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.”


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