Sri Swami Chinmayananda, also known as Chinmayananda Saraswati, is a modern spiritual leader whose spiritual fame spread all across the world during the 20th century. A sage and guru, he was also regarded as a great visionary who brought spiritual transformation amongst millions through his Jnana yajnas.
Swami Chinmayananda was born as Balakrishna Menon on 8th May 1916, in Ernakulam, Kerala. He was the son of a noble aristocrat Parakutti Menon and his wife Kuttan Menon. Balakrishna Menon grew up in a traditional South Indian ambience filled with various spiritual and religious activities. Menon was only five years old when he lost his mother. His father remarried and he was nurtured by his step mother with equal love and affection.
As a child, Menon was extremely mischievous though brilliant and full of radiance. Even, later in his life, when Menon emerged as a leader of the highest stature he never gave up his ingenious humorous style of communicating with his disciples.
Menon studied at English Modern School where he also learned Sanskrit and Malyalam. Later, he joined Maharaja’s College at Ernakulum to study science. Menon also studied Liberal Arts at Thrissur’s St. Thomas College. In the year 1939, he graduated from Madras University and left for Lucknow to study Literature at Lucknow University.
Meeting Ramana Maharshi – Menon’s first spiritual gain was achieved when he met Ramana Maharshi at Tiruvannamalai. At that time, Menon was a young ‘convinced atheist’ who was about to join his college. Menon later defined how without any conversation and just with a mere look, Ramana Maharshi read his mind and instilled into him the strength to see life beyond gross convictions.
Time in Prison – In the year 1942, Menon joined Indian independence movement. On being convicted for sedition, when he was languishing in jail for months, he delved deeply into the nitty-gritties of life and death. Like his other prison inmates, Menon too suffered physical frailness, owing to poor living conditions, and caught the Typhus fever. After being thrown out of jail, he was nursed by a Christian-Indian lady. This time, his journey started off as a freedom fighter and ended up with a spiritual mission to fulfill.
Guru of the Guru
Socio-political and economic reforms of his nation topped his agenda when Menon decided to join The National Herald as a budding journalist.
Gradually, Menon introduced himself to the world of spirituality through various works of Vivekananda, Tirtha, Ramana Maharshi Aurobindo, and Swami Sivananda. He also started studying Indian and European philosophies. It was the words of Swami Sivananda that impressed him the most. However, Menon was still not sure about spirituality and its virtues. In mid 1947, Menon went to Ananda Kutir, in Rishikesh, where he met his guru Sivananda. Sivananda’s initial impression of Menon was that of a journalist who had arrived at his abode to understand the deeper meaning of spirituality and its effects in life. Menon wanted to cover this subject in his next publication. Menon entered Sivananda’s ashram for he wanted to cover a subject in criticism of the Hindu monks. However, this young man ended up being a spiritual seeker and chose spiritualism his path of life. He made Sivananda his guru and got initiation on February 25, 1949, on the day of Mahashivratri. At the same time, Menon got his new name Chinmayananda Saraswati meaning the one having saturated Bliss and Consciousness. After serving his guru for several years and gaining spiritual knowledge, Chinmayananda was sent to Tapovan Maharaj at Uttarkashi for further learning.
Chinmayananda stayed with Tapovan Maharaj for eight long years and thoroughly studied great Indian Scriptures like Bhagavad Geeta, Upanishads and Brahma Sutras. During this time he was trained under the most rigid lifestyle as set for him by the Maharaj. Being a journalist at heart, Chinmayananda wanted to disseminate his knowledge to the whole world and with the consent of Tapovan Maharaj, he left the Himalayas in 1952 to teach the whole world the essence of Vedanta.
Contribution to Society
On his arrival at the plains he came across widespread social, spiritual and moral degradation in the people of his land. He felt a strong urge to propagate the divine knowledge which had fulfilled his own life.
Jnana yajna – In December 1951, he performed his first Jnana yajna in a temple at Pune, Maharashtra. Chinmayananda had coined the word Jnana after being inspired from the teachings of Lord Krishna in Shrimad Bhagavad Gita.
Gradually, his number of disciples increased as more and more people wanted to learn from his dynamic and spiritual discourses. In the year 1953, a group of devotees formed The Chinmaya Mission. Gurudev, as he came to be known amongst his disciples, attained mahasamadhi on 3rd of August, 1993. He performed 576 Jnana yajnas and innumerable spiritual camps in his life by crisscrossing nations, traversing thousands of miles and transforming the lives of millions.
Works of Swami Chinmayananda
Some of the works of Chinmayananda are as follows –
· Bala Bhagavatam
· Holy Geeta (Adaptation)
· Journey of a Master
· Life & Death
· Our Heritage
· Meditation & Life
· Art of Contemplation and Meditation & Life
· Yoga Vasishtha: Sara
· Tell me a story
· Bala Ramayanam
· Geeta for Children
· My Prayer
Some notable quotes delivered by Swami Chinmayananda are as follows –
- Our eyes can see only the things that are distant from them. They are incapable of seeing their own eyeballs or eyelashes, because of their nearness. Similarly we do not see the Divinity within us, because of its nearness. God is the nearest entity in us, the very core of our existence.
- Prayer brings together things which were never apart. Prayer reminds me that I am not in a dream – but that I’m dreaming that I’m lost. Prayer is a path where there is none, and ritual is prayer’s vehicle.
- Mind is the flow of thoughts. The texture of thoughts determines the quality of the mind.
- With our little knowledge we laboriously build a wall, and we grow up only to see our own built-in wall and not the world beyond!
- One does not need to be great in order to be respected. Respecting life makes you great.
The Last Days
Swami Chinmayananda left his physical form on 3rd of August, 1993 in San Diego, U.S.A. His body was buried at Sidhbari Ashram, Himachal Pradesh, India.
In his 42 years of unyielding service, Swami Chinmayananda established many institutions committed to Vedantic studies. He also founded numerous philanthropic projects for the social-economic and religious upliftment of the mankind. His knowledge is still alive and vibrant through Chinmaya Mission which makes him the mentor of millions across nations.
Central Chinmaya Mission Trust
Saki Vihar Road
Mumbai 400 072
Ph: (+91-22) 2857 2367
Fax: (+91-22) 2857 3065
Swami Chinmayanand ji Maharaj
Chinmaya Darshan –Depicting his whole life cycle.