Swami Chinmayananda known the world over as Gurudev, walked, talked, and lived Vedanta. Many called him a living Scripture. The book offers a glimpse into Gurudev’s spiritual vision he left behind the worldwide organization called Chinmaya Mission, through which the priceless knowledge of Vedanta is being taught. The first part of this book presents Gurudev’s teachings of Vedanta in an engaging narrative as seen through the eyes of a seeker named Maya.
Then we take a close look at the Sandeepany Sadhanalayas the premier institutes of Vedana that Gurudev established for in depth teaching of Vedanta. They are now considered to be one of his greatest contributions the world of spirituality. Personal stories of Sandeepany Student abound, giving insight into the inspiring journeys of many who studied there. After that we are taken on a tour through some of the many Chinmaya temples and altars around the globe. The book ends with a look at the future vision of Chinmaya Mission.
A true Guru’s words live on far beyond the time he spent in embodied form. Swami Chinmayananda is destined to remain a living scripture for untold generations to come.
In honor of Gurudev's Birth Centenary Celebration, Chinmaya Mission is coming out with this second book in the Mananam Series - Vedanta: Swami Chinmauananda, His Words, His Legacy. The theme of this book is this: How Vedanta, as taught by Gurudev, can transform a person's worldly way of living into a vibrant spiritual life.
In order to transform our lives, we first have to know that spirituality does not lie in doing something special, but in doing everything in a special way. It is more of a vision than an action. Let us look at the essence of spirituality point by point.
When do we begin to walk the spiritual path? It first begins when we feel dissatisfaction with the worldly way of living, despite its great achievements and joys. As long as we are happy with the way we live, earn, spend, and enjoy, the question of changing our outlook on life does not arise. Generally, when we experience sorrow, we want to get rid of that sorrow by pursuing another worldly source of joy. But when we realize that the so-called worldly joy is also sorrow - in the sense that it can never make us complete - our spiritual life begins. Thus, the first step toward the spiritual life is dissatisfaction, even in the midst of many achievements. From a worldly standpoint everything seems to be fine, but the person feels that something is missing and that no material thing seems to fill that emptiness.
If my deep dissatisfaction with the worldly life leads me toward a quest for truth and not frustration, then I begin to ask: When I have achieved all worldly gains and still I don't feel fully satisfied, then what is the purpose of my life? Who am I? Is this how I should be living - just going on and on? What is my true nature? What is the truth of myself? One may not be able to verbalize it in these words, but an intense longing develops. And no other thing is able to satisfy that person: "I want this alone; I want to know what the truth is, the truth of myself and also the world around me." Why the world also? Because the person realizes, "I am here and the world is here. I must also know the truth of this world.
Without this longing, there is no spiritual life. Then that person will not be satisfied with religious ceremonies or an occasional satsanga or with reading some spiritual books - all that is not enough. There is an intense longing for knowledge. Some Vedantika literature describes that longing as being similar to the experience of one's hair being on fire. At that time, will the person say, "I will put out the fire after retirement"? That person wants the fire to be put out right now! The longing is so strong that the person thinks, "Moment by moment, my life is passing by, and I am not reaching anywhere!" This quest for Self-knowledge, this intense longing to know the truth of this world, is the second step in the spiritual life.
The sastras say: This longing must transform itself into inquiry. Inquire until you gather the knowledge - not that you inquire for a few days and then say, "I think that will do."
The third aspect of spiritual life is the realization that the truth of my own Self and the truth of this world is one and the same. At the empirical level I can call myself "I" or an individual; that is fine. But my essential nature is something very different from this body and these senses. It is different from my pranas, mind, intellect, and ego. I am pure Existence, Consciousness, infinite Bliss - sat-cit-ananda - and that is my svarupa, my true Nature. And that, indeed, is the true Nature of this whole world also. I then realize that the One Self appears as many, and when I realize that Oneness as my own Self, then I look upon all beings as my own Self also. Unless and until I have that realization of my oneness with all beings, the true spiritual life has not even begun. Dissatisfaction, longing for knowledge, then inquiry - these are all preparations. Realization is this: The Self in me is the Self of all beings.
The question arises: What is the result of this realization? The result is seen from two standpoints: (1) the result as seen from the personal, or the individual, standpoint; and (2) the result as seen in relation to the world.
From the personal standpoint the result is total fulfilment, krtakrtyata, as it is called. As the Gita says in the last verse of Chapter 15, "Thus, this most secret science (teaching), has been taught by Me, o sinless one. On knowing this (a man) becomes 'wise,' and all his duties are accomplished, o Bharata." That earlier sense of lacking, of something missing, of incompleteness, vanishes; I have nothing more to see, hear, gain, know, or become, for I am complete, totally fulfilled - puma paramatma. I just revel in that knowledge, in that bliss; I sport with my own Self. There is nothing more to achieve.
