Chinmoy Kumar Ghose (August 27, 1931 – October 11, 2007) was an Indian spiritual teacher and philosopher who emigrated to the U.S. in 1964. His teachings emphasize love for God, daily meditation on the heart, service to the world, and religious tolerance (a view that "all faiths" are essentially divine).
1 Early years in India (1931-1964)
2 In the West (1964-2007)
3 Artistic pursuits
4 Athletic programs
9 See also
12 External links
Early years in India (1931-1964)
Chitta, Chinmoy, Mantu, Arpita, Lily and Hriday in March 1969.
Ghose was the youngest of seven children, born in Shakpura village 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 Ghose joined his brothers and sisters at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, French India, 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. Ghose claimed that within only a few months of arriving at the ashram he had achieved the spiritual state of God-realisation.
Chinmoy was very inspired by Sri Aurobindo, and was encouraged to pursue his athletic abilities - he dreamed of being an Olympic champion and, according to him, he spent many hours in deep meditation.
In the West (1964-2007)
In 1964, with the help of American sponsors, who were connected with the Ashram, he emigrated to New York City with the intention of teaching. The sponsors are known to be Sam Spanier and Eric Hughes. Spanier founded matagiri, an ashram, in the USA, after he met Mirra Alfassa in Pondicherry.
It took Chinmoy three years to obtain a Green Card. One requirement was that he provide a reference from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram concerning his suitability as a teacher. Chinmoy states that it was not possible for him to obtain a reference. In 1967, the problem was overcome when one of Chinmoy's disciples introduced him to her brother who was an assistant in the New York Immigration Office. Chinmoy's new contact not only waived the reference requirement but also gave Chinmoy's application special help and attention. In the summer of 1967, Chinmoy finally received his Green Card.
While in America in the 1970s, Sri Chinmoy attracted followers such as musicians Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin, though both eventually turned away from him. In 2000, Santana discussed Sri Chinmoy as being "vindictive" towards the end of their relationship.
Other musicians who were spiritually inspired by Chinmoy are Narada Michael Walden, Roberta Flack and Boris Grebenshikov. Sri Chinmoy also had the Olympic athlete Carl Lewis as a student. Frederick Lenz (Atmananda) became a follower around 1972, but he left and became a guru on his own around 1981. In 1976, Chinmoy released a meditative album on Folkways Records entitled Music for Meditation.
In 2007, Sri Chinmoy was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who were earlier given Chinmoy's own U Thant Peace Award.
Chinmoy died from a heart attack while at his home in Jamaica, Queens, New York on October 11, 2007.
According to his followers, Sri Chinmoy wrote 1,500 books, 115,000 poems and 20,000 songs, created 200,000 paintings and gave almost 800 peace concerts. His short songs were written in Bengali and English. During a concert he would usually play 10-15 different instruments, such as a variety of flutes, esraj, cello, dilruba and synthesizer, as well as improvising on piano and pipe organ. He had learned Indian Classical music from Vasant Rai. He has also released four albums in Jamaica on the Studio One, affiliated to the label Port-O-Jam.
Sri Chinmoy in concert at NDK's Hall 1.Sofia, Bulgaria.
In 1984, he began a series of free concerts for world harmony, performing in such venues as London’s Royal Albert Hall, New York’s Carnegie Hall, Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan, and the Sydney Opera House.
In 1977, he founded the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, 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 international Peace Run (later renamed World Harmony Run), generally held every two years.
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 several "Peace Miles" around the world.
Many of Sri Chinmoy’s followers run daily for health and physical fitness. In the 1990s, Chinmoy made it a requirement for his male disciples to have finished at the very least a half-marathon (13.1 miles). Sri Chinmoy himself continued to enter races until his sixties when a knee injury hampered his ability to run; afterwards he turned his attention to lifting people and things off the ground.
Chinmoy built up a world-wide following of disciples and taught them that he was an avatar or incarnation of God.
A picture of Chinmoy that he wanted disciples to use for meditation
He asked his disciples to adopt a vegetarian diet, abstain from recreational drugs including alcohol, and lead a pure, celibate life though followers who were married at the time they joined are allowed an exemption from celibacy. At bi-weekly meetings, 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 Ghose's face 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". It is considered by his disciples to carry an immense spiritual charge and is by far the most important image in Ghose's organization, the Sri Chinmoy Centre Church. In 1992, Ghose made it a strict requirement for his disciples to meditate on this photograph every morning at 6 a.m. for at least thirty minutes, thereby tightening the somewhat more relaxed arrangement that had previously been in place. He also requested that each disciple perform daily at least four hours of approved activities, for example prayer and meditation, running, singing of Ghose's songs, reading of Ghose's writings, or promotion of Ghose and his organization. Although strongly influenced by Hinduism, his path catered to an international community of seekers from diverse backgrounds. He also encouraged his followers to offer free meditation classes.
Sri Chinmoy began writing poetry at an early age, his early efforts being in his native Bengali tongue. However, Sri Chinmoy learnt English metre and rhyme and most of his poems have since been written in English. His first English poem was written in 1945 and was entitled “The Golden Flute”. In his poetry, Sri Chinmoy is attempting to express the inexpressible, to articulate what is beyond the scope of words. Sri Chinmoy is above all a poet of the inner landscape.
Sri Chinmoy holding Jayanti Tamm in his arms in 1970, when she was only 4 months old. Chinmoy predicted that she would become his perfect disciple. She left the group in 1995 and wrote the book Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult
Sri Chinmoy claimed to have once lifted over 7,000 pounds with one arm. In 1989, Alex Zwarenstein, an official photographer indicated that he had been asked by Chinmoy to airbrush photographs to exaggerate the weightlifting ability of Sri Chinmoy, such as manipulating a photo of an object being lifted to make it appear that it was lifted higher than originally shown. Zwarenstein reported Chinmoy saying "Could you make it so that it looks like it's a bit higher?" In 1991, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Texas concluded that Chinmoy misrepresented the type of lift he claimed after watching a video of Chinmoy lifting.
Accusations of sexual misconduct
Chinmoy was publicly accused of sexual misconduct by Anne Carlton and two other former disciples. Carlton told the New York Post that Chinmoy summoned her for sexual encounters over two extended periods, in 1991 and 1996. Other women have also recounted similar stories, and one even revealed that Chinmoy had paid for her abortion after getting her pregnant in the early 1980's. These kinds of accusation against Chinmoy have been discussed in print from as early as 1994. However, Chinmoy had said he was a life-long celibate and sexual misconduct allegations against him were false and defamatory.
When rocker Carlos Santana, a former follower, parted ways with Chinmoy in 2000, he told Rolling Stones that 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".
Jayanti Tamm's account of her life as a Chinmoy disciple Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult was published in 2009. Professor Tamm was born into Chinmoy's organisation, which she now considers to be a cult. Chinmoy predicted that she would become his perfect disciple. The book describes her life in the guru's inner circle and her efforts to break free from Chinmoy's influence.