Biography of Sri Chinmoy
The life and activities of a spiritual Master
Sri Chinmoy was the youngest of seven children, the son of Shashi Kumar Ghose, a railway inspector and later founder of a small Chittagong bank, and Yogamaya Ghose. During his childhood Sri Chinmoy was known by the affectionate Bengali nickname Madal, meaning 'kettledrum', a reference to his noisiness and liveliness. Prophetically, Yogamaya said of her son, "My Madal is destined to be played on by the gods and goddesses in the skies!".
When Sri Chinmoy was 11 his father died – a year later his mother Yogamaya also passed away and the young Madal left Bengal permanently to join several of his family members in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in South India.
Sri Chinmoy spent the next two decades immersing himself in the dynamic culture of a large and active ashram. He was a talented athlete and excelled as a sprinter and decathlete; wrote and published frequent articles and poems, the beginnings of a prolific literary career; and developed a profound love for meditation which he would often practise for up to fourteen hours a day.
On April 13th, 1964, at the age of 32, Sri Chinmoy moved to the West to share, like Vivekananda and other Indian sages before him, the teachings of India and to serve the goal of world harmony.
Sri Chinmoy was born into a Hindu family but is best known for his deep respect for all religions and spiritual paths and his own deep love for God.
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.
Spirituality is not hospitality to the other's faith in God. It is the absolute recognition of the other's faith in God as one's own.
In a significant tribute, in both 1993 and 2004 Sri Chinmoy was invited to offer the opening meditation at the Plenary session of the Parliament of the World's Religions; the largest gathering of spiritual and religious leaders and organisations in history.
Sri Chinmoy has promoted many interfaith activities to encourage religious unity and goodwill – often at the United Nations where he shares silent non-denominational meditations with UN leaders, staff members and diplomats each week.
Sri Chinmoy was a close personal friend of the late Mother Teresa and has met with many religious leaders to discuss religious harmony. Sri Chinmoy, however, describes his own teachings and guidelines as a spiritual path, not a religion, thus focusing on inner development and personal practice rather than a framework of formal beliefs.
Sri Chinmoy's Goals and the Sri Chinmoy Centre
Since his departure from India in 1964, Sri Chinmoy has endeavoured to foster a new groundswell for global harmony through an extensive anthology of published writings; through works of art and poetry; in over seven hundred global concerts of his own compositions; through dialogue with world leaders; through sports, athletics and multiple unique initiatives that have involved countless people at a grassroots level.
Underlying all of Sri Chinmoy's efforts and initiatives is his recurring theme message that humanity belongs to one world family, and that world harmony is both the birthright and final destiny of mankind which each human being can help to create.
He sees the spiritual awakening in each individual – a widening capacity for love and compassion, an empathy and oneness with others, inner peace, a love for both God the creator and God in creation itself – as the great challenge facing mankind and essential in achieving a harmonious world.
My ultimate goal is for the whole world to walk together in peace and oneness... This ultimate goal requires a transformation of human nature. There must be a great synthesis between the inner life and the outer life. The inner life wants love, and the outer life wants power. Now we are all exercising the love of power. But a day will come when this world will be inundated with the power that loves. Only the power that loves can change the world. My ultimate goal is for the power of love to replace the love of power within each individual. At that time, world peace can be achieved, revealed, offered and manifested on earth.
With their universal appeal and relevance and their complete acceptance of other cultural and religious beliefs, Sri Chinmoy's views lend themselves to a wide audience. He has become well known for his inspirational message of optimism and hope, his unswerving belief in the unlimited potential and innate goodness of the human spirit, and his belief in the oneness of all humankind.
The Sri Chinmoy Centre
In the four decades that Sri Chinmoy has resided in the West, Sri Chinmoy Centres have been established in some 400 cities in over 70 countries. Their activities share a common goal of fostering world harmony through athletic, cultural and musical initiatives that have a popular community following. The Sri Chinmoy Centre does not have a dogma or require any particular belief system of its adherents – rather it espouses a spiritual approach to life based upon a belief in the essential goodness and divinity of the human soul.
Sri Chinmoy encourages the practise of meditation as a powerful method of cultivating this spiritual awakening, and sees the inner peace in each individual as a necessary pre-condition to any lasting harmony in the world. In his words, "Each individual has to become the pathfinder of a new world." To this end, the Sri Chinmoy Centre offers courses in meditation as one of its principal activities – at Sri Chinmoy's request these courses are available to the public for free.
As with many spiritual organisations, Sri Chinmoy has established guidelines and standards for his meditation centres. He requests those who follow his path to be vegetarian and to refrain from alcohol, drugs and smoking. His students are encouraged to meditate regularly and to meet once or twice each week to meditate together. This is a cornerstone of his spiritual path.
Exercise, particularly running, is also encouraged, reflecting his belief in the importance of physical well-being and excellence as a complement to spiritual progress. Body, mind, heart, soul – each of these inseparable aspects of our humanity can be perfected. Sri Chinmoy encourages his students to offer something of their talents or capacities to the community as well, believing that by sharing their inspiration and concern for others they can, in various ways, serve the goal of world harmony.
Sri Chinmoy takes a personal interest in the development of his disciples worldwide and has travelled to many countries to meet his followers and to encourage the growth of the centres. As a loving parent will try to bring forward the very best in his or her child, so too, through these principles of right living, the role of the spiritual teacher is to encourage the rapid blossoming of the student's potential and spirit.
Service to World Peace
In each of the fields of music, literature, art, poetry, sports, Sri Chinmoy's contributions have been remarkable – collectively they form a most distinguished legacy and a source of inspiration to many people seeking a deeper purpose and meaning to life. Sri Chinmoy's anthology of published works, the great volume and variety of his accomplishments and the global reach of his activities have created the foundations of a spiritual and philosophical world view that seems likely to endure for a very long time. These well-documented achievements include:
The publication of over 1600 books of poetry, plays, university talks, essays and writings on spirituality. Major publishers of his works include Simon and Schuster, Harper and Row, Hazelden, Health Communications and Blue Dove Press. Two of Sri Chinmoy's books – the very popular 'how-to' guidebook Meditation and the more recent Wings of Joy – are international top sellers and many of his books have been translated into at least 14 languages. Several libraries and institutions worldwide hold entire collections of his published works. Please feel welcome to visit Sri Chinmoy Library and Sri Chinmoy Poetry.
Creating thousands of acrylic paintings, displayed in galleries worldwide. Sri Chinmoy calls his artwork Jharna Kala, a Bengali phrase meaning "fountain art", a reference to it's spontaneous and flowing style. His often abstract art varies from miniature works to huge murals. A number of his paintings form permanent features in galleries and institutions worldwide. The late Raisa Gorbachev, wife of former President Mikhail Gorbachev, described Sri Chinmoy's paintings as "a meeting with the nobility of the human soul".
Drawing millions of bird sketches, or 'soul-birds' – rapidly executed pen and ink drawings of avian images depicting the inner qualities of the human soul. Many commentators and art critics have hailed this achievement as one of the most striking and singular in modern art and selections from Sri Chinmoy's anthology of bird sketches have been displayed in many notable venues including JFK International Airport; the United Nations Headquarters; UNESCO, Paris; London's Mall Galleries and The Louvre in Paris. Please feel welcome to visit Sri Chinmoy Art.
Offering over 700 concerts of his own meditative compositions to audiences of up to 19,000 people, often in major auditoriums worldwide and always free of charge. Sri Chinmoy is a prolific composer of devotional music and accomplished on many instruments, in particular the stringed Indian esraj on which he is regarded as a maestro. He commonly performs on up to 20 different instruments in concert, specialising in the cello, Western echo flute, Indian harmonium, piano and violin. Sri Chinmoy has dedicated a number of concerts to prominent political figures – including 13 concerts dedicated to President Mikhail Gorbachev of the former Soviet Union – and to other prominent cultural and religious figures such as Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa and Leonard Bernstein. Sri Chinmoy has been an inspiration to many talented musicians in the classical, rock, folk and new age fields. Please feel welcome to visit Sri Chinmoy Concerts.
Composing many thousands of songs - a large percentage in his native Bengali language – which have been recorded on numerous CDs and audio cassettes. Setting his own words to music rapidly and spontaneously, Sri Chinmoy composes dozens of songs in a single session using his native Bengali notation. Please feel welcome to visit Sri Chinmoy Songs and Radio Sri Chinmoy.
The creation of the international Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team which each year hosts some 600 athletic events worldwide, ranging from road races and triathlons to the world's longest foot races. Sri Chinmoy is considered to be an inspiration behind the revival of ultra distance running worldwide and a number of his followers hold current world records. His New York based marathon team hosts the longest foot races in the world – a trio of 700, 1,000 and 1,300 mile races called the Ultimate Ultras, as well as an annual 3,100 mile race which is held around a 1 kilometre loop in suburban Queens, New York. The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team is recognised for a high standard of organisation and for its support of athletes.
The founding in 1987 of the annual Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, a popular six continent torch relay that has involved millions of people in its eight editions and helped to foster a growing culture of international understanding and goodwill, particularly among the children of the world.
One of the most popular initiatives Sri Chinmoy has undertaken, the Peace Run has expanded into peace studies curricula in schools and involves many world class athletes and Olympians, civic and political leaders and thousands of diverse community groups.
The Peace Torch has been held by many notable world figures including Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Queen Elizabeth II, the Dalai Lama, Carl Lewis, Paul and Linda McCartney, Roberta Flack, Jon Bon Jovi, and the Kings, Presidents or Prime Ministers of many countries.
