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2010 Mahasamadhi Camp in Los Angeles
Date : 27 Sep, 2010
The 17th annual Mahasamadhi Camp hosted by Chinmaya Mission Los Angeles was one that was filled with spiritual learning, fun and great warmth. Over 750 people from across North America along with delegates sprinkled from the Caribbean, Australia and India gathered in Southern California, making it one of the largest Chinmaya camps in America. From July 29 to August 3, delegates reveled in the teachings propounded by Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda and elucidated by Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda and other Chinmaya Mission acharyas. The residential camp, held at the Burbank Marriott - usually the venue of business travelers - was turned into a “mini-India.” Entry into the convention center was through a large temple arch. Once in, devotees could see a specially commissioned painting of Lord Hanuman rising from a veritable ‘Vanam’ with plants and flowers adorned below while a display of Gurudev’s pictures told the tale of his blessed life. Guruji’s discourses were on ‘Ramayana Soundaryam’ and the Satsang hall was evocative of this. On one side stood the Ram Pariwar, specially made and flown in from India and situated in a beautifully made altar. The stage bore the backdrop of a Darbar with the Vyasa Peetham in the forefront. It was toward this that the grand, opening Pothi Yatra wound its way as CMLA’s Bala Vihar teachers lined the passageway holding lamps. The holy Ramayana was ceremonially brought in a procession led by Guruji to the accompaniment of CMLA’s Swaranjali bhajan group singing verses from the Tulsi Ramayan. After a Swagatham dance by CMLA youth, Swami Ishwarananda, the host acharya, welcomed everyone and recognized the acharya at the camp, while volunteers offered them chandan malas. The inaugural was followed by Guruji’s discourse which drew from the Ramcharitmanas of Goswami Tulsidas on the beauty of the Ramayana. From this point on till the conclusion of the camp, his discourses were the focal point for every devotee. With his delineation on the subject, there was little that the listener could do but surrender to the beauty of the epic and Sri Rama. For devotees it did not seem to matter that the well-known story held no new suspense or twist in the tale. Instead, transported, they traveled back in time, joining Guruji in every mood: joy in the birth of the Lord, despair at his exile, emotion at the unparalleled love for his brothers, excitement at the reunion with his wife and exhilaration at the restoration of the Lord to the throne. Guruji’s frequent Vedantic explanations of the text added a new dimension to the talks. The packed schedule for attendees began each morning with meditation and a discourse by a senior acharya. In addition, Swami Shantananda who spoke on his time with Gurudev and Swami Ishwarananda on Know Thy Self, followed their discourses with a popular hour long Q&A with the audience. Swami Prakashananda interspersed his talk on mind control with bhajans and Br. Prabodh Chaitanya spoke on Rama Gita from Adhyatma Ramayana. There were also two afternoon satsangs featuring Swami Siddhananda and another by Acharya Mahadev, both narrating their experiences with Gurudev. When not busy with presentations on stage, among other things, attendees were able to participate in a Bala Vihar teachers meeting, engage in raas garba and dhoti-tying workshops and visit the Southern California center Chinmaya Rameshwaram in Tustin with head acharya Swami Ishwarananda. Among the other unique programs at this camp was an acharya panel with visiting acharya from France Swamini Umananda, Br.Girish Chaitanya and acharyas Sadanand, Vivek and Pramila conferring on the need for a family Guru. Another was a panel consisting of CM members and directors discussing the present and future direction of the Mission in the U.S. Meanwhile the children led by Swami Prakashananda, Swami Sharanananda and Br.Uddhav Chaitanya, Br.Girish Chaitanya, Acharya Vivek and teachers Laxmi Sukumar and Sudha Bhatt engaged in meaningful discussions, worked on art projects and learnt slokas – all related to the Ramayana. It was not all class work for the young ones: clad in specially designed t-shirts that carried phrases from the Ramayana, they made a field trip to the famed Griffith Park and Observatory in Los Angeles and gazed at the stars in a planetarium. There were also games and movies that the kids enjoyed on other days. Children were also in the spotlight each evening with splendid theatrical interpretations of the Ramayana that had been explained in the day by Guruji. From the birth of Lord Rama to the final Pattabhishekam, where the lyrics were changed and set to the tune of the ever popular ‘Jai Ho!’ the daily staging by the little ones which was coordinated by Viji Mahadev was greatly appreciated. The youth too added to the entertainment with music and dance presentations. During the day, preceding and following Guruji’s discourses, the large CHYK contingent spearheaded by youth coordinator Asha Sukumar had their own meditation sessions and lecture series with various acharyas which was followed up with group discussions. It was nice to witness the camaraderie amongst the youth from different centers, all immediately united by the Chinmaya way of thinking! The penultimate evening featured a banquet where gratitude to the acharyas was expressed in verse, dance and speech. Camp manager Raj Mantha who, under the guidance of Swami Ishwarananda and assisted by Nimmi Raghunathan, had spent countless days in planning and overseeing the smooth execution of events, took the opportunity to thank volunteers, naming several key members in different areas of operation. CMLA Board of Directors member Shashi Acharya made a quick fundraising appeal following an audio-visual presentation on the start and growth of CMLA. Prior to all this was a music performance by invited guest artiste Swagata Chakrabarty of New York. The evening’s dinner, like every meal at the camp, drew expressions of contentment for its quality and variety. The meal effort coordinated by Saroj Patel drew praise from delegates for the efficiency of service with many stating that despite it being such a large camp, there was hardly a time when they had to wait in long lines to get to their food. The final morning, August 3 witnessed another first - the chanting of the holy Sri Rudram by a dedicated group which gathered each afternoon during the course of the camp to practice. Following this was the participation of every attendee in the Mahasamadhi Puja conducted in reverence to Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda. Guruji led the entire congregation in the chanting. The hall resonating with the holy words was also a sea of tranquil white, with everyone clad in the sari and dhoti given by the Los Angeles center to each adult attendee. At its conclusion, devotees lined up to receive prasad from Guruji: a CD of the bhajans sung during the camp by Guruji as well as by the members of Chinmaya Swaranjali of Los Angeles. As the camp wound down and CMLA volunteers heard the kind words of approbation, the best testimony to the fact that the camp was a successful one centered round one oft repeated line by attendees: we will be there for the next Chinmaya Mahasamadhi Family Camp!
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