Chinmoy cult was a real zoo

New York Post/April 12, 2009

Sri Chinmoy - the Queens guru who declared himself a living god, had thousands of followers and hobnobbed with countless celebrities -- was really a Svengali-like control freak who told his disciples sex was bad, forbade them to have friendships, and kept a zoo of exotic animals in his filthy basement.

In her new book, "Cartwheels in a Sari," out from Harmony, former follower Jayanti Tamm calls his following a "cult." She writes that after she experienced her first kiss as a teenager, Chinmoy, who lived with his disciples in an ashram in Jamaica, fumed to her, "Such disappointment. Such news . . . Boys are poison, poison to your inner life, your spiritual life . . . This behavior will not be allowed. The Supreme is your eternity's boyfriend."

He later lectured a group of young people, "Mixing together is dangerous, dangerous, dangerous . . . You must always be on your guard." He also refused to let followers wear jewelry and makeup.

Chinmoy also bizarrely "banned any friendships with people outside the center . . . [and] enforced a no-pet rule for his disciples," Tamm writes. This even though he'd created his own private zoo in the basement that was stocked with wild cats, monkeys and exotic birds illegally smuggled into the country -- along with mice and roaches.

But the Herculean guru loved celebrities, and one of his favorite stunts was lifting over his head such notables as Richard Gere, Sting, Eddie Murphy, Susan Sarandon, Roberta Flack, Yoko Ono, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Ali and Jesse Jackson.

Chinmoy, who died in 2007 at age 76, was accused by a number of former followers of sexual misconduct, although he denied the charges.

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