Born Chinmoy Kumar Ghose in the small village of Shakpura in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) in 1931, Sri Chinmoy was the youngest of seven children. In 1944, after both his parents had passed away, 12 year-old Chinmoy entered the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, a spiritual community near Pondicherry in South India. Here he spent the next 20 years in spiritual practice - including long hours of meditation, practising athletics, writing poetry, essays and spiritual songs.
In his early teens, Chinmoy had many profound inner experiences, and in subsequent years achieved very advanced states of meditation. In 1964, he moved to New York City to share his inner wealth with sincere seekers in the West.
Sri Chinmoy sees aspiration - the heart's ceaseless yearning for ever higher and deeper realities - as the spiritual force behind all great advances in religion, culture, sports and science. By living in the heart and aspiring for continual self-transcendence, men and women can bring forward the best in themselves and find their path to true satisfaction. In his words:
"Our goal is to go from bright to brighter to brightest, from high to higher to highest. And even in the highest, there is no end to our progress, for God Himself is inside each of us and God at every moment is transcending His own Reality."
Sri Chinmoy serves as spiritual guide to students in some 60 countries around the world, encouraging a balanced lifestyle that incorporates the inner disciplines of prayer and meditation with the dynamism of contemporary life.
Sri Chinmoy's life was an expression of boundless creativity. His vast output spans the domains of music, poetry, painting, literature and sports. His contributions in each of these fields have been striking and far-reaching.
Sri Chinmoy frequently travelled throughout the world to offer free concerts, lectures and public meditations, to meet with his students, and to meet and discuss spirituality with world and community leaders. Sri Chinmoy did not charge a fee for his spiritual guidance, concerts, lectures and public meditations.
Sri Chinmoy entered Mahasamadhi - the mystic process through which spiritual Masters leave the body, on the morning of 11 October 2007.
"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 1 Sri Chinmoy, World-Destruction Never, Part 1 1994, pp. 43—44.
Chinmoy was born 27th August, in Shakpura village in the Chittagong District of East Bengal (now Bangladesh). His parents were Shashi Kumar Ghosh, a railway inspector turned banker, and Yogamaya Ghosh. Chinmoy was the youngest of seven siblings. He lost his father to illness in 1943, and his mother a few months later. Orphaned in 1944, he joined his brothers and sisters at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, South India, where his elder brothers Hriday and Chitta had already moved. It was shortly after arriving at the ashram that Chitta gave his youngest brother the name "Chinmoy" - meaning full of divine consciousness.
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. He related that he would wake up very early in the morning and spend several hours in meditation. During this time, he experienced many profound inner experiences, such as ...
During his youth, he was also a sprinter and champion decathlete. In 1955 he became secretary to Nolini Kanta Gupta [fn] Sri Chinmoy, How Nolini-da 2004; Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 23 2000, p. 28; Chinmoy, A
Service-Flame 1974.[/fn] - and was responsible for translating many of Nolini's articles from Bengali to English. He also published articles of his own about India's spiritual leaders, and continued filling notebooks with poems, songs, and reflections on ashram life.
In 1964 he accepted the invitation of American sponsors, and immigrated to New York City, arriving on 13th April at JF Kennedy. He began work as an assistant to the Indian Consulate in their passport and visa section, under LL Mehrotra.[fn] Sri Chinmoy, My Consulate Years 1996, pp. 3—6; Among the Great 1978, p. 253 (comments made by LL Mehrotra in 1978).[/fn] In 1965 Sri Chinmoy performed his first public performance after he was invited to perform three songs at the Guggenheim Museum, in an event sponsored by the Asia Society.
On 27th August 1966, he began publishing the monthly AUM magazine - which was a collection of articles, aphorisms, poems and songs composed by Sri Chinmoy. In 1966, he opened his first meditation centre in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and later that year he also opened a centre in New York, where he was living. Over the next 37 years, over 100 Sri Chinmoy Centres were founded in approximately 60 countries.
Between 1968 and 1970, he gave talks at American universities, such as Yale, Harvard, and Cornell. Later in 1970, he made his first European tour, giving lectures at different European universities, including Oxford and Cambridge universities. Throughout the 1970s, he travelled widely around the world giving further lectures in Canada, Japan, the far East and Central America. These lectures were on aspects of spirituality and spiritual philosophy - they have been collected in three volumes of "The Oneness of the Eastern Heart and the Western Mind."
In April 1970, at the invitation of the then UN Secretary General U Thant, Sri Chinmoy began conducting "Peace Meditations at the United Nations," an NGO holding non-denominational services open to UN delegates and staff.
