Chinmaya Mission

CMW News


July 2015, No. 166

IN THIS ISSUE

 

 

Home

 

Spiritual Trails

 

Reflections

 

News

 

Feature

 

Upcoming Events / Announcements

 

Previous CMWN Issues

 

 

 

NEWS

For all photos, click on image to enlarge.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CBCC Global Launch

 

Sannyāsa Dīkshā

 

CBCC Commemorative Coin

 

P.O. Box Gurudev

 

Commencing CBCC with Glory and Grace in Houston

 

On a Quest Touches Viewers in Los Angeles

 

Swamini Vimalananda's Talks in St. Augustine

 

Children Enchant with Gītā Chanting at Chinmaya Prabhā

 

"Spotlight for Siruvani" at CM Niagara

 

CM Atlanta Celebrations in May

 

Diversity Showcased at CM LA's Annual IndiaFest

 

CM Bakersfield Seminar on Mindfulness

 

May 8 Celebrations in San Fernando Valley

 

Chinmaya Bala Vihar in Fresno

 

 

 

 

 

 

CBCC Global Launch
Originally published in Tapovan Prasād; edited for print herein

 

The birth centenary celebrations of Pujya Gurudev were launched to a flying start in Erunakulam, Kerala, with a grand three-day program on the Ernakulathappan grounds, May 6-8, 2015. In addition to the specially invited acharyas and dignitaries, thousands of devotees from the world over assembled in the city to participate in this milestone event.

Devotees gathered on the morning of May 6 for the Ganapati Homam and Lakshmi-Nārāyaṇa Pūjā, which were performed by Swami Sharadananda and Brahmachari Yajna Chaitanya. The invitees who spoke thereafter included Dr. B. M. Hegde (Former Vice-Chancellor, Manipal University), Dr. Lakshmi Kumari (Director, Vivekananda Vedic Vision Foundation), and M. P. Veerendra Kumar (Managing Director, Mathrubhumi).

The formal inaugural ceremonies commenced in the evening when Swami Viviktananda (CM Regional Head, Kerala Region) welcomed Chief Guest Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, invited dignitaries, and all devotees. Former President of India Dr. Kalam lit the inaugural lamp, addressed the gathering, and launched Chinmaya Mission’s new “Home for the Homeless” initiative. He address included the reiteration of salient points from Pujya Gurudev’s speech at the United Nations on “Planet in Crisis”: 1) purify the mind, 2) bring harmony to the society, 3) bring relief to the poor and suffering, and 4) get rooted in morals in the face of violence and chaos.

Kerala’s Chief Minister Oommen Chandy also graced the occasion and addressed the gathering in Malayalam. The inaugural ceremonies concluded with a Mohiniyattam performance by Gopika Varma and her Chennai dance troupe, and a vote of thanks by Suresh Mohan (CBCC Launch Convener).

The second day began with a Gāyatrī Homam, and speeches by Dr. Alexander Jacob (Director General of Police), M. P. Bhaskaran Nair (President, Devaswom), Tony Chammany (Mayor, Cochin Corporation), and N. T. Ramesh (social worker). Later in the day, Swami Advayananda (President, Chinmaya International Foundation) gave a talk, after which representatives from various Hindu organizations were honored in the Yati Pūjā.

A welcome with pūrṇa kumbha and a pāda pūjā were offered by Chinmaya Mission āchāryas to the 16 invited sannyasis. The Acharya Sangam that followed was impressive and some of the sannyasis spoke briefly about the remarkable work and contributions of Pujya Gurudev. Among the speakers were Swami Prakashananda (President, Sivagiri Mutt, Varkala) Swami Muktananda (Anandashram, Kanhangad), Swami Poornamritananda (Mata Amritanandamayi Ashram), Swami Vishnupad (Art of Living), and Swami Prajnanananda (Vazhur Ashramam). In addition, Champat Rai (International General Secretary, VHP) offered words about Pujya Gurudev.

The evening featured a flute recital by Himanshu Nanda (Director of Music, Chinmaya Naada Bindu). O. Rajagopal (former Railways Union Minister of State) and P. R. Subrahmaneya Rajha (Chairman, Ramco Group) offered felicitations. The day ended with the screening of the movie On a Quest.

