Chinmaya Mission Los Angeles Holds Heart Warming Fundraiser
By ANAND SUBBARAMAN
LONG BEACH, CA – Chinmaya Mission Los Angeles (CMLA) on December 2, held its 17th annual fundraiser at the expansive Jordan High School auditorium, here. The theme of this evening of giving back, food, and entertainment, was ‘Krishna Leela’ – the Divine Play and Joy of Lord Krishna. The entertainment segment – a series of dance dramas enacting various aspects and events of Lord Krishna’s life – was performed and offered entirely by CMLA community members.
Swami Ishwarananda, the spiritual head of CMLA and a director of Chinmaya Mission West, addressed the audience at the top of the program. He shared information about Chinmaya Vishwa Vidyapeeth (aka Chinmaya University), the first institution to be granted permanent “deemed university” status by the Government of India to teach a curriculum based on Vedantic principles of instruction.
He then explained the significance of the evening’s program: We are constantly anxious and stressed about our lives – regrets about the past, stress about the present, and anxiety about the future. All these are just aspects of Maya, the divine play or illusion that we are ensnared in. Swamiji said that with the correct understanding of our true Self as being none other than a part of the Universal Awareness – an understanding achieved through surrender and devotion to the Lord – we can free ourselves from Maya. Lord Krishna demonstrates through his varied activities that one can participate in the divine play and yet have mastery over ourselves.
Babu Pillai, Chairman of the Foundation Committee of CMLA, then shared that as a charitable organization, about 80% of CMLA revenue is plowed back into the community through services and activities, with a mere 20% going towards maintenance and occupancy expenses. This is in remarkable contrast to several leading charities that have more than 50% overhead.
The entertainment program then started, to the glee of the audience. Even though the dances and dramas that followed were performed by CMLA members – about 150 in all – rather than professional dancers and actors, the audience was treated to a polished and sophisticated presentation. The participants were expertly guided by Ruchi Lamba, a Kathak and Kuchipudi dancer and teacher in the LA area, who choreographed and scripted the performance.
It was clear from the crisp presentation that a great deal of practice and rehearsal went into the production. Different aspects of Lord Krishna’s life were presented – his birth, childhood in Gokul including the beloved tale of stealing butter, defeat of the dreaded serpent Kalia, lifting of Govardhan mountain, consorting with the Gopis and Radha, saving Draupadi from humiliation by the Kauravas and finally the famed discourse of Bhagavad Gita. Through skillful use of background projection, elaborate and dazzling costumes, lively narration, music, and graceful dance, the audience was enthralled. The enthusiastic cheers, applause, and shout-outs from the audience to their performing friends cemented the evening as a great time had by all, from the first skit to the final dance.
Earlier, after snacks and tea, the event kicked off with a montage of programs and events conducted by CMLA during the past year. The President of the Board of Directors, Shashi Acharya thanked the volunteers and the membership for their dedicated contributions to the event.
The organization provides a systematic and thorough education on Vedanta philosophy, culture, and traditions to the Indian diaspora, especially children and youth, through its flagship Bala Vihar program. Every Sunday there are religion, language, music, and Vedic chanting classes, as well as philosophy discourses at the spacious Mission center “Rameshwaram” in Tustin, and at several satellite centers in Southern California.
CMLA also has a very significant outreach program for members to serve the communities they live in. In the past year, CMLA students helped needy children in their area through the Community Outreach Program for Youth, providing school supplies, food, hygiene kits, and clothing to children in partnership with the Santa Ana School District, Second Harvest, SEWA, CHOC Hospital, Orange County Rescue Mission, Los Angeles Mission, and several other organizations.