"Whoever speaks to me about you is all appreciation and admiration, and I personally feel that you have been doing a most significant task for the United Nations. Please feel my sincere respect and sincere concern for what you are doing for mankind.”
Sri Chinmoy served at the United Nations for the next 37 years, offering meditations, peace walks, lectures and meetings with staff and ambassadors.
Throughout his life, Sri Chinmoy remained a staunch supporter of the ideals of the United Nations, believing that the UN had the capacity to be a instrument for universal oneness between people from across the world.
"The United Nations is humanity's home. The lofty vision of the United Nations is that we all belong to a peace-loving oneness-world-family. This vision will eventually transform the face and fate of the world."
In 1995, he commemorated the 50th anniversary of the UN with a concert, held in the General Assembly Hall lobby, in which he performed on 50 instruments. He also offered a total of 50 Peace Concerts that year for the United Nations[fn]Albums: My Prayerful Salutations to the United Nations.[/fn]
Read more: United Nations
In July 1975, Sri Chinmoy offered the opening meditation at the National Day of Prayer ceremony at the UN, and at a similar ceremony in April 1976. Sri Chinmoy participated in many interfaith initiatives during his time in the West. His philosophy is to see the underlying oneness of different religions.
“Yes, I believe in one God, one Source. Love of God is like a tree — the life-tree — and it has many branches. Each of the branches has its own identity and its own name, such as Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and so forth. But they are still branches of the same tree.”
— Sri Chinmoy [fn]World-Destruction: Never, Impossible! Part 1, Agni Press, 1994[/fn]
In 1993, at the Centenary anniversary of the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Sri Chinmoy was invited to offer the opening meditation. (video) In 2004, Sri Chinmoy was also invited to offer the opening meditation at the World Parliament of Religions in Barcelona.
Read more: Interfaith
Sri Chinmoy wrote poetry throughout his life. His poetry expresses different aspects of spiritual experience - from the bliss of nirvana ('The Absolute',) to the struggles of a spiritual seeker, where he identifies with the striving to overcome bondage and limitation.
"A sea of Peace and Joy and Light
Beyond my reach I know.
In me the storm-tossed weeping night
Finds room to rage and flow..[fn]Sri Chinmoy, 'The golden Flute', My Flute [/fn]
Towards the end of his life, Sri Chinmoy concentrated on shorter, haiku like aphorisms, which serve as instructional teachings for those seeking a deeper meaning to life. Sri Chinmoy was remarkably prolific, producing over 70,000 poems - including major poetry series, such as Ten Thousand Flower Flames and Seventy Seven Thousand Service Trees.
Sri Chinmoy began painting in 1974, whilst staying in Ottawa Canada. He had no formal training in art, but created spontaneous artworks, which he called "Jharna Kala" - or 'Fountain Art'. The format of his art ranged from small pen drawings to colourful abstract acrylics on large canvas.
In Malta, 1991, Sri Chinmoy began drawing great masses of birds. He termed these images - 'Dream-Freedom-Peace-Birds' or 'Soul-Birds' - symbolising the freedom of the soul. In 16 years, he drew over 13 million soul birds, and sometimes added soul-birds to his signature in letters to friends and disciples. See Soul-Birds at Sri Chinmoy Art
His "soul-birds" have been exhibited worldwide along with his colorful Jharna-Kala acrylics; a partial listing of exhibitions is here. In presenting Sri Chinmoy with an award from Manhattan's School of Visual Arts in June 1976, the late Brian Gormley described his work as "art cleansed of all the ambitions and desires that we too often see in the art world."
According to Sri Chinmoy, "All art, without fail, is an expression of the Supreme's Beauty. Art is beauty and beauty is art. Art, beauty and joy are like three brothers."[fn]Sri Chinmoy, Art's life and the soul's light, [/fn]
Sri Chinmoy wrote from an early age, and after moving to the West in 1964 began publishing. Initially, his writings were published in AUM magazine, but gained wider recognition with his first book publications. These books include: Meditations: food for the soul (1970, Harper & Row)); Yoga and the Spiritual Life (Tower Publications), and Songs of the Soul (Herder & Herder). In recent years, best-selling books include: The Wings of Joy (1997, Simon & Schuster - on its ninth edition) and The Jewels of Happiness (2014) published by Watkins
In total Sri Chinmoy has written over 1,600 book, with currently 1,572 available at Sri Chinmoy Library. This collection of works includes; Sri Chinmoy's talks, question and answers, stories and light-hearted works. His works also encompass commentaries on sacred texts; several volumes of poetry, and plays about great spiritual Masters, such as the Buddha and Sri Aurobindo.