But what about the result of Self-realization in relation to all other beings? The result is that the person recognizes his or her own Self as the Self of all beings. This realization of one's oneness with all beings results in love for all of them, and hatred for none. There is only love, and that love cannot remain without there being the spirit of service to all people. As it is so beautifully said, Love made visible is work, or we could say, Love made visible is service, or seva. In service, there is no feeling that I am obliging anybody. I am serving myself only, loving my Self. This is the essence.
We are advised to practice all kinds of virtues: love, kindness, service, and compassion. The culmination of all these virtues is only in realization of the Self. In fact, this Truth - the fact that we are one with all other beings - is the foundation of all virtues. When it is said, Love all, I might ask, Why should I love all? The answer is: Because you are All. Why show compassion? Because you are All. The very basis and foundation for all virtues is this truth of oneness of the Self. Therefore, whenever we practice these virtues of love and kindness, the practice is complete only when it culminates in the realization of Oneness. That is why all these virtues are very spontaneous for the Man of Perfection; they come naturally to him. If we practice these virtues for material gain, such virtues will not last long. For example, if we practice honesty to gain profit in business, honesty will not remain with us for long. If we can get money by other means, we will say goodbye to honesty.
Now, there may be a final question: What is the message of a spiritual life? The spiritual life teaches us to look at life as a whole, and to live a whole life. As we look at our life, we find our vision is fragmented; we have made many compartments. That is why we are partially successful - a hero in one field, but zero in others. As a person, I am never satisfied. As a businessman, I am successful; or as a sportsman, I am successful; or as a professional, I am successful; but my life is miserable because I have .not looked at my life as a whole.
Look at your life as a whole and live a complete life - that is the message of a spiritual life. The topic is vast. Spirituality is not an activity. If someone says, "Please sing, dance, do some hatha yoga," that can be done because those are particular actions. But if someone says, "Show me honesty for two minutes," can you do that? Honesty is not an activity. Honesty is the virtue reflected in every thought, feeling, word, and action of the person who is honest. Similarly, spirituality is not a particular activity. One who has gained this vision - Self-realization - will manifest that realization in every thought and action. Then there is no more division, "That is my personal life" and "This is my business life" and "That is my public life." Then the person's whole life is spiritual. It is whole.
Swami Chinmayananda known the world over as Gurudev – walked, talked, and lived Vedanta. Many called him a living Scripture. This book offers a glimpse into Gurudev’s spiritual vision his teachings and the vest legacy he left behind – Chinmaya Mission.
The book begins by depicting a fictional meeting between Gurudev and a young devotee named Maya. Maya is fictional but the quoted words of Gurudev are his own and throughout the book they are indented with an initial raised capital letter.
Maya is typical of many who were drawn either willingly or reluctantly to make an initial appearance at one of Gurudev’s leads to the journey of a lifetime the journey of self-discovery. As we follow the story, we become a witness to Gurudev’s patient, loving guidance of the new decotee as he reveals to her, step by step, the way toward her true Nature her real Home. We are reminded of his words urging his devotees to strive on in their journey of Self-discovery. I am waiting at his gate… hurry home to him… to Om!
After the story draws to a close the book continues with a glimpse into Gurudev’s vast legacy which is blessing people today and will bless untold numbers of people for countless generations to come. The scriptures of Vedanta where Gurudev’s life and message and on that foundation Gurudev created a systematic scheme of study and conceived innumerable ways for spirituality to become manifest in the daily lives of everyone. Men and women, young and old spanning many cultures and varied faiths Gurudev reached them all to reveal the beauty and relevance of Vedanta in their lives.
Wherever we turn in the worldwide organization of Chinmaya Mission, we still see his spiritual signature. The yajnasalas or lecture halls, resound with his exquisite commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita and Upanisads. All those who attend Chinmaya Spiritual Camps feel newly inspired and are deeply rejuvenated. Gurudev’s spiritual heart continues to beat at the many Vedanta institutes called Sandeepanys, each a modern gurukula where teacher and taught live together as they dive deep into the message of the scriptures. And devotees flock to Chinmaya temples all over the globe to prostrate in devotion at the feet of their chosen deity.
The book closes with a view into the future vision of Chinmaya Mission. At the writing of this book, the twenty first century’s electronic means of communication are already providing multiple ways of disseminating the knowledge of Vedanta and providing a means for connecting with other on the spiritual path. Finally a comprehensive Appendix details Gurudev’s global tours from 1965 to 1993.
A true Guru lives on far beyond the time of his embodied form. Gurudev is timeless scripture today and will remain so for all the many seekers who are destined to meet him in their deep meditation in the ears to come.
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