Chinmaya Mission

CMW News


September 2014, No. 161

IN THIS ISSUE

 

 

Home

 

Spiritual Trails

 

Reflections

 

News

 

Features

 

Upcoming Events / Announcements

 

Previous CMWN Issues

 

 

 

NEWS

For all photos, click on image to enlarge.


 

 

 

 

 

 

New Directors on CMW Board

 

Shānkara Bhāshya Pārayānjali

 

New Website for CCMT and All Centers

 

Inauguration of Chinmaya Goloka in Phoenix

 

A Sip and a Dip in Gītāmritam

 

Rejoicing at CM Austin’s Chinmaya Sundaram

 

CM Chicago Celebrates Pujya Guruji’s Birthday at Yamunotri

 

New Virigina Ashram of Chinmaya Somnāth

 

2015 Inauguration for CM Atlanta's New Ashram

 

CHYK Niagara: We Stand As One Family

 

Bala Vihar Training Seminar in Houston

 

Kids' Summer Camp at CM Phoenix

 

Happy Feedback

 

Graduation Ceremony of Valley Bala Vihars

 

Tenth Annual Summer Children’s Camp at Chinmaya Gokul

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Directors on CMW Board
by Aparna Devi


Pujya Guruji appointed new directors, as shown below in bold, to the CMW Board of Directors at the meeting held on July 13, 2014:

  • Officers and Directors:

    Chairman: Pujya Guruji, Swami Tejomayananda
    President: Swami Shantananda (CM Princeton)
    Treasurer: Pranjiwan Lodhia (CM San Jose)
    Executive Secretary: Aparna Devi (CM San Jose)

  • Directors (in alphabetical order by first name):

    Anish Shah (CM Houston)
    Apparao Mukkamala (CM Flint)
    Ashok Dandekar (CM Dallas)
    Acharya Gaurang Nanavaty (CM Houston)
    Gopal Dwarakanath (CM Boston)
    Gulu Advani (CM San Jose)
    Swami Ishwarananda (CM Los Angeles)
    Mahalakshmi Pula  (CM Boston)
    D.V Pillai (CM Los Angeles)
    Acharya Shailaja Nadkarni (CM Orlando)
    Acharya Shanker Pillai (CM Chicago)
    Acharya Sharada Kumar (CM Ann Arbor)
    Sivaprasad Pandyaram (CM Princeton)
    Acharya Vilasini Balakrishnan (CM Washington DC)

 

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Shānkara Bhāshya Pārayānjali

 

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New Website for CCMT and All Centers
by Brahmachari Saket Chaitanya

 

The Internet is no longer just a place to access information, but a virtual world in itself that offers a virtual life to billions around the world. And what is life, if it is not dynamic, full of choices and connections?

Central Chinmaya Mission Trust (CCMT) is pleased to launch its new website, chinmayamission.com, a virtual home and hub for the global Chinmaya Mission family, providing dynamic interface and customizing options to users.

CCMT’s earlier website included the following features:

  • Events upload and  registration
  • News and Pujya Guruji’s itinerary
  • Database of CM acharyas and centers
  • Articles and photos
  • Shopping and donation carts

While the prior website was feature rich, the new website brings a new experience. Its added key features are:

