The Silent Way




Welcome to The Silent Way

The Silent Way is a non-profit organization which teaches the timeless message of Adwaita Vedanta to Westerners. Founded in 1986 by Jim Gilman, a direct disciple of H. H. Swami Chinmayananda, the Silent Way has served the diverse community of the San Francisco Bay Area providing classes in meditation and in-depth study of the principle Adwaita Vedanta texts in English.

Currently classes are held in Jim's home in Oakland, California. In keeping with the tradition, this Knowledge cannot be bought or sold. All Silent Way classes are offered on a donation basis.


About the Teacher

Jim Gilman, the principle teacher at the Silent Way met Swami Chinmayananda at a lecture series at Stanford University in 1975. Jim says, “I was totally unprepared for the experience of meeting Swamiji. I had studied western metaphysics for seven years and had no real background or understanding of Eastern thought or practices. When I met Swami Chinmayananda, I felt a palpable presence of holiness. It was overwhelming. To this day, he is the holiest man I have ever met. Unlike many of the great Hindu saints who traveled to America, Swamiji taught in beautiful English, and had a grasp of the modern world and its particular modes of communication." Jim continued his study with Swamiji, both in India and the United States until Swamiji's passing in 1993. "In many ways, he is still with me – guiding my work and inspiring me to live up to his high ideals in transmitting this great Truth."

Jim has taught meditation and Vedanta around the world for over 30 years. For several years he served as an acharya with the Chinmaya Mission, Swami Chinmayananda’s world-wide organization.

Jim’s approach to this work is immensely practical. He has a unique gift to express these subtle and profound truths in a manner that makes them easy for Westerners to understand, even with no background in Sanskrit or Hindu thought.

In keeping with the tradition set by Swami Chinmayananda, Jim stresses that this teaching is open to all, regardless of ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, or walk of life. All may come, and as the Hebrew psalmist says "taste and see the goodness of the Lord."

About The Teaching

Adwaita Vedanta is the ancient non-dual Science of Self Knowledge found in the Upanishads, one of the core scriptures of Hinduism. The essence of the teaching is that the core of our humanity and the Essence of Ultimate Reality are one and the same, and that this unitive Truth can be directly experienced. This fundamental truth is the essence behind all the great mystic teachings around the world and in all periods of history. It is thundered by the great saints and sages of all time – that the real nature of the human person is divine – changeless, eternal, infinite and non-dual.

Vedanta makes no claim to being the only expression of this truth. What makes Vedanta unique is that it has developed a "spiritual technology," wherein through study and practice the student develops a clear understanding of this truth based on direct experience. This tradition was practiced exclusively by the Hindu Brahmins throughout history until recent times, when gurus from India began coming to the West and teaching in English.


Current Silent Way Classes

tripura text cover (1)







This class will explore the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, one of the core scriptures of Yoga. The Gita is a conversation between Prince Arjuna and his teacher Krishna on philosophical concepts that are important to the present day. The text addresses some of the core human questions that we all have, such as “Who am I?” “What is my purpose?” “Why am I here?” and “How can I best contribute to my community and the world?”

This class will introduce you to the history, story and key concepts within the Gita chapter by chapter. We will read the text, taking inspiration from specific verses and connecting them with specific struggles we face in everyday life.

The format of this class will include textual reading, group discussion, chanting in Sanskrit and meditation.  Drop-ins are welcome.  

Sunday evenings from 6:30 – 8:00 PM.. Class is held at my home, 250 Grand Ave. #10, Oakland CA 94610.

Tripura Rahasya (Saturdays 10AM) | Vivekachudamani (Monday 7:30PM) | Gita (Sundays 6:30PM)  | Atma Boda (Thursdays 7:30PM)





Vivekachoodamani - The Crest Jewel of Discrimination

Taught by Jim Gilman

An ongoing in depth study of this classic Adwaita text by Adi Shankara, the great 8th century Hindu saint. This class is for serious students who want to make a long term committment to their spiritual practice. The text is linear - it takes the student from the very beginning of the Path and leads step by step to the heights of Self Realization. Class space is limited. Please call Jim at 510-220-8453 if you are interested in joining.

