Sri Chinmoy is a spiritual teacher. Throughout his life, he demonstrated the power of meditation and how it could be applied 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's philosophy
Sri Chinmoy authored around 1,600 books consisting of university lectures, poems and Q&A sessions on every facet of the spiritual life.
A few elements of Sri Chinmoy's 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.
- The most important spiritual quality to cultivate is gratitude.
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.
"One had the feeling that the audience had come not only for the music, but also for what was between the compositions, that is, the inner peace that the sounds only served to prolong."
Review in Le Monde, France
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.
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 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 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.
Since 1974 Sri Chinmoy created over 140,000 abstract paintings in a style that he called in his native Bengali "Jharna-Kala" or "Fountain-Art" - art flowing directly from the inner source.
Sri Chinmoy calls his artwork “Jharna-Kala”, which is Bengali for “fountain-art.” The name reflects the spontaneous fountain of creativity he experiences through meditation.
The whole picture does not come to me at once. As I start painting, I see a streak of light right ahead of me and devotedly I try to follow that streak of light. But on some rare occasions the light is so powerful that I envision the painting long before I have actually touched the paper, I don’t bring it forth; it comes to the fore from within, In the light the colour is there. Each time I see the streak of light, I see the colour.
describing his painting process
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.
Poetry and Aphorisms
Sri Chinmoy began writing poetry in his early adolescence, around the same time that he was achieving his first major realisations in spirituality. His poems express a broad range of spiritual emotion, from the doubts and fears of the wavering pilgrim to the blissful realisations of the illumined master.
Here are a couple of selections from My Flute, his first collection of poetry:
No mind, no form, I only exist;
Now ceased all will and thought;
The final end of Nature's dance,
I am It whom I have sought.
A realm of Bliss bare, ultimate;
Beyond both knower and known;
A rest immense I enjoy at last;
I face the One alone.
I have crossed the secret ways of life,
I have become the Goal.
The Truth immutable is revealed;
I am the way, the God-Soul.
My spirit aware of all the heights,
I am mute in the core of the Sun.
I barter nothing with time and deeds;
My cosmic play is done.
The Pilgrims of the Lord Supreme.
We are the pilgrims of the Lord Supreme
On the Path of Infinity.
At this time we have broken asunder
We have broken asunder
The night of tenebrous darkness, inconscience
And the eternal, indomitable fear of death.
The Boat of the supernal Light’s dawn
Is beckoning us,
And the World-Pilot
Of the hallowed bond of Love divine
Is beckoning us.
The Liberator’s Hands are drawing us
To the Ocean of the great Unknown.
Having conquered the life-breath
Of the Land of Immortality,
And carrying aloft the Banner
Of the Lord Supreme,
We shall return —
We, the drops and flames
In recent years Sri Chinmoy turned increasingly to aphorisms - short prayerful evocations of deep inner truth. Reading and absorbing these aphorisms is a meditative practice in itself.
God's first Smile was born
The day humanity awoke
To His Light.
Be kind, be all sympathy,
For each and every human being
Is forced to fight against himself.
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.
- At the time of his passing in October 2007, Sri Chinmoy was more than half-way through completing a collection of 77,000 aphorisms entitled Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees.
He also wrote many smaller collections such as the Dance of Life, and the Wings of Light.
Sri Chinmoy in Ireland
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, 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.