May 23, 2004


Alex Ginsberg
May 23, 2004

Charges of sexual exploitation are being leveled against a Queens-based guru who has presided over a worldwide spiritual empire for nearly 40 years, The Post has learned.

The 72-year-old Chinmoy Kumar Ghose – Sri Chinmoy to the faithful – moved to the quiet Briarwood neighborhood from India in 1964 and has since preached a philosophy of celibacy, vegetarianism and meditation to thousands.

His followers – estimated to be up to 4,000 worldwide – are not asked to replace their religious beliefs with his because Ghose preaches that all established religions are a manifestation of God.

The reclusive guru claims that on one occasion he lifted more than 7,000 pounds with one arm and says he has mastered 25 musical instruments.

But some of his longtime members – who are encouraged to paint their houses baby blue – are attacking the guru’s upright image through a series of damning posts to an online discussion board.

Anne Carlton, a former member for 20 years, told The Post Ghose summoned her for sexual encounters over two extended periods – one in 1991 and another in 1996.

Then, in 2000, Ghose called her at work and told her to have sex with another female disciple while he watched.

“I had never kissed a woman or touched a woman,” Carlton said.

“It was not something I fantasized about . . . My mind was completely blown. It was so hard for me, but not only did I do it but I acted happy about it.”

At least two other women have posted similar sexcapade testimonials – one claiming she became pregnant by Ghose, who paid for her to have an abortion in the early 1980s.

That woman, who did not want to be identified, confirmed to The Post that the testimony online was hers and was accurate.

Alex Zwarenstein, who served as one of Ghose’s official photographers until 1989, told The Post he airbrushed photographs to exaggerate the guru’s weightlifting ability – one of the key components of his image.

“He knew I was an artist,” Zwarenstein said. “He called me over to his house and he said, ‘You see that I’ve lifted this but the picture isn’t clear enough. Could you make it so that it looks like it’s a bit higher?’ “

Rudra Tamm, a member of the group since 1968 who served as the organization’s attorney until 2002, said Ghose’s operation is almost entirely cash-driven, with disciples across the world funneling parts of their incomes directly to the guru to support his life and activities.

Tamm said many disciples went into debt just to support the guru and to attend the group’s annual three-month winter trip.

“For a lot of disciples,” said Tamm, “their whole existence is saving enough money to go on the Christmas trip.”

Ghose, who has attracted several celebrities, including Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis and guitarists John McLoughlin and Carlos Santana, owns a house in Florida and four in Queens, including the two-story home on 149th Street where he lives.

The block is adorned with signs that read “Sri Chinmoy Street” – signs never authorized by the city, according to the city Department of Transportation.

There are also about a dozen disciple-owned and disciple-staffed businesses in the Parsons Boulevard area, including two vegetarian restaurants, a carpet store and a barber shop.

A major part of life in the group is athletics, particularly ultra-long running events.

In one particularly grueling project, the self-transcendence marathon, members walk and run around a schoolyard in Jamaica every day for three months, eventually “traveling” 3,100 miles – in honor of the guru’s 1931 birth year.

Ghose denied a request for an in-person interview. A lawyer speaking for the center, Ed Hayes, said that Ghose denied all sexual allegations and maintained he continued to be celibate.

“You’re going to have disgruntled people,” said Hayes. “His [Ghose’s] philosophy attracts many people, and some of them are deeply troubled, some in a sexual way.”

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