlic eating records (although I might lose a few friends in the process!) She insisted that chugging tobasco sauce was dangerous because if the tobasco sauce went down the “wrong tube” my lungs could spasm and cause me to suffocate! She was serious and I remembered that the Guinness guidelines for the tobasco record stipulate that a qualified physician has to be present at the attempt. Now I understood why.

Although eating records aren’t my specialty, I told Garima that overcoming the intense hotness factor made this record particularly intriguing to me. Then Garima reminded me of another foolish eating record that I had started training for many years ago. The record was for the fastest time to eat an 11-foot birch tree. And just because the record “intrigued me,” on my daily jogs I started chewing leaves and small branches from a nearby birch! Fortunately, someone informed my meditation teacher, Sri Chinmoy, that I was training to eat a tree. Sri Chinmoy shook his head and said, “That’s ridiculous. Tell Ashrita to stop.”


Garima insisted that the tobasco record was even more ridiculous than the tree record (which, by the way, Guinness has retired as a category). I didn’t agree. After all, the tree eating would have taken a few days and the wood splinters could have caused havoc with my digestive system, while drinking tobasco would last a mere 30 seconds. “What are the chances of the hot sauce going into my lungs?” I thought. After all, I had been practicing for weeks and it had never once happened.

Well, just to be safe, I decided to do my next hot sauce drinking practice at my health food store in front of 2 friends who work there. This way, if anything went amiss they could call 911. I was going to attempt to drink 3 bottles of tobasco in 30 seconds.

I lined the bottles up on the counter and unscrewed the caps. One of my friends started a stopwatch and with a, “Go” I began guzzling down the sauce. Everything was going great. I got the first bottle down in 10 seconds. My throat was on fire, but I was on a roll. I started on the second bottle, and the unthinkable happened-I burped and with that, I aspirated some hot sauce into my lungs!


At first, I was more amazed than panicked. But then it hit me. My lungs went into spasm. I kept trying to inhale, but no air was coming in. My friends were in shock. I was a little nervous but I didn’t want to upset the guys so I pretended as if everything was fine. Mahesh asked, “Should I call 911?” I nonchalantly waved him off and mouthed a “no”. The truth was that I had no idea when I would be able to breathe again.

There was nothing left to do but pray. I begged God not to let me die from drinking tobasco sauce – it would just be way too embarrassing! And sure enough, gratefully, several seconds later my lungs gradually began retaining some air. Good ole’ polluted New York City oxygen never tasted so good! I was thankful and relieved.

Well, I had to admit, Garima was right. When I told her what happened, to her credit, she didn’t say, “I told you so”! But she did insist that if I ever make an attempt in the future, I must have a doctor on hand with special oxygen equipment. She need not worry. I’m leaving this record to the pros. One close call with the hot stuff is enough for me. It’s funny-I’ve broken records doing squat thrusts on the back of an elephant, and juggling underwater in a tank full of sharks. But that little bottle of tobasco sauce taught me an unforgettable lesson in humility!