The interested ones are the people who are already on the path, on the track, who have already got these values, etc. Gurudev was very clear. He said, “Bring those people who are not interested.”
Another such occasion was when Gurudev visited a college in Kerala. All the windows of the particular room were broken, and upon seeing this, he said: “I am so happy that all the windows are broken. This shows you have energy. My job is to channelise it.”
Generally, youth are considered to be very careless, not responsible, and very few people trust them. Swami Chimayananda used to say, “Youth are not useless, they are used less.They are not careless, they are cared less.”
These three things which I’ve mentioned to you : One, that I am interested in the uninterested ; two, that the youth have a lot of energy which can be channelised ; and three, that the youth are not useless, they are used less, clearly show the kind of faith he had in the youth and their capabilities.
In our country today, we have a mistaken notion that philosophy makes sense only when we become senior citizens. We, as a population of adults and youngsters, share this feeling. That’s why many times when they see people like us, young and so involved in spirituality, they immediately ask, “What’s wrong with you? Why did you become a sannyasi?” These questions come because of a deep belief that if you study philosophy or even attend the Bhagavad Gita classes, you must be elderly. It makes sense to do these things after living for 60 years…….…this is what many people think. But in reality, what does philosophy give us? Or what does the Bhagavad Gita teach? It teaches us how to live. And how to live is very important when we are very young.
For example, in the Gita, Arjuna wanted to run away from his responsibility, to escape from his duty. The situation was too tense for him to face. Krishna told him, “Do not run away. Gain this knowledge by which you can live here and face your duty.” This philosophy or the knowledge that we have is a kind of preparation to meet life. And this preparation is very, very important when people are young. If they are prepared, then whatever life can offer, whatever experiences life can bring, these youngsters will be in a position to face it.
We do not know what life will offer. On January 26th, 8:45 a m, in Gujarat everything was peaceful. 8:46 a m….… complete devastation. Their lives will never be the same again. No matter what we have already experienced, we must be in a position to confront whatever life puts in our path. This preparation, this equipment is what the Chinmaya Yuva Kendra is trying to give to the youth. Irrespective of what be the situation outside, we must not get stressed out or feeling helpless out of it, but meet it efficiently.
All of us have great potentials. the Yuva Kendra gives an opportunity to turn this potential into action, into performance. So much potential is there, but it goes untapped. Through study, meditation and other kinds of activities, young people are encouraged to unfold their own potentials. Swami Chinmayanandaji used to call this self – unfoldment. This is an opportunity to explore our own selves, to unfold our own talents. This is what the Chyk is aiming at.
Every week for one hour, we have a class. The master has given us the syllabus. We have books like Game of Life, Hindu Culture, We Must, Kindle Life, Art of Living, etc. This syllabus will take at least 5 – 6 years to complete. Supposing youngsters starts at the age of 14, and go through this weekly one hour study class. When they are 20, they would have completed all the youth related books which the Mission offers. They are now prepared to look forward to life.
It is sad to see that these days, I meet quite a few youngsters, and when I ask them how life is, many of them answer with a sigh, saying “Huh. It’s going on.” At this age you feel it is going on? I can understand when you are tired in life. But very young kids, teenagers, they sigh and say life is going on because they are not prepared, and, therefore, they do not look forward to life. If we are well prepared, then we look forward to things, like going on an excursion. If you are going for a picnic, you look forward to it because you are eager. In many young adults, that enthusiasm is not there to look forward to life, because of nothing else but a lack of preparation. If we are well prepared, then we are able to excitedly anticipate whatever comes our way.
Apart from these weekly one hour classes, how else do we channelise the youth energy? Adventure. Youngsters love adventure. On summer vacations, such activities are organised. But this type of adventure has a difference. Near Chennai there is a temple in a place called Sholingar, it’s a Hanuman temple on the top of a mountain. We advertise a rock climbing excursion, and a lot of youngsters come for rock climbing. We get the appropriate technical people, the instructors, and make all arrangements to learn how to climb the rock. But, it’s to a temple. We don’t use the steps…we climb up the rock. In this way, the spirit of adventure is channelised, it is directed towards a temple, and what happens then, is that the effort becomes spiritual as well as adventurous.
