Short Biography of Swami Chinmayananda
By Brahmcharini Sadhanaji.
There are many saints and sages in the history of India. There are also many gurus. But visionaries are only a few. Sri Swami Chinmayananda was not only the sage of modern times, not only a guru but also a great visionary, whose work touched not only
SRI GURUBHYO NAMAHA!
Balakrishna Menon, the future Swami Chinmayananda was born on May 8, 1916 as the son of Parakutti and Kuttan Menon in Ernakulam, Kerala in the noble aristocratic family that strictly followed the Kerala traditions. Saints and sages often visited the house they all paid lots attention to Bala, predicting that he will have a great future. At an age of 5 Balan lost his mother; his father later remarried. Balan, as he was fondly called, spent his early childhood amidst a lot of love and attention amongst large extended family of cousins, uncles and aunts. He grew up as a charming and mischievous boy adored by all. Brilliant and intelligent student as he was, he used to complete his lessons easily without any effort. He loved reading, swimming and badminton. Ever ready for mischief and play, full of brilliant ideas and jokes, and great at mimicking everyone with great wit and humor, he never missed an opportunity to tease his sisters. Since early childhood he was an excellent actor ever full of dynamism a never ending source of new ideas for family and friends. Balan attended English Modern school where he also learned Malyalam and Sanskrit. Even later on as a Swami he often used to make comments and jokes in Malyalam.
It was the family tradition that the whole family gathered together for daily satsang and puja at sunset. Children also had to participate in it daily. Swamiji used to tell us: “As I was sitting there in the pooja room waiting for the Arathi which meant the end of satsang, I used to gaze at the pictures of Gods right in front of me. The one I liked the most was Lord Siva. To pass time I developed my own private game. I used to look at Lord Siva with
Involvement in the independence movement
In 1940 young Balan joined the Luknow university were he studied English literature and law. He was very active in the life on the campus appeared in several dramas in the theater, and became a member of the literary club, the debating club, and was on the university tennis team. Balakrishnan Menon was an attractive young man and in demand in social circles. But it wasn’t all he did. Sensitive to the life around him in 1942 Menon joined the Indian independence movement, for independence of his Country was an issue very dear to his heart. He was involved in writing and distributing leaflets, organizing public strikes and giving speeches. Menon’s rare leadership qualities made him visible in the movement and soon a warrant was issued in his name. He had to go into hiding, but soon after returning he was caught and put in prison. He spent several months in the overcrowded prison in terrible conditions. Terror, near-starvation diet, lack of hygiene and lack of ventilation invited disease.
In prison he had plenty of time to reflect on his own life, as well as on life in general. He had seen lifeless bodies carried out daily – the reality of death could not be ignored. Questions such as: “What is the meaning of this life? Is there something more permanent and if so what is it?” occupied his mind. Weakened by months in jail he fell ill with typhus fever. There was little hope for his recovery. Consequently, he was carried out into the night and tossed on the side of the road on the outskirts of the city.
Swamiji reports the event saying:
“The British officer threw me out when he realized I had contracted typhus in his prison. He did not want another body on his record ! but luckily for me, a kindly Christian-Indian lady took me into her home and cared for me like a Son. Later she told me that my nose reminded her on her son who was with the army. Suppose you can say I was……… ‘saved by the nose’.”
However, Swamiji was not predestined to die then, for his great mission in life had not yet started. After several difficult weeks and months he slowly regained strength and got well.
As soon as Menon regained health he was eager to get on with his life. He finished the university studies, graduated from law and English literature and chose the journalists career. In 1945 he moved to
His eloquence, brilliant intelligence, and the unique ability to come up with a joke on any occasion made him a popular member of a local Club where he was a loud voice in controversial discussions on social and political issues. But even though young and ambitious, Menon soon discovered for himself the emptiness of the so called “good life”. Underneath the noisy parties, the expensive clothes and jewelry and empty talk he sensed dissatisfaction, agitation and often despair. The selfishness and insensitivity of the ruling class were striking.
