Chinmoy Kumar Ghose, also known as Sri Chinmoy was an Indian spiritual teacher, poet, artist and athlete who immigrated to the U.S. in 1964, the founder of the religious organization "Sri Chinmoy Centre Church, Inc." better known as "Sri Chinmoy Centre". 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 free peace concerts in notable venues around the world. As a spiritual Master, he advocated meditation, chanting mantras and prayers, performing dedicated service to God as a way to personal enlightenment, or God-realisation as described by Eastern religions, including Sri Aurobindo's spiritual teaching.
Early years in India (1931-1964)
Chinmoy 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 Chinmoy 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. 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. Nolini Kanta Gupta was a scholar, whose writing was admired by Rabindranath Tagore.
Chinmoy claimed that within only a few months of arriving at the ashram, roughly at the age of 14 years-old, he had achieved the spiritual state of God-realisation or full enlightenment.
Inspired by Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950), Chinmoy was encouraged to pursue his athletic abilities - he was a decathlon champion at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, as well as captain of the soccer and volleyball teams, as well as being very enthusiastic about cricket.During his years at the ashram, he spent many hours daily in deep meditation.
In the West (1964–2007)
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.
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 stated that it was not possible for him to request a reference since he left the ashram without asking permission. 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 and helped Chinmoy to fill out the forms. In the summer of 1967, Chinmoy received his Green Card. Chinmoy went on to offer lectures at Universities around the world including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge among others.
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. John McLaughlin was a follower of Sri Chinmoy from 1970 to 1975. His interest in Eastern philosophy and spirituality led him to read the works of various yogis and he chose Sri Chinmoy as his guru. During this period he formed and re-formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra, 'Mahavishnu' being the spiritual name given to him by Sri Chinmoy. Spiritually recharged, he recorded several albums, including Love Devotion Surrender. Much of the music had devotional lyrics and themes. In 1972, John McLaughlin took Carlos Santana to meet Sri Chinmoy at one of the weekly prayer meetings at the United Nations. Carlos also joined Chinmoy's path. He released his albums under the name 'Devadip' (meaning 'the light of the lamp of God'), the name given to him by his guru, until he and his wife left in 1981. Chinmoy offered the musicians a disciplined spiritual path that forbad 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.
Olympic gold-medalist Carl Lewis was also advised by Sri Chinmoy. In his autobiography, Carl Lewis writes about this relationship. Carl Lewis 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 fulfillment which strengthened his Christian beliefs.
"Atmananda" 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 70s.
Sri Chinmoy opened up meditation centres and gave music concerts around the world, and many of his talks and writings were published. Chinmoy's advocated "self-transcendence" by expanding one's consciousness to conquer the mind's perceived limitations. In the spirit of self‑transcendence, a number of his students have completed extraordinary feats of endurance. Members of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team have swum the English Channel over forty times - the most by any athletic organisation. Other feats include ultra-distance running, including the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, mountain climbing and long distance cycling. Ashrita Furman currently holds 100 Guinness world records - the only person in history to achieve this. Ashrita says "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, practiced 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 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 was listed as dying from a heart attack while at his home in Jamaica, Queens, New York on October 11, 2007. Mr 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 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.
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.
In 1984, he began a series of free "peace concerts" where he would play various different instruments and offer silent meditation between each instrument. 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 white keys of piano and pipe organ.
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 began writing poetry at an early age, with his early efforts written 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 1955 and was entitled “The Golden Flute”. In later years, Sri Chinmoy increasingly wrote short poems of a few lines. In total, it is claimed Sri Chinmoy wrote over 120,000 poems though many of these poems are actually short aphorisms. In 2001, Sri Chinmoy was invited to recite his poetry at the United Nations as part of a UN sponsored event of promoting Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry On Sept 11, 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."
Sri Chinmoy's Teachings
Sri Chinmoy taught that rapid spiritual progress could be made with divine love, divine devotion and divine 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.” Chinmoy built up a world-wide following of disciples and taught them that he was an Avatar or incarnation of God.
He asked his disciples to adopt a vegetarian diet, abstain from recreational drugs including alcohol, and lead a pure and celibate lifestyle, though followers who were married at the time they joined are allowed an exemption from celibacy.
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. The picture is considered by his disciples to carry a spiritual energy and is the most important image in Chinmoy's organization of disciples, the Sri Chinmoy Centre.
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. He also encouraged his followers to offer free meditation classes to the public, similar to the way his peace concerts were always offered free of charge.
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 said that although he was brought up in the Hindu tradition, he felt that his only religion was the 'Love of God':
"I was born into the Hindu religion, but now my only religion is to love God and to be of service to God. Love of God embraces all religions: Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and others."
In April 1970, Sri Chinmoy was invited by UN Secretary-General U Thant to give 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. To Sri Chinmoy, the United Nations are the “heart-home of the world-body”, embodying the hopes and dreams of the world-family.
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 post-humous 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.“
Sri Chinmoy has received many awards honouring his humanitarian work. In 1998 he was awarded the ‘Pilgrim of Peace’ prize from the ‘International Center of Assisi for Peace among Peoples’ In October 1994 he received, jointly with Martin Luther King’s wife Coretta Scott King, the ‘Mahatma Gandhi Universal Harmony Award’ from the American branch of Indian cultural institute Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan On 27 August 1997, the international magazine ‘Hinduism Today’ presented Sri Chinmoy with the ‘Hindu Renaissance Award’, honouring him for teaching a yoga which combines aspects of ancient Hinduism in a modern setting.
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 (later renamed 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 sixties when a knee injury hampered his ability to run; afterwards he turned his attention to tennis and weightlifting.
Other programs founded by Chinmoy include the Self-Transcendence 6 & 10 day and the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, described by the New York Times as the "Mount Everest of ultramarathons".
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, and Richard Gere. Rabbi Marc Gellman wrote in Newsweek of the experience:
"I remember the miraculous day of May 23, 2001, when Sri Chinmoy lifted me, my pal Father Tom Hartman, and a platform up into the air. Together—with the platform—we weighed more than 500 pounds (I had a very heavy cell phone in my pocket!)."
In April 2011, a documentary film about Sri Chinmoy's weightlifting titled Challenging Impossibility was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Sri Chinmoy Ghose's Works:
(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
(2007) Power Within: Secrets of Spirituality and Ocultism - Guru Noka Publications
(2007) Heart-Garden - New Holland Publishing
(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
Son of Thomas Godfrey (1704–1749), a Philadelphia glazier and member of Benjamin Franklin’s Junto Club, Godfrey produced some significant work in his short life.
Well known in literary circles in Philadelphia, he was a close friend of the poet Nathaniel Evans and the college provost William Smith. In 1758...