Chandraswami was a flamboyant guru who partied with the sultan of Brunei and arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and claimed to have cured Elizabeth Taylor's bad back with a special potion. Although he claimed to be a celibate vegetarian Chandraswami enjoyed material pleasures. He mediated on a tiger skin in a marble palace with gold prayer beads in his hands.

Indira Gandhi consulted regularly with astrologers and holy men. It is said that she scheduled trip at auspicious times and reportedly told Queen Elizabeth to delay the landing of a flight she was on so as not to land at an inauspicious time. The flamboyant guru Chandraswami was credited with devising potions to protect Indira Gandhi from her enemies. He acted like a court astrologer for Gandhi's government, reading palms, mixing traditional medicines and telling fortunes to influential people in her government.

P.V. Narasimha Rao, Indian Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996, was plagued by a number of scandals. One of the central figures in Rao's scandals was Chandraswami, who reportedly provided services for Rao while he was in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet. Chandraswami ended up in a 6-x-8-foot prison cell for swindling a businessman out of $100,000 after Rao had vouched for him. Scandals and perceived insensitivity towards the poor caused the defeat of Rao and the Congress Party in elections in 1996. After leaving office Rao wrote an autobiographical novel called The Insider and was arrested for fraud.

Websites and Resources: Gurus
Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Why so many Indians flock to gurus - BBC News bbc.com ; The Guru in Hindu Tradition, J Mlecko (1982), Numen (journal) jstor.org/stable ; Spiritual Gurus and Saints of Hinduism, India and the World hinduwebsite.com/saints ; Great Saints of India greatgurusofindia.wordpress.com ; Gurus Gone Bad in India aljazeera.com ; Guru choice and spiritual seeking in contemporary India, M Warrier (2003), International Journal of Hindu Studies springer.com ; Hindu Concepts of Teacher, Sanskrit Guru and Ācārya, Minoru Hara (1980), Sanskrit and Indian Studies ; Sanal Edamaruku's home page sanaledamaruku.com

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho)

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1931-90) established a number of communes in the 1970 and 80s that attracted thousands of followers. Known by the name Osho, he intermixed eastern spirituality with free love. He established his first commune (sannyasi) in Pune, India and later founded another one near the town Antelope Oregon. At the movement’s height there were now 126 sannyasi centres in Europe, including 22 in the UK and 43 in West Germany. The guru made a fortune from selling books, audio tapes and meditation classes before he e was deported from the United States in 1985 for violating immigration laws.. He returned to Pune and died there at the age of 58 of a mysterious illness in 1990.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho)

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh followers wore beads with images of Osho on them. He built a number of luxurious buildings including a 160-room hotel and acquired a fleet of 93 Rolls Royces. Followers renamed the local town of Antelope after him. Osho, used his version of tantra in combination with breathing techniques, bio-energy, yoga, and massage at his ashrams. One of his students, Margot Anand, founded a school called "Skydancing" tantra that promoted naked yoga. In the 1990s his commune become a resort with waterfalls, tennis, devotees in maroon bikinis and a black pyramid meditation hall with a state-of-the-art sound system.

Geraldine Bedell wrote in The Guardian, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh “preached a mishmash of traditional meditation and Western therapies - primal scream, gestalt, bioenergetics, getting drunk, and sitting in a circle watching your lover have sex with someone else.” He “made pronouncements from a dentist's chair, often while high on nitrous oxide...Bhagwan was largely uninterested in children - he advocated sterilisation for his followers - and thought they would best attain enlightenment by being left alone.” In the 1980s “the worldwide movement began to implode. There were allegations of fraud, mass poisonings, assassination attempts. A plot was uncovered to fly an aircraft into a building in the US. One of the increasingly paranoid inner circle admitted in court that she had 'a bad habit of poisoning people'.” [Source: Geraldine Bedell, The Guardian, January 11, 2004]

Life in Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh Communes

Tim Guest was brought up as a child in Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh communes. Later he wrote a book about his experience called “My Life Is Orange.” In a review of this book, Geraldine Bedell wrote in The Guardian, “One afternoon in 1979, when he was four, Tim Guest found his mother up to her elbows in the bath, dyeing all her clothes orange. This proved to be the first sign of a long enthralment to the Indian guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh...Not long afterwards, Tim's mother carted him off to Bhagwan's ashram in Pune, beginning a childhood dressed in the colours of the sun and lived in communes, mostly the Medina Rajneesh in Suffolk, but also in Oregon and Cologne. While Tim's mother meditated, joined encounter groups that were designed to push her beyond her psychological and spiritual boundaries and explored her sexual energy, Yogesh, as he was now known, looked on in bemusement and loneliness. [Source: Geraldine Bedell, The Guardian, January 11, 2004 +++]

“Guest's memoir of these years...is a measured, understated attempt to recall how it felt to have 200 mothers and 200 fathers while all the time longing only for one. Guest bends over backwards to understand what Bhagwan's many, mostly Western, mostly young and university-educated followers found so seductive. He maintains a moving sympathy for his mother, who was evidently an intelligent and capable woman, despite her dismal failure to recognise that Bhagwan's message was claptrap and damaging to her child. +++

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh driving by his followers in one of his Rolls Royces

