27 August 1931|
Shakpura Village, Chittagong District, East Bengal, British India (now Bangladesh)
|Died||11 October 2007
New York City
|Resting place||Queens, New York|
|Religion||The founder of the religious organisation "Sri Chinmoy Centre Church, Inc."|
Chinmoy Kumar Ghose, better known as Sri Chinmoy (27 August 1931 – 11 October 2007), was an Indian guru who taught meditation in the West after moving to New York City in 1964. A prolific author, artist, poet, and musician, he also held public events such as concerts and meditations on the theme of inner peace. Chinmoy also advocated athleticism to achieve spiritual enlightenment, including distance running, swimming, and weightlifting. He organized marathons and other races, and was an active runner and, following a knee injury, weightlifter.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Teachings
- 3 Art
- 4 Athleticism
- 5 Criticism by former followers
- 6 Awards
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 External links
Early years in India
Chinmoy was the youngest of seven children, born in Shakpura, Boalkhali Upazila, in the Chittagong District of East Bengal (now Bangladesh). He lost his father to illness in 1943, and his mother a few months later. In 1944, the 12-year-old Chinmoy joined his brothers and sisters at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry, where elder brothers Hriday and Chitta had already established a presence.
There he spent the next twenty years in spiritual practice, including meditation, study in Bengali and English literature, and work in the ashram’s cottage industries. Chinmoy claimed that for about eight years, he was the personal secretary to the General Secretary of the ashram, Nolini Kanta Gupta. Chinmoy translated his writings from Bengali into English.
Move to the U.S.
In 1964, Chinmoy was prompted to move to America in response to a 'message from within' to be of service to people in the West searching for spiritual fulfilment. With the help of Sam Spanier and Eric Hughes, American sponsors connected with the Ashram, he emigrated to New York City.
Chinmoy successfully applied for a job as junior clerk at the Indian Consulate, despite his lack of formal education. He received support and encouragement from his colleagues and bosses and was invited to give talks on Hinduism. He started to give talks at universities and later, at the United Nations.
While in America in the 1970s, Sri Chinmoy attracted followers such as musicians Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin, who stayed with Chinmoy for a number of years before leaving. In 1972, John McLaughlin took Carlos Santana to meet Sri Chinmoy at one of the weekly prayer meetings at the United Nations. Chinmoy offered the musicians a disciplined spiritual path that forbade the use of drugs and alcohol and encouraged music and poetry as expressions of thankfulness to the Divine. Santana eventually left Chinmoy, and in 2000 Santana described Sri Chinmoy as being "vindictive" towards the end of their relationship. Other musicians who were spiritually inspired by Chinmoy include Narada Michael Walden, Roberta Flack, Clarence Clemons and Boris Grebenshikov. Allegations of sexual misconduct against Chinmoy were published in the 1994 book The Joy of Sects.
Olympic gold-medalist Carl Lewis was also advised by Sri Chinmoy. He learned to meditate from 'Guru', as he calls him, and practices these techniques regularly. A devoted Christian, Carl Lewis states that his involvement with Sri Chinmoy was a step forward to spiritual fulfilment which strengthened his Christian beliefs. Frederick Lenz became a follower around 1972, but in 1981 he broke with Sri Chinmoy and became a guru on his own. Spiritual author "Purushottoma" Lex Hixon was a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in the 1970s.
Sri Chinmoy opened up meditation centres and gave music concerts around the world, and many of his talks and writings were published. Chinmoy advocated "self-transcendence" by expanding one's consciousness to conquer the mind's perceived limitations. Members of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team claim to have swum the English Channel over forty times. Other feats include ultra-distance running, including the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, mountain climbing and long distance cycling. Ashrita Furman currently holds 151 Guinness world records, and has stated "the meditation he learned from Sri Chinmoy helps him to perform beyond his expectations."
Sri Chinmoy travelled widely and dedicated his many activities and events founded by him to peace. He met with world figures and was often described as an ambassador of peace. He never charged any fees for his spiritual guidance or music performances. He was respectful towards all religions and religious figures of the world. It is estimated that he attracted 7000 students in his lifetime. His path is recognised as a contemporary system of yoga, practised under the guidance of a guru, or spiritual teacher. Unlike other older traditions, withdrawal from the world is not considered necessary for spiritual progress. In 2003, Chinmoy entered a dispute with WIPO over the ownership of two Internet domain names. He suggested that the content was to promote defamatory statements and advertised anti-Hindu deprogrammers. Under WIPO rules, the domains were turned over to Chinmoy.
