Biography of Sri Chinmoy – Part 3

The 1970’s saw Sri Chinmoy integrating the spiritual life with new fields of creative endeavour. In 1974, Sri Chinmoy entered into the art-world with his unique Jharna-Kala paintings. Jharna-Kala means ” fountain-art”, and the name conveys Sri Chinmoy’s meditative approach of painting straight from the source. In his words:

“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.’

In 1975, Sri Chinmoy completed over 100,000 of these paintings; his current total to date stands at over twice that number.  Over one 24-hour period in November 1975, Sri Chinmoy completed over 16,000 paintings.

1976, the year of the American Bicentennial, saw Sri Chinmoy use the occasion to take a bold step towards integrating spirituality and athletics. His students embarked upon the Liberty Torch Run, a torch relay covering all 50 states, evoking the ideals of the American founding fathers. For many of his students, this run broke many barriers as to what could be considered possible in the running world, and could arguably be considered the progenitor of the worldwide torch runs founded by Sri Chinmoy since.

In 1977 the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team was set up to be of service to the athletic community; hosting running races with distances ranging from 2 miles up to ultramarathons. Sri Chinmoy encouraged his students to take up long distance running as a means of keeping the body fit and capable of supporting spiritual practice, and indeed began long-distance running himself to inspire them; around this time, he would frequently be seen training in the small hours of the morning. Over the next four years, Sri Chinmoy would enter 22 marathons and 4 ultramarathons, recording a best marathon time of 3:55 in Toledo, Ohio. In 1983, Sri Chinmoy participated in the World Masters Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, serring a personal best in the 400m event. Sri Chinmoy’s endeavours encouraged his students to push the boundaries in many different fields. In 1979, Ashrita Furman, a student of Sri Chinmoy’s, broke his first Guinness World record by performing 22,000 jumping jacks in 7 hours. Ashrita has since gone on to break 104 Guinness records and currently holds the distinction of having more Guinness records than anyone else.    

By this time, other Sri Chinmoy Centres had sprung up in Japan, Australia and Latin America. In 1981 a large meditation ground, called Aspiration-Ground, was opened in New York to seat all of Sri Chinmoy’s students visiting him from abroad.

Sri Chinmoy’s poetic output continued unabated, whilst at the same time moving to a less metricated, more aphorism-like form. The aphorism form proved ideal for encapsulating profound spiritual truths, and reading through a collection can be a deep meditation in itself. In 1983, Sri Chinmoy finished a mammoth collection of aphorisms entitled Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, which he had been working on for four years, and promptly embarked upon an even larger collection, entitled Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants.

In 1984, Sri Chinmoy began performing concerts of meditative music to audiences all over the world. During these concerts, he would typically play about twenty instruments from his growing repertoire, in addition to singing his musical compositions. During one concert in 1986, he performed over 400 songs. The following year, he began playing spontaneous improvisations on the piano and pipe organ. These energy-charged improvisations brought the dynamic aspect of the spiritual life home to his concert audiences and became for many the highlight of his performances. Over the next few years, Sri Chinmoy would play concerts in distinguished venues such as the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall and London’s Royal Albert Hall. 

During the eighties, Sri Chinmoy’s personal athletic focus switched from running to weightlifting, and his feats in this field have served as a remarkable metaphor for how spirit can conquer matter. At the same time, the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team was pushing boundaries in the ultrarunning world. In 1985, a 1000-mile race was initiated in New York; in 1988 this same event hosted the World Championship in ultrarunning.  In 1987 Sri Chinmoy founded the Ultra Trio – races of 700, 1000, and 1300 miles taking place simultaneously. The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team were also becoming increasingly active in the swimming world; the first Channel swim was accomplished in 1985 by Vasanti Niemz, a German student of Sri Chinmoy. 35 Channel crossings have now been achieved by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, seven of them by Karteek Clark of Scotland. 

In 1989 Sri Chinmoy proposed a number of initiatives aimed towards uniting people from all over the world in the cause of world harmony. Many well-known landmarks were dedicated to world harmony, including natural wonders, capital cities and even countries. At the same time, Sri Chinmoy founded a torch relay run that went through 70 countries world wide, helping to inspire people to work towards friendship and understanding; this run was the forerunner of today’s World Harmony Run.

Sri Chinmoy repeatedly mantains that age is just a number; in 1989 he resumed his sprinting career at the age of 57; by 1992, he had set a new 100m mark of 13.67.  In 1991, Sri Chinmoy began a series of drawings called Dream-Freedom-Soul-Birds. As the name suggests, these drawings of birds are metaphors for the limitless flight of the human soul. A single drawing might contain hundreds of birds; to date, Sri Chinmoy has drawn over 25 million of these birds in total.

In 1995, Sri Chinmoy played his longest concert ever – 14 hours – in honour of the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations. That same year, he was to compose over 2,700 songs, including a setting to music of the poem he wrote 50 years before – August 15, 1945 .  In 1997, he began his longest collection of aphorisms, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service Trees, which at the time of writing has almost been two-thirds completed. That same year, he composed over 1,300 poems in a 24-hour period.

 In 1997, Sri Chinmoy founded the 3100 Mile Self-Transcendence Race – the longest road race in the world. The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team has now grown into the largest long-distance running organisation in the world, and has expanded into the fields of triathlon, cycling and mountain climbing.

Sri Chinmoy is now in his seventies, yet continues to prove age is in the heart, and not in the mind. In 2002, he set his poetical rendition of The Ideal of Forgiveness to music – at around 45 minutes singing time, this is Sri Chinmoy’s longest song. In 2003, he started to play the sitar, and quickly established a unique style of playing this ancient instrument. For his 74th birthday in August 2005, Sri Chinmoy played 74 pianos, 74 wind instruments, played 74 pieces on the esraj and sang over 220 songs in four separate concerts in four days. A month later, he played 170 instruments in 7 hours at a concert in Interlaken, Switzerland.  

<< Part 2: Eastern Light for the Western Mind          Back to index >>