Introductory class meets
Monday, September 12, 7:30 PM
250 Grand Ave. #10, Oakland CA 94610
Call 510-220-8453 for details
All Silent Way classes are offered on a donation basis







Atma Bodha


A 12 week  class in the basic principles and practice of Adwaita Vedanta, the non-dual philosophy of ancient India. The text, “Atma Bodha” by Adi Shankara, is a classic scripture for those sincere Yogis who wish to understand the Path and the Goal of Self Realization. Class includes meditation instruction, unfolding of the text, and lively discussion

All are welcome.

Jim Gilman is a direct disciple of Swami Chimnayananda and has taught meditation and Adwaita Vedanta in the bay area and around the world for over 30 years.

Introductory class meets

Thursday, February 9, 2017, 7:30 PM

250 Grand Ave. #10, Oakland CA 94610

Call 510-220-8453 for details

All Silent Way classes are offered on a donation basis.







An ongoing Saturday class in the essentials of Adwaita Vedanta

Saturdays, 10:00-11:30 AM at the home of Jim Gilman

250 Grand AVe. #10 Oakland, CA 94610

Tripura Rahasya is one of the greatest texts in the Adwaita Vedanta, the core teaching of gnyana yoga. It was one of the favorites of Sri Ramana Maharshi, the great 20th century Tamil saint. It is from the tantric tradition and is a wonderful collection of stories illustrating the highest non-dual philosophy. In keeping with many tantric texts, it describes Ultimate Reality in terms of the Divine Feminine.  It is unusual in that most of the central figures that attain Enlightenment are women. Each of the stories presents a basic philosophical idea of this tradition and includes concrete meditation practices for the serious student of Vedanta.

The text is ascribed to the sage Dattatreya, one of India’s oldest sage/avatars and the reputed author of the Dattatreya Upanishad found in the Atharva Veda. He figures in the great epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

This will be an ongoing class open to all on a donation basis. However, it is not a “drop in” group. Students should be willing to make a commitment to regular ongoing attendance so as to keep up with the subtle, but progressive movement of thought through the text. We will discuss the Adwaita Philosophy in this scripture and get practical instruction as to how to apply these principles in daily life. A commitment to regular daily meditation is a requirement of the class.

Silent Way classes are open to all on a donation basis. Call Jim at 510-220-8453 for more information. The text can be purchased online or or you can purchase one at the introductory class.








The Meaning of Om
by Jim Gilman 

Hari Aum. Aum ityetadaksharam idam 
sarvam tasyopavyakhyanam 
bhutam bhavad bhavishyaditi sarvam Omkara eva. 
Yachchanyat trikalatitam tadapyomkara eva.

Hari Aum. Aum, the word, is all this. 
A clear explanation of it is the following. 
All that is past, present and future is verily Aum. 
That which is beyond the triple conception of time, is also truly Aum.


This is the opening mantra of the Mandukya Upanishad, the shortest, and subtlest of all the major Upanishads, the most revered scriptures of Hinduism. In this Upanishad, we have the classic exposition of the meaning of Aum, the most sacred of all mantras. 
For westerners, the ambiguity of spelling may be perplexing. Is it "Om," or "Aum"? In Sanskrit, the sound "O" is a diphthong, actually spelled "AU." It is pronounced more like the English "O" than the pure sound found in Italian or German. The difference in spelling is merely a matter of transliteration. 
The mantra begins with a salutation, Hari Aum. It goes on to state that Aumkara (the word Aum) is all this. The term idam (this) is a technical term in the Upanishads, which refers to the phenomenal world. So that the student is not confused, the Upanishad goes on to define what the phenomenal world is. In this mantra, it is described in terms of Time. Anything that exists in the past, present, or the future, is included in Aum. It includes anything that has a beginning and an end, that has qualities and form, that exists in Space as well as Time, and includes subtle as well as gross phenomena, meaning thoughts and feelings as well as physical objects. 
But is this all? The mantra goes on to state that Aum includes that which is beyond this triple conception of Time. To what is the mantra referring? What is That which encompasses the phenomenal world, yet is also beyond the phenomenal world? This is made clear in the next mantra.

Sarvam hyetad Brahma 
Ayam Atma Brahma 
Soyam Atma chatushpat.

All this is verily Brahman. 
This Self is Brahman 
This Self has four quarters.

