In June 2015 with Swami Bodhatmanandaji’s encouragement, the blessings of Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayanandaji and Pujya Gurudev’s grace, the Sacramento Valley worshippers were able to purchase a building to serve as our own center, aptly named Chinmaya Triveni. Since Sacramento is at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers, Guruji said that the river of knowledge or Saraswati was sure to emerge with the establishment of the center here and hence the name Triveni (confluence of three rivers).
In keeping with the spirit of knowledge and learning, at most Balavihar centers, periodically visiting Swamijis give discourses for members to understand vedantic texts. In the Sacramento Valley in Northern California too we have had many such opportunites. This year during December 5 – 11, 2016 our community was blessed with a Jnana Yajna with Swami Bodhatmananda at the new Chinmaya Triveni. This was a much awaited event as this center was nutured by Swami Bodhatmanandaji and
this was his first visit to us since he received Sanyasa. While he was Acharya at Chinmaya Mission San Jose as Br. Prabodh Chaitanya, he visited Sacramento several times between 2006 and 2014, and had many satsangs and Jnana Yajnas where he gave discourses to the Sacramento community on Kaivalya Upanishad, Gita Chapters 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and Chatushloki Bhagavatam. He also taught us Drg Drsya Viveka at our first Family Camp at Piercy, CA in 2013.
This year, the discourses in English were on Chapter 13 of the Bhagavad Gita – Kṣetra Kṣetrajña Vibhāga Yoga or The Field and The-Knower-of-the-Field in the evenings and Swamiji gave talks on Amŗta Bindu Upaniṣad (A Drop of Immortality) in the mornings. The discourses were well attended in the crisp winter evenings and we were fortunate that the weather was cooperative allowing many people to attend.
During the evening discourses Swamiji in his inimitable style described how Lord Krishna explains the different terminologies used in the philosophical tradition to beautifully reveal that Spirit expressing through Matter is the manifested life of constant experiences, and that the Field and the-Knower-of-the-Field are one and the same. Swamiji was quick to point us to the fact that the introduction to this topic was in Chapter 7 of the Bhagavad Gita – the last Chapter he had taught us!
The issue that every human struggles with, namely one’s identity in this transactional world and the recognition of one’s true identity was addressed. We often get identified with the equipment and feel that we are just the Body-Mind and Intellect (B-M-I). This chapter reveals that the individual is essentially pure consciousness. We learned that Arjuna having heard the 12 chapters thus far, ventures to ask Sri Krishna about 3 specific pairs namely: Prakriti and Purusha (Matter and Consciousness); Kshetra and Kshetragnya (The Field and The-Knower-of-the-Field) and Gnyanam and Gnyeyam
(Knowledge and What is to be Known). All these queries were explained by Sri Krishna to Arjuna, impressing upon him that it is ignorance that causes one to identify with the body and the advantages of vedantic study is that one will not be bothered by the challenges of the mind. In the process we also learned how things can be described by 5 ways i.e., i) attribute, ii) by action, iii) by the species/group that they belong to, iv) by their relationship or by v) their etymology/nomenclature. Also the several qualities that need to be cultivated were also highlighted. This chapter also underscores the basic principle of Advaita, the non-dual relationship between God and man.
Swamiji also drew comparison to the talks on the Amŗta Bindu Upanishad and Chapter 13. This Upanishad addresses the question of immortality and what it means. It emphasizes that ‘the mind alone is the cause of bondage and liberation’. It also gives simple guidelines to all seekers about the ways and means to purify the mind, the method of contemplation and meditation. This was the first time to have morning talks at the center and the members attended prior to heading out to work after having breakfast bhiksha with Swamiji.We felt particularly blessed to have Swamiji start us in our Sampurna Gita Parayanam on Saturday as part of our observation of Gita Jayanthi before heading out to visit and give talks at the nearby community in Davis, CA.
(Swamiji Leading the Gita Chanting) (Lunch after Gita Jayanthi)
On Sunday December 11th Swamiji addressed the Balavihar assembly and it was wonderful to see him codeswitch from the Upanishadic discourses to leading the children in singing the catchy bhajan, Ganapathy-Ganapathy Palayamam with hand gestures that got even the youngest members to participate with enthusiasm.
(Swamiji addressing the Balavihar assembly on Sunday December 11, 2016)
Several families were able to host Swamiji with bhikshas at their homes as well have satsang with him. This yajna made us realize how blessed we are to have the opportunity to learn from a teacher and once again reminded us of the Guru-shishya parampara and the importance and benefits of this tradition in our spiritual growth. Swamiji engaged us and told us how the frequency of his jokes and digressions were tailored to the spiritual stamina of the audience and that actually helped us focus on the talks.
It was also quite heartening to have Swamiji share with us his experiences in teaching the two-year course at Sandeepany Sadhanalaya in Powai, Mumbai. He also talked about the importance of systematic study of the scriptures whether at study groups or through serious self-study. He cautioned us in this internet and google driven world and urged us to use viveka in determining the interpretation of Vedantic texts and the various sources that attempt to disseminate such knowledge.
This wonderful week certainly has aided the community to get ready for the winter break and the year ahead with the focus that the secret is to Detach from the World and Attach to the Divine.