By Benjamin Spector

Dear Congressman Ackerman:

You seem to be a very compassionate man. You spoke eloquent words of praise about Sri Chinmoy as you looked into the eyes of his disciples and tried to comfort them for their current loss.

The disciples you spoke to are in mourning now and do feel a loss for Sri Chinmoy, who was their strength and their hope.

However, when you spoke to them you failed to mention or even notice a even bigger loss they have sustained.

chinmoy600.jpgHave you not been aware that Sri Chinmoy has robbed them of their identities as human beings, of their ability to intellectually reason and think for themselves?

Were you not aware that Sri Chinmoy has exploited his followers and made many of them work below minimum wage and with no health insurance?

Do you not know that many of Chinmoy’s disciples will go into their senior years with no social security and ineligible for Medicare?

Do you not know that many of them are illegal aliens working for rent and food?

This was not the first time you have been with Sri Chinmoy’s disciples, why didn’t you notice or discuss these things?
I was once a student of Sri Chinmoy just like those you spoke to yesterday.

The Guru promised us all “a ticket to heaven” and all we had to do was to become his devoted unconditional slaves and willingly sacrifice our current lives for the promise of a heavenly future.

Most of us gave up college and our careers for him.

We stopped seeing our parents’ relatives and former friends.

We became celibate monks and gave up any dream of having a family.

And most unforgivably, while most of us tried following his doctrine of celibacy, Sri Chinmoy was seducing his female students. There are at least three brave women who have come forward with testimonials.

You mentioned that Sri Chinmoy was “humble.”

He was a man that literally stalked celebrities, and politicians for photo ops. He even lifted sheep and airplanes on a mechanical contraption (the contraption did all the work) to get his name in the paper.

He sent out his disciples to the far corners of the world, not to feed the poor or spread spirituality, but to get parks, bridges and streets named after him for the aggrandizement of his own ego.

He even became friendly with the Military Junta in Myanmar and gave the Junta money in the name of his “Peace Meditation Group” at the United Nations.

You speak of the visionary and the vision.

However, now that this exploiter is gone, I cannot envision anyone who will look after those that have been exploited.

After ten, twenty, thirty years of living in a cult, who will look after these “weird” people in whites and saris?

They have no job skills, and most were too poor to ever see a doctor or dentist.

They have no money and have, at Sri Chinmoy’s request strained, and in most cases broken off relationships with their families.

You said while looking into the eyes of these real people “¦.You cannot kill a thought. They do not come with expiration dates. They are eternal. And good lives on. If Guru was anything, he was good. If he reached anywhere and had any influence, it was into the better part of each and every human being whose life he touched.”

Is Gary Ackerman good?

Will Gary Ackerman reach out and have any influence, to better the lives of these human beings?

Will Gary Ackerman touch their lives, and help these unfortunate cult victims?”

Will you ever again look into their eyes and help them recover from the abuse they experienced in the Sri Chinmoy cult?

Most of them still cling on to the dream that Sri Chinmoy will make them immortal.

Many of them still see Sri Chinmoy as God himself.

But Congressman Ackerman, you must be wise enough to know that this is not the case.

The bubble will burst.

It may happen tomorrow or in a year or two. And these people are your constituents. They will soon be unemployed, without health care, without social security or Medicare.

Will you still talk to them about visionary dreams or will you be there to help them to survive in the real world?

160px-gary_ackerman_official_109th_congress_photo.jpgHow to contact Congressman Ackerman:

House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2601
Fax: (202) 225-1589

Bayside Office
218-14 Northern Boulevard
Bayside, NY 11361
Phone: (718) 423-2154
Fax: (718) 423-5053

Postscript: CultNews received the following statement from another former follower of Sri Chinmoy.

“I joined Sri Chinmoy when I was only 19-years-old and a runaway. During that time, ‘disciples’ were brought in by a husband and wife team. The wife taught yoga (this was in about 1970) and the husband was supposedly a psychologist.

The yoga was helpful, but the psychotherapy degenerated into sexual abuse, which I was too naive to understand. This was being done to me in the guise of ‘helping’ me with my insecurities, etc.

I was introduced to ‘Guru’ in an elaborate ceremony, given a spiritual ‘name’ and attended additional group gatherings, including some with then-famous and very gifted musicians, not Mr. Santana but at least two others who were world-renowned and drawn into Chinmoy’s web for shorter or longer periods.

During my discipleship I was discouraged from contact with my family, worked a ‘day job,’ meditated many hours a day (upon arising, during lunch, after work, at night before bed) plus group meditations and continuing yoga classes.

Other ‘assignments’ included participation in athletic ‘events,’ work in other “disciples” restaurants, etc.

I was instructed to turn over a large percentage of my money for the therapy, yoga lessons and ‘love offerings.’

Chinmoy and his paramour lived in a house in Queens at that time, and I was baffled, upon being called there for some event or other, to notice there were barred gates to the upper floors, where money was kept. This did not gibe with the hippie culture I had been living in, of openness and generosity, nor with the tradition of poverty in my own original Christian faith. This was the first tip-off that something was not right.

Later it became clear that Chinmoy was putting people together in arranged marriages, and doing things like instructing one disciple to quit college, work in a shoe store and turn his money over to the Guru.

I became engaged to a fellow disciple without the Guru’s interference or approval. Chinmoy and his paramour went to great lengths to interfere, finally managing to convince my fiancé to dump me because “our souls were from different soul groups.”

My fiancé was a college student and I am fairly sure he was also persuaded to leave school and work for one of Chinmoy’s businesses. I subsequently returned to college and never heard from him again.

I am not sure why all of the endorsements, from U Thant, Mother Theresa and the like, have been showered on Chinmoy, if in fact they actually were.

