Sri Chinmoy (1931 - 2007) arrived in the West: 1964
Chinmoy Kumar Ghose was born in Bangladesh in 1931, the youngest of seven children. He was orphaned in 1944 and went to live at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, a spiritual community near Pondicherry made famous by Sri Aurobindo a philosopher/yogi/guru. As an adult he worked as the secretary to the Administrative Head of the ashram. There he met Beverly Siegerman (whom he renamed Alo Devi) an educated and well-traveled woman who was at the ashram for spiritual development and she became involved in an intimate relationship with Chinmoy and helped him move to New York and get a green card and a job at the Indian Consulate.
When he was able to give up his day job Devi was his spiritual as well as his physical consort. She and Chinmoy were enlightened, Yin and Yang, Shakti and Shiva, Prakriti and Purusha. Chinmoy said they were "the obverse and reverse of the same coin." She was revered by the disciples as the Queen of the Universe. Jayanti Tamm was born into the cult and grew up worshipping Guru and Alo. When she was eleven she learnt through gossip that Alo had been demoted. Chinmoy had begun a whispering campaign against saying she had "fallen." She was sent on long trips and her throne removed from the stage. He was sick of her nagging and her outrage at "the influx of gopis, female disciples, who were always at her and Guru's house. In particular, it was my idol, Prema, and her counterpart, Isha, whose constant presence and elevated status irritated Alo the most."
Like the Maharishi he had lived and worked in an ashram and learnt his trade as a guru by observing both Sri Aurobindo and "The Mother" and understanding how talk and act to impress seekers.
He may be the most unorthodox and eccentric guru of the modern age. He was the guru of gimmicks. He claimed world records for weight and people lifting, number of songs written, books written, paintings painted and possibly some others. He gained widespread media attention, strained credibility and prompted the Wall Street Journal to label Chinmoy "the stunt man of the spiritual world." Especially questionable are his claims for world record weight-lifting. Pictures show that he uses a form of leverage to lift extraordinary weights. As he's 5'8" tall and is not a particularly large man then his weight lifting would be pretty impressive if it was not so obviously phony and his reported statements so disingenuous: "I don't blame people who suspect my performance," Chinmoy said. "My own mind suspects it. How can I blame them?" Strangely he didn't claim any records for sexual athletics by a Spiritual Master or Enlightened Guru but then his performance in this field was no more than average at best.
Chinmoy decided he should be called Lord Chinmoy because he was an Avatar like Krishna:
When Lalita asked if I wanted to head to London to assist with the latest project, acquiring for Guru the lofty and revered title "Lord" from the queen of England, without hesitation I declined. Even if Guru had had a vision where Krishna appeared before him and told him that since Krishna was referred to as Lord Krishna, as a fellow avatar Guru should be officially dubbed Lord Chinmoy, I had had enough. I knew Guru had assigned his top British public relations team to begin work on this latest urgent assignment, and even if he had not, I did not care. I was tired in a deeper and more profound way than I ever had been before. - Cartwheels In A Sari
He came to the attention of the media in the early 1970's when he attracted some famous guitarists, John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana (renamed Mahavishnu and Devadip ), as followers. His followers included Narada Michael Walden a successful musician and producer and and Roberta Flack a singer. He had an insatiable yearning for reflected glory. Chinmoy's press kit contains long lists of religious leaders, heads of state, government officials and celebrities he has met or written to. While most gurus since the 1960's have kept a low profile in the media, Chinmoy's followers go to great if not completely questionable lengths for any publicity. Chinmoy was possibly the guru most dedicated not so much to having celebrity followers, L. Ron Hubbard deserves that honour, but to being photographed with them. If this cannot be arranged because the celebrity is aware of Chinmoy being a charlatan then it can nearly always be bought by arranging a donation to their favourite charity, sometimes a very large donation.
His followers which were organised around Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centres claimed roughly 6,000 active members in 50 countries. The organisation had an active publicity section which promotes 'Peace' through staging sports contests, usually marathon running, the donation of monuments to Peace, Guiness Book of Records' stunts and Chinmoy's staggering output of poems, songs and music. Sri Chinmoy claimed to have super-normal powers - including having written 843 poems in 24 hours, created 16,031 paintings in one day, and lifted 7000 pounds with one arm. Chinmoy said he had composed 6,000 songs, rewritten 800 books, some of which contain his 20,000 poems; and since 1974 produced 140,000 paintings, which represents about 20 a day.
One of his followers, Ashrita Furman, 34, of Queens, New York holds the record for the most individual world records, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. His followers engage in intensive chanting and meditative trances, adopt a distinctive dress, and avoid contact with non-members. Disciples address him as "The Supreme." Chinmoy says he has transcended the Hindu tradition and that his religion is "now the love of God." He believes meditation is the path to serenity and an awareness of God, that one must treat others with compassion and respect and that the most devoted truth-seekers should become vegetarians and practice celibacy.
His centres sponsor about 500 annual running, cycling and swimming events. The guru, a Chinmoy brochure declares, is unique among Eastern spiritual masters in emphasizing the importance of sports in the spiritual life. As a youth in India, he claims, he was a champion sprinter, won two decathlons, captained the soccer team and coached volleyball.
The following quote used as an introduction to one of Chinmoy's musical performances highlights a normal technique employed by spiritual groups:
"The music is not for the mind but for the creative heart. Listening becomes meditation. Leave your mind issues behind for two hours. You can pick up your anxieties and tensions when you leave."
- Cartwheels in a Sari - Jayanti Tamm, An insider's story by a woman born into the cult.
- Guillaume Class's Blog - The personal accounts of 7 devotees' sexual abuse by Chinmoy
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