Renowned musician and multi-Grammy winner Carlos Santana was a follower of Guru Sri Chinmoy for nine years (1972-1981). In a recent interview (Rolling Stone March 16, 2000) he discussed his time as a devotee within the group. His name while a member was "Devadip" ("the eye, the light of the lamp of God"). That name, given to him by Chinmoy--is inscribed on a guitar strap he still keeps at his home displayed as an apparent memento.
His wife of many years Deborah also joined the group and was then named "Urmila."
Carlos Santana was first introduced to Sri Chinmoy by guitarist John McLaughlin, but soon his experience in the group became a regimented "West Point approach to spirituality." That regimen included daily meditation at 5:00 AM (Chinmoy's followers meditate on his picture). Because Chinmoy liked running Deborah Santana ran marathons. Though she once ran a "devotional vegetarian restaurant" for the group in San Francisco Deborah says now they did "ridiculous things" to "prove [their] devotion" (e.g. "who could sleep the least and still function"). She adds, "I once ran a forty-seven-mile race. It wasn't enough just to run a marathon."
Carlos Santana didn't run claiming, "This shit is not for me--I don't care how enlightening it is." He offered his help through music--often playing Chinmoy's songs at meditation. But he was somewhat annoyed by group announcements that these were "Santana performances."
Santana used to describe his guru as a graduate of "many Harvards of consciousness" who sat "at the seat of God." He once said, "I'm still in [spiritual] kindergarten [and] without a guru I serve only my own vanity I am the strings, but [Chinmoy] is the musician." However, now the accomplished musician explains "everything about [Chinmoy] turned to vinegar."
The guru apparently once preached sternly against champion tennis player Billie Jean King's homosexuality and Santana didn't like it. Something seemed to snap and he thought, "What the fuck is all this--this guy's supposed to be spiritual mind your own spiritual business and leave her alone," he remembers thinking.
After leaving the group it seems Sri Chinmoy "was pretty vindictive," recalls Santana. "He told all my friends not to call me ever again, because I was to drown in the dark sea of ignorance for leaving him." Despite all this Santana still claims, "It was a good learning experience."
Note: Originally published in the March 16, 2000 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, "The Epic Life of Carlos Santana," By Chris Heath