Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda: "By improving yourself, improve the world."

Chinmaya Mission graces the hearts and homes of hundreds in Phoenix, Arizona. Families from around the Valley meet on Sunday mornings to study the timeless values found in the Hindu heritage. Here, children are taught to integrate the universal values of the scriptures of the East into their daily lives in the West. Chinmaya Mission Phoenix continues to spread the ageless wisdom of Vedanta and Hindu Culture to youths and adults alike in its age-appropriate form. The following programs are currently being offered at the Phoenix Center: Bala Vihar Classes, Adult Vedanta Study Groups, Language Classes (Tamil, Telegu, Hindi), Community Service Opportunities, Jnana Yagnas, and much more.

Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda was born in Kerala, India. Then known as Balakrishnan Menon, he acquired degrees in Law and English Literature. As a journalist, Balakrishnan wished to travel to the Himalayan region to write an expose on the “bluffs” of the monks. He travelled to Rishikesh to visit Swami Sivananda’s Ahsram. However, by listening to the teachings of Swami Sivananda, his quest to expose the monks actually exposed himself to Vedanta. After spending some time at the ashram, the skeptic became a renunciate himself, and was given the name Swami Chinmayananda.

To further deepen his learning and sadhana, Swami Chinmayananda travelled to the hut of Swami Tapovanam, a renowned Vedanta master. There Swami Chinmayananda lived an austere life while studying the Vedantic texts under the guidance of his master. It was then that he decided that the knowledge that he had received must not remain with the few austere saints in the Himalayas, but rather should be brought out to the masses. And so, just as the river Ganga rushes down the mountains of the Himalayas flourishing the land as it goes, so too Swami Chinmayananda came down from the mountains spreading the knowledge of the ancients and revealing the true meaning of Vedanta - the science of life - which had not before been reaching the common people.

Swami Chinmayananda spread the knowledge by holding lectures which he called Jnana Yagnas. In these yagnas, he transformed the lives of tens of thousands of people that came to listen to him. Both of my grandparents went to his lectures and said that they were something special as they recollected his talks even today. It is said that Swamiji was extremely eloquent, and roared like a lion to the masses till the end.

Under the guidance of Swamiji, Chinmaya Balavihars were started. Swamiji proclaimed that “Children are not vessels to be filled, but lamps to be lit.” The goal of the Bala Vihar program is to "wake up the sleeping giant" within and inspire the children to reach their maximum potential in whatever path they chose to walk in life. This is achieved by imparting a value-based education through a specially designed, age appropriate curriculum that has been carefully developed by expert Chinmaya Acharyas. Through inspiring stories, projects, role-playing, and songs, the mind is awakened to the higher. So, while secular school has taught me about life, Chinmaya Mission has taught me how to lead it.

Chinmaya Mission is a movement that continues to touch and transform all aspects of human life. Today there are 300 centers worldwide, teaching the wisdom of the Advaita Vedanta, and providing the tools for one to realize this wisdom in his or her life. To date, millions worldwide have benefited directly or indirectly from Chinmaya Mission’s numerous centers, classes, events, services and projects.

His legacy left in the form of books, audios, videos, seviks/sevikas and acharyas continue to work and spread the wisdom of Vedanta - the cause to which Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda dedicated his life. With his boundless love and dedication, he left an imprint on the hearts of millions around the world, and his footprints on the foundation of each of his service projects.

In line with this vision, Chinmaya Mission Phoenix continues to steadily expand its scope of activities in the Valley with the love and dedication of its seviks and sevikas. That being said, Chinmaya Mission Phoenix extends a warm welcome to new members as it is now offering new member orientations on a monthly basis.

Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda: “Whatever the person of Realization does constitutes the moral code for us to follow. The qualities of His actions are the standards by which the world determines its sense of righteousness, its concept of dharma.”

Chinmaya Mission Phoenix is now enrolling members for Session 2012-2013.

Anirudh Koka is a student at the 10th grade Bala Vihar class of Chinmaya Mission, Phoenix Chapter (www.chinmayaphoenix.org). He wrote this article as part of his Bala Vihar curriculum. Chinmaya Mission Bala Vihar classes are conducted every Sunday in South Scottsdale.