This next mantra again uses the term idam (this). It states that all this is Brahman. Brahman is the Sanskrit word for Ultimate Reality. It is a neuter noun (beyond gender specificity!) that is difficult to translate. It means, God, Ultimate Sentience, Reality, Infinity, Immensity, and yet much more. Later on, the Upanishad will call it avyapadesham, which means "un-talk-about-able." But what is this Brahman? How do we come to know it? Where can it be found? This is discussed in the next phrase. 
The next statement in the mantra is one of the four Mahavakyas, (Great Utterances) the most profound and concise teachings of the Upanishads, which indicate the essence of Vedanta philosophy. It states 'This Self (Atman) is Brahman." 
What a revolutionary statement! It locates Divinity not in the heavens, not far away from us, not as some unknowable mystery only to be worshiped from afar, but as the very Self of every creature. This Self is not something with which we have some relationship. We will never know the Self as an object of our awareness. Rather, this Self shines as "I," the eternal Subject. Just as a person cannot see his or her eyes, or cannot taste his or her own tongue, so also, we cannot "see" the Self in any objective sense. But even though we have not seen our eyes as objects, we KNOW that we see,. So also, this Self is eternally known, and directly experienced all the time, as "I," the one by whom all else is known. The Self is also swayam bhu, or Self evident. The Self knows Itself, not as an object, but as pure Subjectivity. This eternal Subject, which shines as the light of awareness, is infinite, spacious, without qualities or form, beginningless and endless. It is the Eternal Essence. This is what God is. This Self IS Brahman. 
Now comes the interesting part! The mantra goes on to say that this Self, this Brahman has four quarters (pada). This doesn't mean four quarters like a cow has four feet. It doesn't mean that the Infinite can be divided up. It means that we can discuss it as four topics, trying to understand its nature. Remember, the scriptures do not define Reality, they only indicate it. They point to it using the suggestive language of images. Swami Chinmayananda used to say that a yogi must have the mind and heart of a poet to appreciate the suggestive quality of the sacred mantras of scripture. The Upanishad represents these four areas of discussion by the four matras, or letters of Aum. but wait a minute! Aum seems to have only three! No, it has four. "A," "U," "M," and "SILENCE!" 
The first quarter, "A," represents the waking state. This includes the entire world of matter, from the smallest sub-atomic particle up to the cosmos itself. It is the world we see in our ordinary waking state mentality. 
The second quarter, "U," represents the dream state. This is a metaphor. It stands for the subtle world of thoughts, emotions, images, memories, and the like. It is the interior world, perceived through the mind. 
The third quarter, "M," represents the deep sleep state. This is the state where mind is folded up into complete unconsciousness. In deep sleep, the universal experience is "I know nothing." Yet it is experienced, because upon awakening, we can remember that we have slept. 
The fourth quarter, "SILENCE," represents the Consciousness that illumines the three prior states, and which pervades them all. During the waking state, it is "I" who knows the phenomenal world. During the dream state, it is "I" who knows the various thoughts, emotions, images and the like. During the deep sleep state, it is "I" who illumines the mind submerged in the dark of deep sleep. Though this Consciousness pervades the three states, it is independent and beyond them too. It is the eternal Self, which was before the universe came into being, and which will remain not only after the body dies, but even after the dissolution of the whole creation. 
The great saint, Gaudapada, in his Karika, or commentary on this Upanishad says, "He who knows both the experiencer and the objects of experience that have been described and associated with the three states, is not affected through experiencing the objects." He is referring to the great benefit of Self Realization. By contemplating and meditating on this Self, that is eternally present throughout all of our experiences, and is ever the same, we come to see that this Self is in fact immutable. It never changes. It cannot be improved, and it cannot be diminished. We don't become one with God. We already are what God is! We only need to realize this, as our own direct experience. This realization brings us true peace, and releases the mind from the tyranny of ego. 
So now we have an intellectual understanding of Aum. The next step is to penetrate deeply into it. This takes long and continuous meditation. It also takes renunciation. This does not mean living in some austere life style. It means to give up our attachment to the belief that the world of objects, emotions, and thoughts has any intrinsic reality. It is in truth, like a long dream.... Only the Self is real. Only the Self IS. All else is but fleeting images projected on the Screen of Consciousness. Let them go. Don't get involved with them. Stay home in your Self Nature. Hurry home. Hari Om!








The Attitude of the Witness

by Jim Gilman

Most of the great spiritual traditions suggest that we practice the attitude of the witness both in our meditation and in our daily lives. Just what does this mean? How does this attitude change our view of ourselves and the world? How does it aid in the revelation of our essential nature?

