The life of Swami Chinmayananda was one of extraordinary spiritual strength, immeasurable love and tireless service. In less than half a century, he has left behind a worldwide organization, hundreds of institutions, and millions of devotees. This was all aimed at a single theme, discovering the Eternal within.
The Spiritual Quest
Even as a formidable scholar, his thirst for knowledge could not be quenched by mere intellectual advances. Despite the accolades earned during his years of public speaking on literature, politics, religion, and Vedanta, in his late 20s, unable to control his spiritual hunger, Chippu Kutty left home in search of Truth. For seven years he travelled widely, devoutly studying Vedic scriptures and observing austerities. Swami Janardhana Giri of Kailash Ashram in Rishikesh initiated him into sanyasa with the name, Swami Tapovanam – “forest of austerities”. Swami Tapovanam chose to live in the then small, remote mountainous area of Uttarkashi in Uttaranchal. His hermitage called Tapovan Kutir, a meagre one-room thatched hut, in front of which the sacred River Ganga flows, would soon acquire great fame the world over for its spiritual luminescence.
Swami Chinmayananda was born on 8th May, 1916 as Balakrishna Menon (Balan) in Ernakulam, Kerala. His family was very devout in their religious life and had regular contact with holy men. This influence moulded Balan’s mental and moral make-up preparing him for the mission of his life ahead.
Balan excelled with his education graduating in Science, Political Science, Law and English Literature at Lucknow University. A man of strong ideas and idealism he entered the field of journalism where he felt he could influence political, economic and social reform in India. At this time he met Swami Sivananda at Rishikesh and became very interested in the spiritual path. Here he found the answers that he was seeking.
Swami Chinmayananda is Born
Balakrishna Menon took monkhood from Swami Sivananda to become Swami Chinmayananda – the one who is saturated in Bliss and Consciousness. Swami Sivananda saw the potential in Swami Chinmayananda and sent him to study under the greatest teacher of Vedanta in the Himalayas – Swami Tapovan Maharaj.
Swami Chinmayananda studied under Swami Tapovan’s guidance, leading a very austere and rigorous life. Then he felt a deep inner urge to share his knowledge and wisdom with the mass of humanity. He descended to the plains and held his first yagna in Pune to a small group of three people. This humble beginning rapidly expanded to more than 500 series of lectures given to audiences numbering thousands.
Rapid Growth of Chinmaya Mission
During his 40 years of traveling and teaching, Swami Chinmayananda opened numerous centers worldwide and he also built many schools, hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. As well as reinvigorating India’s rich cultural heritage, Swami Chinmayananda made Vedanta accessible to everybody regardless of age, nationality or religious background.
On 3rd August 1993, in San Diego, USA, Swami Chinmayananda attained Mahasamadhi. He worked tirelessly to the very last moment and created an international spiritual revolution.
The Virata Purusha of Chinmaya Mission
Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda while speaking to the sevaks in Sidhbari in 2006, said “Our prostrations to Pujya Gurudev, the Virata Purusha of Chinmaya Mission. The centers in Australia and New Zealand are His feet. His head spans all the Mission centers in North America.” Some people felt very sad and asked, “What about India? India is not the head?” But the centers in India form His heart. The other centers across the globe are His different limbs. The Mission’s regional heads are His crown. The acharyas are His eyes and ears. The Mission workers are His hands and legs. Our children and youth are the ornaments that adorn His person. The Vedas are His speech, and the multifarious activities of the Mission, with its seva projects, Vidyalayas, ashrams, temples, and research centers are His vital breath, His pranas. Chinmaya Mission is His vibhuti, or glory. But don’t think that He is only what Chinmaya Mission is, for the Mission is only His vibhuti. He is much, much, much greater than that. He extends across all these and beyond our comprehension. He is verily Brahman. Let us meditate on His cosmic form and realize our Oneness with Him. When we are serving the Mission, that bhava and understanding has to come that we are serving the Virata Pursusha alone. Then see what happens to you. After all, all efforts in the Mission are only so that, “You change!” This was Pujya Gurudev’s message. All these various activities are conducted and all these projects are undertaken for what? So that all individuals who participate grow spiritually, and their work blesses other people, benefits other people—so that their own life is also enriched, and the nation, its heritage, and the world are also served “.
Film On Swami Chinmayananda
On A Quest, the biopic movie on Pujya Swami Chinmayananda which was released on the occasion of Pujya Swamiji’s birth centenary is now available on DVD. The movie is in English (with dubbing in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam) and complete with French subtitles. With stunning visuals and an inspiring soundtrack, On A Quest will introduce you to the dynamic saint, compassionate teacher and visionary leader that was Swami Chinmayananda.