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Swami Chinmayananda

Swami Chinmayananda was a great seer who defined the ideal model of Karmayogi and taught the greatness of pure devotion or 'bhakti'. Swami Chinmayananda's earlier name was Balakrishna Menon and he was born into a noble aristocratic family of Kerala, on May 8, 1916 as the son of Parukkutti and Kuttan Menon, at Ernakulam. He had a rare fortune in that great saints and sages often visited the house. The young Chinmayananda grew up in a spiritually charged atmosphere, amidst the love and affection of family members. While in college, in 1942 Menon joined the Indian independence movement, for independence of his motherland was an issue close to his heart. He wrote and distributed leaflets, organized public strikes and gave revolutionary speeches. Soon he was arrested and put in prison for his anti-British activities. It was in prison that he had the opportunity to dwell at length on the questions of life, death and spirituality in general. He fell extremely sick due to the lack of hygiene in prison and was thrown out into the street in a very sick condition. But he was rescued by a kind Christian lady who cared for him like her own son.

Regaining health, he completed the university studies, graduated in law and English literature and chose the career of a journalist. In 1945 he moved to Delhi, and joined the editorial staff of The National Herald. He soon earned a reputation as an extremely dynamic and controversial reporter. Coming across the books of Swami Sivananda, Vivekananda, Ram Tirtha, Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi and others, he began studying philosophy and was influenced the greatest by Swami Sivananda, who stressed the importance of goodness in life. In the summer of 1947 Menon met Swami Sivananda personally at his ashram, with the intention of finding the true meaning of spirituality.

He was impressed by the master's dignity, his intelligence, and the special aura of divinity. A month later he returned to Delhi as a changed man and moved to Rishikesh a year later, still retaining his job as a journalist. He became a permanent member of the Sivananda ashram, and it was on the 25th of February 1949 that Swami Sivananda initiated Menon to the order of sanyas. He was assigned the name Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati, meaning 'the one who revels in the bliss of pure consciousness.' Chinmayananda's thirst for knowledge took him to Swami Tapovan, with whom he spent 8 years studying the scriptures in the Himalayas in Uttarkashi.

Realising that his mission was to revive the rapidly disappearing scriptural knowledge among the Hindus, Chinmayananda came down from the Himalayas and with the permission of his guru, started giving lectures to the public on various aspects of spirituality and on the scriptural texts. He had to face tremendous opposition from the priestly class who had till then monopolised the Scriptures, as well as from the newly westernised populace. But Swami Chinmayananda gained popularity by his unique style of oratory. He taught the importance of spiritual knowledge in every day life. He explained the philosophy of ancient scriptures scientifically and with dynamism and humor, which attracted the modern youth. Swami Chinmayananda also wrote commentaries to major Vedantic texts as well as many of his own books that dealt with different aspects of true religion, including books for children.

Swami Chinmayananda established the Chinmaya Mission and in order to take Vedantic knowledge to every corner of the world and every aspect of life, Swamiji started ashrams in India and America. The main ashrams in India are in Mumbai, and in the Himalayas in Sidhabari. In America there are ashrams in Piercy, San Jose, Washington, Chicago, Flint, New York state, and Florida. There are free clinics, hospitals, vocational Hari Har schools, orphanages, and old people's homes functioning under the Chinmaya Trust.

Swami Chinmayananda was recognized as an exceptional teacher of Vedanta and a Hindu religious leader. He was selected as a President of the Hindu religion for the Centennial Conference of the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago, where Swami Vivekananda had given his address a hundred years ago.

His eventful life came to a close when he attained Mahasamadhi on August 3rd, 1993. His samadhi is at Sidhabari Ashram.

Updated on 26th October, 2005


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