Biography of Swami Chinmayananda
Swami Chinmayananda was born Balakrishna Menon in May 1916. His parents were Kuttan and Parakutti Menon. Bala was born in an aristocratic and noble family in Ernakulam, Kerala. As a child, Bala was intelligent and charming, with a great sense of humor. Even as little boy, Bala exhibited signs of a good actor.
Visualizing Lord Shiva
In the evenings, Bala’s family gathered for puja and satsang. During this time, Bala devised a form of meditation. He used to intently gaze at Lord Shiva’s picture, and then close his eyes and visualize accurately the picture’s details.
As a Young Man
In his youth, Bala studied Law and English at Lucknow University. He took part in drama, debating and other literary activities. During this time, his sensitive nature turned his attention towards India’s struggle for independence. He started fighting for this cause by writing, speaking, distributing pamphlets and organizing public strikes. As a result, he was thrown into jail.
At Death’s Door and Back
In prison, the conditions were squalid, compounded by meagre food and bad ventilation. Bala was affected by Typhus as a result. British officers tossed him into the street without mercy. A kind Indian Christian woman took pity on him and nursed him back to health. A rejuvenated Bala joined The National Herald newspaper in Delhi. He quickly made a reputation for himself as a compassionate journalist.
Budding Of Spirituality
Even though Bala was born into a life of luxury and comfort, his heart realized the superficiality of such a life. Therefore, he began to take a growing interest in spirituality. Bala started studying Western and Indian philosophy, and the works of spiritual masters. He was especially impressed by Swami Sivananda.
At Sivananda’s Ashram
Bala started to visit Swami Sivananda’s ashram in Rishikesh to learn more about spirituality. After a few such visits, he decided to join the ashram. Swami Sivananda initiated Bala into sanyasa and gave him the name Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati which means pure consciousness. Sivananda sent Chinmayananda to study under Swami Tapovan.
Preach What You Practise
Chinmayananda told Swami Tapovan that he desired to preach spirituality to the masses. Swami Tapovan instructed Chinmayananda to first practise what he desired to preach. As a result, Chinmayananda began travelling on foot, depending on alms and sleeping in ashrams and temples. After six months of leading a renunciant’s life, he returned to Tapovan and was granted permission to start teaching the scriptures.
Swami Chinmayananda became globally famous for his lectures, commentaries on vedanta and books on spirituality. He founded the Chinmaya Mission which sponsors numerous schools in India. These schools include vedic heritage in their curriculum. Chinmaya Mission also sponsors old age homes, orphanages, vocational schools, hospitals, free clinics, and nursing and management colleges. The mission also has many branches abroad. On August 3rd, 1993, Swami Chinmayananda left his mortal coil in San Diego. But, his teachings and spiritual legacy are still cherished by all those who aspire to follow higher ideals in life.