“He was a child who had no one to tuck him in at night, who slept with pieces of Lego in his bed, hanging on to the few precious, knobbly things that were his, because all the toys were communal. His mother made clear that her first priority was to promote the cause of a man who was a charlatan. When she arrived in Pune, before she was too deeply immersed, she discovered that someone had written 'flowery blurb' on the back of her letter applying to become a sannyasi. Yet she appeared never to query what she was doing. +++

“Aged 10, he phoned his mother (he was in Suffolk; she had been banished to Germany for displaying 'negativity') to announce he was leaving.” Later his mother “returned England and he came back to live with her and attend Haverstock School, a comprehensive in north London. She burned her mala, the string of beads with Bhagwan's picture on them, and all the other relics of her old life. Foundering, still in search of an identity, she changed her name a few more times before settling back on the original Anne.” She and her new husband “went through an ecstasy phase, when they believed they were beings from another planet and 'UFO books began to pile up in our living room'. Tim had a rough adolescence. 'In my mid-teens, I drank and took a lot of drugs. I nearly lost it.' He opens his book with the story of another child, who hanged himself at one of the Bhagwan's communes in Devon. He says in the book, and repeats to me, that he feels that child could have been him.” +++

“Anne has read his book.'She was very supportive about the writing of it. She knew something had been hurt in our family. I'd say she's embarrassed now about what feels like a period of folly, but she also feels that it was necessary.' In the book, he recalls her once telling him: 'I got lost. I would just give myself away to the moment. I didn't have a substance that kept me anchored in the things that mattered.' It is difficult, I say, to understand why she didn't have more doubts at the time, like when she first arrived in Pune, and there were women sniffing people's armpits at the gates to make sure a) that they were clean and b) that they weren't wearing deodorants that might aggravate Bhagwan's allergies. 'She did have doubts, both about the direction things were going, and about her relationship with me, but she was getting a lot out of it. And she felt what they were doing was important. It's easy to be cynical now, but they were trying something that hadn't been tried before. They believed they were finding an entirely new way of living.'’... Schooling was haphazard at Medina Rajneesh, but Guest took refuge in reading and ended up doing well academically.” +++

Book: “My Life in Orange” by Tim Guest, Granta, 2004

Sex in Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh Communes

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh meeting with his followers

In the review of “My Life Is Orange,” Geraldine Bedell wrote in The Guardian, Guest's parents never married and their attempt to live together foundered when he was eight months old. The way he tells it, his mother's strict Catholic upbringing was a poor preparation for the times, leaving her both with a longing for spiritual transcendence and a legacy of fierce sexual repressiveness that made little sense to a young woman in the late Sixties and early Seventies. 'The attraction of someone who said, "Do whatever you want, because that can be the path to enlightenment" was enormous. A lot of it was sexual.' There was no monogamy for Bhagwan's followers, although Guest's mother had a long relationship with a sannyasi known as Sujan - before and afterwards called Martin - to whom she is now married. [Source: Geraldine Bedell, The Guardian, January 11, 2004 +++]

“At the beginning, sex was promoted as celebratory, joyful. (Later, as the movement became more paranoid, Bhagwan decreed that AIDS had been sent to wipe out two-thirds of the human population: sannyasi mothers must stop kissing their children, while commune kids who sucked their thumbs must wear rubber gloves at night). All this exploration of sexual energy was bound to have a darker side. Watching your lover borrowed by someone else might offer an opportunity to practise your detachment, but what if the detachment didn't kick in? There were many injuries in the encounter groups. +++

“Fourteen- and 15-year-old girls were often initiated into sex by visiting group leaders. This was, of course, undertaken lovingly, with the best intentions because, as one victim explained after being raped again in order to confront her terrors, how could anything that happened to you in the ashram be bad? Now, Guest says carefully, he thinks the Medina children 'would say that the sex, at the time, was a thrill. But looking back, they feel that if not wholly abusive, it was at times a little inappropriate.' When the worldwide movement was summoned to headquarters in Oregon for a celebration lasting several weeks, all the children were left to their own devices, as usual. Inevitably, with so much sex around, many of them decided to explore their own sexual energy.” +++

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

Jaggi Vasudev, often referred to as Sadhguru, is an Indian yogi, mystic, poet and New York Times bestselling author. He founded the Isha Foundation, a non-profit organization which offers yoga programs around in a number of countries, including India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Lebanon, Singapore, Canada, Malaysia, Uganda, China, Nepal, and Australia. The foundation is also involved in various social and community development activities, which have resulted in it being granted special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. On 25 January 2017, the Government of India announced that he was being conferred the Padma Vibhushan award for his contribution towards spirituality. [Source: Wikipedia]

According to sadhguru.org: “Sadhguru is a man whose passion spills into everything he encounters. A fearless rebel from the start, his childhood was punctuated with solitary forays into the jungle for days at a stretch, snake-catching and class cutting. In youth, his blunt clarity into life made him an unofficial counselor to his problem-ridden college mates. His love of adventure led him on motorcycle expeditions, and his early business endeavors into poultry farming and construction were met with success. Just when you’ve summed him up as a cool maverick, he surprises you with a gentle side that can shed tears of compassion and extract laughter from hardened faces. Equally at home with bright-eyed village children, ash-smeared yogis and top-notch executives, Sadhguru defies any narrow description. With a keen mind, balanced by a heart that knows no boundary, he infects his zest for life into all who seek to live their lives to the fullest.” [Source: sadhguru.org]