The whole deal felt like smoke and mirrors to me.

It was an incredibly vulnerable time in my life.

I wanted to generally improve society. But I realized I had to rejoin ‘real life’ and reaffirmed my commitment to be a part of society again, working to end war and trying to complete my studies.

My experience with Chinmoy was not only disappointing, and a waste of time, but very destructive to my life.

I am very amazed at how strong a reaction I am having to the news of his passing and didn’t realize how damaged I was by him until reading the news tonight.

In my opinion Chinmoy’s vanity and greed led him very far from the path to true communion with God.

I learned a hard lesson through my involvement with him, hurt my family, and did damage to my own development.”

CultNews has been told that a notorious guru, Chinmoy Kumar Ghose known as “Sri Chinmoy,” died this morning at the age of 76.

amd_chinmoy.jpgChinmoy was often referred to as a “cult leader” and had perhaps as many as 2,000 dedicated followers, many living near his house in Jamaica Queens, New York.

CultNews last reported about “sleazy Sri” when he released a new book during December 2005.

Chinmoy’s disciples once included musician Carlos Santana, singer Sheena Easton and track star Carl Lewis.

The guru, who immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh, would do almost anything for attention, staging weird stunts such as hoisting the Prime Minister of Iceland, two San Francisco 49ers, and Eddie Murphy into the air.

Chinmoy claimed he could lift 7,000 pounds. He once reportedly lifted 200 sheep in New Zealand.

However, for the record, this peripatetic weightlifter never really lifted much, that is without the aid of a mechanical device, which did the real work.

Chinmoy’s followers also sought to break world records in an effort to gain attention for their guru, their most recently reported publicity stunt was the “world’s largest pencil.”

One disciple Ashrita Furman broke about 150 Guinness World records and reportedly still holds 61 titles. His often humorous efforts have included balancing a pool cue on his finger, stilt walking, underwater juggling and piggyback running.

Not so funny was the death of one Chinmoy disciple in 1979 who apparently hoped he could hold his breath underwater long enough to garner attention for his guru.

But he died instead at the age of 27 in his bathtub.

Chinmoy encouraged extreme devotion, even expecting his devotees to meditate on a photograph of him daily.

A string of businesses run by the group included vegetarian restaurants and clothing shops, which kept Chinmoy well supplied with money and living a comfortable life. He often traveled during the winter to warmer climates with a troop of his followers in tow, something like a perpetual portable adoring audience.

Not everyone saw this itinerant guru as a benign figure.

Carlos Santana, who became disenchanted with Chinmoy and left the group later said, “This shit is not for me–I don’t care how enlightening it is.”

Some tagged Chinmoy’s devotees “spiritual slaves” and repeated allegations depicted the supposedly celibate holy man as a “sleazy” sexual predator that preyed upon vulnerable female followers.

Once dubbed the “Gonzo Guru” by the Chicago Tribune there seemed to be no limit to his egomania.

Sri Chinmoy’s followers are currently busy churning out press releases thinking that their guru just might nab the Nobel Peace Prize. The Chinmoy-linked “World Harmony Run” claims he was nominated by “Icelandic members of Parliament” that “signed a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.”

However, the New York Times once reported that Chinmoy was the “guru – who isn’t” and saw his so-called “peace message” as little more than self-promotion.

No doubt the guru’s dutiful devotees will want to canonize him or somehow lionize their dead leader. But the legacy that the man has left behind is dubious at best.

There is certainly a residue of sizable assets though, which Chinmoy’s loyal lieutenants will be vying over.

However, wouldn’t the best use of whatever money and property the guru left behind be setting up some sort of fund to help the many people and families he reportedly hurt?

Benjamin Spector, once a disciple of the guru wrote, “My one-time leader Sri Chinmoy encouraged many of us to work below the minimum wage and without benefits, at businesses owned by senior group members in New York and other locations. Many workers were illegal aliens.”

Spector explained, “The followers of cult leaders are very frequently well educated, sophisticated and sensitive, but authoritarian leaders rob them of their ability to think independently as individuals and dominate them.”

Chinmoy’s remaining disciples may think he is worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, but as Ben Spector knows “cult leaders… become rich at the expense of their followers…”

Sri Chinmoy is dead, but does anyone really seriously think he rates a postumous Nobel Peace Prize?

Al Gore certainly is a better bet than the “gonzo guru.”

Postscript: The New York Daily News ran a piece about Chinmoy’s death the day after CultNews. Apparently the newspaper’s reporters didn’t bother to Google the guru and instead relied upon his disciples and their spin-machine for information.

Endnote: Al Gore did win the Nobel Peace Prize. No surprise that a purported “cult leader” wasn’t seriously considered.

More spin: Chinmoy devotees have kept busy spinning press releases. Some news outlets apparently went with whatever they received going into the weekend, while others did a bit more investigating. The New York Post blasted the Daily News for not doing more fact checking about the “guru’s dark side.” But the New York Times, which had previously dubbed Chinmoy “a guru who-isn’t” now has seemingly decided he was an “athletic spiritual leader.” The Times also reported that Al Gore and Mikhail Gorbachev faxed condolence letters to the guru’s devotees. Meanwhile Associated Press took a more balanced approach to the story noting that “some considered Chinmoy’s group a cult,” but “to his followers, Chinmoy was not a cult leader but a spiritual adviser and mystical figure.” As is often the case many newspapers ran a shorter version of the AP report, which didn’t include the “C word” (cult). However, Fox News bluntly called Chinmoy a “longtime cult leader” and “self-appointed guru,” while noting his historical links to well-known “music celebrities.” And Daily India reported that Chinmoy “has been accused of running a ‘cult’ and ordering his female followers to engage in sexcapades.”