In 2007, Sri Chinmoy was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by 51 Icelandic members of Parliament, a Canadian Professor: Dr Amnesan Walter Dorn, and a number of Czech professors. Over the years Sri Chinmoy had ongoing friendships with Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Desmond Tutu.
Chinmoy died from a heart attack while at his home in Jamaica, Queens, New York on 11 October 2007. Mikhael Gorbachev wrote that his death was "a loss for the whole world" and that "in our hearts, he will forever remain a man who dedicated his whole life to peace."
Sri Chinmoy taught that rapid spiritual progress could be made with divine love, devotion and surrender. He described divine love as self-offering and self-expansion; divine devotion as an expression of divine love as dedicated action; and divine surrender as a merging of the finite self with the infinite. His path is not one of earthly renunciation or asceticism, but a middle path where the seeker has the opportunity to renounce, or transform, the negative qualities which stand in the way of union with the Divine. Sri Chinmoy taught that meditation on the heart brings the light of the soul forward to reach the highest reality as soon as possible. Chinmoy states: “We are all seekers, and our goal is the same: to achieve inner peace, light and joy, to become inseparably one with our Source, and to lead lives full of true satisfaction.”
At bi-weekly formal meditations, the men wear white clothing, while the women wear colourful Indian saris. The focus of meditation at these meetings is a black-and-white copy of a photograph of Chinmoy taken in 1967 while he was in what he described as a transcendental state of consciousness. It was sometimes referred to by Ghose and his disciples as "The Transcendental Picture" or "The Transcendental Photograph", but more often simply as "The Transcendental". Sri Chinmoy advised his disciples when meditating on his picture to feel that they are entering into their own highest part, that the picture does not represent a human being, but a state of consciousness.
Sri Chinmoy recommended meditation during the quiet atmosphere of the early morning, before starting daily activities. As the traditional Hour of God, between three and four a.m., known as the Brahma Muhurta, may not suit the western lifestyle of keeping late hours, Sri Chinmoy requested that his disciples meditate at six a.m. every morning. Reading Sri Chinmoy's writings, singing his songs and performing dedicated service were also considered forms of meditation for his disciples. Sri Chinmoy believed that running and physical fitness were a help to the inner spiritual life as well as to the outer life of activity, and encouraged his followers to run daily. Although influenced by Hinduism, his path catered to an international community of seekers from diverse backgrounds.
In April 1970, Sri Chinmoy began giving twice-weekly meditations for UN delegates, staff and representatives of NGOs as the director of the meditation group called "Sri Chinmoy: Peace Meditations at the United Nations” in New York.
The ideas of the United Nations are universal peace and universal brotherhood, and the ideals of the United Nations are a oneness-world-family and a oneness-heart.
After directing the peace meditations, which had been attended by many UN employees and diplomats, for 37 years, more than 700 UN staff, ambassadors, members of the American Congress, and representatives of various religions, paid tributes to Sri Chinmoy following his death during a posthumous celebration at the UN headquarters in New York. During the ceremony at the UN, Daw Aye Aye Thant, the daughter of former UN Secretary-General U Thant, said in her speech:
In a letter to Sri Chinmoy in April 1972, my father wrote, 'You have indeed instilled in the minds of hundreds of people here the moral and spiritual values which both of us cherish very dearly. I shall always cherish the memorable occasion of our meetings at the United Nations." [ … ] I feel fortunate to have known Sri Chinmoy and to have been in his presence many times, and to have known many members of the Group.
An integral part of Sri Chinmoy's teaching is the respect for other paths and religions. Sri Chinmoy wrote:
True religion has a universal quality. It does not find fault with other religions. [...] Forgiveness, compassion, tolerance, brotherhood and the feeling of oneness are the signs of a true religion.
Sri Chinmoy’s efforts to promote inter-faith harmony resulted in him being invited to open the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago (1993) and Barcelona (2004) with a silent meditation. During the 2004 Opening Meditation, Sri Chinmoy said:
During my Opening Meditation I am praying for the oneness of all religions.
