Pujya Swami Chinmayananda
From school days, it was a habit for a bunch of kids from the Chembur Bala Vihars, to be present at the enchanting Geeta Gyana Yagnas (series of talks on the Bhagawad Geeta in English) conducted by Pujya Swami Chinmayanandaji, the founder of Chinmaya Mission.
For a couple of months before the Yagna began, we would go in pairs to our neighbourhood houses and distribute donation passes as our contribution to the Yagna. It taught us lessons in taking a NO for an answer in various ways, as well as being treated like extraordinarily well because we worked for a noble cause.
At the Yagnashala (enclosed grounds used as open-air venues), we as children, would do odd jobs like welcoming Gurudev (as he is addressed) with a floral carpet and lamps, assisting in stalls, etc. Some of us lucky ones, would get to sing and chant before the Yagna began. I for one was luckier than others when I was even given the opportunity to chant the relevant Geeta shlokas in between the talks, followed by the congregation, during which time Gurudev would get a 1-minute rest time.
At this point of time, it was all part of a picnic for many of us. The thrill of going together to join the great gathering every evening; the banters we lovingly had with each other; etc. was by itself motivating reasons to go for the discourses. The mind-blowing lectures in masterly English, spiced with humorous stories to bring home the point, used by this extremely dramatic, charismatic old Sanyasi with a beard, which he would stroke stylishly, were the icing on the cake. Watching him speak was a treat by itself! Some of us probably only watched him speak, without actually listening to him! We adored and revered this master Teacher! Of course, I never said that we understood the implications of the subject in its true depth!
When we grew up and started discussing from books authored by him in the weekly study groups, we realized the significance of the subject he was dealing with – Vedanta. Soon it was time for us to start playing leader roles – as Sevaks & Sevikas initially at the Bala Vihar and later at the CHYK and Study Groups.
So many of my friends from then have testified that they have been able to go through their lives, with troubled marriages, traumatic work situations, etc., only because of the reflection time available at the study groups. Thanks to Pujya Gurudev, not only he had given us the right direction, but he had entered into each of our personal lives to guide us towards converting every situation into a success, or taking failures in our stride – all through his public discourses and his books.
To this greatest inspiration of my life, I offer Saashtaang Pranaams!