This year marks the beginning of 108 years of Swami Chinmayananda. Though the Master manifested in our midst as a sannyasin unparalleled, He also donned several roles as our friend, mentor, father-figure and whatnot. In this Special Feature, we have Chyks from all over the world write about what Swamiji means to them.
- Kaviya Shree Garg, Dubai
I once found myself walking in a forest in Himachal, awfully late at night. It was dark, chilly and to top it all, the clouds had decided to descend on us. As a city girl with no ‘girl scout’, or any outdoor experience for that matter, I was on the verge of tears.
My mind, a kaleidoscope of fear, loneliness and vulnerability, played out several worst-case scenarios on repeat. Two thoughts kept my legs moving—the fear of being eaten alive by some wild animal and the thirst for adventure that landed me here in the first place.
As I inched forward completely lost—a pure bundle of anxiety at this point—I asked, or rather prayed to, the universe for some help. As though angry at my request, the sky broke out the finest roar of thunder. 'There goes my heart', I thought, now thumping so loudly as if trying to match the same decibel.
And just then, the brightest lightning struck down, powerful and assertive. A streak that not only shocked me out of my myriad of endless thoughts, but beautifully lit my path for miles ahead. Suddenly the darkness ceased to exist, even if only for a split second.
The lightning struck again. Where I felt the threat of animals, I now saw endless trees, acting as bodyguards on my path. Lightning struck again and I could see where I was headed. Suddenly, I didn’t feel lost.
I think about that experience a lot. How the fear, which had consumed me so deeply until that moment, so easily vanished with a just spark of lightning, a streak of light. What changed?
Simply put—I no longer felt alone. I felt our Pujya Gurudev… As the spark of light even in the darkest hour; as the guide showing me my path; as one who eviscerated my false assumptions; as the One who replaced my fear with adventure and love; as the One with whom I never feel alone, I felt Him with me at every step.
That was the first time I felt Gurudev as my compass and he has been guiding me in every way since.
To my everything, tasmai shri gurave namah.
- Vilasini K. Manohar, Chennai
Many events, people, places, phrases and things have inspired me. A few of them stand out—those that make me, shake me, guide me and place a perennial blanket of warmth around me. Gurudev has had all of these effects on me.
My mother would keep telling me about the times I had met Him—when inside and outside her womb. Inside—when He gave my mom blobs of butter to eat. I feel truly humbled to be Gurudev’s butter baby. Outside—when I was an infant. I am fortunate that He named me. How many children he would’ve named! And yet, He remembered me through his handwritten reply letters to my mother.
Although I remember none of it, I know that He’s this superhero father figure always holding my hand and taking me through a green field. Every time I remember him, I’ve always felt a sense of kindness and empathy wash over me which at most times leaves me teary-eyed.
What an inspiration to the multitude of people that have been fortunate enough to even have a glimpse of Him! There's none like Him! Long gone, but never ever forgotten!
- Anushka Chugani, Ghana
It was through Swami Swaroopanandaji, in 2014, that I was first touched by Gurudev's light and teachings. Silenced in admiration, this was my first glimpse of His wonderful vision and there’s been no going back to that version of myself ever since. As I sat at His feet for the first time, it was as though all my thoughts, questions, and confidence to speak dissolved like salt in water.
A year later, during the Geeta Marathon Camp, I spent two blissful months at His beautiful abode in Sidhbari, Himachal Pradesh. Here, Swamiji would speak of 'a wonder of all wonders'; and that is the closest I can come to describing this ongoing journey that brings me closer to Gurudev with each step and breath. As a literature student, I revelled (and still do now!) in the universality and power of Gurudev's words and the linguistic mastery expressed throughout His commentary on the Bhagavad Gita; that, coupled with Swamiji's invigorating discourses, not only catalysed my love for Gurudev, but also filled me with a strong urge to cultivate higher values in myself and develop my faith with sincerity.
Today, my connection with Gurudev is the greatest superpower that I have discovered within myself: It inspires my work, gives me a great sense of clarity and direction to take decisions with conviction. It has helped me to weed out my weaknesses and overcome challenges across all aspects of my life. With His grace, I feel stronger, fuller, happier and more empowered, and should I fall or plummet into 'crisis mode' at any moment, like a sportsperson, I am able to pick myself up much sooner and find the tools and inspiration to act. When I look at each fall as a tumble from Gurudev's shoulders into His lap, His presence is the lightning bolt force that inspires me to jump up and climb back up again.
In short—if my life is a canvas, Gurudev is the most special blue crayon I use to colour my sky.
- Ankita Khanna, USA
Swami Chinmayananda, a renowned spiritual master of India, has touched the lives of millions of people through his teachings. For me, He is not only a spiritual guide but also like a loving grandfather, a mentor, and a guide who has played a significant role in shaping my life. His teachings have transformed the way I look at life and have given me a deeper understanding of myself.
