Monday December 18, 2017

Chinmaya Mission: Carrying forward Swami Chinmayananda’s legacy

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Hinduism is a Dharma-centric religion and tradition that stands on the firm foundation of Vedanta philosophy. The teachings of Vedanta are universal in nature and eternally applicable to every person irrespective of class, race, or gender identity.

These teachings of Vedanta, which were once confined to Patshalas (traditional schools) and particular Guru Paramparas (lineages), are now widely available in a simple language to common people everywhere, thanks to the continued efforts of various teachers and organizations.

One such organization which is foremost in spreading Vedanta all around the world is Chinmaya Mission, founded in 1953 under the guidance of late Swami Chinmayananda.

Swami Chinmayananda was a spiritual master and a teacher of Advaita Vedanta, who was inducted into the monastic order by Swami Sivananda of Divine Life Society. He was a dynamic teacher who authored more than 95 books, including insightful commentaries on the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.

In 1951, when Swami Chinmayananda left Himalayas on an India-wide tour, he realized that there was a need to spread the teachings of the Upanishads to common masses. As a result, he started his first Jnana-Yajna sessions (lecture series) in December 1951.

In 1953, after a session of Jnana-Yajna held at Madras, some devotees expressed their intention to form study-groups for studying and discussing various aspects of Vedanta. Thus, the Chinmaya Mission was set up, under the guidance of Swami Chinmayananda.

Today, Chinmaya Mission has around 325 centers in 25 countries, including India, UK, USA, Canada, South Africa, UAE, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Indonesia and France. It conducts a large number of activities that range from conducting Vedanta courses and Indological research to rural development, and imparting education.

Speaking to NewsGram through email, Manisha Khemlani, the Chief Operating Officer of Central Chinmaya Mission Trust (CCMT) said: “Every activity undertaken by Chinmaya Mission is guided by the vision and mission of our founder and inspiration, Swami Chinmayananda. Our Mission Statement reads, ‘To provide to individuals from any background, the wisdom of Vedanta and the practical means for spiritual growth and happiness, enabling them to become positive contributors to society.’ To put it in a nutshell, every activity we undertake seeks to give maximum happiness to maximum people for maximum time.”

The mission has established various Vedanta institutes which exclusively focus on imparting teachings of the Upanishads and the Advaita Vedanta. The very first Vedanta institute ‘Sandeepany Sadhanalaya’ was established at Powai, Mumbai in 1963. Today Sandeepany institutes (as the Vedanta institutes are called) are present in Kolhapur, Sidhbari in Himalayas, Piercy in Northern California, Prayag, Kasaragod in Kerala, Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, and Chokkahalli in Karnataka.

When asked about the significance behind naming all Vedanta institutes as ‘Sandeepany’, Khemlani said: “They were named after Rishi Sandeepany who was the guru of Sri Krishna. Swami Chinmayananda has said that ‘Sandeepany’ symbolizes the kindling of Perfection in the hearts of men.”

Chinmaya Mission offers various courses related to Hinduism in general and Vedanta in particular. A two year residential course is offered at the Vedanta institutes for graduates (both unmarried and married). The course curriculum includes teaching of Sanskrit, Vedic chanting, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, Brahma-Sutras, and also the Prakarana Granthas (Instruction books) of Adi Shankaracharya.

Regarding the medium of instruction used in Vedanta institutes, Khemlani said that in Sandeepany Mumbai the courses are taught in English, whereas they are taught in Hindi in Sandeepani Sidhbari and in regional languages in other institutes.

Chinmaya mission also conducts basic and advanced postal and e-courses on Vedanta both of which has a duration of 1 year. A simple course on various aspects of Dharma and Vedanta is taught in ‘Dharma Sevak Course’. The mission also conducts a ‘Purohita Course’ to train priests in the intricacies of Hindu rituals. The course trains students in the Vedas, Agni-Karya (fire ritual), Upasana (worship), Homa (fire worship) and other aspects of ritual worship.

Apart from teaching Vedanta and ritual worship, the mission also conducts a one-year ‘Youth Empowerment Program’ that addresses youth issues and trains youngsters to find solutions of those issues.

imageAnother sector where the mission has made enormous contribution is education. It had started its first school in 1965 in Kerala. Now there are eighty-one ‘Chinmaya Vidyalayas’ across India in states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh. The mission also inaugurated its first school outside India in 2003 in Trinidad. It also runs 7 colleges across India.

The mission has also founded ‘Chinmaya Organization of Rural Development (CORD)’ for the purpose of integrated and sustainable development of rural and underprivileged communities. It’s activities include health awareness camps, vocational trainings, Balwadis for teaching small children, literacy drives, and forming Mahila Mandals (women’s groups) and self-help groups among others.

