Bangladeshi Sri Chinmoy is important for the whole world
A Peace Run is going to be held in Bangladesh from January 6 to 10, 2023. Around 12 international runners will come from the USA, UK, India, Haiti, South Korea, Iceland, Moldova, Romania and Hungary. Chinmoy Center in Dhaka is organizing the great event after the name of Sri Chinmoy. So, who is Sri Chinmoy? where was he born? What is Sri Chinmoy philosophy? Why is he so famous in the world? In an recent interview, Sri Chinmoy Center Dhaka,s Representative Shanti Sri is telling about the great man.
By Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal
- Who is Sri Chinmoy and where was he born?
Sri Chinmoy is a spiritual master, born on 27 August, 1931, at Shakpura, near Chattogram. He was the youngest of 7 children.
- What is Sri Chinmoy philosophy? Why is he so famous in the world?
Sri Chinmoy wrote: "Our philosophy in one sentence: Our philosophy is the acceptance of life for the transformation of life and also for the manifestation of God's Light here on earth, at God's choice Hour, in God's own Way."
Sri Chinmoy is best known as a man of peace, or as he describes himself "a lifelong student of peace". He initiated many projects to help foster peace, inner and outer—through meditation, through art, through music, through sports, through civic life.
- How many Sri Chinmoy Centres in this world and when did Bangladesh start this centre?
There are Sri Chinmoy Centres in 330 cities, in 71 countries. The first one was founded in 1967 on the island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. The New York Centre was founded a few months later. New York, where Sri Chinmoy lived from 1964 until his death in 2007, is the headquarters of the Centre.
A Centre was established in Dhaka in 2016 and in Chattogram in 2020.
- How long have you been involved with the Sri Chinmoy Centre and what inspired you to join?
I joined the Centre in my native city of Glasgow, Scotland on 2 December 1971, so, more than 50 years ago.
Sri Chinmoy came to Glasgow as part of his first European lecture tour. My husband was a student at Glasgow University. He was very interested in spirituality and philosophy, especially Eastern philosophy. He was involved in arranging the programme for Sri Chinmoy to speak at the University. I have to say at that time I was not a believer in any kind of spirituality. I had no patience for it. But I went along to the talk anyway. I was not happy that I did not believe in anything, in fact I suffered a lot from depression. What was I doing with my life? What was it all about?
Posters had been sent to us from New York, and they described Sri Chinmoy as a "spiritual Master". I felt that no one could be a master of spirituality; no one could know about these things for sure; it was all a matter of opinion. But the moment I entered the hall and saw Sri Chinmoy at the other end, there was something about him—charisma—I said to myself, "He knows." I felt it immediately, and I immediately wanted to learn from him.
While he was talking I could see a blue light all around him. It was fascinating, and I thought it was my imagination, but when I spoke to others afterwards, they had seen it too.
Sri Chinmoy offered to teach meditation to anyone at the lecture who was interested, so about 10 of us stayed behind and he showed us some meditation techniques and he formed the Glasgow Sri Chinmoy Centre. Again I saw this light. This time he became light. The silhouette was still there, but there were no features, just this shimmering light. Again I was amazed at this phenomenon, but even more, I felt great joy inside me, because I felt he could show me a way out of my depression, and show me how to become the person I really wanted to be.
- How many books has he written? How many poems and songs?
1600 books have been published, there are more notebooks that are still being transcribed and edited and will be published in due course. His work includes poetry, plays, lectures, questions and answers and short stories. Nearly 117,000 poems and aphorisms have been published.
Sri Chinmoy composed more than 21,000 songs, the majority of them in Bengali. These songs are performed by his students at concerts all over the world.
- He also loves painting? How many paintings he drew and how many galleries he made his painting exhibitions around the world? Was there any painting exhibition held in Bangladesh too, if so when?
Poetry and music were present in Sri Chinmoy's life from his childhood, but not painting. It was not until 1974 when he was 43 years old that he took up painting for the first time. His painting style is abstract and very colorful. He calls it "Jharna-Kala". As in all endeavors, Sri Chinmoy gave his heart and soul to painting, and in the first year produced 100,000 acrylic paintings—a veritable fountain of art!
He also does pen drawings and these are mostly of birds—"soul birds" as he calls them, and these number in the millions!
- How many followers at present in the world and how many countries have Sri Chinmoy centres?
There are around 7-9 thousand members of Sri Chinmoy Centres in 71 countries around the world. Members are expected to follow a strict spiritual discipline—daily meditation, exercise, vegetarian diet.
Sri Chinmoy emphasizes that his way is not a religion—he encourages people to stay in their own religion. There are people from all religions in the centres—Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and people with no formal religion. From my own experience, when following this path I got a deeper understanding of my own religion.
- Is there any Guinness book of world record in his name?
At one time Sri Chinmoy held a Guiness record for weightlifting for his age (73), but I don't have the details.
A central part of Sri Chinmoy's philosophy is "self-transcendence" meaning always trying to better your own achievements. Competing with yourself and not with others. This is the philosophy behind the races the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team organizes, including the world's longest race of 3,100 miles (almost 5000 k). Sri Chinmoy's followers have taken part in this race, have swum the English Channel, have climbed many of the world's highest mountains. The Marathon Team hosts a games every year in Europe called "Impossibility-Challengers" where people come to set new records—personal, national, or world.
- How many countries have roads in his name and how many roads?
70 Sri Chinmoy streets have been dedicated in 14 countries worldwide.
Countries are as follows:Australia, Canada, Czech,UK, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Scotland, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, USA.