Sheila Mathrani wrote in The Economic Times, “Jaggi Vasudev can be billed as a mystic and a humanitarian working for the improvement of the physical mental and inner wellbeing of others. Very articulate, using scientific instead of spiritual terms, Vasudev called for change in the approach of people and leaders through yoga.” [Source: Sheila Mathrani, The Economic Times, January 30, 2007]

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s Life and Spiritual Experience

Born in Mysore, Karnataka on September 3, 1957 to Susheela and Dr. Vasudev, Jagadish was the youngest of four children – two boys and two girls. His father was an ophthalmologist with the Indian Railways and as a result the family moved frequently. At the age of 12, he came in contact with Malladihalli Sri Raghavendra Swamiji who taught him a set of simple yoga asanas, the practice of which he regularly maintained. He states that "without a single day's break, this simple yoga that was taught to me kept happening and led to a much deeper experience later." [Source: Wikipedia +]

Sadhguru with Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi

After his schooling at Demonstration School, Mysore in 1973, Jagadish graduated from the University of Mysore with a Bachelor's degree in English literature. During his college years, he developed an interest in travel and motorcycles. A frequent haunt of his and his friends was the Chamundi Hill near Mysore, where they often gathered and went for nocturnal drives. He also traveled to various places in the country on his motorcycle. This experience made him resolve "to earn some quick money," and just ride off to travel the world. In order to make money, he started several successful businesses after graduation, including a poultry farm, a brickworks and a construction business. +

In September 1982, when he was 25, Jagadish rode up Chamundi Hill and sat on a rock, and had a spiritual experience there in which he sat with his eyes open, slipping into a state where he could not differentiate between himself and his surroundings. Later he recalled: “What was ‘me’ was everywhere..Till that moment in my life I always thought this is me and that's somebody else and something else. But for the first time I did not know which is me and which is not me. Suddenly, what was me was just all over the place. The very rock on which I was sitting, the air that I breathe, the very atmosphere around me, I had just exploded into everything. That sounds like utter insanity. This, I thought it lasted for ten to fifteen minutes but when I came back to my normal consciousness, it was about four-and-a-half-hours I was sitting there, fully conscious, eyes open, but time had just flipped." He found himself drenched in tears, while his mind grappled to find an explanation – “Something was happening within me. I did not know what it was. All I knew was – I’ve hit a goldmine and I didn’t want to lose it.” [Source: sadhguru.org +]

Jaggi Vasudev Becomes Sadhguru

Six weeks after spiritual experience, Jagadish left his business to his friend and travelled extensively in an effort to gain insight into his mystical experience. After about a year of meditation and travel, he decided to teach yoga to share his inner experience. In 1983, he conducted his first yoga class with seven participants in Mysore. Over time, he began conducting yoga classes across Karnataka and Hyderabad traveling from class to class on his motorcycle. He lived off the produce of his poultry farm rental and refused payment for the classes. A usual practice of his was to donate the collections received from participants to a local charity on the last day of the class. These initial programs were the basic format on which the Isha Yoga classes were later built. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Sadhguru speaking about Inner Engineering

In 1994, Jaggi Vasudev conducted the first program in the premises of the newly established Isha Yoga Center, during which he described the Dhyanalinga. The Dhyanalinga is a yogic temple and a space for meditation, the consecration of which, Jaggi Vasudev stated was his life's mission entrusted to him by his guru. In 1996, the stone edifice of the linga was ordered and arrived at the ashram. After three years of work, the Dhyanalinga was completed and opened to the public in 1999. +

The Dhyanalinga offers a meditative space that does not ascribe to any particular faith or belief system. A 76-foot dome, constructed using bricks and stabilised mud mortar without steel or concrete, covers the sanctum sanctorum. The lingam is 13 feet and 9 inches in height and made of black granite. The Sarva Dharma Sthamba, located at the front entrance, functions as an icon of singularity, with the sculptural reliefs and symbols of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Shinto inscribed as a universal welcome. +

On what it means to be a guru, Sadhguru wrote: “A Guru is not someone you meet or shake hands with. It is not someone you bow down to or beg for this or that. A Guru is a certain space or energy. The difference between a teacher or a scholar and a Guru is, a teacher is someone who holds a torch to something and shows it to you. Because of them you might have seen something. A Guru doesn’t hold a torch. He is the torch. He burns. Either you burn with him or you don’t.” [Source: sadhguru.org]

Sadhguru’s Interests and Talents

According to sadhguru.org, Sadhguru is not just a yogi and mystic but a man, with many dimensions, including: Mountain Mystique: The Western Ghats, the Himalayas and Kailash are familiar terrains for this ardent trekker. Treading in absolute reverence yet completely at home on these sacred mountains, it seems that he meets more of his kind there than anywhere else. Game for Life: When the competitive streak surfaces, watch out! Adventurer: Flirting with danger and embracing thrills, adventure is his middle name. Flair: With a healthy dash of verve and touch of élan, Sadhguru’s style and flair embody his zest for life. [Source: sadhguru.org =/=]