Sri Chinmoy began painting in 1974 during a visit to Ottawa, Canada. His abstract paintings are a mixture of acrylics and pen drawings. His free form bird paintings and drawings were titled 'soul birds'. His art has been displayed in the Louvre in Paris, the UNESCO offices in Paris, London's Victoria and Albert Museum, the Mall Gallery in London, the Museum of Modern Art in St. Petersburg, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and the United Nations Headquarters.
Followers contend that Chinmoy composed thousands of short musical compositions, written with lyrics primarily in Bengali and English. He released two albums in Jamaica on the Studio One subsidiary label Port-O-Jam. In 1976, Chinmoy released a meditative album on Folkways Records entitled Music for Meditation.
According to his followers, Sri Chinmoy gave almost 800 free peace concerts in notable venues around the world, including London’s Royal Albert Hall, New York’s Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan, the Louvre in Paris, and the Sydney Opera House
Sri Chinmoy claimed to have written over 120,000 poems though many of these poems are actually short aphorisms. In 2001, Sri Chinmoy recited his poetry at the United Nations as part of a UN sponsored event of promoting Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry. On 11 September 2010, three of Sri Chinmoy's poems on hope were recited by New York Governor David Paterson at a ceremony to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11.
Sri Chinmoy's inspirational writing has been praised by many, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who wrote: "These sweet gems of wisdom written by my dear friend Sri Chinmoy are timeless truths full of encouragement, love and goodness...These chapters fill us with indomitable hope and enthusiasm for life."
In 1977 the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team was founded, which holds running, swimming, and cycling events worldwide, from fun runs to ultramarathons. Its precursor was the 1976 Liberty Torch Run, a relay in which 33 runners marked America’s bicentennial by covering 8,800 miles in 7 weeks, mapped out over 50 states. This concept was expanded in 1987 to become the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run (from 2005 to 2013 with the name World Harmony Run), generally held every two years. The first Peace Run was launched in April 1987 at the World Trade Center in New York City.
In 1985, Sri Chinmoy, with the then Mayor of Oxford, inaugurated the first "Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile", which is a measured mile in Cutteslowe Park, Oxford giving joggers something against which to measure their progress. There are now numerous "Peace Miles" around the world.
Many of Sri Chinmoy’s followers run daily for health and physical fitness. Sri Chinmoy himself continued to enter races until his 60s when a knee injury hampered his ability to run; afterwards he turned his attention to tennis and weightlifting.
Sri Chinmoy began weightlifting in 1985, at the age of 54. Bill Pearl, former Mr. Universe, acted as Master of Ceremonies at many of Sri Chinmoy's strength exhibitions. Introducing one of Sri Chinmoy's weightlifting exhibitions in 1999, Bill Pearl wrote: "Today you are going to see some amazing feats of strength that I myself – and I have been in the industry for fifty-five years – would not even attempt to perform." Sri Chinmoy, said his motivation for lifting was to inspire others, especially those of an older generation.
If I can inspire anybody in this world, then I feel that my life is meaningful. With my weightlifting, I am offering my physical strength to inspire people.
In a program created in 1998 known as 'Lifting up the world with a Oneness Heart', Sri Chinmoy lifted people of inspiration while they stood on a platform overhead. Chinmoy described his motivation: 'I lift them up to show my appreciation for their achievements,' Among some of the 7000 people he lifted include: Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Ali, Sting, Eddie Murphy, Susan Sarandon, Roberta Flack, Yoko Ono, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Gere and Helen Hunt.
In 1991, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Texas concluded that Chinmoy misrepresented the type of lift he claimed to have completed. After criticism over the type of lifting, Bill Pearl volunteered to edit future articles on Sri Chinmoy's lifting events to make sure the lifts were described in more accurate terminology.
Criticism by former followers
Musician Carlos Santana was a known follower of Sri Chinmoy. He said, "Without a guru I serve only my own vanity, but with him I can be of service to you and everybody. I am the strings, but he is the musician. Guru has graduated from the Harvards of consciousness and sits at the feet of God." Santana later told Rolling Stone magazine that when he parted ways with Chinmoy in 1982, the guru was "vindictive" and "told all my friends not to call me ever again, because I was to drown in a dark sea of ignorance for leaving him". Santana added, "It was a good learning experience."