The attitude of the witness means that we watch. Rather than to be involved as a participant, to witness means to stand apart as it were, and simply observe. How do we accomplish this?  I often suggest to students that we  approach it like a game. The rules of the game are these: "I" am the subject. Anything of which I can be aware, anything that is an object of cognition, is an "object." There is a distinction between the "I", the subject, and the entire world of objects. If I look at something, I am not the thing at which I am looking, I am the one doing the seeing. The subject is aware of the object. The object does not illumine itself. It must have a conscious observer for its existence to be known.

Let us examine this notion further. As I apprehend the world of objects (things seen, tasted touched, smelled and heard), this fact of subject - object distinction is clear I am not any of these objects of the senses, I am the one who knows them. If I see a bowl for example, I am not the bowl, I am the one who sees the bowl. This seems simple so far. But let us now go to the realm of the physical body. When I was a child, I had a child's body. That body changed (actually died in a very real sense) and was replaced by the body of a youth. That body also faded away and was replaced by the body of the adult. Now as I approach old age, the body again changes. Even though the body has undergone all of these changes, have not "I" been the witness of them all? In fact the body and all of its experiences and changes is an "object" of awareness, just like the bowl. "I" am the subject and the body is an object of cognition. I am not the body! I am the knower of the body.

Let us now go to the realm of feelings. Sometimes I feel sad, sometimes I feel happy. Sometimes I feel love, sometimes I feel anger. The feelings are always changing. But the feelings, like the bowl, are objects of cognition. I am aware of my feelings. What ever feelings I may have "I" is always the re as the witness of them all. I am not my feelings. I am the knower of my feelings.

Let us now go to the realm of thought. The thoughts go by so quickly. Sometimes they are in the form of words, sometimes images. They can be voices, or just impressions. It can be memory, or projection into the future. But what ever the content of our thoughts may be, they too, like the bowl, are objects of cognition. I am not my thoughts I am the knower of my thoughts.

So to sum up: "I" is the subject, anything of which I can be aware is other than "I", the Self. The subject always knows the objects, the objects do not know the subject. The subject is always conscious. W ith reference to the subject, the objects are always inert, meaning they are not self luminous, they do not know themselves. The presence of the conscious factor, the "I" is necessary for their existence to be known. In Sanskrit this is known as "Drik Drishya Viveka," discrimination between the seer and the seen.

As we practice this exercise in contemplation, some truths begin to become clear. First, we begin to see the the objects are all finite, temporary, and subject to change. This is the realm of the impermanent.  The Self, the "I" on the other hand, is always there. It is the same "I" that is the knower of all the objects, all the various emotions, and of all the changing thoughts. Though the "seen" always changes, the "seer", the "I" does not. This Self is  pure existence, changeless being, the place where God and the person are one. This Self is space- like witnessing consciousness. It is the knower of all, but itself cannot be known as an object. It would be like trying to see your own eyes.

The great truth in the quest for Self Realization is "what you are looking for, you are looking with!" Maintaining this viewpoint, always endeavoring to be conscious of the fact that "I", the Self, am the witness, the eternal subject, and that the phenomena, all of the objects, emotions and thoughts, are the not-Self, ever impermanent, begins to give us the sense that we are not our bodies, not our feelings, not our ideas, but rather something pure, empty and space-like, yet the essence of knowing Itself. It is the eternal consciousness in which the whole universe rises and falls.


The Lineage








Swami Chinmayananda

There are many saints and sages in the history of India. There are also many gurus. But visionaries are only a few. Sri Swami Chinmayananda was not only the sage of modern times, not only a guru but also a great visionary, whose work touched not only India but the whole world. From time to time, the world witnesses birth of a Yuga Purusha who comes for the purpose of leading the suffering humanity to the path of Dharma. And we are the blessed ones who have had the great fortune of being under the direct guidance of this Guru Sri Chinmayananda, a great Gnani who carved for us the ideal model of Karma Yogi sweetened with endless Bhakti. Those who met him will never forget the glow of Chinmaya (Pure consciousness) that He carried around everywhere at all times. SRI GURUBHYO NAMAHA!

