Chinmaya Mission

CMW News


January 2015, No. 163

IN THIS ISSUE

 

 

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NEWS

For all photos, click on image to enlarge.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CM Movie Release on Pujya Gurudev: On a Quest

 

Chinmaya Maṅgalam: A New CMW Retreat Center

 

NJCC 2015: Summer Camp for High School Students

 

Chinmaya Niketan Ashram Gṛha Pravesham

 

Birth of Chinmaya Triveṇi

 

A Growing CM Pittsburgh

 

CORD USA 2014 Top-Rated Nonprofits

 

Annakshetra Opens, Annam Explained, Annakūṭa Enjoyed

 

Harmony in Action at CM Chicago

 

Celebratory Events at Chinmaya Gaṇapati

 

Bhakti Beats in Sevānjali

 

CM Discourses in Athens

 

Junior CHYKs Learn about "Heroes: Past, Present, and Potential"

 

Bhaja Govindam in Boston

 

CM Pittsburgh Annual Family Camp 2014

 

Silence in Niagara Falls

 

Jnānā Yajña in Calgary

 

CM Ottawa’s Navarātri Celebrations

 

CM Calgary's First Walkathon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CM Movie Release on Pujya Gurudev: On a Quest

 

On a Quest, the new Chinmaya Creations movie on the life of Pujya Gurudev, premiered in the august presence of Pujya Guruji, and other senior Mission acharyas and members, on December 15, 2014 in Chennai, India. All overseas Mission centers will be screening the movie in local theaters with full facilities, not in community halls or ashrams/centers, planning the event as they would were Pujya Gurudev himself visiting the center. View the movie trailer.

 


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Chinmaya Maṅgalam: A New CMW Retreat Center
by Ashok Dandekar

 

In the summer of 2014, CMW purchased a 135-acre wooded property in Barry, Texas, 80 miles south of Dallas. CM Dallas helped facilitate the acquisition process and is currently assisting with its day-to-day operations. Pujya Guruji has blessed and named the ashram, “Chinmaya Maṅgalam.”
 
Built as a campsite, the property has more than 135 acres of land, lakes, trees, and buildings. It has a spacious two-bedroom lakefront house with a beautiful view; boys’ and girls’ dorms with accommodation for a total of 140 people; a sports dome that has a stage, 400-seating capacity, and an audio system; outdoor baseball and soccer fields; and a large outdoor swimming pool alongside an open-air amphitheater. The kitchen is large and well-equipped with commercial appliances. The dining hall has seating for 80+ persons. There is a 14-acre lake with boating facilities. Once called the Thousand Oaks Ranch, the wooded property has fully grown oak trees that extend beyond the eye’s reach.  Both flora and fauna are in abundance at Chinmaya Maṅgalam. A variety of colorful flowers grows around the property, especially in the vicinity of the lake. One can spot herd of deer wandering on campus and different kinds of birds can be heard in the trees.

The vision for this property is to develop it into a national vision and resource center, as Chinmaya Vibhooti is in India. The initial plan is to create accommodations for 300+ people to stay during CM camps and yajnas. Centers in North America will be able to rent the facility to conduct camps and retreats throughout the year. The long-term vision is for this national CMW center to be the site for the annual Shri Chinmaya Mahāsamādhi Ārādhanā Family Camps. Pujya Guruji has appointed a committee to manage the operations of the ashram and propose a vision for its expansion into a multipurpose facility.

In the past few months since its acquisition, the focus has been on cleaning and renovation, as the property was unused for over two years. During this past Thanksgiving weekend, a CHYK camp was held there with over 70 CHYKs in attendance. For this purpose, the house, dorms, kitchen, dining hall, sports dome, and other areas were cleaned, renovated, and painted. Based on feedback, additional improvements will continue to be made.

Feedback about the ashram from CHYKs has included the following:

  • The grounds of Chinmaya Maṅgalam are expansive and beautiful. There is ample outdoor space allowing for a myriad of activities. There is a designated lawn for sports, which includes a soccer field and batting cage. This will be great for launching youth activities. There are also many benches for one to sit and reflect, and just enjoy nature.
  • The dome is massive and sound carries far in the building. It is a great lecture hall and has nice theater space.
  • Chinmaya Maṅgalam evokes the desire to be one with the Self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NJCC 2015: Summer Camp for High School Students


CHYK West is pleased to announce the 2015 National Junior CHYK Camp (NJCC), which will be conducted June 30-July 5, 2015 at the Chinmaya Maṅgalam ashram in Corsicana, Texas. The camp is open to all high school students, including students graduating from grade 8 and grade 12 in the summer of 2015. Chinmaya Maṅgalam, CMW’s upcoming national retreat center, features dorm-style accommodation, a large lakefront home, a swimming pool, a sports dome with a stage, and various sports fields. Visit chykwest.com for additional camp details.

