Chinmaya Mission

CMW News


July 2014, No. 160

IN THIS ISSUE

 

 

Home

 

Spiritual Trails

 

Reflections

 

News

 

Feature

 

Upcoming Events / Announcements

 

Previous CMWN Issues

 

 

 

NEWS

For all photos, click on image to enlarge.


 

 

 

 

 

 

The Quest: Thota Tharani to Play Role of Pujya Gurudev

 

Global CHYK Camp 7

 

Global Gītā Chanting Competition

 

Divinity Rushes to the New Sandeepany of CM San Jose

 

CHYK Music Concert and Chant-a-thon

 

Understanding Marriage: The Joy of Change

 

CM LA Devotees Revel in Rāmacharitamānasa

 

CM Dallas's Spring Celebrations

 

CM Chicago Trip to Feed My Starving Children

 

Penny Wars by CHYK West

 

BREP at CM Portland

 

CMH Children Offer Gītā with Devotion

 

News from Chinmayāraṇyam

 

Taking Steps for CORD Siruvani

 

Bala Vihar Graduation Ceremony at CM Houston

 

The Path of Surrender

 

Healthy Living: A Modern and Holistic Approach

 

 

 

 

 

The Quest: Thota Tharani to Play Role of Pujya Gurudev
Excerpts from article published in Hindustan Times, June 3, 2014


National award-winning art director Thota Tharani has donned the greasepaint to play His Holiness Swami Chinmayananda, a Hindu spiritual leader who inspired the formation of Chinmaya Mission, in an upcoming English documentary, The Quest: Swami Chinmayananda. RS Prasanna of Tamil comedy fame has directed the film, which is currently in its post-production stage.

Prasanna said, “When you do a biopic of a character that has lived in the recent memory, it’s difficult to find someone who can act as well as physically resemble that person. When we were discussing this with my team, my costume designer Preethi, who worked as an assistant to Thota Tharani, suggested his name. . . . Two days later, I was at his office and he agreed to do the film without any remuneration. He said he is only doing it because it is for a spiritual purpose.”

While Tharani plays the older version of the known figure, Sandeep, a real-life monk plays the younger counterpart. Prasanna quipped, “His portion comes toward the climax for about 15 percent of the film, but it’s the most important part. For people of Chinmaya Mission, it is like watching their Rajinikanth. If you were to make a movie on Rajinikanth, you can’t afford to get it wrong. The fans will kill you. The timeline of the film is from the time Chinmayananda was a child until he became old. You will see Sandeep on screen until the point Swamiji was 40 years old and after that, we have used Tharani.”

All other actors in the documentary are members of the Mission. Scheduled to release in August, The Quest is jointly produced by Chinmaya Mission and Prasanna.

 

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Global CHYK Camp 7

 

The seventh annual Global CHYK Camp, “In The Footsteps of Giants: The Saints of India,” will be conducted by Swami Swaroopananda (CIRS) on the beautiful and serene campus of the Chinmaya International Residential School (CIRS) in Coimbatore, India, December 24, 2014-January 1, 2015.

From exploring symbolism in Hinduism, to learning about the supreme Reality and the path to Self-realization, each past global CHYK camp has been a unique and transformational journey for every attendee. The seven-day camp takes campers beyond time, allowing them to switch off from their busy life to enjoy a complete immersion into Vedantic knowledge through discourses, discussions, and tailored creative activities.

The magic of the CHYK Global Camp is not a coincidence. Why? Because it is designed to provide a forum for practical introspection and reflection. Add to this a genuine yearning for self-development and what results is a life-changing experience. In addition, all the participants get an opportunity to come together with like-minded peers to create long-lasting relationships and connect with an international network of aspiring CHYKs.

In the 2014 camp, the focus will be on seven great saints of India—their attributes, their struggles, their devotion, and the positive impact they have had on society. All CHYKs are welcome to walk in the footsteps of giants, to leave their imprints in the sands of time. This camp is open to ages 18-35 years. Registration is $380/person. Register now as space is limited.

 

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Global Gītā Chanting Competition
by Swami Sharanananda

 

Pujya Gurudev breathed, lived, and talked Bhagavad Gītā throughout his life. For this reason, Shrīmad Bhagavad Gītā is the heart of Chinmaya Mission. Pujya Gurudev’s birth centenary celebrations in 2015 will feature local, national, and international Gītā chanting competitions on Chapter 15.

In USA, local CM centers are to submit the list of their First Place and Runner Up winners (no more than six per center) by September 13, 2015. CM Chicago will host the national competition on October 11, 2015. The international competition will be held at Chinmaya Vibhooti in Kolwan, India on December 25, 2015, and will feature only First Place national winners (no more than three per country).

The age groups for the 2015 are based on participants’ ages as of January 1, 2015, as follows:

Group A: Age 5-10 years
Group B: Age 11-18 years
Group C: Age 19 years and above

The judges for the national competition will be determined by CMW’s National Gita Chanting  Committee, which is comprised of Swamis Shantananda (CM Princeton), Ishwarananda (CM Los Angeles), Sarveshananda (CM Dallas), Sharanananda (CM Chicago), and Acharya Sharada Kumar (CM Ann Arbor).

The designated Gītā chapter for 2015 is Chapter 15 and for 2014 it is Chapter 14. Centers may e-mail Swami Sharanananda to receive the judging criteria, which are the same for both years, at all levels of competition. Centers are to contact Swamiji to order the Chapter 15 learning kit by Pujya Swami Brahmananda (CM Bangalore), for specific questions, and to submit the names and contact information of their local coordinators.

 

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Divinity Rushes to the New Sandeepany of CM San Jose
by Aarjav Joshi

 

It was a joyous and auspicious day for all CM San Jose (CMSJ) members when the murtis from their beloved Sandeepany Park Avenue ashram made their way to their new home of Sandeepany Clayton Road on June 1. Mission devotees gathered from all around the Bay Area to mark the beginning of a new chapter for the center.

The function began at Sandeepany Park Avenue, where everyone was actively engaged and happily chanting the Lord’s name. After the offering of a short puja, everyone excitedly moved in closer to witness see the moving of the murtis. Engineer and CMSJ devotee, Krishna Parat, designed an effective and comfortable palanquin for Lord Shiva’s transport. The detailed meticulousness and modern comfort of the design was stunning, to say the least. It took six people to lift, but the palanquin held the weight of white marble life-size Lord Shiva idol perfectly. Soft blankets provided precise and secure cushioning for Lord Shiva to be moved safely.

At Sandeepany on Clayton Road, a large crowd had gathered and was waiting eagerly to welcome Lord Shiva to His beautiful new home. Before entering, an arti was offered for the murtis by Pandit Ravichandran, a long-time devotee of Pujya Gurudev. Panditji broke the coconut and lime, a Hindu tradition to mark a new beginning. Lord Shiva sat on a wooden base next to the altar until the ashram inauguration. Another short puja was performed and a few talented youth sang melodious bhajans for the Lord.

Now that the ashram was ready and the Lord had agreed to reside there, all that was remained was the presence of the Guru. A most astonishing miracle happened that while announcements were being made about Pujya Guruji’s discourses and attendance at the inauguration ceremony, Pujya Guruji himself quietly walked into the building. The Lord had indeed provided in full measure and everyone awestruck and overjoyed at the sight of Pujya Guruji. It was as if they were pinching themselves to make sure they weren’t dreaming. Sanjay Patil, CMSJ photographer, clicked until his hands got sore.

All CMSJ devotees lined up before Pujya Guruji to offer their namaskaram. In speaking to everyone, he said he himself did not understand how he had reached there and attributed it to the maya of Lord Shiva. Everyone nodded, cried, or giggled in agreement. After blessing everyone with a few words, he toured the ashram with his signature smile, took prasad, and left. As people stood eagerly to get a final glimpse of him, no one could believe the Head of Chinmaya Mission worldwide had so suddenly come to bless the new ashram. People could not stop talking about it over and again. This wondrous welcome of God, of Guru, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for on ecstatic CMSJ family.