The Torch has been to outer space in the Russian spaceship Mir and been used to light Millennium beacons and the Eternal Flame of Peace at the 50th anniversary celebration of the end of World War II in Europe.
We are trying to serve God in a special way, and the peace-loving souls who are encouraging us whole-heartedly deserve my ever-blossoming gratitude. World harmony, world peace: these are not mere dictionary words. These are the realities, divine realities and supreme realities. For all of us who are aspiring to become good citizens of the world, our Harmony Run is a supremely important inspiration to us all.
In 1970, at the request of U Thant, the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, Sri Chinmoy founded a non-denominational programme at the United Nations in New York which offers meditations for world harmony, interfaith programmes and cultural activities for UN delegates, staff members and special guests.
In 1991 Sri Chinmoy established an international humanitarian aid organisation, The Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles, which now sends medical, pharmaceutical and educational supplies to over 120 countries. This initiative specialises in meeting specific country aid requirements and has fostered a network of aid programmes and support services. The Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles has developed a popular Kids-to-Kids programme in which participating donor schools in one country send educational supplies and essential items to their counterparts in other countries.
Our humanitarian service is not our self-motivated, condescending act of charity to the poor and the needy. It is a gigantic opportunity to feed, nourish and strengthen our own poor brothers and sisters so that they can, side by side, march along with us to proclaim the world-oneness-victory of God the Creation.
Sri Chinmoy began weightlifting in 1985 at the age of 54. Specialising in both one-arm lifts and the standing and seated calf-raise, since 1986 Sri Chinmoy has performed many unusual lifts and feats of strength with one purpose in mind – to encourage others to believe in and explore their own unlimited potential, in whatever field of life. He describes this core belief as 'self-transcendence', the capacity of each and every human being to surpass their imagined limitations. On a custom built standing calf-raise machine, Sri Chinmoy has lifted elephants, sailboats, helicopters, Lear jets, grand pianos, trucks and mounted Canadian policemen, to name a few. The novelty and inspiration he has brought to weightlifting have resulted in enduring friendships with many strength athletes – and inspired a renewed interest and understanding of the body-mind, physical-spiritual connection.
My lifting is all done on the strength of my heart's oneness with the world. What I wish to show by these feats of strength is that prayer and meditation can definitely increase one's outer capacity... When we transcend ourselves, we do not compete with others, we do not compete with the rest of the world, but at every moment we compete with ourselves. We compete only with our previous achievements. And each time we surpass our previous achievements, we get joy.
Sri Chinmoy has also founded a unique award programme called Lifting Up the World with a Oneness-Heart which acknowledges the achievements of people who, in many diverse fields of endeavour have helped to uplift or inspire humanity. Over 7,000 individuals, including Heads of State and Government, Olympic athletes, UN leaders and Nobel Laureates have received this award. Sri Chinmoy lifts each recipient overhead with one arm on a specially constructed platform. Pictured left is the late David Lange – New Zealand's Prime Minister from 1984 to 1989 – receiving a plaque from Sri Chinmoy after being lifted.
Sri Chinmoy has been awarded many national and international honours in recognition of his major contribution to world harmony. In 1989 Sri Chinmoy inspired the international Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossoms programme.
This initiative has seen the dedication of some 800 natural wonders, noted landmarks and significant places to world harmony. Each Peace-Blossom is marked by a commemorative plaque and is intended to provide an inspirational focal point for harmony in communities worldwide. Many nations and cities are involved in the Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossoms programme and support its commitment to fostering a brighter future for mankind.
A legacy for peace
Sri Chinmoy infused every part of his lifetime of service with humility, concern and a heartfelt compassion for all human beings. With his unswerving belief in the goodness of the human heart, he reminds us of our intrinsic spiritual nature and that by bringing this to the forefront of our lives the entire world will eventually become a better place.
It is each individual, Sri Chinmoy believes, who is ultimately responsible for the betterment and perfection of our world – world harmony begins with each one of us
Just as a rose has many petals, all of which add to the beauty and fragrance of the rose, so too the world shall become one world-family. Together we shall live in harmony in a spirit of self-giving for the good of all. By giving joy to others and by receiving inspiration from others, each individual will contribute to the perfection of the whole.
Sri Chinmoy brings to our modern world the timeless truths embodied in the lives and teachings of other great sages and luminaries before him, charting out a fresh course – a map of the sacred journey – in the age old quest for fulfillment and happiness that lies at the heart of all human life. In a life of simple living yet extraordinary activity, he has dedicated himself to the spiritual awakening of humanity which he regards as the most pressing challenge of our time.
Here is an authentic and much loved spiritual master whose contributions towards the goal of world harmony and spirituality will be treasured for a very long time to come.
This biography has been translated into the following languages
- Espanol: Biografia
- Japanese: Biography
- Deutsch: Biographie Sri Chinmoys
- Dutch: Biografie van Sri Chinmoy