Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati (1916-1993), Vedanta Scholar and founder of the International Chinmaya Mission
Balakrishna Menon Balan (1916-1993) was born in Ernakulam (India) to a devout Hindu family. After childhood and adolescence he enrolled at Madras University where he graduated in 1939. Balakrishna then continued his education at Lucknow University studying English Literature.
One of his first jobs was with “The National Herald” as a field reporter. Although he covered mostly local stories, he decided to take a trip to Rishikesh (India) to the ashram of Swami Sivananda. His intention was to write a critical article exposing the fraudulent lives of Hindu monks. Instead, he was transformed by Sivananda’s words and presence. The spiritual quest was ignited in his heart and mind. He left the paper and was shortly initiated as “Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati,” a new disciple of Sivananda.
After several years in the ashram with Swami Sivananda his beloved guru instructed him to leave and become a student of Swami Tapovan Maharaj. There he stayed and studied for 8 years.
In 1952 he left the Himalayas (Rishikesh) to begin teaching the knowledge of Vedanta to the world. He quickly became one of the most renowned and revered exponents of the Bhagavad Gita, Vedas, and Upanishads. He is credited with reviving spirituality and cultural values in India.
He established the International Chinmaya Mission; today with over 300 centers for learning.
During his 42 years of service to humanity he spread the ageless wisdom of Advaita Vedanta, as delineated by Adi Shankaracharya, throughout the world.
His life was full of love, tireless service, and the quest to bring the priceless knowledge of life to anyone who would listen.
Here are some of his ideas, as expressed through his many books and lectures.
From the book Kindle Life:
Independence is the very essence of manhood and he who has disengaged himself from his slavish dependence upon the world of objects for gaining his flashes of joy, is truly independent. Others are only being who, like feathers in the summer breeze, are tossed about hither and thither by the problems and challenges of the world…
Man being essentially divine by nature, the call of the higher is in the bosom of every one of us, but while facing the challenges of life, we know not the right direction to turn in…
Man, the roof and crown of creation, has the unique capacity of quieting his mind without helplessly depending upon the objects around him. But this capacity now lies dormant in him and he, unaware of it, foolishly tries to procure happiness through the objects of the world which have only a false glitter of joy. They can give, indeed, no enduring and lasting satisfaction…
There are two distinct and separate paths in life, namely, “The Path of the Pleasant” (Preya) and “The Path of the Good” (Shreya). Man is confronted with the choice of taking on one of these paths at every single moment of his life. The path of the Pleasant, as the name suggests, pleases, fascinates and entices man to take it. Whereas, the path of the Good, which is based on sound religious precepts and injunctions, is resisted by the human mind.
The path of the Pleasant which caters to man’s self gratification provides immediate pleasures, but ultimately, petrifies into enlarging ripples of disappointment and sorrow.
In sticking contrast, the path of the Good is detested in the beginning but, later on, it leads to greater happiness and sense of fulfillment…
The mind and intellect of man, like the yoke and the white of an egg, need to be carefully tended and nurtured in the warmth of Mother Sruti (Scriptures) in order that they may develop and usher him into a freer and ampler existence. But when they are neglected, his personality degenerates and creates disturbances and chaos for him and his society. It is, therefore, necessary for us to put forth our efforts in the direction indicated by the scriptures to enable us to grow inwardly and help in bringing about, a progressive and healthy society…
In the mechanism of human action, the propelling force behind our desires, thoughts and actions originates from our innate inclinations and tendencies, called by the term Vasanas. Though our activities appear to be defined by our tendencies, man has the unique capacity, which is denied to all other living creatures, to exercise his self-effort in choosing his actions. By a persistent and prolonged application of this great faculty, every human being can erase his inherent tendencies and reach the pinnacle of Perfection…
There is nothing wrong with our times. It is a wonderful era of glorious achievements. And yet man, sitting in the midst of plenty and prosperity, is undergoing stress and strain and can find no peace or happiness in life. The Religious Masters studied this sad paradox and discovered that man’s mental make-up was the cause of all trouble. They also provided a remedy by prescribing certain fundamental values and virtues of life. These, when practiced and lived, enable man to master his mind and mastery of the mind is mastery over the world …
Our life of harmony with the ampler scheme of the Cosmos brings to our heart an inward peace and poise. When poise is maintained within us, problems and challenges vanish like midst before the rising sun …
