Sri Chinmoy Centre

About the Sri Chinmoy Centre. Including some information about Sri Chinmoy Centre in Oxford and a personal experience of my life in the centre


Sri-Chinmoy-There are Sri Chinmoy Centres in many different countries throughout the world, including Africa, Asia, America, Europe and Australasia. In the UK there are Sri Chinmoy Centres in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, Cardiff, Ipswich, Edinburgh and Brighton. The first Sri Chinmoy Centre was established in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1966 – two years after Sri Chinmoy travelled to New York from India. The Centres sought to spread his spiritual teachings and provide an environment for those wishing to pursue a spiritual life of meditation, selfless service and self-transcendence.

Personal experience of life in the Sri Chinmoy Centre

I was brought up in Yorkshire, near Leeds. From quite an early age I hoped to get into Oxford University, and luckily I got accepted to read PPE (politics, philosophy and economics) at Lady Margaret Hall College. In October 1995, I left Yorkshire and went down to Oxford. In a nice co-incidence, it was in October 1995, that the Oxford centre came up to Leeds to have the city commemorated as a Sri Chinmoy Peace City. 23 years later, we would go back to Leeds to rededicate the city, when the Peace Run went through.

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I first came across Sri Chinmoy, when I saw a big poster for a Peace Concert at Christ Church Cathedral. It looked intriguing, but a friend persuaded me to do something else, and I never made it. But, in my first year as a student I wasn’t really interested in meditation or spirituality.

After a few years at Oxford University, I became less interested in the social whirl and desire to get a good job. I began looking at alternative paths and read several books on Eastern Mysticism. Intrigued by the concept of meditation, I went to some free meditation classes offered by the Sri Chinmoy Centre. They were very good, but that year I was ill and had to take a year out of university. But, as I recovered back in Yorkshire, I decided when I went back to Oxford, I would apply to become a disciple of Sri Chinmoy. I felt through reading Sri Chinmoy’s books and meditating on his picture, that Sri Chinmoy was a genuine God-realised soul. After trying to meditate on my own and reading several books on spirituality about great Masters like Sri Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi, I decided I really wanted and needed a realised Spiritual Teacher. It was an unexpected boon to find in Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual Teacher in the West and also a Master who was still in the body.

 

When I got back to Oxford, I waited patiently for the meditation poster to appear in my College. Like clockwork, someone always put the free meditation poster up, every term. In the spring of 1999, I went to the classes and applied to be a disciple of Sri Chinmoy; I worried I might not be accepted because I wasn’t good enough or something silly like that. But, on 31st March 1999 I was accepted, and it was a great feeling. After that date, many difficulties seemed to vanish, and I had a very clear path in life. The spiritual quest seemed the only thing worth pursuing.

Initially, I had tremendous enthusiasm and eagerness, but I must admit I was disappointed my meditations were not more profound. I tried really hard, but it felt like I just couldn’t go deep within or go to the next level, whatever that was. However, when my expectations diminished, I had a few very profound meditations which was much greater than I ever hoped or imagined. The consciousness of peace was so sweet, profound and beautiful, it felt like everything else paled in comparison. When you meditated well, it felt like you had finally woken up from a long dream, and remembered what you always were a long time ago.

These were precious moments, and often the best experiences happened when you least expected them. At a meditation class, squashed into an Oslo lecture theatre to listen to Sri Chinmoy. It seemed that great meditations weren’t so much your efforts, but a descent of some kind of grace. (blog on meditation and grace)

I enjoy meditating at the Oxford centre. There was a very strong vibration of meditation there.

Oxford Races

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When I was very young disciple, perhaps a few months, I was applying for a job, teaching economics at a tutorial college. It’s the only job application I’ve made since leaving University; on it I put that I organised the Sri Chinmoy races at the Peace Mile at Cutteslowe Park. It wasn’t quite true, as in my first few months I was just helping. But, the director of the tutorial college had actually won our race series the previous year. It was the only race he won, and he was really happy. When I went for an interview (which was more of a chat), he only talked about our races. I got the job teaching economics. I also ended up becoming race director for the Oxford Sri Chinmoy Races. Every summer since 1999, I have gone along to our summer series races. The Oxford races have been running since 1986, when the Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile was inaugurated by Lord Mayor of Oxford (and Sri Chinmoy himself).