To carry out research into Sanskrit, Hindu scriptures and Indology, Chinmaya Mission established ‘Chinmaya International Foundation (CIF)’ in 1990. The center is mandated to study and disseminate knowledge in areas of Indian philosophy, culture, art, and science.

They have conducted numerous seminars and workshops in various aspects of Indology and have published various research papers and books. They also conduct online and postal courses in Sanskrit Grammar, Vedanta, Bhagavad Gita, and Vedic mathematics. This November, the foundation is conducting an ‘International Conference on the Contribution of Advaita Vedanta to Humanity’ in Pune as part of the birth centenary celebrations of Swami Chinmayananda.

Chinmaya Mission has made enormous contributions in the field of health as well. It has established ‘Chinmaya Mission Hospital (CMH)’ and ‘Chinmaya Institute of Nursing (CHIN)’ in Karnataka to provide quality health facilities. In order to promote Indian art and culture, the mission started Chinmaya Naada Bindu in 2009, in Kolwan, near Pune. It currently teaches Hindustani Vocal, Hindustani Flute, Bharatanatyam, and Tabla.

Apart from this, Chinmaya Mission is also involved in numerous centers and activities that target infants (Shishu Vihar), children (Balvihar), youth (Chinmaya Yuva Kendra), middle aged (Setukari), and the old-aged people (Chinmaya Vanaprastha). It also conducts various study groups, and spiritual camps like ‘Jnana Yajnas’ to spread spiritual awareness among people.

This session, i.e. 2015-2016, the mission is celebrating a year-long Birth Centenary Celebrations (BCC) of spreading the message of Swami Chinmayananda. Khemlani said: “It is also our way of expressing gratitude for all the he has done. This is encapsulated in the motto of BCC – Unto Him, Our Best.”

The year-long activities include global level projects as well as grassroots level programs. The celebrations were launched in Ernakulam, Kerala, by former President of India, Late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam on May 6, 2015. One of the activities that the mission has taken up is “Chinmaya Jyoti”- an eternal flame that will be taken across the country and later it will be placed in their Vision Centre – Chinmaya Vibhooti, Kolwan, to serve as a source of inspiration for every seeker.

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Another activity that they have taken up as part of BCC is the screening of an inspirational movie on the life of Swami Chinmayananda titled “On a Quest.” The movie traces the journey, the struggle, and the self-discovery of Balakrishna Memon who later became Swami Chinmayananda.

In Chicago, USA the movie was first screened in May 2015, which was also attended by the team members of NewsGram. The screening saw overwhelming responses from the audience. Dr. Munish Raizada of Chicago said: “Swami Chinmayananda is an example of how a one man army can transform the lives of millions of people. Today, Chinmaya Mission is playing a pivotal role in bringing Indian culture closer to the hearts of children, particularly outside India. Chinmaya Mission centers are living examples of Indian culture, traditions, and religion, particularly geared towards teaching children. This is a great biopic and more and more people should actually see it to understand his inspiring life.”

Following the huge success of its first screening, the Chinmaya Mission is now organizing another screening of the movie on October 24 in Chicago.

Other important activities being carried out as part of BCC include the International Geeta Chanting Competition and the distribution of two booklets, one on the life and vision of Swami Chinmayananda and the other on the activities of the Chinmaya Mission. The mission is distributing the booklets free of cost and hopes to reach around 40 lakh people using these booklets. Government of India also released two commemorative coins of Rs 10 and Rs 100 on May 8, 2015, as a tribute to the contributions of Swami Chinmayananda to the nation.

Swami Chinmayananda has inspired millions of people to turn away from materialism and become spiritually dedicated. He was one of the foremost guide, leader, and teacher of Hinduism in the last century.

Chinmaya Mission has successfully managed to carry forward his legacy by transforming the lives of millions of people in India as well as abroad through its initiatives in the fields of Vedanta, art, culture, education, health, and self-sustenance. The mission has further succeeded in placing Vedanta and other Hindu spiritual practices on a global map.

 

 

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‘India Won the 1962 War and Gandhiji was not Murdered’: Are New Textbooks in India Misinforming the Youth?

How can the youth know the struggles of the ancestors of the nation if they believe that we have a all-too-glorified past?

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New School Textbooks in India are not telling the real history to youth. Wikimedia

August 25, 2017: Fake news has become the biggest evil to true information. Exaggerated/ altered facts to support an ideological agenda has become increasingly common, combined with photoshopped images and fabricated videos.

But this misinformation when breaches the sacredness of education and knowledge, it takes the form of the most dangerous thing. Such fabricated tales are now available in the new textbooks in India.

