The Chinmaya Mission Journey
Chinmaya Mission® was established in India in 1953 by devotees of the world-renowned Vedanta teacher, His Holiness Swami Chinmayananda. Guided by his vision, devotees all around the world formed the nucleus of a spiritual renaissance movement that now encompasses a wide range of spiritual, educational, and charitable activities, ennobling the lives of thousands in India and across its borders. Presently, headed by His Holiness Swami Tejomayananda, the Mission is administered by Central Chinmaya Mission Trust (CCMT) in Mumbai, India. Under his guidance, the Mission has continued mushrooming across the globe and stands today with over 300 centres worldwide.
Chinmaya Mission follows the Vedic teacher-student tradition (guru-shishya parampara) and makes available the ageless wisdom of Advaita Vedanta, the knowledge of universal oneness, providing the tools to realize the wisdom in one’s life. Vedanta, the essential core of Hinduism, is the universal science of life, relevant to all people of all backgrounds and faiths. Vedanta inspires seekers to understand their own faith better. As a spiritual movement that aims for inner growth at individual and collective levels, the mission offers a wide array of Vedanta study forums for all ages, promotes Indian classical art forms and operates numerous social service projects. To date, millions worldwide have benefitted directly or indirectly from Chinmaya Mission’s numerous centres, ashrams, classes, events, services and projects.
Chinmaya Mission’s emblem comprises the lamp of knowledge with the hamsa bird of wisdom at its crown, both denoting the Mission’s spiritual and social services to the world. The purpose of the Mission’s Vedantic teachings is to help seekers learn ethical values and cultivate a discriminating power – learn the art of distinguishing the changeless, infinite Substratum from the changing, finite world.
The oil lamp symbolizes the ethical life needed to light the flame of Knowledge within. The Lord is the “Knowledge Principle” (Chaitanya) who is the source, the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge. Hence light is worshipped as the Lord himself. Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness.
A single lamp can light hundreds of others, just as a single realised master can enlighten thousands. Despite sharing its light to other lamps, the original lamp loses none of its brilliance. In the same way, sharing knowledge will not result in the loss of that knowledge; on the contrary, upon giving knowledge, we begin to understand it clearer and it benefits all.
In the light of knowledge and wisdom, the faculty of discrimination stands out in clarity, represented by the Hamsa bird. Just as this bird has the proverbial ability to separate the substance of milk from water, a spiritual seeker is able to discriminate the true from the false, the good from the bad, the profound from the superficial and the permanent Reality from the impermanent world.
Swami Tapovan Maharaj
Sree Swami Tapovan Maharaj of Uttarkasi is the master from whom Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda acquired the wealth of knowledge on Vedanta. Swami Tapovan set before himself the ideal portrayed in the Geeta by the Lord. He taught Gurudev all the virtues enumerated in the Seventeenth Chapter of Geeta constituting the three forms of Tapas – physical, verbal and mental.
He was a great embodiment of the ideal Sanyasa with all the supreme renunciation, rare saintliness, austerity, deep wisdom and divine dignity and compassion that is implied by such an ideal. He was a Virakta Mahatma. Swamiji, a poet, had mad passion for witnessing the canvas of Nature’s beauty unrolling itself in the unfrequented peaks and valleys of the Himalayas.
He had reported his travels in two splendid volumes, “Himagiri Viharam” and “Kailasa Yatra.” Swamiji’s masterpiece is the bulky sanskrit volume called “Iswara Darshan.” This is an autobiographical sketch, a garland of spiritual thoughts in a Man-of-realization as he waded through the welter of life. He lived, for 68 years, as a monumental expression of an ideal Vedantic Teacher in the ancient Rishi tradition. On the 16th of January 1957, on the Full-Moon day, at 4:30 A.M., in the Brahmamuhurtha, Swamiji gained his Mahasamadhi.
The life of Swami Chinmayananda was one of extraordinary spiritual strength, immeasurable love and tireless service. In less than half a century, he has left behind a worldwide organisation, hundreds of institutions, and millions of devotees. This was all aimed at a single theme, discovering the Eternal within.
Swami Chinmayananda was born on May 8th, 1916 as Balakrishna Menon (Balan) in Ernakulam, Kerala. His family was very devout in their religious life and had regular contact with holy men. This influence moulded Balan’s mental and moral make-up preparing him for the mission of his life ahead. Balan excelled with his education graduating in Science, Political Science, Law and English Literature at Lucknow University. A man of strong ideas and idealism he entered the field of journalism where he felt he could influence political, economic and social reform in India. At this time he met Swami Sivananda at Rishikesh and became very interested in the spiritual path. Here he found the answers that he was seeking.
Swami Chinmayananda Is Born
Balakrishna Menon took monkhood from Swami Sivananda to become Swami Chinmayananda – the one who is saturated in Bliss and Consciousness. Swami Sivananda saw the potential in Swami Chinmayananda and sent him to study under the greatest Teacher in the Himalayas – Swami Tapovan Maharaj. Swami Chinmayananda studied for 12 years under Swami Tapovan’s guidance, leading a very austere and rigorous life. Then he felt a deep inner urge to share his knowledge and wisdom with the mass of humanity. He descended to the plains and held his first yagna in Pune to a small group of three people. This humble beginning rapidly expanded to more than 500 series of lectures given to audiences numbering thousands.
Rapid Growth Of Chinmaya Mission
During his 40 years of traveling and teaching, Gurudev opened numerous centres and centres worldwide, he also built many schools, hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. As well as reinvigorating India’s rich cultural heritage, Swami Chinmayananda made Vedanta accessible to everybody regardless of age, nationality, or religious background. On 3 August 1993, in San Diego, USA, Swami Chinmayananda attained Mahasamadhi. He worked tirelessly to the very last moment and created an international spiritual revolution.
