Gurus (Our Guiding Light)

Swami Tapovan Maharaj     Swami Chinmayananda     Swami Tejomayananda     Swami Swaroopananda     Swami Sharanananda


Swami Tapovan Maharaj (1889-1957)
The Guru of Swami Chinmayananda, the architect of the Chinmaya Movement.
Swami Tapovanam was a consummate Vedantin, a strict teacher, poet and a sage of great wisdom and tranquility. He was a pristine glacier of Self-knowledge, a saint of the highest order. That Truth, which Swami Tapovanam realised and indicated in all his teachings is beyond words, as much as he himself was. Swami Chinmayananda said of his Guru, “He was a God without temple, a Veda without language”.

Childhood And Youth
Born in 1889 in Kerala, India, Chippu Kutty, as Swami Tapovanam was known, exhibited a marked partiality for spiritual life. As a child, he was fascinated and delighted by Pauranik stories manifesting the glories of God and the worship of idols fashioned by his own hands. Too intelligent to be trained within the formal learning systems of his time, he sought a less materialistic and more of spiritual education. Home-schooled until the age of 17, he proved himself to be a devout Vedantin, and a linguistic genius and litterateur par excellence, mastering both Malayalam and Sanskrit. Both his parents passed away before he turned 21, and by then, he was already renowned and revered for his original poetic compositions. He adopted the sannyasi's religious and serene lifestyle long before his initiation into the ochre robe of sannyasa. An introvert to the core, he loved spending his time immersed in spiritual reflection and was averse to all worldly pleasures.

The Spiritual Quest
Even as a formidable scholar, his thirst for knowledge could not be quenched by mere intellectual advances. Despite the accolades earned during his years of public speaking on literature, politics, religion, and Vedanta, in his late 20s, unable to control his spiritual hunger, Chippu Kutty left home in search of Truth. For seven years he travelled widely, devoutly studying Vedic scriptures and observing austerities. Swami Janardhana Giri of Kailash Ashram in Rishikesh initiated him into sannyasa with the name, Swami Tapovanam – “forest of austerities”. Swami Tapovanam chose to live in the then small, remote mountainous area of Uttarkashi in Uttaranchal. His hermitage called Tapovan Kutir, a meagre one-room thatched hut, in front of which the sacred River Ganga flows, would soon acquire great fame the world over for its spiritual luminescence.

The Teacher
Filled with divine Light, the compassionate sage shared words of wisdom with all devotees who came to him in search of spiritual knowledge, but rarely did he accept resident disciples. Monks, householders, pilgrims, and seekers from all stages and fields of life continually thronged to Uttarkashi to be in the presence of, and learn from, the Self-realized master and erudite scholar. When Swami Tapovanam did accept a resident disciple, the latter was trained under the strictest conditions. There were few who could undergo and survive such hardships, but those seekers who did, were blessed by the Master with supreme Enlightenment.

Published Works
As a jivanmukta or Self-realised master, Swami Tapovanam was a lover of Nature and saw the supreme Lord in all expressions, within and without. In his inspiring, poetic works of Himagiri Viharam (Wanderings in the Himalayas) and Kailasa Yatra (Pilgrimage to Kailasa) are seen the full flow of his blissful and soulful renderings of Nature, and the profundity of his subtle observations and reflections. However, it is his mystical autobiography, Ishvara Darshan (Vision of the Lord), that sages and seekers the world over have stamped as his masterpiece.

Swami Chinmayananda (1916-1993)

Swami Chinmayananda, the founder of Chinmaya Mission spread the sublime knowledge of the Upanishads to modern man.
Missionary for Hinduism - Pritish Nandy Interviews Gurudev

The life of Swami Chinmayananda was one of extraordinary spiritual strength, immeasurable love and tireless service. In less than half a century, he has left behind a worldwide organisation, hundreds of institutions, and millions of devotees. This was all aimed at a single theme, discovering the Eternal within.

Early Life
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 Sivananda at Rishikesh and became very interested in the spiritual path. Here he found the answers that he was seeking.

Swami Chinmayananda Is Born
Balakrishna Menon took monkhood from Swami Sivananda to become Swami Chinmayananda - the one who is saturated in Bliss and Consciousness. Swami Sivananda 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 Pune to a small group of three people. This humble beginning rapidly expanded to more than 500 series of lectures given to audiences numbering thousands.

Rapid Growth Of Chinmaya Mission
During his 40 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 Tejomayananda
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 Gītā discourses.

He was immediately inspired to join the Vedānta 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 Achārya for the Hindi Brahmachari Training Course in Sandeepany Himalayas, and in 1983, was initiated into Sannyāsa by Pujya Gurudev under the name Swami Tejomayananda. He was then appointed as Achārya of Sandeepany Sadhanalaya in Mumbai, where he taught two batches of students. In 1989, Guruji was sent to San Jose (USA) as Achārya of Chinmaya Mission West.

Upon Swami Chinmayananda's mahāsamādhi 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 Tejomayanandaji 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 Vedānta today. Guruji has conducted over 300 Gnana Yajnas throughout the world, and he excels in expounding upon a wide spectrum of Hindu scriptures, including Rāmāyaņa, Bhāgavatham, the Bhagavad Gīta, and the Upanishads.

His genius lies in his skill of combining the knowledge and clarity of Vedānta 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 Sudhā, Jnāna Sāra, Manah Śodhanam and Dhyāna-svarūpam. 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.

Swami Swaroopananda

In an era ripe with scepticism and confusion about matters spiritual, Swami Swaroopananda is a rare voice that blends authenticity with accessibility; theory with self- practice; logic with heart.

Formerly the Regional Head of Chinmaya Mission Australia, United Kingdom, Middle East, Africa and Far East, and presently Chairman of the Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth Trust (University for Sanskrit and Indic Traditions) and Director of the Chinmaya International Residential School in Coimbatore, South India, Swami Swaroopananda has now been bestowed by Swami Tejomayananda the privilege to also serve as the Head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide.

Swami Sharanananda

Swami Sharanananda hails from Puri in Orissa, India. Being inspired by Pujya Gurudev H.H. Swami Chinmayanandji, he joined the two year brahmachari training course in Sandeepany Sadhanalaya, Mumbai, India, in the year 1986. He was trained by H.H. Swami Tejomayanandaji. He was given Brahmachari Diksha in 1988 and became Br. Sharana Chaitanya. He has served Chinmaya Mission centers in Anugul, Rourkela and Calcutta. He has been the resident Acharya at Chinmaya Mission Chicago since March 1993.

On July 9, 1995 he was initiated into Sannyasa Diksha by H.H. Swami Tejomayanandaji and became Swami Sharanananda. He conducts yogasana and other scriptural classes during Chinmaya Mission family camps in America and Canada. Swamiji likes to be with children. He places great importance on value based living.