Chinmaya Mission

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January 2016, No. 169

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For all photos, click on image to enlarge.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sannyāsa Dīkshā

 

Chinmaya International Gītā Chanting Competition

 

New Purohit Course 2016-17

 

CIF International Conference and Release of
Brahmasūtra-catuḥ-sūtrī-śāṅkara-bhaṣyam and Anusāraka

 

Chinmaya Jyoti in Delhi

 

CM Los Angeles’ “Shruti Laya” Fundraiser with Yesudas

 

Prayer and Gratitude Illumine Chinmaya Prabhā

 

Divya Shakti 2015

 

CHYKs Ask, "Can You Hear Me Now?"

 

CM Houston’s Festive Navarātri Garba

 

CM Pittsburgh "Dharmic Living" Family Camp

 

JCHYK Camp

 

 

 

Sannyāsa Dīkshā


 

Sannyāsa dīkshā, or initiation into renunciation, was given by Pūjya Guruji to two brahmacārīs and five brahmacāriṇīs in the Pranav Ganesh Mandir at the Chinmaya Vibhooti ashram in Kolwan, India. The previous and new names are as follows:


1) Brahmachari Akasha Chaitanya - Swami Sarvagananda
2) Brahmachari Tejaswi Chaitanya - Swami Swaprakashananda
3) Brahmacharini Kanthi Chaitanya - Swamini Shriyananda
4) Brahmacharini Medha Chaitanya - Swamini Shraddhananda
5) Brahmacharini Prafulla Chaitanya - Swamini Pratishthananda
6) Brahmacharini Suneeta Chaitanya - Swamini Ashritananda
7) Brahmacharini Susheela Chaitanya - Swamini Shampradananda

 

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

 

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Chinmaya International Gītā Chanting Competition
by K. Rajan


By the grace of the Lord and the blessings of the Guru-paramparā, the Chintech team successfully organized the second Chinmaya International Gītā Chanting Competition in celebration of Pujya Gurudev’s birth centenary. The electrifying final was held at Chinmaya Vibhooti, in Kolwan, India, on December 22, 2015, bringing together 42 finalists from 11 countries: Australia, Bahrain, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, UAE, and USA.

The finalists, who had qualified for the final based on their center, state, and national competitions, chanted Chapter 15 of Shrīmad Bhagavad Gītā and competed based on four age categories. Their chanting was judged by Swami Sharadananda (CIF), Swami Sharanananda (CM Chicago), Swami Advaitananda, (Chinmaya Vibhooti), Swami Siddheshananda (CM Pune), and Pramodini Rao (Director, Chinmaya Naada Bindu).

The largest number of participants outside India came from USA (2,500+), UAE (1,839), Bahrain (103), Hong Kong (92), Singapore (79), and Malaysia (66). Within India, Andhra Pradesh topped the list with 43,837 participants, followed by Maharashtra (37,301), Tamil Nadu (17,401), Kerala (16,149), and Gujarat (7,627). With respect to participants from CM centers, the maximum came from Mumbai (more than 20,000), followed by Piller in Andhra Pradesh (5,135), Vadodara in Gujarat (4,874) and Trichy in Tamil Nadu (4,226).

The competition started at 9 a.m. at the Pranav Ganesh Mandir, where the atmosphere reverberated with divine energy. The chanting continued until 12:30 p.m. and the grand valedictory function commenced at 1:30 p.m. after lunch prasād.

Pujya Guruji’s august presence welcomed one and all with warmth and affection. In his address, he said, “Every participant is a winner and winning is just an incident.” He said about the main purpose of the event was “collaboration, not competition.” Books personally selected by Pujya Guruji were presented to all the participants. Pujya Guruji, all the judges, acharyas, and coordinators at all levels (country, state, and center) appreciated the efforts of all the participants, attendees, and the Chintech organizers.

