Sri Chinmoy

Peace campaigner and spiritual teacher who advocated running

Born: 27 August 1931, in Shakpura, East Bengal.

Died: 10 October, 2007, in New York, aged 76.

SRI Chinmoy, the Indian spiritual guru who had been nominated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and seconded by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, devoted his life to bringing different faiths together, and promoting the concept of a healthy body in a healthy mind.

His work on interfaith harmony gained him the respect of Mother Theresa, Pope Paul IV, Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama, and the friendship of politicians from Al Gore to Nelson Mandela.

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Before his funeral in New York yesterday (15 October), Vijay Nambiar, the chief of staff to the UN secretary-general, and the sitar player Ravi Shankar were among the thousands paying their respects before Chinmoy's open coffin in the meditation centre he had founded in Jamaica, Queens.

Chinmoy wrote more than 1,600 items of prose and poetry, composed some 20,000 pieces of music, and was a world leader in the proselytising of meditation. His spirituality led him into running, playing tennis and weightlifting, the last of which he attained championship status in his own right.

Through running, he made a considerable mark in Scotland, his work in athletics coming to the fore just as the running boom took off from 1981. The West of Scotland hosted Sri Chinmoy race meetings on Glasgow Green, while in Edinburgh, there was for some years a weekly Sri Chinmoy two-mile event in The Meadows. Literature for any Sri Chinmoy run always featured a cheerfully grinning picture of the master, himself a fine advertisement for the simple joys of running.

Born Chinmoy Kumar Ghoset, youngest of seven children of an Indian banker and his wife, the comfort of Chinmoy's early life was shattered at age 11 when his parents died within weeks of each other. The orphan was taken by his six brothers and sisters to a spiritual community in south India, where the youngster found himself immediately attracted to the spiritual life, and spent the next two decades in prayer and meditation at the retreat in Pondicherry. Senior teachers at the ashram found a ready pupil for wider study of athletics, writing essays and songs, painting and advanced meditation.

In 1964, he moved to New York, determined to spread his gospel to sincere seekers in a wider world, and funded himself through a post in the Indian consulate in the city. For the remainder of his life, he always lived at the same simple address in Queens.

Sri Chinmoy preached that the human heart possesses constant yearning for higher and deeper realities. Through what he termed "aspiration", he identified spiritual force as being behind all great advances in religion, culture, sports and science, and he himself taught that in aspiring for continual self-transcendence, men and women might use the best in themselves to find their path to true satisfaction.

Chinmoy himself never lost his enthusiasm and apparently boundless creativity. He died after a heart attack, and right to the end continued his free programmes - he never charged fees - of concerts, lectures and public meditations, meeting students, and discussing spirituality with world and community leaders.

His legacy is a system of spiritual guidance operating across some 60 countries, encouraging a balanced lifestyle combining discipline of prayer with dynamism of contemporary life.