Sri Chinmoy was a prolific composer of songs in Bengali and English; in total, he composed 22,000 songs. In many cases the songs were originally poems, which Sri Chinmoy later set to music. They have been performed in numerous styles from simple accapella singing to more complex arrangements including classical and modern styles. Sri Chinmoy's song and poetry are an important aspect of his devotional approach to spirituality and many of his students learn his songs as a way to create a devotional atmosphere.
Sri Chinmoy recorded his first album in the 1960s on vinyl. Many of his early albums featured Sri Chinmoy singing his Bengali compositions accompanied by the harmonium, for example: Mother I bow to Thee(album at Radio Sri Chinmoy). He later took up other instruments, in particular the esraj, flute, cello, piano and organ. His favourite instrument was the esraj and he would typically play this in any concert.
In 1984, Sri Chinmoy began a series of free "Peace Concerts". The first concert was held in Cologne, Germany and attracted an audience of 7,000. For the next 23 years, Sri Chinmoy travelled around the world, giving a total of 777 concerts at venues such as London's Royal Albert Hall, New York's Carnegie Hall, Tokyo's Nippon Budokan, and the Sydney Opera House. In these later years, Sri Chinmoy gave less public lecturers, feeling that these concerts were more productive in offering a meditative experience.
Public concerts involved a variety of instruments and singing. They included both peaceful melodies on the flute or esraj, and also lively extemporaneous performances on the synthesizer, piano and organ. Sri Chinmoy also liked to experiment and try new instruments, teaching himself how to play.
Sri Chinmoy's music is simple, spontaneous, and appeals to a childlike spirit. He typically alternates between peaceful melodies played on the Western flute or Indian esraj, plus lively (and sometimes avant-garde) performances on a range of ethnic flutes, percussion, stringed instruments. He often finished a concert with piano, organ or sympathiser improvisation.
Sri Chinmoy composed songs spontaneously, without writing a musical score. His melody and words were transcribed by students. His music results in irregular barlines or mixed metre. When performing his own compositions, each performance often resulted in slightly different versions. To Sri Chinmoy soufulness was more important than sticking to exact score.
His music has been arranged by a variety of performers - both from within Sri Chinmoy Centre and classical musicians, such as Bannya Reswana Choudary, Heinrich Schweizer and Boris Purushottama Grebenshikov.
His emphasis on poetry and song may best be viewed in the tradition of 'Bhakti (devotional) yoga. In this spiritual tradition, music and poetry help to bring the aspiration of the heart and soul to the fore - they also help overcome the dryness of the mind and routine.
“Music is psychic enlightenment. Music is the supreme fulfilment of the aspiring human soul.”
Sri Chinmoy[fn]Sri Chinmoy, Sound and Silence, Part 2, Agni Press, 1982[/fn]
The Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Runwas founded in 1987, as a dynamic initiative to nurture and share humanity's universal aspiration for peace.
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.[fn]Among the Great 1978, p. 174[/fn] The run began and ended in New York City, and was met on its final leg by then Mayor Abraham Beame, who proclaimed 16 August 1976 "Liberty Torch Day."
This concept was expanded in 1987 to become the international Peace Run generally held every two years. The run does not fundraise or highlight any political cause. The aim of the Run is to raise world consciousness about the need for peace and give people from all countries and backgrounds the opportunity to take part. The motto of the Peace Run is "Peace begins with me."
During the past three decades, the Peace Run has met innumerable schools, community groups and community ambassadors. The Peace Torch has been held by global figures, such as Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis, Dr Davidson Hepburn, and Nobel laureates, such as Mother Teresa and Rigoberta Menchu. It has received support from community leaders and schools who have seen the Peace Run as a vehicle to help emphasise the importance of peace, harmony, good communication and respect for diversity.
Sri Chinmoy entered running races from his youth until his sixties. In his Ashram days in India, he primarily concentrated on sprinting and the decathlon. In the late 1970s, he embarked on a long distance running career, which included 21 marathons and five ultra-marathons. His best time for the marathon was 3.55.07 in Toledo, Ohio.
Where injuries allowed he continued to participate in athletic meetings into his 60s and 70s. He participated in World Masters Games in San Juan, 1983, where he ran the 400-metres in 72.66 seconds. In 1983 (at age 52), he ran the 400-metre dash in 72.66 seconds at the World Masters Games in San uan, Puerto Rico. At age 49, he ran the 47-mile Sri Chinmoy Ultramarathon in 11:27:24 in Queens, New York. An important part of Sri Chinmoy's philosophy was to transcend the barriers of age.