Group A Winners
First Place: Shruti Sharma, Gems Modern Academy, Dubai, UAE
Second Place: Sagarika Sen, GD Birla Centre for Education, Kolkata, India
Third Place: Akshara Sivaraj, Jack & Jill Bhāratīya Vidyā Bhavan, Kuwait          
 
Group B Winners
First Place: Mohitaa Ganesan, Indian Community School, Kuwait
Second Place: Shreeya Srinivasan, Bright Riders School, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Third Place: Tulya Reddy, KKR Goutam School, Vijayawada, India

Group C Winners
First Place: Krupaksh Kenkre, Popular Primary School, Goa, India
Second Place: Shruthi Aiyar, Vendo Middle School, Los Angeles, USA
Third Place: Komal Papanwar, Global Indian International School, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia

Group D Winners
First Place: Deepti Kumar, Indian Community School, Kuwait
Second Place: S. Suraj, SBOA Higher Secondary School, Coimbatore, India
Third Place: Soundarya Vaithyanathan, Our Own English High School, Dubai, UAE

Hearty congratulations to all the winners of this glorious and memorable milestone event!


 

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New Purohit Course 2016-17
Excerpt from a letter to centers and āchāryas from Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda


One of the 108 names for Pujya Gurudev is dharma-saṁsthāpaka, one who re-establishes dharma in the world. In keeping with his grand vision, in recent years, Chinmaya Mission has administered two Purohit Courses, each 18 months long, at the Chinmaya Gardens ashram in Coimbatore, India. A need was felt for a shorter course, so Chinmaya Mission will now be offering a six-month course at Chinmaya Gardens, from August 29, 2016 to February 28, 2017.
 
This new course is designed for interested persons to get training and be able to lead the society on the path of dharma. This course will:

  • Train young men to take up paurohityam as their profession
  • Allow Chinmaya Mission members to learn the principles and practices of various rituals that will help them in their regular sadhana and empower them to offer sevā in their respective centers
  • Help purohits gain more clarity and refresh their knowledge

View details.


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CIF International Conference and Release of
Brahmasūtra-catu-sūtrī-śākara-bhayam and Anusāraka

by Shibani Khurana and Aishwarya Nair

 

The sublime philosophy of Advaita Vedanta enshrined in Hindu scriptures is what transformed the agnostic journalist Balakrishnan Menon into the visionary and world-renowned monk, Swami Chinmayananda, who dedicated over four decades of dynamic service to the cultural rejuvenation of India and spiritual upliftment of the world. Through its various activities, Chinmaya Mission has been promoting and spreading Advaita Vedanta for over six decades today, and the effects on humanity at large are visible and tangible.

In honor of CBCC (Chinmaya Birth Centenary Celebrations), CIF was privileged to host an international conference on the “Contribution of Advaita Vedanta to Humanity,” November 18-21, 2015 at the Chinmaya Vibhooti ashram in Kolwan, India. The conference also marked the celebration of CIF’s 25-year anniversary as a Sanskrit and Indic research center. The purpose of this conference was to review the core elements of Advaita Vedanta, identify its influence on humanity, recognize various concepts in the context of modern-day, and understand its implications for comprehensive, sustainable unity.

The three-day conference was attended by more than 400 participants, as well as speakers from India and other parts of the world. Each day featured a primary Vedantic theme, namely, jīva (individual), jagat (world), and Īshvara (God). The inaugural ceremonies were held in the esteemed presence of Pūjya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda, Dr. Parameshwara Shastry (Vice Chancellor, Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan), and Dr. Sanjay Deshmukh (Vice Chancellor, Mumbai University). In his address, Dr. Deshmukh said, “One bee collects only one gram of honey after visiting 350 flowers. Its efforts are only for the betterment of the hive, without a drop for itself. What each of us as humans are doing for humanity is to think about.” This was followed by a soulful rendition of devotional songs and hymns, themed on Advaita, by Music Director of Chinmaya Naada Bindu, Pramodini Rao.

The first day of the conference, November 19, was themed on jīva and began with a succinct keynote address from Pūjya Guruji. The day included a talk on “The Ideal Individual According to Advaita Vedanta” by Dr. V. Sastry (Hyderabad); a panel discussion on “The Role of Vedanta in Sustaining Social Harmony and Human Relationships, with panelists Dr. Anita Thapan (Delhi), Dr. Geetha Mohan (Mumbai), and others; “Exponents of Advaita Vedanta and their Contributions, East and West” by Dr. Annette Wilke (Berlin) and Dr. Dharm Bhawuk (Hawaii). The day concluded with a traditional Kerala Sanskrit theater performance by Kapila Venu and troupe. This mesmerizing Kuddiyaṭam art is nearly 2,000 years old. Each day of the conference saw the philosophy of Advaita featured not only in the academic sessions, but also in the evening cultural programs. Audiences from far and wide witnessed and appreciated a wealth of diverse performances.

