We are blessed to have had a wonderful Fall season here at CMSJ as we kicked off and celebrated various celebrations and festivals, as well as continued our efforts in the social/community service. Your participation continues to grow across all virtual events. We are looking forward to seeing you all virtually at our upcoming events this holiday season. We are blessed to be able to connect so closely with Br. Soham Ji across various satsangs on scriptures and texts that are so applicable to our lives especially during the global pandemic. We wish everyone a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season this year in 2020!
Labor Day Camp & Workshops
We welcomed hundreds to the 2020 Labor Day Retreat with Br. Soham Chaitanya Ji. We are indeed fortunate to have Br. SohamJi with us as he took us through the subtle yet profound teachings of the Amritabindu Upanishad. This retreat was a virtual two-way online retreat wherein we were able to see each other and SohamJi was able to see all of us. Labor Day Weekend Camp, not unlike all other mission activities, commenced online for the first time this year and attracted over 250 attendees from across the country and globally. Br. Sohamji took the topic of Amritabindu Upanishad. The camp included guided meditation sessions, discourses, chanting, study groups and a question/answer session. Attendees learned about the nature of the mind, transcending the mind, meditation techniques, and suggestions for retaining this knowledge such that it is readily available to its students. The mind is both the cause of suffering and key to liberation. That mind which is identified with and whose perceptions are taken as objective instead of subjective, causes suffering. A pure mind expands identification gradually, from the individual, to the family, community, society, world, and Totality, thereby diluting the pull of its own selfish desires and impulses. The expansion is made possible through self effort which entails pratipaksha bhavana, seva and katha shravanam. Such a mind that is content on its own, is as though liberated and will be easy to negate in meditation. Meditation practices consisted of Omkara Upasana, where we take the support of Om as that consciousness which pervades all nama-rupa, and nididhyasana, where a seeker assimilates consciousness as their own identity. Seekers are buoyed in hearing that the mantras do not get tired of teaching seekers about their true nature – we go forward on the path through self-effort, the grace of Guru, Guru-Shishya Parampara, and Bhagavan.
E-Balavihar Re-Opening (K-12)
Thanks to Gurudev’s blessings, we opened our Bala Vihar and Shishu Vihar program on September 12. This year we will be teaching all classes online over Webex for the rest of the school year. We thank Cisco Webex for their continuous support and use of their platform for our programs. Despite the less than ideal circumstances, our Balavihar teachers and volunteers have made the best of the situation and fully dedicated themselves to providing the best virtual balavihar experience possible. Students from any location can now choose whichever of our Bala Vihar schedules (Fremont, San Jose, San Mateo and San Ramon) that works best for them. To support our community through the economic hardships related to COVID-19, we have reduced the fee to $450 for this year. We are also blessed to have our resident spiritual teacher Brahmachari Soham Chaitanya conduct live discourses for adults on Saturday and Sunday mornings. There is a workshop / satsang for Bala Vihar teachers on Sunday evenings with Br. Soham Ji. At this satsang, teachers bring their questions and concerns to continue sharpening their teaching skills. If you want to register yourself or your children, please do so at www.cmsj.org
During Navratri, all four of our Balavihar sections took part in the Lalitha Sahasranamam chanting. This chanting took place each of the nine nights and was led by Balavihar students and their teachers Rama Ravi and Ravi Krishnamoorthy. In upcoming news,we have a winter break for two weeks starting on 12/18.
Soham Ji’s Weekly Discourses
When Balavihar reopened, Sohamji began his weekly discourses on several texts. On Monday and Wednesday evenings, he has taken Tulasidas’s Ramacharitmanas for short, deep messages that extoll the glories of Lord Rama and warm the hearts of bhaktas. Goswami Tulasidas Ji retells the Ramayana Itihasa in the Awadhi vernacular with aim to help devotees purify their minds by listening to this Hari Katha. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, Drg Drsya Viveka is being taught; this text, written by Vidyaranya Swami systematically identifies three seer/seen pairs culminating in the ultimate seer being that Saakshi or witness which is our own unchanging, infinite nature. Following this treatise on Saakshi, Sohamji leads chanting at noontime; so far we have covered chanting Bhagavad Gita, Vishnu Sahasranaamam, and are currently studying the Siksa Valli from Taittiriya Upanishad. Portions of Ramacharitmanas were chanted in honor of Swami Subodhananda’s mahasamadhi. Saturday’s lectures cover various aspects of sadhana as prescribed in Adi Shankaracharya’s Sadhana Panchakam. Sundays we are covering Srimad Bhagavad Gita; so far we have covered Madhusudana Saraswati’s Gita Dhyanam and are now studying Chapter 1. Please find the complete list of discourses here . We would love to see your presence at our Satsangs.