  1. Information Integration
    1. Global Presence: An integrated global website helps the users grasp the magnitude of the presence of Chinmaya Mission across the globe. The integration of all Chinmaya Mission websites under one global site will help users to know about all activities from one place.
    2. One Site, One Look: The website can serve as a platform where all integrated local sites receive seamless access to the contents of the global website. Centers will be able to manage their local site, thus making their site truly Local yet Global.
    3. Information Sharing: Sharing information and resources by acharyas and centers are made easy with a global site. Acharyas can individually upload their itineraries. A central site for all information of events, itineraries, and news will remove redundancy and outdated content.
    4. Dynamic Content: The new site integrates the Chinmaya Mission YouTube Channel and the Chinmaya Internet Channel, thus allowing for direct audio and video access to discourses, satsangs, and other special programs. Also included are many letters written by Pujya Gurudev, thought-provoking articles, and messages of Pujya Gurudev, Pujya Guruji, and other acharyas. Almost each page carries a dynamic photo gallery supplemented with videos to give a visual appeal of various Mission activities.
  2. Outreach
    1. Chinmaya Publications: The shopping cart on the new site is one of the best available online. It caters to present online sales needs and is highly customizable and scalable to accommodate future needs. It also provides links to e-books in various e-stores.
    2. Social Media: Integrated in the new site are Facebook, Twitter, and other social media options, enabling users to share information and inspiration instantaneously.
    3. Career Page: To serve the growing need in Chinmaya Mission for dedicated manpower, this page displays employment and sevā opportunities in Chinmaya Mission worldwide.
  3. Support for Service and Sadhana
    1. Spiritual Miles: This innovative initiative allows users to earn spiritual miles and maintain an online log of their daily spiritual disciplines. The more miles earned, the more enthusiasm to pursue daily sadhana.
    2. Donations: Donors are presented donation categories that each list a variety of projects for their choosing. Coming soon will be the option for enthusiastic donors to fundraise by creating their own page, setting targets, and raising funds online for various projects.
    3. Volunteers: Event planners can avail the volunteer registration page to keep record of the volunteers at their center.
    4. Database: The site is vital in creating a global database of Chinmaya Mission members’ information and preferences.

 

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Inauguration of Chinmaya Goloka in Phoenix
by Uma Roy

 

Pujya Guruji inaugurated CM Phoenix’s new ashram of Chinmaya Goloka, at 325 S. El Dorado St. in Mesa, Arizona, on June 18, 2014. Devotees were eager to welcome Pujya Guruji for his first visit to Phoenix since the centers’ activities began at the Mangal family residence several years back. Sevaks worked long hours with devotion and enthusiasm to prepare the ashram, including the acharya quarters for Pujya Guruji’s stay.

It was a joyous jñāna yajña along with various satsangs in a quiet and cool atmosphere despite the scorching Arizona heat outside. Swami Ishwarananda (CM Los Angeles), a long-time gracious guide for CM Phoenix, had reached a day earlier to help guide and encourage the sevaks for this momentous occasion. The presiding deity of Shri Radha-Krishna, and the idols of Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesha were adorned. The hall and stage were decorated with flowers and garlands.

Pujya Guruji was received with a pūṛṇa-kumbha, after which he inaugurated the new ashram. As he entered and greeted one and all, the atmosphere was one of elation. Everyone spontaneously did their best on their assigned tasks and rejoiced in his divine presence.

In the evening, the first of the three-day jñāna yajña   on the “Message of Gita” began with bhajans and the lighting of the lamp at the altar of Shri Radha-Krishna. The number of attendees exceeded all expectations; many families came from other towns and even states. Everyone listened in rapt attention as Pujya Guruji’s teachings took listeners to deep contemplation. It felt like the yajñashālā was bathed in the grace of Lord Krishna and the maharishis of past and present.

A Guru Pādukā Pūjā was performed on the second day, through which the whole ashram reverberated with Pujya Gurudev’s 108 names and other sacred mantras. Soon after, Pujya Guruji inaugurated the library, the bookstore, and the many classrooms sponsored by devoted members. The Donor Tree and dedication plaque—featuring a Sanskrit verse composed by Pujya Guruji that states the purpose of the center—were unveiled.

Though time was short, Pujya Guruji met with Bala Vihar teachers, sevā groups, and out-of-towners, and Bala Vihar children. The children were spontaneously cheerful and comfortable in asking questions. Even the young ones had many questions, such as, “Have you seen God? How can we know Him without seeing Him?” One could see how much Pujya Guruji enjoyed hearing the questions and conversing with the children.