A man must know his real identity if he desires to maintain a proper and healthy relationship with the world at large. Every human being is constituted of a physical, a mental and an intellectual equipment and the Conscious Principle which lends sentiency to these equipments. Human development culminates in finding one’s identity with the Conscious Principle – the Spiritual Core of one’s personality…
Godhood is experienced in the state of thought extinction. It is a state of being when the mind is totally transcended. Divinity is the very nature and essence of man; but, it lies covered under the encrustation of thought. When the thoughts cease to erupt, man attains Godhood. Religion indicates different paths to the Reality; it prescribes various techniques for the extinction of thoughts by quieting and transcending the mind…
The Vedas are four in number, namely, Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana. Each Veda is divided into three sections and these are called Mantra, Brahmana and Upanishad (Aranyaka). In the Mantra portion we find the ecstatic admiration of Nature’s beauty expressed in lyrical poetry by these contemplative seers. The Brahmana portion deals with rituals and sacrifices; they are meant for mental integration and self-purification. The last portion contains the philosophic wisdom known as Vedanta…
From the book Meditation and Life:
Men cannot rest content without knowing. To know and understand seems to be the most virulent of appetites man is ever suffering from. Thus from the very dawn of history man has been seeking to know and understand , to investigate and discover greater fields of knowledge regarding the world of objects as well as the world within himself. Systematized knowledge of the world outside, constituted of things and beings perceived by his senses, form the subject-matter of science, while the inquiries pursued and the discoveries made in the world within himself, when codified into a systematic science of life, become philosophy.
Having discovered and understood the illimitable number of varied objects and beings, science in her maturity turns her gaze, enquiring for the fundamental unit of matter. In the 18th century scientists discovered that the unit of matter was the atom and that there were something like ninety nine different elements in the world…
The diligent Risis [sic] continued their enquiries as to the source of thoughts in man. As a result they came to discover that thoughts are directly controlled by the desire in us. Desires are the volcano from which the thought-lava erupts and flows out scorching the field into activity. The quality and texture of the desires determine the thoughts in the bosom; and the thoughts, we have found, are transcribed and echoed in our actions…
We have so far found that in our self-forgetfulness which is called “ignorance” we acquire our desires; desires generate the thought-currents; thoughts expressed in the outer world of actions; and actions in their reaction either thicken, or remove the misunderstanding in ourselves regarding our own Self…
Love and Work …
Love is the heart of religions, the theme of all classical works of art and literature and the song of all devotees. Scientists know only what love does… not what love is. Love can indeed empty our asylums, perhaps all our prisons, may be all our hospitals. People suffer in life due to lack of love. Love is to human hearts what sun is to flowers! Love grows with knowledge of the beloved. To love, therefore, is to know… yet, to know is not necessarily to love.
We may often give without love, but we can never love without giving. Love is at once noun and verb… Love is something to be sustained and fulfilled, by loving. By loving alone can love be made to grow and thrive. And our work is love made visible! When love is made to manifest, work is done. When we work only to produce profit or wages, work becomes crushing, sweating, joyless labor.
With love in our heart, let us put forth effort and flood the world with our work!
Find Love, Not Fault …
It takes two to make a quarrel. Also, it takes two to make up (patching up) after quarrel. Without invoking love, this can never be accomplished.
Flood your mind with love, look into the eyes of the other and embrace the person with whom you had quarreled. Words are not necessary. Both will have eyes flooded and joy tears will wash away all quarrels for the time being. Try this. You will find this true every time. This is the power of love. This is the strength of love!
Faults become thick when love is thin. When love rises to swirl around us, and when we review in this clear light of love, the very faults get transformed into the essential beauty in them. This is the magic touch of love, the miracle played by love.
When our hearts are full of love, life is a smiling valley of beauty and joy, romantic and divine!
Open Up and Receive …
Very often we hear some people complaining that “nobody loves me.” The world is full of love. But generally our hearts are not open for the love to gush in to us. And the door of your heart ever remains closed. Nobody other than you can ever throw it open, for the door of your heart cannot be locked from outside and it can be open only from within. You alone are in your heart. You unconsciously got locked in and you cry out to others to open up and release you. Nobody can. Stop crying. Find the handle and turn – Lo! It has opened, and you get immediately a blast of the life-giving reviving breeze of fragrant cool love from all around. Open up and receive all love.