The sacred and joyous day of May 8 commenced with a solemn mass Guru Pādukā Pūjā with thousands of participants. Swami Sharadananda (CIF) led the enthralling puja with perfect precision. Thereafter, devotees heard from Anil Sachdev (President, SOIL) about his experiences with Pujya Gurudev and heard words of felicitation from Venugopal Govind (Senior Managing Partner, Varma & Varma).

The mass Gītā chanting session began at 3:30 p.m., during which the entire grounds reverberated with thousands of people chanting in tune, led by CM āchāryas. Free books of Gītā verses had been distributed to all Mission devotees and many had been invited personally through home visits. The entire session was relayed live on the Sankara TV and Bhakti Sagar television channels. The chanting concluded with an archanā to the accompaniment of the Gītā Ashṭottara-shata-nāmāvali, composed by Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda.

The highlight of the three-day celebrations was the august presence of Pujya Guruji. In the final evening program, he gave a benedictory address and spoke about Pujya Gurudev inspiring and transforming countless people around the globe. Guruji also released two books: the CBCC Mananam issue on the Mission’s vāṇaprastha sadan, and Yours Forever (a compilation of Pujya Gurudev’s devotees’ anecdotes, letters, and experiences).

Swami Mitrananda spoke about the Chinmaya Sandesh Vāhini. Swami Viviktananda delivered the vote of thanks. The lights were dimmed at 7:30 p.m. sharp, when Pujya Guruji lit the Chinmaya Jyoti to the accompaniment of drums and fireworks. The Jyoti was taken in a procession, along with Pujya Gurudev’s pādukās and vastram, with an ornate umbrella held aloft, as assembled devotees cheered or reverently stood with choked emotion. The Jyoti was placed in the Chinmaya Sandesh Vāhini and the historic yatra was launched. The three-day celebrations filled everyone with reverence and jubilation, and concluded with a lively and colorful laser light show.


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Sannyāsa Dīkshā
Report submitted by CCMT

 

On the sacred day of Shri Chinmaya Jayanti, May 8, 2015, at Chinmaya International Foundation (CIF) in Veliyanad, Kerala, five more Chinmaya Mission brahmachārins were initiated into sannyāsa āshrama:

Brahmachari Navaneet Chaitanya:   Swami Durgeshananda (CM Gurgaon)
Brahmachari Pavan Chaitanya:   Swami Nirbhayananda (CM Mumbai)
Brahmachari Shekhar Chaitanya:   Swami Pranananda (CM Bhubaneswar)
Brahmachari Shivdas Chaitanya:   Swami Keshavananda (CM Rewa)
Brahmachari Shravan Chaitanya:   Swami Atmeshananda (CM Aurangabad)
Brahmacharini Sushmita Chaitanya:   Swamini Atmikananda (CM Angul)

In his announcement letter to CM centers and acharyas, Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda wrote, “May the grace of God and the blessings of our entire Guru Paramparā lead them to the ultimate goal of Self-realization. May we all be blessed to benefit from their dedicated sevā offered at the holy feet of Pujya Gurudev.”

 

 

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CBCC Commemorative Coin
Report submitted by CCMT


Central Chinmaya Mission Trust (CCMT) is pleased to inform that two Indian rupee coins commemorating the birth centenary year of His Holiness Swami Chinmayananda were released by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on May 8, 2015, in recognition of Pujya Gurudev’s life, work, and vision. The Prime Minister also spoke at length on the contribution of Pujya Gurudev and Chinmaya Mission, and the resulting cultural rejuvenation among the masses, especially the elite classes and youth. Watch the video.

The first coin is a Rs. 100 coin that is a collector’s item and will not be in public circulation. The second coin is a Rs. 10 coin, of which approximately 25 million coins will be in public circulation. Further details will be shared when available. CCMT is grateful to the Government of India’s initiative of honoring Pujya Gurudev in this manner.