This made him discover again the topic left behind some fifteen year back – the Hindu religion. The old memories of childhood; the joy of falling asleep with the mantra on his lips, the loving and reassuring picture of an old grandmother who dedicated her last years to chanting the name of Lord Krishna.
Japa came back to Menon. He took Up the practice again, with the refreshing realization that perhaps there was more to life than political and social struggle, parties and intellectual discussions – though he still did not know what it was. “This feeling” as Swamiji recalls it later, was soon followed by an intense study of philosophy, both Indian and European. Secretly, before going to sleep he was doing the OM NAMAA SIVAYA mantra chanting.
It was at this crucial moment in his life that he came across books of Swami Sivananda, Vivekananda, Ram Tirtha, Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi and others He began studying philosophy’ both Indian and European. The most profound influence made on Menon writings of Swami Sivananda, who stressed: “Be good. Do good.” “Serve, Love, Purify, Meditate, Realize, and be free”. Menon was impressed, but doubts still lingered in the mind of this self-acclaimed agnostic. He decided to explore it right where the action was – in the Himalayas – the center of spiritual life in
However, already the first meeting with Swami Sivananda blew away Menon’s preconceived ideas about spirituality. The master’s dignity, his brilliant intelligence, the special aura of divinity captured him. Further more, the ashram was not at all what he expected. It was a dynamic place where numerous spiritual and social projects were continuously going on, and yet there was a very special peace and tranquillity felt in the mist of all the activity. It brought about the fascination in the doubting mind of the young journalist Swami Sivananda, who right away saw a great spiritual potential in Menon paid him special attention and used to tease him: “God gave you such an intelligence! Why don’t you use it for Him?! You can join us and become a swami ! “
A month later Menon returned to
Finally he permanently joined Sivananda ashram, and on the 25th of February 1949, the auspicious day of Sivaratri Swami Sivananda initiated Menon to the order of sanyas. His name become now SWAMI CHINMAYANANDA SARASWATI, the one who revels in the bliss of pure consciousness.
Swamiji studied and worked in the ashram for some time. But for him the only path was GNANA YOGA, therefore Swami Sivananda told him: “You need to master the scriptures! Go to Uttarkashi to study under the renown vedantic master, Swami Tapovan!”
Thus Swamiji spent 8 years studying the scriptures at the feet of Sri Swami Tapovan in the high
After finishing studying the Bhagavad Geeta, Upanishads and Brahma Sutras Swamiji says to his guru: “I feel the immense urge to go down to the plains and share the wealth of the holy scriptures with my fellow countrymen. I want to run down like the a
Swami Tapovanam did not share the enthusiasm of his disciple He told him: “People are not ready yet, they will not understand you!” The guru suggested instead: “Take a trip down to plains wandering around as a renunciate, living as a beggar among those you had once known. Swamiji traveled on foot Some six months living on bhiksha; sleeping in ashrams, temples, and under wayside trees.”
In November of 1951, Swami Chinmayananda completed his tour of India and returned to Tapovan Kutir in Uttarkasi But he came back even more convinced that his mission in life was to bring the rich and forgotten Vedantic philosophy to every corner of the world. He had witnessed the spiritual and economic degradation throughout his homeland, and was resolved to do series of Geeta Gnana Yagnas in all of the big Cities of India and abroad.
But Swamiji was not going to disobey his Guru, and would not leave without guru’s blessings. Again he asked Swami Tapovan for permission, and this time Swami Tapovan said, all right, go and start your gnana yagnas but on one condition – you must have at least four people in the audience including the speaker, And Guru’s words were fulfilled. Truly enough the first gnana yagna in
Spiritual renaissance begins
Thus Swami Chinmayananda came down from the high Himalayan peaks to bring the knowledge of the rishis and with it the revival of moral and spiritual values in the whole nation. The need for such a direction in
This hasn’t been an easy task. From the very beginning Swamiji had to face lots of opposition, it seemed that he had everyone against him. Never before was studying of the scriptures in
Even the educated class would not support the renaissance of spiritual culture that Swamiji was initiating. The English educated intelligencia was not ready to receive his message. Trying to imitate the ways of the West, materialistic and skeptical, they were oblivious of the traditional Aryan spiritual culture of Hinduism.
