Chinmaya Chetna is a multi-media interactive and experiential gallery on the life and work of Swami Chinmayananda, a spiritual giant who set in motion the cultural and spiritual renaissance of India.
The gallery presents the five phases of the life of the Master: a young, apparently ordinary child, his rebellion as a youth, his aspirations as a young adult, the challenges and tribulations of an ardent seeker, and, finally, the beatitude of a Self-realized Master. At the entrance, the new comer is confronted with the rhetorical question: “Change we must! But change what?” The answer reveals itself as one travels on this journey with the Master. One emerges from the gallery in a pensive state.
From a childhood in a matriarchal household in Kerala, the young Balakrishnan Menon grows from an earnest and attentive little boy into a youth who reads voraciously, ignoring books prescribed in school. Forced to enroll in a college outside his native Kerala for lack of good results, he joins Lucknow University, excelling in extra-curricular activities such as tennis, debating, theatre and journalistic writing. Fired by the freedom movement, he throws himself whole-heartedly into nationalist activity, is imprisoned by the British authorities, and nearly dies in custody. Destiny has other plans for him. Nursed back to health by a good Samaritan, Menon recuperates and then takes up a career in journalism. It is then that he decides to research and write on sadhus and so-called holy men. The initial intent is to expose them and show that independent India needs men of action and not of meditation.
The starting point of his enquiry is the Divine Life Society in Rishikesh, founded by Swami Sivananda. The latter has a powerful impact on young Menon. Two years later, the journalist renounces the world and becomes a sanyasi. He is now convinced that action and meditation must go together. In that lies the transformation of the individual and, eventually, of society. The young seeker is sent to Swami Tapovan Maharaj, the great Vedantin, to begin his study of Advaita Vedanta at Uttarkashi. Frugal living, study at the feet of the Master, and hours of silence and solitude in the pristine Himalayan mountains offers the ideal situation for reflection. It is while meditating on the banks of the Ganga, that the seed of the Mission is sown in his mind.
Even as the Ganga begins as a trickle and then grows into a majestic river, so also do Swami Chinmayananda’s talks on the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita begin with just a handful of people in a temple in Pune. But the growth is rapid and phenomenal. The Chinmaya Mission grows into a national and, eventually, a global movement.
A great patriot, Swami Chinmayananda firmly believed that spiritual knowledge alone would transform man’s thinking and unlock the vast, untapped potential that lies, undiscovered, within each one of us. Destiny has brought you to this centre. Make this into a turning point in your life.