Chinmaya Mission was founded in 1953 by devotees of Swami Chinmayananda in India. They formed the nucleus of a movement of spiritual renaissance that now encompasses a wide range of spiritual, educational and charitable activities, ennobling the lives of thousands in India and outside its shores. The Mission is administered by Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, headed by Swami Tejomayananda.
Chinmaya Mission sponsors more than 75 schools in India where apart from the normal school curriculum children learn the Vedic heritage. There are also nursing and management schools to provide higher education. The spreading; of the Vedantic knowledge is assured by continuous publishing and distributing Swamiji's books all over the world, done by CCMT Publication Division. In order to have the Vedantic knowledge brought to every corner of the world and every avenue of life Swamiji started ashrams in India and America where the new teachers, Brahmacharies/Brahmacharinies and Swamis/Swaminis: of the Mission were trained according to the old guru-kula tradition. The main ashram in India are in Mumbai, and in Himalayas in Sidhbari. In America ashrams are in Piercy, San Jose, Washington, Chicago, Flint, New York state, and Florida, to name a few. Chinmaya mission has also started free clinics, hospitals, vocational Hari Har schools, orphanages, and old peoples homes to serve the people and through them, the society.
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The life of Swami Chinmayananda is indeed legendary. His life was one of extraordinary spiritual strength, immeasurable love and tireless service. In less than half a century, Swami Chinmayananda 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 Shivananda at Rishikesh and became very interested in the spiritual path. Here he found the answers that he was seeking.
Balakrishna Menon took monkhood from Swami Shivananda to become Swami Chinmayananda - the one who is saturated in Bliss and Consciousness. Swami Shivananda 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 Poona to a small group of three people. This humble beginning rapidly expanded to more than 500 series of lectures given to audiences numbering thousands.
During his forty 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 Tapovan Maharaj
Without a thread there is no garland of flowers; without God there is no universe. Without Swami Tapovan Maharaj, there would not have been Swami Chinmayananda.
A rare jewel in the crown of the Himalayan peaks, Swami Tapovan was revered and exclaimed as the greatest of Jnanis and a man of total perfection. When Swami Chinmayananda was asked about his Guru, he became silent; what words could express the infinite? Even now, to mention his name in the solitude of the Himalayas is to awaken a deep reverence, so famous was this great Master. Swami Tapovan was born in an aristocratic family in the Palghat District and from a very tender age was not attracted to the materialistic life. He was drawn in temperament naturally to a life of renunciation, austerity, and study.
When his worldly commitments were fulfilled, Swami Tapovan embraced the renunciates life and took to the secluded forest and higher elevations of the Himalayas, living in sacred Uttarkasi. There he lived a life of extreme tapas (austerity), spending his time in study, reflection and meditation. During the summer months he would leave Uttarkasi for Gangotri, and even today just above Gomuk where the sacred Ganges begins, there is a small place called Tapovan.
Swami Tapovan had complete mastery of the Scriptures. Sages and serious students came to study in his austere Kutir (house). He was also an eminent Sanskrit scholar and poet. He composed many hymns, commentaries and beautiful books such as, 'Wandering in the Himalayas' and 'Iswara Darshan'.
These books give a glimpse of how a man of Divine Vision beholds Truth everywhere, playing in and through every form. He had many seekers who came to study under him, but only a few could endure the rigorous life and completed their studies. One of these students was none other than Swami Chinmayananda. He taught Gurudev all the virtues enumerated in the Seventeenth Chapter of Geeta constituting the three forms of Tapas - physical, verbal and mental.
On the 16th of January 1957, on the Full-Moon day, at 4:30 A.M., in the Brahmamuhurtha, Swamiji gained his Mahasamadhi.
The mere presence of Swami Tejomayananda (affectionately known as Guruji) radiates a feeling of warmth and love, and upon meeting him, it's hard to believe that a person who is so down to earth, so humble, and so accessible, is the head of a vast organisation with more than 250 centres worldwide. Sudhakar Kaitwade was born in Madhya Pradesh on 30th June 1950. As a student, he took a keen interest in music and drama, but ended up studying physics at university.But during his college days, he was greatly inspired by the writings of Swami Vivekananda, and even at such a young age, sought something beyond the ordinary material ambitions that most people harbour. The spiritual call came to him in 1970 when he met Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda, and attended one of his Gita discourses.
He was immediately inspired to join the Vedanta Course at Sandeepany Sadhanalaya in Mumbai, and after his graduation in 1975, he served in the field for a few years as Brahmachari Vivek Chaitanya. He was subsequently posted as A carya for the Hindi Brahmachari Training Course in Sandeepany Himalayas, and in 1983, was initiated into Sannyasa by Pujya Gurudev under the name Swami Tejomayananda. He was then appointed as Acarya of Sandeepany Sadhanalaya in Mumbai, where he taught two batches of students. In 1989, Guruji was sent to San Jose (USA) as Acharya of Chinmaya Mission West.
Upon Swami Chinmayananda's mahasamadhi in August 1993, Swami Tejomayananda returned to India and was appointed as the head of the Chinmaya Mission. He assumed this new role with characteristic humility, and said 'I am not in Swamiji's shoes, I am at his feet.'
Since 1993, Guruji has worked tirelessly to fulfill the vision of his Master. Several major projects including the Chinmaya International Residential School (CIRS) in Coimbatore, the Chinmaya Center of World Understanding in New Delhi, and the Chinmaya International Foundation in Cochin (CIF) have been completed under his guidance. At present, he is overseeing the development of the latest vision centre dedicated to Gurudev - Chinmaya Viboothi in Pune.
In recognition of this remarkable dedication, 'Hinduism Today' recently honoured Swami Tejomayananda with the prestigious 'Hindu of the Year (2005)' award.
Not only is Swami Tejomayananda a dynamic worker and able adminstrator, he is one of the most accomplished masters of Vedanta today. Guruji has conducted over 300 Gnana Yajnas throughout the world, and he excels in expounding upon a wide spectrum of Hindu scriptures, including Ramayana, Bhagavatham, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Upanishads.
His genius lies in his skill of combining the knowledge and clarity of Vedanta with the divine nectar of bhakti. Furthermore, his sharp wit and keen sense of humour, helps him build a quick rapport with his audience, and his easy manner and logical rendering of Vedantic texts have drawn many newcomers into the spiritual fold.
Guruji is fluent in English, Hindi, Marathi and Sanskrit, and has written commentaries on many scriptural texts, translated many of Swami Chinmayananda's commentaries into Hindi, and authored a number of original works in Sanskrit including Bhakti Sudha, Jnana Sara, Manah Sodhanam and Dhyana-svarupam. Another key contribution of his is Hindu Culture: An Introduction, a text acclaimed for its clear description of the basics of Hinduism, which has been adopted as a reference text in some American high schools.
Guruji's talents as an accomplished poet, musical composer, and soul-stirring singer adds further charm to his personality. His melodious bhajans and kirtans are filled with devotion, and often hold listeners spellbound.
This great saint has seen the establishment of many new centers and under his loving guidance, the Chinmaya Mission continues to grow and flourish in its many spheres of activity.