"Cult" member dies tragically practicing a stunt for his guru

A News Summary

In 1979 Bennett Davis Madway, a 27-year-old devotee of Sri Chinmoy died in his bathtub.

Madway drowned while practicing a stunt he hoped would impress his guru at an upcoming "circus" event.

The young man was a long-time disciple of Guru Sri Chinmoy Kumar Ghose, whose world headquarters is in New York City Jamaica Queens.

The group, which has been called a "cult", may have as many 1,500 members around the world.

Apparently Madway who was found with an oxygen tank he allegedly used to increase endurance, had blacked out after receiving too much carbon dioxide underwater.

Suicide was ruled out.

Bennett Madway once graduated with honors from Syracuse University in British literature.

In an article for Washington Jewish Week his sister noted that there were "disturbing personality changes" in her brother after he joined the Chinmoy group.

Madway's younger sister felt that her brother's "zealousness" and "desire to show his love for the guru and receive approval -led him to devalue his own safety."

A Chinmoy disciple notified the family of the young man's death.

Guru Sri Chinmoy never personally offered his condolences to the Madway family.

Bennett Madway's family was devastated by his needless and untimely death.

Chinmoy devotees later went through Madway's apartment with the family's permission and emptied it completely, except for "a stack of unpaid bills," which they gave to his father.

According to his sister Madway lived a celibate, strictly disciplined, grueling, regimented life, which was supposedly necessary to achieve "inner peace" as defined by the Chinmoy group.

After a romantic relationship ended and amidst worries about his future after graduation the young man seemingly yearned for unconditional love and appreciated the simple, structured rules of the Chinmoy group his sister speculated.

But the college graduate subsequently changed from "a vibrant, engaging man" to "a dull, one-dimensional person" after joining the purported "cult."

In his guru's name, Madway stopped playing guitar, which he once loved and even abstained, from listening to modern music. He also gave away his record collection.

The young man constantly quoted Chinmoy and gave up reading newspapers,

"Meditation seeks to transcend the ego; by ego I mean every single shred of personality," he once wrote to his parents.

Madway reportedly ended up virtually worshipping Chinmoy.

On his desk at work was a photo of the guru and he also wore a ring with Chimoy's picture. Even the rear-view of his car had a hanging photo of Sri Chinmoy.

Madway would stare at his guru's photo to initiate meditation.

His sister described distressing conversations with her brother before his death in which Madway said that he would "jump off a cliff if [his] guru told him to."

Madway explained that Chinmoy possessed an "inner-vision," and therefore anything he asked must be for some "higher, noble purpose."

In the end this belief apparently led the 27-year-old to his death alone in a dormitory room bathtub, somehow believing that it might fulfill some perceived "higher&purpose."

Former followers of Sri Chinmoy have repeatedly said the guru "brainwashes" his disciples into "cult-like" submission and dependence.

Note: This article was based upon "Aftermath of a family tragedy/Death in a cult: a lifetime of 'what-ifs and if onlys,'" Washington Jewish Week March 18, 1993

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