History, in particular, has been twisted and told to young students of India. It is unfortunate that the textbooks which are to shape the able youth of the nation and telling outright lies.

ALSO READ: Politics and Education: A Relationship that contributes a lot in shaping our Future

Below are some of the incidents that have been explained differently than the reality:

THE MUGHALS

The Hindus have always hated the Mughal chapter of the Indian History. The Mughal Dynasty came to India for conquest and occupied the majority of the nation. The Dynasty which came from Central Asia ruled over the Indian subcontinent from 1526-1857 after which the White people took over. The slavery of Hindus in their own nation is a sad but true fact. The Mughal rule was also perceived as the authoritarian nature of Islam, although the interests that the dynasty was pursuing were purely political. The people who opposed the Mughal Dynasty in India included Chattrapati Shivaji, the Maratha King, along with Assam Kings Commander Lachit Borphukan, are well respected among the Hindu sect.

There was also an incident involving Mughal King Akbar and Rajput Chieftain Maharana Pratap. Maharana Pratap rejected becoming subordinate to Akbar. Hence, a war was waged which later came to be known as the Battle of Haldighati. Although Maharana’s Rajput forces gave a tough fight, it was outnumbered by Akbar’s huge military.

In July 2017, India Today reported that in the Class X textbooks of history, it is said that it was the Rajput forces that defeated the Mughals in the battle. This change was approved by the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education during the period of revising state textbooks.

MAHATMA GANDHI

Nowhere in the Class VIII textbooks do the students find the story of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. The book does explore Gandhi’s life span, but it does not inform how the father of the nation was killed by Nathuram Godse. The Rajasthan Rajya Pathyapustak Mandal has published the textbook.

JAWAHARLAL NEHRU

The same textbook that has omitted Godse’s name has also forgotten Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first PM and the longest one at that. While Nehru’s decisions during his leadership are of various debates, the book has not discussed the first PM and his role in reconstructing a newly independent and divided nation. However, the book has extensively mentioned the First President Rajendra Prasad and Sardar Patel. Indian Express reported how the political ideology has played a role here to hide the true picture of history. Nehru, for all his secular ideas and a different idea of the country, which was not so popular among some sects.

1962 WAR BETWEEN INDIA AND CHINA

India was taken off guard by an attack from the Chinese troops in 1962. India, which was still recovering from independence, lost embarrassingly. In the recent Dokhlam standoff, Chinese media has reminded India of the humiliating defeat. Needless to say, the 1962 Indo-Sino war left a mark on Indians.

But in Madhya Pradesh’s Sanskrit Textbooks for Class VIII students, it is claimed that India won the war. The book titled ‘Sukritika’ explicitly states, “What famously came to be known as Sino-India war of 1962 was won by India against China,” reports Times of India. The textbook is published by Kriti Prakashan and is used at CBSE affiliated schools in Madhya Pradesh.

THE UNFORTUNATE REALITY

Indian Express had also reported the dire need for improvement in Maharashtra. Important events of world history (and not just western history) such as the French and American Revolution, Magna Carta, Greek Academia, etc. are all replaced by the glorification of the Maratha dynasty.

These incidents are shameful when viewed from a citizen’s lens. How can one expect to believe knowledge and intellect when information itself is a lie? How can the youth know the struggles of the ancestors of the nation if they believe that we have an all-too-glorified past?


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.

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National Book Trust (NBT) Chairman: Nurturing Creativity and Innovation in Children at an Early Age are Much Needed

How should current school curriculum be modified for an overall development of Children?

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Nurturing creativity and innovation in children
Nurturing creativity and innovation in children. Pixabay
  • Education should work in the direction of expanding the horizon of knowledge children
  • There is a need to shift educational learning for school goers from content mastery to competency mastery
  • To compete with the children worldwide, they need to have an understanding that is beyond books

New Delhi, August 21, 2017: There is a need to look beyond the world of text books and inculcate in children qualities like empathy towards society, humanity, sensitivity towards other human beings and nature.

Baldeo Bhai Sharma, Chairman of National Book Trust (NBT), talked about nurturing creativity, innovation in young minds for nation’s economic and spiritual development.

He was speaking at the FICCI’s first-ever Children’s Publishing Conclave called ‘Scrapbook’. Mr. Sharma said that it is crucial to observe and spot the creativity in children. To not just bound them to the school curriculum. The Supplementary books in school should teach them about the life lessons, that they should be good human beings. Such books will help them in the developing a good and positive personality; it will also strengthen their thinking and imaginative skills.

ALSO READ: 11 Facts about Education System Around the World: Do they prove to be Beneficial for Children?