 

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CHYK Music Concert and Chant-a-thon
by Ramita Dhewan and Rasshmi Shankar

 

The Vinayapūrva Jugalbandhi Concert hosted by Chinmaya Mission Washington DC was an evening that showcased the talent, passion, and devotion for music of five CHYK artists. Featured on lead vocals were Vinay Mallikarjun and Purvi Nanavaty. Thanks to the persistent efforts of the artists and organizers, the memorable performances on March 29 raised $4,500 for the center.

CHYKs of the Washington DC center conducted a Hanumān Chālīsa-thon to celebrate Hanumān Jayanti and fundraise for CHYK West’s Youth Empowerment Program (YEP). The attendees chanted the Hanumān Chālīsā for nine continuous hours on April 20 at the center’s Kailāsa Nivāsa ashram. Devotees were heard describing their experience at the day-long event as “fatigued but energetic and awake all at once,” “positive vibrations throughout the ashram,” and “all tied together with tireless smiles.” Many attended the event and some enjoyed it remotely via live Web stream. The auspicious event united devoted vocalists and instrumentalists, and raised $380 for YEP.

 

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Understanding Marriage: The Joy of Change
by Nila Bala


In a unique weekend retreat with Acharyas Vilasini Balakrishnan (CM Washington DC) and Vivek Gupta (CM Niagara), 50 young couples and several members of CM Pittsburgh and came together May 2-4 to learn about “Understanding Marriage,” which included learning the different parts of a Vedic marriage ceremony. For those who had been married for many years, understanding the complexities of the rituals and ceremonies breathed new life into the meaning of marriage. And for the unmarried came many lessons and helpful advice on starting and maintaining a happy married life.

While Vivekji explained the parts of the Vedic marriage ceremony, Vilasiniji gave many pieces of advice for a successful relationship. Most notably, she helped people learn to see their spouses as the Lord’s prasad. She emphasized the importance of not sweating the small stuff. Couples also worked on communication and dialogue activities to better understand, mirror, validate, and empathize with each other.

One of the best parts of the camp was the beautiful setting of the Antiochian Village. Each morning began with a silent Nature walk where campers could hear birds, frogs, and rippling streams, and view ponds so still that they looked like mirrors.

The camp’s lighthearted moments included a 25-on-25 soccer game, blindfolded meals, and making gifts for each other with clay.

By the retreat’s end, the couples had not only learned practical and joyful tools for marriage, but also established friendships and shared tips with their new friends. Many expressed how lucky they felt to have the chance for such a transformative experience in such a short time, and hoped such a retreat would be offered again soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CM LA Devotees Revel in Rāmacharitamānasa
by Nimmi Raghunathan


CM Los Angeles devotees gathered each morning at the Chinmaya Rāmeshwaram ashram March 31-April 6 to participate in the annual nine-day recitation of Shri Rāmacharitamānasa in celebration of Shrī Rāma Navami.

Led and guided by Swami Ishwarananda (CM Los Angeles), devotees immersed themselves in the bhakti-soaked verses of the Rāmacharitamānasa, chanting for three hours each morning. Each day also saw the rendition of Shrī Rāma Ārti followed by prāsad that was lovingly cooked by volunteers. 

The chanting of the text came to a resounding culmination on April 6 when devotees said they felt uplifted simply through what Tulasidāsaji invoked in them through his masterful and glorious poetry. That evening, Mission members gathered to witness a grand puja conducted by Janakiram Kuppa. As in the nine days preceding it, all the mūrtis were beautifully adorned in grand clothes and jewelry by devotees.

The Chinmaya Swarānjali group sang bhajans in praise of the Lord and took the listeners along to a place of devotional enchantment. Young Padmaja Sundaram, a senior in high school, added to the wonderful musical evening with a vocal concert. After a devotionally fulfilling evening, all were served boxed prasad.

Since its inception, there has been huge and enthusiastic participation from all the Bala Vihar children in the annual talent show now held at the ashram as part of the Shrī Rāma Navami celebrations. This year as well, the children were given the opportunity to display their considerable talents on stage, and more than 85 students availed it. The talent show showcased the diverse skills of kids from grade kg-12. The performances includes the arts of classical and folk dance, light and classical Hindustani and Carnatic music, and recitals on the violin, keyboard, and tabla. The children had also taken the time to coordinate and practice the staging of skits on the Rāmāyaṇa. While this program was being held in the main auditorium, many children also took part in the art and essay competitions, for which they were given topics on the spot on a particular color or Rāmacharitamānasa verse. In short, the four-hour program was appreciated by one and all, and saw budding artists, painters, singers, dancers, and writers giving their best.

