For over forty years Swami Chinmayananda was one of the leading
interpreters and teachers of the Hindu philosophical system of Advaita
Vedanta, which establishes with exact logic the identity of the Self
(Atman) with the infinite (Brahman). Through a variety of institutions and
methods, particularly the jnana yajnas, rituals of truth, he worked to
rejuvenate Hinduism by making hitherto inaccessible insights of the
Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita available to the general people. Thereby,
he was instrumental in bringing the wisdom of the Hindu Heritage to
everyone, regardless of caste, creed, gender or nationality.
This, the first biography of Swami Chinmayananda, retraces his journey from
his boyhood in Kerala, through his carefree college days and rebellion
against British imperialism, then his spiritual tutelage under Swami
Shivananda and Swami Tapovan. An account is given detailing the growth of a
worldwide movement under his guidance. Included are conversations with him
on different subjects that demonstrate his sharp intellect, deep wisdom and
quick wit. He is undoubtedly one of the outstanding and influential figures
in the modern history of India.
With this edition I was asked to complete Swami Chinmayananda’s life
through to his mahasamadhi [death]. In the first edition, several readers
found several inconsistencies in regard to dates, which I have happily
corrected. Others felt I had excluded certain names or anecdotes. These
comments impelled me to consider why I had written the biography. No doubt
I spent consider why I had written the biography. No doubt I spent
considerable time in research to be able to compile all the facts
accurately. The many people I personally interviewed are acknowledged at
the end of the book. Nonetheless, this compilation of facts was only the
backdrop of the true reason for writing the book.
Swami Chinmayananda was a human being who had the courage, independence and
innate intelligence to realize his Divinity. He dedicated that same
courage, independence and intelligence to point out to us that we too are
Divine. Had he not been a human being like us, his life’s journey to the
Truth would have had little meaning for us. Because he was a man, his life
and his teachings offer us a model of what is “humanly” possible.
Certainly, we can worship Swamiji as God, but we must not fail to worship
ourselves as God too. This incredible Truth was the essence of his
teaching. Although each journey to this Truth is unique, I Thought that his
story would give us some hope, insight – and courage – to take our journey
to the Self.
Life has its mystery, its majesty, its illusions, its deceptions. There are
very few things one can be sure of, but I am absolutely certain of one
thing. I am the person I am today only because I met a master, Swami
Chinmayananda. I remain forever grateful.
To the Reader…
This book was not intended for scholars, but was written so that the
average person interested in India would be able to gain a greater
understanding of reality unknown to us in the West. Because of the many new
ideas, one must read the book through with an open mind in order to get a
complete picture before any assessments or judgments are made. Although I
have attempted to communicate as clearly as possible, many new concepts and
words of the Indian culture have made it difficult. Therefore, I suggest
that if you do not comprehend the nuance of an idea or word you put it in
the back of your mind, for the term will surely come up again in the text.
In this manner, you will continue broadening your understanding of the
Sanskrit is intimidating because there are no accurate English translations
for many of the essential words. When the sense of a word has been narrowed
by the English translation I have put the Sanskrit word in parenthese after
it. In direct quotations, I did not take that liberty; there, I placed the
English translations in brackets after the Sanskrit word. When the word was
a common one, after using it several times, I began to incorporate the
Sanskrit term into the text. A Glossary is provided for a more elaborate
definition of he Sanskrit words. For understanding of the spiritual
concepts that are introduced in the text, the final section, The Teaching,
brings together and elaborates on all the philosophical ideas.
Can I do it?
Can I face the educated class of India and bring to their faithless hearts
at a ray of understanding of what our wondrous culture stands for? Sitting
on the banks of the roaring Ganga, I shivered as I pondered the thought.
None could argue against the Eternal Truth that man is in essence God. But
could I explain it to others? Sitting, watching the Mother Ganga in her
incessant hurry, I seemed to hear the words interlaced in her roar, ‘Son,
don’t you see me; born here in the Himalayas, I rush down to the plains
taking with me both life and nourishment to all in my path. Fulfillment of
any possession is in sharing it with others.’ I felt encouraged, I felt
reinforced. The urge became irresistible!
Thus was born the idea that was to take Swami Chinmayananda throughout
India and to parts of the world never touched by the sacred waters of the
Ganga to share the secrets of life that he had learned in the valleys of
the Himalayan peaks. The Vedanta philosophy that he would teach was studied
exclusively by scholars of religion in Indian universities and by swamis in
their huts and ashrams. But did this ancient knowledge have any
significance for the average man struggling with his mundane problems in
his daily life? This is the question that Swami Chinmayananda was to
address in his life’s mission.
In the thirty – eight years since that day of inspiration, Swami
Chinmayananda has met and overcome many obstacles in his journey. As surely
as the Ganga leaps high as the meets boulders in her course and lays out a
new course when she encounters obstructions in her one-pointed
concentration to bring her fresh waters to the Bay of Bengal, he has opened
new pathways in spite of ominous odds. The Swami never seems to need rest
as he meets his 365 day – a – year, sixteen – hour daily schedule, which
includes two or three public classes and lectures. His constant outpouring
of love and humour, criticism and encouragement, insight and enthusiasm –
with equal attention to both the spiritual and material needs of the
students – has resulted in the changed lives of thousands of people.
His life represents a model of one who pursues a goal with concentrated
dedication; thereby demonstrating in his own life the secrets of success
that he shares with others. By the end of his life, with the assistance of
many inspired workers, he had built a foundation and structure for a
spiritual renaissance in India.
He has completed over 400 lecture series on the Hindu Vedantic texts.
Ninety – seven Chinmaya Mission centers coordinate hundreds of study groups
to keep the ideas planted in the lecture series fertile and growing. Six
centers for intensive study of the scriptures now exist; one offers classes
in English and the remainder in the native Indian languages of Hindi,
Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telegu. The Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK)
groups for college students provide a forum for comprehensive understanding
of the scriptures with avenues of service and creative activities to
channel the energy of the students into noble goals. Over half a million
children belong to the Bala Vihar groups, which were organized to give the
youngsters a knowledge and appreciation of their cultural and religious
heritage. In 1964, Swami Chinmayananda founded Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the
international organization that is generating a neo – Hindu renaissance.
Through his influence, attention has also been given to the material aspect
of life: nursery schools, elementary schools and colleges have been founded
to educate the young people of India with the necessary skills for their
material success. Many service organizations have been initiated, including
retirement homes for the elderly centers and slum renovation programs.
These projects – inspired, established and run by individuals from the
community- furnish a field of service for those dedicated to the ideals of
the Eternal Truth expounded by Swami Chinmayananda.
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