Balakrishna Menon, popularly known as Swami Chinmayananda
The founder of Chinmaya Mission which runs more than 300 spiritual, educational, and charitable Non-Profit Organisations. Swami Chinmayananda was also one of the founding members of Vishva Hindu Parishad established in 1964 with the assistance of RSS. Swami Chinmayananda, the eldest of 3 kids was born at Ernakulam on 08/05/1916 for VKK Menon & Parukutti Amma. He finished his schooling & College in Kerala & enrolled at Lucknow University for a PG degree in literature, law & journalism. In the summer of 1936, he visited, Sri Ramana Maharshi. By Chinmayananda’s own admission, when Ramana Maharshi looked at him, he experienced a thrill of spiritual enlightenment which, at the time, he promptly rationalized away as being mere “hypnotism.”
During “Quit India,” Balan was one of the students to join in writing and distributing leaflets. A warrant was issued for his arrest he went undercover spending the next year moving around in the state of Abbottabad (Pakistan), out of range of British. In 1944, 2 years after the British had issued his arrest warrant, believing his case was long forgotten, Balan arrived in Punjab and associated himself with several freedom groups. He advised students on distributing leaflets and organizing public strikes but was arrested and imprisoned. K. Rama Rao gave Balan his first job, as a journalist at The National Herald, a newspaper that had been founded a few years back by Jawaharlal.
He covered subjects ranging from history and culture to social and political issues. Articles such as “In Praise of the Postman,” and “The Mochi—Symbol of Craftsmanship,” gained him a reputation. Balakrishna Menon traveled to Swami Shivananda’s Ashram at Rishikesh to expose the Sadhus & write an article. As per his words, “I went not to gain knowledge, but to find out how the swamis were keeping up the bluff among the masses.” Menon was 31 then, he went from being a skeptic to an enthusiast, finally becoming a renunciate monk. He began reading more about Hindu scriptures and reviewing spiritual books. On 25 February 1949, the holy day of Mahashivratri, Balan was initiated into sanyasa by Swami Sivananda, who gave him the name Swami Chinmayananda, or “bliss of pure Consciousness”.
With Swami Sivananda’s blessings, Chinmayananda met Tapovan Maharaj of Uttarkashi and devoted the next few years of his life to an intensive study of Vedanta under him. As his disciple, Chinmayananda underwent a rigorous study of the scriptures. In 1951, with the blessings of his guru, Chinmayananda decided to bring the teachings of Vedanta to the masses. In May, he left the Himalayas with a plan to set out on a 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 Gnana Yajna sessions all over Bharat.
The story behind the first Gnana Yagna is wonderful read
Swami Chinmayananda held his first lecture series at a Ganesha temple in Pune in December 1951. His audiences soon swelled from a handful into 1000s. Army officers from the Southern Command attended and the audience overflowed into the lanes near the temple. Everyone in the audience, man and woman, across all social strata, was asked to participate in the rituals. At the end of the second Jñāna Yajña in Madras in 1953, a handful of people expressed the desire to create a forum for the study and discussion of Vedanta. He reluctantly agreed to lay the foundation in his name and thus on 8 August 1953, the Chinmaya Mission was formed. In 1956, the 23rd Jñāna Yajña in Delhi was inaugurated by Dr. Rajendra Prasad. He spoke highly of the work Swami Chinmayananda was doing to restore Bharat’s cultural glory. In a span of 5 years, Swami had instructed over 50,000 of his countrymen through 25 Gnana Yagna across the country. In 1963, Swami Chinmayananda wrote an article 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. In the same year, Chinmaya Mission collected Rs. 10,000 to fund the construction of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, which the RSS was building at the time in Kanyakumari.
In August 1964, the Pope announced that the International Eucharistic Conference would be held in November in Bombay, and stated that 250 Hindus would be converted to Christianity; Swami Chinmayananda announced in response that he would convert 500 Christians to Hinduism. Christians abandoned the Conversion project. Apte and Chinmayananda jointly organized a conference at the Sandeepany Ashram in August 1964, which resulted in the founding of the VHP.
Swami Chinmayananda was elected as President and Apte as general secretary of the new organization. According to Swami Chinmayananda, the VHP was founded in order to awaken the Hindus & to make them conscious of their proud place in the comity of nations. Once we have made every Hindu conscious of his own identity, the Parishad has done its job & we shall feel fully rewarded. Let us convert Hindus to Hinduism then everything will be all right. On 6 March 1965, Swami set out on his first global teaching tour, covering 39 cities in 18 countries, Over the next 28 years, he continued these international discourses, staying only a week in each place, delivering a minimum of two lectures a day.
Chinmayananda was a supporter of interfaith dialogue and participated in many interfaith events. He also believed that the VHP should be focused on educating members of the Hindu diaspora & their children about knowledge of their “cultural duties and spiritual values” and give them the opportunity to “learn, to appreciate and involve themselves in our tradition”.
In the 1980s, Swami Chinmayananda also supported the VHP’s Ekatmata Yatras, stating that those who oppose the yatras “have no respect for national unity and suffer from alienation from the country.”
Swami Chinmayananda attained mahasamadhi on 03-08-1993.