Swami Ishwarananda encouraged and applauded the young ones, who inevitably rushed to him at the conclusion of their performance for a photo op with him.

The evening wound down with closing prayers, followed by dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CM Dallas's Spring Celebrations
by Ashok Dandekar

 

April came as a busy month for CM Dallas with the celebration of three major events: Rāma Navami, the Hanumān Chālīsa-thon, and the annual Holi picnic.

CM Dallas members have been celebrating Rāma Navami at the Chinmaya Sāket ashram since 2000. The celebration starts during Chaitra Navarātri, nine days before Rāma Navami. On Guḍi Padavā day the singing of Rāmacharitamānasa begins; it is sung to music primarily by 20-25 members every evening for four hours. The chanting ends on Rāma Navami at around 10 a.m. and Lord Rama’s birth is celebrated at noon. This year also included the 16-step Vedic puja of Lord Rama and the day was a grand affair with 100 members in attendance on a weekday. The celebration ended with lunch prasad.

A Hanumān Chālīsa-thon was held this year at Chinmaya Sāket in celebration of Hanumān Jayanti. The event was held at the Chinmaya Chitrakoot ashram on April 27. The events were managed solely by YEP (CHYK’s Youth Empowerment Program) volunteers, who also led the chanting of Hanumān Chālīsā 108 times in various ragas, as sung by Pujya Guruji. Attendees flowed in and out throughout the day and select Bala Vihar students led 30-minute slots as well. Members pledged funds for YEP 2014. The positive response and support for YEP has now made this an annual fundraiser at CM Dallas.

One of CM Dallas’s most popular events—its annual Holi picnic— was held on April 20 with over 1,200 attendees at a large rented park facility in McKinney. The day included various activities including a walkathon benefiting education expenses for Bhutanese refugee students going to college. Bala Vihar students designed t-shirts for the walkathon. Holi was celebrated with color and water pichkāris that drenched everyone. The main target for color and water is always resident acharya Swami Sarveshananda. His lively participation at the picnic is the highlight of the day. All the children, teachers, and parents enjoy his company in this most informal setting. The children played several games and flew kites. Hot food was served, along with grilled corn, and everyone young and old alike, had a great time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CM Chicago Trip to Feed My Starving Children
by Padmaja Khanna


CM Chicago’s Yamunotri ashram sevaks organized a field trip in the spirit of service to Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) in Libertyville, on March 8 for more than 90 adults and children in grades 7-12. The two-hour service visit involved packing ready-to-cook vegetarian meal packs for shipping to continents around the world, including South America, Africa, and Asia. Each meal pack contained six servings for a child under five years of age.

The visit concluded with a prayer seeking blessings of the Lord for safe passage of the food and the well-being of its intended recipients. FMSC gave a brief presentation on whom the organization serves, and some of the economics and logistics involved in getting the food to those in need.

After the service trip, the students spent some time discussing their experience and ideas for future service projects. Prathyaya Ramesh, a high schooler, wrote, “FMSC was an amazing experience for all of us. We had the most fun packed in the little time we had.  It was an eye-opener to learn about the struggle of kids and adults around the world. It was amazing to see that one bag contained 6 meals! The experience made us realize how much we take for granted in our lives. We complain about having the same meal for two nights in a row when people have the same food in limited quantity for every meal, every day. We also got a small, cooked morsel of the food that we had packed. FMSC was a very gratifying experience and I am sure we will go back again.”

CM Chicago Yamunotri has held food drives and book drives every year, and regular health fairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Penny Wars by CHYK West
by Padma Mana


CHYK West’s 31 eager students and 4 enthusiastic acharyas first envisioned the “Penny Wars” initiative at YEP 2013 in Piercy, CA. Pujya Gurudev’s grace brought out many sparks of creativity in terms of service projects and fundraisers for CMW, and Penny Wars as a fundraiser for CORD USA. The framework of the initiative was simple: It was a competitive fundraiser for Chinmaya Bala Vihar classes across the continent, for classes to compete with each other to raise the most funds in the form of loose change. CHYKs would facilitate the project with the help of local centers’ boards to create momentum and a contagious excitement.