Balance Head and Heart …
In life to handle yourself, use your head but to handle others, use your heart. Be strict and intelligently critical about yourself and your own weaknesses and follies. But to manage others, be critical, but cushion your words and attitudes with love. Love is the greatest persuasive power we know in life.
This love that we have, needs constant giving – and as we give away, it gets replenished from His infinite Source. But if you refuse to give love, the stagnant love in your own heart putrefies and the crawling worms start eating up your own heart!
Cease to give love, we cease to have love – this is the strict law of love.
Give, Give, Give, and Give again love to all.
Enjoy the Chase …
Strive on! With tireless enthusiasm, strive on to reach your goal. Without the goal, the best in you can never come out to expression. As we stride out to accomplish any chosen goal, no doubt, Lord tests us by heaping many apparently impossible hurdles in our direct path to our goal.
But, with enthusiasm, fearless of the obstacles, smiling in full self-confidence when we dash towards the goal, all the seemingly terrible obstacles move away as shadows!! This is Lord’s grace. If you have ears to hear your can then listen to the peals of His roaring laughter applauding your faith and courage!!
In life, the glory lies not in the quarry, but in the chase… The success is not in the trophy won but in the race run…
Do it in spite of Odds …
Recently, I met an old couple who had lived 53 years of married life! They had their tiffs, quarrels, mutual screaming’s at each other. Yet, they lived joyously and saw their children get educated, becoming independent and now they are living happily with their own growing families.
The old couple have grandchildren, great grandchildren and two great-great grand children. As I was talking to them, we went back in time and I asked what made him marry her. After a moment’s pause, the toothless lips parted in a mischievous smile, and his bony hand moved quietly to hold the wrinkled and knotted fingers of the lady and said, “I married her and we remained in marriage so long because we have so many faults in common.” The old lady admiringly smiled in to his face.
I asked her if she has an explanation for their long married life; she shyly looked in his eyes and slowly reminded me, “Swamiji, we like someone ‘because’, but we love someone ‘in spite of’”. I was silenced. I came away wiser carrying with me the picture of the old grandsire shaking his head in admiration for the old lady!!
Savor the Fragrance of Forgiveness …
Forgiveness is the secret beauty in any spiritual seeker’s life. Not to forgive is to maintain the passions bottled up in us and then we are never empty enough to lift ourselves in our soaring meditations.
Forgive liberally your enemies…. In fact, nothing can annoy them so much! They expect you to kick back and so have planned to break your ribs with return kicks. All these planned onslaughts become empty and hollow when you just forgive them! Many enemies become true friends when lavishly and lovingly forgiven!
Forgiveness is the fragrance which crushed tulasi leaves on the fingers that crush them in a thoughtless act!
Sandalwood perfumes even the axe that hews it down! The more we rub sandalwood against a stone the more its fragrance spreads. Burn it, and it wafts its glory in the entire neighborhood.
So is the enchanting beauty of forgiveness in life!
Nurture Friendship …
Cultivate friends! To have a friend is to make life easier and richer. A friend is a present that you give yourself. But you cannot pick up a friend, nor purchase a friend. We have to discover a friend.
Friends are made by many acts: and friends are lost often by single thoughtless act. You must grow up to deserve a friend… to have friends you must have friendliness in you: selfless and loving, with deep concern for others.
Perhaps dogs are lovable and become friends because they wag their tails… rarely their tongues. Learn to speak softly, always words of love and affection, then friends multiply. In short, the ability to love and express it in action are the requirements in gathering more and more friends. In fact, “love in action” is the heart of all religions.
Who is a friend? He who comes to you with love and cheer, when all others have left you is a true friend! Such a true friend is discovered not by searching outside for the right person to be friend, but by your growing to be the right person, to deserve a friend!
The Art of Listening …
We can learn a lot from every event in life. Just as the honeybee has the special instrument (proboscis) to extract the very essence in the flowers, human beings have a special faculty (power of discrimination) to maintain the quality of life by learning the art of true listening.
Listening is the channel most often used for “learning.” It is a vital communication function; it improves our ability of understanding, self-awareness and self-application.
