TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT UPDATE: This is August 18th! Tonight, Professor Jayanti Tamm is my radio guest. I have read her book and am greatly looking forward to the interview. Join us at www.themicroeffect.com. Click "listen live" on the menu choices and if at all possible, please join me in the chatroom. If you have call in questions, the number is 888-747-1968.
"Arriving in the United States in 1964, Sri Chinmoy had vast ambitions. He aimed to infiltrate the United Nations, win a Nobel Prize and gain a worldwide following. His disciples were to lead austere, celibate lives, devoting themselves and their financial resources entirely to his mission. In 1970 when my mother became pregnant — a clear breach of the rules — the guru saved face by divining me as his chosen soul.
I was raised in the ashram of this man who declared himself an incarnation of God. Before I could walk, my parents dressed me in a sari and took me on their recruiting trips. Instead of acting in school plays and playing soccer, I distributed leaflets proclaiming the guru's divinity from parade floats that wound through city streets. I spent summers scrubbing the cages of the zoo housed in the basement of the guru's Queens home.
When Chinmoy wanted to attract more media attention, he staged elaborate weightlifting feats, hoisting elephants, helicopters and even Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev — a smoke-and-mirrors spectacle I never understood. How could lifting elephants illuminate and ultimately transform the world? When I was a teenager, the guru's strict rules banning all contact and relationships with the "outside" world provoked questions and longings for everything he forbade — college, career and family. When he told me to neglect the mind and forever remain in the heart "like a 7-year-old," I finally realized that he was a narcissistic charlatan, shamelessly exploiting the faithful.
"At 25, older than my parents had been when they renounced the world to serve the guru, I was formally banished, losing all my connections to the community I'd known since birth. Fortunately, I was young enough to forge a life on my own terms.
"For years, I have struggled with the reckless decision of some in my parents' generation to entrust their present and future to those who claimed to be spiritually enlightened. Cultural historians today portray the '60s as a unique time. I hope they are right. That is, I hope that the cast of corrupt opportunists — gurus, prophets and messiahs — who profited from others' naive belief is indeed a unique '60s phenomenon, safely encapsulated in those glossy anniversary books."
Well, so much for "peace, light, and love." I am going to do my level best to track Professor Tamm down and interview her on my internet radio show.