For CBCC updates, and Chinmaya Mission news, events, and announcements, stay tuned to:

Website:  chinmayamission
Facebook:  chinmayamission     swamichinmayananda     swamitejomayananda
Twitter:  chinmayamission     
YouTube:  chinmayachannel

 

 

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P.O. Box Gurudev
Report submitted by CHYK West


CHYK West is pleased to introduce “P.O. Box Gurudev,” an exciting CBCC initiative for Chinmaya Bala Vihar students across the country. The “P.O. Box” is a text box on the CHYK West website, where BV students can ask a short question related to a spiritual topic and receive a response from a CM āchārya, along with a related title of a CM publication for further details, if applicable.

P.O. Box Gurudev went live on Sunday, May 10 and will be open every weekend until December 2015. The initiative is aimed at kindling children’s curiosity in spirituality to lead them to inner harmony and lasting happiness. Questions? Contact Reena Patel.

 

 

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Commencing CBCC with Glory and Grace in Houston
by Padmashree Rao and Vinod Sharma

 

“Unto Him, Our Best” is the global resolve and promise of CM members as Chinmaya Mission worldwide enters the milestone birth centenary year of tribute to Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda, May 8, 2015-16. Inspired by the CBCC motto, Chinmaya Mission Houston (CMH) offered its best during the three-day event, May 8-10, commemorating the birth of a rare modern sage, a fearless Guru who galvanized the globe with his powerful logic of spirituality and singing of the Lord’s Song. It was a birthday celebration where dedicated action and unabashed devotion united at the altar of blissful Knowledge. The spirit of the Bhagavad Gita shone in every heart through every aspect of the festivities that featured Chinmaya glory, precision, and beauty.

On the evening of May 8, a life-size image of Pujya Gurudev was placed just outside the doors of the Shiva temple to signify Pujya Gurudev’s promise to wait to receive his disciples and devotees at the portals of eternal Truth. Pujya Gurudev gave beauty and grace to the multitude of decorations—flowers, candles, banners—to perfectly complement the beaming blue skies and glowing green grass in the courtyard.

In the Chinmaya Smṛti hall, invocation prayers were chanted and the fearless transformation of Balakrishnan Menon into Swami Chinmayananda was highlighted. As the chanting of the Guru Stotram and Chinmaya Ashṭakam energized the hall, Acharya Gaurang Nanavaty (CM Houston) lit the akhanḍa jyoti—the oil lamp that will remain lit and illumine the spiritual journey of CM devotees throughout the CBCC year. In his address to the devotees assembled, Gaurangji said Pujya Gurudev’s extraordinary intellect, deep conviction, and fearless quest for Truth gave this world the Chinmaya Mission.

Devotees were thrilled to hear one of Pujya Gurudev’s timeless video talks. In the Bhagavad Gītā talk presented, Pujya Gurudev described the process of setting and facing challenging goals. He dramatized how, like Mother Ganga making her way to the ocean, a determined seeker must learn to jump lightly over small hurdles, rush with strength over big obstacles, and skirt around mountains of seemingly unending challenges, all the while never losing sight of the goal to merge with the Highest.

The rest of the evening was a unique birthday party with 1,000+ CMH family members. The special jayanti song for Pujya Gurudev, composed by Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda, sung by the children of the Chinmaya Choir, and danced to by an energetic flash-mob, delighted everyone with devotion and cheer. The evening ended with fireworks, which formed an awe-inspiring backdrop above Pujya Gurudev’s image.

The morning of May 9 welcomed a happy Chinmaya army to a well-organized 5k walkathon. It was a walk to symbolize the Chinmaya family’s courage and fortitude to fight against all negativities and progress on the path of universal spirituality. More than 1,000 people came to Eldridge Park to walk and enjoy fun activities that included a tug of war and laughing yoga. Offering laughter as flower petals, and cheerful thoughts as fragrant incense, the CMH family made the walkathon a grand offering to Pujya Gurudev.

The next day, on May 10, the centenary celebrations took on yet another hue of devoted joy and gratitude. The day began with the offering of a Guru Pādukā Pūjā. Gaurangji said one of the highest tributes to Pujya Gurudev, and a most meaningful inheritance for the next generation, is the regular study of the Bhagavad Gītā. He added that by reading just two verses of Gītā every day, one can begin an unending personalized tribute to Pujya Gurudev.

CMH devotees were invited to the special screenings of On a Quest in May and June. Since May 10 was also Mother’s Day, all mothers were wished with a tender poem written by BV student, Elisha Thakare, and the CMH family conveyed its deep love and gratitude to Acharya Darshana Nanavaty (CM Houston) and prayed for her good health.

 

         

 

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On a Quest Touches Viewers in Los Angeles
by Sonal Ladva


The Laguna Hills Mall Cinema was abuzz on the morning of April 11, 2015 as CM Los Angeles (CMLA) and community members gathered for the premiere screening of the much-awaited On a Quest movie on the life of Pujya Gurudev.

The lobby was filled with kurtas, saris, and churidār-clad attendees, and the hallway featured beautiful posters of the movie. Long-time Mission devotees were seen in the lobby greeting each other with anticipation and eagerness to see the life of their Guru unfold onscreen.

The screening received support from academicians, as well as members of various spiritual and service organizations, such as Brea Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Vedanta Society, BAPS, Ekal Vidyalaya, and SSY.

Prior to the screening, a brief inaugural ceremony was held during which prayers were offered at the altar of Pujya Gurudev that had been lovingly set up by dedicated volunteers. Lead volunteers, Kshama Punj and Shalini Petrine, as well as the Chinmaya Swaranjali group, chanted hymns in praise of Pujya Gurudev. Shobha and Ashok Naimpally, who had hosted Pujya Gurudev at their home during his first visit to Southern California, lit the (electric) lamps at the altar. 

CMLA acharyas, Swami Ishwarananda and Acharya Mahadev Parameswaran, acquainted the audience with Pujya Gurudev’s life, and CMLA President, D.V. Pillai, offered inspiring words, saying, Pujya Gurudev was one of the “best sons that India has produced.” 

Long-time member Mukta Patel was invited to officially inaugurate the screening of the film—and what a film it was! The two-hour movie detailed the journey of a young Balakrishna Menon from atheist to spiritual master. The movie unfolded at a fast pace, revealing different facets of the life of young Menon—from curious child to fiery student, union leader to provocative journalist, and social reformer to freedom fighter—who believed India was free, but Indians were not.

When he set off to Rishikesh to meet the ochre-clad so-called holy men, he said, “Religion is the opium of the masses. I’m going to expose those drug peddlers!” When he met the great master, Pujya Swami Sivanananda Maharaj, he said to him, “Why is there so much evil and injustice around? If this is the best that God can do, then I’m not impressed!” His discussions with the master set the tone of the changes to come on his now deepening quest in a different direction.

The movie was filled with credible punch lines, and despite the fast changing pace, retained continuity in narrative. Siddhartha Nuni, the cinematographer who has worked on movies such as Life of Pi and Lucia, debunked the thinking that biopics are boring with his masterful picturesque strokes of Sidhbari and pre-freedom Lucknow. Director R.S. Prasanna’s casting of the young and old Swami Chinmayananda was brilliant in allowing the audience to forget that it was a story being retold and not the spiritual leader himself.

The movie concluded with Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda advising a seeker, “Start walking and the path will appear.” One of the more moving moments was his answer to the question, “How do you feel walking in his (Swami Chinmayananda’s) shoes?” Smiling with a humility that brought tears and shame for all that we take pride in, Pujya Guruji replied, “I am not in his shoes. I am at his feet.”

The audience came out deeply touched. Several were moved to tears. Others were stunned into silence. Many were left with a quest to know more. Everyone was all the more appreciative of Pujya Gurudev’s immeasurable wealth of contributions to humanity. Swami Ishwarananda aptly said, “See this movie not as entertainment, but as enlightenment.”

 

 

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Swamini Vimalananda's Talks in St. Augustine
by Swamini Radhikananda


Chinmaya Mission St. Augustine hosted a successful and lauded series of lectures by Swamini Vimalananda (CM Coimbatore), April 27-30, 2015. The evening talk on Monday at the Hindu Society of Northeast Florida was attended by more than 125 people. The remaining three-night talks at the Chinmaya Govardhan ashram were standing room only. The older children who also attended were equally enthralled by Swaminiji’s lively and animated talks.

