When Sri Chinmoy and Ben Gilman met in Washington, D.C, on June 23, 1994, they became fast friends. Even though they came from different backgrounds, they both had the goal of peace and harmony in the world.
They appreciated each other’s vision. Because of this strong relationship, an exhibit of the artworks of the late Sri Chinmoy will be on display in Orange Hall Gallery at SUNY Orange from June 23 through July 10. The accompanying art reception, at which his music and poetry will be played and read, is free and open to the public and scheduled for Sunday, June 29 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the gallery.
Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Orange Hall is located at the corner of Grandview and Wawayanda Avenues, Middletown. Questions may be directed to Cultural Affairs (845)341-4891 and email@example.com. You may also visit the Cultural Affairs website at www.sunyorange.edu/culturalaffairs.
Entitled “The Paintings for World-Harmony by Sri Chinmoy: Dedicated to the Honorable Benjamin A. Gilman,” the exhibit is curated by Ranjana Ghose who has chosen works made in acrylic and ink. The vibrant, colorful acrylic paintings originally done on watercolor paper with his own crafted sponges and painting implements express sentiments of harmony, oneness, and joy.
The ink artworks were originally Chinese watercolor scrolls penned and brushed on handmade rice paper in a Zen-like, simplistic manner with bold strokes. The fifty artworks on display are high quality prints on wood plaques.
Chinmoy’s large body of artworks has been displayed in various shows worldwide, including at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris, France; the Agung Rai Museum of Art in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia; the Diaghiliev Art Center for the Museum of Modern Art in St. Petersburg, Russia; the Russell Rotunda of the U.S. Senate in Washington, DC; and the United Nations in New York City.
A prolific artist, poet, author, and musician, Chinmoy was an Indian spiritual master who taught meditation in the West after moving to New York City in 1964. He established his first meditation center in Queens, N.Y., and eventually had an estimated 7,000 students in 60 countries during his lifetime including Carl Lewis, Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Narada Michael Walden, Roberta Flack, and Boris Grebenshikov.
He offered a disciplined spiritual path that forbade the use of drugs and alcohol and encouraged music and poetry as expressions of thankfulness to the Divine. He pursued his vision of oneness through humanitarian service. He also held public events such as concerts and meditations on the theme of inner peace, and advocated athleticism to achieve spiritual enlightenment, including distance running, swimming, and weightlifting. He was best known for his deep respect for all religions and spiritual paths and often described as an ambassador of peace, and had ongoing friendships with Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and, Mikhail Gorbachev.
Over the years, Chinmoy received many awards because of his efforts on world peace including the Visva Sama Duta "Ambassador of Universal Peace" title conferred by the Asgiriya Order of Buddhist Monks in 1990, the first non-Buddhist in Sri Lankan history; Mahatma Gandhi Universal Harmony Award received jointly with Martin Luther King’s widow Coretta Scott King from the American branch of the Indian cultural institute Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in 1994; Fred Lebow Award, in the name of the founder of the New York City Marathon in 1996; and Macedonia’s Mother Teresa Award in 2001, among several other awards.
Gilman, a revered public servant, is known internationally as a compassionate advocate for human rights. Throughout his life, his ability at creating relationships across cultural, economic, language, and religious barriers garnered him high respect for which he was recognized with many honors. He was a member of the N.Y. State Assembly from 1967 until 1972 and a congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's 20th, 22nd, and 26th districts from 1973 to 2003, during which he was Chair of the House Committee on International Relations for six years.
Gilman served as a Congressional delegate to the United Nations, serving under Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick in 1981. He received the Distinguished Service Award, a gold medal and certificate that represent the highest civilian honor bestowed by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of State. The award is presented in recognition of exceptionally outstanding leadership, professional competence, and significant accomplishment over a sustained period of time in the field of foreign affairs.
In saluting his efforts to furthering U.S. ties with India, he was awarded that country's second highest civilian honor, the “Padma Vibhushan,” in 2001. He is one of only 12 foreigners, and one of only three Americans not of Indian origin, to receive the award. That same year he was honored by Chinmoy with the “Lifting Up the World With a Oneness-Heart” award.
In 2012, Gilman received the “Torch Bearer” award from the international Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run. In addition, in 2008, the Gilman Center for International Education on the Middletown campus of SUNY Orange opened. He has held memberships in many local organizations and is a co-founder and charter member of the Middletown chapter of the NAACP. Gilman was a veteran of World War II, serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1942 until 1945, flying 35 missions over Japan, and earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters.