In this colorful, eye-opening memoir, Jayanti Tamm offers an unforgettable glimpse into the hidden world of growing up “cult” in mainstream America. Through Jayanti’s fascinating story–the first book to chronicle Sri Chinmoy–she unmasks a leader who convinces thousands of disciples to follow him, scores of nations to dedicate monuments to him, and throngs of celebrities (Sting, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela) to extol him.
When the short, bald man in flowing robes prophesizes Jayanti to be the “Chosen One,” her life is forever entwined with the charismatic guru Sri Chinmoy, who declares himself a living god. A god who performs sit-ups and push-ups in front of thousands as holy ritual, protects himself with a platoon of bodyguards, and bans books, TV, and sex. Jayanti’s unusual and increasingly bizarre childhood is spent shuttling between the ashram in Queens, New York, and her family’s outpost as “Connecticut missionaries.” On the path to enlightenment decreed by Guru, Jayanti scrubs animal cages in his illegal basement zoo, cheerleads as he weight lifts an elephant in her front yard, and trails him around the world as he pursues celebrities such as Princess Diana and Mother Teresa.
But, when her need for enlightenment is derailed by her need for boys, Jayanti risks losing everything that she has ever known, including the person that she was ordained to be. With tenderness, insight, and humor, Jayanti explores the triumphs and trauma of an insider who longs to be an outsider, her hard-won decision to finally break free, and the unique challenges she confronts as she builds a new life.
From the Hardcover edition.
Jayanti Tamm relates the remarkable story of her life as a reluctant member of a cult led by the eccentric guru Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual leader who was publicly praised by prominent figures such as Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, and Princess Diana. Tamm's parents met at a gathering at Chinmoy's apartment, and he ordered them to get married but to abstain from sex. The swelling of her mother's belly revealed their disobedience, but Chinmoy quickly reversed his stance and declared that their child was to be "The Chosen One." Thus, Jayanti found herself inexplicably bound to the bizarre sect before she was even born. Her childhood is filled with eerie episodes of interaction with Chinmoy, including caring for the menagerie of animals he kept in his basement zoo and observing his awkward advances on other young girls. As Tamm enters adolescence, she begins to find the repressive rules of the group increasingly ridiculous, particularly their disdain for dating and sex. Her compelling memoir poignantly documents her accumulating doubts about the cult, which were nearly offset by the sense of loyalty that had been systematically programmed into her fertile young mind.
- Biography + Autobiography, Self Improvement
- General, Religious, Spiritual, Personal Memoirs
- December 7, 2010
- December 7, 2010
- Jayanti Tamm