HOUSTON. Every new beginning, particularly in the path of knowledge, has a special aura — a magic that is tangible, and an importance so valuable.
Such a special sense of excitement was clearly visible on Sep.11, 2016, when Bala Vihar reopened its doors in Chinmaya Prabha Houston to heartily welcome over a thousand precious young minds to another year of happy learning. In the two sessions where both the Saraswati Nilayam and Smriti Hall were overflowing beyond capacity, the opening ceremony was marked, not just by light-hearted celebration, but also with reflection and devotion.
Devotional bhajanas on Lord Ganesa, Ma Saraswati, and Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda set the right pitch for the day as children from pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 gathered in Chinmaya Smrti with such attentive anticipation; their parents and other adults assembled in the adjoining Sarasvati Nilayam, witnessing their children with joyful pride throughout the program. Without missing a beat, the Vedic arati and prayers invoked the air of reverence as Acarya Sri Gaurang Nanavaty opened the sessions with the leading message for this year’s Bala Vihar.
He described how the curiosity and brilliance of young Balakrishnan Menon took him all the way from his home state of Kerala to a university in Lucknow and later to the asramas in the Himalayas. The energetic Balan was full of questions and enthusiastically sincere in his quest for knowledge. After Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society kindled the flame of Knowledge in Balan and transformed him into Swami Chinmayananda, he further directed him to become the disciple of Swami Tapovanam. Swami Tapovanam was a master teacher who blended loving guidance with firm discipline. He would teach, answer questions during the course of teaching, but there would be no reteaching – his teaching style called for strong grasp, alert listening, and deep reflection. Trained so expertly, it was time for Swami Chinmayananda to kindle the flickering flames of knowledge in millions of hearts around the globe.
While his teachers had lit the lamp of learning, it was up to Pujya Gurudev to keep the flame burning bright to illumine the path ahead. And that he did so gloriously all through his life, spreading the message of scriptures and lighting the lamps of spiritual awareness in millions of hearts. His shining legacy continues to this day in Chinmaya Mission(CM) centers worldwide where the scriptures illumine the path to find true happiness. The torch of knowledge he carried promises to enlighten every student and teacher who walks the hallways of any CM center.
Highlighting this purpose of the mission, Acarya Gaurangbhai encouraged all children to learn and question deeply with sincere regularity all through their Bala Vihar year of 2016-17. He also announced that every child present was going to receive a Chinmaya commemorative coin, donated by CM Kolkata as a special gesture of appreciation for the good work of the Houston Bala Vihar. The ten-rupee coin had been released in May 2015 by the Indian government to honor Gurudev’s contribution to our Vedic culture as part of the Chinmaya Birth Centenary year celebrations. The coin would be a keepsake to inspire each child to achieve the highest potential.
After the Acarya’s address, Manasa Kethireddipalli, a Bala Vihar teacher, presented an engaging multimedia message from Acarya Darshana Nanavaty. She entertained children with a story of a singing yellow pencil which was taught by a shining flashlight to understand how the pencil’s writing glory was powered by God’s presence in it. Capturing the audience’s attention with happily silly songs and colorful messages, Manasa conveyed the deeper message of learning how our happiness comes when we recognize God’s presence in us with the help of the Guru’s guidance. She then guided children to perform a puja to thank God and Gurudev as the Chinmaya astottarasatanamavali was chanted.
It was a joyful sight to watch the hundreds of children emerge out of the Smrti hall and walk to their respective classrooms with bright smiles after the main assembly. The students returning to Bala Vihar to move into higher grades and explore deeper concepts in Hinduism displayed a sense of comfortable belonging; the newcomers to Bala Vihar were excited as they waved to their parents during the procession.
All of them felt welcome as part of a greater community. While they attended their introductory classes, the parents and adults were given a preview of the satsanga theme for the year by Acarya Gaurangbhai. The stage was set for spiritual learning across generations.
Just as a painting becomes a masterpiece with the right coordination of colors, the Bala Vihar opening day became another cherished beginning, thanks to the cooperative handiwork of the numerous sevakas of the many teams who carry the glory of Chinmaya Prabha powered by His Grace. Hari Om!
For more information on Chinmaya Mission Houston and its activities visit www.chinmayahouston.org or Jay Deshmukh 832-541-0059 or Bharati Sutaria 281-933-0233