"Age is no barrier. I find that the mind makes us feel we are very old. The moment I use my heart, I am 20 years old again. When we experience deep meditation, we see that spiritual energy is the source of physical, vital and mental energy."
In 1977 he founded the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, which holds running, swimming, and cycling events worldwide. These events range from local two mile races to marathons and ultra marathons. Sri Chinmoy also played a key role in the growth of the ultra-distance and multi-day running. For many years the 700m, 1000m and 1,300m ultras were one of leading ultra events in the US and ultra-legends, such as Yiannis Kouros and Al Howie set new world records in these events. In 1996, Sri Chinmoy also founded the 3100 Mile Self Transcendence Race - the longest certified footrace in the world.
Sri Chinmoy met many athletes throughout his life, including childhood hero - Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Emil Zatopek and Paula Radcliffe. In 1978, he received a distinguished service award from Runner's World magazine "for dedicated service to humanity through the promotion of running." His team has worked closely with the New York Road Runners club, and sponsored ultra-distance events where legends
Many of Chinmoy's followers run daily for health and fitness. A few, like Suprabha Beckjord,Dipali Cunningham, Asprihanal Aalto are respected ultramarathoners with age and distance related world records. The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team also has over 40 individual Channel Swims and ranks second as club with most successful crossings. Channel Swims
In his closing years, a knee injury hampered his ability to run. But in 1985 he took up weightlifting, and continued to stage events designed to make the public believe in the power of the heart. These were unofficial lifts in which he raised great pumpkins, elephants, or groups of people on a platform, using a modified calf raise machine for leverage.
The Rotorua Daily Post reports that while visiting New Zealand in late 2002, he lifted 1,000 lambs (in small groups, spread out over six sessions). This was part of his "Lifting Up The World With A
Oneness-Heart" program, which usually honors human beings who have contributed to society's betterment
in the fields of sports, literature, science, governance, or personal endeavor. "I lift them up to show my appreciation for their achievements," Chinmoy said.
On 2 November 1998, after an exhibition in Teterboro, New Jersey in which he lifted six light aircraft in sequence, he was asked by the Bergen Record, "Why do you do this?" He replied:
I am trying, according to my humble capacity, to be of dedicated service to the world. I have been going to the United Nations to offer meditations since 1970. In addition, I have composed many songs and poems, plus I have done thousands and thousands of paintings. All this I am doing to inspire others. ... Inspiration is a divine element inside our life. When we are inspired, we try to climb up the Himalayas. When we are inspired, we try to swim the English Channel. When we are inspired, we go from one country to another country to inspire people
and to be inspired by them. I feel that when we inspire humanity, we automatically become good citizens of the world. This is my philosophy. My weightlifting feats I have done solely to inspire humanity.
He didn't claim to use any occult or paranormal powers in his lifting, but rather to draw strength from an integral life in which body and spirit worked together. American Fitness wrote in 1991: "He doesn't do it for the record books, which we often wrongly judge as the true worth of a person's accomplishments, but for the purpose it ultimately serves.
In that same year he established "Oneness-Heart Tears and Smiles," a humanitarian aid organization which sends medical supplies, food and clothing to impoverished regions of Eastern Europe, India, Indonesia, Africa, and Micronesia. It includes a "kids-to-kids" program in which donor schools send educational supplies to sister schools in other countries. "Drawings of Hope" is a special project for children in Banda Aceh who were orphaned by the tsunami of December, 2004.
Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossoms, a program begun in 1989, involves no heavy lifting - just global networking between "students of peace" who establish sister sites in and around major cities, landmarks, and beauty spots. Cynics might question how merely naming such sites Peace-Blossoms would have any effect at all. His followers claim that if the hope for peace was something fragile, holding ceremonies at these sites makes it real and tangible, and helps like-minded people around the globe feel connected, even if their own communities are ravaged by war. An April 1995 article in Hinduism Today reports that the late King Birendra of Nepal dedicated an unscaled Himalayan peak as "Sri Chinmoy Peace Mountain."
If one believes Chinmoy and his followers, these different activities - poetry, music, painting, athletics, and humanitarian concerns - are not a form of eclecticism, but stem from a central core.
Sri Chinmoy has called his teaching the "Path of the heart" and also the path of "Love, devotion, and surrender".
"To me the path of the heart means divine love, divine devotion and divine surrender."
Chinmoy[fn]World-destruction: never, impossible! part 1[/fn]
On the spiritual path, he describes the role of a guru or spiritual teacher as an elder brother in the family.