SRK Ji’s Yagna – Natya Deepa
Swami Ramakrishnananda of Chinmaya Mission Nagapattinam conducted an online Jnana Yagna called Nataka-Dipah (the theater lamp). The yagna was open to all participants in the West coast and was held on September 28th to October 2nd during the evening. Around 300 people attended this unique experience, which featured a 2-way live video call every day with Swamiji in India and a Q/A session to interact with him. Swamiji, who has been an effective teacher, is also a pioneer in bringing technology by the means of visual aids, novel graphics and animations. His extensive use of technology and his humor helped the audience pay attention and understand concepts that are hard to grasp at first. The text used was Sri Vidyaranya Svami’s Panchadasi Chapter 10. There are 15 chapters in Sri Vidyaranya Svami’s “Panchadasi” and the depth and breadth of Vedanta is covered in all of them. Chapter 10 focuses on the Truth and helps us realize what is the Pure Self. The Nataka (theater) is represented like the entire world and the Dipah (light) is an expression of the Pure Consciousness or Brahman. Self is self-illumined by nature. Just as the sun is covered by the clouds, the Pure Self is obscured by the identification with the BMI. We have thoughts and emotions and the Witness of those thoughts and emotions is the Self. When we focus on those thoughts, we can shift those thoughts to being the Witness and come face to face with the Pure Self.
Navratri Festivities & Celebrations
We hosted a 10-day consecutive Navarathri program coordinated and executed by our San Ramon sevaks. This celebration encompassed beautiful mala decorations, melodious bhajans, and rangoli done amongst other creative ways to honor this festival. Children from KG to Grade 8 from San Ramon Location chanted Lalita Sahasranama all 10 days of Navratri. Throughout the days of chanting, we were able to engage over 250 members virtually from around the country as they contributed daily offerings of naivedyam for Devi brought by biksha families and traditional ‘kolam’ (socially distanced) at our CMSJ ashram. The special highlight from this celebration was the ‘abhishekam’ with raw milk that was given by one of our member family who runs a dairy farm straight from ‘Mother Devi’ (the mother cow of the farm). Their children beautifully participated in the chanting throughout 7 days and were able to show an expression of gratitude that served as an inspiration to many families around us. Despite the challenges that come with virtual celebrations, we were able to support and help recreate traditional components of this program every day. This included ‘Golu’ dolls, ‘Gujarati’-style Garba dancing, and showering flowers to the idols in our ashram with the presence of Soham Ji. Navrathri was portrayed across different states in India to show how one auspicious festival can be portrayed differently, yet in unity through the light shined during this time.
Lalita Sahashranama Chanting and Soham Ji’s Satsang(s)
To celebrate the 9 auspicious nights of Navratri, we hosted a nightly virtual chanting of Lalita Sahasranama from October 17 till October 26th. This chanting took place at 8pm each night, and was led by Bala Vihar Children from San Ramon location and their Chanting teachers, Rama Ravi and Ravi Krishnamoorthy. In addition, we hosted an online Lalita Sahasranma Puja on the seventh night of Navaratri (Friday, October 23rd). Two nights later, our Navaratri celebrations were concluded by a wonderful talk from Soham Ji titled ‘Salutations to the Bestower of Auspiciousness’.
Vanaprastha meetings (regular occurrence)
CMSJ Seniors and members from our other centers met on September 25th and October 30th for the Vanaprastha program focusing on graceful aging through spiritual living. We achieved this with innovative, practical and unique perspectives with talks by individuals within and outside our member community. In the last two meetings, our guest speakers Indra Advani spoke in a forum about what to consider when deciding on retirement living options. They shared their perspectives on independent living, assisted living and retirement community living and shared their own personal experience on deciding, choosing, moving and living in a retired community. Jagan Subbarao also guided seniors on chair yoga and taught some easy stretching exercises while seated in your seats. Over 50 seniors logged in each month for this meeting. Vanaprastha group meets every last Friday of the month at 10:00 AM. Br. Soham Ji addresses the seniors on various topics. Those interested in signing up and joining the Vanaprastha meetings, please sign up here.