Man and Machine: His fascination with wheels traces back to his youth. Spur-of-the moment motorcycle expeditions took him riding across the Indian subcontinent. Even if these days he seems to have simmered down to driving four-wheelers, those riding with him will tell you about the ease, speed and precision with which he maneuvers on all kinds of terrains, from rocky off-roads to Indian highways.=/=

Sadhguru in Moscow

Globetrotter: Known to have an “inhuman schedule,” with over 20 hours a day of incessant transitions between programs, meetings and phone calls, a flurry of engagements make him play hopscotch from one country to the next. But he always makes time to see the sights, meet the people, and immerse himself in the places he visits. Inventive: When the absence of a passport prevented him from traveling further than India’s borders, he decided to run his own business. Money was only a means to an end, just another kind of passport to pursue his appetite for adventure, from poultry rearing to real estate and construction, success always came easy. =/=

Poet: Poems burst forth in rivulets of ink, scrawled across pages of a notebook. Deciphering his handwriting not a simple task – some are clear, some obscure – but here you can find a collection in readable font! Author: A prolific author with over 100 titles in 8 different languages. Architect: Ashram buildings reflect their designer’s style and sense of aesthetics, giving the entire place an air of rich yet earthy elegance. Master Chef: A refined gourmet who pays attention to every spice and ingredient comprising a meal. If you ever get to sample something he cooked, be prepared for an explosion of taste and lifelong enslavement of tongue. =/=

Snakes: He enjoys a close friendship with these graceful reptiles. In his childhood, Sadhguru was an expert in anything to do with snakes. Later he shared his room with over 20 poisonous snakes, including cobras and vipers. Flora: In a day and age where many of us would be totally lost in the wild, Sadhguru, as the child he was and the mystic he is now, has always been in deep communication with nature. Fauna: It is said you can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats other creatures. =/=

Family Matters: A gentle and attentive parent, yet never overbearing, as a child he wasn’t quite the obedient type! His father and siblings surely could tell us a lot, but it was most likely Vijji’s and Radhe’s world that would have rocked the most. =/=

Sadhguru Mysticism

According to sadhguru.org: Sadhguru makes the mystical simple, approachable and accessible. With an unparalleled command over the very mechanics of life, he exhibits a rare ability to create powerfully energized tools and imbue spaces with incredible vibrancy. These invaluable offerings to humanity will serve as a ladder to the divine for generations to come:

Sadhguru with the great cricketeer Sachin Tendulkar

Seek her in Devotion
She is an ocean of Compassion
Seek her in Desperation
She is a steadfast Companion
Seek her in true Passion
You will be loved to Distraction
Just seek her in your Confusion
She will lead you to Fruition [Source: sadhguru.org =/=]

“Our two eyes can capture the physical world, that which can block light, but are blind to all else. Only by opening the third eye can one perceive that which is seen and unseen. This is the realm of mysticism, of knowing life in its full depth and dimension. Sadhguru is a bridge into this mysterious arena of life. It is a homecoming, a settling back into yourself. =/=

“The dream of many enlightened beings, Dhyanalinga is an energy form of immeasurable magnitude. Over the generations, yogis of the highest caliber have attempted to create this embodiment of the most evolved being. After years of intense prana pratishtha which nearly cost him his life, Sadhguru consecrated the Dhyanalinga, a doorway to ultimate liberation. =/=

Sadhguru wrote:
“From muses and mystics you did hear
Seeming to be the sounds of phantom lands
In ignorance’s bind, life, like phantom seems
Oh, creatures of surface,
the depths of life will you ever seek?”

Yantras are one of many tools that Sadhguru has designed, to infuse our daily lives with the benefits of the yogic sciences. They offer the opportunity to live in a consecrated space, and can be a tremendous support in the quest for wellbeing. In India, the yantras offered contain solidified mercury, while in the West, they are made of copper. Both mercury and copper have always been recognized in the yogic culture for their ability to retain and also transfer energies. =/=

Sadhguru and Mountains

Sadhguru in 2006

According to sadhguru.org: In Southern Mysticism, Velliangiri is not seen as a mountain, it is seen as a temple. Known as Thenkailayam or the Kailash of the South, these mountains have witnessed beings who as Sadhguru says, “Gods would be envious of.” Adiyogi (the first yogi) himself spent time here, imbuing the mountain with an intense reverberation very different from any other place. For Sadhguru, the Velliangiris held the blueprint of Dhyanalinga, and were a constant presence in his eyes, propelling him on a search across India’s length and breadth until the day he finally found them. [Source: sadhguru.org =/=]

The Himalayas: For thousands of years, the Himalayas have witnessed mystics and yogis of every kind. Society may have branded them as being of various hues – wild, sweet, scary, gentle, and a few downright insane – but these were beings who touched the very peaks of life, and enshrined their energies, work and path in many spaces in the Himalayas. They created the headiest concoction of mystical work on the planet. The Himalayas are like a homecoming for Sadhguru. In his own words, “this is one place where there are many beings who simply recognize who I am. I feel at home. Anywhere else I go, I have to play myself down and make myself the way they understand.” =/=

