About Sri Chinmoy

The young Madal standing in front of his beloved brother ChittaThe outer life of Sri Chinmoy Kumar Ghose is a fascinating story. He began his earthly journey as the youngest child of eight in a tiny village in East Bengal. Adored by his entire family, he was nicknamed “Madal” (Bengali for “kettledrum”) because of his rambunctious nature. His father worked as an inspector for the railway for many years, so Madal got to know and love trains – the whoosh of the steam, the toot of the whistle and the throbbing rhythm of the giant wheels as the trains chugged in and out of the station. In fact, Madal’s greatest ambition was to be a ticket collector or an inspector like his father. Sri Chinmoy never lost his love for trains. Even decades later, he was delighted whenever he had the opportunity to board a train and ride up front with the engineer.

Read more: stories from Sri Chinmoy’s birth and childhood.

However, Madal’s fate took an unexpected turn when both his parents died just as he entered his teenage years. Soon his entire family – in keeping with their mother’s final wish – followed the lead of Hriday, the eldest brother, and traveled to Pondicherry in South India to become members of the renowned Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Sri Chinmoy at the age of fourteenMadal’s dynamic nature and his exceptionally keen awareness were eminently suited to this particular spiritual community, which was established to enable people to fully develop all aspects of human life – the body, emotions, mind and heart. According to Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of integral yoga, ashramites actively engaged in sports, music and literature, as well as meditation, to realize and manifest the infinite Divinity within the finite mortal frame. Intrinsic to this spiritual path was the ideal of service to God inside humanity.

At the Ashram, Madal was known as Chinmoy, which means “full of divine consciousness.” Indeed, by his mid-teens, he was living up to that name, meditating for hours with profound intensity and attaining a very high state of consciousness.

Sri Chinmoy sprintingIn keeping with the Ashram ideal of developing all aspects of the self, Chinmoy also excelled in athletics, such as tennis, volleyball, football (soccer) and track and field. At the annual Sports Day, he was the fastest sprinter for 16 years, even though he ran barefoot on a cinder track. He often won in long jump, triple jump, pole vault and javelin, becoming the decathlon champion in both 1958 and 1959.

In 1944, at only 13 years of age, Chinmoy began writing poetry in Bengali, exhibiting his blossoming inner perception and literary capacity. The multi-talented youth sang spiritual songs with deep beauty and power, enchanting listeners with the sonorous timbre of his voice.

English was Chinmoy’s second language, but he quickly became adept and translated many of his own poems and essays, as well as the writings of others, into English. In 1946, when Chinmoy rendered one of Sri Aurobindo’s stories into 200 lines of Bengali verse, the Master sent him a rare accolade: “It is a fine piece of poetry. He has capacity. Tell him to continue.”

His lyrical, rhythmic rendering did not escape the notice of the Ashram manager, Nolini Kanta Gupta, who hired Chinmoy as his personal secretary in 1958. One of Chinmoy’s duties was to translate Nolini’s Bengali writings into English for publication.

Chinmoy’s English teacher, recognizing the boy’s exceptional talent and insight, tutored him privately in English metre. Chinmoy’s third English poem, “The Absolute,” remains a classic in lyrical poetry, demonstrating his ability to convey spiritual height with crystalline clarity and beauty. The first verse reads:

“No mind, no form, I only exist.
Now ceased all will and thought.
The final end of Nature’s dance –
I am It whom I have sought.”

Read more: stories from Sri Chinmoy’s ashram years.

Sri Chinmoy’s passport photograph in 1964But it was not until 1964, when Chinmoy left the Ashram and sailed to America – much to the surprise and consternation of friends, relatives and other ashramites – that his creative energies fully blossomed.

Employed in the Passport and Visa Section at the Indian Consulate in New York, Chinmoy soon attracted a following of students who recognized something special in the young man from India. They were drawn by his poise, his sincerity, his humility and his wisdom and wanted to learn from him how to meditate.

Known now as Sri Chinmoy, a traditional title of respect, he began teaching people how to still the mind, open the heart and identify with the soul – or divine self – that exists within every human being. By the summer of 1967, he resigned from the Indian Consulate to devote himself to serving the inner needs of a growing number of students.

Sri Chinmoy meditatesTouring Europe and North America, Sri Chinmoy delivered spiritual talks to seekers who were eager for inner awakening and fulfilment. His teachings revealed the underlying unity of all religions and combined the timeless truths of the ancient eastern wisdom with instructions pertinent to contemporary western seekers of enlightenment.

By the mid-1970’s, Sri Chinmoy had produced a sizable collection of poems, plays, short stories and essays on spiritual topics. He had also composed several hundred soul-stirring Bengali songs, often translating them himself into exalted English poems.

Over the years, the river of spiritual songs that flows in and through Sri Chinmoy has never abated; it has only grown stronger and swifter. At the latest count, he had composed more than 20,000 songs, approximately 14,000 in Bengali and 6,000 in English.