For the program's first roll-out in 2014, five CM centers across the US were able to implement it successfully. Several CMW centers also responded positively about hosting the initiative next year. The CM centers of Ann Arbor, Austin, Bentonville, Dallas, and Portland raised a total of $8,556 to benefit BREP, the Bhutanese Refugee Outreach Program, an initiative of CORD USA.

BREP is an effort to help Bhutanese refugee communities maintain their heritage while integrating into their new surroundings in the US and Canada after fleeing political turmoil in their homeland of Southern Bhutan. BREP addresses issues such as health, education, and financial independence for adults, and cultural and school/college integration for children. Bala Vihar students offer help with homework and college entrance exams.

CHYK involvement was pivotal in the operation of Penny Wars. CHYKs from each of the centers organized the logistics, publicity, and finances at their respective centers, and communicated with the Board and local members. They encouraged healthy competition among the children and helped raise as much as possible. Juhi Amodwala (CM Austin) said, “All the classes got pretty excited, especially because the class that raised the most money would get a pizza party. There was an overwhelming response from the younger classes in particular and they became competitive for a good cause.” The fundraiser not only excited the children and involved the CHYKs, but spread awareness to parents and adults as well. Sridhar Karra (Dallas CHYK), felt the strengthening of ties in the Mission family and said, “It was great to see them come together to help the Bhutanese community here. Healthy competition and an innovative method of raising funds made for a memorable and effective fundraiser.”

Another fruit of this project was the cross-cultural awareness. Kapil Varma, a 13-year-old Bala Vihar student, organized a BREP awareness program for his CM Portland family. Everyone learned more about the program and the Bala Vihar students were especially keen to help.

At CM Bentonville, the initiative added greater momentum after several CHYKs attended their first CHYK camp and then hosted a CHYK West Regional Planning Conference.

Overall, all the five participating centers appreciated the success of Penny Wars and BREP.

 

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BREP at CM Portland
Submitted by CM Portland

CM Portland held a fundraiser for the Bhutanese Refugees Empowerment Program (BREP) at its Chinmaya Haridwar ashram. Budding Bala Vihar student Kapil Varma researched and brought in a Bhutanese community leader, Som Sobedi, to speak about who the Bhutanese refugees are, what the group’s issues and needs are, and how CM Portland can help. Som Sobedi spoke on the lack of cultural orientation, the need for help with homework, civil engagement, and the suicide rate among Bhutanese refugees.

Kapil later submitted a proposal to offer free Bala Vihar classes and homework help to the Bhutanese community children at the ashram, and made a presentation on BREP, saying, “BREP helps current Bhutanese refugees in the US find jobs and get education. Since March, we have been raising money for BREP through a CHYK West initiative called ‘Penny Wars.’ Each class has a jar in which they add pennies to increase their points, while other classes put dimes, nickels, and quarters in their jar to decrease their points. The winners received prizes with Grade 8 raising the highest points (1,078) and Grade 5 raising the highest funds ($45.05). Penny Wars raised a total of $145.45 and a CM Portland family matched the funds, resulting in a contribution to BREP of $290.90.”

Kapil and high schooler Akshay Kajjam conducted Penny Wars at CM Portland, collecting and tallying the points and funds, and encouraging all students of all ages. The encouragement worked, because little ones would come to class with a handful of coins every week, asking for Kapil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CMH Children Offer Gītā with Devotion
by Sree Gundamaraju


It starts in early February every year. On the crisp, chilly Sunday mornings, a group of excited children, their parents, and equally enthusiastic teachers gather at CM Houston (CMH) an hour before the regular session starts. They go into their respective class rooms and begin learning to chant the selected chapter of Bhagavad Gītā for that year. They carefully pronounce every Sanskrit syllable, word, and phrase, join or separate compound words according to Sanskrit grammar rules, and chant the verses meticulously and melodiously. This industrious practice continues till early May, and culminates in a grand competition in celebration of Pujya Gurudev’s jayanti.