The second day, themed on jagat, commenced with a keynote address from Swami Advayananda, President of the Chinmaya International Foundation. The engaging topics for the day included “Reorienting Education” by Swamini Vimalananda (Coimbatore), “Nation-building and Nourishing Leaders through Advaita” by Dr. B. Mahadevan (Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru); a panel discussion on “Vasudhaiva Kuumbakam” that included panelists Alexander Jacob (Retired IPS Officer, Kannur) and Swami Nikhilananda (Delhi); and “Advaita Vedanta and the Philosophy of Science” by Dr. K. Ramasubramanian (Mumbai). The day concluded with a screening of On a Quest.

The keynote address on the third day, themed on Īshvara, was delivered in Sanskrit by noted scholar, Dr. Mani Shastri, (Chennai) on jīva-brahmaikya-bodha. The topics of the day included “Sagua and Nirgua Brahma” by Dr. Srinivasan Krishnamurthy (Chennai), “The Concept of Jīvabrahmaikya” by Dr. Godabarisha Misra (Head of Department of Philosophy, Madras University). Swami Haribrahmendrananda (Ādi Shaṅkara Brahmavidyāpeeṭh, Uttarkashi) presided as the chairperson. Swami Swaroopananda (CIRS Director and Regional Head of CM UK, Australia, and Far East) shared his personal encounters with Pūjya Gurudev and spoke on Pūjya Gurudev’s contributions to humanity as an Advaitin. The valedictory address was delivered by Ram Madhav (Director, India Foundation), who urged Indians to wear their culture on their sleeve and spoke of how Pūjya Gurudev turned Indians to look at their own culture in the most appealing way to the modern man.

New publications were released each day: The two-volume Brahmasūtra-catu-sūtrī-śākara-bhayam; Advaitāmtam, the conference commemorative; and the much-awaited language access software, Anusāraka. Of the Brahmasūtra-catu-sūtrī-śākara-bhayam, Bhagavān Ādi Shakarāchārya’s commentary on the Brahma-sūtra, Pūjya Guruji stated, “This publication on the Brahma-sūtra is a long cherished dream. There couldn’t have been a more befitting time for its release—in Pūjya Gurudev’s birth centenary year.” The comprehensive treatise consists of Maharishi Veda-vyāsa’s Brahma-sūtra in Sanskrit, Ādi Shakarāchārya’s commentary in Sanskrit, and the English translation of both. Meticulously researched, this critical edition of the Brahma-sūtra is a treasure for Vedantic seekers. Aside from a detailed, analytical, and lucid translation of Ādi Shakarāchārya’s commentary, it also includes material from ten significant sub-commentaries and sixteen scriptural texts. Orders may be placed through CIF’s publications department.

The success of the event was by the Lord’s grace and Pūjya Gurudev’s blessings, leaving every volunteer, speaker, and participant touched by the glory of Advaita Vedanta.

 

 

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Chinmaya Jyoti in Delhi
Report submitted by CCMT

 

The Chinmaya Birth Centenary Celebrations at Siri Fort in Delhi were covered by India’s national Doordarshan television channel. DD-1 telecast a documentary on the Chinmaya Jyoti Yātrā on November 14, 3-3:30 p.m. The program showcased the Jyoti Yātrā in Delhi, the teachings and Mission of Pūjya Gurudev, a short film on Pujya Gurudev, a trailer of On a Quest, a speech by Mohan Bhagwat, and video bytes by various dignitaries and compere, Shyam Banerji.

The following are recent postings in 2015 of the Chinmaya Sandesh Vāhinī mobile on its continuing journey of the Chinmaya Jyoti Yātrā.