Swami Tejomayananda – Global Head
Swami Tejomayananda is the current Head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide. Since 1993, he has worked tirelessly to fulfil the vision of his Master, initiating major projects to advance Swami Chinmayananda’s vision, teachings and glory.
Guruji, as he is affectionately known, is a living portrait of simplicity with depth, humility with courage, and wisdom with devotion. Always jovial, smiling, and welcoming, he is readily accessible and approachable to all who seek the knowledge of Vedanta from him.
Childhood And Education
Born into a Maharashtrian family on June 30, 1950, in Madhya Pradesh, India, Sudhakar Kaitwade was not spiritually inclined as such. At the age of 20, a year away from getting his Master’s degree in Physics, Sudhakar intended to pursue a teaching career.
Renunciation And Spiritual Quest
Sudhakar’s revolutionary change came about the day he was attracted to a large banner announcing Swami Chinmayananda’s talks on Shrimad Bhagavad Geeta, Chapter 3. A couple of talks later, he was so thoroughly inspired that he sought the permission of his mother to join the Chinmaya Mission’s residential Vedanta course at Sandeepany Sadhanalaya in Mumbai.
Upon completion of the Vedanta course in 1975, Sudhakar was initiated into the Chinmaya Mission’s monastic order of acharyas (teachers) as Brahmachari Vivek Chaitanya. Over the years, he served as acharya at the Mission centres in Bhopal, Kanpur, and Sidhbari. He conducted the first residential Vedanta course in Hindi at ‘Sandeepany Himalayas’ in Sidhbari. On October 21, 1983, Swami Chinmayananda initiated him into sannyasa, bestowing upon him the name, Swami Tejomayananda. He was then appointed as acharya of the Sandeepany Sadhanalaya ashram in Mumbai, where he taught two consecutive residential Vedanta courses in English. In 1989, Swami Tejomayananda was posted to Chinmaya Mission’s U.S. Centre in San Jose, California, where he remained as acharya until 1993. After Pujya Gurudev attained Mahasamadhi he became the Head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide.
As the Head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide, Swami Tejomayananda-now known in the Mission as ‘Pujya Guruji’- has continuously and dynamically pursued his guru’s grand spiritual and organisational vision. Progressive in thinking and precise in decision-making, he has inspired and executed many notable, innovative projects, including the Chinmaya International Residential School in Coimbatore, the Chinmaya Centre of World Understanding in New Delhi, the Chinmaya International Foundation near Cochin, the Chinmaya Heritage Centre in Chennai, the expansion of the Chinmaya Mission Hospital in Bangalore and the Chinmaya Vibhooti Vision Centre and Chinmaya Naada Bindu music and dance school in Kolwan, Maharashtra. In overseeing the Mission’s global activities and projects, Swami Tejomayananda’s tours around the world are extensive and continuous. Throughout his travels, he conducts gyana yagnas (3-7 day Vedanta lecture series) in different cities and various countries every week. His gentle manner, devotional heart, intellectual clarity, joyful wit, and open availability have earned him intergenerational appeal and endeared him to millions across the globe.
Fluent in Hindi, Marathi, English, and Sanskrit, Swami Tejomayananda’s talks, written commentaries, and original music, poetry, and text compositions exude lofty spiritual insights, incisive Vedantic scholarship, and universal harmony. His original Vedantic texts include Bhakti Sudha, Jnana Sarah, Manah Shodhanam, Dhyanasvarupam and Jivanasutrani. His acclaimed commentaries include Adi Sankara’s Drg-Drshya Viveka, Ramana Maharshi’s Upadesha Saram, Kapila Gita, and Yoga Vasistha. He has also translated into Hindi Swami Chinmayananda’s English commentaries on Shrimad Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. His book ‘Hindu Culture: An Introduction’ has been adopted as an academic text by some American schools. As a laudable devotional singer, he has recorded several albums with original music and lyrics. His profound, poignant, and pictorial talks on Sant Tulsidasa’s Ramacharitamanasa and Veda Vyasa’s Shrimad Bhagavatam are world-renowned, highlighting his spiritual wisdom and masterful storytelling.
Swami Swaroopananda – Regional Head
In little over a decade, Swamiji has traversed the globe several times touching the lives of thousands of eager listeners in cities as diverse as London, New York, Sydney, New Delhi, Singapore, Dubai, and Lagos.
A disciple of the world-renowned Master of Vedanta, and champion of India’s spiritual wisdom, Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Swaroopananda left his family’s thriving business in Hong Kong at an early age to seek what he now calls, “Real answers to real problems”. He was convinced that beyond our everyday, superficial joys and sorrows, there was something more‚ something higher.
After undergoing intensive monastic training and an exhaustive study of the Scriptures at the Chinmaya Mission headquarters in Bombay, Swamiji returned to Hong Kong in 1986 to spread the timeless message of Vedanta. His name then was Brahmachari Susheel. Under the guidance and inspiration of Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Tejomayananda he would later become the acharya-in-charge of the Far East and other centres throughout the world.
Throughout his speaking career Swami Swaroopananda has held his audiences‚ adults, youth, and children alike‚ spellbound by his amazingly practical and extremely user friendly approach to Spirituality. He reminds us that there is a greater and more compelling Truth that provides the solutions to all our problems, enabling us to live a truly happy and positive life.
Swami Swaroopananda has been based at the Chinmaya Internation Residential School in Coimbatore, from where he continues to reach out through his travels abroad to spiritual seekers by translating Vedanta into a most effective and relevant way of life for the modern man and woman.