Regarded as one of the foremost Hindu spiritual gurus of modern times, Swami Chinmayanda’s philosophy – known as Advaita Vedanta – is hailed by Hindus all over the world, even years after his death. Swamiji’s benign smile and wisdom will perhaps go on to live for generations, but on the occasion of his 24th death anniversary we want to take this opportunity and present to you 11 great facts about Swami Chinmayananda that you probably still don’t know.
1. The spiritual leader always maintained a skeptical stance on Hinduism all through his youth.
Although Swami Chinmayananda went on to be one of the most prominent Hindu spiritual leaders of all time, as Balakrishna Menon (his birth name), he seldom showcased any interest in religion despite being from a traditional and conservative family.
2. He had to go undercover because of his alliance with the freedom fighters.
It was in his youth that the Quit India Movement was at its peak. He, too, joined in the fervor and started penning articles and leaflets to stir up national pride. This made the British issue a warrant against him as a result of which, he had to go undercover.
3. He was dumped to die on a roadside by British officers.
Balan, as he was fondly known, once again returned to working for the country, almost two years after the arrest warrant was issued. However, this time he was sent behind bars by the British and was kept in pathetically unhygienic conditions, which had him infected with typhus. He was then dumped on a road to die by the officers.
4. He got a second life; and a job as a journalist with the National Herald.
After getting treated, thanks to a Christian lady, Balan received his first job with the ‘National Herald’, wherein he published articles such as ‘In Praise of the Postman’ and ‘The Mochi—Symbol of Craftsmanship’ that earned him the reputation of a controversial character.
5. He began working on exposing the sadhus, only to be a sanyasi himself.
The zeal to expose the “sadhus” took him to Rishikesh, wherein he came in touch with Sivananda. And the rest is history. He was once heard saying, “I went not to gain knowledge, but to find out how the swamis were keeping up the bluff among the masses.”
6. His path to sainthood was paved by a profound knowledge of Hindu scriptures.
Quite unlike the sadhus we know about, Chinmayanda Saraswati’s path to sainthood was fabricated by his knowledge of Vendanta and other ancient Hindu scriptures. In fact, on recognizing Saraswati’s latent talent, he was entrusted by his guru Sivananda to organize a Gita committee. And finally, on the auspicious occasion of Mahashivratri in 1949, Saraswati took to the holy path of sainthood.
7. Traditionally known to be reserved for the Brahmins, Vendanta’s teachings were brought forth for all by Swami Chinmayananda.
Swami Chinmayananda always wanted to fight orthodox Hinduism, and with the motive of unveiling the true essence of spiritual Hinduism to all, he began imparting the teachings of Vedanta to the mass.
8. In 1951, he set out on a journey across the country to impart Upanishad jñāna yajña sessions.
His simple words of wisdom struck chords with common men to the extent that his followers increased from a handful to a thousand just after the first lecture. In 1956, the 23rd jñāna yajña was inaugurated by the then President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
9. His words and teachings had admirers beyond the periphery of the Hindu society.
From Cardinal Valerian Gracias, a prominent Catholic archbishop who inaugurated one of his jñāna yajña sessions in Bombay, to the Dalai Lama, the head of the Tibetian Buddhist order, all were in praise of Swami Chinmayananda’s teachings and lectures.
10. This enlightened spiritual guru was once invited by the World Parliament of Religions to deliver speeches.
He was the second person after his fellow Indian spiritual guru, Swami Vivekananda, to be invited to speak at such an important and prominent world organization.
11. In 1964, the Vishva Hindu Parishad was formed out of his strong desire to form a platform to discuss the difficulties and needs concerning the “survival and development of Hindu culture”.
Swami Chinmayananda became the first President of the Visva Hindu Parishad that still invites delegates from all corners of the world to discuss issues concerning Hinduism and Hindu culture.