Day 208: December 1
The Chinmaya Jyoti was received in Ahmednagar by CM devotees and Swami Pratyananda, who was conducting a jñāna yajña there. The procession headed to the Viṭṭhala-Rakumāi Temple with nāma-sakīrtana and bhajans. After an elaborate pādukā pūjā at the temple, Swamiji addressed the devotees, explaining the purpose of the Chinmaya Jyoti Yātrā and the highlights of the journey so far. Devotees viewed the Chinmaya Jyoti exhibit and then had lunch bhikshā. In the afternoon, excited Anand Vidyalaya students of the Mission arrived, eager to have the unique lifetime experience of the Chinmaya Jyoti. Early in the evening, Swamiji led devotees in the chanting of Shrī Vishnu Sahasranāma.

Day 209: December 2
The Chinmaya Jyoti was received in the 400-year old Viṭṭhala temple in Talegaon where the great saint Tūkārāma Maharaja frequently sang bhajans. Over the years, many CM āchāryas have conducted jñāna yajñas in the temple, including Swami Purushottamananda, who had conducted more than 25 yajñas there. That afternoon, the entire temple was decorated with beautiful flower arrangements and colorful lights to mark the joyous, festive occasion. Swami Atmeshananda led the pādukā pūjā and then addressed the gathering, sharing the importance of the celebrations and purpose of the yātrā. Thereafter, a bhajan group offered bhajans and a young artist rendered a solo vocal in Raga Bhairavi. After devotees had darshan of the Chinmaya Sandesh Vahini exhibit, everyone left for the Ayyappa temple situated atop Sastha Hill. After performing pradikshana around the temple, Pūjya Gurudev’s pādukā pūjā was performed. This Ayyappa temple, which has a beautiful view of Pune’s suburbs, was constructed in accordance with Pūjya Gurudev’s vision and he gave the first donation for its construction. Many such temples were established worldwide based on his vision, saṅkalpa, and support. The final destination for the day was the Chinmaya Mauli ashram in Lohegaon, where the Jyoti was received by Swami Siddheshananda and other āchāryas.

Day 210: December 3
The yātrā team made its way toward Toap-Sambhapur near Kolhapur, to the abode of Chinmaya Gaṇādhīsha, the 85-ft. tall idol of Lord Ganesha. The Lord’s form is a magnificent sight from the Mumbai-Bengaluru highway. The Jyoti was given a traditional ḍhola and tūtari Kolhapuri welcome by Swami Atmadevananda and CM devotees. Pūjya Gurudev’s pādukās were carried in a palanquin to the temple. Thereafter, Swami Atmadevananda carried them on his head as ladies from the nearby villages showered flower petals on them and men sang bhajans. The pādukās were taken to the satsang hall, where all the ladies, bearing ārati thālīs in their hands performed ārati.

In the afternoon, students from various schools came in bus loads to view the exhibit on Pūjya Gurudev’s life. In the evening, devotees led by Brahmachari Atari Chaitanya performed pādukā pūjā. Swami Atmadevananda addressed the gathering briefly, after which Prime Minister Modi’s speech at the CBCC coin release, and Many Moods of the Master (a video montage of Pūjya Gurudev) was screened. The evening concluded with dinner prasad for all devotees.

Day 211: December 4
In the morning, the team visited Swami Purushottamananda’s samādhi mandir in the ashram with Pūjya Gurudev’s pādukās. The Toap ashram and idol were constructed under the guidance of Swami Purushottamananda, who was a great devotee of Lord Dattātreya. Before meeting Pūjya Gurudev, he did intense penance to invoke Lord Dattātreya’s blessings and in their first meeting, Pujya Gurudev called him into the room saying, “Come Dattātreya!” In later years, Pūjya Gurudev called Swamiji his “Marathi mouthpiece.”