In the conclave, he talked about how brave soldiers can inspire kids to be like that when they grow up and fight for their country someday. If not, even then such books will inculcate a feeling of patriotism in them. According to ANI reports, Mr. Sharma (pointing towards NBT’s efforts) said, “‘The Veergatha’ series had been introduced by NBT, which talks of the great acts of bravery by Indian soldiers.” The first series has a set of 5 books in English and Hindi, they are written so as to inspire the young minds and evoke feelings of patriotism in children from an early age.

Children are sometimes overburdened with books.  UNESCO encourages learning in mother tongue, especially at the early stage.  Sharma said that education should work in the direction of expanding the horizon of knowledge in a child and he agrees with UNESCO that teaching a child in mother tongue should be encouraged to retain cultural values.

Dr. Hrushikesh Senapaty, Director of NCERT, said: “There is a need to shift educational learning for school goers from content mastery to competency mastery, where competencies should be classified into character, intellectual and social.” He stressed upon the need to make the classroom environment vibrant where teachers would play the role of a facilitator- will provide them with an opportunity where they can develop and strengthen their competencies as well as communication ability. He added, “The Indian education system is moving from knowledge construction to knowledge processing with the help of technology, enabling children to explore, innovate and create.”

ALSO READ: Ragas for Preschool Children: Combining Classical Music with Fun Exercises

Appreciating FICCI’s initiative, Dr. Senapaty said that the goal of this publishing conclave is to produce content which is rich in quality and is innovative. It will enable them to learn in a collaborative environment. He added, “Indian children have performed well when they follow a prescribed school curriculum but to compete with the children worldwide, they need to have an understanding that is beyond books and focus on skills like building their applied knowledge.”

Children should explore, innovate and create
Children should explore, innovate and create. Pixabay

Ms. Urvashi Butalia, Chairperson, FICCI Publishing Committee and Director, Zubaan, said that the conclave focused on:

  • promoting book reading amongst young minds
  • government and children’s publishers- enhance learning outcome in educational space
  • policy advocacy- nurture collaboration between schools
  • addressed- gender misrepresentation in children’s books
  • concerns- children’s content in school books
  • implementing theory of multiple intelligence on children’s content- enhance learning outcome
  • changing role of technology in children’s content and its impact on K-12 (kindergarten (K) and the 1st -12th grade) education

Dr. A. Didar Singh, Secretary-General, FICCI, said that this platform will help to explore possible collaboration between children, content creators, offline and online service providers, publishers, technology disruptors, schools, teachers, parents, and policymakers. The conclave focused on the important aspects like learning requirements of an individual child, crucial role publishers can play to address it.

The conclave also had some interesting workshops for school children. The workshops had activities like creative writing, story-telling and received appreciation from the young minds.


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.
Click here- www.newsgram.com/donate

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Lack of Support from UK Schools further ‘Penalises’ Left-Handed Children

Handwriting experts opine that left-handed children encounter difficulties which hampers their development in the long term

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Left-Handed Children
School Children. Wikimedia
  • Children are being ‘penalized’ for being left-handed in the UK 
  • Education Campaigners have warned that ministers lack the information to understand the scale of the problem
  • It is also a common assumption that a number of prisoners are left-handed

London, August 15, 2017: The Education campaigners in the UK have warned the lack of information among ministers is causing ‘penalty’ on left-handed children in the country.

The campaigners have more broadly accused the ministers of failing to understand the scale of the problem of classroom struggle and how it hampers the development of left-hand children.

Also Read:  11 Facts about Education System Around the World: Do they Prove to be Beneficial for Children?

There is now a demand for research to determine if classroom struggle triggers a sort of “downward spiral” that hampers the marks of children. Further, it is to be seen if their confidence and self-esteem is reduced and how it impacts their future opportunities.

The government of UK stands firmly with the national curriculum. The campaigners, on the other hand, are demanding that the left-handed pupil receive the kind of education that would match their needs. This proposal is currently non-statutory guidance.

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Nick Gibb, the education minister, said that the teachers need to ensure they provide education to pupils according to their needs.

Handwriting experts, however, opine that left-handed children encounter difficulties which hamper their development in the long term. They also suggest that teachers often fail to recognize these signs, and hence a training needs to be introduced.

“It’s bizarre kids in our schools are penalized because they happen to be left-handed. It’s bewildering successive governments have failed to act on this. It’s so easy to do,” Former Conservative Minister Sir Peter Luff told The Guardian.

Worcester based Left’n’Write is an organization that trains left-handed children. Their founder, Stewart, believes that there is a lack of teaching training. His organization has helped thousands of pupils with his talks and training.

Left-handed writing is now considered a disability, and hence there is no data of how many left-handed children are there in the country’s primary and secondary schools. However, it is estimated that 10% of the population is left-handed.

– Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394