By Gaurav Sharma
Words such as, ‘India is free, but are Indians free ?’ have a deep impact on the psyche and compel one to reflect upon the reality of life.
Proclamations, such as “Without the touch of life (read God), a sinner cannot sin neither can a monk meditate,” are more than just dry philosophical words. They are powerful realizations, which can leave the believer, the seeker and the non-believer, all at once, bemused with their own existence.
One does not require an astrologer to fathom that the aforementioned words are affirmations of a monk, in this case, Swami Chinmayananda, a Vedantist, a teacher, and the founder of Chinmaya mission.
Well, you might be wondering that there are countless Swamis donning the ochre robe nowadays, then what is so special about Swami Chinmayananda?
For starters, the man holds quite a few parallels with the modern-educated-man of the today’s age: Highly sceptical about the existence of a higher power, yet immensely curious to know more about himself. Extremely talented yet restless.
One can also safely assume that when Prime Minister Narendra Modi releases coins commemorating the birth centenary of Swami Chinmayananda, the person must hold some importance.
Born as Balakrishna Menon in 1916 in Ernakulam, Kerala, Swami Chinmayananda was a student of Lucknow University. As a freedom fighter, who was jailed by the British in 1941, Balakrishna had to bear the torture for rebellion and for supporting the cause of freedom.
He was virtually left to die by barbaric British soldiers when a friend’s family managed to scrape him through the grip of death. Soon, however, the death of that very friend set the ball rolling for the future Swami to ponder over life, its meaning and purpose.
Almost immediately, he joined the National Herald as a journalist, and his slick and powerful words started commanding respect from both the masses and the intelligentsia. The paper’s circulation also snowballed to record highs, courtesy Balakrishna’s meaningful articles.
Still, however, something was pricking Balakrishna inside out. Small gestures, such as the prosperous ones bickering over a few extra rupees with rickshawallas, but offering a sumptuous amount of money to the Sadhu, got him utterly disillusioned with holy men.
With deep resentment against such Sadhus, whom Balakrishna thought were nothing but mere charlatans, he set off to Rishikesh to expose the myth of religion. There, he encountered Swami Sivananda, under whom he was again conflicted with the following of meaningless rituals.
Still, the seeker in Balakrishna persisted over the rationalist. He gave up his job and earned the name of Chinmayananda, meaning Bliss or Supreme Consciousness. Soon, he moved further north, where he studied the scriptures for almost 10 years under the tutelage of Swami Tapovan.
The metamorphosis from an unusual non-believer to an inquisitive seeker and finally to a Vedantist is remarkable transition, which renders the life of Swami Chinmayanada unique in the annals of spirituality.
And, he did not stop there. Hardly, any time had passed after his transformation that he launched a spiritual renaissance movement by the name of Chinmaya Mission. The mission, which has branches spread in over 300 centers in India and abroad, conducts spiritual, educational and charitable activities that have revolutionized the lives of innumerable people.
Chinmaya Mission aims to spread Advaita Vedanta, the Vedic philosophy expounded by the 8th century saint Sankaracharya.
Swami Chinmayanada’s life is a testimony to the fact that we all are seekers, in search of bliss.