"Every text has a central theme around which it revolves. Look for this first. Each verse should be taken up in the following sequence: first, the word meaning; then the translation of the entire verse followed by the commentary; and, finally, the sum and substance of the verse."
- Swami Tejomayananda
The Chinmaya Study Group method is a process of collective discussion on a specific topic. The goals are:
• To practise mananam, or reflection, and gain clear insight and understanding of scriptural fundamentals.
• To cultivate the art of communicating this scriptural knowledge, simply and logically to others.
• To strive, practice and live the scriptural injunctions.
The programme of study as formulated by Swami Chinmayananda is so designed that even a novice at Vedanta can understand the introductory topics. Moreover the outline and study texts account for numerous variables and cater to the quantity of time each member has, as well as their attention span and level of knowledge.
Certain basic steps are followed in the study of each verse of the text:
• Understanding the context and background of the verse and connecting it to the previous one
• Appreciating the deeper import of specific words
• Reflecting and contemplating on the verse
• Applying the teachings in daily life
"The process of discussion makes you think, and your own thinking leads you to your answers. So the Study Group forum is not about teaching anything to anyone. It is merely to stimulate independent thinking."
- Hemachandrudu Linga, Study group member, Chennai
The Study Group is a gathering where no one is the teacher. There is a lead moderator who is an experienced sevak, or guide. Swami Chinmayananda advised:
"Our group leaders and members must carefully avoid becoming mere pedantic scholars or mere intellectual inquirers...The secret of giving this mysterious ‘touch of life’ to ideas lies in its practice; live morality before you talk of it. Practice meditation before you preach it. Taste goodness before you recommend it. Gain bliss before you offer it to others."
The sevak’s role is to ensure punctuality and regularity in the class as well as discipline, structure and focus on the topic, without digression, in a loving and harmonious manner. A sevak acts as moderator, initiator and a motivator. In class, logical arguments based on healthy reasoning are allowed in order to share different views and clear any doubts. However, arrogant rejoinders destructive or idle criticisms are not permitted.
"When the sevak of the Study Group considers the seva to be a worship of God, the whole process becomes an elevating experience. Reading the scripture, reflecting on it, and discussing it with people are all various forms of worship. They are stepping-stones to the realization of the Truth revealed by that knowledge."
- Swami Tejomayananda