Editor's preface

On 28 October 2006, Sri Chinmoy was inspired to relate some of his most memorable experiences drinking tea and coffee up until 1999, when he promised the soul of his long-departed sister Ahana that he would not take either beverage again in this lifetime.

Here are Sri Chinmoy’s recollections from that evening, along with other stories gathered from his writings over the years. Some of these stories pertain to the tea and coffee experiences of well-known luminaries such as Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Nolini Kanta Gupta, Raisa Maximovna Gorbachev and Pandit Ravi Shankar. The book also contains one of Sri Chinmoy’s short stories relating to tea, as well as excerpts from his other writings where he sometimes uses the analogy of instant coffee as the antithesis of the slow and steady journey towards God-realisation.

Although Sri Chinmoy advised against excessive intake of tea and coffee, describing them as ‘slow poisons’, he was known to recommend them to some of his students who were faced with the prospect of a long interstate drive, an all-night project or a marathon activity of some kind. In addition, a number of his students operate cafes specialising in fine coffees and teas, while one has a wholesale business dealing in organic coffee. And in many of the vegetarian restaurants run by Sri Chinmoy’s students around the world, one of the most sought-after items on the menu is traditional Indian chai.

Sri Chinmoy’s approach to tea and coffee reveals one of countless endearing aspects of this contemporary spiritual Master. On the highest spiritual level, he offered seekers everywhere a sunlit path to God. On the human level, he participated wholeheartedly in the experience of living in this world — including drinking a cup of coffee before a brisk seven-mile race or while waiting for a flight at an airport in the course of his tireless world-service.