 

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Chinmaya Niketan Ashram Gṛha Pravesham
by Meenal Vashishat

 

CM Atlanta devotees convened for the joyous and auspicious gṛha pravesha ceremony at their new ashram of Chinmaya Niketan on the morning of October 25, 2014. The event was coordinated by Acharyas G.V. and Geetha Raghu, along with a team of volunteers. The careful and detailed attention in planning reflected loving warmth in the flowers, garlands, cows, and other symbols of purity that had been prepared for the beautiful procession. Swami Shantananda (CM Princeton) was invited to preside over the ceremonies, which included an Agnihotra Pūjā, Navagraha Pūjā, and Kalasha Pūjā, interspersed with Carnatic music and devotional chanting.

The highlight of the ceremonies was the eagerly awaited moment of the welcoming of Pujya Gurudev to his new home (niketan) and the mounting of his image in the main hall. He was welcomed with great love and enthusiasm by all devotees. After the procession, Swami Shantananda gave his address and Shri Vishṇu Sahasranāma was chanted in resonance. Lunch prasāda was served to all after the ārati.

Pujya Guruji had blessed the ashram with its name, Chinmaya Niketan, which means “the abode of Chinmaya” or “the abode of Knowledge.” The CM Atlanta family thus prayed for the blessings of the Guru Paramparā to grow in wisdom, devotion, and service, to keep the spiritual banner at Chinmaya Niketan flying high.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Birth of Chinmaya Triveṇi
by Archana Param


CM Sacramento has been serving the greater Sacramento community for many years. It currently has 230 students in Chinmaya Bala Vihar, an active Chinmaya Swaranjali group, seven weekly Chinmaya Study Groups serving more than 80 adult students, and around four jñāna yajñas annually by visiting CM acharyas. Members also participate in the camps at Krishnalaya in Piercy, CA. The center has continued to grow over the years into a CM family that shares learning and love.

In commemoration of the joyous and blessed occasion of Pujya Gurudev’s birth centenary 2015-16, CM Sacramento is working enthusiastically to fulfill the vision inspired by Pujya Guruji of “Love Thyself, Love Thy Neighbor, Love Thy Mother,” with the goal of acquiring property to expand its scope of community service and spread the joy of Vedanta. Plans are underway for the CM Sacramento family to move into their new center by August 2015.

CM Sacramento, currently a satellite of CM San Jose, has had the privilege to receive much guidance, and many satsangs and jñāna yajñas, over the years from CM San Jose acharya, Swamiji Bodhatmananda. In February 2014, Swamiji initiated the building fund project during his farewell visit to Sacramento, before leaving to teach the 2014-2016 Vedanta Course at Sāndeepany Sādhanālaya in Mumbai, India. Later that June, the core committee members of CM Sacramento took the opportunity to meet Pujya Guruji at Krishnalaya to seek his blessings for the building project. Pujya Guruji gave his approval and blessings to officially incorporate CM Sacramento and gave the name for the new ashram of “Chinmaya Triveṇi.” Sacramento is situated at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers in the northern portion of California’s Central Valley. When devotees asked what the third river was, Pujya Guruji smiled and replied, “The river of Knowledge.”

True to Pujya Guruji’s vision of “Love Thy Neighbor” for the Chinmaya Family worldwide, CM Sacramento is blessed to have received an outpouring of help and guidance for its new ashram project from CMW, CM San Jose, CM Phoenix, and CM Portland. By the Lord’s grace and Pujya Gurudev’s blessings, CM Sacramento members are striving to establish soon Pujya Gurudev’s new ashram of Chinmaya Triveṇi.

 

 

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A Growing CM Pittsburgh
by Satish Muluk


CM Pittsburgh’s Chinmaya Bala Vihar program has seen tremendous growth over the last few years. It began in 2008 with one location and 25 children, and now is being conducted at three locations, serving 577 children (364 families). The program began with 8 Bala Vihar teachers in the first year and in its sixth year has 53. This team includes nearly 24 additional sevaks, who conduct SAT classes, satsangs for parents, and multiple Indian regional language classes (including Hindi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Gujarati, and Marathi). In addition, more than 20 sevaks help prepare and serve lunch after the Bala Vihar classes. CM Pittsburgh also initiated Chinmaya Bala Vihar in Cleveland, Ohio last year; currently over 50 students are enrolled.

The exponential growth of its local programs has inspired the CMP family to explore the possibility of building a new facility that will serve as a spiritual retreat center. The current proposal includes an auditorium that accommodates seating for 500, classrooms for 300, and retreat boarding and lodging facilities for the CM family at large. With a successful round of initial fundraising, the center plans to bid on a beautiful 71-acre property located less than 15 miles from downtown Pittsburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CORD USA 2014 Top-Rated Nonprofits
by Subha Pathial

 

GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews on nonprofit organizations, announced that CORD USA, for the third consecutive year, has been honored with a prestigious 2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit Award. The award, a form of recognition from the community, is based on the large number of positive reviews and personal experiences written by volunteers, donors, and clients regarding CORD USA. Being on the Top-Rated list gives donors and volunteers more confidence in the credibility of the organization.