"Guru is a Sanskrit word which means "he who illumines." The one who offers illumination is called a Guru. According to my own inner realisation I wish to say that there is only one real Guru, and that is the Supreme."
"The Guru: your private tutor"
He describes God as including both form and the formless, and both Father and Mother aspects.
“God is infinite Consciousness, infinite Bliss, yet he can also assume a finite form. He is infinite, He is finite; and at the same time He transcends both the infinite and the finite.”
[fn]The Vision of God's Dawn, Agni Press, 1974[/fn]
When talking about God, he often prefers the term Supreme, to represent the ever-transcending reality.
"The ultimate goal of aspiration is to go to the Beyond, the ever-transcending Beyond. And the ever-transcending Beyond is nothing other than God."
He also describes God as inner Truth, and as one's most illumined part. The aim of yoga is for a seeker to become aware of the "God within"
“God and man: God and man are one. They are eternally one. God knows it. Man also will know it. He will.”[fn]My Ivy League Leaves, Agni Press, 1972 [/fn]
Read more: Library of Sri Chinmoy's philosophy at Sri Chinmoy.org
A few thousand students follow Sri Chinmoy's path in centres around the world. He asks his students to adopt a vegetarian diet, abstain from recreational drugs and alcohol, and aspire to a pure and celibate life. Sri Chinmoy always maintained that he never asked a monetary fee to become his student. "The only fee is aspiration." His devotee come from different religions and also from no-particular religion. He writes.
"Yoga does not interfere with any religion. Anybody can practise Yoga. I have disciples who are Catholics, Protestants, Jews and so forth. One can practise Yoga irrespective of religion. ... The real aspirant who has launched into spirituality and Yoga will find no difficulty in remaining in his own religion. I tell my disciples not to give up their own religion."
To maintain expenses of the centre, members can make offerings towards the cost. His students do not live in ashrams, but they do meet for centre meditations a couple of times a week and participate in other centre activities, such as promotion of running races, concerts and meditation classes. Quite a few students opened "divine enterprises" - business set up to provide a service, but also run on spiritual principles. Examples, of these divine enterprises include restaurants, cafes, florists and running shops.
A popular custom in the Sri Chinmoy Centre is to hold 'Joy days' a day or weekend, where members meet up for meditation, sport and other activities.
A selection of awards and recognition conferred on Sri Chinmoy during his lifetime.
Pilgrim of Peace Award (Pellegrino di Pace) Presented by: Centro Internazionale Per la Pace Fra I Popoli. May 16th, 1998, Galleria Palazzo Colonna, Roma
The Gold Papal Seals presented by: Pope Paul VI March 22nd, 1972 and June 27th, 1973 for service to humanity. Comments from Pope Paul VI inside the Vatican during his first of three audiences with Sri Chinmoy on March 22nd, 1972: “This meeting of ours has been most essential. Your message and my message are the same. When we both leave this world, you and I, we will meet together.”
Distinguished Service Award. Presented by: United Nations Association of America 1976, 1977
United Nations Silver Medallion. Presented by: United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, July 16th, 1976
“In appreciation for Sri Chinmoy's work at the United Nations and in recognition of his work for world peace.”
New York Marathon Medal Presented by: Fred Lebow, President New York Road Runners Club, 1977
Hindu of the Year Award Presented by Hinduism Today (1997);
The Gandhi Universal Harmony Award Presented by Bhavan USA October 28th, 1994 - received jointly with Mrs Coretta Scott King.
Jesse Owens Humanitarian Award. Presented by: The Jesse Owens Foundation November 15th, 2002, Chicago
United States Congressional Tribute for Sri Chinmoy's Golden Jubilee. Presented by: Twelve United States Senators and Members of Congress offering tributes in the US Senate and Congress and published in the Congressional Record July 27th, 1981. Tribute by Hon. Joseph P. Addabbo, Member of Congress from New York:
“Sri Chinmoy is a truly remarkable an creative human being, an utterly selfless individual who has devoted his life to fostering world peace and understanding...”
Sri Chinmoy entered mahasamadhi on the morning of October 11, 2007, at his home in Briarwood, New York. A few days prior he had been on a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, where he performed a small concert and took part in the dedication of a children's hospital. On the evening of October 10, 2007 he had conducted a regular meditation gathering at Aspiration-Ground.
A memorial service was held at Aspiration-Ground on Sunday, October 14,
United Nations commemorating his life and work.
Sri Chinmoy, World-Destruction Never, Part 1 1994, pp. 43—44.↩