As it was to be, it was too soon that the three days were over. No one wanted this blessed time to end so quickly. Pujya Guruji reminded all devotees to have faith in the Lord, in Pujya Gurudev, and to continue practicing their personal sadhana and service to others. Devotees hoped his loving and assuring words meant he would soon return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rejoicing at CM Austin’s Chinmaya Sundaram
by Nila Bala


With God’s Grace and Pujya Gurudev’s blessings, CM Austin was pleased to welcome Pujya Guruji to inaugurate its new center, Chinmaya Sundaram, on June 26, 2014. Also in attendance were Swami Ishwarananda (CM Los Angeles) and Brahmachari Girish Chaitanya (CM Austin).

The Chinmaya Sundaram ashram is on a beautiful, wooded, eight-acre property that is in a prime location of northern Austin. As part of Phase 1, two buildings have been built. The first is 10,000 sq. ft. for Chinmaya Bala Vihar; it houses 12 classrooms, a large assembly hall, and a full kitchen with two service windows for a covered patio and outdoor picnic area. The second is a 5,000 sq. ft. temple that houses a shrine, assembly hall, and four rooms (for the priest, audio/video, stage dressing, and parental childcare).
 
Pujya Guruji unveiled the center’s dedication plaque in the Bala Vihar assembly hall, toured the facility, and was then welcomed with a pūrṇa-kumbha and ārti at the shrine building. After the center’s president welcomed the guests and recognized the volunteer workers, architect, and builder, Brahmachari Girish thanked all the priests and acharyas who helped in the installation and prāṇa-pratishṭhā of the deities, namely, Lord Krishna (on Kāliyā-nāga), Shiva Lingam, and Goddess Mīnākshī. Pujya Guruji then gave his celebratory address for the inauguration of the new ashram. The program concluded with lunch prasad for all attendees.

During his two-day visit, CM Austin was also blessed with Pujya Guruji’s enlightening three discourses on “Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram.”
 
CM Austin will start its Bala Vihar classes at Chinmaya Sundaram at the end of August, by which time the move from its current ashram of Chinmaya Vāṭikā will be complete. The center is pleased to extend a warm invitation to all CMW acharyas, directors, and family members to visit Chinmaya Sundaram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CM Chicago Celebrates Pujya Guruji's Birthday at Yamunotri
by Rashmi Mehrotra


Pujya Guruji gave the divine gift of his presence to the devotees of Chinmaya Mission Chicago on his birthday, June 30, 2014. With love in their hearts, the day became a celebration and inspiration for all devotees at the Yamunotri ashram, which was filled with song and prayer to ask for Pujya Guruji’s blessings and good health. Devotees also offered a recitation of Sundarakāṇḍāḍa (Rāmacharitamānasa). The Bala Vihar children of the Badri and Yamunotri ashrams sang bhajans with accompanying instruments that included the flute.

Also featured was a surprise video of birthday greetings for Pujya Guruji from Chinmaya Naada Bindu, Chinmaya Mission’s residential gurukulam for Indian performing arts. The video included a special music and song composition, and photographs and videos of Pujya Guruji from all over the world, demonstrating the love that flows in his every action. The highlight of the evening celebrations was Pujya Guruji singing bhajans, including his original compositions of music and lyric.

In a befitting tribute to the presiding deity of Yamunotri, Shri Radha Krishna, Pandit Ronu Majumdar, a Grammy-award winning flautist, offered an enchanting performance in Raga Jhinjhoṭi and was accompanied by Shubhashish Mukherjee on tabla. He also sang select verses from Rāmacharitamānasa and offered a recital in Raga Desh.

The evening concluded with a birthday feast and devotees felt blessed to be in Pujya Guruji's presence on this most auspicious occasion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Virigina Ashram of Chinmaya Somnāth
by Sitaram Kowtha

 

On the most sacred and auspicious day of Guru Pūrṇimā, July 12, 2014, Pujya Guruji inaugurated CM Washington DC’s new and second ashram of Chinmaya Somnāth in Chantilly, Virginia. Filled with festivity, Chinmaya Somnāth,was at full capacity with enthusiastic devoted members, friends, and children, all soaking in the presence of Pujya Guruji and the special occasion. The ashram houses the beautiful form of Lord Shiva as the presiding deity.