One person wrote, “I have been a volunteer with CORD for two years. CORD is an organization that works directly in the remote villages in India without any overhead costs to maintain an organization. What I like about CORD is the personal touch it provides the volunteers by putting them in contact with the people who are benefitting from CORD. I also like the youth service-visits that CORD organizes, and I have seen many high school students being inspired to help others and look at life with a different perspective. The mission and vision of CORD is truly inspiring.”
 
GreatNonprofits is the leading site for donors and volunteers to find reviews and ratings of nonprofits. Reviews on the site influence 30 million donation decisions a year.

 

 

 

 

 

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Annakshetra Opens, Annam Explained, Annakūṭa Enjoyed
by Nimmi Raghunathan


CM Los Angeles (CMLA) members opened the newly renovated and expanded anna-kshetra, or kitchen and dining hall, of the Chinmaya Rāmeshwaram ashram on October 25, 2014. The various pujas and prayers were aptly interspersed by Swami Ishwarananda’s talk on annam (food) and the festival of Annakuṭa, and followed by a celebratory meal for all devotees.

The annakshetra inauguration was part of CBCC (Chinmaya Birth Centenary Celebrations), and began in the morning with pujas on the main level, in the 3,000 sq. ft. dining hall that can now accommodate 700 people. A priest from a local temple led CMLA volunteers in performing the various pujas. The gathering then moved outside to witness a short ritual at the split-level dining hall entrance that is flanked by ornate pillars. Viji Mahadev, Rekha Acharya, and Sharada Iyer were honored with the cutting of the inaugural ribbon, and Swamiji’s mother was given the honor of opening the stairwell to the second level.

Once upstairs, devotees witnessed a Krishna puja, and participated in the chanting of Ganesha Atharvashīrsha, Purusha Sūktam, and Nārāyaṇa Sūktam led by the Chinmaya Swarānjali group. Ranjani Iyer, accompanied by Shekhar Ekbote on tabla and Raj Mantha on harmonium, offered heartrending bhajans.

Swamiji’s address on the significance of annam and Annakūṭa included the story from Taittirīya Upanishad of a young Bṛghu Rishi approaching his father to ask about the nature of Brahman. To this, his wise father, Varuṇi, replied, “Annam, prāṇa, chakshu, shrotram, manaḥ, vāk.” Swamiji said that meditation on the significance of annam brings forth the understanding that life breath (prāṇa) is food. All beings on earth, he said, are born of food, sustained by food, and end as food for another being; so, for the physical body, prāṇa is annam, and for air, the body is annam. In a similar vein, Swamiji touched upon all the five subtle elements, explained their coexistence, and pointed out that everything in the world is nothing but food for something’s or someone’s sustenance. The one who understands this coexistence, he said, has understood Brahman, and this is why the rishis of yore ascribed divinity to food and why Annalakshmi is worshipped. With this understanding, he said, it is imperative to follow the injunctions of the Upanishad: Never turn away from serving food; serve with courtesy and joy. The scriptures, Swamiji said, clearly state that how one offers food in the early stages of life is how one will consume food in one’s last stages of life. Annakūṭa is the practice of sharing food, and to not waste food is to also respect it, which is an important dictum for youth, Swamiji said.

CMLA Director Srinivasa Iyer was then honored with a token of gratitude and appreciation by Swamiji. Srinivasaji thanked everyone who had extended support to complete the annakshetra project in a record three months. He spoke briefly on the work that was done and the challenges faced in acquiring city permits for construction. He pointed out that the facility is open to the community for use based on CM guidelines. Also recognized was the foreman on the project, Francisco, who labored with his other family members to bring it to completion.

In conclusion, Acharya Mahadev Parameswaran (CM Los Angeles) lauded all the volunteers for their dedication, and said the CMLA family takes great pride in them for their service. The event ended with Pujya Gurudev’s ārati and prasāda for all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Harmony in Action at CM Chicago
by Shubi Mansukhani


True to its theme of “Living in Harmony,” CM Chicago’s annual fundraising banquet, harmoniously blended inspirational thoughts, spirited fundraising, sumptuous food, and artistic performances into a memorable evening at the Waterford Banquet and Conference Center held on November 9, 2014. The event was attended by over 700 members, and raised over $200,000 to support and enhance the programs being offered by the two ashrams of CM Chicago, namely, Badri and Yamunotri.

