Swami Chinmayananda conducted his first Jnana Yajna (a series of spiritual discourses) in December 1951, at a small temple in Pune, Maharashtra. Jnana Yajna, a term he coined from Lord Krishna's teachings in the Shrimad Bhagavad-gita, refers to the student who through scriptural studies performs the ritual of worship (yajna) at the altar of wisdom (jnana).
His teachings were based on the authority of the Vedas and his own direct experience. They were highly appreciated, and the number of devotees eager to learn from Swami Chinmayananda’s powerful, dynamic, yet logical, and witty discourses increased rapidly. An inspired band of devotees thus formed 'Chinmaya Mission' on August 8, 1953.
Understanding the needs of the people came naturally to Swami Chinmayananda. For each individual – young or old - the knowledge solutions he had were the same, but he packaged them differently for each segment. These then grew to becoming the core anchors for growth.
Study or Swadhyaya: Built both as self-study and group study, Swami Chinmayananda inculcated the discipline of study into his devotees. As he began travelling around the world, devotee-followers expressed the need to have something to study until he returned the following year. They made notes at his lectures but needed ratification. Thus came by Home-Study Courses beginning with Vedanta.
In parallel, he created Study Groups to enable discussion and study. Swami Chinmayananda stressed on study as a means to assimilation, practice and internalization. He made it clear that this form of studying was not his idea, but born of Vedantic tradition. Thus came by Study Groups consisting of 10-15 members that met for 90 minutes every week. These form the heart of Chinmaya Mission’s activities today.
Study itself adapted according to needs, to tradition, to custom, to social mores too! Swami Chinmayananda considered mothers to be the real custodians of India’s spiritual culture. As he once said, “The fall of our cultural standard is a true measure of the growing ignorance in the mothers of our society.” The growth of Devi Groups has been a great boost to women. What likely took shape as a means to give women comfort in an only-women setting, today is a powerhouse of study, chanting, and discussion born of reflection on the texts.
Devi Groups began as early as 1958 and are extremely popular world over. It was his desire and intention to empower the woman with knowledge.
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For Postal –E-Vedanta Courses see More Details
For Devi Groups see More Details
Bala Vihar: Children were closest to Swami Chinmayananda’s heart. And it was this that he inculcated in young parents – to bring up children right. He believed that spiritual values needed to be sown at a very young age. With this in view, he designed a weekly gathering of children called Bala Vihar. Here children would come together under the guidance of a trained teacher to learn values through the stories of the scriptures.
Swami Chinmayananda trained teachers in the art of teaching values. He gave them a prescribed curriculum rooted in a logic that he laid down – an appreciation and adoration of culture, a fine sense of respect for life and a vision that generates personal discipline and inquiry. Such was his attention to detail! Such was his love for humankind! For Bala Vihar see: More Details
Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK): For youth of ages 13-30, this is a natural extension of Bala Vihar. Swami Chinmayananda prepared for every stage of a child’s evolution and growth. He believed that inspiration must be sustained lifelong for it to lead up to fine leadership at every level –community, state, nation or the world at large.
He based the principle of the Yuva Kendra on Vedanta as a science of personality development, what he went on to teach in his Gita Jnana Yajnas as a manual for life. Started in 1975, the CHYK movement has become a global movement today, urging the young to find expression via theatre, music, the arts, sports, urging them to discover the mystic of mountains and nature via trekking, the heritage of temples and rivers, the purpose of environment sensitivity and their role in the great new world.
Today the youth of 120 cities the world over work as one, seamlessly, regardless of borders and boundaries as the youth of the world! For about the CHYK movement, More Details
Vanaprastha: It was Swami Chinmayananda’s desire and intention that after man has led a fruitful, productive life, right from Bala Vihar upwards, blending study with seva, he must then step into his third age, where he must apply himself to society via seva and to silencing his inner mind through more study, contemplation and worship.
So he created this little meadow for the elderly to work and study, find purpose away from a career, and discover their true purpose. Through the Vanaprastha movement, Swami Chinmayananda sought to empower the elderly to discover and design purpose for their life after 60. The Mission has Pitamah Sadans as well, all over India, where the very old can choose to live and follow the vanaprastha way of living. Equally Swami Chinmayananda believed that vanaprastha was a state of mind and one’s own residence could be re-worked to become the silent forests for study and contemplation.
For about the Vanaprastha movement, More Details
Teaching to Teach – the spread of Knowledge: Swami Chinmayananda was the finest leader. He wished to build an institution, not an institute. An institution grows with the people, adapts with time, but stays true to its vision. An institute often loses its purpose with the departure of the leader.
The Chinmaya Mission was thus designed as a perennial fountain of wisdom and knowledge that would adapt its course with time - like the Ganga, yet never lose its purity – also like the Ganga! Swami Chinmayananda was aware that the teachings and tenets of Advaita have to stay ever fresh and lit for all times to come. And that would need a lamplighter in every place, in every time. And thus began the Sandeepany system – where he groomed acharyas (teachers).
The Sandeepany Sadhanalaya is Chinmaya Mission’s gurukul for Vedanata studies. Swami Chinmayananda began intensive courses in Vedanta for those who wished to commit their lives to teaching and spreading the knowledge of Advaita. The students assume brahmacharya for the two-year course and are accordingly also called brahmacharis. Living by the disciplines of the gurukula, they learn Vedanta from revered and erudite teachers of the Mission and lit thus with knowledge they carry it out into the world to serve at other Mission centers where they teach the texts, facilitate study groups, motivate youth, perform worship and guide the devotees.
Till date Chinmaya Mission has sent out more than 500 trained teachers of Vedanta and it is this wealth that continues the flow of learning and teaching and knowing in a consistent manner.
In his 42 years of relentless service, Swami Chinmayananda left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of people, and his footprints in the multifarious service projects he inspired in the Mission. He created a vast legacy - a global organization committed to Vedanta; Chinmaya Vidyalayas - schools based on his value-education platform; a teaching community committed to value-education; a huge network of Bala Vihars and Yuva Kendras; Study Groups that dot the country; rural development projects specifically CORD www.cord.org.in and Vedanta Institutes – the Sandeepanys.
For Vedanta to constantly nourish the people, the great texts on the fundamental philosophy of living needed to be continuously researched, and validation of the Knowledge presented to the people contextual to their time. This necessarily meant a deep-rooted investment in research and scholastic effort in philosophy. Swami Chinmayananda knew these could be had only through a concerted bridging of East and West and an open door for the public to dialogue and debate with the Pundit.
Thus, he set up a Research Foundation – Chinmaya International Foundation - that would commit itself to keeping alive the knowledge traditions of India through workshops, lectures, conferences and thereby revive the depleting community of scholars and alongside develop a robust passion for Sanskrit – both as a language and as the edifice on which stood India. CIF, as it is known today, is a center of excellence in Sanskrit and Research. See www.chinfo.org
In and through each of these, Swami Chinmayananda enlivens the Mission and the mission of love and knowledge that he began in 1951. From pulpits and platforms throughout India and around the world, he taught the tens of thousands who came to listen and learn. By the time he left his physical form and attained Mahasamadhi on August 3, 1993, Swami Chinmayananda had conducted 576 Jnana Yajnas as well as countless family spiritual camps, traversing hundreds of thousands of miles, criss-crossing the globe, and transforming millions of lives directly and indirectly. This powerhouse of learning is one of the prime movers of the Mission today.