Early days

Balakrishna Menon, the future Swami Chinmayananda was born on May 8, 1916 as the son of Parakutti and Kuttan Menon in Ernakulam, Kerala in the noble aristocratic family that strictly followed the Kerala traditions. Saints and sages often visited the house they all paid lots attention to Bala, predicting that he will have a great future. At an age of 5 Balan lost his mother; his father later remarried. Balan, as he was fondly called, spent his early childhood amidst a lot of love and attention amongst large extended family of cousins, uncles and aunts. He grew up as a charming and mischievous boy adored by all. Brilliant and intelligent student as he was, he used to complete his lessons easily without any effort. He loved reading, swimming and badminton. Ever ready for mischief and play, full of brilliant ideas and jokes, and great at mimicking everyone with great wit and humor, he never missed an opportunity to tease his sisters. Since early childhood he was an excellent actor ever full of dynamism a never ending source of new ideas for family and friends. Balan attended English Modern school where he also learned Malyalam and Sanskrit. Even later on as a Swami he often used to make comments and jokes in Malyalam.

It was the family tradition that the whole family gathered together for daily satsang and puja at sunset. Children also had to participate in it daily. Swamiji used to tell us: "As I was sitting there in the pooja room waiting for the Arathi which meant the end of satsang, I used to gaze at the pictures of Gods right in front of me. The one I liked the most was Lord Siva. To pass time I developed my own private game. I used to look at Lord Siva with Ganga flowing out from his matted hair, with the serpent for a head band and the crescent moon lighting his smiling compassionate eyes. Then I would shut my eyes to see whether I could see Him in my own mind, then open the eyes again and compare the picture I would do that again and again, till I got it right to the smallest detail, With practice I was able to picture Shankara with closed eyes, exactly as He was on the altar and later the picture would came readily as ordered. I used to look forward to the satsang for I enjoyed my game." This game gave him a job so sweet and pleasant that it became a habit to call upon Lord's form even later on in his life. "At the time thousands of questions used to come to my mind as to \why' and \whereof' of the whole \show' - and I had no answers till years later", adds Swamiji.

Involvement in the independence movement

In 1940 young Balan joined the Luknow university were he studied English literature and law. He was very active in the life on the campus appeared in several dramas in the theater, and became a member of the literary club, the debating club, and was on the university tennis team. Balakrishnan Menon was an attractive young man and in demand in social circles. But it wasn't all he did. Sensitive to the life around him in 1942 Menon joined the Indian independence movement, for independence of his Country was an issue very dear to his heart. He was involved in writing and distributing leaflets, organizing public strikes and giving speeches. Menon's rare leadership qualities made him visible in the movement and soon a warrant was issued in his name. He had to go into hiding, but soon after returning he was caught and put in prison. He spent several months in the overcrowded prison in terrible conditions. Terror, near-starvation diet, lack of hygiene and lack of ventilation invited disease.

In prison he had plenty of time to reflect on his own life, as well as on life in general. He had seen lifeless bodies carried out daily - the reality of death could not be ignored. Questions such as: "What is the meaning of this life? Is there something more permanent and if so what is it?" occupied his mind. Weakened by months in jail he fell ill with typhus fever. There was little hope for his recovery. Consequently, he was carried out into the night and tossed on the side of the road on the outskirts of the city. Swamiji reports the event saying:

"The British officer threw me out when he realized I had contracted typhus in his prison. He did not want another body on his record ! but luckily for me, a kindly Christian-Indian lady took me into her home and cared for me like a Son. Later she told me that my nose reminded her on her son who was with the army. Suppose you can say I was......... 'saved by the nose'."

However, Swamiji was not predestined to die then, for his great mission in life had not yet started. After several difficult weeks and months he slowly regained strength and got well.

As soon as Menon regained health he was eager to get on with his life. He finished the university studies, graduated from law and English literature and chose the journalists career. In 1945 he moved to Delhi, the center of political activities, where he joined the editorial staff of the national newspaper of the Indians, The National Herald. Menon's passion for self-expression, the need to participate in the nation's revival gained him reputation of an extremely dynamic and controversial reporter. He was loudly voicing his opinion on every aspect of Indian life history, culture and of course the current topics, such as inevitability of independence, and the social issues. His innate compassion for man was evident through all the writings. His sympathies were with the poor, but at the same time he actively participated in life of the privileged class.

His eloquence, brilliant intelligence, and the unique ability to come up with a joke on any occasion made him a popular member of a local Club where he was a loud voice in controversial discussions on social and political issues. But even though young and ambitious, Menon soon discovered for himself the emptiness of the so called "good life". Underneath the noisy parties, the expensive clothes and jewelry and empty talk he sensed dissatisfaction, agitation and often despair. The selfishness and insensitivity of the ruling class were striking.

