BETA VERSION What can one say after such beautiful music? Except that it helps explain why I write in favour of freedom of religion and religious tolerance, because only when these things flourish can we enjoy the fruits. Here, the fruits are beautiful music and a presentation filled with light by women who come from different countries across a borderless Europe. But did you notice what language they are singing in? The language is Bengali, which was Sri Chinmoy’s mother tongue.
When the world is at peace and there is freedom of movement, people are free to gather what they find beautiful and meaningful from the world’s cultures, to create something uniquely their own. What wonderful music with which to celebrate International Women’s Day!
Now, I’m going to switch gears, because this Women’s Day happens to be the 15-year anniversary of a groundbreaking event. In March 2004, members and supporters of Sri Chinmoy Centre began a discussion focused on women’s issues, with women sharing how they came to Sri Chinmoy’s spiritual “path of the heart,” what it means to them, what their daily lives are like, whether it’s a safe path to follow, how spiritual seekers are viewed by society, and overcoming negative stereotypes.
The need for such a discussion perhaps requires explanation. Many Americans (and indeed, people around the world) have a good working knowledge of things like how to drive a car and get a license, how to do their taxes, how to finance their homes, how to carry on a trade or business, as well as the rules for popular sports like baseball, basketball, and football. They also have some knowledge of politics and world affairs, which they get from newspapers, TV, and (increasingly) the Internet.
Yet, over the decades there has developed a split between the secular sphere and the religious or spiritual sphere. These two spheres were originally meant to work together to foster the experience of life as a coherent whole. Business and government would be conducted largely in the secular sphere, while each individual would be free to join the church, synagogue, or temple of his or her choosing (or none at all). People who made similar choices would form church groups or spiritual communities of various sorts. This did not put them at odds with the secular sphere, because the two were complementary. (Ideally, they still are.)
Without over-analyzing the phenomenon, if we fast-forward to today we can see that the secular sphere and the religious sphere often seem to be at odds. Much of life in the mainstream is now lived in the secular sphere, and those who make spiritual choices are often portrayed as the “religious other” — to be distrusted, feared, even hated and discriminated against. How society came to this point is a long story, and a great many books have been written on the subject.
My purpose here is not to assign blame, but simply to observe some of the symptoms, and to point out that education is one of the cures. I will then provide excerpts from the 2004 Sri Chinmoy “Question For The Women” discussion thread as an example of how better information about spiritual groups can lead to a lessening of tensions and misunderstandings.
Haskell Wexler, the late cinematographer and director, once made the point that in the modern world of image control, if television ignores you, then for all practical purposes you don’t exist. By extension, popular culture consists of people and things widely covered by the media. It’s an aspect of populism (and also of human nature) that anything outside the gamut of what is popularly portrayed may then take on the quality of the “other.”
Paradoxically, although the other is small and powerless, it may be blamed for all the ills found in society. This is sometimes known as a “moral panic,” in which a little-known group is suddenly thrust into the public eye and accused of causing fire, flood, and famine.
As the bulk of life is increasingly lived in the secular sphere, and as mainstream media focus almost exclusively on activities conducted in the secular sphere, and on views emanating from the secular sphere, this increases the split. It can lead to a state of affairs in which people who live much of their lives in the religious or spiritual sphere are portrayed as the enemy, “not like us” — subject to negative stereotypes.
With occasional exceptions, minority spiritual groups are only covered by mainstream media when there is a problem or conflict. Reporters tend to handle a story differently depending on whether the subject is one of “us” or one of “them.” Eileen Barker, a sociologist and Professor Emeritus with the London School of Economics, notes that anything which befalls a member of a minority spiritual group is treated as a “cult” story, while the same incident, should it befall the average citizen, is not.
If an average citizen (perhaps a member of a large religious denomination) slips on a banana peel and dies, the headline may simply read: “John Smith Meets With Tragic Accident.” No mention of John Smith’s religion is made. However, if John Smith happened to be a Krishna devotee or Scientologist, the headline may read: “Cult Deaths Plague Our Nation.” If the deceased was a meditator, his slipping on a banana peel undoubtedly proves that “meditation is dangerous.” 😉
I am not an opponent of mainstream media, nor do I think that everything they produce should be dismissed outright or labeled as “fake news.” I prefer to be a discriminating consumer of mainstream media, while recognizing various forms of bias which even well-intentioned reporters and editors may find it difficult to overcome. My own experience is that to develop true objectivity requires a type of insight which can only be acquired through spiritual practices such as meditation. Surely there’s some irony in that!
As I write in “The Truman Show and Finding Reliable Spiritual Sources”:
Are you a spiritual seeker? Then you can rely on populist media for the weather report, but you cannot rely on them for what we call “spiritual report.” In this they are unreliable. It’s simply not their area of expertise; plus, their emphasis on commercialism and populism acts as a heavy-handed filter of information concerning spiritual groups. Many people in the mainstream media are good and well-meaning, but spiritual topics elude them. They lack the time and interest to make sense of the spiritual landscape, so they tend to present a stereotyped view.
If this has been a problem in general, it seems to have become more acute in the post-2000 period, with an increase in tribalism and identity politics making it harder than ever to get accurate information about the beliefs and practices of spiritual groups which are small and not widely covered by the media.
Bona fide encyclopedias of religion whose articles are written by scholars often contain accurate information about spiritual groups and figures. Another excellent resource is Mary Pat Fisher’s college textbook Living Religions. She emphasizes “the personal consciousness of believers” and includes many “teaching stories” drawn from different traditions.
So, one of the solutions to the underlying problem is education, including self-education. This solution is not very onerous or time-consuming for those who care to have an informed opinion on such matters. A key point is that one doesn’t need to be religious or spiritual in order develop some basic understanding, and to treat both majority and minority adherents with respect and tolerance.
Now, getting down to specifics, who was Sri Chinmoy? He was an Indian guru who taught meditation, held meditations for delegates and staff at the United Nations, and was active in the diverse fields of sports, music, painting, poetry, and humanitarianism. Here are links to three encyclopedia articles about Sri Chinmoy:
Here also are links to three letters written to Sri Chinmoy which help establish his bonafides:
These articles and letters impart some basic information about Sri Chinmoy, but don’t paint a full picture, or communicate the flavour of his teachings and the organizations he left behind after his death in 2007. For that, let’s turn to a video of an event held in 2008: Paintings for World-Harmony:
If you’ve followed the links, read the material, and watched the video, then you probably have some idea of who Sri Chinmoy was. (And of course, the music with which this post began was composed by Sri Chinmoy, and performed by his students in 2017.)
In the context of our broader discussion, Sri Chinmoy was a minority spiritual figure. As such, he occasionally suffered attacks from some who regarded him as the “religious other” and sought to demean or stereotype him. Likewise, those who follow his teachings, and who live much of their lives in the spiritual sphere, are also subject to such attacks. So, this is the context for understanding the groundbreaking discussion which occurred in 2004, excerpted below. As of March 2019, the links to the original source material remain valid.
Sri Chinmoy Inspiration (Yahoo Group)
“Question For The Women” Discussion Thread
Excerpts from the period March 19, 2004 – July 16, 2004
Date: Fri Mar 19, 2004 2:28 am
Subject: Question For The Women
March 8th was International Women’s Day. We failed to mark the
event, but I’m thinking maybe we should have. I would like to ask
the women how their experience as students of Sri Chinmoy has shaped
We see that in the outer world, there are so many problems with
rape, abuse, and harassment. I get the feeling that many women stick
close to Sri Chinmoy Centre because they feel protected there.
Sometimes in the outer world, people make fun of women who choose
the spiritual life, saying they are “repressed” and other unkind
things. But I once heard an interview with a woman who said she felt
empowered by living the spiritual life, and that the role of women
in mainstream society has become vulgarized.
Sometimes in life, those who are most virtuous are taunted by those
who are most wicked, and those who are most innocent are victimized
by those who are most guilty of wrongdoing. Recently, Johnji posted
a poem by Sri Chinmoy called A Life of Innocence. At the time, it
struck me that one reason people are often moved to tears when they
meditate with Sri Chinmoy is that the consciousness he brings down
is one which is completely pure and innocent – so much so that it
brings forth what is pure and innocent in us, and cleans away all
our impurities, like a mother bathing her children.
A painful reality of life is that what is most pure and innocent is
often what is attacked by people who have become troubled. I do not
fully understand it – except that maybe spiritual sickness leads to
Sometimes it seems that in the outer world, people have many strange
ideas. They think that because someone prays and meditates and joins
in the life of a spiritual community, that means they are “abused.”
Also, it seems that if someone leaves a spiritual group and later
enters into therapy, there is tremendous pressure on them to conform
to negative stereotypes about “cults.” In some cases, they seem to
make up ridiculous stories designed to please their therapist. Maybe
this is one reason there is so much confusion about spiritual
I would love to gain some enlightenment from the women on these
issues. Let me play devil’s advocate: Is Sri Chinmoy Centre a safe
place for women?
I Think I Love You
God, I think I love You.
“Daughter, what is the proof?”
God, this is the proof:
You know, God,
I do not live with ignorance
I do not play with doubt
I do not cry with fear
I do not eat with jealousy
I do not dance with despair
You love Me
I love you.
Be happy. Remain happy.”
Date: Fri Mar 19, 2004 1:37 pm
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
Happy Women’s Day!
I would like to express my personal opinion concerning this
important topic. In many places around the world women are treated
as if they are second class human beings, slaves of men. Women are
supposed to be afraid of everything, to be blindly obedient to their
men, to just serve men, etc. This is very true in the place I live:
Before I joined the Sri Chinmoy Centre, I was always looking for
freedom and I always wanted to have a different life than most women
of my country. After a while I discovered that the outer freedom
does not really mean to do whatever extraordinary things come into
your mind. By getting this kind of “freedom” I was actually
unconsciously enslaving myself more and more.