This year, the competition was on Gītā Chapter 12, Bhakti Yoga. This year’s Gītā chanting event saw the participation of more than 140 children, ages 5-18, on May 10. In his introduction, Acharya Gaurang Nanavaty (CM Houston) congratulated the participants and reiterated that they were all winners so long as they were striving to better themselves within. Shortly after, the Chinmaya Smrti hall reverberated with the chanting of Bhakti Yoga by young, sweet voices. The children were divided into several groups by grade and the challenge increased as the age group increased. Participants in Groups 3 and 4 (grades 6 and up) had the additional challenge of explaining the gist of Chapter 12 in their own practical, contemporary interpretation. Every participant chanted beautifully, offering their best as their birthday present to Pujya Gurudev.

The winners of this year’s competition were as follows: 

Grade KG: Sreeharshini Ambatipudi, Srilalita Madasu, Soumya Upadhye
Grades 1-2: Aditi Chaubal, Veda Suresh, Shikhar Sahay, Anika Chock, Harshit Arja
Grade 3: Meghana Prabhakaran, Raghav Rau, Rajasi Kolhatkar
Grades 4-5: Ayush Manoj, Krishnendu Sainath, Yashwant Arra, Disha Udatha
Grades 6-8: Bhavya Kethireddipalli, Niharika Pakala, Mythreyan Ganesh
Grades 9-12: Sumedha Rao, Amogh Pandey, Harinandan Sainath

The day’s festivities continued with the rendering of an inspiring and melodious Gītā Pārāyaṇa by adults, which is the chanting of all 18 chapters. The day concluded with Gītā Ārti and prasad.

The winners received their prizes on the next day, May 11, which coincidentally was Mother’s Day. All mothers and the audience of 500 were treated to a special recital of Gītā verses by several 4-5 year-olds, namely, Pranav Sriram, Eesha Vullanki, Komal Kallur, Rohan Byali, Srilakshminath Madasu, Gayatri Konduri, Nithalaakshaya Raja, Shivani Mukkamala, and Varnika Pavirala, who sang the Lord's song with great confidence and precision, as Acharyas Gaurang and Darshana Nanavaty proudly looked on. Gaurangji congratulated the parents for inspiring their children at such a young age and said most adults in the audience may not have had this kind of exposure to the sacred Gītā at the tender ages of 4 and 5 even in India.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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News from Chinmayāraṇyam
Report submitted by Chinmayāraṇyam


On the eve of Māgha-shuddha Panchami, also known as the day of the manifestation of Mother Sarasvati, the students of the Chinmaya Hari Hara Vidyālaya at Chinmayāraṇyam (Ellayapallle, Andhra Pradesh) participated in a Samūhika Pūjā for Mother Sarasvati. In addition, 16 three-year olds performed the puja with their parents. Swamini Seelananda (Chinmayāraṇyam) then initiated them into the samskara of Aksharābhyāsa (writing for the first time) by holding their tiny fingers and writing “Om namah Shivāya” on rice in turmeric.

Dr. Prabhakar Rao led a medical camp at the CM Tirupati vidyālaya on February 16. Various specialists from the local area treated 198 patients that day. Teachers and senior students also actively participated by rendering service to the patients, who came from the surrounding villages. Medicines were distributed free of charge and anna-dānam (food) was given to all the patients.

As part of the 28th anniversary celebrations of the Chinmaya Hari Hara Vidyalaya, merit scholarships in cash and certificates were awarded to top ranking students in grades 1-10 on February 8. Select top students and value-education teachers were awarded received a CVP (Chinmaya Vision Program) prize.

Pujya Swamini Saradapriyananda founded Chinmayāraṇyam and conducted the first upanayanam samskara for the local children—irrespective of caste, creed, and gender—in 1989. This tradition has been upheld annually at Chinmayāraṇyam since then. This year, Swamini Seelananda initiated ten children into the sacred thread and the Gāyatri Mantra on February 2. Brahmachari Vamsi Chaitanya conducted the ceremony and the children now perform their sandhyā vandanam daily at dawn and dusk.