This made him discover again the topic left behind some fifteen year back - the Hindu religion. The old memories of childhood; the joy of falling asleep with the mantra on his lips, the loving and reassuring picture of an old grandmother who dedicated her last years to chanting the name of Lord Krishna.

Turning Point

Japa came back to Menon. He took Up the practice again, with the refreshing realization that perhaps there was more to life than political and social struggle, parties and intellectual discussions - though he still did not know what it was. "This feeling" as Swamiji recalls it later, was soon followed by an intense study of philosophy, both Indian and European. Secretly, before going to sleep he was doing the OM NAMAA SIVAYA mantra chanting.

It was at this crucial moment in his life that he came across books of Swami Sivananda, Vivekananda, Ram Tirtha, Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi and others He began studying philosophy' both Indian and European. The most profound influence made on Menon writings of Swami Sivananda, who stressed: "Be good. Do good." "Serve, Love, Purify, Meditate, Realize, and be free". Menon was impressed, but doubts still lingered in the mind of this self-acclaimed agnostic. He decided to explore it right where the action was - in the Himalayas - the center of spiritual life in India. Thus in the summer of 1947 the radical young journalist arrives at Swami Sivananda's ashram with the intention to find out "What is the true meaning of spirituality? Does it make any sense in life?" It would be a good subject for his new article, he thought.

However, already the first meeting with Swami Sivananda blew away Menon's preconceived ideas about spirituality. The master's dignity, his brilliant intelligence, the special aura of divinity captured him. Further more, the ashram was not at all what he expected. It was a dynamic place where numerous spiritual and social projects were continuously going on, and yet there was a very special peace and tranquillity felt in the mist of all the activity. It brought about the fascination in the doubting mind of the young journalist Swami Sivananda, who right away saw a great spiritual potential in Menon paid him special attention and used to tease him: "God gave you such an intelligence! Why don't you use it for Him?! You can join us and become a swami ! "

A month later Menon returned to Delhi as a changed man and, a year later moved to Rishikesh, but for some time he was still going back and forth to Delhi continuing his Career of a journalist.

Spiritual path

Finally he permanently joined Sivananda ashram, and on the 25th of February 1949, the auspicious day of Sivaratri Swami Sivananda initiated Menon to the order of sanyas. His name become now SWAMI CHINMAYANANDA SARASWATI, the one who revels in the bliss of pure consciousness.

Swamiji studied and worked in the ashram for some time. But for him the only path was GNANA YOGA, therefore Swami Sivananda told him: "You need to master the scriptures! Go to Uttarkashi to study under the renown vedantic master, Swami Tapovan!"

Thus Swamiji spent 8 years studying the scriptures at the feet of Sri Swami Tapovan in the high Himalayas in Uttarkashi. It was not easy, for Swami Tapovan was a great disciplinarian and a very demanding teacher. He never repeated his lesson twice. Swamiji lived in the cowshed with the stone for a pillow. However, Chinmaya was the uttama adhikari (the best Student), his burning desire for Self-knowledge knew no obstacles. He was often seen sitting all night in meditation in a quiet forest or on the Ganges banks. days he spent on studies and contemplation and guru seva (service to the guru).

After finishing studying the Bhagavad Geeta, Upanishads and Brahma Sutras Swamiji says to his guru: "I feel the immense urge to go down to the plains and share the wealth of the holy scriptures with my fellow countrymen. I want to run down like the a Ganga which nourishes and inspires with its refreshing waves."

Swami Tapovanam did not share the enthusiasm of his disciple He told him: "People are not ready yet, they will not understand you!" The guru suggested instead: "Take a trip down to plains wandering around as a renunciate, living as a beggar among those you had once known. Swamiji traveled on foot Some six months living on bhiksha; sleeping in ashrams, temples, and under wayside trees."

In November of 1951, Swami Chinmayananda completed his tour of India and returned to Tapovan Kutir in Uttarkasi But he came back even more convinced that his mission in life was to bring the rich and forgotten Vedantic philosophy to every corner of the world. He had witnessed the spiritual and economic degradation throughout his homeland, and was resolved to do series of Geeta Gnana Yagnas in all of the big Cities of India and abroad.