The Chinmaya Jyoti continued to Belgavi (previously Belgaum), where it was received on the highway, near the town entrance, by Mayor Kiran Sayanak and Minister Suresh Angadi in the presence of Swamini Prajnananda, Swami Atmadevananda, and Siddharam Mahaswamigalu of Rudraximath Naganur. A convoy of approximately 200 motorcycles and cars led the Chinmaya Sandesh Vāhinī to the Chinmaya Vandana ashram, where Pūjya Gurudev’s pādukās and the Jyoti were carried for display in two specially designed chariots for display. En route, the Jyoti was received by the staff and administration of the KLE Hospital near their premises. The convoy alerted all the citizens of Belgavi of the arrival of the Jyoti. The traditional pūrakumbha and pādukā pūjā were performed led by Swamini Prajnananda, after which lunch prasad was served to all. Post-lunch, the CM bhajan group sang various bhajans and abhagas until early evening. Having tied the traditional pheṭa (traditional Maharashtrian headwear) and placed kalashas on their heads, devotees began their procession with the sounding of the conch and the invocation of Lord Ganesha. The pādukās were taken around the block to the songs of a bhajan maṇḍali and music of a hola pāhaka (group), followed closely by the Vāhinī exhibit and the convoy. The procession drew much attention from the residents of the area. A unique feature was that the majority of the members of the entire procession and the ḍhola group, which played continuously for more than an hour, were women. With much enthusiasm and inspirational spirit, as the procession approached the Ramnath Mangal Karyalaya, the rhythm of the beats increased in pace and intensity. Devotees were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Jyoti at the hall. Having placed the pādukās, jyoti, and vastram on the stage in the hall, Swami Atmadevananada addressed the gathering. The chief guest for the function was Minister Suresh Angadi, who spoke in his address of Pūjya Gurudev’s tireless work for the upliftment of the common man and that world peace is achievable if it is rooted in the spiritual knowledge of the scriptures. A few cultural performances, including Bharatnatyam and fusion instrumental music, followed, marking a wonderful end to a day of festivities. Joy and contentment in the hearts of all showed in their enthusiasm throughout the function.

Day 212: December 5 
CM devotees in Goa assembled at the Datta Mandir in Sanquelim, nearly 30 km from its capital city of Panaji. The Jyoti was received by Swamis Sughoshananda and Prakarshananda, along with other devotees. The temple is one of the oldest temples in Goa, dedicated to Lord Dattātreya. An elaborate pādukā pūjā led by Swami Sughoshananda was performed at the temple. Swami Prakarshananda addressed the gathering after the puja.

The Chinmaya Sandesh Vāhinī then made its way toward Divza Square at the entrance of Panaji, where it was received by Chief Minister Laxmikant Parasekar, Minister Siddharth Kunkolieknkar, and Mayor Shubham Chodankar. After ārati, the Jyoti proceeded in a decorated chariot to the Chinmaya Ālok ashram, where it was received by Swami Prakarshananda and devotees. The pādukā pūjā was performed by Brahmacharini Dharana Chaitanya. Lunch prasad was served thereafter.

The next morning, the hall at the Jnyan Vikas School in Porvorim was set up for the students, while four “Transforming Indians to Transform India” sessions were conducted in Porvorim and Panaji at Vidya Prabodhini College, District Institute of Education and Training, Dempo College of Commerce, and Santo Miguel High School.

In the evening, the Jyoti procession went to Dariya Sagar in Kala Academy, Panaji, where a traditional Goan folk song and dance performance was presented in colorful costumes, with steady drumbeats. Around 150 students from the Adarsh School participated in the procession, dancing with lezim. At the Kala Academy, Bala Vihar children sang a few bhajans and chanted Gītā, Chapter 15. This was followed by Swami Prakarshananda’s address, in which he recalled Pūjya Gurudev’s message at the United Nations to live righteously and peacefully. Chinmaya Nāda Brahma, a CHYK Goa music initiative, mesmerized the audience with their soulful singing of bhajans. The evening concluded with dinner prasad.

For more dates and details, follow the Chinmaya Jyoti Yātrā on Facebook.

 

 

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CM Los Angeles’ “Shruti Laya” Fundraiser with Yesudas
by Hema Ravikumar


Attendees at CM Los Angeles’ annual Sevāñjali fundraiser, “Shruti Laya,” saw Padmabhūshan K. J. Yesudas enthrall a packed auditorium with a dazzling vocal repertoire of multilingual musical pieces. The audience assembled at the Plummer Auditorium on November 1, 2015 and enthusiastically vocalized their appreciation.

In his address, Swami Ishwarananda, (CM Los Angeles) aptly summed up the glory of “Shruti Laya,” explaining shruti is pleasant musical sound heard by the ears, and laya is when the listener is transported and transformed by that music. Laya means “dissolution,” and here it refers to the mind dissolving into a meditative peace. This, he said, is the ultimate feat and goal of all great musicians, who convey through their art this rare transcendence into Oneness.

