Child of Chinmoy ministry blasts 'cult' in new book

The New York Daily News/April 24, 2009

A former devotee born into Indian spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy's ministry has written a scathing memoir about her life growing up in the Queens-based religious group.

Jayanti Tamm, 38, an English professor at Ocean County College in New Jersey, chronicles her first 25 years in Chinmoy's group in the book "Cartwheels in a Sari," released this month.

Tamm characterizes the charismatic leader's group as a cult, and documents Chinmoy's "masterful tactics of manipulation."

"He didn't want his disciples to get an education," said Tamm, who left the group in 1995.

"He told his disciples to live in the heart and not in the mind, and to act like 7-year-olds."

Tamm is having a reading at the Barnes and Noble in Fresh Meadows on Sunday.

Tamm said Chinmoy arranged her parents' marriage and instructed them to remain celibate.

But when Tamm's mother became pregnant with her, Chinmoy created a "birth myth," and even named her, Tamm said.

"Sri Chinmoy claimed I was a chosen soul to serve and worship him as a great disciple," she said. "At a young age, I had some questions and doubts about all this."

Chinmoy, who died in 2007, became famous for his feats of strength, such as lifting elephants. His ministry has attracted countless celebrities, including Olympian Carl Lewis and singer Roberta Flack.

Another celebrity follower - guitarist Carlos Santana - baby-sat for Tamm when she was a girl, she said.

In one portion of the memoir, Tamm writes about Chinmoy telling her mother to have an abortion when she became pregnant again.

Tamm said she was banished after she grew disillusioned and attempted suicide at age 25.

"When I was kicked out of the group, the guru sent a message to my parents that I should be evicted and not be spoken to," Tamm said.

Her parents left the group seven years later. Her brother and aunt still remain with the group.

Some of Chinmoy's followers have condemned the book.

"I knew the disciples would start lashing out," said Tamm.

Tamm - now married with a daughter - said she is adjusting to life outside the group.

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