But Swamiji was not going to disobey his Guru, and would not leave without guru's blessings. Again he asked Swami Tapovan for permission, and this time Swami Tapovan said, all right, go and start your gnana yagnas but on one condition - you must have at least four people in the audience including the speaker, And Guru's words were fulfilled. Truly enough the first gnana yagna in Poona started with four people.

Spiritual renaissance begins

Thus Swami Chinmayananda came down from the high Himalayan peaks to bring the knowledge of the rishis and with it the revival of moral and spiritual values in the whole nation. The need for such a direction in India's recently won independence was urgent for the nation was falling down from the philosophical level of the old principles of Vedanta. His primary aim was: " To convert Hindus to Hinduism".

This hasn't been an easy task. From the very beginning Swamiji had to face lots of opposition, it seemed that he had everyone against him. Never before was studying of the scriptures in India open to everyone. Up till then the sacred spiritual knowledge was kept secret, being a privilege of the learned priest class. So when Swami Chinmayananda came thundering down with the message of the scriptures, tradition bound India was shocked. The priest class, the guardians of the scriptures hearing that the young radical swami invaded their closely guarded territory, were outraged and criticized him strongly. Not only was he taking the secret knowledge to the streets by holding public lectures, but he was teaching it in English, the language of the foreigners! The priests and preachers called him a rebel and swore that God himself would tear out Swamiji's tongue for such sacrilege."

Even the educated class would not support the renaissance of spiritual culture that Swamiji was initiating. The English educated intelligencia was not ready to receive his message. Trying to imitate the ways of the West, materialistic and skeptical, they were oblivious of the traditional Aryan spiritual culture of Hinduism.

But Swamiji did not give up. He used to tell us that Success is our birthright, and he has proven it with his life, He knew that given time he will win the hearts and minds of the nation Undefeated, He traveled through the country urging that all national activities be should be organized around higher spiritual ideals, proving, that spirituality is not a hindrance to progress, but enriches life and gives it new meaning Swamiji, the greatest missionary of our times Swamiji tirelessly worked for 42 years in spite of His ill health traveling throughout India and the whole world with no holidays, no breaks. He used to say: "When I rest, I rust". His joyous presence brought inspiration and strength around. Easily approachable He clarified doubts and anxieties, and offered guidance at the satsangs and discussions to men and women across the globe. Swamiji always found time for an honest seeker, regardless whether he was a child or the distinguished scholar or politician. Ever punctual, never complaining, full of enthusiasm, ready to help and guide, never missed an appointment, even when sick. He taught the importance of spiritual knowledge in every day life. His style was new, somehow shocking but irresistible. He explained philosophy of ancient scriptures with logic of science and at the same time with dynamism and humor the methods suitable to the modern youth. His charming smile cheered hearts, and magnet of his clear strong voice soon started drawing hundreds then thousands to the lectures.

At the lectures Swamiji demanded that everyone had the Upanishad and Geeta text in hand, and that everyone participated in the chanting of the Sanskrit texts.

Apart from lecturing Swami Chinmayananda wrote commentaries to major Vedantic texts as well as many of His own books that dealt with different aspects of true religion, including books for children. His approach is unique. By the use of scientific logic and simplicity of style He made the profound scriptural knowledge easy to understand and brought it closer to us by illustrating it with examples from our own life. Written in modern language they perfectly serve the needs of the modern people.

Once a child asked Him, Swamiji where do you live? Swamiji answered: "at the airports and the train Stations". And it is true this great saint did not have a home of His own, a matter of fact He owned nothing. Upto the end of His life He never stayed in one place more than a week. With "Hari Om" He used to arrive and part with "Hari Om" He would leave one place for another, taking with Him but the love and the satisfaction that more hearts were inspired to live Vedantic way of life, the life of spiritual knowledge and the noble values. He used to say: "Vedanta makes you a better Hindu, better Christian better Muslim as it makes you a better human being."

Chinmaya Mission

Already in the 60s the results of Swami Chinmayananda's work were striking. The Chinmaya movement touched every corner of India and it was the time for Swamiji to take the principles of Vedanta out into the world. He started lecturing abroad. Year by year Mission centers were growing in numbers everywhere around the world. Mission motto is: "Give maximum happiness to the maximum of people for the maximum of time.

But Swamiji knew that simply attending the lectures and reading the books our lives will not be changed. That is why He introduced the weekly study groups and classes where newly learned ideas could be reinforced and assimilated in the mutual discussions.