Kailash and Manasarovar: For over 12,000 years, Mount Kailash has been a magnet for mystics who built on the work of the first and most fantastic of them all – Adiyogi – to create the greatest mystical library on the planet. If one knows how to perceive and decipher this inexhaustible reservoir, Sadhguru says “everything about your making and your existence, and about your liberation is all there.” Close to Kailash is Lake Manasarovar, a place that played a pivotal role in the spiritual and very likely the physical evolution of the human species. For millions of years, this remnant of the ancient Tethys Sea has been the site of what can only be called “exotic” (some might call it otherworldly) transactions. =/=

Jaggi Vasudev Speaks About Yoga at Economic Summit in Davos

In 2007, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev spoke at the Annual Summit of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Sheila Mathrani wrote in The Economic Times the speech was “devoted to 'Dignity' (the theme being 'Shifting of Power Equations') and the involvement of all people together to solve the global challenges of this century and give everyone the right to a dignified life, Vasudev's concept of dignity was different to the others, who felt that dignity is inherent in everyone and by giving them power over their lives you are giving them dignity. "True dignity is known only to the one who reaches equanimity. It is this freedom within that brings dignity. It is not the fineness of the doth or the demeanour. It is the liberation from the meanness of the mind. Dignity can only be earned or surrendered. Only when there is self-realisation do we know dignity," said Jaggi Vasudev. "It is the way you are not disturbed by what is happening around you." [Source: Sheila Mathrani, The Economic Times, 30 January, 2007 ^=^]

Sadhguru at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2007

“Life is a message and yoga is only a method to take life to its ultimate source which is within you. Yoga is the path towards being boundless. "If you remain in touch with that source, everything about you will be beautiful. Human dignity is in that ultimate source. Yoga transforms and liberates human beings so that they can reach this unbounded state. Humans, unlike animals, do not merely exist. They become; and to evolve as a human being is to become aware of one's limitations, to strive with intense passion towards the transcendence for which we all have the potential." It might have seemed too mystical for the business leaders but the Indians in the audience seemed to understand. ^=^

“No customs and rituals for him. Sadhguru chooses scientific methods for self-transformation that are said to be both direct and powerful. He explained that his understanding of the core mechanisms of life is an outcome of his profound experience of the Self rather than any scholarly learning and has been the guiding force in exploring the subtler dimensions of life. Sadhguru Vasudev challenged neuro scientists with his concept on Yoga at an Interactive session between modern and ancient scientists to find out the nature of creation and how the brain works.” ^=^

Sri Chinmoy

Chinmoy Kumar Ghose (1931 – 2007), better known as Sri Chinmoy, was an Indian spiritual leader who taught meditation in the West after moving to New York City in He 1964. Chinmoy established his first meditation center in Queens, New York, and eventually had 7,000 students in 60 countries. A prolific author, artist, poet, and musician, he also held public events such as concerts and meditations on the theme of inner peace. Chinmoy advocated a spiritual path to God through prayer and meditation. He did not charge fees for his spiritual guidance or music performances. He was respectful towards all religions and religious figures of the world but was criticized for demanding cult-like obedience from his followers. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Chinmoy believed that extreme physical fitness was the key to world harmony. He practiced and advocated running, swimming, and weightlifting. He organized marathons and other races, and was an active runner and, following a knee injury, weightlifter. He claimed he could power lift 3000 kilograms with one hand, organized “ultramarathons” up to 5,000 kilometers in length and lifted trucks, airplanes and people including Nelson Mandela, Susan Sarandon, Yoko Ono and Richard Gere.

Corey Kilgannon wrote in the New York Times, Sri Chinmoy was a “genial Indian-born spiritual leader who used strenuous exercise and art to spread his message of world harmony and inner peace” from “his home in Jamaica, Queens, where he ran a meditation center. Mr. Chinmoy spread his philosophy through his own way of life, exercising and creating art and music. He drew attention by power-lifting pickup trucks and public figures like Muhammad Ali and Sting. He said he had drawn 16 million “peace birds.” [Source: Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, October 13, 2007 :/]

Chinmoy’s Life

Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy Kumar Ghose was born a Hindu on August 27, 1931 in Shakpura, Boalkhali Upazila, in the Chittagong District of East Bengal (now Bangladesh). The youngest of seven children, he lost his father to illness in 1943, and his mother a few months later. Chinmoy began his serious practice of meditation at the age of 11. In 1944, at the age of 12, he joined his brothers and sisters at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. It was his elder brother who gave Chinmoy his name which means 'full of divine consciousness'. Chinmoy said that as a youth he idolized the track star Jesse Owens. [Source: Wikipedia +, New York Times]

Chinmoy spent 20 years at the ashram in spiritual practice, including meditation, study in Bengali and English literature, athletics, and work in the ashram's cottage industries. Chinmoy claimed that for about eight years, he was the personal secretary to the General Secretary of the ashram, Nolini Kanta Gupta. Chinmoy translated his writings from Bengali into English. +

In 2007, Chinmoy was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by 51 Icelandic members of Parliament, a Canadian professor, and a number of Czech professors. Over the years Chinmoy had ongoing friendships with Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and Desmond Tutu. Chinmoy died from a heart attack while at his home in Jamaica, Queens, New York on 11 October 2007. He was 76. Mikhail Gorbachev wrote that his death was "a loss for the whole world" and that "in our hearts, he will forever remain a man who dedicated his whole life to peace."