When I came to the Centre, I have finally found the equality of
people because in the Centre each person learns how to serve God in
other human beings instead of serving people’s ego; therefore it
feels like being in a loving family being surrounded by loving and
supportive sisters and brothers.
Also, I feel that I have found that freedom I was looking for: the
inner freedom when one is not bound by the rules that society is
trying to impose on women and when you can freely live according to
your own inner feelings.
Speaking about people saying that women are being “abused” in the
Centre, I would like to say that this is made up by people who have
not experienced what being in the Centre really means. And even if
these people have been in the Centre on the outer plane, most
probably, they have never made an effort to open themselves and to
be sincere. Even being in the Centre, they just stayed in their
limited minds and did not experience in reality what oneness-heart
is. After all, everyone has a freedom of choice. If I feel secure
and safe in the Centre only, please respect my choice. No one can
judge others’ lives without living these lives.
O my Lord Supreme,
If You really love me,
Then take away my mind’s
And place me at Your Feet
To enjoy real freedom.
– Sri Chinmoy
Date: Sat Mar 20, 2004 8:39 pm
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
—Thanks for bringing up this interesting issue!! And to all those
women who have replied, I must say that I share your experience of
the love, acceptance and freedom you have found on this path. I must
apologise in advance for my lengthy reply – this issue has sparked
lots of reflection for me! There was a time in my life when I would
have considered it a crime against womanhood to let International
Women’s Day slip past almost unnoticed like it has this year! For
much of my early twenties I was involved in the grass roots feminist
movement – working in refuges for women who were victims of domestic
violence and other similar jobs, and in my spare time lobbying and
attending rallies on feminist and social issues. Injustice,
inequality and powerlessness of any sort incensed me, and women
clearly experienced these issues to a disproportionate degree.
Although I was interested in spirituality, social and political
action was my forte, and it would never have occurred to me that
there was a spiritual way of approaching such social problems.
How I have changed! My distaste of oppression and injustice is still
strong, but my response, inwardly and outwardly, is very different
these days. This change began initially as a result of seeking
assistance with my turbulent emotional life through therapy (a
process that I was also required to undertake as part of my
post-graduate psychotherapy training). My transformation has then
accelerated under Sri Chinmoy’s guidance for the last 13 years.
There are so many ways that being a student of Sri Chinmoy has
shaped my life that I hardly know where to start! Perhaps with the
obvious! How could a staunch feminist have a male Guru?? Here we
come to the crux of my spiritual experience with Sri Chinmoy.
Because of his identification with God, meditating with him has
given me access to direct experiences of God. Impossible to
describe, and at the time profoundly shocking to my conscious mind,
these experiences have shown me that God and the individual soul are
way, way, way beyond outer duality like male and female. Struggles
between men and women, just like wars, poverty and other social
problems are by-products of our outer nature – those crazy layers of
thoughts, emotions & impulses that cover our beautiful soul. Being
catapulted by Guru into a realm of beauty and glory far removed from
these social problems has helped me to realise that as humanity
evolves, and collectively we become more conscious of our essential
divine nature, these problems will dissolve. So these days I prefer
to spend my energy on working to transform my own imperfections, and
helping others to do so by giving meditation classes and running a
meditation centre. I’m sure there is still a place for social action
within spiritual traditions (look at Vivekananda’s work) but not for
me, right now.
Another impact of meditating under Sri Chinmoy’s guidance has been
the transformation in my emotional life. Concerned about, but no
longer filled with constant rage about injustice, I can now see a
self-defeating aspect of much of the social and political action in
which I used to engage. Responding to aggression and injustice with
rage is just ‘more of the same’ – and so acts to continue the cycle
– like an escalating children’s fight. Spiritual practice has shown
me that lasting change really must come from a change in
consciousness – I cannot facilitate outer peace or wise action
before I have these qualities within. Social and political action
generated from inner calm, equilibrium and love, works – Nelson
Mandela is a great example of this.
Interestingly, meditating with Sri Chinmoy has also brought out a
much more ‘feminine’ side of me! On reflection, I think that
previously I was constantly reacting to men rather than simply being
myself. With Guru I have actually been able to feel the reality of
women as ‘equal but different’, an experience previously theorised
about but somehow elusive in practice. As Sundari has said, Guru
encourages us all, whether male or female, to expand our capacities
and become much more than we ever thought we could be, whilst at the
same feeling at home with whatever gender we happen to be. In this
way, gender stereotypes are smashed to pieces! Who ever would
imagine that an angelic, sari wearing, sweetness-flooded woman like
Suprabha would run 3100 mile races year after year?
Now for the issue you raise of women who claim to have experienced
abuse. I’ve worked as a psychologist and psychotherapist for many
years now, so have quite a bit of experience in this area. I agree
wholeheartedly with your comment on the innocence and purity of
Guru’s consciousness, which I think results in women feeling safe in
the centre and with Guru. I know there are some women on the path
who have had difficult or traumatic experiences with men when they
were living in the world, who have taken refuge in the safety
offered by the centre. It would be easy to conclude from this that
the centre functions for such women as a way of repressing these
experiences rather than working them through. This view of the
spiritual life is quite commonly held by secular people, and arises
from a fundamental lack of understanding about the inner work and
process of transformation involved in leading a spiritual life.
Whilst in the short term a person on our path can avoid dealing with
difficult personal issues, in the longer term the profoundly
transformative experience of meditating with Sri Chinmoy usually
means that we cannot stay with our repression for too long.
In my experience, any psychological issues that need to be dealt
with rear their heads once we are spiritually strong enough to deal
with them. They can then be worked through under Sri Chinmoy’s
loving inner guidance. Usually when this happens there is a period
of struggle, which manifests outwardly, and we say to each other “Oh
she’s just going through Stuff” (do the guys talk like this too?).
It is actually quite similar to the process involved in good
psychotherapy, but on a vastly different level. Mostly, the person
eventually works the issue through and is able to move on to the
next challenge. Just like in therapy and in life, some people get
stuck on a certain issue for a long time, and others leave the path
because it’s just too hard to deal with it, or some part of them
actually likes the problem and doesn’t want to resolve it. Guru
never forces us to resolve issues, he just provides us with the
inner assistance, and the safe and loving environment to enable us
to work them through.
(By the way, for anyone interested in reading about this process at
play in another spiritual path, read the book ‘Unveiled – Nuns
Talking’ by Mary Loudon – a superb first person account of the lives
of nuns in various Christian orders in the UK.)
Back to innocence and purity!! Yes it does seem to be that these
qualities are misperceived, misunderstood and attacked by the world.
Unfortunately this can sometimes arise from within a spiritual group
such as ours as well as from outside, particularly when someone is
struggling with issues in the way I described above. I remember an
experience I had when I was quite new on the path – a year or two
perhaps. I was overwhelmed by the love, the peace and the
experiences of God that I had gained on the path, but at the same
time was struggling with some of the lifestyle aspects of the path.
I realised at this time that my positive experiences far outweighed
my struggles and that I definitely did not want to leave the path.
However in dealing with this struggle, I came to the realisation
that if anything ever pulled me away from the path, the only way I
would be able to bear to leave, would be to destroy in my mind all
the positive experiences I had gained – otherwise the grief of
leaving would be completely overwhelming. Everything good would have
to be made bad, everything pure made impure, in order to justify to
myself such an action.
I have seen a number of people leave the centre over the years, and
in my experience, it is those, like myself who have had tremendously
positive experiences in their spiritual life, who resort to this
destructive measure – and often they publicise their opinions, as if
to further convince themselves they have left something ‘bad’ not
good. On the other hand, people who never got much out of the path
in the first place, just tend to drift away.
Lastly, I would like to say a word about the place of therapy in all
this! The issue of abuse and therapy is such a complex and
controversial one. It is well known in the psychological community
that some therapists encourage patients to ‘dig’ for abuse that was
never there, and that some patients completely unconsciously project
their own impulses and traumas onto others who they then believe
‘abused’ them. On the other hand, we all know that abuse is
widespread in our society. I am extremely fortunate and grateful
that, in my own therapy, which was ending as my life on the path
began, I had the assistance of a very understanding therapist who
challenged but always respected and valued my spiritual life and
affirmed the decisions I made in relation to it. Such therapists do
exist, but I suspect they are fairly rare!
Oh dear, I’m afraid I have been overly mental and analytical in
writing all this!! Perhaps I can summarise by saying joining Sri
Chinmoy’s path has been the most fulfilling, freeing, life-affirming
decision I have ever made. Of course there have been struggles –
both within myself and with others, but I know that I have more than
enough help from Sri Chinmoy to deal with all these struggles.
Whilst I was never deprived of love before, my life is more filled
with love than ever before – a purified, unconditional love of the
sort I could only have dreamed of previously.
Endless gratitude to Guru for the blessings showered upon me on this
Date: Sun Mar 21, 2004 1:32 am
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
What a great question, and what eloquent responses! Part of me wants
to say, “What more can I add?” but I do want to express my opinion
as a woman who has been practicing meditation under the guidance of
Sri Chinmoy for the past 15+ years.
I think your question brings up two separate, but linked issues:
safety, and freedom/empowerment.