 

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Taking Steps for CORD Siruvani
by Nina Bhattacharya

 

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” With this axiom at heart, the young adults of Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK) quickly organized a retreat to raise funds for the Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development (CORD) Siruvani in Tamil Nadu, India, after having just returned from the second annual Chinmaya Inspiration Yatra with Acharya Vivek Gupta (CM Niagara).

CHYKs witnessed firsthand CORD’s dynamic model of rural development that empowered the local community to help themselves. On seeing that CORD Siruvani’s building was insufficient in space to house the multitude of programs it ran, the CHYKs were determined to pool their resources to contribute to CORD’s continued growth. It was an opportunity to give back to an organization that had such a definitive impact on its community and the world.

CHYKs from across North America had gathered in Niagara Falls, March 21-23, for a weekend of inspired satsang. For every $1 raised, they decided to take 150 steps to symbolize the distance that local children had to travel to access education. Through all the activities and discussions during retreat, the CHYKs remained standing, taking steps for Siruvani.

Inspired by the tireless work of CORD Siruvani’s sevaks, the “perspiration” to raise funds for CORD came effortlessly. Even weeks after the retreat, donations from friends and family flooded in. With Pujya Gurudev’s grace and blessings, they exceeded their goal of $15,000 and raised $17,800 toward the construction of a new center for CORD Siruvani. It was a blessing in itself to be able to contribute to a noble cause with such powerful vision of community empowerment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bala Vihar Graduation Ceremony at CM Houston
by Shalini Konde


A beautiful morning of joy, hope, and goodwill heralded the graduation day of CM Houston’s (CMH) Bala Vihar students on June 8. The 27 children of the Class of 2014 congregated early in Smrti Hall with their families and friends. The day began with photo sessions for the graduating students, who were arrayed in bright colors.

The ceremony commenced with sanctity in the Saumyakāshi Shivālaya temple as the resident priest conducted a puja for the well-being of the graduates, who were making a major life transition to higher education. The students returned from the temple led by CMH’s resident acharyas, Gaurang and Darshana Nanavaty. On entering the Chinmaya Smrti foyer, the students placed flowers at the lotus feet of Pujya Gurudev.

They then walked into the Smrti Hall, which was echoing the enchanting melody of Bhūmi Mangalam—an invocation song for peace in earth, water, fire, and air, the sun, moon, and planets; in all living beings; in body, mind, and heart. The assembly prayed for harmony and peace for all. The live singers and Chinmaya Orchestra continued the beautiful strains with Guru bhajans. Many parents watched misty-eyed as the students took their place in the hall and the acharyas were seated.

This was a day to honor the students’ dedicated work over the years and their bright future prospects. Above all, for the Class of 2014, this was a day to express deep gratitude and recognition of the strong spiritual education received in Chinmaya Bala Vihar for over 13 years through the blessings of Pujya Gurudev, the love and guidance of the acharyas, and the commitment of the Bala Vihar teachers.

Encouraging the children with words of wisdom from the ancient Vedic scriptures, Acharya Gaurang Nanavaty gave a befitting discourse based on Taittiriya Upanisad, wherein the Guru advises his students on right conduct and right living before they leave the ashram after having completed their studies. The students and parents were also treated to a message from BV alumnus, Tarak Makecha, whose words of encouragement and advice were well received by all.

The acharyas then ascended the stage for the ceremonial lighting of the lamp, after which the graduation ceremony commenced. After being introduced by their siblings, the graduates each offered a lamp to Pujya Gurudev, received an award of recognition from the acharyas, and offered Guru Dakshina to the acharyas. As the students lined up in their array of resplendent traditional clothing in front of the audience, the beautiful ceremony closed with the congratulatory Sanskrit hymn Abhinandanam, an original composition by Pujya Guruji.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Path of Surrender
by Anu Ram


Surrender in its truest spiritual sense is a challenging and daunting step in a seeker’s sadhana, In his recent eye-opening talks at CM Ottawa, Swami Chidatmananda’s CM Hyderabad) expertly and marvelously choreographed Bhagavan Adi Shankaracharya’s down-to-earth approach to sharaṇāgati, or surrender.

Swamiji began with the topic of the need for surrender, pointing out that pain and misery are due to limitations of programmed thinking and feeling. He said the solution to problems due to maya cannot be found in the realm of maya, but in God, the higher realm of Consciousness that is untouched by maya.

