CHINMOY, SRI (Religious Movement)

Chinmoy Kumar Ghose was born in East Bengal in 1931. At the age of twelve, his parents died, and he moved into the Sri Aurobindo (see Aurobindo, Sri) ashram in Pondicherry, where he lived for the next twenty years. Here he learned music, poetry, meditation and philosophy, and underwent various transformative experiences. In 1964 he moved to New York to ‘share his inner wealth with sincere seekers’—one of the first Asian Gurus to move to the West in modern times.

Chinmoy sees ‘aspiration of the heart towards higher realities and spirituality’ as the primary driving force in religious, cultural, scientific, and even sporting fields. He teaches that people should ‘live from the heart’ in order to succeed in these fields and attain a balance between spiritual and daily life. World peace is an important aspiration. Chinmoy’s philosophy is immanentist, a version of the ‘god within’, which has made it popular in New Age circles (see New Age Movement). However, it is less world-accepting than most Eastern-based movements popular in the West. Purity is paramount: the body and its instincts are considered impure, while the heart and soul are pure. Nevertheless, the body is essential to manifest the soul’s divinity. This is similar to the Christian Manichean position (declared a heresy), and to another Westernized Hindu movement, the Brahma Kumaris. However, despite the emphasis on purity, there have been allegations of sexual abuse and other misconduct. However, he does not charge money for his lectures and concerts.

Chinmoy’s headquarters are in New York, and there are centres in sixty countries. The movement has around 1,500 members and is actively proselytizing. For example, there used to be an advertising campaign on London buses and trains, and opportunities for putting up plaques in Chinmoy’s name are actively pursued.

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