Usually when women think of safety, we think of it in physical
terms: I should not walk down this dark alleyway, I should not yell
back at this man because he might hit me, etc. I think Sarah said it
very concisely when she observed that we should try to focus on the
positive, because like attracts like, but not to the detriment of
common sense. Ideally (and ultimately) we will reach the stage where
our consciousness is so evolved that we will protect ourselves
simply by virtue of our state of being. Personally, I know that I am
still *very* far away from living in that state of consciousness, so
in the meantime, I will continue to utilize my common sense, pray
for protection, and do my best to avoid dark alleyways and abusive
Emotional safety is a much more complicated issue. When you ask if
the Sri Chinmoy Centre is a “safe” place for women, I believe this
is what you mean. After all, if your main concern is physical
safety, you need not enter a life of spiritual discipline to achieve
it–you can simply put a deadbolt on your door! Sri Chinmoy himself
has said (I paraphrase here) that if your motivation for entering
the spiritual life is one of avoiding outer unpleasantness, it will
not serve you well in terms of making spiritual progress. You need
to have aspiration, the inner yearning that urges you to seek the
Supreme, however you conceptualize Him/Her/It. If a woman was once
physically and/or emotionally abused, or fears this happening, she
may attach herself to a community like ours which gives her a
feeling of safety. In my opinion, there would be nothing wrong with
this, but her sense of support would not last long if the group’s
main focus was elsewhere. The Sri Chinmoy Centre does provide a
strong sense of community for those who choose to avail themselves
of everything it has to offer in an outer sense (and this
participation varies widely from member to member), but the real
motivator for those who remain on the path over the long term is the
spiritual relationship each person develops with Sri Chinmoy and the
guidance (s)he receives from him. It is primarily an inner
experience. The outer community is very important, but it is like
the sauce poured over your food–it tastes good, but will not
sustain you for long if it is all you eat.
Then there is the issue of freedom and personal empowerment. In this
respect, I can only say that I feel more empowered as Sri Chinmoy’s
student than I ever dreamed possible! I agree with everything that
everyone else has said regarding this. I have never felt stigmatized
for being a woman within the Centre–on the contrary, I have
received tremendous emotional support as a person (not as “a girl”
or “a woman”), during both happy and difficult periods of my life.
And the very, very few times (I suppose I am lucky) that I have felt
negatively judged by people who were *not* members of the Centre for
trying to lead a spiritual life, it has had nothing to do with my
As a student of Sri Chinmoy, I certainly do not live a sheltered
existence! In fact, one of the things that specifically attracted me
to his path was his philosophy of involvement in the world. (I would
make a very bad world-renouncer–there is too much in it that I
love.) One of my own personal beliefs, which has been strongly
reinforced by Sri Chinmoy, is that you cannot run away from the
world–you must actively work to transform it, beginning with
yourself. All real, lasting change comes from the inside out.
Sri Chinmoy has pushed me out of my own comfort zone many, many
times–and the result has *always* been a positive one, helping to
me to transcend my own limitations. Someone might interpret this as
lack of protection, I suppose, but if the bird is never pushed from
its nest, how will it learn to fly? I have never felt unsupported or
unguided at these times–just nervous, as we all are, when moving in
new and uncertain directions, trying to expand our own capacities.
Sri Chinmoy has said (I am paraphrasing again) that the Supreme will
never give you a problem that He has not already granted you the
capacity to handle. On Sri Chinmoy’s path I have achieved many
things that I never would have otherwise, and learned a great deal
about myself in the process.
I have never felt so protected AND so empowered.
Date: Sun Mar 21, 2004 3:44 am
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
Before I joined the Sri Chinmoy Centre I was a self-proclaimed
feminist, and proud of it. I took some feminist studies courses at
University and read many books and articles by feminists. I felt the
cause was significant and justified, and admired women who stood up
for their beliefs.
The problem was that the more I dived into the world of feminism,
the more agitated and angry I became. My struggle for an ideal of
freedom and liberation through feminist values was leaving me
feeling more and more ostracised and frustrated by the world around
me. Discrimination was everywhere!
I am not down-casting feminism as such, but only my personal
experience of being a feminist. I believe that my past experiences,
founded on trying to become a “free woman”, were based within the
confines of mental perceptions and judgement. My personal values
were not from my own heart, but were founded to a great extent on
the beliefs of other people. In the struggle for equality in a
male-dominated society, it became undeniably apparent that if there
was light at the end of this tunnel, it was a very long tunnel.
I am so grateful that I found the Sri Chinmoy Centre. From a
feminist perspective, the reality of having a male spiritual teacher
was quite testing at first, however I felt a whole new reality dawn
in my life. Some of my friends tried to dissuade me, but the
spiritual values of inspiration, love and true inner freedom were
undeniably light years ahead of what I was receiving from my
Meditation and Sri Chinmoy’s path has radically changed my
perception of the world around me, enabling me to connect with my
own deeper wisdom and spiritual feelings, rather than adopting a
fixed belief system. I am no longer disturbed if I am treated in a
discriminating way in the outer world, because I feel my own value
so powerfully within myself and recognise that I am responsible only
for my own behaviour and not that of others. I have a far greater
love and understanding of the world, and see the inherent good in
all people because I am able to see beyond the surface.
I give all credit for my inner development to Sri Chinmoy. If I have
learned anything about the true value of being a woman, I have to
say that it is Sri Chinmoy who has given me this awareness. I
wholeheartedly agree with the woman who said that “leading a
spiritual life has empowered her.” In no way do I feel repressed –
on the contrary, I have learned the true meaning of inner freedom
and strength. I think that a large part of the world is afraid of
spirituality, so they try to discount its value rather than try to
gain any deeper understanding of it.
Qualities like purity, innocence, sweetness and humility are given
little value in our society, and yet when we see them how beautiful
they are, how powerful they are! When we feel them within ourselves
how strong we feel, how happy we feel!
Sri Chinmoy has also taught me to be proud of my feminine qualities,
and to have respect for masculine qualities. The Supreme created man
and woman. We each have a significant role to perform here on earth,
in different ways. In the past men were perhaps given more
opportunity to develop spiritually, but now we each have equal
opportunity. I never even think about comparing males and females
anymore, our qualities are so different! Sri Chinmoy in particular
has no gender-based discrimination. He shows all his students
spiritual love, and encourages us to become one with our own souls,
the God-representative within us all. I remember hearing him say
once: “Every soul is so precious”.
Is the Sri Chinmoy Centre a safe place for women? How could it
possibly be unsafe? In every way we are all – regardless of whether
we are male or female – nurtured and protected. Sri Chinmoy’s
concern for our inner and outer safety is unprecedented and
Yes, I do feel protected in the Sri Chinmoy Centre, and for this my
gratitude is boundless. I feel a sense of protection in having Sri
Chinmoy as an unconditionally loving and caring teacher and friend,
to live in such a beautiful world with dozens of wonderful,
accepting friends, and to have the knowledge of living consciously,
in union with the Universal laws of righteousness, harmony and
With deepest gratitude,
Date: Sun Mar 21, 2004 4:13 am
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
Thank you for this inspiring and thought-provoking posting for
I signed up to this group last year. However, until now I have not
posted. I joined the Sri Chinmoy Centre 30 years ago when I was 31.
I came to the spiritual life after having many life experiences.
Although opportunities had been placed before me to marry and have a
family – always I found myself avoiding this step in life. When I
joined Sri Chinmoy’s path, he told me it was not necessary for me to
marry. When I heard this, I experienced a tremendous sense of relief
and felt liberated from the social pressures that are put upon women
to have a partner and children.
However, although I believed I had ‘done it all’ when I joined Sri
Chinmoy, he was able to show me that I had not even scratched the
surface of my potential. Through his gentle encouragement and
invitation to transcend our previous achievements, I was able to
experience so many things by bringing forward my inner spiritual
A few years after I joined the spiritual life, Sri Chinmoy announced
that he would like 100 of his students to run the New York City
Marathon. I was in Australia when I heard this, and immediately an
inner thrill let me know I had to be one of these Sri Chinmoy
participants. That year, which I believe was 1978, only 10% of the
entrants in the marathon were women. However, the Sri Chinmoy
contingent was composed of 50% women. This gave me a tremendous
feeling of pride that I belonged to an organization which encouraged
women in this way.
I noticed also that Sri Chinmoy encouraged his female students to
attempt inspiring activities that normally they would not do if they
had not joined the spiritual life. Often, women in the outer world
become so involved with family, children or career. They use this as
an excuse not to develop their own spiritual potential. I believe
the spiritual life can protect you from the illusion that you do not
have the capacity to achieve your own destiny both inwardly and
I work in the outer world, and come into contact with many women who
do not live fulfilled lives. They so often are on a roller-coaster
of emotional turmoil and insecurity. I am so grateful to have found
Sri Chinmoy half of my lifetime ago. He has allowed me to continue
to develop both my inner and outer life. Even when I make countless
mistakes and seriously neglect certain aspects of my life, he
remains patient and encouraging, never giving up on me, or for that
matter, on any of his female or male students.
On March 8th this year, the Sri Chinmoy Adelaide Centre opened a
cafe! So that is how we celebrated International Women’s Day.
However, we were so busy we did not really notice. We have four of
Sri Chinmoy’s Australian female students working there, and I
usually pop in early in the morning and again after I finish my
outer job. Please come and visit us next time you are in Adelaide!
Sri Chinmoy is a perfect role model for his students. He constantly
finds new projects and new ways to transcend. Constant newness in
his art, poetry and music flow from him. We remain happy when we
enter into this flow of newness. I would like to conclude this
posting with some of Sri Chinmoy’s prayers from the recent Christmas
“God’s will is not my master.
God’s will is my eternity’s partner.”
“Life is an endless God-discovery adventure.”
“I make no mistake when I tell the world that I am all God’s.
I make no mistake when I tell the world that God is all mine.”