To whom do we surrender? Swamiji quoted a few verses of Vishnu-bhujanga Prayāta Stotram, in which Adi Shankaracharyaji prays to the Lord who is the Illuminator, the Pure, the Eternal, the Limitless. Swamiji said surrender is the path to connect to this Truth and is a guaranteed entrance to Divinity.

Swamiji pointed out that the benefit of surrender was the release of pressure built by negative feelings, the replacement of negative thinking with positive thinking, and the removal of stress and worry. Thereby, one works with less effort and greater efficiency, and serves society with love and a sense of unity. 

One’s surrender is of all negative feelings and the trains of thoughts associated with them that obscure one’s inner divinity. Swamiji advised seekers to observe negative thoughts and feelings instead of getting involved in them, to surrender them to God as they arise. He said ever-changing thoughts and feelings lose their impact when they are offered to God. He quotes verses from Adi Shankaracharyaji’s Bhavānī Ashṭakam, in which Bhagavan Shankara prays to Divine Mother as his sole refuge.

Swamiji also warned seekers to be vigilant about the tricks of the ego, which thrives on negative thoughts and emotions, attacks one’s faith, instills fear, and makes one doubt the power of surrender. More importantly, the ego resists self-analysis and reflection, going to the extent of making one doubt God’s existence. To learn the art of surrender, Swamiji advised:

  • Becoming free of the mind’s influences
  • Learning to let go
  • Daily Self-reflection
  • Weaning expectations

Swamiji culminated the topic of surrender with some verses from Rāma-bhujanga Prayāta Stotram, in which Bhagavan Shankaracharyaji extols the power of the name of Lord Rama as an ideal road to true sharaṇāgati. He pointed out that the ideal role model is Hanumanji, who drinks the powerful name of Rama, whose ego dissolved in Shri Rama, and who humbly credits all his works to Shri Rama. Swamiji’s hilarious narration of the story of Arjuna meeting Hanumanji triggered roars of laughter and reminded everyone of the power of faith. The highlight was the beauty of Hanumanji’s unshakable sharaṇāgati without a taint of ego.

Swamiji concluded the talk with Adi Shankaracharyaji’s prayer to Shri Rama and made an interesting observation of how worldly people quickly get lost in worldly matters, whereas great people take an extra safety measure by leaving to God even the responsibility of remembering Him!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Healthy Living: A Modern and Holistic Approach
by Hansa Patel

 

CM Bakersfield’s annual seminar, sponsored jointly by the Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, was held on May 10 on “Healthy Living: A Modern and Holistic Approach.” This year’s four speakers were Dr. Anil Mehta (President, CM Bakersfield), Dr. William Baker (prominent internist), and Dr. Priyanka Vaidya (Ayurveda practitioner), and Swami Ishwarananda (CM Los Angeles).

Dr. Mehta’s insightful talk was peppered with witty jokes. He summarized the ten-year history of the annual seminar and introduced the subject of health and what constitutes healthy living.

Dr. Baker spoke on modern approaches to health and showed statistics of the world’s health problems and connected them to problems at individual levels. He listed steps one can take to improve health and habits, and talked about the benefits of regular exercise for preventing cardiac disease and improving longevity. 

Dr. Vaidya spoke on the ancient science of Ayurveda, which dates back to over 10,000 years. The main premise of her message was correcting individual deficiencies, promoting health, and preventing disease. Like Dr. Baker, she, too, emphasized the benefit of sleep and exercise. She also spoke on the value of certain medicines and spices, such as turmeric powder, cayenne pepper, cardamom, black pepper, and coriander seeds.

Swami Ishwarananda mainly talked about the mind and its control. He detailed the five sheaths or layers of man according to Vedanta, and the importance of regulating them. He then led a session of guided meditation in which he led everyone’s attention inward, from body to breath, and ultimately, toward the Self.

The moderator and master of ceremonies was Dr. Stafford Betty, Professor of Religious Studies at California State University, Bakersfield. In the lively Q&A panel discussion, it was interesting to see the panelists disagree with each other yet maintain a civil attitude. The nearly 100 people in attendance concurred that they were leaving having learned a lot from the seminar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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