In addition to the local acharyas, namely, Swami Dheerananda, Acharya Vilasini Balakrishnan, Acharya Anant Sarma, Acharya Pramila Poudel, and Acharya K. Sadananda, many more CM acharyas from across the country graced the inauguration and five-day yajna.

The inaugural ceremonies began with Pujya Guruji unveiling the dedication plaque, which describes in Sanskrit and English the purpose of the CM center. Brief congratulatory addresses were presented by Pujya Guruji, CMW President Swami Shantanananda, Swami Dheerananda, Acharya Anant Sarma, the local center’s president, and the Fairfax County supervisor. Acharya Vilasini then spoke on the celebration of 25 years of service by Swami Dheerananda at CM Washington DC.

The Guru Pūrṇimā celebrations commenced with a Guru Pādukā Pūjā. Pujya Guruji invoked the Guru Paramparā by citing Veda Vyāsa, Ādi Shaṅkarāchārya, Swami Tapovan Maharaj, and Pujya Gurudev. He then led the chanting of 108 names during the puja.

The evening also featured the beginning of Pujya Guruji’s five-day yajna on Shiva Saṅkalpa Sūktam, a hymn on divinizing the mind. In explaining the compound, Shiva-saṅkalpa, Pujya Guruji said it means: 1) May our resolve (saṅkalpa) be auspicious and divine (shiva) 2) May our resolve be like the one that the noblest of all (Lord Shiva) would take 3) May our resolve be aligned with the Lord’s will (all resolves are His; we are His instruments). The evening concluded with dinner prasad for over 750 adults and children.

A long journey of planning, fundraising, and perseverance has brought the northern Virginia home of Chinmaya Somnāth to fruition. By the Lord’s grace, Pujya Gurudev’s work will now shift into higher gear to serve the community for generations to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2015 Inauguration for CM Atlanta's New Ashram
by Acharya G.V. Raghu


By the grace of the Lord and the blessings of the Guru Paramparā, CM Atlanta’s long-awaited dream has been realized with the purchase of a large church property to serve as its new ashram. The ashram will be inaugurated in 2015 in the august presence of Pujya Guruji, who has blessed it as “Chinmaya Niketan.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CHYK Niagara: We Stand As One Family
by Sheela Gupta


CHYK Niagara organized a lively spiritual camp at the idyllic Oakwood Resort in South Huron, Ontario, February 21-23, 2014, where over 60 children and adults gathered as one big family for a weekend of family fun and satsang.

“We Stand As One Family” was conducted by the newly formed CHYK Niagara under the guidance of Acharya Vivek Gupta (CM Niagara). Having traveled to many cities in the Niagara region, he conceived the idea of bringing together in one place different families from different cities. Present at the retreat were families from Niagara Falls, London, Toronto, and Buffalo (NY). 

The retreat began on a cold but sunny Friday afternoon. Families wearily wiped their eyes after 2-3 hours of road travel. Upon arriving and freshening up, everyone was treated to a gourmet vegetarian meal followed by fantastic activities organized by the CHYKs. People of all ages were completely immersed in the games—running, shouting, and acting like children!

In addition to the fun and games, the CHYKs also had a great activity to encourage self-development. The campers were asked to write a personal goal that would improve their relationships with family members. They offered their hand written goals at the feet of Pujya Gurudev and reflected throughout the retreat on what they written.

The following morning started with laughing yoga followed by a healthy but hearty breakfast. The campers then split up into their respective groups and the knowledge began to flow! Vivekji’s discourses during the retreat were on Spiritual Parenting, Independence in Relationships and Marriage Demystified. The adults thoroughly enjoyed group discussions, wherein they had the opportunity to share their personal struggles and triumphs of marriage and parenting.

The children and youth engaged in varied creative activities that brought out the importance of teamwork and learning from one another’s strengths. They also had the opportunity to share their feelings on prevalent issues such as peer pressure, cultural identity, and sibling issues.

