CHINMAYANANDA Jayanti is being celebrated on May 8 this year in over 250 Chinmaya Mission centres in India and almost 50 centres abroad. It is to celebrate the birth day of Swami Chinmayananda, one of the foremost preachers of spiritual knowledge in recent times. Chinmaya Mission was established by the devotees of Swami Chinmayananda in1953 and is rendering valuable service in inculcating spiritual, cultural and social values among children and adults all over the world. Swamiji spent four decades of his life for the service of humanity through the ashrams, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and clinics established throughout the world.
Swamiji is popular worldwide as a spiritual master and was considered as an authority on the ancient Indian scriptures, especially the Bhagwad Gita and the Upanishads. He was the author of over 30 books, dedicated to the philosophical belief behind religion. He is credited with the revitalisation of spirituality and cultural values in India. Swamiji also worked ceaselessly for spreading the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta expounded by Adi Shankaracharya all over the world. Swamiji made Vedanta accessible to everyone regardless of age, nationality or religion.
Swami Chinmayananda was born in a devout Nair family called ‘Poothampalli’ in Ernakulam, Kerala on May 8, 1916 as the son of Parukutti and Kuttan Menon. He was given the name of Balakrishnan (Balan) by Chattambi Swami, known as the ‘Saint without saffron’. Swamiji lost his mother at the age of 5 and was introduced to formal education in a nearby school where he learnt Malayalam and Sanskrit. After graduation from Lucknow University in English Literature and Law, he joined the Indian freedom struggle and was arrested and sent to jail. After coming out of the jail, he took up journalism profession and joined The National Herald in Delhi as a Reporter. His writings during those days displayed his inherent compassion for the poor.
In 1947 he went to Rishikesh and met Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society to get his doubts cleared as to why saints who cared about mankind chose to stay away from people and did not enter mainstream life. Meeting Swami Sivananda and interacting with him proved to be a turning point in his life. He pursued spiritual studies for nine years under the guidance of Swami Sivananda and under the tutelage of Swami Tapovan Maharaj of Uttarakashi.
Known as the vibhuti of the Himalayas, Swami Tapovan Maharaj was an authority on Indian scriptures. Swamiji was initiated in the order of Sanyasa in 1949 and was named as Swami Chinmayananda Saraswathi. Since 1951, Swamiji has been relentlessly working to spread the eternal message to the masses. Swamiji introduced the Gita Gnana Yagna first in Pune and subsequently all over the world. Through Jnana Yoga (Vedantic path of spiritual knowledge), he emphasised the balance of head and heart, pointing out selfless work, study and meditation as the cornerstones of spiritual practice.
Administered by the Central Chinmaya Mission Trust in Mumbai, the Mission undertakes a wide range of spiritual, educational, and charitable activities including Jnana Yajnas (Vedanta lecture series, seminars, workshops); Bala Vihar (Vedanta Forum for Children and Youth); Yuva Kendra (Vedanta Forum for University students and Young professionals; Study Group (Vedanta Forum for Adults) and Devi Group (Vedanta study and discussion forum for housewives); Spiritual Retreats and Camps; Intensive Vedanta Courses (training for monks, swamis/swaminis and brahmacharis/brahmacharinis); Temples and Shrines; Educational Institutions; Medical Services; Rural Village Development Projects; Pitamaha Sadans (homes for senior citizens); and Research in Sanskrit and Indology. Chinmaya Mission sponsors 62 schools in India where Vedic heritage is included in the curriculum. Chinmaya ashrams are established in Mumbai and Siddhabari in India and in Piercy, San Jose, Washington, and Chicago, Flint, New York and Florida and other places in the US.
Chinmaya Mission imparts the wisdom of Vedanta in the Vedic tradition of guru-shishya parampara (teacher-taught tradition). “To give maximum happiness to the maximum number for the maximum time” is the tenet that drives the Mission workers and each person has gained personal growth, heightened efficiency, contentment, and the ability to live with others in peace and harmony.
Swami Chinmayananda was appointed as a President of Hindu religion for the Centennial Conference of the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago, where Swami Vivekananda had addressed hundred years ago. Swami Chinmayananda attained Mahasamadhi on August 3, 1993 in San Diego and his body was buried in the Siddhabari Ashram.
The teachings of Swamiji record his presence eternally reaching out to all those aspiring for the higher ideals in life. His legacy remains in the form of publications, audios and videos; social service projects; Vedanta teachers whom he taught and inspired; and Chinmaya Mission centres worldwide, serving the spiritual and cultural legacy. Swami Tejomayananda, a disciple of Swami Chinmayananda is the present spiritual head of the Chinmaya Mission worldwide.
(Author is a social activist and Director, Indo-Gulf Consulting. He can be contacted on [email protected])