samastajanakalyāne nirataṃ karuṇāmayam | namāmi cinmayaṃ devaṃ sadguruṃ brahmavidvaram ||
A Saint. A Teacher. A Visionary.
Swami Chinmayananda was one of the greatest exponents of Vedanta (the foundation of Hindu thought and culture) whose life was one of extraordinary spiritual strength, immeasurable love and tireless service. In less than half a century, He has left behind a worldwide organisation, hundreds of institutions, and millions of devotees, all aimed at a single theme...discovering the Eternal within.
Swami Chinmayananda was born on 8 May 1916 as Balakrishnan Menon (Balan) in Ernakulam, Kerala (India). Completing his intermediate studies in Ernakulam and Trichur, Balan graduated in Science and Political Science from Madras University in 1939 and further completed post-graduation in literature and law from Lucknow University.
Rebirth as Swami Chinmayananda
Soon after, Balan actively participated in India's freedom struggle against the British, his nationalist activities eventually leading to his imprisonment. After he was released, Balan took to journalism and joined 'The National Herald' newspaper to further his struggles and efforts at political and social reform. His skepticism concerning 'sadhus' or religious monks and his fervour to expose them drove him to Swami Sivananda's ashram in Rishikesh. However, he was overwhelmed when he met Swami Sivananda and saw the noble and humanitarian work being rendered by the ashram. Doubt and skepticism transformed to inquiry which under Swami Sivananda's prodding became a quest for the Truth. Having found the right goal of life and the path to seek the answer to all questions, Balan decided to become a monk himself and on 25 February 1949, on the auspicious occasion of Sivarathri, he was initiated into sannyas (holy monastic order) by Swami Sivananda. Balakrishnan Menon was reborn as Swami Chinmayananda, the Bliss of Pure Consciousness.
The Making of a Master
After some months at the ashram, Swami Sivananda guided the young monk to seek and study under Swami Tapovanam, one of the most greatest Vedantic masters who lived in Uttarkashi in the Himalayas. As Swami Tapovanam's disciple, Swami Chinmayananda led an extremely austere lifestyle and was put through a rigorous study of the scriptures. After his studies, in 1951 Swami Chinmayananda travelled throughout India. Observing widespread spiritual and social degradation in the country, Swami Chinmayananda felt the urge to share with others the knowledge that had brought fulfillment to his own life. Re-envisioning the traditional yajna (the fire sacrifice involving offering oblations into fire) into a 'jñana yajña' or the offering of knowledge, Swami Chinmayananda was convinced that this would burn away the ignorance of the masses and elevate them into the true way of living.
After obtaining Swami Tapovanam's blessings, Swami Chinmayananda conducted his first 'jñana yajña' or spiritual discourse in December 1951 in Pune. Starting with only a handful of listeners, the clarity and dynamism of Swami Chinmayananda's exposition and the relevance of the knowledge being expounded soon attracted hundreds more, eventually growing into a cultural resurgence across India.
Work and Legacy
From then on, there was no turning back. Chinmaya Misison was formed in 1953. Following an intensive work schedule of 18 hours a day, through the voice and the pen, Swami Chinmayananda spread the man-making knowledge of Vedanta throughout India and the world with thousands now listening and hundreds earnestly seeking.
Chinmaya Mission centres sprung up all over India and the globe. Under Swami Chinmayanandaji's guidance, hundreds of Swamis and Brahmacharins were imparted this supreme knowledge in the Sandeepany Sadhanalaya (vedantic seminaries) in Mumbai and other places to further the work of the Mission. Public discourses were supplemented with spiritual camps and study groups and His vision for cultural and social resurgence was translated into multiple educational programs addressing all age-groups of society, child and youth development programs, research institutions, social projects such as schools and colleges, hospitals and old-age homes, and various rural development projects.
Swami Chinmayananda authored more than 35 books, which include commentaries on the major Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Swamiji's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita is acknowledged as one of the finest ever written. Unfolding with clarity the simple and subtle import of Vedanta, Swami Chinmayananda ensured that this supreme Truth was readily available for any one seeking to know themselves.
In His numerous Gita Jñana Yajñas for which Swamiji is specially known, Swamiji brought the Bhagavad Gita back to life and relevance to listeners in the contemporary world revealing its pertinent message for their daily lives, calling it the “manual for daily living, a handbook of instructions as to how every human being can come to live the subtle philosophical principles of Vedanta in the actual workaday world.” Comfortably traversing the paths of jñana (knowlegde), karma (action) and bhakti (devotion), Swami Chinmayananda exhibited by example how to live the life of Truth as expounded in the Bhagavad Gita.
After having travelled across the globe and worked incessantly for 40 years towards reinvigorating Hindu thought and life and having made the truly universal knowledge of Vedanta easily accessible to millions across age, caste, religion and nationality, Swami Chinmayananda left his mortal frame attaining Mahasamadhi on 3 August 1993 in San Diego, USA.
Swami Chinmayananda's Samadhi lies in Chinmaya Tapovanam, Sidhbari, Himachal Pradesh, India.