A highlight of the retreat was walking to Lake Huron, which the resort overlooked. The children had a tremendous time walking on the frozen lake, while the adults were shocked to find themselves knee deep in snow! Another highlight of the retreat was a family photo scavenger hunt. Families were given a list of photos to take, giving them an opportunity to express their creativity and work with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It was wonderful to see adults and children learning from each other and growing together.

The retreat concluded with campers gathering with their families and discussing with one another the personal goal they had reflected on throughout the retreat. They discussed how to cultivate the goal after the retreat and how to work together to improve their relationships with each other. It was truly inspiring to see adults and children, alike, share their feelings with such humility and innocence. 

The retreat was a huge success and all families left asking the same question: “When will the retreat be next year?” The CHYKs offered their gratitude to the Guru Paramparā for infinite inspiration and grace, to the CM Niagara Steering Committee for giving them the courage to learn from their mistakes, and to Vivekji for giving them independence in their sevā offering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bala Vihar Training Seminar in Houston
by Padmashree Rao


Acharya Darshana Nanavaty (CM Houston) conducted an intensely thought-provoking Bala Vihar teacher training seminar to a rapt audience of over 150 attendees on June 28, 2014. Chinmaya Bala Vihar teachers from several centers in North America assembled enthusiastically at the Sarasvati Nilayam hall of CM Houston’s Chinmaya Prabhā ashram to participate in this much-anticipated, comprehensive training experience.

The attendees included an assortment of teachers with many years of experience, new entrants, and other volunteers interested in serving the Mission through Bala Vihar. They all became eager students delighting in the expansive vision that unfolded in the presentation. The audience also included teachers from other Hindu organizations who came to learn about effective teaching methods.

In discussing the main vision of Bala Vihar, Darshanaji said, just as every aspect of Nature finds fulfillment in a picturesque whole, so, too, Bala Vihar is a path to fulfillment for teachers and children, alike. Bringing attention to the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual personalities embedded in each person, Darshanaji emphasized, “Integrate your personality.” She labeled Bala Vihar as the special place where children learned through integration and called it “a gym for young minds.” She said it would be the happy responsibility of every teacher to help tone the muscles of the mind and intellect while connecting with each child through love and understanding.

The decades of experience in designing the worldwide Chinmaya Bala Vihar curriculum and bringing out the related teachers’ handbooks for all grades made Darshanaji’s training valuable to every listener. Reminding everyone about Pujya Gurudev’s vision to “tell; never teach,” she outlined how to inspire children to reflect as they grow and make knowledge their own.

As she provided an insightful overview of the scriptural-based curriculum for grades kg-12, she also demonstrated some key instruction techniques with the help of CM Houston teachers. She shared ideas to show how learning should be interactive and appealing to children through entertaining and engaging games and activities. She stated that the teaching handbooks are structured around Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy, which is the theory of educational psychology used in US schools countrywide. Every aspect of each book aims to help children understand, analyze, and apply scriptural concepts as they grow, so that they can eventually evaluate to what extent they have imbibed the knowledge and created an integrated, wholesome life.

All the attendees then toured the ashram classrooms, where child-friendly board displays brought alive what Darshanaji had presented. After the walk-through, the acharya addressed the challenges Bala Vihar teachers have to overcome. She said teachers should first be good students of the scriptures and worthy role models who lived what they taught, for this would allow Bala Vihar classes to grow in strength and spirit.

Visiting teachers attended Bala Vihar at CM Houston the next day, after the final training session was completed. In the last session, Darshanaji said all Bala Vihar teachers should aspire to be the Lord’s instrument, with the conviction that they can pass on scriptural wisdom to humanity. As the teachers bowed in gratitude before Pujya Gurudev, they received the yajña prasād of a key ring with the symbols of the 16 steps of puja. It was a gentle reminder to invoke and worship Knowledge through every step of Bala Vihar sevā.