Effective listening is not mere “hearing.” In fact, we all know from our personal experiences that mere hearing – or poor listening – can very well result in:
• Misleading judgments
• Poor human relations
• Many other psychological blocks and maladjustments
Yes, listening has become almost a forgotten skill. Very often we are led to believe that speaking represents action and power, while listening connotes weakness and apathy. We find that resistance to listening tends to be the cultural norm!
Sometimes, we pay attention to what interests us, and block out larger areas of reality. Another block to listening occurs when we form an opinion about the level of what is being said. We label the information ahead of time as unimportant, too boring, too complex, or as being nothing new. Due to such internal distractions, we become biased listeners, and our minds are tuned out rather than tuned in!
Some people fake attention – just to please the speaker! Some have the habit of interrupting when others are talking. Personal problems sometimes manage to creep into our minds – diverting our attention – while someone else is talking. Fatigue is another limiting factor in listening, as listening takes concentration and effort. It is easier to daydream and let our minds become preoccupied when our energy level is low.
A semantic barrier is very common in most of us. No two persons have exactly the same meaning for the same word or expression. We evaluate an individual’s competence and motivation through our semantic filters. We make judgments about people, based on our varied beliefs, knowledge, education, upbringing, what we understand, and what we see and perceive.
In short, the blind spots are within us. The angularities or the changing moods of the mind are barriers to effective listening. The barriers are caused by:
• Faulty memories
• Shades of ego
• Tendencies and attitudes
• Images of past experiences
• Prejudices of the past
• Likes and dislikes
• Expectations and anxieties for the future
Only when we become aware of our blind spots will we be able to understand and reshape our beliefs, values, and attitudes. Therefore, it is necessary to train the mind to widen its perspective and see things in an objective way.
Let us have a “listening mind” – a mind that is open, unprejudiced, objective, alert, attentive, and relaxed.
Let us have a “balanced outlook” – enjoying spiritual strength, inner stability, mental beauty, and physical perfection.
Quotes from Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati,
Universe is a cosmos and not a chaos. There exists a mental affinity; a scientific law; a rhythm of mental relationship in which the entire living world is held together, in one web of love.
Love is a consistent passion to give, not a meek persistent hope to receive. The only demand of life is the privilege to love all.
Be strict and intelligently critical about yourself and your own weakness and follies. But, cushion your words and attitudes with Love. Love is the greatest persuasive power we know in life.
We may often give without love, but we can never love without giving.
Love is the heart of all religions; the theme of all classical works of art and literature; the song of all devotees. Scientists know only what love does, not what love is. Love is to human hearts what the sun is to flowers.
We like someone because; we love someone in spite of…
Flood your mind with love. Look into the eyes of the other and embrace the person with whom you have quarreled.
To give love is true freedom; to demand love is pure slavery.
Success or achievement is not the final goal. It is the ’spirit’ in which you act that puts the seal of beauty upon your life.
To love and to be loved is the greatest happiness.
Do the best and leave the rest.
Efficiency is the capacity to bring proficiency into expression.
Brood less, smile more and serve all.
The tragedy of human history is decreasing happiness in the midst of increasing comforts.
The highest form of grace is silence.
Out of purity and silence come the words of power.
The cultured give happiness wherever they go. The uncultured whenever they go.
Faults become thick when love is thin.
Introspect daily, detect diligently, negate ruthlessly.
I was privileged to meet Swami Chinmayananda in 1972 when he was on a United States tour. I can warmly say that he was one of the first (of many) spiritual teachers that I studies with. He was a charming eloquent speaker, and prolific writer. I read more than a dozen of his books.
Swami Chinmayananda will always hold a special place in my heart. He introduced me to the wonders of meditation and the intriguing field Vedanta, and mind/body/spiritual growth.
To learn more about the Swami’s teaching just type “Swami Chinmayananda” or “Chinmaya Mission” into Google search.
Meditation is a key for unlocking Self Realization. Vedanta provides knowledge along the path. Both the subjective (meditation) and objective (knowledge and learning) approach to spiritual growth should be embraced. Meditation provides experience, and knowledge validates the experience.
The kingdom of the Self is overshadowed. Sight, sound, taste, smell and touch are projected onto the screen of the mind and taken as real. They eclipse our true unbounded eternal nature. Close the eyes and partake of the nectar of silence. Remain not beguiled. Remove the veil between self and Self. Let every heart beat the rhythm of the cosmos, in joy and eternal splendor.