“May my aspiration heart river run singing towards the ocean
Date: Mon Mar 22, 2004 8:22 am
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
As a female student of Sri Chinmoy, who lives in what is considered
the ‘local area’, I’d like to briefly respond to the question you
asked in this message: “Is the Sri Chinmoy Centre a safe place for
women?” My personal experience (after 25 years), is a resounding
YES!!! My Guru, Sri Chinmoy, right from the very beginning of my
spiritual life on his path, has been constantly, with utmost love
and compassion, giving me opportunity after opportunity to discover
and uncover the highest and best within myself, which I consider to
To undertake the quest for God, I feel one must be open and ready
for any and all experiences and challenges which are deemed
necessary by a spiritual Master of Sri Chinmoy’s caliber. I have
always been out in the world my whole life, and I really never cared
about or was affected by what others thought about my personal
spiritual quest. For me, my decision to ‘stick close to the Sri
Chinmoy Centre’ is not out of any need to feel protected, although I
have to say that as Sri Chinmoy’s student I have always felt totally
protected and utterly safe. Rather, I only know and care about the
fact that my Guru, in an unbelievably loving, compassionate and
patient way, has ONLY and ALWAYS been a direct conduit of the
Supreme for me, worthy of my absolute and total trust, love and
In the deepest part of my being, I know that the spirituality of Sri
Chinmoy’s path is truly authentic, and that anyone, male or female,
who is truly seeking the Absolute Supreme in their lives, can safely
feel that he/she will be lovingly guided according to their
individual bent and needs. In millions of ways throughout the years,
I have seen and felt Sri Chinmoy’s authenticity ring true.
I am truly grateful for this opportunity to express these feelings,
and doing so has re-inspired me and reminded me of just how
supremely fortunate I have been. I hope that I can remain so for the
rest of my life.
My love to all of you,
Date: Mon Mar 22, 2004 10:58 am
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
Safe – free from harm, injury or risk. “Safe” comes from the Latin
word “salvus” meaning whole or healthy.
Sri Chinmoy’s Path encompasses all of these meanings for women or
men. It is an environment free of harm, harassment or risk. It is a
whole and healthy environment.
I became a student of Sri Chinmoy over 30 years ago. Having had
positive experiences with other spiritual paths (Catholicism,
Judaism, Transcendental Meditation and Theravada Buddhism), my first
reaction was that Sri Chinmoy did not “need” anything from me. He
did not need me to add to his numbers of followers. He did not need
my admiration or my flattery. He did not need my money. This
impression has remained and has been reinforced in a million ways.
Here was not an ego that required feeding in any way. I felt trust
and faith–and to add the word used in your query: “safe”. I have
never seen that trust, faith and safety compromised in any way by
this pure, innocent and loving consciousness that I gratefully call
my spiritual teacher. Nor have I ever seen it broken with others.
The Sri Chinmoy Centre has been a uniquely safe place for me as a
woman, for my husband and for my children.
I have seen others break faith with their own spirituality. I have
seen others veer in other directions. I have seen others drift away.
I have seen others “take a break” for a while and return. I have
seen others find something that worked better for them. But, I have
never seen Sri Chinmoy break trust with anyone whether they were his
student or not. There is real spirituality in this world, and Sri
Chinmoy is one of its representatives. Yes, people throw the “ink of
their mind” on it, but that does not diminish it in any way.
As for the many ways that Sri Chinmoy has encouraged and “empowered”
women, my sisters have replied much more eloquently. I am grateful
for your query.
Date: Mon Mar 22, 2004 7:38 pm
Subject: Re: Question for Women
Here is my response to the question posed by the moderator, “Is the
Sri Chinmoy Centre a safe place for women?” The answer is yes! Yes
for all the reasons that my spiritual sisters have already outlined
in the previous postings, and yes for a multitude of other reasons.
Following are a few of my thoughts on the subject. (I planned on
writing a brief reply, but as you can see I was not able to do it!)
Sri Chinmoy has pioneered a path in which women can be dynamic,
active, intelligent and powerful while at the same time maintaining
a very deep and pure spiritual life. For millennia, spiritual women
have been disallowed from playing a strong role in the outer world.
Now, however, we are encouraged to bring forward the full force of
our capacities so that they can be utilized for the manifestation of
Most women today define and fulfill themselves either through their
family life (husband and children) or through their careers. I do
not think that there is anything wrong (or second-rate) with either
of these roles, but I am just so grateful that there is now a third
choice. Some women simply don’t want these things, and as students
of Sri Chinmoy we are able to contribute to humanity in many
meaningful ways without having to conform to mainstream roles that
The Centre protects us from the superficiality and materialism that
pervades modern life in the Western world. This is not to say that
we are entirely immune to the attraction of materialism, but because
of Sri Chinmoy’s presence and unparalleled manifestation, it becomes
very easy for us to choose a higher experience–one that cannot be
offered by any material achievement or mundane experience. In the
absence of this alternative, many women in the secular world make
poor choices, and as a result suffer continual unhappiness.
The strict guidelines Sri Chinmoy has put in place regarding
interaction between the men and the women of the Centre add to my
feeling of safety. The socialization that takes place in most other
groups with a high concentration of single men and women leads to
the inevitable result: They view each other as potential romantic
partners. But because Sri Chinmoy has drawn the line very clearly,
and because we have all experienced the true spiritual benefits of
this way of life, the women can have a multitude of “brothers” and
can feel safe from any unwanted advances.
The surest sense of safety that we feel is the very real experience
of a higher consciousness and a deeper understanding of what it is
to be fully alive. The highest beauty offered by the human
experience is that of feeling God, serving God, pleasing God, and,
little by little, realizing God. By living in this communion every
day (some days more than others), we experience an impenetrable
security–one that transcends mundane experience. We are constantly
reminded by the inner voice that no matter what happens in the outer
world, we are safe and secure in the heart of our Master.
One thing that may surprise the men who are following the postings
on this topic is that many women disciples, myself included, really
love wearing a sari. It is a beautiful, modest, spiritual garment
that reminds the woman wearing it that she is first and foremost a
spiritual seeker. When I put on a sari, I instantly become more
conscious of my inner life and more inspired to aspire and serve.
OK, that’s enough from me (at least for now)!
Date: Mon Mar 22, 2004 10:57 pm
Subject: Re: Question for Women for Vasudha esp!
I couldn’t resist replying – I’m hooked on this site and especially
this topic! I would never have thought of bringing up the sari
issue, but I totally agree! I’m not sure if others are surprised or
not, but it’s true – I also love wearing saris! In fact, I love
wearing saris so much I wear one every day to work in my government
job. I do it to help my consciousness at work, and also because it
totally protects me from unwanted interest from men! I noticed a
huge difference in the way my work mates treated me the first day I
wore one (probably 6 years ago now). People at work apologise if
they swear in my presence now, and warn me if they’re going to talk
about something that they think I wouldn’t want to hear. It’s great!
Date: Tue Mar 23, 2004 4:53 pm
I just joined this discussion group, having had no idea these kinds
of very deep, thought-provoking and moving dialogues were going on!
To all my sisters and brothers around the world, I am so impressed
by your eloquence, clarity and moving testaments to how Sri Chinmoy
enriches all our lives whether we are female, male, single or
I am one of the rare ones who got married on the path (30 years
ago), and have seen so many changes over the years. As Guru clearly
saw the potential for women on the path to feel completely safe,
secure, and dare I say ’empowered’, he changed the path’s direction.
It was no longer a social club, as it had been for some, but a
serious path to inner enlightenment where all could feel directed,
motivated and supported by both men and women, without the threat of
compromising their spirituality.
On the other hand, for those who were married as I was, it was a
place where Guru supported the equality of both male and female, and
treated them as individuals and as one (whatever was necessary for
the individual’s growth). I think it has always been clear in all
disciples’ minds that spirituality comes first, and each individual
needs his or her own experience for spiritual progress. God and Guru
have always come first for both of us, and I am grateful for that
every day. I am also grateful to the single women for their
incredible strength and independent spirits. Whatever our status, we
are all Guru’s children, and under his loving care we are able to
grow and change and hopefully realize God. Keep that inspiration
Devaki (Montreal, Canada)
From: Toshala and Wendy Elliott
Date: Wed Mar 24, 2004 2:43 pm
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
I am so happy to have this opportunity to say how much I love being
in the Sri Chinmoy Centre.
My mother and I come from a close-knit and loving family, and had
led very sheltered lives. Up until the late 1980’s, we were very
involved in family matters and had happy, full lives. All of this
was stripped away over a short time when most of the family members
close to us died Ð from cancers, heart attacks and leukemia. Whilst
undergoing this personal holocaust, we came to the understanding
that God is all there is – everything else can be stripped away from
you, all of the trappings of life and everyone that you love,
everything can go. But always there is God. God became very real to
both of us over this time, and we were two very changed people. When
we came across the Sri Chinmoy Centre, it was just what God had been
preparing us for Ð and to our joy and gratitude, Sri Chinmoy
accepted us into the Centre. Since then we have lived again – we
have known joy and love and the world has become radiant again.
Our lives have blossomed in the last 13 years since we joined this
-I was a student when I joined the Centre. I completed my Ph.D in
science 10 years ago. I was not entirely happy doing this kind of
work, but I was good at it. Now I am successfully in business in the
food industry, with a beautiful Enterprise and a sense of
fulfillment and joy in what I am doing.
-I have seen my mother emerge from being a shy and reserved little
thing to becoming a happy, clever and self-confident woman.
So that is how being students of Sri Chinmoy has shaped our lives;
but the question we were asked is:
Is Sri Chinmoy Centre a safe place for women?
Our resounding answer is: Yes! It certainly is!
It needs to be said, though, that whilst there is a large measure of
protection afforded to us (for instance, a large prowler was once
coming for me and when I chanted a powerful mantra out loud, he
inexplicably fell over and I got away), such protection is secondary
to actually being a student of Sri Chinmoy. Our personal driving
reasons for joining the Centre had nothing to do with safety, and
may I be so bold to say that it tends to suggest that seekers are
meek, mouse-like and insipid, whereas I have noticed that most of
the women seekers I know are brave and self-assured.