Swamiji gave special attention and affection to children, for He saw them as the builders of the future. For them He organized the Bala Vihar and Yuva Kendra classes, which He called children's clubs. Those classes teach the principles of Hindu religion and culture helping the youngsters to unfold their hidden potential in the light of dynamic spirituality. Many of them have grown up as the most successful and highly cultured members of society To see them prosper Swamiji remarked, was the best Gurudakshina he ever received.

Chinmaya Mission sponsors 62 schools in India where apart from the normal school curriculum children learn the Vedic heritage. There are also nursing and management schools to provide higher education. The spreading; of the Vedantic knowledge is assured by continuous publishing and distributing Swamiji's books all over the world.

In order to have the Vedantic knowledge brought to every corner of the world and every avenue of life Swamiji started ashrams in India and America where the new teachers, brahmacharies and Swamis: of the Mission were trained according to the old guru-kula tradition. The main ashram in India are in Bombay, and in Himalayas in Siddhabari. In America ashrams are in Piercy, San Jose, Washington, Chicago, Flint, New York state, and Florida. In His great compassion Swamiji wanted to help poor, sick and the old, that is why He started free clinics, hospitals, vocational Hari Har schools, orphanages, and old peoples homes.

Life long Achievements

In 1992 Swami Chinmayananda gave an address in the United Nations titled "Planet in Crisis". Just before the Mahasamadhi Swamiji was recognized as a world-renown teacher of Vedanta and Hindu religious leader. He was selected as a President of Hindu religion for the Centennial Conference of the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago, where Swami Vivekananda gave His address a hundred years ago. He was also honored in Washington, DC, at "World Vision 2000", a conference of religious leaders sponsored by Hindu Vishwa Parishad on August 6-8, 1993. The award was to be presented to Swamiji for His selfless service to humanity and as his extraordinary achievement in creating a renaissance of spiritual and cultural values in the country of His birth, India.

Unfortunately, Swamiji was not able to appear for the last two functions as He attained Mahasamadhi on August 3rd.

Swami Chinmayananda, the greatest Missionary and the visionary of our times left His bodily form in San Diego on August 3rd but His mission will continue, carried out by all of us with the zeal and love that He taught us for years. His body was taken to India and buried in Siddhabari ashram, but His teachings and His achievements will live for ever.

(by Brahmachari Sadhana, taken from the Chinmaya Mission Chicago website at






Swami Tapovan Maharaj


Swami Tapovan Maharaj was that pristine glacier of Self-knowledge through whom flowed the Ganga of Vedantic Wisdom of Swami Chinmayananda, the architect of the Chinmaya Movement.

Swami Tapovanam was a saint of the highest order, a consummate Vedantin, strict teacher, a compassionate mentor, and a poet whose every thought throbbed with ecstatic awareness, and a sage of unsurpassed wisdom and tranquillity.

That Truth, which Swami Tapovanam realized 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-realized 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.

smiling gurudev


The young Swami Chimnayananda with his guru, Swami Tapovan.

(taken from the Central Chinmaya Mission Trust website at

The young Swami Chimnayananda with his guru, Swami Tapovan.

(taken from the Central Chinmaya Mission Trust website at

Daana – The Spirit of Generosity

Daana, the spiritual practice of generosity, is found in many of the traditions of India, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.  Its intention is to open the heart and begin to free us from the fear of financial insecurity which is rooted in our survival instinct. This fear is the result of our spiritual ignorance. One manifestation of this ignorance is the conviction that we live in a hostile limited universe from which we need to protect ourselves. The act of giving goes against our fear based desire to hoard, contract, and limit ourselves. It has a further benefit in opening our hearts to the situation of others who may be in need. It helps us to develop compassion for others who suffer.

It occurs in the Judeo-Christian traditions with the ancient practice of tithing. Jesus implied the practice with his teaching “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

In the Vedanta tradition, Daana also means financial support of the teaching. This work cannot be bought or sold. It is outside of the marketplace. However, the practice of Daana is encouraged as a way of expressing our gratitude for the teaching and to support the spread of the teaching to others. The work of The Silent Way is entirely supported by the free will contributions of its students and friends.

If you wish to contribute to The Silent Way, you can mail a tax deductible donation to The Silent Way, 250 Grand Ave. #10, Oakland CA 94610 or simply use the PayPal button below.


Jim Gilman
250 Grand Avenue, #10
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