Swaminiji spoke on “Mind in Harmony” at the local temple and brought home the message of how much time, money, effort, and training we put into keeping the body clean, healthy, fit, and strong, yet from childhood onward, we give little or no attention to keeping the mind pure, healthy, strong, and fit in order to face life with balance. She said this is why we continue to suffer and therefore, we have a great need to include spiritual teachings in all family upbringing and education from childhood onward.

In her talks on “Gītā in Everyday Life” at the Chinmaya Govardhan ashram, Swaminiji stressed that it is the fulfillment of what we sometimes consider to be the less important things in life that truly brings us a sense of inner fulfillment, joy, and longing to reach the Supreme.

The programs were organized by resident acharya, Swamini Radhikananda, and Acharya Vilasini Balakrishnan (CM Washington DC), with the help of several out-of-town CM devotees, who also enjoyed informal satsangs with Swaminiji.

The response from all who attended was overwhelmingly positive. Local devotees gained a new inspiration to increase their spiritual efforts and the activities of Chinmaya Mission, and look forward to Swaminiji’s next visit.

On May 8, at CM Atlanta’s mass Guru Pādukā Pūjā, TV Asia interviewed Swaminiji regarding CBCC and aired the interview on May 17.

 

 

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Children Enchant with Gītā Chanting at Chinmaya Prabhā
by Shalini Konde

 

Pujya Gurudev once said, “Opportunities in life come to all of us almost all the time. They come in streams, in hosts, and knock at our doors. We are either out or sleeping in. Be awake. Be alert. Be prepared to make use of them.” Truly, one of such glorious opportunities comes every year in the form of the Gītā Chanting Competition at Chinmaya Prabhā. This year, CM Houston (CMH) conducted the event on May 2, giving children a beautiful opportunity to offer a memorable gift to Pujya Gurudev as part of the centennial celebrations.

Prepared, alert, and enthusiastic, over 120 children, ages 4-18 years, captivated the audience with their skillful chanting of Shrīmad Bhagavad Gītā, Chapter 15. The competition began at 8:30 a.m. with a Vedic ārti, followed by the Chinmaya Mission Pledge. Acharya Gaurang Nanavaty (CM Houston) encouraged and congratulated all the participants, saying, “Just as listening to the national anthem increases patriotism, listening to and learning the Gita increases love for the Lord. You children who learn the Gita are indeed winners in life!”

The judges who listened to child after child struggled to distinguish who was ahead in terms of memory, pronunciation, tune, and overall presentation. From the youngest participant to the oldest, the spirit of chanting was such that it must have truly enchanted Lord Krishna Himself! When the competition concluded by noon and the results were announced, the overwhelming feeling was one of genuine victory for all. The special day concluded with a sumptuous lunch for all the attendees.

In the award ceremony the next day, when Gaurangji honored the winners, he shared a special email written by winner Rohith Narra. The teenager dedicated his success to his teachers, saying that his victory came after nine years of participation. He said this year, he concentrated on giving his best and did not focus on the result, and thus learned how this attitude contributed to his success.

Vashi Banavalikar, a four-year-old who just missed participating in the formal competition because of the age cut-off was nevertheless determined to learn the verses of Chapter 15, and so he did. He memorized 14 verses, marched onto the stage on Sunday morning, and enchanted everyone with his chanting until the acharya had to request him to pause!

Indeed, Pujya Gurudev’s rich legacy of teaching the Gītā and of related chanting programs shone throughout the day’s award ceremony. Each year, preparation for this day starts early. CMH conducts Gītā chanting classes for children from February onward to prepare them for the annual event and teachers pour their hearts into this auspicious endeavor. 
 