We are very happy that we are in the Sri Chinmoy Centre, and the
highly tangible safety that we have been afforded is an added bonus.
Dr. Toshala Elliott, with Mrs. Wendy Elliott
Date: Thu Mar 25, 2004 4:27 am
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
Is the Sri Chinmoy Centre a safe place women?
Definitely 100 times over! I could not imagine a safer place to be,
but that is not the reason I stay in the Centre. It is simply
because I love Sri Chinmoy and I do not want to be far from his
In my teenage years, I attended a Catholic girls’ high school which
I found to be a very nurturing, loving environment. I liked the fact
that it was all girls because it enabled me to grow and blossom, and
have more self-confidence than I think I would have if I had been at
a co-educational school.
The spiritual life with Sri Chinmoy is not unlike this. I feel
nurtured and able to grow as an individual without feeling
overshadowed. Sri Chinmoy has a unique and special way of dealing
with each and every individual to bring out the best in all of us.
He has spared nothing of himself in complete self-offering to help
us become and remain happy, and to grow into our highest potential.
I believe the Sri Chinmoy Centre is not only a safe place to be, but
perhaps the safest place in the entire world because of Sri
Chinmoy’s all-pervading love and protection, which we all feel.
I too greatly agree with the comment of feeling ’empowered living a
spiritual life’, because what can be more empowering than the fact
that we are growing into our true selves? That is to say, we are
discovering our souls and growing into their infinite freedom,
rather than dwelling in the realm of the mind which is often dry and
full of problems.
I too believe that some of the most precious and loving people that
the earth has seen are, and have been treated unjustly by the
ignorance of humanity. We only have to look at history to see how
many people have been mercilessly mistreated by the ignorance of the
age, and only afterwards did humanity realise these people to be
prophets, geniuses, saints and direct representatives of God. To
name only a few (and I am sure every field of human endeavour has
them): the impressionist painters, Van Gogh, Joan of Arc and Jesus
Christ. Christ’s breathtaking and sacrificing life gives us this
message in its most devastating form. He was crucified literally by
the ignorance of this world. It is sad to know that such ignorance
still lives in the world today, in the minds and actions of those
who taunt and attack the most pure of men.
I only know that at least I am playing my part in the divine play,
and growing in the Supreme’s divine Light into a happy and fulfilled
God-lover, in the lap of the Sri Chinmoy Centre.
Date: Fri Mar 26, 2004 6:13 am
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
I would like to respond to the question about safety. Having had the
incredible privilege of being in the Sri Chinmoy Centre for three
decades, I can confirm that the Centre is indeed a safe place for
women. This path gives full respect and responsibility to both
genders. Good qualities such as gentleness, courtesy, strength and
purity are encouraged among all Centre members, so the women do not
have to suffer from the patronization and base macho behaviour so
prevalent among Western males. Nor do we have to play coy games of
flirtation and manipulation to gain position or prestige. Far from
being ‘repressed’, the women in our Centre feel very free to be
themselves, to steadily transcend their own limitations and to
develop their individual capacities.
Meditating and following the teachings of Sri Chinmoy has enabled me
to grow far beyond the tremendous fear, frustration, helplessness
and confusion that governed my early years, and to reach a joyful
understanding of life as a vast field for making personal progress
and for serving God and humanity.
Quite simply, being in the Sri Chinmoy Centre makes me increasingly
happy and poised. I cannot now imagine being confined to the
‘normal’ life of most other women, who follow the status quo and
look for satisfaction only in relationships, careers and material
possessions. I love my life of prayer and meditation, and I thank
God for the blessing of having an enlightened Master and a worldwide
family of aspiring brothers and sisters.
Date: Sat Mar 27, 2004 7:03 am
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
A few thoughts in response to your question about women’s experience
in the Sri Chinmoy Centre:
I personally came to the Centre at the age of 20 years. Now 32 years
later, I can answer with the strongest affirmation that the Sri
Chinmoy Centre is a very, very safe place for women–and men! (My
sister also joined Sri Chinmoy’s path 32 years ago, some months
after I did.)
I was trying to read between the lines, trying to understand what
you were referring to when you asked if women are safe in the
Centre. Were you referring to the rape, abuse and harassment of
women that you mentioned? These issues just have absolutely nothing
to do with life in the Centre–thank God!–so much so that I am
still trying to be sure that was part of your question to us female
Centre members. The Sri Chinmoy Centre is a spiritual place where
men and women come to pray and meditate. It is not a place for
social life or sexual relationships. The people who join the Centre
know that from the time they join, and they have happily chosen this
Maybe there are other meanings to your question about being safe?
Might I say that women members of the Centre are not only safe, but
also happy. I do not think there is a single female student of Sri
Chinmoy who came to his spiritual path just to be “safe” as you are
suggesting. Those who came to Sri Chinmoy to study did so because
they feel a need to improve their lives and progress as individuals
towards their own highest potential. This aspiration is not a
gender-related issue; it is a common spiritual pursuit. This is a
path of self-discovery and self-transformation. The Sri Chinmoy
Centre provides a very positive atmosphere for individuals to evolve
into the very best they can become. The Centre is like a warm family
where people treat one another appreciatively and respectfully like
brothers and sisters. Women play leadership roles in the worldwide
Centres, as do men. Many of us have established our own private
businesses (my sister and I, for example, have operated a vegetarian
restaurant since 1974). We women participate in sports events, art
and music events and community events on an equal basis with the
male members of the Centre. The truth is that we do not particularly
need to celebrate International Women’s Day. Why? Because it is
already an integral part of our daily Centre lives. Women are
encouraged and appreciated in the Sri Chinmoy Centre on a daily
basis. They must also bear responsibilities and face all the same
challenges of a busy, modern-day life that the male members do.
I wonder if there is some confusion about spirituality itself. The
spiritual life is not intended to be an escape from practical,
responsible life or from society. On the contrary, men and women
alike in the Sri Chinmoy Centre are encouraged to be active,
I do believe that in some countries where Women’s Day is a more
popular holiday, such as the former Soviet Union, Serbia and
Montenegro, it is observed in the Centres. Where I am located in
the U.S.A., Women’s Day is not such a widely popular holiday.
Women are by nature–their highest nature–sweet, soft, tender and
self-giving, but that does not mean they have to be in a position of
being taken advantage of. Women also have fortitude, strength and
patience. The time has come for women to bravely and sincerely
accept the spiritual life–the life of prayer, meditation and
selfless service–so we can transform our weaknesses and strengthen
our positive qualities. I have never met anyone who encourages women
to do so more than Sri Chinmoy.
Jamaica, New York
Date: Sat Mar 27, 2004 11:30 am
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
Thank you to all the women who are sharing their feelings and
experiences. There seems to be quite a bit of interest in this
I realize now that some women couldn’t even believe I was asking the
question about safety in the Centre. They could not imagine I was
asking about rape, abuse and harassment of women, since–judging by
their responses–these things simply do not occur in the Centre.
By way of apology, I can only say that sometimes there’s a
disconnect between the pure life led by spiritual seekers, and the
way they are depicted outside their own communities. One of the
reasons I started this topic is that I was asking myself: “Who has
the right to define spiritual seekers? Do they get to define
themselves? Or do they get defined and labeled by others?”
I think sometimes there are others who try and usurp the right of
spiritual seekers to define themselves. I am glad that the women of
Sri Chinmoy Centre are speaking out with their own voices, claiming
the right to have their own lives and own stories speak for
themselves. In my opening question I wrote:
“Sometimes it seems that in the outer world, people have many
strange ideas. They think that because someone prays and meditates
and joins in the life of a spiritual community, that means they are
“abused.” Also, it seems that if someone leaves a spiritual group
and later enters into therapy, there is tremendous pressure on them
to conform to negative stereotypes about “cults.” In some cases,
they seem to make up ridiculous stories designed to please their
therapist. Maybe this is one reason there is so much confusion about
I would like to follow up on some issues raised by Sushmitam in
connection with her years of experience as a psychotherapist. She
implied that there is such a thing as “good therapy” and “bad
therapy.” I believe this to be very true.
In therapy, patients are often concerned with creating a narrative
truth for past events–one they can live with. A narrative truth is
not a literal truth, it is a retelling of the story of one’s life.
The patient and the therapist reach an agreement about how the story
should be told, and the emphasis is not always on what is literally
true, but on what will make the patient “feel better”–or in some
cases, what will satisfy the therapist’s psychological theories or
Gifted therapists don’t allow their patients to adopt a narrative
which is a mere stereotype, which drastically alters reality, or
which unfairly demonizes third parties. Unfortunately, many bad
therapists will encourage precisely that, particularly those with an
ideological bias (such as anti-cultism).
People who have the misfortune of hooking up with an anti-cult
therapist may be told that they adopted spiritual practice due to
psychological frailties, bad parenting, an unhappy love affair, or
“cult mind control.” Yet, social scientists who have studied the
data have concluded that people who join religious movements tend to
do so in response to deeply felt spiritual needs–often after a
period in which they were dissatisfied with the quality of their
spiritual life. This is certainly borne out by the women’s stories
in this thread.
Sushmitam, you were talking about how people following a spiritual
path eventually have to confront their personal issues, and how
sometimes that’s the point at which they leave. Maybe they received
abundant light and love which touched them to the very core of their
being, but something in their nature wanted to cling to their old
life. So they leave. Then, what is their experience? I have been
studying this issue, and I would like to share some observations.
At first they may promise themselves that they will remain faithful
“in their hearts” to the gifts they received. But when they are away
from spiritual practice, gradually they may lose that sense of
connectedness. They may feel a bit lost in the secular world, and
also guilty about having abandoned their faith. In some cases, they
may turn to drugs and alcohol. Eventually, they may seek the help of
This is a pivotal point. Such a person does not have a “cult
problem,” they have an adjustment problem. A really good therapist
would see this. But if they get a bad therapist, especially one
allied with the anti-cult movement, then they will be told they are
“victims of cult abuse.”