But Swamiji did not give up. He used to tell us that Success is our birthright, and he has proven it with his life, He knew that given time he will win the hearts and minds of the nation Undefeated, He traveled through the country urging that all national activities be should be organized around higher spiritual ideals, proving, that spirituality is not a hindrance to progress, but enriches life and gives it new meaning Swamiji, the greatest missionary of our times Swamiji tirelessly worked for 42 years in spite of His ill health traveling throughout India and the whole world with no holidays, no breaks. He used to say: “When I rest, I rust”. His joyous presence brought inspiration and strength around. Easily approachable He clarified doubts and anxieties, and offered guidance at the satsangs and discussions to men and women across the globe. Swamiji always found time for an honest seeker, regardless whether he was a child or the distinguished scholar or politician. Ever punctual, never complaining, full of enthusiasm, ready to help and guide, never missed an appointment, even when sick. He taught the importance of spiritual knowledge in every day life. His style was new, somehow shocking but irresistible. He explained philosophy of ancient scriptures with logic of science and at the same time with dynamism and humor the methods suitable to the modern youth. His charming smile cheered hearts, and magnet of his clear strong voice soon started drawing hundreds then thousands to the lectures.
At the lectures Swamiji demanded that everyone had the Upanishad and Geeta text in hand, and that everyone participated in the chanting of the Sanskrit texts.
Apart from lecturing Swami Chinmayananda 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. His approach is unique. By the use of scientific logic and simplicity of style He made the profound scriptural knowledge easy to understand and brought it closer to us by illustrating it with examples from our own life. Written in modern language they perfectly serve the needs of the modern people.
Once a child asked Him, Swamiji where do you live? Swamiji answered: “at the airports and the train Stations”. And it is true this great saint did not have a home of His own, a matter of fact He owned nothing. Upto the end of His life He never stayed in one place more than a week. With “Hari Om” He used to arrive and with “Hari Om” He would leave one place for another, taking with Him but the love and the satisfaction that more hearts were inspired to live Vedantic way of life, the life of spiritual knowledge and the noble values. He used to say: “Vedanta makes you a better Hindu, better Christian better Muslim as it makes you a better human being.”
Already in the 60s the results of Swami Chinmayananda’s work were striking. The Chinmaya movement touched every corner of
But Swamiji knew that simply attending the lectures and reading the books our lives will not be changed. That is why He introduced the weekly study groups and classes where newly learned ideas could be reinforced and assimilated in the mutual discussions.
Swamiji gave special attention and affection to children, for He saw them as the builders of the future. For them He organized the Bala Vihar and Yuva Kendra classes, which He called children’s clubs. Those classes teach the principles of Hindu religion and culture helping the youngsters to unfold their hidden potential in the light of dynamic spirituality. Many of them have grown up as the most successful and highly cultured members of society To see them prosper Swamiji remarked, was the best Gurudakshina he ever received.
Chinmaya Mission sponsors 62 schools in
In order to have the Vedantic knowledge brought to every corner of the world and every avenue of life Swamiji started ashrams in
Life long Achievements
In 1992 Swami Chinmayananda gave an address in the United Nations titled “Planet in Crisis”. Just before the Mahasamadhi Swamiji was recognized as a world-renown teacher of Vedanta and Hindu religious leader. He was selected as a President of Hindu religion for the Centennial Conference of the Parliament of World Religions in
Unfortunately, Swamiji was not able to appear for the last two functions as He attained Mahasamadhi on August 3rd.
Swami Chinmayananda, the greatest Missionary and the visionary of our times left His bodily form in