Chinmoy in the United States

Chinmoy immigrated to New York in 1964 to work as a clerk at the Indian Consulate. He opened a meditation center in Queens with a philosophy of celibacy, vegetarianism and meditation and attracted hundreds of followers, many settling near his two-story home on 149th Street. [Source: Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, October 13, 2007 :/]

Sri Chinmoy, a young sprinter in India

According to Chinmoy, he was prompted to move to the United States in response to a "message from within" to be of service to people in the West searching for spiritual fulfillment. With the help of Sam Spanier and Eric Hughes, American sponsors connected with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, he emigrated to New York City. He got the job as junior clerk at the Indian consulate, despite his lack of formal education. He received support and encouragement from his colleagues and bosses and was invited to give talks on Hinduism. He started to give talks at universities and later, at the United Nations. [Source: Wikipedia +]

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Chinmoy continued giving lectures and talks at universities around the U.S. on spiritual topics. In 1974 he gave lectures in 50 states at 50 universities, and these lectures were published as a six-part book series entitled 50 Freedom-Boats to One Golden Shore (1974). In the 1970s and 1980s he traveled around Europe, Asia, and Australia lecturing at universities, resulting in the publication of The Oneness of the Eastern Heart and the Western Mind. Chinmoy has also published books, essays, spiritual poetry, plays, and commentaries on the Vedas. +

In 1966 Chinmoy opened a Sri Chinmoy Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Up until the late 1970s the main Chinmoy study centers were in New York, Florida and the West Indies. Over the next few decades Sri Chinmoy Centers were opened and established in multiple cities in the US, Europe, Australasia, South Africa and South America eventually totaling 350 centers worldwide. During the 1970s Chinmoy began playing and composing on the flute and esraj. In 1984 he started giving free ‘Peace Concerts’ around the world. The largest ever concert was in Montreal, for 19,000 people. +

Chinmoy’s Teachings

Corey Kilgannon wrote in the New York Times, “Drawing upon Hindu principles, Mr. Chinmoy advocated a spiritual path to God through prayer and meditation. He emphasized "love, devotion and surrender" and recommended that his disciples nurture their spirituality by taking on seemingly impossible physical challenges...Mr. Chinmoy gathered with his disciples at a private clay tennis court off 164th Street that doubled as a verdant meditation site known as Aspiration Ground.” He asked his disciples to adopt a vegetarian diet, abstain from recreational drugs including alcohol, and lead a pure and celibate lifestyle. Although influenced by Hinduism, his path catered to an international community of seekers from diverse backgrounds.” [Source: Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, October 13, 2007, Wikipedia +]

Sri Chinmoy in Bonn

Chinmoy advocated "self-transcendence" by expanding one's consciousness to conquer the mind's perceived limitations and taught that rapid spiritual progress could be made with divine love, divine devotion, and divine surrender. He described divine love as self-offering and self-expansion. This practice of love and devotion to God is known as Bhakti Yoga. His path was not one of earthly renunciation or asceticism, but a middle path where the seeker has the opportunity to renounce, or transform, the negative qualities which stand in the way of union with the Divine. Chinmoy taught that meditation on the heart brings the light of the soul forward to reach the highest reality as soon as possible. Chinmoy stated: "We are all seekers, and our goal is the same: to achieve inner peace, light and joy, to become inseparably one with our Source, and to lead lives full of true satisfaction." +

An integral element of Chinmoy's teachings is the understanding of ‘self-transcendence’. Self-transcendence is the practice of having a new goal and going beyond our previous capacities and limits which inevitably gives us joy. Self-transcendence is the goal of making progress in life by becoming a better human being rather than competing with the rest of the world. Chinmoy believes that we are all truly unlimited in spirit. Chinmoy's philosophy he explains is the acceptance of life. By sharing goodwill and inspiration to others and serving mankind the world can be transformed and peace can be achieved. +

Chinmoy’s path was a contemporary spiritual system of yoga, practised under the guidance of a guru, or spiritual teacher. He advocated brahmacharya – celibacy – for both married and unmarried devotees, and focusing on experiencing inner spiritual joy rather than pleasure. According to a 1987 article in Hinduism Today, Chinmoy as a yoga spiritual master was an unmarried celibate. Unlike in some other older traditions, Chinmoy taught that a complete withdrawal from the world was not necessary for spiritual progress, but rather "a gradual and total Illumination of life". +

Chinmoy and Celebrities

In the 1970s, Chinmoy was a guru to several prominent musicians, including the guitarist John McLaughlin, who for a time ran the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a name given it by Mr. Chinmoy, as well as the guitarist Carlos Santana, the singer Roberta Flack and the Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. [Source: Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, October 13, 2007, Wikipedia +]

Chinmoy offered the musicians a disciplined spiritual path that forbade the use of drugs and alcohol and encouraged music and poetry as expressions of thankfulness to the Divine. Santana and McLaughlin stayed with Chinmoy for a number of years before leaving. In 1973 they released an album based on Chinmoy's teachings, titled “Love Devotion Surrender.” +