This year, the winners will head for Chicago in September to participate in the national competition, which will be followed by the international chanting competition at Chinmaya Vibhooti in Kolwan, India in December. The winners were:

Group A (ages 4-6 years)
First Place: Pranav Sriram
Second Place: Saumya Kabnur
Third Place: Sanvi Sudarshan

Group B: (ages 7-9 years)
First Place: Shanaya Kabnur
Second Place: Aditi Chaubal
Third Place: Siddharth Satish

Group C (ages 10-12 years):
First Place: Mihir Gundamaraju
Second Place: Meghana Prabhakaran
Third Place: Rachit Mukkamala and Ayush Manoj

Group D (ages 13-15 years)
First Place: Rohit Narra
Second Place: Mythreyan Ganesh and Arushi Das
Third Place: Bhavya Kethireddipalli

Group E (ages 16-18 years)
First Place: Yuthika Gundamaraju
Second Place: Shravya Arra

 

 

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"Spotlight for Siruvani" at CM Niagara
by Namrata Vakkalagadda


CM Niagara hosted a weekend spiritual retreat titled, “Spotlight for Siruvani,” at its Chinmaya Dhara ashram, April 3-5, 2015. The retreat was organized by the participants in the third “Chinmaya Inspiration Yatra” as a fundraiser to benefit CORD Siruvani. When the CIY III group had visited Siruvani, Tamil Nadu and learned about the activities of CORD Siruvani that are led by Dr. Meera Krishna, the group had pledged to raise $25,000 to help build a new health facility for the surrounding villages.

The retreat topic was focused on rediscovering inner potential through discourses on select verses from the first six chapters of Shrīmad Bhagavad Gītā. The retreat was conducted by Acharya Vivek Gupta (CM Niagara), assisted by Dev and Gina Singh, and Sachin Phagu. It was open to ages 16-40 years, and attended by a total of 35 CHYKs and CSKs from seven CM centers in North America. It was one of the largest CHYK retreats held at Chinmaya Dhara. Many Junior CHYKs from Niagara Falls, London, and Toronto (Canada) also attended and enjoyed their experience with the CHYKs and CSKs.

In line with how CORD Siruvani volunteers offer respite to the villagers they serve on a daily basis, various cultural performances were presented during free time and almost every camper performed at least once. The presentations ranged from Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi dances, to spoken word, to Indian and western vocals, to a skit on issues girls face in India’s rural areas. A CIY III yātrī who was not able to attend the retreat participated by sending a video of her performance.

The retreat also featured a few special events. Holi was celebrated on Saturday afternoon in the park next to the ashram. Hanuman Chālisā was chanted for 108 minutes to celebrate Hanuman Jayanti. An outing to Niagara Falls was arranged “to experience the ever-flowing Om of Nature.” A surprise Skype call with Dr. Meera Krishna was coordinated by Vivekji and others, so that all the campers could meet her and hear first-hand about the activities of CORD Siruvani and her vision for the new health facility.

Before the retreat began, the total donations raised for the new facility was approximately $12,500. By the end of the retreat, $25,120 had been raised, along with the hearts and minds of campers, who treasured the blissful experience gifted to them by the grace of the Lord, and the blessings of Pujya Gurudev and Pujya Guruji.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CM Atlanta Celebrations in May
by Aaditya Vashishat and Vansh Sharma


CM Atlanta’s memorable and grand celebration for Pujya Gurudev’s birth centennial was held in conjunction with the year-end Chinmaya Bala Vihar program at the Chinmaya Niketan ashram. This year, in lieu of individual class presentations, 55 BV students, and several parents, offered a 17-scene musical, “Unto Him, Our Best,” on Pujya Gurudev’s life and teachings. The actors all participated with great love and enthusiasm, and learned much about Pujya Gurudev’s life over a span of three weeks. The costumes and props for the drama and dances enhanced the impressive direction. The final scene of Pujya Gurudev enjoying a bhajan with Bala Vihar children and addressing them was a particular highlight of the program.

The event brought together CM members to “stand as one family” and left everyone eager to participate in more such programs in the future. As part of the BV year-end celebration, every student received an award for class attendance and/or participation in competitions. In addition, various parent volunteers received an award for their help throughout the BV year.

By Pujya Gurudev’s grace, the event concluded successfully and the prasādam of a grand feast was served to all.