The patient may argue, “No, no, I was never abused. In fact, I was
shown tremendous love and kindness. If anything, I feel really
guilty about having let down my teacher and my friends, and having
failed to achieve my personal goals.” But the therapist may say:
“All ‘cults’ and ‘cult leaders’ are the same. They are all abusers.
You must have been abused, I know you were. I want you to read these
books about ‘cult’ abuse. Then I want you to think about all the
ways you were abused and write them down in a journal. Remember, I
can’t help you until you admit you were abused. Then you have to get
angry at the ‘cult leader.’ Once you start showing signs of
‘progress,’ I can gradually reduce your medication. I can also
introduce you to a little group where people like you help each
other ‘recover’ from ‘cult abuse’ by sharing their ‘testimonials’
with the public. The final test of whether you’re really ‘cured’ is
if you’re willing to ‘rescue’ other ‘cult victims’ by telling them
the ‘new information’ you’ve learned about the ‘cult.'”
Exposure to hate material in a group setting, plus complete
isolation from the spiritual group, can produce a radical inversion
of views. This is much like what is done to prisoners of war. They
are shown writing samples which vilify a person or group, and
pressured to write “confessions” or “testimonials” which will bring
their own accounts into conformity. They are constantly urged to
“imagine” a person doing horrible things which that person has NEVER
done in real life. Such false accounts gradually become real to them
through vicarious experience. (Psychologists call this “imagination
inflation.”) Gradually, the image of a beloved mentor is replaced
with the stereotype of a hated “cult leader.”
In my opinion, this kind of “treatment” by anti-cult therapists is
itself a form of abuse, and often leads to cases of False Memory
Syndrome (FMS). In the 1995 Sydney Morning Herald series “Therapy In
Turmoil: The Memory Controversy,” Richard Guilliatt writes:
“Dr Jerome Gelb, a Melbourne psychiatrist who has recently treated
nine women for satanic abuse, says he now believes the stories are
“‘I have had three patients who have openly stated that their
“memories” were induced by the therapists they were seeing,’ said Dr
Gelb. ‘They were pressured into accusing family members of incest,
pressured into saying they were satanically abused, and in one case
pressured into leaving home.'”
“Dr Gelb argues that ‘a significant cadre of poorly trained,
overzealous or ideologically driven psychotherapists have pursued a
series of pseudo-scientific notions that have ultimately damaged the
patients who have come to them for help.’ He says that three of his
patients have now acknowledged that their recovered ‘memories’ of
abuse were actually confabulations produced by suggestive therapy.”
“Dr Gelb has since become one of the most outspoken critics of
recovered memory in Australia, arguing in the pages of Australiasian
Psychiatry that therapists have done untold damage by using highly
suggestive techniques to induce false beliefs in their patients.”
Malcolm Stern of the British False Memory Society writes:
“FMS involves not just recovering supposed memories but making them
the central feature in one’s life, the basis of a new identity. The
rewards can be substantial: attention and sympathy; status as a
survivor (very fashionable in some circles); the companionship of
fellow-sufferers; above all, the comfort of knowing that, whatever
one’s past or present problems, somebody else was to blame.”
“We have seen [sufferers] reject anyone who doubts their
allegations, rush to join support groups, pore over the self-help
literature–in short, turn themselves into full-blown, single-minded
victims[.] … We, for our part, regard them as victims of
irresponsible therapy, often allied to a dubious ideology.” [BFMS
Newsletter, Vol 7. No 1 August 1999]
Charlotte Vale Allen, a genuine abuse survivor and the author of
Daddy’s Girl writes:
“A woman I’ve known for over thirty years who’s always been
searching for her ‘gift,’ for the career move that will finally
bring her happiness has now got memories that fill her with purpose.
After falling out of touch for a decade, she telephoned to say, in
essence, ‘Guess what? Me, too!’ But in the very new tones of
tremendous self-importance. This woman who’d never been able to find
something to do in life that would bring her any satisfaction was
now positively brimming with it. With the help of her therapist,
she’d at last found her calling–as a victim! She had ludicrous,
unbelievable tales to tell of satanic abuse–in the heart of one of
Toronto’s oldest, wealthiest areas. Right! … What is going on?
It’s as if some sort of collective lunacy has taken hold of
people–the patients and therapists, both lockstepped in a march
toward finding a past history of abuse at all costs. Victimhood as a
desirable status is anathema to me[.]” [From the website of
Charlotte Vale Allen]
I apologize for bringing in a number of ideas which may seem strange
to members of a spiritual organization which has no history of
abuse. I guess my reason for doing so is to try and explain the
disconnect between the reality of Sri Chinmoy Centre–which has an
unblemished reputation–and the type of hate material which is
sometimes used to discourage people from choosing spiritual
In closing, I would like to say that there is good therapy and bad
therapy–and then there is downright abusive therapy. When former
spiritual seekers go to a therapist with a simple adjustment
problem, and end up being subjected to a program of psychological
manipulation which leaves them believing in ridiculous tales of
abuse for which there is no objective evidence, that is downright
One might even call such therapy a form of “social engineering.”
After all, personal information about the patient is being used to
advance the therapist’s hidden agenda. In such cases, the therapist
seems less concerned with helping the patient become a happy, well-
adjusted person, and more concerned with turning them into an
anti-cult activist willing to spread hate material about their
In fairness, I would guess that most therapists are compassionate
healers who do want to help their patients. However, a therapist’s
world view can strongly influence his or her sense of what it truly
means to “help.” A gifted therapist might recognize that spiritual
seekers will not be helped by a programme designed to turn them into
secular conformists. But a “hack” may try and convince spiritual
seekers to abandon their faith and lead an ultra-pragmatic life
rooted in career, family and creature comforts. Therapy is, after
all, a mentoring tradition. Patients are most likely to be
pronounced “cured” if they end up mirroring the therapist’s world
view, and adopting a retelling of their life story approved by the
therapist. Where we see former spiritual seekers turned psychiatric
patients telling highly scripted accounts of how they were “abused
by the cult,” and where there is absolutely no evidence of such
abuse–where the real world data in fact indicates quite the
opposite–then we are right to conclude that these stories are
coming from the therapist, not the patient.
I recently had a chance to review some correspondence on these
issues. I was struck by the fact that in the thirty-five year
history of Sri Chinmoy Centre, no one has ever filed any complaint
of sexual abuse, child abuse, or anything of the sort. I guess that
laudable record would come as no surprise to the women participating
in this discussion. What is surprising is that there are people who
make their living advertising to parents that for a few thousand
dollars, they will perform a “cult intervention” which will “rescue”
their child from “abuse by the cult.” It seems clear to me that
false tales of abuse serve as a marketing tool to sell such
“services.” I consider this practice highly unethical, if not
I hope this makes clear my reason for having asked the question “Is
Sri Chinmoy Centre a safe place for women?” And because women have
such strong nurturing and protective instincts toward children, I
would also like to expand my original question to the women: Is the
Sri Chinmoy Centre a safe place for children?
Date: Sat Apr 3, 2004 2:45 am
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
Re: Qn For Women – therapy, Freud, false memory – reply to 3311
–Dear Moderator, thank you for your very detailed analysis of the
psychological factors at play in this whole issue of therapy and the
potential for false accusations towards spiritual groups. It is a
fascinating issue (to me as a psychologist anyway!) but also a
rather distasteful one to contemplate. Whenever I read in the papers
of this type of abuse supposedly occurring in a spiritual group, I
always keep an open mind about where the truth really lies. At any
rate, since you have expanded on some of the things I wrote in my
previous posting, I’ve decided to add a few comments.
I believe that the scenario you describe whereby a patient may come
to say that she has been abused by a spiritual group definitely
occurs. The process you describe is at the more gross end of
therapeutic irresponsibility, and readers may be shocked to realise
that this can happen. I have two main comments relating to this
issue. The first involves an elaboration of some of the more subtle
ways in which false accusations may arise. The second is an
explanation for how there can be such incredibly abusive therapy.
1.You elaborated on the psychological processes which may occur when
someone leaves a spiritual path – a path which they found positive,
but which challenged aspects of their nature which they chose not to
transform. I think in my original posting I emphasised the grief
involved in leaving, and you have quite rightly identified guilt as
another factor. You emphasised guilt in relation to the spiritual
teacher and friends on the path. I would also add that I think there
is enormous guilt in relation to the self in such cases. A person
who has found great love and light through a spiritual path, but
cannot bear to give up old ways, is at some level aware that they
are betraying their own highest self or soul. How could such a
person possibly bear the knowledge of this self-betrayal? One way is
to make the group or the Guru ‘bad’ in their mind. I think this
helps us to understand the process you describe (which might
otherwise seem an unlikely scenario) whereby a patient ends up
agreeing with what are basically lies put forward by the therapist.
The therapist’s suggestion of abuse helps the patient to resolve the
internal conflict of leaving something which has been positive, so
she is willing to take these lies onboard.
Importantly though, in my opinion, false memories and accusations of
abuse can also arise directly from the patient, without therapist
suggestion. How could it be that a patient comes up with her own
lies – and believes them?? Surely just needing to find a way of
dealing with the inner conflict arising from leaving a spiritual
group would not be enough to produce such lies! To understand this
phenomenon, we can obtain a little help from an old friend of mine,
Sigmund Freud! (Yes I know Freud is out of date, and overemphasised
the role of the sexual impulse in everything, but some of his ideas
are still very relevant. Bear with me!)