Sri Chinmoy and Muhammad Ali

McLaughlin was a Chinmoy follower from 1970 to 1975. In 1971 he formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra, named for the spiritual name Chinmoy had given him. McLaughlin introduced Santana to the guru, and he and his wife Deborah were subsequently Chinmoy followers from 1972 to 1981. Santana said, "Without a guru I serve only my own vanity, but with him I can be of service to you and everybody. I am the strings, but he is the musician. Guru has graduated from the Harvards of consciousness and sits at the feet of God." Santana released three albums under the spiritual name Devadip – meaning "Lamp of God", "Eye of God", and "Light of God" – that Chinmoy gave him: Illuminations (1974), Oneness (1979), and The Swing of Delight (1980). In 2000, he told Rolling Stone that things soured between him and Chinmoy in the 1980s. Santana emphasized that he took much that was good from his years with the guru, even though when he left, Chinmoy "was pretty vindictive for a while. He told all my friends not to call me ever again, because I was to drown in the dark sea of ignorance for leaving him." +

Chinmoy travelled widely. He met with world figures, and was often described as an ambassador of peace. Chinmoy met Mother Teresa on five separate occasions. On their second meeting in Rome, Italy during October 1994, Chinmoy presented her with an award. During the ceremony Mother Teresa said to Sri Chinmoy: "I am so pleased with all the good work you are doing for world peace and for people in so many countries. May we continue to work together and to share together all for the glory of God and for the good of man."

Chinmoy met with Princess Diana of Wales at Kensington Palace on May 21, 1997. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, met and corresponded with Mr. Chinmoy frequently. After Chinmoy died, Gorbachev wrote that his passing was “a loss for the whole world” and that “in our hearts, he will forever remain a man who dedicated his whole life to peace.”

Chinmoy’s Physical Feats

Corey Kilgannon wrote in New York Times: “He slept only 90 minutes a day, he said, and when he was not traveling to perform in concerts and spread his message, spent the rest of the time meditating, playing music, exercising and making art. His followers said he had written 1,500 books, 115,000 poems and 20,000 songs, created 200,000 paintings and had given almost 800 peace concerts. “His life was all about challenging yourself and being the best you can be,” said Carl Lewis, the Olympic sprinter, a friend of Mr. Chinmoy’s. “He told his disciples to go out and meet a challenge you don’t think you can do...He’s the reason I plan on running the New York marathon when I’m 50.” [Source: Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, October 13, 2007 :/]

Sri Chinmoy lifts a Smart Car

“To achieve spiritual enlightenment, he advocated extreme physical activity, including weight lifting, distance running and swimming. Disciples put his philosophy of self-transcendence into practice by undertaking challenges like swimming the English Channel or running ultra-marathons, including an annual 3,100-mile race run every year over a two-month period in Queens. After a knee injury ended his own running, in his 60s, Mr. Chinmoy began lifting weights and within several years could shoulder-press more than 7,000 pounds on a special lifting apparatus. He publicly lifted heavy objects including airplanes, schoolhouses and pickup trucks, to help increase awareness of the need for humanitarian aid. :/

“He also lifted more than 8,000 people since 1988, including world peace figures like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. He hoisted the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Eddie Murphy, Susan Sarandon, Yoko Ono and Richard Gere. Mr. Chinmoy lifted 20 Nobel laureates and a team of sumo wrestlers. He lifted Sid Caesar and a (reformed) headhunter from Borneo, and picked up Representative Gary L. Ackerman, a Democrat, and Representative Benjamin Gilman, a Republican at the same time. “I thought it was some magician’s trick, but it wasn’t,” Mr. Ackerman said. “He was running extreme marathons before people even knew what extreme sports were. When you were around him, you had the sudden realization you were in the presence of somebody very, very holy and very devout.” :/

Chinmoy’s Athletic and Humanitarian Endeavors

Chinmoy applied his beliefs about "self-transcendence" and expanding one's consciousness to conquer the mind's perceived limitations to athletics. Olympic gold-medalist runner Carl Lewis was advised by Chinmoy and learned to meditate from Chinmoy him. A devoted Christian, Lewis said that his relationship with Chinmoy helped him progress spiritually and strengthened his Christian beliefs. In 2011 Lewis appeared in the short documentary Challenging Impossibility, which features the feats of strength demonstrated by Chinmoy. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Sri Chinmoy with the Gorbachevs

Members of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, according to the team's website, have swum the English Channel over 40 times. Other Chinmoy-sponsored athletic events include ultra-distance running, including the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race; mountain climbing; and long-distance cycling. In 2010 Ashrita Furman, who holds over 150 Guinness World Records, stated that "the meditation he learned from Sri Chinmoy helps him to perform beyond his expectations." +

In 1987 Sri Chinmoy inaugurated the Sri Chinmoy Oneness Home Peace Run, a symbolic relay style run for peace through many countries of the world where runners carry a flaming torch representing harmony. Sri Chinmoy described his concept as a "grassroots effort for peace". The ‘Oneness Home’ theme of the Peace Run, is that people are all peace-longing citizens on one single planet. In 1991 Chinmoy initiated the ‘Oneness Heart Tears and Smiles’ humanitarian service which sends food and medicine to those in need. The organisation, which as of 2007 served 136 countries, began with members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre distributing humanitarian aid to needy children and adults worldwide. It works with NGOs or governments, and provides health, medical, and educational supplies to recipient nations. +

Chinmoy, a Cult Leader?

Chinmoy was the spiritual leader to thousands of devoted followers worldwide. From the mid-1960s he lived in his world headquarters in Queens, New York City, surrounded by hundreds of his followers who moved to the area. The Chinmoy group was considered to be a cult by some. The 1994 book The Joy of Sects stated that "some of his followers left, however, amid accusations that Chinmoy was making sexual advances towards the wives of his disciples", and in 2014 Salon.com posted a profile of a female disciple who alleged inappropriate sexual conduct. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Sri Chinmoy and Princess Diana

In February 2016 PIX 11 News in New York did two segments on Chinmoy, in which one former follower alleged sexual impropriety, while others praised Chinmoy and the Sri Chinmoy Centre's spokesperson stated in a written response that "Our founder and teacher, Sri Chinmoy, led a life of the utmost purity and integrity". In 2009, Jayanti Tamm published an account of life as a Chinmoy disciple, Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult Tamm, who was born into Chinmoy's organisation, claimed that Chinmoy predicted she would become his perfect disciple. She was banished from the group when she was 25. +

Tamm’s book describes her life in the guru's inner circle and her efforts to break free from his influence. According to the book, Chinmoy banned sex, and most disciples were directed to remain single. The book also states that the guru disparaged secular education, and his prohibitions included the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and meat; dancing; dating; socializing with outsiders; and owning pets, although he kept a collection of exotic pets in his Queens basement. Tamm notes however that the 7,000 other followers around the world, and others who encountered Chinmoy, are likely to have had different experiences and perceptions. +

Within the Chinmoy Cult

Jayanti Tamm wrote in the Washington Post, “By the time the mud had dried at Woodstock, Swami Prabhupada had created the Hare Krishnas... Communes and ashrams sprouted across America. In the 1960s, the decade now mythic for its anti-conformity, flocks of people conformed to the dictates of self-proclaimed prophets. In 1968, the Beatles sat at the feet of the Maharishi, soaking up his teachings. Consciousness-raising went mainstream. Reciting Sanskrit chants, wearing japa beads and finding a guru became trendy and chic. Everyone who was anyone read "I Am That" and "Autobiography of a Yogi." Many free spirits obediently changed their names, dropped out of college and abandoned their families. Ironically, their wild-child rebellion landed them in rigidly structured cults that controlled their lives — and those of their children. For many, that life eventually grew old. They retired their mantras and moved on. But for others, my parents included, the intrigue never faded. [Source: Jayanti Tamm, Washington Post, August 9, 2009. Tamm is an English professor at Ocean County College and the author of "Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult." ~~]

Sri Chinmoy and Nelson Mandela

“Like the Beatles, my hippie parents met their guru in 1968. Sri Chinmoy, based in New York, promised them enlightenment — if they obeyed his dictates. All they had to do was surrender their lives to him. To my trusting and vulnerable mother, and to my eccentric and contemplative father, the offer sounded like a bargain. Arriving in the United States in 1964, Sri Chinmoy had vast ambitions. He aimed to infiltrate the United Nations, win a Nobel Prize and gain a worldwide following. His disciples were to lead austere, celibate lives, devoting themselves and their financial resources entirely to his mission. In 1970 when my mother became pregnant — a clear breach of the rules — the guru saved face by divining me as his chosen soul. ~~

“I was born and raised in the ashram of this man who declared himself an incarnation of God. Before I could walk, my parents dressed me in a sari and took me with them on their recruiting trips. Instead of acting in school plays and going to soccer camp, I distributed leaflets proclaiming the guru's divinity from parade floats that wound through city streets. I spent summers scrubbing the cages of the zoo housed in the basement of the guru's Queens home. ~~

“When Chinmoy wanted to attract more media attention, he staged elaborate weightlifting feats, hoisting elephants, helicopters and even Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev — a smoke-and-mirrors spectacle that I never understood. How could lifting elephants illuminate and ultimately transform the world? When I was a teenager, the guru's strict rules banning all contact and relationships with the "outside" world provoked questions and longings for everything he forbade — college, career and family. When he told me to neglect the mind and forever remain in the heart "like a 7-year-old," I finally realized that he was a narcissistic charlatan, shamelessly exploiting the faithful. ~~

“At 25, older than my parents had been when they renounced the world to serve the guru, I was formally banished from his cult. I lost all my connections to the community I'd known since birth. Fortunately, I was young enough to venture into the "outside" world and forge a life on my own terms. For years, I have struggled with the reckless decision of some in my parents' generation to entrust their present and future to those who claimed to be spiritually enlightened. Cultural historians today portray the '60s as a unique time. I hope they are right. That is, I hope that the cast of corrupt opportunists — gurus, prophets and messiahs — who profited from others' naiive belief is indeed a unique '60s phenomenon, safely encapsulated in those glossy anniversary books.” ~~

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Indian History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World's Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures: Volume 3 South Asia” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); “The Creators” by Daniel Boorstin; “A Guide to Angkor: an Introduction to the Temples” by Dawn Rooney (Asia Book) for Information on temples and architecture. National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.