As well as being the founder of my running club, the international Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, Sri Chinmoy became a sporting hero in his own right, with some amazing weightlifting achievements to his name. Many also come to know him through his output as a writer, poet, composer, singer, musician and artist! As most of this site is about outer things - running, hiking, swimming etc. - I have decided to make this particular page unashamedly spiritual. Sri Chinmoy is the reason I crossed that rubicon from being a person interested in spirituality, to actually being a spiritual person (that is, one who actually practises the spiritual life).
It's hard to say exactly when my interest in spirituality started - I could trace it back to various childhood experiences and the fact that important spiritual lessons used to land on me, somewhat uninvited, at regular intervals through my teens. I began to think that one day I would bet serious about self-discovery and the search for truth (whatever that was), but I figured this was something that could be left until old age - when I was over 40 and therefore too old to enjoy the hedonistic life into which I'd drifted through lack of any compelling direction. Some time around nineteen eighty nine I was staying with friends in a squat in north London, and taking my dog out to Finsbury Park I noticed a sign near the park entrance - "Sri Chinmoy Mile". There was a picture of a running figure and a poem about something or other. I thought with a name like that he must be Vietnamese or perhaps Thai. The image stayed with me and I remembered it the following summer when I spotted an ad for a free gig in London by this same Sri Chinmoy. I was always up for a free event of any kind, and resolved to go to it, but got distracted and went to see a bunch of psychedelic bands at the Pullens Free Festival instead. So, it wasn't until nineteen ninety two that I really discovered who and what Sri Chinmoy actually was. I went along to a meditation class in Bristol given by Balavan Mark Thomas (just plain Mark in those days) and found that Sri Chinmoy was an Indian spiritual teacher - or spiritual master - and leader of an international group, all of whom practised meditation and led a very pure and dynamic spiritual life.
Of course, when you encounter a spiritual teacher, because of all the negative press about many of them, the first question you ask yourself is: "is this one genuine?". I meditated on a picture of Sri Chinmoy and got a powerful feeling that he was the real deal. I even remember that still, small, inner voice telling me that I would travel to America and meditate with this man. Despite all that I remained a little sceptical, but not too sceptical to think, hey, lets go for it and see what happens. I had had enough of my old life and wanted something totally new. Meditation was already opening up a new world of inner experiences to me, subtle rather than dramatic, but real and quietly compelling. So I sent my picture to Sri Chinmoy with a letter asking to be his student. It was some weeks before I got the reply, which was positive, and even then I greeted the news with rather ambivalent feelings. It took some time before I really felt the inner connection with Sri Chinmoy working in my spiritual life, but work it most certainly did. After six months I knew I'd found the right path for me and the right teacher. I embraced all the different aspects of the inner life as Sri Chinmoy taught it - early morning meditation, beginning to run on a regular basis, swapping my bass guitar (I had played in a number of rock bands of variable quality) for acoustic instruments that I played with Ananda - it was a gradual overhaul of all the different aspects of my life. A year after Sri Chinmoy accepted me as his student, I saw him in person for the first time and experienced the power of meditating with him. That power has fuelled all my aspirations and endeavours ever since.
My early meditation experiences
Sri Chinmoy Centre
Sri Chinmoy Biography
Sri Chinmoy Article on Serpentine Web Page
Sri Chinmoy on the BBC homepage
I wrote the above in the summer of 2007, and it was only a few weeks later on October 11th that Sri Chinmoy left this physical world, entering into what is known as Mahasamadhi at his home in New York.
At first I was not sure how it would affect me, or how I would or should feel, and like so many of his disciples I just got on the first plane to New York that I could catch and went to Aspiration Ground, our most sacred meeting place, to.......well, the phrase people often use is "to pay my respects" or "to say goodbye", but it was neither of those. I went there to feel Sri Chinmoy's presence, as I always had done when he was physically alive. And, equally significantly, I went there to express my gratitude for everything he had done for me in those fourteen years I had thus far spent as his student.
Amazingly, my overwhelming experience was not of grief, but of joy. Somehow I felt Sri Chinmoy more closely present than ever before. What a paradox! My meditation acquired a new power, and I felt every day the kind of inner intensity that previously had only come to me on rare occasions. Even the streets of Queens seemed possessed of previously unseen mystical beauty. Something really happened to me, something inward, during that week of almost contant meditation that followed October 11th, and writing now just seven weeks later the feeling is still with me.
For the uninitiated (pun intended), I think this says a lot about what a spiritual master actually is - not just an outer teacher, but an eternal inner guide. Like all of Sri Chinmoy's students or disciples, I am now facing the rest of my life without his physical presence.I always thought this would be really hard, and I would feel that there was something missing. Strangely, or perhaps inevitably, quite the opposite is true.
Sacred Steps Home