Through His wisdom and guidance I have learned to embrace the present moment, face life's challenges with courage, and cultivate a deep sense of inner peace and contentment. His teachings have helped me develop a more positive outlook on life and to appreciate the small things that make life worthwhile.
Moreover, Gurudev's unwavering support and love have been a constant source of comfort and inspiration, providing me with the strength and courage to chase my dreams. I feel a deep sense of gratitude towards Him for His guidance, mentorship, and omnipresent love.
In summary, Gurudev has touched me in a way that is difficult to put into words. He has helped me find a sense of direction and purpose in life, and has given me the tools and resources to grow and flourish. I cherish the bond that I share with him as a grandfather figure, mentor, and guide, and I know that His teachings will continue to guide me on my journey towards self-discovery and spiritual growth.
- S. Aravind Raghavan, Mumbai
Imagine a distracted child lost in a crowd desperately searching for a familiar face. As its heart sinks and tears well up, it feels the warm grip of a hand. As it looks up in hope, it sees the calm reassuring face of its parent. What that face means to that child, that's what Gurudev means to me!
Imagine a weary traveller walking on a shadeless path on a scorching summer afternoon. He huffs and puffs trudging along wiping away his sweat. He suddenly sees a large tree welcoming him to rest under its cool shade. What that tree’s shade means to that traveller, that’s what Gurudev means to me!
Imagine getting locked inside a small space unable to come out. We bang our hands against the door and scream out in desperation. As the suffocation rises with every breath, the door opens, and fresh air streams in. What that fresh air means to the trapped person, that’s what Gurudev means to me!
Imagine a student in an examination hall, suddenly forgetting all that he has learned. As he nervously prods his mind to think, he goes blank. He taps his pen and scratches his head feeling a widening pit in his stomach when suddenly something opens up in him and the answers begin to flow. What that opening in his mind means to the student, that’s what Gurudev means to me!
Imagine a dreamer getting chased in his dream by his greatest fears. No matter how fast he tries to move, the monster keeps getting near. In desperation, he shouts and pushes his body to move but it is all in vain then the alarm rings and he wakes up realising he was only imagining the pain. What that waking up means to the dreamer, that’s what Gurudev means to me!
The above examples are just a feeble attempt to share the gratitude that I feel in my heart when I think of His presence in my life! Really speaking, it is impossible to describe what Gurudev actually means to me!
– Salonee Jain, Mumbai
Gurudev... The earliest memories I have of Him was when I was a kid. I still remember how I felt when I first heard His voice… full of energy, an aura, a little mystery and loads of laughter. I never had the honour of meeting Him. But, I did have the honour of being a part of the legacy He created.
You know how sometimes, you don’t know a person... and yet you do. It’s one of those feelings. A person to whom you are forever grateful for making a positive change in your life, for building a strong foundation. For me, Gurudev is that person. A person who inspires me to think beyond me.
The Balvihar classes, the Chyk camps, the CU magazine—have always come into my life when I needed them the most. Whether it’s bringing strong cultural values and introducing me to stories and bhajans about Hinduism as a kid or keeping me reined in as a youth. Or in a phase where I didn’t know what to do, when I started designing posters for CU. Gurudev has been in my life forever. Like my backbone, which I can’t see, but keeps me straight, upright and rooted in my values, culture and religion for life.
- Sriram Chandrasekhar, Kolkata
Have you ever played with a yo-yo? It is a toy consisting of two small disks connected by an axle and a string looped around it. The player throws the yo-yo down while holding the free end of the string. As the yo-yo spins, the rotational energy causes it to wind back into the player's hand, almost like magic to some. The entire game is to throw the yo-yo away from you and see the string pull it back. When you play as a beginner, the yo-yo will not come up. It takes practice and patience on part of the player to understand the art of playing.
Every individual, at some point or the other questions the purpose of their existence. However, the fire for this spiritual quest smothers and rekindles every now and then. We wish to always hold ourselves true to high moral and ethical standards, but the life and happenings around us don’t let this happen. In this VUCA world, i.e. the world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, the Seeker needs to build a support system which can take him away from the casual ebb and flow of life back to his Self.
Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda has been such a support system for me, the proverbial string of the yo-yo, who has always brought me back to walk the ‘path’ whenever I have steered away deep into the complexities of life and lost my way. His teachings have helped me find a purpose to my life and my actions. In many of His talks, Gurudev would mention that if we are able to hold on to even one idea mentioned by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Geeta and live our life true to it, the quality of our life would be very different. I did choose one. Choosing that ‘idea’ is the most difficult part of the process. His talks have helped me. His books have guided me. His army of monks have led the way. Not to say that I have never faltered. Many of us would even ask ourselves if we are even worthy of His guidance. The solace is in knowing that he is the ‘One with empathy’ (Om udārahrdayāya namaḥ). I guess as long as we are sincere in our attempts to live the philosophical way of life, He is there to guide us in more ways than we know of.