Professional BMX freestyle rider Joris Coulomb always chased adventure. He didn’t realize that one day it would take him to a place of deep meaning where all his questions about life would be answered.
Born in 1990, the now 28-year-old Joris grew up in Bagnols, a small town in the South of France. As a young boy, he tried a series of different sports from basketball to tennis but was put off by the rigid rules and yelling coaches. Then he saw a group of BMX riders. The simultaneous togetherness and freedom appealed to him.
At thirteen, his parents bought him a BMX bike for Christmas. It became his passion. He’d ride every day after school and compete in national contests. By sixteen, he had qualified in the finals at the Freestyle BMX World Championships, finishing at number nine.
The next year, Joris was sponsored by Nike and secured a place on the Nike pro French team, competing in pro contests like Rebel Jam, Simple Sessions and The Worlds. But it was making BMX videos – in which he performed tricks on the streets in countries all over Europe, America, and Asia – that brought him his greatest recognition.
Joris got most of his recognition by making BMX videos filled with incredible tricks
Exploring different places and cultures on his travels, Joris found his consciousness evolving. “I started to see that everyone was connected; that something was the same inside everyone,” he says. “I didn’t know then that it was the Paramatma, or Supreme Soul.”
Still, his inquiries led him to believe that he might learn more in India. So in 2014, he took a trip there with his girlfriend at the time; a trip that was doubtless guided by the Paramatma.
“The first night when we landed in Delhi, I found a Bhagavad-gita As It Is in our hotel room,” Joris recalls. “Looking through the chapter titles and contents, which described “the absolute truth,” “the most confidential knowledge,” and all types of yoga, I knew this was what I had been looking for.”
Joris in a thoughtful moment
While he couldn’t keep the hotel copy, Joris was determined to find the book again, and approached a street bookstand in Mumbai later in his trip. Incredibly, the owner once again handed him Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
Upon returning home, Joris read the Bhagavad-gita twice in a row without stopping. Because Prabhupada had mentioned the Srimad-Bhagavatam many times in the text, he wanted to read that next.
A year later, he was in New York City for the premiere of his DVD “What Could Go Wrong?” While walking with friends, he was chanting the Hare Krishna mantra on rudraksha beads when suddenly he began to hear drums and cymbals along with the very same maha-mantra he had only read about before. There, in Union Square, he met devotees from New York’s Harinama Ashrama, who gave him a copy of the first canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
After devouring it, he ordered the rest of the set online and read the entire Srimad-Bhagavatam in a year.
Meditating before competing in Simple Sessions BMX contest
In 2016, Joris returned to India on a Nike-funded trip to make a BMX video. “I wanted to introduce people to Indian culture, Vrindavan, and Krishna,” he says. “I was excited about being able to spiritualize a big corporation’s money by using it to spread Krishna consciousness.”
During his trip, Joris spent three days in the sacred village of Vrindavan, staying at the MVT property and attending classes at ISKCON’s Krishna Balaram Mandir every day. When his friends proposed visiting the Taj Mahal in nearby Agra, he declined, wanting to make the most of his short time.
The resulting video, “Balance,” blends incredible BMX tricks with a look at Indian life and culture. In it Joris is seen wearing tilak and visiting Krishna Balarama Mandir, with clear shots of Srila Prabhupada’s murti and the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. One scene of Joris doing yoga is set to an audio clip of Prabhupada giving a powerful lecture.
“This is birth and death,” Prabhupada says. “The soul is eternal. Therefore, a sober man should think, ‘Why should I change my body? Why this trouble I shall take?’ That is human sense. If I am eternal, why not my eternal body? Eternal existence? Why shall I die? This is human sense.”
Joris takes darshan of the Deities at Krishna Balarama Mandir in Vrindavan
The video garnered nearly 70,000 views on Youtube and brought Joris the most feedback of any of his films.
“I was blown away,” he says. “People were sending long, appreciative messages saying, ‘Thank you for bringing this type of consciousness to BMX – we need this rather than just trick after trick with no substance.’ Many asked questions: ‘What is this philosophy? Who is Krishna?’”
Since then, Joris has moved on to read the Chaitanya Charitamrita and is starting to follow the rules and regulations of devotional life. From struggling to chant a full mantra on each bead, he is now chanting a minimum of sixteen rounds per day, and often more.
“At first, I didn’t have anyone to tell me how to practice – I was just following Krishna’s instructions in the Gita to ‘Just surrender unto Me; keep doing what you do, but give the fruits of your work to Me,’” Joris says. “I didn’t change anything, I was still partying in the BMX scene. But I was surrendering in my heart, and I kept reading the books, seeing devotees, visiting temples. And just by doing this, I became less and less attracted to that lifestyle. As Prabhupada says, Krishna is like the sun and Maya is like the darkness – when the sun comes up, there is no room for darkness. I didn’t even have to try.”
At Keshi Ghat
Going on his intuition, Joris did not make radical changes but instead gradually transformed his life. As a result, his family and friends were not concerned – rather, they began to follow a step behind him, with many of them stopping or reducing habits like meat-eating and drinking.
Joris continues his career as a professional BMX freestyle rider; but wherever he travels to film videos or compete in contests, he visits the local ISKCON temple and brings his friends. He spends his time during flights chanting, and carries a “mini-temple” everywhere.
“The Bhagavad-gita says that there are four types of people who approach God for different reasons,” he says. “I feel that I approached Krishna out of gratitude for life. Krishna consciousness is beautiful because you can express your love and gratefulness, or whatever feelings you have with Krishna anytime, and He reciprocates in exactly the same way. Even if you don’t have a temple, you can relate to Him with His name, the maha-mantra.”
Joris is also bringing Krishna consciousness to the sport of BMX in a wonderful way. Recently, he was part of the group that won Video of the Year for “One” at the NORA Cup in England, BMX’s most coveted award.
Chanting Japa while traveling in Ecuador
Joris’ section of the video features the song “Your Lotus Feet” by devotee band Govinda Sky, a meditation on the guru and specifically Srila Prabhupada. It also includes short clips of Srila Prabhupada, devotees dancing, and Radha Krishna Deities.
“In the BMX industry, everyone now knows that I’m into Krishna,” Joris says. “I’m so stoked that when people think about me, they remember Krishna – that makes my life complete.”
Watch Joris’ videos here:
Jan 22, 2022
Sunanda Das, tovp.org