Freud discovered, to his absolute amazement, that some of his female
patients were falling in love with him and expecting or believing
that he too would love them! What on earth was going on?? He
eventually came to the understanding that patients project onto
their therapist many unresolved desires and impulses, and that they
do this completely unconsciously. This process of projection (or
transference, as it is called in the therapy context) can be
observed in all sorts of relationships. It is accentuated in the
type of therapy Freud advocated, where the therapist does not give
much away about himself personally, so the patient, in the absence
of any clues to the contrary, projects onto the ‘blank slate’ of the
therapist all sorts of issues, which are then used by the therapist
as information about the patient. (A simplistic example: someone who
grew up with parents who were constantly angry with her, easily
expects anger, and so will come to believe her therapist is angry
with her even when he is not.)
Interestingly, this phenomenon is common in the spiritual life,
particularly when there is a Guru involved. A spiritual seeker,
hoping for transformation, will project on the Guru all sorts of
emotions, hopes and desires, some consciously and some
unconsciously. To use the example I gave above, a seeker who has
unresolved problems with anger, may feel that her Guru is angry with
her, even when he is not.
A Guru like Sri Chinmoy offers inner guidance to thousands of
seekers, and helps them in their meditation; but he cannot possibly
become personally involved in all the details of each person’s life.
If a seeker projects her desires on the Guru, there may be little
opportunity to “talk it out.” The seeker is responsible for
maintaining the right attitude. Hopefully, through meditation and
perhaps some reality checking with others, she will come to see how
she expects anger much of the time, and because of this she is blind
to the spiritual love that her Guru is inwardly expressing. I have
frequently observed this phenomenon at play amongst Sri Chinmoy’s
students, and usually it is all part of the transformation process
and has a positive outcome.
Now if this process of projection by the seeker includes sexual or
aggressive impulses, as it did with Freud, and the seeker leaves
before these are transformed, the misperceiving of the Guru can lead
to accusations of abuse of various sorts. In this case, the person
actually sees and experiences her own impulses as being those of the
Guru. It then requires a much smaller slip in perception of reality
for such a person to believe that a Guru has behaved in an abusive
manner. Unfortunately, the line between sanity and madness is not as
clear as most people believe – as anyone working in the
psychological field will affirm!
2. Now to the issue of how on earth there can be such irresponsible
and abusive therapists! This is truly an appalling state of affairs,
and is largely due to the training or lack thereof in the therapy
profession. I’m not sure how therapy training and legislation works
in the USA, but the problem is very clear in Australia. For
starters, anyone at all, without one day of training, or any
psychological insight, can hang up a shingle outside an office and
describe themselves as “counsellor”, “therapist” or
“psychotherapist”. These titles have no legal requirements attached
Then there are psychiatrists. In Australia, their training is first
a medical degree, then postgraduate specialisation in psychiatry,
which is largely training on the use of psychiatric medication. They
get almost no training in the talking side of things. This is fine
if they stick to prescribing and adjusting medication, which many of
them do. However others dabble in counselling or therapy with no
extra training – as do ordinary doctors here.
Now to psychologists! I am one of these. I can confidently say that
in a basic psychology degree here in Australia, one can gain high
marks solely on the basis of investigating animal behaviour (e.g.,
pigeons). After this, one is let loose to practice on people – at
first under supervision, and then on one’s own. This is another
recipe for therapeutic disaster!
Many people in the helping professions choose to get extra training
(thank God!), but it is not required by their professional body, and
is of varying quality. In my opinion, to be effective, any training
in this area MUST require the trainee to undergo therapy him or
herself. Otherwise, aspects of the therapist’s own personality,
which are unrecognised, will be projected onto the patients. The
best therapists that I have come across have all had this type of
training. Certainly some therapists are more gifted than others, but
the worst case scenarios you describe occur due to a lack of proper
As I said in my previous posting, I was very fortunate myself to
have a therapist who was full of integrity and understanding and was
very well trained. He freely admitted to me that he had no firsthand
experience in the area of spirituality, but he was very respectful
of my experience and had no agenda of his own in relation to the
lifestyle and beliefs I came to adopt.
Well! Never did I imagine that I would find myself posting on such a
psychologically convoluted topic on this site! The spiritual life is
always full of surprises!
Date: Sat Mar 27, 2004 7:56 am
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
In answering the question about how my experiences as a student of
Sri Chinmoy have shaped my life, I am thinking back to the sixties
when I stumbled on Yoga and meditation before they were as
mainstream as they are today. I was desperately looking for
something to help me concentrate on my studies and cope with tension
in my senior year in high school. Yoga not only helped with stress
management, but opened doors to so much more, including the concept
of becoming closer to God–something previously foreign to me in my
One recurring theme in Sri Chinmoy’s writings is that the spiritual
life is extremely practical. Indeed, I feel so fortunate to have
discovered the practical tools of faith, meditation and prayer as a
teenager, and they have helped me ever since to get through each day
with a little more poise, energy and joy. Needless to say, I am
extremely grateful for Sri Chinmoy’s inner and outer teachings,
which have guided me and inspired me for over three decades in
efforts to better myself and, in my own small way, to make the world
a better place. And I am also grateful to have had the support of my
spiritual brothers and sisters, who have always been there for me,
whether it be in addressing day to day concerns, or in times of
crisis, such as the recent death of my father or my own
hospitalization from pneumonia a few months ago.
Which brings me to the last question–is the Sri Chinmoy Centre a
safe place for women? First, I think that this modern form of
spirituality offers a healthy and safe balance between our spiritual
and secular lives, with all of us living in our own homes or
apartments, having different jobs and activities, and maintaining
our financial independence. And in terms of receiving encouragement
and security from what has become my extended family, and benefiting
from the guidance of a very wise and compassionate Spiritual
Teacher, I would answer yes, a definite yes, a resounding yes!
Date: Sat Mar 27, 2004 3:22 pm
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
This is in response to the “Question for the Women,” which caught my
eye and raised some issues on which I would like to share my views.
Perhaps it is best to first tell a little about myself. My name is
Tanima, and I have been a student of Sri Chinmoy for 36 years, since
February 1968, when I joined at the age of 20, in my last year of
college. Actually, my mom first joined Sri Chinmoy Centre and then
inspired me. She had heard about Sri Chinmoy from the publicist for
the Off-Broadway show she was performing in, and she joined in 1967.
I am fortunate to have been an integral member of Sri Chinmoy Centre
from the beginning, and have been deeply involved in the activities
of Sri Chinmoy and his students, mainly as a leader of singing
groups, teaching and performing his devotional songs. Since 1970, I
have lived in Jamaica, Queens, New York, which is the central
location of the Centre.
Now, to get to the question. The writer refers to the many abuses
women are subjected to in the outer world, and asks: “Is Sri Chinmoy
Centre a safe place for women?” The answer, of course, is an
Obviously, I can speak only from my own experience; however, that
experience has been long, extensive and comprehensive. It would be
impossible to be closely associated on an almost daily basis for 36
years with an organization and its leader, and not know the truest
nature of both on every level. I can unequivocally say that Sri
Chinmoy, his path and his disciples embody only the absolute highest
standards, not only of purity, but also of spirituality, morality
and integrity. I have never, ever once, in my thousands upon
thousands of interactions with either Sri Chinmoy or his male
disciples, personally been the recipient of, or witnessed, or even
heard of any abusively untoward, undivine or impure actions. (Let me
also say that even on a subtle plane, we women have a special inner
“antenna” when it comes to this. There is not a woman in the world
who wouldn’t recognize a man’s “vibe”, look, innuendos or actions
that indicate his impure intentions.)
Sri Chinmoy is a spiritual Master of the highest principles, the
highest purity, and the deepest goodness, and his students reflect
this high standard in all that they do. The way both he and his male
students relate to the female students is always, under all
circumstances, on the purest level, following the ancient Eastern
spiritual traditions. To give a few examples: at all meditations and
functions, the women and men sit completely separately; women and
men do not ride together in a car, except perhaps for couples and
relatives; even when we perform spiritual plays, the women and men
rehearse in completely separate groups.
As far as the writer getting “the feeling that many women stick
close to Sri Chinmoy Centre because they feel protected there,” for
myself–and I think for many of my longtime friends on the path–I
would not say that we stay in the Centre solely for this reason,
though the protection of our pure lifestyle is certainly an added
“plus.” We stay because our lives have been transformed and continue
to be transformed for the better. We stay because Sri Chinmoy is
such a remarkable, elevated, and illumined spiritual Master who
teaches us how to bring forward and strengthen our very best
qualities, how to transcend our limitations and weaknesses, how to
aspire, pray and meditate, and become better citizens of the world.
The writer also speaks of people saying that women who choose the
spiritual life are “repressed.” For myself, it is exactly the
opposite. Nothing could be more liberating than not to have to rely
on or answer to a male partner, or to be bound to the full-time,
almost lifelong responsibility of raising children. Don’t
misunderstand me: many women are happy and fulfilled with such a
life. We need them in the world, and I do not look down upon them.
However, I could not be happier with the choice I have made–to lead
a dedicated spiritual life, a life which, thanks to my spiritual
Master, Sri Chinmoy, is fulfilled in unceasing self-transcendence.
I thank the author of the question, and thank all those who might
read this for the opportunity to share my views.
Date: Sat Mar 27, 2004 4:19 pm
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
I am extremely fortunate to have been a student of Sri Chinmoy since
the age of 18. I am now 54. For 36 years I have been privileged to
receive Sri Chinmoy’s illumined spiritual guidance and encouragement
in every aspect of my life.
