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Swami Chinmayananda

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I would like to pay tribute to the founder of the Chinmaya mission, Swami Chinmayananda.

Chinmayananda Saraswati (8 May 1916 – 3 August 1993), also known as Swami Chinmayananda and born Balakrishnan Menon, was an Indian spiritual leader and teacher who inspired the formation of Chinmaya Mission in 1953 to spread the message of Vedanta. The organization, which was founded by his disciples and led by him, has over 300 centres in India and internationally. And he is the Co Founder of Vishva Hindu Parishad Largest Hindu Origination.  He was a disciple of Sivananda Saraswati at Rishikesh, who founded the Divine Life Society. He was later advised by Sivananda to study under Tapovan Maharaj in Uttarkashi in the Himalayas.

According to the Chimaya Mission, Balakrishna Menon, who would later be initiated into sannyasa as Swami Chinmayananda, “was born on May 8, 1916 as the son of Parakutti and Kuttan Menon in Ernakulam, Kerala in a noble aristocratic family that strictly followed the Kerala traditions.” Upon his birth, his father called for an astrologer, Yogiraja Bhairananda, who stated that Balakrishna’s birth was an auspicious one and that he was destined for greatness. At an age of 5 Balakrishna lost his mother; his father later remarried.  He studied science at the Maharaja’s College at Ernakulam and liberal arts at St. Thomas College, Thrissur. He graduated from Madras University in 1939 and went on to do graduate study in English literature with a secondary course in law at Lucknow University.

In 1942 Menon joined the Indian independence movement. He became involved in writing and distributing leaflets, organizing public strikes and giving speeches. Because of these activities a warrant was issued for his arrest by the British Raj authorities. Despite going into hiding for a while, upon his return he was caught and imprisoned. He spent several months in an overcrowded prison with terrible conditions: near-starvation diet, lack of hygiene and lack of ventilation invited disease. While there he reflected upon his own life, as well as on life in general

Menon entered the field of journalism, and worked for The National Herald, where he felt he could influence political, economic and social reform in India. While working at the Herald, Menon went to meet Sivananda Saraswati at his ashram at Ananda Kutir,in Rishikesh because he wanted to write an article criticizing Hindu monks. But instead, Menon’s life was changed forever as he became interested in the Hindu spiritual path. Balakrishnan Menon took sanyas deeksha (monkhood) from Sivananda on Mahashivratri day on February 25, 1949, and was thus given the name Chinmayananda Saraswati – the one who is saturated in Bliss and pure Consciousness.

He stayed at Sivanada Ashram, Rishikesh for several years, and subsequently Sivananda saw further potential in Chinmayananda and sent him to study under a guru in the Himalayas – Tapovan Maharaj under whom he studied for the following years. Tapovan Maharaj was known for his rigid teaching style, to the point where he told Chinmayananda that he would only say everything once, and at anytime he would ask questions to him. Even with these extreme terms, Chinmayananda stayed with Tapovan maharaj until the very end of 8 years. Being a journalist at heart, Chinmayananda wanted to make this pure knowledge available to all people of all backgrounds, even though Tapovan Maharaj had initially advised against it. Through gentle persuasion and a promise that he would, as the Ganges River, take the knowledge to the plains for the benefit of all Indians, with Tapovan Maharaj’s blessings, he left the Himalayas in 1952, to teach the world the knowledge of Vedanta.

In 1953, his closest disciples founded the Chinmaya Mission, named so to indicate that the goal of its followers was infinite bliss. During his forty years of travelling and teaching, Chinmayananda opened numerous centres and ashrams worldwide. He also built many schools, hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. He played a major role in the renovation of many temples. His interest in helping the villagers with basic necessities lead to the eventual creation of a rural development project, known as the Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development or CORD. Its National Director, Dr. Kshama Metre was recently awarded the Padma Shree National award in Social Work
Death .Chinmayananda died on 3 August 1993 in San Diego, California after suffering his fourth heart attack. He was aged 77 at the time of his death. His mortal remains were placed in a Samadhi on 19 August 1993, at the Sidhbari Ashram in the Himalayas.

Today, his legacy remains in the form of the vibrant international organization called the Chinmaya Mission. This mission serves Chinmayananda’s vision of reinvigorating India’s rich cultural heritage, and making Vedanta accessible to everybody regardless of age, nationality, or religious background. Over 10,000 members of the Chinmaya Mission from over the world gathered in Mumbai in December 2001 to commemorate 50 years of the first Gyana Yagna at Pune. Two years later in 2003, the Chinmaya Movement celebrated its golden jubilee.

(source : Wikipedia)

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