 

 

 

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Diversity Showcased at CM LA's Annual IndiaFest
by Renu Chokshi and Aparna Rastogi


Another brilliant cultural showcase put together by Chinmaya families was presented at the annual IndiaFest event of CM Los Angeles (CMLA) on the evening of April 18, 2015. IndiaFest, a uniquely integrated program featuring presentations by groups representing different states of India, ranges in performances from cultural dances, to live music, to colorful skits—each in worship of regional and universal deities.

The evening began with a Vishu Pūjā in honor of the New Year celebrated in several states of India with much fanfare and vigor. It created a beautiful ambiance that flowed through the rest of the evening. Resident Acharya Swami Ishwarananda welcomed the families to the special celebration and recognized the selfless sevā of CMLA volunteers.

The cultural segment, enthusiastically organized by Mission families representing seven states in India, was enjoyed by all. From Team Maharashtra’s Lokmanya Tilak, who narrated the significance of Ganesha Chaturthi; to Team Tamil Nadu’s beautifully decorated palanquin and folk dances in honor of Lord Muruga; from Team Karnataka’s superbly enacted skit honoring Goddess Shāradāmbā in Shringeri; to Team Uttar Pradesh’s wonderfully and tightly scripted act on the life of Lord Rama; from Team Andhra Pradesh’s daintily choreographed dance in honor of Lord Balaji; to Team Gujarat’s colorful and toe-tapping garbā and rās performances in poetic praise of bāla Krishna—the evening was filled with color, music, talent, and joy. The grand finale featured a grand depiction of Lord Ayyappa’s abode in Sabarimala. Having displayed the unique cultural diversity that is the heritage of all Indians, all the teams came on stage together as the Hindi song, “Mile sur merā tumhāra to sur bane hamārā,” played. The program was presented before a robust audience of 550 people who appreciated and applauded the performers’ talents and efforts.

The showcase of diversity certainly carried forward into the rich and varied dinner feast that followed the program. The food served featured the cuisines of the seven states of India that were highlighted in the program. Most of the food was cooked at home by volunteers. With such variety, people happily struggled to select which dishes they wanted to eat, and even the most health-conscious ones found it hard to resist such delectable dishes.

The event, which is getting larger in scope and size with each succeeding year, was enjoyed thoroughly by all.

 

 

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CM Bakersfield Seminar on Mindfulness
by Anil Mehta


Chinmaya Mission Bakersfield and the Bakersfield Memorial Hospital held their 11th annual seminar on mind and body health on May 16, 2015. This year’s theme of “Mindfulness” was introduced by Dr. Anil Mehta with words on the stress of modern life and the helpfulness of living mindfully.

Dr. Ravi Goklaney, a local psychiatrist and educator, discussed the problems of reactive stress and depression, as well as chronic stress and depression. Reactive stress is situational, and due to financial and personal loss. This can be helped by mindfulness and regular meditation. Chronic stress and depression has a congenital component, and can be aggravated by situational problems. This requires medication and counseling; mindful meditation can be an adjunct in therapy.

Barbara White, Spiritual Director of the Center for Spiritual Living, Bakersfield, said most stresses are due to regrets of the past and anxieties for the future. She said living mindfully in the present helps solve many stressful situations. Quoting from an article about the practice of mindfulness and meditation by the CEO of Aetna, and this information is offered to all Aetna employees, she pointed out that under this CEO’s leadership, the company’s income and stock value appreciated significantly.

In his presentation, Swami Ishwarananda (CM Los Angeles) said this knowledge of mindfulness is ancient and described in the Upanishads as “contemplation.” Swamiji spoke about the pancha koshas, or the five layers, of human beings. Each layer, he said, is subtler than the previous and more pervasive; the grosser is controlled by the subtler. These layers cover our perception of the Self, which is our true nature. Mindful living and meditation is the way to contact one’s inner Self. Swamiji led everyone in a beautiful guided meditation session on Nature.

The seminar concluded with a panel discussion moderated by Stafford Betty, Professor of Religious studies at Cal State University, Bakersfield, and a lively Q&A session. Attendees said they left the seminar feeling informed and uplifted.