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In the past decade, I’ve got to know many runners who have come along to our small friendly races. It’s a good evening. Races seem to bring out the best in people, and it’s good to see the runners enjoying the event. It also helps it is a very beautiful place at Cutteslowe Park. Many local runners, enjoy going around the Peace Mile.

In London we organise an annual 24 Hour Race at Tooting Bec running track. This year there were over 40 runners. Including 3 runners from Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, Abichal, Tarit Stott and Peter from Europe. I usually go along to count for the first 12 hour shift. Quite good fun in a way.

Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team

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Sri Chinmoy encourages physical fitness. Many people in the centre take part in running, triathlons and swimming. My first love has always been cycling. So, in the UK we registered Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team and since 2006, I’ve been racing for them. In 2013, I won the UK national hill climb championship. In 2014, I finished 4th in the National 50 mile TT and 3rd in the national 100 mile TT.

 

Photos – Oxford

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Going to school in Bradford, I never really appreciated architecture. But, Oxford never fails to impress. Everyday, I get a buzz from cycling into town and seeing the spires looming on the horizon. Oxford is not perfect, the High Street can get crowded with buses. But, the architecture, quiet streets, Christ Church meadow, and dreaming spires are genuinely inspiring.

I took up photography to try and capture this beauty of Oxford.

Lady Margaret Hall

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Sri Chinmoy in Lady Margaret Hall gardens (2003)

When doing my final year at Lady Margaret Hall, I decided I would like to become a gardener. I decided working in the city was not for me. As I was doing my final exams, I was learning the Latin names of plants and the college windows were filled with my pot plants and cuttings. After finishing my exams, I got a job working in the LMH gardens. They are very beautiful almost idyllic. However, economic realities meant the pay of being a gardener was very low, so I started teaching economics. But, I did enjoy my time working in the gardens.

The reason I mention this is that a few years later, my Guru, Sri Chinmoy came to Oxford and met many professors in the Lady Margaret Hall gardens. It was amazing to see Sri Chinmoy in the gardens where I had walked. It was also fascinating to see Sri Chinmoy walk through the quad of LMH. A place where I had been so much as a young student, and now here was my Guru coming to my own college. It was one of those pleasing coincidences. The Lifting up the World with a Oneness heart ceremony was a great success. I never imagined so many Oxford professors would be interested in meeting an Indian spiritual Master. Sri Chinmoy later said, it was a coming together of the mind and heart – and that is what it definitely felt like at the time.

Meditation classes

One of the community services, the Oxford Sri Chinmoy Centre is offering free meditation classes, three times a year. I believe they started in 1981. Since I joined in 1999, we have regularly been giving meditation classes in the centre of town. We enjoy giving them because it always interesting and uplifting to meet fellow seekers interested in meditation. Although we are offering something to other people, it feels like you get a big benefit yourself. Meeting new seekers helps to bring in newness to your own meditation.

Peace Run

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Peace Run outside Oxford Town Hall.

On a few occasions, the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run has come through Oxford and we have helped to organise the Oxford section of the event. We have been to several local schools where the Peace Runners introduce themselves to the children and give them an opportunity to participate in the Run and hold the torch. It is quite humbling to see people’s reaction and enthusiasm for expressing their hopes and good wishes for peace. We have also met a few Lord Mayors who have graciously accepted the Peace Run in the town hall. On one occasion we met Professor Mark Williams who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation in the treatment of depression in the NHS. The power of the run is that it enables you to become aware of like minded people who are trying in their own way to make the world a better place. It is one of the great strengths of Sri Chinmoy’s path, it teaches us to appreciate the many things we share in common with other people. Even if approaches might be different there is a shared goal and universality of source.

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An experience of cycling up the Col du Tourmalet, with Peace Run

In addition to free meditation classes Sri Chinmoy Centres also offer a variety of running races. These range from short 2 mile races to ultra distance running and Triathalon’s. In Oxford we have short races held at Cutteslowe Park. This year we just had 3 races, 2 miles, 3 miles and 4 miles. Many of the runners have been coming for several years and I know a few quite well.

 


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