The evening began with the welcoming of Swami Sharanananda (CM Chicago), Swami Prakashananda (CM Trinidad), Acharyas Jitendra and Swapna Nayar (CM Chicago), Acharya Shanker Pillai (President, CM Chicago), and Dhiren Khatri (recent graduate from the two-year Vedanta Course in Mumbai). The oil lamp at Pujya Gurudev’s portrait was lit to invoke His blessings to commence the program. Invited dignitaries and supporters included Bharat and Panna Barai, Sudarshan and Nitu Sharma, Gopal and Nitu Lalmalani, Ravi and Veena Bhagavat, and Prakash and Padmini Makkam.

The highlight of the evening was the inspiration kindled by the acharyas. Swami Sharanananda gave the inaugural welcome with his usual humor and charm. He is CM Chicago’s beloved acharya, one who continues to work relentlessly in serving the Chicago and surrounding centers with unending zeal and loving compassion. He underscored in his message that the highest form of charity, which is far above providing food or donating money, is the gift of knowledge. He said that parents, in the interest of helping their children succeed and be happy, often tell them what to do. Chinmaya Mission, however, does not attempt to tell people what to do. Instead, it opens the doors for individuals to understand their true nature and make their own informed choices.

Swami Prakashananda spoke on the importance of harmony in this world by emphasizing that even if evil cannot be eradicated from the world, humanity can neutralize its effect by teaching people values to counter it. He said that just as an atom has both positive and negative particles in it, and yet is stable, so, too, harmony can be established in the universe by balancing negative forces with positive ones. He added, it is the nature of the world that when anything is left in disuse, it becomes worse and not better, so if humanity were left to itself, then it is to be expected that it would only get worse. Pointing out that organizations like Chinmaya Mission enable humanity to reverse its decline by imparting right values, Swamiji urged all attendees to support such organizations, either by volunteering or through financial contributions.

Acharya Shanker Pillai outlined the goals, activities, expansion plans, and need for funds to continue meeting the growing needs of the community. He elaborated on the proposed idea of building well-planned retirement homes adjacent to the Badri ashram to support the spiritual needs of senior citizens. Ashok Bhatia (Director, CM Chicago) elaborated on the current financial obligations of Chinmaya Mission and the various ways in which members could help.

The entertainment for the evening was an enchanting mix of dances and music presented by talented Chinmaya Bala Vihar students and adult volunteers. Junior CHYKs (high schoolers) provided babysitting services for the evening and helped collect donation envelopes. CHYKs (ages 18-28) captured the audience with their energetic presentation on the various avenues to serve and grow spiritually. Chinmaya Bala Vihar alumni shared their passion as they spoke on serving through CORD (Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development), volunteering to teach weekly Chinmaya Bala Vihar classes, and investing in their own spiritual growth through YEP (the two-month Youth Empowerment Program).

The successful and joyous event concluded with the chanting prelude of Bhagavad Gītā, Chapter 15, which was followed by the service of a delicious meal catered by a local Indian restaurant. The event was attended by over 700 members, and raised over $200,000 to support and enhance the programs being offered by the two ashrams of CM Chicago—Badri and Yamunotri.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebratory Events at Chinmaya Gaṇapati
by Manu Madhok


The CM Minneapolis family celebrated Navarātri at the Chinmaya Gaṇapati ashram with a Devi Pūjā and the chanting of Shri Lalita Sahasaranāma. Women and young girls invoked the presence of Divine Mother and offered her a 16-step Vedic puja. Divine Mother’s blessings showered a radiant glow of peace on devotees’ faces.

The Divāli Melā at the ashram united all CM organizers in yajna spirit to set up various game stalls for children, such as Stack Up Your Good Karma, Balance Your Mind, and Aim High. The food stalls offered delicacies from North and South India. Everyone reveled in delight, taking home with them the sacred and joyous message of Diwali.

The Chinmaya Naada Bindu (CNB) concerts and workshops warmed the hearts of CM families in Minneapolis and St. Paul. In the concert, “Anuranjani,” a musical ode to the divine Beloved, the performances of CNB directors, Pramodini Rao and Himanshu Nanda, accompanied by Anutosh Degharia, brought tears of joy to everyone’s eyes. The directors conducted a vocal workshop for Chinmaya Swaranjali students at the Chinmaya Gaṇapati ashram, and workshops on the flute and Indian classical music at a local school. Their signature workshops, “MQ2HQ” and “Music & Me” were well-received by all, and left a deeper understanding of music and a longing for more. Many devotees were inspired to donate to CNB’s Chinmaya Social Responsibility Program in India and some plan to attend the summer intensive workshops.

Chinmaya Gaṇapati hosted a jñāna yajña by Brahmchari Girish Chaitanya, (CM Austin) on Chapter 3 of Shrimad Bhagavad Gītā. Members felt recharged in their aspirations to work and serve in all fields with a smile and the right attitude. Girishji also offered morning classes on Shri Lalita Sahasranāma.

Acharya Vivek Gupta (CM Niagara) conducted a day camp for Chinmaya Bala Vihar kids on “GITA: Gratitude Is The Attitude" in Chaska and St. Paul. Vivekji also met with CHYKs at the University of Minnesota and motivated them to start CM activities on campus. He addressed the adults with a satsang on “Daily Discipline,” giving ten practical pointers to better one’s personal daily sadhana.

 

 

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Bhakti Beats in Sevānjali
by Sonal Ladva

 

It was an endearing and joyous sight to see a distinguished holy man in ochre robes, none other than Swami Ishwarananda (CM Los Angeles), welcoming CM family members and guests at the Santa Ana High School for CM Los Angeles’s annual Sevānjali fundraising banquet on November 8, 2014. At an entrance decked with floral flair, Swamiji ushered attendees into a courtyard abuzz with social activity and sumptuous catered refreshments.

Magician Cameron South entertained children ages 5-12 years while their parents attended the special musical evening of Sevānjali. Over the years, CM Los Angeles’s annual programs have featured famous artists in the fields of music, dance, and magic, including vocal maestros Shubha Mudgal and Anup Jalota, magicians Jeff Parmer and Cameron South, and ventriloquist Kevin Johnson. This year, the joy of Sevānjali was enhanced by CHYKs who demonstrated the wealth and beauty of Chinmaya Mission teachings, and the impact of its enriching programs.

The featured program of Sevānjali 2014, “Yuva Tunes: Bhakti Beats,” was a vocal and instrumental music extravaganza performed by four accomplished CHYK artists, namely, Ashwin Subramanium, Laxmi Chandrashekhar, Sanchit Malhotra, and Devesh Vashishtha. The program commenced with prayers, followed by a welcome from two emcees, Raju Chellappa and Ramya Radhakrishnan, who explained the evening’s theme as the fusion of bhajans and hymns of the East with melodies from the West. In his address, Swamiji spoke about the conception of this music program, and narrated the first time he heard Ashwin’s original music composition for the Sanskrit hymn of Mukunda Mālā. The evening’s musical renditions presented included bhajans, Mukunda Mālā, Sankaṭ Mochan, and the favorite, Guru Stotram. With great appreciation for the program, Acharya Mahadev Parameswaran (CM Los Angeles) said, “The rhythm of the body, melody of the mind, and harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”

Shashi Acharya, (CMLA Director), presented the financial figures and made the astounding statement that just one penny on the dollar was spent in total expense for the center’s resident swami. CMLA core committee members were called to the stage and thanked for their dedication and hard work.

Additional presentations included those of Jagdish and Khyati Bhatt, who spoke on the value the Mission has brought to their lives. The program ended with a boxed dinner for all.


 

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CM Discourses in Athens
by Sujata Winfield

 

Swami Chaitanyananda (CM Boston) visited Athens, Georgia and gave eight discourses on various topics, November 27-31, 2014. The venues for the talks were provided free of charge by the First Presbyterian Church and the Healing Arts Centre. Both venues were spacious, beautiful, and conducive to learning.

The audience consisted of 30-35 people in the evenings and 10-15 people during the day. Swamiji said four people would have sufficed, as at his first public discourse, which included himself, his hosts, and the sound system operator. The audience of Indians and non-Indians featured professors, students, doctors, lawyers, physical therapists, and spiritualists, amongst others. A core group attended all the lectures; several came frequently; and there were first timers at every talk. This diversity posed a challenge to Swamiji, who had to cater to the well-versed, the novice, the first-timer, and the regular attendee, alike. Accordingly, he spoke on various Vedantic topics, and quoted from several texts to illustrate his points.

Swamiji’s discourses were enlivened by his congenial personality, his accessibility to all, and his spontaneous enthusiasm that even his physical discomforts could not dampen. His distribution of prasāda after each discourse allowed people an opportunity to interact with him more closely. His jovial and welcoming warmth emboldened several people to visit him at his host’s residence with food and homemade remedies for his ailing throat. On one evening when talks had not been scheduled, many arrived just to dine with him, enjoy his company in a casual setting, and ply him with queries. His visit was an enlightening and enriching experience.

Lecture 1: Vedanta: A Manual for Joyful Living
After paying homage to Pujya Gurudev and giving a brief account of Pujya Gurudev’s inspiring life, Swamiji began his discourse on Pujya Gurudev’s manual to Vedantic knowledge, known concisely and unforgettably as the BMI Chart. Swamiji said that contrary to popular belief, joyful living is not in the fulfillment of desires, for this pursuit itself is an endless procession in this projected world, leaving emotional attachments, likes and dislikes, ecstatic joy, and brooding sorrow in its wake. He said, “Earlier, a person was miserable seeking shelter from the heat under a tree. Now he is unhappy in an air conditioned room.” He said to live joyfully, we must detach ourselves from our BMI and be a witness to their functioning, thereby taking an objective view to all that is happening around us.

Lecture 2: The Ultimate Goal of Human Life
Swamiji explained the ultimate goal of human life as not to think and do as we please, but with the aid of the scriptures, to use our BMI to know the Truth and thereby attain eternal happiness. The Truth, also known as God, the supreme Reality, or Divinity, is of the nature of pure Existence, Awareness, and Bliss. Pure Existence is ceaseless, subject to neither birth nor death. Pure Awareness is Consciousness, Knowledge itself. Pure Bliss is happiness where change and death have no dominion. The individual jīva is in essence nothing but this absolute Truth. To understand this and thereby realize one’s essential nature is to escape the fear of death and attain supreme Joy—the ultimate goal of life. To illustrate, Swamiji quoted Lord Krishna’s words from Bhagavad Gītā: “I reside in the chamber of your heart as your Consciousness. If your heart is pure, like crystal clear water, you will see Me reflected there, motivating and guiding you.”

Lecture 3: The Art of Right Action
In explaining the art of right action, Swamiji drew from the teachings found in Chapter 3 of Bhagavad Gītā. The purpose of the scriptures, he stated, is to provide a path to Truth for everyone, no matter what their innate tendencies. While some pursue Truth through the path of knowledge, others take to the path of devotion, and yet others follow the path of action. Lord Krishna cleared the confusions of Arjuna the kshatriya by providing the principles of right action—to dedicate all action to the Lord while remaining mindful of one’s essential nature.

Lecture 4: Meditation and Life: A Silent Search
In his talk on meditation, Swamiji said that while we may know and agree with the theory of living joyfully through the proper use of our BMI, of attaining the ultimate goal of God-realization, and of acting rightly without expectations, this does not mean that we are equipped to act according to what we know. Translating theory into practice is the province of meditation, which is the inward journey to God-realization (the means), and that realization is known as the meditative state (the goal). Swamiji said that on the inward journey of meditation, one contemplates on Vedantic truths learned from a Guru, but this practice is not for everyone and a seeker must become worthy of it by purifying the mind and making it single-pointed. Whether through meditation on the Lord with form or on the Formless, when the meditator ceases the act of meditating, the meditative state of Self-realization is reached. Once this state is reached, one ever remains in it, even if the BMI continue to function in their respective fields.

Lecture 5: The Role of Right Values on the Road to Success
Swamiji illustrated the relationship between right values and success through Vibhīshaṇa Gītā, as found in Shri Rāmacharitamānasa. On the battlefield of the Rāmāyaṇa, Vibhīshaṇa expresses his concern that Lord Rāma is equipped only with a bow and arrow, while Rāvaṇa is on a powerful, magnificent chariot. Lord Rāma then teaches Vibhīshaṇa about the Dharma Chariot, a chariot of inner core values that guarantees victory in the battle of life. The Lord describes parts of this chariot, such as its two wheels—fortitude and patience; two banners—truth and good character; four horses—strength, discrimination, self-control, and caring for others; and reins—forgiveness, compassion, and equanimity. The intellect, equipped with knowledge of God, oneself, and the world, is the driver that steers one on the right path for the right purpose.

Lecture 6: Cosmic Reality and the Empirical World
After the preceding preparatory discourses, Swamiji dove into the core of Vedantic philosophy in dicusssing the relation of the cosmic Reality and the empirical world. According to Vedanta, explained he, the emergence of the cosmos is from what people call God, supreme Being, Brahman, cosmic Reality, pure Existence, and the like. Swamiji explained how Reality is beyond time, and thus has no cause or beginning. He said the scriptures state that the empirical world manifests from, resides in, and dissolves into Brahman just as waves of an ocean temporarily come into existence, dance on the surface, and subside back into the ocean. Swamiji quoted Gītā Chapter 15 in painting the profound picture of the world as an upside down tree, its roots skyward and its branches earthward. He said the Self is the Root or Source of the tree, and the branches of desires yield fruits of joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, profit and loss, birth and death. Entangled in these branches, we can be free of them only when we transcend our identification with BMI, Swamiji said, and wittily added, “Outside drama, inside Rāma.” In conclusion he said, “Enjoy the picture; don’t identify with it. Recognize and remain in your Self, which is of the nature of absolute Bliss.”

Lecture 7: Absolute Bliss, the Intrinsic Nature of Human Beings
Swamiji said absolute Bliss is our intrinsic nature and therefore we aspire to it spontaneously, without the effort we put into fulfilling desires. Our search, he reminded, is to do everything to get back to Bliss, which is why our relative nature is sometimes happy and sometimes sad, but our absolute Self has no trace of sorrow. He illustrated with an example: “Just as heat is not the intrinsic nature of water, but water contracts heat when it comes in contact with fire, so, too, sorrow is not the true nature of the Self, but arises due to identification with desires. When the extraneous source of heat is removed, the water reverts to its natural coolness. So, too, when the jīva’s identifications are removed, the jīva merges into its natural state of Bliss.”

Lecture 8: The Power of True Devotion
The last of the discourses was on devotion, in which Swamiji said that devotion results when the mind directs emotions toward the higher Self, while attachment and sorrow result when the mind directs emotions toward worldly objects. Swamiji stated that the greatest teacher of pure love was Sage Narada. In his Bhakti Sūtras, or aphorisms of devotion, Sage Narada defines pure love as one’s sacrifice for, rather than demand from, the Beloved. After giving examples of the gopīs and Mother Shabari, Swamiji quoted Pujya Guruji, saying, “The Lord does not see your ability or inability. He only sees your availability.” In conclusion, Swamiji enumerated the qualities of a devotee as given by Lord Krishna in Gītā, Chapter 12, and ended with an invocation for the Lord’s grace on all to be happy, to serve the world, and to realize Truth.

 

 

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Junior CHYKs Learn about "Heroes: Past, Present, and Potential"
by Vikas Bector

 

CHYKs of CM Washington DC hosted a Junior CHYK day camp this past Labor Day weekend, August 30-September 1, 2014. Titled “Heroes: Past, Present, and Potential” and led by Acharya Vivek Gupta (CM Niagara), this camp allowed CM students in grades 8-10 the opportunity to learn the positive values exemplified by superheroes in Hindu scriptures, such as Lord Rama and Shri Hanuman, as well as those in modern-day comic books, such as Superman and Batman. The JCHYKs explored the commonalities between the two genres and learned about adopting noble qualities in daily life.

The camp was attended primarily by students from Maryland and Virginia, as well as by a few out-of-state attendees, including from Illinois and New Jersey. Local CHYKs and CM volunteers coordinated all the activities and meals, and CM families housed out-of-state campers.

Throughout the camp, campers participated in various activities, such as the Marshmallow Challenge and the Nuclear Popcorn Challenge, that were designed to test focus, awareness, and/or critical thinking. Additional activities included satsangs with Swami Dheerananda (CM Washington DC) and Acharya Vivekji, a photo treasure hunt, sports workshops, movie night, creating custom superhero t-shirts, evening CHYK satsangs, and more. The camp was held at CM Washington DC’s Kailās Nivās ashram and the Walker Nature Education Center.

 

 

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Bhaja Govindam in Boston
by Vrittamani Ramapriya

 

Swami Chaitanyananda (CM Boston) conducted a jñāna yajña on Bhagavān Ādi Shaṅkarācharya’s Bhaja Govindam at the Chinmaya Māruti ashram, October 10-17, 2014. Swamiji explained the vital importance of including spiritual studies in daily activities.

Bhaja Govindam provokes intellectual thinking and analysis through strong, logical reasoning, and powerfully shares the vision of Advaita. Swamiji’s exposition of deep concepts in simple terms was a treat for one and all. He masterfully combined humor in his description of the Vedantic concepts and its applicability in our daily activities. 

 

 

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CM Pittsburgh Annual Family Camp 2014
by Sravani Hotha

 

CM Pittsburgh’s second Annual Family Camp kicked off on Friday, September 26, 2014 in the serene remoteness of Southwestern Pennsylvania with a dedication of a gollu in celebration of Navarātri and a unified Chinmaya Family. Every family that attended contributed a token of their love to the gollu, adding to its beauty and significance.

As a prelude to the retreat’s theme of “Pushing Your Limits,” the attendees watched Cool Runnings, a moving tale of teamwork and perseverance. Interspersed throughout the weekend were short, challenging activities, such as eating meals blindfolded or without utensils, which helped the participants appreciate the many little things taken for granted on a daily basis.

Saturday was a day of nonstop challenges, from mind-bending team building activities, to a massive soccer game. Even mothers and fathers who typically hesitate to engage in sports played soccer like invincible pros. The games broke down everyone’s self-imposed limitations on physical capabilities. The younger Bala Vihar students had a scavenger hunt on the campgrounds to challenge their minds while CHYKs and JCHYKs bonded over sports and board games. One of the more challenging activities was the Trust Fall, which not only forced participants to face their fear, but also to work as a team with love and encouragement. 

After the discourses and sports activities, Saturday night included a garbā to celebrate Navarātri and a Fear Walk in pitch dark (with an added detour through an unused trail for the more adventurous). All the attendees of the growing CM Pittsburgh family thoroughly enjoyed the retreat.