Sri Chinmoy also mastered a number of instruments – including the harmonium (bellowed keyboard), the flute, the cello and the esraj (traditional bowed string instrument) – and, in 1984, began a series of Peace Concerts, performing for thousands of people at major venues worldwide to convey the message of peace and oneness through the powerful height of his silent meditation and the haunting beauty of his musical compositions. Especially popular were his thundering improvisations on the piano and the pipe organ. More than 19,000 people attended his 2000 concert in Montreal, and 15,000 were present for his 2004 concert in Prague.

Sri Chinmoy runningMeanwhile, Sri Chinmoy continued his personal regime of fitness, sprinting, putting the shot and tossing the javelin. He encourages his students to train in whatever sport they enjoyed, emphasizing that when you are healthy and strong, you are better able to meditate and to face life’s challenges with enthusiasm and optimism.

Self-transcendence is one of the main tenets of Sri Chinmoy’s teachings, so it was not surprising when he added marathons and ultramarathons to his athletic achievements. Long-distance running, he says, is a perfect metaphor for life’s endless journey. Even God, he points out, is constantly transcending Himself.

In June 1985, after suffering a debilitating knee injury, Sri Chinmoy turned his attention to weightlifting. He started out barely being able to support a 40-pound dumbbell over his head, and within a year, he was heaving up a total of 240 pounds. Soon Sri Chinmoy was lifting massive weights to demonstrate that anything is possible when one depends not on outer power but on inner strength gained through a life of sincere prayer and meditation. “I give 100 per cent credit to God,” he stated.

Sri Chinmoy 210 lb one arm liftHis good friend Bill Pearl, a longtime bodybuilder who was named Mr. America five times during his career, was able to appreciate how incredible these lifts were. Bill suggested that Sri Chinmoy illustrate to the public how heavy his lifts were by using well-known objects instead of metal plates.

In 1988, Sri Chinmoy began lifting people overhead with one arm on a specially designed platform, reaching a total to date of 7,500 human lifts in a program called Lifting Up The World With A Oneness-Heart. A succession of unbelievable standing and seated calf lifts followed – including elephants and horses, trees and tractors, pianos and planes – weighing hundreds or even thousands of pounds each. Expert witnesses were called in to verify the legitimacy of these phenomenal lifts.

During February of this year, Sri Chinmoy visited Thailand. Here, at age 75, he lifted eight adult elephants, in succession, on a platform connected to a standing calf raise machine. The last and heaviest elephant weighed in at 8,046 pounds; adding the 576 pounds of the apparatus, the lift totaled a staggering 8,622 pounds. Sri Chinmoy explains his purpose in performing these lifts:

“I am trying to inspire all human beings, irrespective of age, to fulfil their goals in this lifetime…. When we pray and meditate, when we live in the heart, there is no such thing as impossibility…there is no age limit.”

Sri Chinmoy lifts an elephant – 8,622 pounds in total!

Another demonstration of Sri Chinmoy’s prolific creativity is his artwork, which he has aptly named “Jharna Kala” – Bengali for “Fountain-Art.” He has completed thousands of acrylic paintings – colourful, textured, energetic compositions that communicate the joyful, divine life force that flows in and through him as he wields brushes, sponges and even his fingers. He has sketched literally millions of bird drawings – small, swiftly rendered line drawings that expertly capture the essence of “birdness” in a few sure strokes, usually with ballpoint pens or felt markers. His artwork has been displayed in venues in many cities around the world, including exhibits last year at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris, the Il Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, and the Kunstlerhaus in Vienna.

Sri Chinmoy Art

Sri Chinmoy’s abundant output inspires his students to be creative in their own way—be it through music, art or poetry. Their drawings, photographs and written works, including poems and short stories, are published in Panorama twice a year—April and August. Panorama, which started its journey in 1999 under the title Now, provides a wonderful forum to share personal expressions, observations and experiences. Renamed Panorama by Sri Chinmoy in 2000, the book is widely enjoyed by others who are not (yet) creatively motivated.

Perhaps the following few lines by Sri Chinmoy will serve as a catalyst to the dormant poetic urge of our readers:

“Beyond speech and mind,
Into the river of ever-effulgent Light
My heart dives.
Today, thousands of doors
Closed for millennia
Are opened wide.”

Sri Chinmoy’s Passing – October 11, 2007.

Sri ChinmoyBeloved Spiritual Teacher Sri Chinmoy Passes Away. Internationally renowned world harmony leader, spiritual teacher and humanitarian Sri Chinmoy passed away peacefully on the morning of 11 October at his home in Queens, New York. He was 76 years of age. During the memorial week at a private ceremony, UN officials, religious leaders of all faiths, political figures, humanitarian workers, renowned musicians and world-class athletes from all around the world joined thousands of followers to pay final tributes to the beloved spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy. They gathered to express their condolences on Sri Chinmoy’s sudden passing at a meditation garden in New York where his body lay in wake. Read more…

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Author credit: This page was kindly provided by Hladini Wilson of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Kingston, Canada.

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