- When he started praying sessions in the UN and how did it happen?
In 1971, Sri Chinmoy was invited by U Thant, third Secretary-General of the United Nations, to form a meditation group for delegates and staff at the United Nations in New York. The group met twice a week and Sri Chinmoy attended whenever he was in town. The group still meets to this day.
- Please tell us something about his Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run? When it was started and why this peace run?
The Peace Run is a team of international runners who run around the world carrying a torch symbolizing peace. It is based on a very simple idea, if you believe in peace, if you care for peace, if you hope for peace then express your hope by holding the Peace Torch, by joining the Peace Run for a few steps or a few miles. Since Sri Chinmoy founded it in 1987 more than 7 million people have participated in the Peace Run, covering 395,000 miles in 155 countries on all 7 continents.
Those who have held the Peace Torch include Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, President Gorbachev, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Queen Elizabeth II, Muhammad Ali, Carl Lewis, Pope Francis.
- I heard you are going to organize a Peace run in Bangladesh next January 2023 please let us know in details, how many people will join from how many countries? Who can join? Is it free to join? From where to where the run will start?
The Peace Run will be in Bangladesh from January 6-10, 2023. Around 12 international runners will come from the USA, UK, India, Haiti, South Korea, Iceland, Moldova, Romania and Hungary.
There are certain events where everyone can join, for example the opening ceremony of the Peace Run will be at the Eternal Flame at Suhrawardy Udyan on January 6 at 8am. From there we will run with the torch around Hatirjheel between 9:30 am and 11 am.
At 1 pm the Peace Run will visit the Buriganga Eco Park at Shyampur for the dedication of the Buriganga as a Peace River. On January 7th the Peace Run will run from Dhaka to Savar. You are welcome to run part of the way with us. There is no cost to be part of the Peace Run. On January 8th the Peace Run will visit schools in the Dhaka area. On January 9th the Peace Run will have a program in Chattogram and on January 10th it will visit Shakpura, the birthplace of Sri Chinmoy. For details please check PeaceRun.org
- How many books have been translated into Bengali, which were written by Sri Chinmoy?
About ten of Sri Chinmoy books have been translated into Bengali. It is an ongoing process. In some of the poetry books, for example "The Garden of Love-Light" and "Pole-Star-Promise-Light," both the English and Bangla versions were written by Sri Chinmoy, and he later set these poems to music.
- Is there anyone who did a Ph. D. in Sri Chinmoy? Who did and when?
Dr. Vidagdha Bennett, an Australia writer, wrote her Ph. D. thesis on Sri Chinmoy's poetry in the late 1980s, "Simplicity and Power: The Poetry of Sri Chinmoy 1971-1981". She has also written several autobiographical books on Sri Chinmoy. The best known is "His Sacred Breath."
Bidushi's book you have.
- How many books written on Sri Chinmoy and how many of them are in Bengali?
Vidagdha Bennett has written several autobiographical books about Sri Chinmoy.
The Bengali ones by Shankar and Nashima Khan, a Bengali-born journalist now living in NY, you have.
- As we know he wrote 1600 books, into how many languages have his book been translated?
I can't tell you exactly, but I know of his books being translated into many of the European languages—Italian, Spanish, German, French, some Greek, some Icelandic, some Portugese and Japanese.
A poem written by Sri Chinmoy was recited in 203 languages by members of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run at the Dag Hammerskjöld Plaza, New York, USA, on 10 April 2014, setting a world record.
- Why Sri Chinmoy was important to us?
Sri Chinmoy is important because he offers a path to spiritual fulfillment that takes account of the modern world. You don't have to shun the world and go live in a cave in the Himalayas—you can live in a modern city, have a job, fulfill your family responsibilities and still make solid progress in your spiritual life, discovering your true self, developing your good qualities, transcending your negative qualities, achieving peace of mind, depth of understanding and real happiness. The goal, you can call it Self-discovery, God-realization, Salvation, Nirvana, is the same, but the way to get there is tailored to the 21st century.
- Tell us something about his project Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles.
Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles was begun by Sri Chinmoy in 1991 in response to a request by President Gorbachev at a time when Russia was undergoing great financial hardship. Sri Chinmoy organized a convoy of food, clothing and medical supplies and equipment to be sent to relieve the suffering of the Russian people. Since that time it has been delivering humanitarian aid to poor countries, and in response to natural disasters. On two occasions Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles has delivered container shipments of medical equipment to Bangladesh.
One notable project is the Kids to Kids program where children in developed countries collect and send toys and school supplies to less fortunate kids. Children are also encouraged to send drawings and messages of encouragement to children who are suffering, for example to Aceh Province in Indonesia after the tsunami of 2004.
Another project was Dolls for Africa, where people worldwide hand-crafted dolls for poor African children.
From 2002 to 2007 Ambassador Anwaral Chowdhury of Bangladesh was Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. Ambassador Chowdhury entrusted to Sri Chinmoy, ten of the most vulnerable countries, to serve through humanitarian shipments. Ambassador Chowdhury stated that Sri Chinmoy surpassed the original request of ten countries which now totals 33 countries.
In 2020, 300 villagers from the village of Shakpura, where Sri Chinmoy was born, signed a petition requesting that the newly paved main road leading into Shakpura be called Sri Chinmoy Road. A letter signed by the late Speaker Humayan Rashid Choudhury dedicating 6 of Bangladesh's rivers as Peace Rivers.
Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal: President, Bangladesh travel writers association