 

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Silence in Niagara Falls
by Priya Wiersba

 

CHYKs of Niagara hosted “Silence,” a weekend CHYK retreat, October 24-26, 2014. Led by Acharya Vivek Gupta and three recent graduates from the 18-month Vedanta Course conducted in Trinidad, this camp allowed participants to explore embracing silence externally and internally, not only in theory, but also in practice. The CHYKs spent 40 hours in silence, learning about the concept of maunam and why it is an important aspect of spiritual growth.

Through the discourses of four dynamic teachers, the attendees reflected on the purpose of speech, how silence is both the means and the goal, and how one’s very nature is Silence. CHYKs came from all across the US for this retreat, which was held at CM Niagara’s Chinmaya Dhārā ashram. During the retreat, the CHYKs also attended a Study Group and a talented four of them participated in a memorable Divāli celebration at the ashram.

Many of the reflection exercises took place outdoors amid the natural beauty in and around Niagara Falls. Campers went to the Falls to explore them in silence. The highlight of the retreat was toward the end of the 40 hours when campers hiked down to the gorge and became immersed in the timeless nature around them. At the conclusion of the retreat, the students learned how to perform a simple puja and then broke their silence slowly in discussion of their reflections over the weekend.

 

 

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Jnānā Yajña in Calgary
by Ashok Nair

 

CM Calgary hosted a five-session jñāna yajña conducted by Acharya Gaurang Nanavaty (CM Houston) on “Meditation: Explanation and Practice,” November 7-9. Despite the cold and snow, the yajna was well received by Mission members and local residents. Acharya Gaurangji simplified the concepts of meditation and vividly explained the logic of meditation with insightful examples and fascinating stories. Each lecture was followed by a guided practice session, both of which all the participants thoroughly enjoyed.

Many of us know the benefits of meditation for body and mind, but Gaurangji revealed its spiritual significance, and reminded that it brings everlasting peace and joy to one’s life. Sharing tips and tricks on the art of living, Gaurangji stressed the importance of faith in life, for a child believes a woman to be his mother based on faith and only later understands its significance. So, too, Gaurangji said, we need to develop faith in the scriptures first, and as we study and practice, we come to understand their sacred import.

In explaining the hierarchy of intelligence in the various species of living creatures, he said Gaurangji pointed out that animals have their belly, reproductive organs, and head at the same level, whereas a human being’s is at a higher level than his other parts, indicating that intellect should be used before any other organ.

Expounding on the fundamentals of Vedanta, Gaurangji spoke on the importance of turning within through meditation and identifying one’s real Self, the one and only ultimate Truth. He said vāsanas create desires in the intellect; desires create thoughts in the mind; thoughts manifest as action through the body; and once the body, mind, and intellect are seen as mere instruments, one can identify with the Truth.

Scriptures declare that we are the infinite Truth, but as Acharya Gaurangji elucidated, when we identify ourselves with the finite body, mind, and intellect, we feel we are finite. And when we identify with the Infinite through meditation, we realize our infinite nature. Gaurangji emphasized the importance of regularly practicing meditation not for any sublime experience, but to know one is beyond body, mind, and intellect.

 

 

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CM Ottawa’s Navarātri Celebrations
by Anu Ram

 

CM Ottawa celebrated Navarātri in 2014 at its Chinmaya Bhāratī ashram in South Indian tradition with a golu. Devotees prayed to invoke the presence and blessings of Divine Mother in the forms of Mother Durga, Lakshmi, and Sarasvati over the nine nights and the tenth day of Vijaya Dashami. Through fasting, chanting, singing, offering of haldi and kuṁkum, and dancing garbā,  participants expressed their devotion and gratitude to Divine Mother, seeking Her benevolence for peace and prosperity in life. 

Golu, a beautiful display of various dolls and figurines on steps, featuring the three forms of Divine Mother, indicating She is seated in the royal court for darshan with family and retinue. The dolls and figurines of various great saints, leaders, common folk, animals, plants, and countless objects are placed on and around the steps to indicate one’s appreciation and value of everything and everyone in life, in all fields, including arts and crafts, and music and dance. Navarātri is the sacred and joyous celebration of Divine Mother, who protects all from negative tendencies, and blesses all with health, wealth, values, and wisdom.

 

 

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CM Calgary's First Walkathon
by Ramesh Uppal

 

CM Calgary held its first walkathon at North Glenmore Park on October 5, 2014. The successful fundraising event was attended by 60 participants, which included Bala Vihar students and parents, and other members and officers of the Mission. The 5-km route was walked by adults and older children, while younger ones took the 2.5-km route. The day turned out to be perfect for this activity, with the temperature ranging from 10-15°C.

The event commenced with invocation prayers and interesting warmup exercises that everyone enjoyed. Snacks were served at the end of the walk and some even began planning for next year’s walkathon.

 

 

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