In 2009, Jayanti Tamm published an account of life as a Chinmoy disciple, Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult. Tamm, who was born into Chinmoy's organisation, claimed that Chinmoy predicted she would become his perfect disciple. She was banished from the group when she was 25. The book describes her life in the guru's inner circle and her efforts to break free from his influence.
A summary of award highlights includes:
- Visva Sama Duta, meaning "Ambassador of Universal Peace", title conferred by the Asgiriya Order of Buddhist Monks in 1990. The first non-Buddhist in Sri Lankan history to receive such an honorary degree.
- Mahatma Gandhi Universal Harmony Award received jointly with Martin Luther King’s wife Coretta Scott King, from the American branch of the Indian cultural institute Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in 1994.
- Fred Lebow Award, in the name of the founder of the New York City Marathon, presented by NYC Marathon Director Allan Steinfeld and Umberto Silvestri, President of the Rome Marathon in 1996.
- Hindu of the Year (1997) and Hindu Renaissance Award presented by the international magazine ‘Hinduism Today’ in 1997, honouring him for teaching a yoga which combines aspects of ancient Hinduism in a modern setting.
- Pilgrim of Peace prize from the 'International Center of Assisi for Peace among Peoples' in 1998.
- Mother Teresa Award presented by President of the Republic of Macedonia Boris Trajkovski in 2001.
- Medal of Honor For the Cause of Peace and Friendship Among Nations presented by Vietnamese Ambassador to the United Nations Le Luong Minh in 2004.
- Honorary Doctorate of Humanities in Peace Studies presented by the Science Council committee of Cambodia's International University in a unanimous decision in 2005.
- 2012 Class of Honorees, International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, including honouring the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team with swimming the English Channel 38 times.
- (1974) Yoga and the Spiritual Life – Aum Publications
- (1974) The Inner Promise: Paths to Self Perfection – Wildwood House
- (1975) Astrology, the Supernatural and the Beyond – Aum Publications
- (1977) Everest Aspiration – Aum Publications
- (1984) The Summits of God-Life: Samadhi and Siddhi – Aum Publications
- (1986) A Child's Heart and a Child's Dreams – Aum Publications
- (1989) Meditation: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction – Aum Publications
- (1990) On Wings of Silver Dreams – Aum Publications
- (1992) Kundalini: The Mother-Power – Aum Publications
- (1994) Garden of the Soul – Health Communications Inc.
- (1994) My Life's Soul-Journey – Aum Publications
- (1997) God Is... – Aum Publications
- (1997) Wings of Joy – Simon and Schuster
- (2000) Wisdom of Sri Chinmoy – Motilal Banarsidass Publ.
- (2007) Power Within: Secrets of Spirituality and Ocultism – Guru Noka Publications
- (2007) Heart-Garden – New Holland Publishing
- (1994) Jardin Del Alma – Editorial Sirio, S.A.
- (1979–1983) Ten Thousand Flower-Flames – Agni Press (100 volumes)
- (1983–1998) Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants – Agni Press (270 volumes)
- (1998–2007) Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees – Agni Press (50 volumes... unfinished)
- (1973) The Dance of Life
- (1974) The Wings of Light
- (2000–2007) My Christmas-New Year-Vacation-Aspiration-Prayers (51 volumes)
- (1973) Sri Ramachandra – My Rama is My All – A play on the life of Sri Ramachandra
- (1973) The Singer of the Eternal Beyond – A play on the life of Sri Krishna
- (1973) Siddhartha Becomes The Buddha – A Play on the life of Lord Buddha
- (1973) The Son – A play on the life of Jesus Christ
- (1973) Lord Gauranga: Love Incarnate – A Play on the life of Sri Chaitanya
- (1973) Drink, Drink, My Mother's Nectar – A play on the life of Sri Ramakrishna
- (1973) The Heart of a Holy Man – various plays on spiritual figures
- (1973) Supreme Sacrifice – a book of spiritual plays
- (1974) The Descent of the Blue – A play about the life of Sri Aurobindo
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|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Sri Chinmoy|
- Obituary of Sri Chinmoy at The Independent
- Obituary of Sri Chinmoy at The Guardian