In his address, Acharya Gaurang Nanavaty reinforced the greatness of the Guru and spoke about Maharishi Veda Vyasa. He also led a meditation session to demonstrate the importance of memory and reflection in spiritual progress.

The training weekend in Houston was the culmination of caring and effort that began many months earlier. Darshanaji acknowledged the teachers who had helped her prepare the Bala Vihar handbooks and these training sessions. She also thanked everyone who had fed the attendees and all the volunteers who are serving Pujya Gurudev’s Mission in Houston.

All the attendees were filled with gratitude for Darshanaji’s untiring and loving guidance. By His grace, the lessons from this training will go far and beyond, to hold high Pujya Gurudev’s vision for Chinmaya Bala Vihar.

 

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Kids' Summer Camp at CM Phoenix
by Uma Roy


Chinmaya Mission Phoenix organized its second annual children’s camp, July 14-18, 2014, in its new center of Chinmaya Goloka. Ashok and Sudha Bhatt of CM Bakersfield helped lead and coordinate the camp. With their sincere enthusiasm, profound expertise, and precise planning they supervised every aspect of the week-long camp. Many dedicated volunteers, led by Sreedhar Bharath, Madhu Lakshamanan, Nandita Verma and Anish Kumar, worked side by side with them to make every camp activity an unforgettable and delightful experience.

The theme for the Senior Group (grades 7-12) was “The Art of Self-Perfection,” based on Uddhava Gītā from Shrīmad Bhāgavatam. The theme for the Junior Group (grades pk-6) was “The Glory of Lord Shiva.” The campers also learned stories, stotrams, mantras, bhajans, and more. They performed pujas of Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva, and engaged in discussions and debates, extempore speaking, yoga, arts and crafts, and recreation. While the younger campers painted pictures of different forms of God, the older ones created, among many things, the beautiful ḍamaru of Lord Shiva. The yellow shirts with the sketch of bāla Krishna were a befitting tribute to the Chinmaya Goloka experience!

Plays were presented on stories of Lord Kārtikeya and Ganesha, and Lord Shiva and Bhasmāsura. The children not only acted, but also understood the underlying moral and spiritual significance of the stories. The older campers, with great enthusiasm, volunteered to help administer the camp and directly experienced the joy of serving with full attention.

On the concluding day, a cultural program was held, in which the camp organizers shared heartwarming messages filled with devotion and wisdom. The children performed before their parents and guests to show what they had learnt during the camp. The program included chanting, singing, acting, quizzes, and the sharing of personal camp experiences. Prizes were given to encourage the children. After the program, children, guests, parents, and volunteers enjoyed a delicious dinner in the ashram’s spacious kitchen. Every child kept requesting to have the next camp soon. It was an amazing experience for everyone and parents found it difficult to comprehend how much the children had learnt in just one week.

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Feedback
by Jayashree Rajagopalan


One of the most rewarding aspects of Chinmaya Mission is the family that we create throughout our time and interactions with so many individuals who stand together in the service of one vision. This vision was seen in action during the last two weeks of April when CHYK West led a special program for Hanumān Jayanti celebrations, where members of all ages at seven Mission centers across five states gathered for the Hanumān Chalīsa-thon, or the chanting of Hanumān Chalīsā 108 times.

The project raised over $50,000 for the cause of YEP 2014. Many centers gave positive feedback about how much their members enjoyed the event and the vision it represented, and suggested this become an annual program. The centers’ board members were also pleased with the efforts of all CHYKs, who learned many new skills under their guidance. The event also increased members’ awareness about YEP and its goals, and provided an opportunity to showcase the publications and courses offered by Chinmaya Mission.

Participating centers included CM Ann Arbor, Bentonville, Beaumont, Boston, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC. Supporting centers included CM Austin, Niagara, and Chicago.

In Bentonville, more than 150 families participated in the event, and gave an overwhelmingly positive response for events that support the next generation of Hindu children. Seeing CHYKs and Junior CHYKs in action for nine hours straight, Mission members greatly appreciated their efforts. They said there was such positive energy even after the conclusion of the day-long event. Several community members also asked that this event be an annual occurrence.