 Acharya Mahadev Parameswaran (CM Los Angeles) echoed the theme of divinity in sound emphasizing that just as shruti is the constant drone in the background of a musical piece, so, too, “in Vedanta, shruti is the changeless substratum of the universe, the Supreme.” He said if we play our part like an actor on the stage of life; in rhythm with the conscious, divine principle of life; we gain absorption, or laya, in the Self.  

Interspersing his music with endearing anecdotes about his music and life journey, Yesudas established a positive rapport with the audience from the start. He spoke about his simple beginnings; his training with renowned Carnatic music guru, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar; his connection to the Indian film industry’s music doyens, such as Ravindra Jain and Salil Choudhary; and reflected nostalgically on the process of singing in various languages over the years. He went on to draw attention humorously, yet poignantly, to the disparity of regional loyalties and differences. He repeatedly expressed his views about the common thread shared by all religions and made a plea for all communities to work beyond differences. He said, “I was born in a Christian family, but feel close to Hinduism and to Allah. I sing music from the heart without thinking about religions and their differences. When I sing about Krishna or Christ, they both simply start with the same sound; neither is higher, lower, or better than the other.”

Yesudas began the program with Carnatic devotional songs and then moved to performing improvisational pieces from different genres and languages: Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Bengali, Kannada, and Telugu. The audience appreciated and lauded the singing idol, who has delivered nearly six decades of acclaimed music from ornate temple settings to the silver screen. The accompanists were Krishna Parthasarathy on violin, Santosh Chandru on ghaṭam, T.S. Nandakumar on mridangam, and Mayuri Vasan (BV alumnus) on tanpura.

Yesudas’ parting message to youth studying music was to be strong and disciplined in their sadhana, to learn under a guru who observes and corrects their flaws to allow them to truly excel and evolve in their craft. Swami Siddhananda (CM Philadelphia) spoke at the event as a special guest and performed a short original composition inspired by Yesudas’s “Jaba Dīpa Jale.” Shashi Acharya, CM Los Angeles’ Foundation Committee Chair, spoke on the center’s fundraising goals and successes, and wholeheartedly praised all the volunteers. The evening was excellently emceed by Nimmi Raghunathan.

 

 

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Prayer and Gratitude Illumine Chinmaya Prabhā
by Padmashree Rao


Light has great significance in any religion. As a shining representation of the eternal Truth that dispels the darkness of ignorance, it stands for everything that is joyful, inspiring, beautiful, and peaceful. Such is the central spirit of Dīpāvali, the Hindu festival of lights, which literally means “an array of lights.” Celebrated by Indians all over the world, the theme of this festival is uniquely unifying and uplifting in all the various ways it is cherished.

At CM Houston’s Chinmaya Prabhā ashram, Divali was hailed on November 8, 2015 with heartfelt prayers and deep gratitude to the Lord and the Guru. Unfailing in both discipline and devotion, every aspect of the Divali puja invoked tradition, introspection, and the spirit of community with equal fervor. In two sessions, over 800 families, sharing the social and spiritual cheer of the auspicious festival, gathered and prayed.

That morning, everywhere in Chinmaya Prabhā, the aesthetic beauty of the Divali decorations captivated the senses. The colorful rangolis, brilliant lights, and intricate floral arrangements caught every eye; fragrant incense spread a divine scent; the devotional bhajans and chanted hymns purified and elevated devotees; and all around, the sacred brightness of Divali was palpable.

In such an inspiring atmosphere, the message of Acharya Gaurang Nanavaty emphasized how Divali is about treasuring the true wealth of spiritual values. He pointed out that while the material wealth that Mother Lakshmi provides raises our standard of living, the wealth of universally good values ensures a high quality of life. He said to gain such values, the grace of Lord Nārāyaṇa, and the blessings and guidance of the Guru-paramparā, are essential.

The Divali puja, led by the ashram’s temple priest, began with a Ganesha Pūjā. This was followed by all the families offering worship with Lakshmi-ashṭottara-shata-nāmāvaliḥ and chanting Vishnu-sahasra-nāma. The hour-long puja concluded with the Vedic and Chinmaya āratis, and the offering of Guru-dakshinā.

Hindu scriptures declare that the way to God is through the Guru. Especially in this birth centenary year of Pūjya Gurudev, the ancient tradition of symbolically conveying gratitude through the Guru-dakshinā ceremony was significant. Another notable feature of this year’s Divali celebration was the three-week Food Drive organized by Houston CHYKs to support the Houston Food Bank.

Pūjya Gurudev once said, “As you stand in wonderment at the beauty of the rows of lights everywhere, learn to feel elated at the light of divine Consciousness that flutters in the hearts of all living beings.” The members of Chinmaya Houston glimpsed such elevating brightness this Dīpāvali.

 

 

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Divya Shakti 2015
by Priya Amaresh


Reverence, silence, contemplation, creativity, laughter, and love were just a few of the myriad expressions experienced by nearly 100 ladies at the third annual “Divya Shakti Retreat” held October 9-11, 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina. This year’s retreat, themed “Finding Your Balance,” was also conducted, as in prior years, by Acharya Vilasini Balakrishnan (CM Washington DC) and Acharya Vivek Gupta (CM Niagara).

For 25 joyful hours, the “devis” of the retreat were engaged in meditation, discourse, discussion, and activity, all centered on enlightening one about the true Self. Vilasiniji led blissful guided meditations in the early morning, and helped plan for and design a sattvic home and environment in the afternoon workshop. In his discourses, Vivekji reflected on verses from Gītā, Chapter 14 (the three-fold qualities of nature) and guided us on living a balanced life. The retreat teachings were aimed at helping transcend the three gunas.

In addition, the weekend was filled with various fun and introspective activities. On Friday evening, the retreat began with several “Ego Eraser” activities, which helped everyone set aside inhibitions, judgments, and expectations before proceeding to a weekend of spiritual growth. Saturday morning featured a series of exciting challenges that included “Club Sattva” to express joy, the “Tower Test” to learn to work collectively, and a time management activity to help realize that in spite of busy schedules and overwhelming responsibilities, one can always make time to remember one’s divine nature and seek the spiritual knowledge.  

Overall, the Divya Shakti retreat gave the attending women a chance to participate in exercises with an active body and a quiet mind. The morning meals that were partaken in mauna (silence) were much enjoyed, allowing participants to be mindful of every thought and act focused on the present. To channel their creativity, the ladies were introduced to Warli Art, and given the opportunity to sketch and paint simple yet meaningful ancient designs on clay pots.

One of the highlights of the retreat was an evening cultural program of “Devis Take the Stage.” The activity connected participants to the nature of noble women in Hindu scriptures as they attempted to emulate their values in modern-day situations. The Divya Shakti retreat created a longing for more learning and inspired several participants to form new study groups. Everyone left with the theme of finding their balance etched in their minds.

 

 

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CHYKs Ask, "Can You Hear Me Now?"
by Priya Wiersba

 

Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK) students of Ann Arbor hosted a CHYK retreat entitled, “Can You Hear Me Now?” October 30-November 1, 2015. Discourses and discussions for the 40 participants were led by three CM āchāryas: Sharada Kumar (CM Ann Arbor), Vivek Gupta (CM Niagara), and Gina Singh (CM Toronto). The retreat focused on approaching communication and dialogue from the perspective of Advaita Vedanta.
 
This retreat was the second in a series of CHYK retreats about gender; the first being, “Developing Our Inner Devika,” held in Washington D.C. in the summer of 2014. The first retreat was developed to allow women in CHYK to discuss gender and identity in a Vedantic setting. This year’s retreat was created to bridge the gap between the genders and hold discussions about becoming better “allies” to develop support within local Hindu communities.
 
The start of this CHYK retreat offered select split-gender activities to allow for the free discussion of gender issues among like-minded seekers. Also included were discourses, discussions, Q&A sessions, and recreational activities. The topic of identity was explored and honed through an art activity using one’s own facial profile, and a writing activity that encouraged reflection on the topics covered during the retreat. On Halloween, participants had an activity that allowed them to dress in costume. Overall, the retreat was very successful, and all the participating CHYKs were grateful for the opportunity to grow and serve.

 

 

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CM Houston’s Festive Navarātri Garba
by Vinod Sharma


CM Houston’s Navarātri celebration at the Stafford Civic Center on Friday, October 16, 2015 was a grand event attended by more than 1,200 member families and their friends to celebrate and worship Divine Mother, and to enjoy happy interactions, resonating music, energetic dance, and sumptuous food. It was a treat to see infants, toddlers, pre-teens, teens, young adults, parents, and grandparents in one grand ballroom, sharing the joy of the festival.

As the evening began, families were greeted in a foyer decorated with flowers and then ushered into the grand hall by volunteers. The atmosphere grew increasingly colorful and vibrant, as did the number of smiles, hugs, and handshakes as families continued to arrive. Everyone was soon captivated by a sanedo, a traditional dance drama from the villages of Gujarat. Uma Agarwal and Ruchira Shah offered an original composition of a sanedo in Hindi celebrating the life of Pūjya Gurudev. The poetic musical mix of story and dance had nearly everyone in the room on their feet. Without missing a beat, the dancing and music segued into ārati of Mother Durga.

Following a delicious dinner and some rest, everyone collected their dandiyas for raas. The hall was packed to capacity with dancers forming parallel rows, in which they skipped, twirled, sashayed, and tapped dandiyas in joyful rhythm. The room was filled with toe-tapping and finger-snapping music, hearty laughter, and goodwill, and soon, the clicking of the dandiyas sounded like the ticking of a giant clock. The, singers, dancers, and music accompanists competed to showcase their stamina, each group performing to outlast the other. As that evening concluded, the picture of families and friends portrayed a beautiful celebration of unity.

 

 

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CM Pittsburgh "Dharmic Living" Family Camp
by Shuba Sriram


CM Pittsburgh’s weekend family retreat in September 2015 on “Dharmic Living with the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” welcomed 80 participants of all ages, hailing from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Washington D.C. The retreat, led by Acharya Vivek Gupta (CM Niagara), featured inspiring discourses, silent reflection sessions, and group discussions for adults, CHYKs, and Junior CHYKs; Bala Vihar sessions for children; and Shri Ganesha Chaturthi celebrations. On the inaugural evening, each family was given clay to create their own Lord Ganesha idol, to which they offered puja and then submerged in a visarjana procession on the last day of the retreat. The early autumn weather allowed all the planned outdoor activities to take place with ease and joy, including nature walks, outdoor games, garba, and a recreational “Escape Room.”

In his discourses, Vivekji highlighted the role that self-development plays in handling relationships in a dharmic way. He beautifully elaborated relevant messages from three scriptural texts. While he showed a philosophical perspective from Īshāvāsya Upanishad, he gave a practical perspective from Bhagavad Gītā and Chāṇakyya’s Nīti Shāstra. He then spoke on how clarity in scriptural knowledge leads to conviction and confidence in translating Vedantic truths into daily life. After a rejuvenating and a reflective weekend for the BMI, the families left positively charged, and the children said they could not wait to return next year.

 

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JCHYK Camp
by Aashika Suseendran


Teens in grades 9-12 gathered in August 2015 from various states for the JCHYK (Junior CHYK) camp at CM Washington DC’s Chinmaya Somnāth ashram in Chantilly, VA. The camp, entitled “Decoding Dharma,” was conducted by Acharya Vivek Gupta (CM Niagara). JCHYKs had the opportunity not only to seek answers to enigmatic spiritual questions, but also to introspect and share their thoughts with others.

The camp consisted of satsangs by Vivekji and a discourse by Swami Dheerananda (CM Washington DC). The JCHYKs were taught the meaning of sanātana dharma, self-development, and discipline—realizing one’s nature as eternal Bliss through the process of self-development, which requires learning discipline.

The campers also enjoyed celebrating Holi, participating in bhajans, offering sevā, learning prayers and meditation, engaging in outdoor athletics, and going on an excursion called “Pride in DC.” The final evening of the camp, where families were invited, culminated in group performances—from game show skits to dramas, to rap. The camp concluded with ārati and the offering of Guru-dakshinā.

 

 

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