In fact, in our culture, yatra was meant to be like that. That’s why all our temples are in Badrinath, Kedarnath, places that are difficult to reach. A spiritual mind should always be adventurous. The beauty of this is that is provides something for those with both spiritual and adventurous minds. We unite these two ideas. Once in the temple, we sit and sing a bhajan and if it is a Hanuman temple, we tell them the glory of Hanuman, how Hanuman can be a role model. Why we can look up to Hanuman, what kind of leadership qualities he had. This is important because these days we say that someone is God, and then we don’t explain why. In this context, we try to make them understand: Hanuman as a leader, Hanuman as a friend, Hanuman as a person who had certain qualities of compassion, or fearlessness. The spirit of adventure is well blended with the spiritual knowledge.
Some of our youngsters have gone on such trips via motorcycle, and I have accompanied them a couple of times. We have gone from Chennai to Kardungla Pass to go to Amarnath. Kardungla Pass, you know is the highest motorable road. From Amarnath we come to Sidhbari, where our Gurudev’s Samadhi is. With Sidhbari as the final destination, and en route you have Amarnath as a tirtha yatra, via Leh and Ladakh, the trip becomes very meaningful. Otherwise, it would have been only a trip for them. These youngsters would have gone to Leh or Ladakh or any hill station and they would have freaked out, because the youth are like that. But this way, because unnecessary distractions are not there, what is very healthy about such a trip is given to them, as well as spiritual knowledge. Their enthusiasm is directed properly, their energy is harnessed in the right direction, they have their fun, and they also get the goal completed.
Why are we doing this? The kind of exposure that they get through such various activities, makes them more qualified and competent persons when they have to take up the responsibilities of a CEO or something like that. When they finish their graduation and get into the work, this experience of organizing, travelling, making arrangements for the whole trip, all this knowledge helps them very well when they become the CEOs of a company.
For example, some time ago, one of our Chyk groups raised Rs 18 lakhs for a noble cause. Now, imagine for a teenage group of 17, 18, 19, 20 year olds, that is a huge amount of money ! What kind of exposure must they have had through those activities: meeting different people, going and talking to them and telling them this is required, this is what we are doing. All this experience, the planning, the execution, everything is a great knowledge. Often referred to as events management. They learn these things as teenagers, so when they are on top, when they come to a responsible position in their lives, in their organizations, etc., this knowledge becomes invaluable.
Recently, our Chyjks raised one lakh rupees in one centre, in Chennai, for the Gujarat earthquake relief. It was a joint venture with another organization. Those organizers were also raising funds and we joined in. The top people, some of them are owners of big theatres, etc, these people were looking at our youth and when the final word was released, these guys said that this programme will raise Rs. 50 thousand. The youngsters were watching and they said: “Swamiji, they are saying only 50 thousand, I think we can raise 2 lakhs.” Now imagine that a teenager, for a good cause, is confident of raising 2 lakhs! Whereas the grownups, who did not have this kind of exposure, were still thinking “Maybe, we can raise 50 thousand.” I can see the vast difference in their levels of confidence between those who have been exposed to all of this and those who haven’t. And such an exposure at that age, is maturity. That maturity makes them excel.
Our youngsters went around and raised funds for Orissa, when the cyclone hit. For three months the Chyk members were there, different centres went there in a relay, and stayed in the villages. Those villages did not have electricity, those villages did not have toilets. These boys used to go and stay in the fields, and give the people whatever they have raised as funds, and in kind.
Thus, the energy of the youth was used for national work, for social work, for creative efforts, like magazines. We have a monthly magazine called the Chinmaya Udgosh, which is brought out by our Chyks from Indore. It’s an international magazine today, managed totally by the youth. People who are 17 – 18, they understand about editing, how to write an editorial, how to run a magazine. All this, in their chosen field, these skills help them.
There are also a lot of cultural programmes we take up. For example, let us say, supposing the Chyks here wanted to do a cultural programme. A good idea would be the Kangra temple, or Jwalamukhi. We would send the youngsters off to investigate its history. How did this temple come to be? Perhaps their findings can be depicted through dance and drama, through songs. Then those who sing, their talent is unfolded, those who can dance, their talent is unfolded, those who can act, their talent is unfolded. The Chinmaya Mission, through the CHYK programmes continuously gives opportunities to the youth to unfold spiritually and culturally. As a result, a great love is cultivated for themselves and their country.
