Sri Chinmoy was born in 1931 in the Indian province of Bengal, in what is now Bangladesh. From 1944 to 1964 he lived in a spiritual community in the South of India, where he spent many hours a day in meditation and attained the high states of consciousness described in various traditions as enlightenment or God-realisation. He also practised sports and selfless service, which were to become two important parts of his own philosophy.
Out of obedience to an inner command, Sri Chinmoy came to New York in 1964 to share his inner realisations, where he made his home until his passing in 2007. In 1970, at the invitation of then Secretary-General U Thant, Sri Chinmoy began offering twice-weekly peace meditations for staff, delegates and affiliates at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The meditations and other programmes of Sri Chinmoy: The Peace Meditation at the United Nations continue to this day.
Below you will find an outline of Sri Chinmoy's philosophy and multifarious activities, as well as a description of the impact he has had on other people in his pursuit of a better world.
|Contents of this page:||1. Sri Chinmoy's activities:||
• Peace-Dreamer • Interfaith work • Writings and Poetry
• Music • Athletics • Art • Humanitarian Service
|2. Sri Chinmoy's philosophy|
|3. Tributes from World Leaders:||
• Mikhail Gorbachev • Nelson Mandela • Pope John Paul II • Pope Paul VI
• Mother Teresa • Princess Diana • Archbishop Desmond Tutu
|4. Sri Chinmoy as a spiritual teacher|
Sri Chinmoy believed that inside each human being lay a universal longing for peace and oneness, and he established several initiatives to enable people from all around the world to work together towards this goal.
- The Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run was founded in 1987, and is now the world's largest torch relay run for peace. During the Run, an international team of runners carry a flaming torch symbolising the common search for peace to countries all over the world, inviting local communities along the Run to take part and make the ideals of the Run their own. To date millions of people in over 140 countries have held the torch and offered their own wish for a better world. . • More on the Peace Run »
- As part of the Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossoms programme, Sri Chinmoy engaged with governmental officials from all over the world to dedicate hundreds of landmarks to the cause of peace, ranging from national capitals to world-famous natural wonders.
Sri Chinmoy felt that inspiration was of paramount importance in the search for peace, and that world peace would come about when each individual was inspired and awakened to utilise their unique capabilities for the betterment of the world. Many of his literary, artistic and sporting endeavours were for this purpose.
First we have to establish peace within ourselves, and only then can we try to offer peace to others. If I feel peaceful, then I shall not find fault with you or quarrel with you. If you feel peaceful, then you will not quarrel with me or with somebody else. So if I can find inner peace within myself and if you can find peace within yourself, then that peace will grow in the world like a flower, petal by petal. 1
In a world of suspicion, hostility and conflict, he worked tirelessly to bring the different faiths together and inspired many to emulate.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu 2
Sri Chinmoy grew up in a Hindu family; however, on the strength of his inner experiences, he saw that all approaches to Truth lead to the same goal. He would often say that his only religion was love of God, and that this is the core of every religion.
I fully agree that all religions lead to one truth, the Absolute truth. There is One truth. There is only one Goal, but there are various paths. Each religion is right in its own way. But, if one religion says that it is the only religion, or by far the best, at that point I find it difficult to see eye to eye with that particular religion...A religion is a house. I have to live in my house. You have to live in your house. I cannot stay in the street; you cannot either. But a day comes when we widen our vision. We feel that beyond the boundary of the rites and rituals of religion lies a higher Goal. 3
Sri Chinmoy set to music sacred utterances from the Christian, Hindu, Buddhist faiths and gave many talks and university lectures on the harmony behind all approaches to truth. In 1993, he was invited to hold the opening meditation at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, which marked the centenary of the first Parliament in 1893. He was again invited to hold the opening meditation in Barcelona in 2004.
Sri Chinmoy began writing poetry in his early teens, and has a vast collection of writings to his name. To date, he has over 1600 published books, including poetry, talks, plays and answers to spiritual questions.Much of his later output written upon his arrival in the West consists of short prayerful aphorisms like the two below, notable for their simplicity and purity.
Love is not a thing to understand.
Love is not a thing to feel.
Love is not a thing to give and receive.
Love is a thing only to become
And eternally be. 4
Learn the art of forgiving,
And apply it to yourself first.
Then it becomes easy
To forgive others. 5
During his lifetime, he published 3 large collections of poetry and aphorisms, as well as many smaller collections:
- Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, written between 1978 and 1983
- Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, written between 1983 and 1998.
- Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, started 1998. He had completed 50,000 aphorisms in this series by the time of his passing in 2007.
In the late 1960's and 1970's, Sri Chinmoy travelled extensively giving university lectures on various aspects of spiritual philosophy, which were recorded in a collection of books called Eastern Light for the Western mind. He has written over 60 plays, many of them about the lives of great spiritual figures such as the Christ and the Buddha. Most of his books are available to read free of charge on the Sri Chinmoy Library site. • Visit Sri Chinmoy Library »
Sri Chinmoy felt that sports was a natural complement to spiritual life. It keeps the body fit, and provides a way to go beyond one's perceived limits. Sri Chinmoy placed particular emphasis on the ideal of self-transcendence - competing with your own capacities instead of with others - as a pathway to happiness.
An excellent sprinter in his youth, he began running longer races in his forties, and completed 22 marathons and five ultra-marathons. In his later years, he turned to weightlifting and achieved numerous remarkable feats in this area, which he credited to the inner strength that can come when the mind is silent. In particular he sought to inspire older people with his weightlifting, with the message that "Age is only in the mind, never in the heart."
In 2011, a documentary about Sri Chinmoy's weightlifting called Challenging Impossibility premiered in the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, featuring bodybuilding luminaries Bill Pearl, Frank Zane and Wayne DeMilia, strongman Hugo Girard, and athlete Carl Lewis.
Sri Chinmoy is a very spiritual man. I feel the reason Sri Chinmoy lifted this weight is because of his love of God and belief that through God all things are possible. This man has done the impossible because of faith, wisdom and love of God. Through God we can do anything and He allows us to reach beyond human endeavours. We may feel we can’t go on, but because we find inner faith, we do. The body says “stop,” but the spirit cries “never.” In the warrior’s code there is no stopping.
Muhammad Ali 6
He also used weightlifting to honour people in a unique way by starting the Lifting up the World with a Oneness-Heart program, in which he would lift people overhead using a specially constructed apparatus, reminiscent of the way a winning goalscorer in a football team would be lifted overhead by his teammates. Afterwards, those honoured in this way would often describe it as an experience of being lifted up in both body and spirit.
In 1977, Sri Chinmoy founded the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team to organise races around the world to serve the running community as they attempred to transcend their own limits. Over the years it has grown to be the largest organiser of endurance events in the world, and has pioneered many important developments in endurance events. From June to August each year in New York, it stages what is currently the world's longest certified road race - the 3100 Mile Self Transcendence Race. • More on sports in the Sri Chinmoy Centre » • View the 3100 Mile Race site »
Music is the inner or universal language of God. I do not know French or German or Italian, but if music is played, immediately the heart of the music enters into my heart, or my heart enters into the music. At that time, we don't need outer communication; the inner communion of the heart is enough. My heart is communing with the heart of the music and in our communion we become inseparably one. 7
For Sri Chinmoy, music was a universal way to commune with the highest. He began creating songs in his early teens, and by the time of his passing had created over 22,000 songs - around 13,000 in his native Bengali and the rest mostly in English. His songs range from short one line mantric songs to his longest song Dyulok Chariye Nara Narayan, which is 54 stanzas long. The Sri Chinmoy Songs site contains a record of over 20,000 of these songs, many with sheet music and audio samples. • Visit Sri Chinmoy Songs »
In 1984, Sri Chinmoy began to offer free concerts of meditative music - these concerts were called Peace Concerts, or sometimes Concerts of Prayerful Music. By the time of his passing in 2007, he had offered almost 800 such concerts including such prestigious venues as London's Royal Albert Hall, New York's Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House. After starting his concert with an opening meditation, Sri Chinmoy would play his compositions on a range of Eastern instruments (esraj, harmonium, bansuri) and Western instruments (cello, flute), as well as powerful improvisations on piano and synthesiser.
What power is in this man’s music! It’s incredible. My musical spirit is very, very deeply impressed.
Leonard Bernstein, legendary composer
More: Sri Chinmoy's art »
These are among the most beautiful and stunning paintings I have ever seen. I see in Sri Chinmoy's art the joy of creating beauty. His art is the classic example that creating not only is joy, it should be joy. Through his art he takes his joy and shares it with others.
Hans Janitschek, President of the United Nations Society of Writers
Sri Chinmoy began painting in 1974 on a visit to Canada. Over a 33 year span, he created 140,000 abstract paintings in a style that he called in his native Bengali Jharna-Kala, which translates as "Fountain-Art" - art that comes in a spontaneous flow directly from the inner source.
Between 1991 and 2007, he created a series of bird drawings which he called Dream-Freedom-Peace-Birds, or simply Soul-Birds, which numbered 16 million birds in total. For Sri Chinmoy, these birds embodied the infinite freedom of the human soul.
Over the years a selection of Sri Chinmoy's paintings and drawings has been exhibited in galleries around the world, such as the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris, the United Nations building in New York and the national parliaments of Australia, Ukraine and New Zealand.
Sri Chinmoy is the founder of the Oneness-Heart -Tears and Smiles humanitarian programme. The programme had its origins in delivering much needed supplies to Russia at the beginning of the 1990's, including answering a request by President Mikhail Gorbachev for aid to help develop the Research Institute of Pediatric Hematology in Moscow. The hospital specialises in helping Russian children suffering from leukaemia.
Over the years, the programme has expanded to countries all over the world. Sri Chinmoy felt that giving in this way enriched the givers by enabling them to feel a sense of connection and oneness with people all over the world.
Charity I do not like. I like concern, true concern. When someone shows me charity, I feel a sense of inferiority, and when I offer charity to someone, I undoubtedly feel a sense of superiority. I want neither a superior feeling nor an inferior feeling: what I want is an equal feeling....It is only the feeling of oneness that can give me satisfaction, and this feeling of oneness has to be enlarged. 8
Many of the programmes aim to connect and uplift people in ways that go beyond material aid. For example the Kids to Kids and Drawings of Love programmes connect children from different parts of the world through the exchange of drawings and gifts. • More on The Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles website »
Sri Chinmoy called his spiritual path the path of the heart. He encouraged spiritual seekers to meditate on the heart centre in the middle of the chest, where we can feel the essence of our being. For example, he began a talk to his students in 1970 with these words:
Our path is basically the path of the heart and not the path of the mind. This does not mean that we are criticising the path of the mind. Far from it. We just feel that the path of the heart leads us faster towards our goal. Read full talk »
Sri Chinmoy's appeal to seekers of truth stems from the consciousness, purity and peace that is embodied in his meditations and activities, rather than any particular philosophical concept. At the same time, he has written extensively on every conceivable aspect of the inner life with a simplicity and clarity that comes from direct experience of the highest states of consciousness.
Here are some common themes in Sri Chinmoy's writings:
The soul's special mission
Sri Chinmoy felt that each person had a unique role to play in creating a better world:
Your soul has a special mission. Your soul is supremely conscious of it. Maya, illusion or forgetfulness, makes you feel that you are finite, weak and helpless. This is not true. You are not the body. You are not the senses. You are not the mind. These are all limited. You are the soul, which is unlimited. Your soul is infinitely powerful. Your soul defies all time and space.
God as one's own Highest reality
God-realisation, or siddhi, means Self-discovery in the highest sense of the term. One consciously realises his oneness with God. As long as the seeker remains in ignorance, he will feel that God is somebody else who has infinite Power, while he, the seeker, is the feeblest person on earth. But the moment he realises God, he comes to know that he and God are absolutely one in both the inner and the outer life. God-realisation means one’s identification with one’s absolute highest Self.
According to Sri Chinmoy, God can be reached in many ways according to one's own temperament.
Each individual has to realise God according to his inner capacity. And each individual can choose to accept the aspect of God that pleases him most. Somebody may like God's personal aspect, as a most luminous Being, while another person may like the impersonal aspect: God as infinite Energy. Again, somebody else will be pleased only if the God he realises is a God beyond his imagination. God is both personal and impersonal. God will come to each individual according to that individual's choice, to please him in his own way.
Sri Chinmoy particularly liked using the word 'Supreme' to describe the Highest, and this word is frequently used as a mantra by his students. He advocated an approach of divine love, devotion and surrender to the Supreme reality within us. He often contrasted this divine love with ordinary human love, saying that divine love comes with out any sense of expectation or appreciation in return
Spirituality does not mean escaping from the world.
Sri Chinmoy believed that in today's world, people can have a deep inner life while at the same time remaining a part of society.
If somebody says he is going to renounce the world in order to realise God, then I wish to say that he is mistaken. By leaving everyone, whom is the person accepting? God? No! God is in each human soul. Today he will renounce the world and tomorrow he will find that the God he is seeking is nowhere else. God is in the world itself. It is his attitude that prevents him from seeing God in the world……Certainly we have to renounce in the spiritual life. But we are not going to renounce individuals; we are going to renounce qualities, the qualities which stand in the way of our union with the Divine. We are going to renounce doubt, imperfection, ignorance and death. 9
Sri Chinmoy's creative efforts in poetry, art, music and athletics were a way to demonstrate that the inner silence born of deep meditation can give added meaning and fulfillment to all human endeavors.
Transformation through acceptance
Each individual has to accept himself as he is: half ignorance and half knowledge. Unless we accept ourselves in totality, as part ignorance and part knowledge, we can never reach the Goal. First we have to accept the darkness and light together. Then we have to give more importance, infinitely more importance, to the light in us. Then only will the ignorant, obscure part in us be transformed. 9
Similarly Sri Chinmoy believed that the world could only be changed for the better by accepting it and loving it the way it is now.
If you really want to love humanity, then you have to love humanity as it stands now and not expect it to come to a specific standard. If humanity has to become perfect before it can be accepted by you, then it would not need your love, affection and concern. Right now, in its imperfect state of consciousness, humanity needs your help. Give humanity unreservedly even the most insignificant and limited help that you have at your disposal. 10
Kind Words from world leaders
During Sri Chinmoy's 43 years of service in the West he met with many world leaders and inspirational people from all walks of life. This is a small selection of kind comments paid to Sri Chinmoy.
“Your loving heart and profound wisdom are a matter of my boundless admiration.”
- Mikhail Gorbachev 1992
“There are not many people in the world who are so sincerely dedicated to the ideals of love of fellow human beings, peace and understanding and who are so self-giving in their actions...”
- Mikhail Gorbachev 1995 11
“I cannot express in words my joy! What you are doing is in the interest of the entire humanity and the world.”
- Nelson Mandela January 1996
“It makes me humbled to express a birthday wish to a person of your leadership calibre, for you have distinguished yourself as an outstanding soldier of peace.”
- Nelson Mandela August 1996 12
“I am very grateful for your visit. God bless you and all your contemplative activities.”
- Pope John Paul II 1988
“Special blessings to you. Special greetings to your members. We shall continue together.”
- Pope John Paul II 1980 13
“This meeting of ours has been most essential. Your message and mine are the same. When we both leave this world, you and I, we will meet together.”
- Pope Paul VI 1972
“I want to tell you that I am truly proud of your service to the United Nations.”
- Pope Paul VI 1973 14
"May we continue to do God's Work together. How beautiful are all your works for world peace and for all mankind!"
- Mother Teresa
"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."
- Mother Teresa 1994 15
“I know that you too strive to ease unnecessary suffering and indeed, have helped many, many people…I thank you for your generosity of spirit and send to you my heartfelt best wishes.”
- Princess Diana July 1997
“Your letters are so enormously encouraging. It is through this encouragement that I find the strength to continue with the fight against landmines, which is so vitally important to me...”
- Princess Diana August 1997 16
“You are part of the spiritual force of love that emanates from God and which will transform the evil of this world into its counterpart. Thank you for persisting and going on, going on. Perhaps the world continues in existence only because of people like yourselves who help to hold it in being.”
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu 2004 17
More kind words: Tributes paid on the passing of Sri Chinmoy in 2007, on srichinmoy.org
Sri Chinmoy served as a spiritual teacher to thousands of students from all around the world. He advocated a balanced way of life that combined meditation and prayer with a dynamic outer life of service to the world:
Our path, the path of the heart, is also the path of acceptance. We have to accept the world. If we enter into a Himalayan cave or sit on a mountain top and cry for our personal achievement and satisfaction, then we are not going to do anything for the world. It will be like this: I shall eat food to my heart's content and let my brothers remain unfed and starving. That is not good. If I am a real human being, I have to see that my brothers also eat along with me. If we eat together, then only we shall get real satisfaction. 18
To find out more about the spiritual life practised by Sri Chinmoy's students, please read: About the Sri Chinmoy Centre »
Many students have been inspired to write about their experiences with Sri Chinmoy, and the many ways in which he encouraged them to make progress in their lives. We offer an small but growing selection of these stories.
- Meditations with Sri Chinmoy were a wonderful mix of silent meditation, music, poetry, prayer, creativity and humour - plus stories and wisdom from the Master himself.
- Moments with Sri Chinmoy: Our teacher had the ability to make even the briefest conversation or interaction full of love and sweetness.
- A Master's guidance: Students describe Sri Chinmoy's subtle guidance in life, from workplace matters to life-and-death situations.
Other Sites about Sri Chinmoy:
- Sri Chinmoy.org - Sri Chinmoy's official site
- Biography of Sri Chinmoy on the New Zealand Sri Chinmoy Centre site
- 1. Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 28
- 2. Tributes to Sri Chinmoy on srichinmoy.org
- 3. From: Earth's Cry meets Heaven's Smile, Part 2
- 4. From: When God-Love Descends, Agni Press, 1975
- 5. From: Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 129, Agni Press, 1990.
- 6. Included in My Weightlifting Tears and Smiles, by Sri Chinmoy
- 7. From: God The Supreme Musician
- 8. From: Everest Aspiration Part 2
- 9. a. b. From: Rainbow-Flowers, part 1
- 10. From: Earth's Cry Meets Heaven's Smile, Part 1
- 11. Source: Kind Words - Mikhail Gorbachev at Sri Chinmoy.org
- 12. Source: Kind Words - Nelson Mandela at Sri Chinmoy.org
- 13. Source: Kind Words - Pope John Paul II at Sri Chinmoy.org
- 14. Source: Kind Words - Pope Paul VI at Sri Chinmoy.org
- 15. Source: Kind Words - Mother Teresa at Sri Chinmoy.org
- 16. Source: Kind Words - Princess Diana at Sri Chinmoy.org
- 17. Source: Kind Words - Desmond Tutu at Sri Chinmoy.org
- 18. Sri Chinmoy, The Master And The Disciple, Agni Press, 1985.