In both CM Dallas ashrams, the families who participated looked fondly on the memory even weeks after the event. Everyone participated in chanting and different groups lead the session in different ragas for an hour each. The vision of the “Mission Family” was clearly seen, and many participants, adults and children, alike, felt energetic and positive after the event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Graduation Ceremony of Valley Bala Vihars
by Madhu Sharma

 

CM Los Angeles’s Chinmaya Bala Vihar students of San Fernando Valley and Simi Valley celebrated their Bala Vihar graduation with joy and ceremony on May 18, 2014 in the presence of Swami Ishwaranada (CM Los Angeles). Two high school seniors emceed the event and blended learning with fun.

The program began with a warm welcome to Swamiji, followed by the chanting of Guru Strotam. The children recited a Hindi poem with enthusiasm and their rendition of the ABC of Vedanta was fascinating. They also offered performances on the avatars of Lord Vishnu and on Rāmayāṇa characters from Sundarakāṇḍa. Swamiji enlightened the assembly with a short story about the complaining nature of human being. The senior students shared the traits and lessons learned from Mahābhārata characters. The program had some lighter moments that included a short skit on the victory of India’s new Prime Minister. A touching highlight was the students and parents sharing the importance of Chinmaya Bala Vihar in their personal life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tenth Annual Summer Children’s Camp at Chinmaya Gokul
by Shweta Srivastava


CM Bakersfield’s successful and blissful tenth annual summer children’s camp was held at its Chinmaya Gokul ashram, July 21-25, for 55 campers who came to study “Ennobling Characters from Mahābhārata” (grades pk-6) and “The Art of Self Perfection” (grades 7-12, on the topic of Uddhava Gītā). The camp was conducted under the supervision of Swami Sharanananda (CM Chicago), along with CM Bakersfield’s trained sevaks.

Each camp day began at 8:30 a.m. with a prayer assembly, followed by two classroom sessions. The children chanted the 15th chapter of Bhagavad Gītā before taking lunch each day. Bhajans and chanting illumined the shrine after lunch. The afternoons were filled with activities such as arts and crafts, sports and games, an extempore speech competition, and yoga. The day usually concluded with an interesting story by Swamiji, prayers, the Indian national anthem, the CM pledge, and ārti. During the camp, the children also learned how to perform a 16-step puja to Lord Krishna.

The camp would have been incomplete without the fun fair on the ashram playground. A water slide, popcorn, snow cone machines, and piñata were the biggest attraction on Thursday afternoon. The fun activities blended with learning as a representative from “Keep Bakersfield Beautiful” presented the proper ways to recycle, reduce, and reuse resources. The children were also mildly surprised and delighted to see two fire engines pull up with firemen who quenched their curiosity about firefighting and showed them how to practice fire safety. The children were even had the chance to go inside the fire engine and explore.

On Friday, the final afternoon, the campers played Jeopardy game created and conducted by a local Junior CHYK. The game was themed based on camp teachings and tested what the students had learned during the camp. Some children said this was their favorite part of the camp. Family members also attended this concluding day program, which also featured children from the junior group presenting skits with costumes on short stories from the Mahābhārata. The legends were brought to life and it was a feast for the eyes to see these little sages perform. The day’s presentations were creative, and included drama, singing, chanting, games, and the distribution of various prizes to children for meritorious participation during the camp.

This weeklong camp would not have been successful without the selfless and tireless work of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers and parents. They worked for several weeks before, during, and after the camp. The youth volunteers and senior students who helped throughout the camp were great assets.

The parents called the camp educational and fun, saying it helped their children move a step further in getting a wholesome education, and in allowing them to take a dip in the limitless waters of India’s rich culture and epics. They described the experience as, “A summer well spent.”

CM Bakersfield’s annual summer camp is a small attempt to offer vidyā-dāna, or the gift of knowledge, which Swamiji said is the greatest gift that can be given.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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