One of the programmes which the Chyks used to run was called Bharat Darshan. This is a programme where we travel across India, and visit historically and spiritually important places, like the Gwalior fort, or the Brindavan temple in Mathura, the birthplace of Krishna. Or we go to Gangotri, or Haridwar. All these programmes are clubbed with a camp in Himachal Pradesh, in our centre here. From here, Amristar is quite close, so on our way back we can take the youngsters to Amristar. They read in their history books about the Jalianwala Bagh, or the Golden Temple. People come to visit this centre from Kanyakumari or from Kerala, and after the camp it’s so easy to take them straight to these places. At Jalianwala Bagh, they learn that it is here so many Indians sacrificed their lives. When they see that, a patriotic feeling grows.
In the evening we take them to the Wagah border, there they see the difficulties of our soldiers, living alone, and their hardships. Then they also participate in a flag down ceremony. All this builds patriotism and familiarity with one’s country and one’s people.
So if a person joins the Chyk at the age of 14 – 15, by the time he is 21 – 22,he is in an ideal position to take on life. With a spiritual strength, and practical experience, he has the ability to meet whatever life offers. Good or bad, he is prepared. He respects Indian culture, and then participates in sharing it with others. Spiritual knowledge, cultural knowledge, and national pride allow these young people to bloom into responsible, balanced adults.
Q: How many Chyk centers do you have in the country?
A: Now we have 82 Chyk centers all over India. Sorry, I started one yesterday in Amristar, 83.
Q: Are most of these Chyk centres confined to the urban areas, or are you making an effort to penetrate into the rural areas?
A: We do have, like in Orissa for example, CHYKs in rural areas. And in Kadapa district, we are also working in the rural areas. We are looking forward to extend into the rural areas. In the beginning, we catered only to the urban because the workers were only English speaking. Now we have workers who are fluent in vernacular, and are now reaching out to other communities.
Q: Is there any religious barrier in getting inducted into this group?
A: Not at all. It’s open to all. We have people from all communities. They come forward on their own. There’s no barrier that way. Caste, creed, not even religion is an issue…..…people are welcome.
Q: The current value system [in this country] is shifting because of Western influence, is there any program to inculcate modern values amongst the youth?
A: See, there are certain beautiful qualities of the West. If they take up a task, they work to complete the job with perfection. Even the finished goods which come from abroad, if they are perfect they sell them, otherwise they retain them. If our youngsters developed such qualities, it would do them, and us a lot of good. But if they pick up bad habits, which will do nothing to help them in their lives, then that’s a sad state.
We do teach them values, because in the beginning, a child does not understand the value of the value itself. They have a very short vision. They think, “if I achieve something today, I am successful.” But in the long term, that may not be a success at all. For example, in the field of sports, with regards to match fixing……../how many sportsmen who had once been a great success, are condemned now? They were successful, they did everything right…but where they slipped out was in values. We point out such things to the youth, saying, “Look at the talent these people had, look at the ability they had. All that is a waste today because they missed out on one value of truthfulness, being sincere.” Like this, they learn that the absence of value, even if you’re a material success, is not an everlasting success and you need something more concrete to stand on
Young people begin to realize the importance of values; not just the importance of nurturing them, but they are also confident that having a value base will lead them to success. They know that they don’t have to compromise because we strongly teach them that if they give up higher values for the lower, it is called compromise. If you give up the lower things for the higher, it is called sacrifice. In our CHYK programmes, we encourage less compromise and more sacrifice.
The motto that Swami Chinmayananda gave for the Chyks is: Harnessing Youth Potential Through Dynamic Spirituality. The CHYK is an opportunity for people to live their lives to the fullest potential.
On one occasion, the Chennai Chyks went on a cycle rally to a nearby village which was 35 km away. When Swamiji came to town, people were reading the report of the activities they had been doing, and they included, “A cycle rally to village Thamraipakkam.” in that list.
He said,: “Where? Thamraipakkam?” He knew that this place was just 35 kms away. With all his 70 year old wit, he smiled and said: “Ssshhh! Don’t say it loudly ! Everyday the milkman goes there, twice a day with cans of milk, and you claim that you did a rally?” Gurudev went on to say: “If you are doing a rally, go to the Himalayas!” For those living in the north, he told them to go down to Kanyakumari……………….that is a rally.
He always made us think big.
Because of his inspiration, we continue to encourage our youth to think big too.