Swami Chinmayananda was born Balakrishna Menon in the aristocratic Poothampalli family in Ernakulam. As a young boy, Balakrishna had sworn off religion. to him, it was nothing but a bundle of religious superstitions practiced mechanically by the elders in his family.A good student, who could grasp his lessons effortlessly, Balakrishna breezed through school, where English was the medium of instruction and Malayalam the second language. In fifth grade,he switched to Sanskrit, studying it for the next five years. He spent his after school hours playing football and badminton. He excelled in swimming. Even as his reputation for intelligence grew, he was also becoming notorious for being a fun-loving prankster.
Balakrishna enrolled at Lucknow University, from where he graduated with a master’s degree in English Literature, as well as a preliminary Law degree. While he was pursuing a full degree in law, the freedom movement grew intense, with leaders going in and out of jail and frequent student protests. Balakrishna left the university to do his share in the freedom struggle, going under cover whenever he got word that he was on the British rulers’ wanted list. In 1947, Balakrishna left for Rishikesh to write an expose for the National Herald, which at the time was one of India’s leading newspapers, on the “sham” practiced by the swamis in the Himalayan regions. Balakrishna never got to do that. Instead of gathering incriminating evidence on the holy men as he had set out to do, the self – styled agnostic unwittingly let himself be taken in hand by Swami Sivananda, whose godliness and love overwhelmed him and stirred up dormant spiritual feelings deep within him. On February 25, 1949, along with five other students, Balakrishna was initiated into Sannyasa. Swami Sivananda gave him the name ‘Chinmayananda Saraswati ’. A sanskrit word, Chinmayananda translates to English as “filled with the bliss of pure consciousness”.
Seven years later, brimming with Vedantic knowledge, and his heart overflowing with love for his countrymen, Swami Chinmayananda was ready to execute what he called “the Gangotri Plan”, a spiritual initiative to spread the message of Vedanta to the masses.
In the 42 years of his service to humanity, Gurudev left his footprints in a variety of projects he initiated which his disciples continue to build on under the banner of the Chinmaya Mission. His vast spiritual legacy includes about a dozen Sandeepany Institutes worldwide, 72 Chinmaya Vidyalayas, 6 colleges, an international residential school for children of non-resident Indians, over 30 temples in India and abroad, numerous Bala Vihars for the younger children and Yuva Kendras for teenagers, a hospital, primary health care facilities, vocational training centers, an orphanage, and senior citizens homes. Chinmaya College bows to his supreme intellect and upholds his teachings as our guiding light into the world of knowledge, wisdom and happiness.