CHYK meetings (regular occurrence)
The CHYK study groups meetings have resumed with around 25 young adults attending a new study session online every week on Adi Shankaracharya’s text Bhaja Govindam. Recordings of the discourse are provided before the session and are guided by Brahmachari Soham Chaitanya. Sohamji sends a recording every week on selected portions in Bhaja Govindam as well as questions to ponder when watching the recordings. The CHYK study groups have continued to be extremely interactive, engaging, and allowing young professionals and university students to explore topics that relate to the ‘becoming’ stages of their life as they transition into ‘Adulthood.’ Soham Ji has graciously spent an extended time after the satsang to intimately discuss with and meet new CHYK members on a weekly basis. During the sessions, CHYKs are put into breakout rooms and discuss the answers to the questions. There is even a Q/A session after the discussion and some attendees share their talents at the end through rendition of American/Indian bhajans, instruments, poetry, and more! In addition to the study sessions, Chyks are also occasionally meeting up for socially distanced socials like hikes, picnics, and game nights.
Setukari Weekly Meetings
Setukari meetings have continued throughout the holiday season as we plan for upcoming events and programming. From making malas and coordinating logistics, to planning creative programming to ensure the participation of our audiences, we continue to adapt to a virtual environment throughout the support of our hard-working volunteers. Our volunteers are excited to take learnings from recent events and continue to enhance the quality of our virtual programming. We are grateful to have such a wide support system across our centers especially during this time with uncertain circumstances.
Pujya Swami Subodhananda Ji’s Mahasamadhi – Announcement
We are sad to inform that respected Swami Subodhanandaji, the Regional Head of Chinmaya Mission Centers of North India, attained Mahasamadhi on September 27, 2020, in Sidhbari. Swami Subodhananda’s first Vedanta course was at the Sandeepany Himalayas in Sidhbari in 1981, where he studied under Pujya Guruji. Earlier known as Brahmacari Vishal Chaitanya, his curiosity and love for Vedanta led Swamiji to later become initiated into Sannyasa, where he was bestowed the name Swami Subodhananda. Swamiji selflessly served Pujya Gurudev when he was unwell in Sidhbari.
Swami Subodhananda’s natural and deep interest in Vedanta brought him to the portals of Sandeepany Himalayas, Sidhbari, in 1981, where he attended the first Hindi Vedanta Course under the tutelage of Pujya Guruji. After the Vedanta course he worked at Prayagraj as Brahmachari Vishal Chaitanya. Later on, Pujya Gurudev himself initiated him into the order of Sannyasa, bestowing on him the name Swami Subodhananda. Swami Subodhananda had taught Hindi Vedanta Courses in Sandeepany Prayag and Sandeepany Himalayas. He remained in Sidhbari and taught and guided students of several batches.
With deep and reverential devotion, Swami Subodhananda served Pujya Gurudev when he was unwell in Sidhbari. He had also been teaching multiple Vedanta courses in Hindi on various topics such as the Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana in both Sandeepany institutes, Prayag and Himalayas. He especially enjoyed discussions with students and encouraged reflection on Vedanta. We humbly pay our respect to Swami Subodhanandaji.
Covid – 19 Donation Drive
Seeing the dire need of help among the needy around us due to Covid – 19 layoffs, we launched a fundraiser in partnership with CORD-USA. We were able to raise $129,800 with donations and employer matches. These funds were distributed among various Bay Area shelters and community projects. All but 17,000 of the funds are distributed as we go to the press. The demand for help is still very large. If you would like to help, please go to CORDUSA.org and donate for Covid-19 funds. If your employer matches funds, please apply for the match.
Upcoming Events –
- Diwali Celebration(s) (November 14, 15)
- Thanksgiving Camp- FUNdamentals of Vedanta (November 25-29)
- Sleeping Bag Project (Ongoing)
- CHYK President’s Day Camp- Mind the Gap (February 13, 14, 15)
- Geeta Jayanti Chanting and Tapovan Jayanti Celebrations.(December 18-25)
- New Year Eve Puja and Celebrations (December 31)
Newsletter Contributors: Sweta Sridhar, Keshav Venkat, Vyomika Pandya, Rahul Rajan, Samika Saxena, Saujanya Mulukutla