Sri Chinmoy

Spiritual leader and peace activist


Chinmoy Kumar Ghose (Sri Chinmoy) spiritual leader, teacher and peace activist: born Shakpura, India 27 August 1931; died New York 11 October 2007.

Popular mythology tends to imagine a guru – in the word's original and proper Hindu sense of spiritual adviser or teacher – as a placid and mostly sedentary figure. Not so Sri Chinmoy, who wove vigorous exercise into a meditational system that preached peace and inner harmony and gained him thousands of disciples worldwide, as well as admirers ranging from the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, to the Olympic champion Carl Lewis and the soul and jazz singer Roberta Flack.

And of what other spiritual leader from the Indian subcontinent, Christendom or the Islamic world could it be claimed that he (or she) not only produced countless thousands of books, poems, songs and drawings – but also ran ultra-marathons, swam the English Channel, shoulder-pressed 7,000lb on a special apparatus and publicly lifted trucks, planes, houses to underline the urgency of boosting humanitarian aid?

Such, however, was Sri Chinmoy. Some derided his activities as gimmickry. Others claimed he ran a sinister cult. More fundamentally, his success reflected a paradox of the modern age, where official religion has manifestly failed to provide answers to the world's problems, leading man's unquenched spiritual thirst to seek less conventional outlets. By the end of Chinmoy's life, the meditation centre he ran in the New York borough of Queens claimed 7,000 disciples in some 60 countries.

Born the youngest of seven children, in East Bengal, now Bangladesh, he was orphaned in 1944 at the age of 12. That year Chinmoy entered the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, a spiritual community near Pondicherry in South India. There he spent the next two decades practising the Ashram's version of "integral yoga" – meditating, writing, exercising and working in the community, as part of the search for self-knowledge, self-liberation and union with the supreme spirit.

These ideas he took with him when in 1964 he followed an "inner command" and moved halfway round the world to New York City. There he worked initially as a clerk in the Indian consulate, and quickly opened his meditation centre, in Queens. His fame and following steadily grew. By 1968 he was giving talks at Yale, Harvard and other leading universities. In 1970 he began to hold regular meditation sessions at the United Nations, the body he believed offered the best hope of international peace and reconciliation.

In 1987 he founded the World Harmony Run, a sort of global relay for peace. By then a knee injury had long since put paid to his running. Instead he threw himself into weight lifting – hoisting planes and trucks as well as famous individuals, from Nelson Mandela and Jesse Jackson to Hollywood celebrities and Japanese sumo wrestlers.

The stunts, as some of them most certainly were, generated publicity. But Chinmoy's athleticism underlined a deeper point: that physical activity played a vital part in the search for enlightenment. "His life was all about challenging yourself and being the best you can be," Carl Lewis said.

Some challenges were curious indeed. A special section of the Guinness Book of Records could be devoted to the accomplishments of his followers. Take Ashrita Furman, a health-food store manager, who in 2004 pushed an orange a mile with his nose in 24 minutes 36 seconds, under the gaze of Chinmoy in person, and has covered five miles on one-metre stilts in slightly over 39 minutes.

But however frivolous, these achievements were vindication of his belief that everyone is capable of things they believe to be beyond them. For Chinmoy, a particular person's religion was immaterial. "You call it Christianity, I call it Hinduism, somebody calls it Judaism and somebody else calls it Islam," he would say. "But there is only one religion . . . there are many branches of the religion-tree, but there is only one religion, and that religion is God-realisation."

The path lay through harmony and enlightenment, to reach what he called "the ever-transcending beyond". Progress towards that goal could never end, "for God himself is inside each of us and God at every moment is transcending his own reality".

Rupert Cornwell

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker