Sri Chinmoy is a spiritual teacher who throughout his life demonstrated the power of meditation and its applications to everyday living.
Born in 1931 in the Bengal area of what was then India, he spent 20 years in a spiritual community in southern India, meditating for up to eight hours a day and attaining the high meditative states known as nirvikalpa samadhi (where one is immersed in the Highest), and then sahaja samadhi, where one can be in the same high state as nirvikalpa samadhi and still be involved in daily activities.
In 1964, Sri Chinmoy came to America to be of service to the growing number of people interested in meditation and spiritual life, and settled in New York, where he lived until his passing on 11 October 2007. He held twice weekly meditations for the staff and delegates at the United Nations, having been invited to do so in 1970 by the Secretary-General at the time, U Thant.
He frequently travelled to meet with his students, perform concerts of meditative music, share his meditative insights with leaders and dignitaries from around the globe. He visited Ireland three times, giving talks in Trinity College and meeting with Presidents Eamon De Valera and Erskine Childers in 1973 and 1974.
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Sri Chinmoy authored around 1,600 books consisting of university lectures, poems and Q&A sessions on every facet of the spiritual life. Here are a few of the points that often recur in his philosophy:
- Spirituality is universal. 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. Sri Chinmoy's own approach is one combines the best qualities of both East and West, blending Eastern poise and contemplation with Western dynamism and enthusiasm to create a meditation path that can be brought into everyday living.
Sri Chinmoy's conviction that all paths lead to the same goal led him to become a powerful advocate in the interfaith movement. He twice performed the opening meditation at the World Parliament of Religion, and took part in many interfaith events in the United Nations.
- Spirituality means the acceptance of life. Meditation sometimes is wrongly percieved as being an escape from the world and all its problems. Real spirituality is not an escape from reality, but is a tool which will give you the inner strength to face life's challenges and live life to the full.
- Anything positive can be made a part of your spiritual discipline. Sri Chinmoy showed that art, poetry, athletics and music can all be used to great effect in the journey of self-discovery.
- Spirituality is not just another commodity. Sri Chinmoy's spiritual guidance, as well as the many meditative concerts he performed worldwide, was offered free of charge, in the belief that self-discovery is not something to be bought or sold. The Sri Chinmoy Centre continues this legacy by offering meditation classes, concerts and other cultural events free of charge.
Sri Chinmoy made it very clear that his approach was not a religion, and that people of all religions and none were welcome to study meditation with him.
During his lifetime, Sri Chinmoy entered into many different fields of human endeavour, with the goal of inspiring people to bring out their own inner potential.
See also: Concerts for Inner Peace
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.
During a concert, 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. His concerts often attracted large crowds, for example 8,000 in Cologne, 16,000 in Prague and 20,000 in Montreal.
See also: Athletics.
In his youth, Sri Chinmoy excelled in sprinting. In his late forties, he begain running longer races, and completed 22 marathons and five ultra-marathons. He saw sports as a very natural complement to spiritual life, in that it helped keep the body fit but also provided a way to go beyond what one had previously dreamt possible.
In 1977 he founded the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team to organise races around the world as a service to the running community, which over the years has pioneered many important developments in endurance events. Every June since 1997, it stages what is currently the world's longest certified road race - the 3100 Mile Self Transcendence Race. Sri Chinmoy placed a lot of emphasis on 'self-transcendence' - competing with your own capacities instead of with others - as a pathway to happiness.
In 1991, he began creating a series of bird drawings titled 'Dream-Freedom-Peace-Birds' or 'Soul-birds'. Sri Chinmoy felt that the bird drawings embodied the freedom of the human soul to fly in Infinity's sky. Between 1991 and 2007, he drew over 16 million of these birds.
See also: Poetry
Sri Chinmoy began writing poetry in his early adolescence. In the spiritual community in India, his poems commonly employed conventional metric structures; however on his arrival to America, his poetry became less structured and more aphorism-like. His poems and aphorisms are notable for their simplicity, leaving aside ornamentation to evoke the essential nature of spiritual life.
Sri Chinmoy published 3 large collections of poetry and aphorisms:
- 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.
He also wrote many smaller collections such as the Dance of Life, and the Wings of Light.
In the 1960's and 70's Sri Chinmoy gave university lectures all over the world, including 3 lectures at Trinity College, Dublin.
In 1973 he met with President Éamon de Valera in Aras an Úachtaráin (right), a meeting which Sri Chinmoy would fondly remember for the rest of his life (Read transcript of meeting). He also met with President Erskine Childers in 1974.
In 1988, Sri Chinmoy inaugurated the Lifting Up the World with a Oneness-Heart Award, which recognised the achievements of men and women of inspiration everywhere. In 2004 he met with former President and UN High Commissioner Mary Robinson and presented her with this award. He also presented the award to Northern Irish Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire in 2005.