As a woman on this path, I am able to cultivate my capacities and my
feminine qualities in a powerfully nurturing environment together
with my fellow students. I feel safe; I feel strong. In the Sri
Chinmoy Centre, I meditate, I sing, I write, I run, I organise
projects, I perform in plays, I travel and meet people from many
different cultures with remarkably similar aspirations. In the job I
have held in the so-called “outer world” for 27 years, I work hard
and interact cheerfully and harmoniously with my colleagues. Thanks
to Sri Chinmoy, the inner life and the outer life, for me, have
become seamless. There is no difference. The spiritual life is
everything, and everything in life is spiritual.
I know my goal, be it ever so far, and I know my way. Along the way,
opportunities reach out to me constantly, thanks to my spiritual
teacher. Every aspect of my life is tended to with utmost care and
concern. Sri Chinmoy has given me the most beautiful name–which
means sanctity, purity, sacredness–and he has given me the constant
encouragement to grow into these divine qualities. What more could I
ask from life? For all the blessings I have received, I am
Date: Sun Mar 28, 2004 6:21 pm
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
This question about safety is one that I have never asked myself in
all the years I have been a student of Sri Chinmoy!
My mother joined Sri Chinmoy Centre when I was four years old.
Meditation and having a spiritual teacher have been utterly normal
things to me for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Sri
Chinmoy Centre does not mean you do not know the world, or are
separated from the world. I went to school, had friends, etc. In
fact, I was lucky in that the school I went to was rooted in another
spiritual tradition–so they understood and taught meditation to
every student who was interested. They let me meditate in the way I
was used to.
Since Sri Chinmoy’s path advocates, among other things, a celibate
lifestyle, I would say that the only difference between myself and
my friends was my lack of interest in partying.
Seeing my friends go through some heavy-duty teenage stuff
(sometimes extending into their adult lives), I have always been
grateful that I did not have to follow that route to “feel alive”.
The path offers enough challenges to keep me more than adequately
occupied, whether it is something relatively simple, like physical
fitness or learning songs, or something harder, like trying to face
and transform one’s own undivine qualities. Sri Chinmoy’s path, with
its clear criteria for leading a pure life, offers students the
ultimate safe environment for the world’s hardest task: the
transformation of our human failings into positive strengths.
Recently, Sri chinmoy made an off-the-cuff comment that goes
something like this (I paraphrase): “The time will come when men
will sincerely appreciate the divine qualities of women, and women
will sincerely appreciate the divine qualities of men. At that time,
both will be able to make the fastest progress.”
Date: Tue Mar 30, 2004 6:44 am
Subject: The whole safety thing
I didn’t respond to this question originally because I didn’t really
feel that the issue of safety had much to do with my spiritual life
(I read the original post and just thought, ‘huh?’). I actually
doubted it had much to do with anyone’s spiritual life, although
subsequently the concept of safety has been interpreted in many
different ways. I can also see now that the reason I was not
interested in the question of safety is that it ‘goes without
saying’ that women (and also children and men) are completely safe
in the Sri Chinmoy Centres. It is such a non-issue that my brain
couldn’t even really engage with the question.
Having said that, I cannot imagine that anybody would join a
spiritual group or stay within it primarily for that reason. There
are many other, much easier ways to stay safe in those terms and (if
you happen to be female) then, let’s face it, getting married is
probably one of them! We all know that a lone female is less likely
to be hassled with a wedding ring on her finger, and so in some ways
being single makes you more vulnerable to the ‘outside’ world. The
real point here, however, is not to do with physical or even
emotional safety (which can easily be found elsewhere) but rather
the safety of the ‘highest self’. Within the Sri Chinmoy Centres,
that part of us which seeks satisfaction in the highest and
absolutely most profound sense is provided with the ultimate safe
haven. This is surely one of the reasons why so many people (of both
sexes) choose to stay within it indefinitely.
Date: Sun May 23, 2004 5:37 pm
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
Is the Sri Chinmoy Centre a safe place for women?
Before I finish reading my sisters’ clarifying answers on this subject, I wonder if this same question would arise in another culture – in India for example. For it is well-known that most modern Indian ashrams are respected for the spiritual values they try to encourage in Indian society.
My own personal experience as Sri Chinmoy’s female student during the last 22 years is that I am blessed with a genuine living Master whose teachings are celebrated worldwide. People from all walks of life and backgrounds have become his students and dear friends, many of them women and children.
I still remember the year 1991, when Sri Chinmoy was given an award by the most important cultural institution of his native India. At that time he was “revered as a man who fosters the ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakan -The World is One Family-, hailed as an exponent of Sarva Dharma Maitri -Harmony of all religions-, recognised as a Mahayogi -a repository of Wisdom and Dispassion-, a source of inspiration for questing souls, admired as a Karmayogi, Jnanayogi, Bhaktiyogi and Nadayogi -he who helps to bring out the innate divinity in man- and honoured as an Evolved Soul whose very being exudes Faith, Hope and Devotion, sustaining and fortifying human faith in the Majesty of the Moral Law.”
It is clear that the International Centres founded by my teacher reflect his self-transcendent, transcendental vision -making his high ideals a practical reality on a daily basis. This is one reason why the question about safety has never arisen for me. When I participate in the Centre’s activities, I can always feel everything flowing in purity, light, joy and dynamism, with everyone perfectly harmonized and focused on the Divine.
My deepest gratitude, dear Guru, for having accepted responsibility for my soul’s progress, and for offering me new opportunities to feel, create and lead my spiritual life -independent of the unhealthy cultural patterns which sometimes exist in society. Thank you for having re-kindled in me the love for God, and the longing to be of service to the people.
As you have blessingfully written:
“Look for the good:
Everything is God,
Everyone is God.
Look for God:
Everything is good,
Everyone is good.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Date: Wed Jul 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Subject: Re: Question For The Women
A wonderful book came into my store yesterday, which made me realize another way we women in the Sri Chinmoy Centre are blessed -something I guess I took for granted. This is our total equality with the men. We don’t need to be feminists in the Centre – Sri Chinmoy encourages each of us to develop our own unique potential as human beings, no matter what our gender.
This deeply thought-provoking book has a long title (sorry): Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance: 5 Spirited and Spiritual Women Throughout History. The author, Helen LaKelly Hunt, looks at the alliances between spiritual conviction and social action through the example of St. Teresa of Avila, Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Emily Dickinson and Dorothy Day.
Ms. Hunt points out that today many feminists have no use for established religion and many religious women feel activism is not part of their religion. She says that the early “feminists” met in 1837 in an anti-slavery convention because they believed in the universal law – oneness – which superseded man-made ecclesiastical and governmental laws. They believed that all humans are meant to live in harmony and equality.
Although I’m sure the author doesn’t mean to suggest that there were only 5 women throughout history who fit her bill, I’d add Mother Teresa and one of my heroines, Anne Hutchinson of the 1600’s, who held spiritual classes for women and believed that God speaks directly to each person, if they but listen – we don’t need the church fathers to tell us what to think or believe! The Hutchinson River Parkway is named after her.
We are lucky in that Sri Chinmoy teaches that faith and manifestation (or good deeds) go together. As spiritual beings, we believe both are important.
I’ll have the book at Celebrations. Sushmitam (and others), I welcome your comments.
In oneness, Akankha
Date: Fri Jul 16, 2004 8:23 pm
Subject: From Aruna – Re: Question For The Women
Hello and thank you very much for this selection of questions and answers.
My father, Projjwal, has already written something about my childhood on our spiritual path, but I also wish to share a few things about my life.
How Sri Chinmoy answers children’s questions is fantastic. It is simple and totally understandable, and that is how I remember it from my childhood. Nothing was ever “not understood.” Everything always made perfect sense, because I was always told the truth in a very simple way, as you can only tell a child. And I still feel the same way now that I am 28 years old!!! Whenever I have the opportunity to ask Sri Chinmoy something and expect a grand complex answer, he replies in the simplest possible way – that totally makes sense when you hear it. It blows your mind away! – and you ask yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that myself before?!”
When I was 2 1/2 years old, my parents took me along for the first time to Sri Chinmoy’s birthday celebrations in New York, so I met him for the first time. I do not remember so much from those early years, but for me, the most important thing is that I do not remember a life without Sri Chinmoy and his guidance and love.
During my entire childhood and teenage years, and now in my adult life, I have always felt protected somehow, inwardly and outwardly. My parents raised me as Sri Chinmoy advises parents to raise a child – although I think they did it intuitively, led by God, because they themselves were still children, and still are, more than me sometimes. 🙂
-they were there for me at every moment
-they showered me with love, guidance, compassion, forgiveness (especially my mother), oneness
-they taught me the results of their own spirituality, not always consciously, but through their behaviour
-and many more things…
I am most grateful to them for loving the spiritual Aruna more than the ordinary person Aruna, for that is the ultimate love of a parent, the only real love.
Sure, there were some hard times in my life – growing up isn’t always easy; but whatever happened, I always knew it will be taken care of, it will turn out okay, it is for the best. I never lost my faith completely. And it always turned out fine. And I know in every life situation my teacher Sri Chinmoy was present, watching me, guiding me, showing me the right way.
Now when I think back, I had a great childhood – I still do! We travel alot, getting to know the world, widening our view. I’ve always had great friends I know I can trust who share the same interest in spirituality; I always feel protected, safe and happy among my friends at Sri Chinmoy Centre, which is like an extended family.
When I look at some children or teenagers who do not have spirituality, and see how lost they are, how sad, how confused, how rude they are, what language they use, how they treat others, I feel grateful that I was able to live a life like mine.
My gratitude to Sri Chinmoy for blessing me with such a great life.
Of Further Interest
Sri Chinmoy: Selected Newspaper Reprints
Sri Chinmoy at Parliament of the World’s Religions, 1993
Auspicious Good Fortune (spiritual memoir by Sumangali Morhall)
Tribute to Sri Chinmoy (in the Congressional Record)
Community Board 8 takes step to allow Sri Chinmoy land buy
Temple-Song-Hearts 1991 Concert
* * *