 

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May 8 Celebrations in San Fernando Valley
by Madhu Sharma


CM Los Angeles’s Chinmaya Bala Vihar chapter in San Fernando Valley celebrated Pujya Gurudev’s jayanti on May 10, 2015 at the local temple in Northridge, where weekly classes are held. The students and parents chanted the opening prayers and Guru Stotram, followed by an archanā with the chanting of the 108 names of Pujya Gurudev. Everyone offered indebted gratitude and humble prostrations to Pujya Gurudev, seeking his grace and blessings. The students later chanted Matṛ Stavanam as a token of love and respect to their mothers, and offered tilak, rice, and flowers at their feet. The event concluded with ārti and prasād.

Swami Ishwarananda (CM Los Angeles) graced the Chinmaya Bala Vihar year-end celebrations on May 17. The event was emceed by two students from the senior class and commenced with a welcome dance. The highlight of the program were the emcees’ presentations on the worldwide birth centenary celebrations of Pujya Gurudev, including the pādukā pūjā, the Chinmaya Jyoti Yātrā, the On a Quest movie, and the release of the commemorative coin.

Students presented their alphabet values, skits on “Kubera’s Feast” and “Pippalada’s Boon,” the symbolism of Shivarātri, and a Lord Shiva story highlighting the glory of Guru. In addition, the students shared their personal experiences on how Chinmaya Bala Vihar has transformed their life. The year-end celebrations came to a close with the singing of birthday wishes for Swami Ishwarananda on his 50th birthday; BV Coordinator, Madhu Sharma, also sang her two original compositions in honor of Swamiji’s birthday. All students, parents, and sevaks received prasād from Swamiji after the event concluded.

 

 

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Chinmaya Bala Vihar in Fresno
by Sudha Bhatt


CM San Jose’s Fresno satellite held its third annual “Bala Vihar Day” on May 17, 2015 to mark the year-end of the 2014-2015 Chinmaya Bala Vihar year. Each BV class presented items based on what they had learned during the year. The children, with the help of their teachers, had prepared various items and presented an excellent show for their parents. Chinmaya Study Group sevak, Ashok Bhatt, reinforced the importance of Vedantic teachings and thanked parents for their support, urging them to continue their commitment to Bala Vihar and active participation in Study Group.

The year-end program began with the chanting of invocation prayers and Guru Stotram. The Bhagavad Gītā chanting group recited the verses they had learned. This was followed by the cultural program. The pk-kg class chanted the daily prayers and performed a dance to a bhajan. Students in grades 1-2 chanted Madhurāshṭakam and demonstrated Sūrya-namaskāra. The grades 3-4 class offered a puppet show on Matsyāvatāra. Students in grades 5-6 conducted a quiz on the 24 Gurus of Lord Dattātreya and chanted a portion of Mahishāsuramardini Stotram. The grades 7-12 class chanted Gītā Dhyānam and presented an interactive game show based on the Mahābhārata. Some students spoke on their experience of attending Chinmaya Bala Vihar every Sunday. Before the event concluded with dinner prasād, every child received a Chinmaya Bala Vihar Certificate of Participation.

CM activities began in Fresno, CA in 2012 under the guidance of Swami Bodhatmananda (CM San Jose). Sudha and Ashok Bhatt (devotees from CM Bakersfield), currently drive 260 miles every Sunday to help support the activities, which are being excellently administered by Chitra Kandaswami and conducted with the help of a growing number of local volunteers. Acharya Uma Jeyarasasingham (CM San Jose) has also been actively guiding and supporting the group, and has conducted two training sessions for the BV teachers.

Chinmaya Bala Vihar in Fresno has grown from 2 teachers and 8 students to 12 teachers and 50+ students in a span of three years. The teachers and parents recognize the importance of imparting Pujya Gurudev’s vision to children and adults, alike. The BV classes are currently held in a rented space at the local temple, every Sunday, 3:00-4:30 p.m. Based on their grades, the children are divided into five groups, with two teachers per class. The simultaneously held Chinmaya Study Group for adults is facilitated by Ashok Bhatt and attended by 12-15 parents. With the sincere and tireless efforts of all organizers and participants, local devotees in Fresno hope for continued growth and success by the Lord’s grace and Pujya Gurudev’s blessings.

 

 

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