What we have is a gift from Him.
What we do with what we have is our gift to Him.
-Swami Chinmayanandaji



Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati (1916-1993) was a Hindu spiritual leader and teacher.

Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati (born Balakrishna Menon; 8 May 1916 - 3 August 1993) was a Hindu spiritual leader and teacher who inspired the formation of Chinmaya Mission, a worldwide nonprofit organisation, to spread the knowledge of Advaita Vedanta, the nondual system of thought found in the Upanishads, which epitomise the philosophical teachings of the Vedas. Chinmayananda is known for teaching Bhagavad gita, the Upanishads, and other ancient Hindu scriptures. From 1951 onward, he spearheaded a global Hindu spiritual and cultural renaissance that popularised the religion's esoteric scriptural texts, teaching them in English all across India and abroad. Chinmayananda inspired the formation of Chinmaya Mission in 1953. Founded by his disciples and led by him, it is a spiritual, educational, and charitable nonprofit organisation that encompasses more than 300 centres in India and internationally. He authored 95 publications, including commentaries on the major Upanishads and Bhagavad gita. He was a visiting professor of Indian philosophy at several American and Asian universities and he conducted university lecture tours in many countries. Through his Vedantic teachings, publications, centres, ashrams, temples, and social service projects around the globe, his work continues to provide cultural and spiritual instruction to members of the Hindu diaspora. He died on 3 August 1993.


Study of Vedanta.

In the summer of 1947, Balan arrived in Rishikesh, by the banks of the Ganges and made the one-mile hike to the Divine Life Society, the ashram of Swami Sivananda. There he went from sceptic to enthusiast, finally becoming a renunciate monk. He began reading more about Hindu scriptures and reviewing spiritual books. Sivananda recognised Balan's latent talents and entrusted him to organise a Gita Committee. Having returned to the Divine Life Society ashram, on 25 February 1949, the holy day of Mahashivratri, Balan was initiated into sannyasa (Hindu vow of renunciation) by Sivananda, who gave him the name Swami Chinmayananda, or "bliss of pure Consciousness.With Sivananda's blessing, Chinmayananda sought out one of the greatest Vedantic masters of his time, Tapovan Maharaj of Uttarkashi, and devoted the next few years of his life to an intensive study of Vedanta under his tutelage.As his disciple, from 1949, Chinmayananda led an extremely austere lifestyle and underwent a rigorous study of the scriptures. His day began at 3 a.m. with an icy bath in the Ganges and sometimes ended late in the night after hours of meditation by the river.


Launch of spiritual movement.

In 1951, flying in the face of orthodox Hindu traditions but with the blessings of his guru, Chinmayananda decided to bring the teachings of Vedanta to the masses. It had been traditionally a knowledge reserved only for Brahmins. In May of that year, he left the Himalayas with a plan to set out on an all-India tour and to visit places of worship to see how Hindu religious heritage was being handed down. He said of that time: “I was miserably disillusioned and disappointed about ... the stuff doled out as the best in Hinduism. ... My experiences during those five months of roaming only strengthened my conviction that I must execute ... Upanishad Jñana Yajña sessions (lecture series) all over India, in all the great cities." Chinmayananda held his first lecture series at a Ganesha temple in the city of Pune in December 1951.His audiences soon swelled from a handful into thousands. Army officers from the Southern Command attended and the audience overflowed into the lanes near the temple. Brahmin priests were called to conduct the yajna (Vedic ritual), and to their surprise, everyone in the audience, man and woman, across all social strata, was asked to participate in the rituals.


Vishva Hindu Parishad.

In 1963, Swami Chinmayananda wrote an article airing the idea of calling for a World Hindu Council, inviting delegates from throughout the world to discuss the difficulties and needs concerning the "survival and development of Hindu culture." This attracted the attention of RSS pracharak S. S. Apte, who was airing similar ideas at that time. Apte and Chinmayananda jointly organised a such a conference at the Sandeepany ashram in August 1964, which resulted in founding of the Vishva Hindu Parishad. Swami Chinmayananda was elected the President of the organisation and Apte the general secretary of the new organisation.


Honours and recognition.

On 2 December 1992, Chinmayananda gave an address in the United Nations titled "Planet in Crisis." The US magazine, Hinduism Today, conferred him with its Hindu Renaissance Award and the title of "Hindu of the Year" in 1992. In 1993, he was selected as "President of Hindu Religion" for the Centennial Conference of the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago, where Swami Vivekananda had given his address one hundred years previously. He was also to be honoured for his selfless service to humanity in Washington, DC at "World Vision 2000," a conference of religious leaders organised by Vishva Hindu Parishad on 6–8 August 1993. He did not attend either of the latter two functions, as he died on 3 August 1993. On 8 May 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a commemorative coin to mark his birth centenary.

Back to Top