Scripture: A Mirror (The Chinmaya Study Group)

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Item Code: NAO399
Author: Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati
Publisher: Chinmaya Publications
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9781608270125
Pages: 257
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.0 inch X 7.0 inch
Weight 700 gm
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Shipped to 153 countries
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Book Description

Back of the Book

The Study Groups is a simple but powerful forum for individual and collective transformation. Dialogue and discussion are the ways in which scriptural knowledge has been transmitted down the centuries. Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda adapted this concept to suit modern times, thereby taking this knowledge into homes, schools, offices, and other social institutions.

Through the Study Group Gurudev sought to make ordinary people extraordinary catalysts of change for a better world. At the root of this concept is the fact that deep, unshakable faith is born of understanding, assimilating, and living the timeless wisdom of the Upanisads and the Bhagavad-Gita. That alone gives rise to strong conviction, fearlessness, and true compassion. These are in place, inner and outer success is assured. This is the guarantee that Gurudev offers us, for this is a times-tested, well-chartered course to the Ultimate.


Our physical strength does not depend upon how much food we eat. It depends on how much food we are able to digest and assimilate. In the same way, the strength of our spiritual knowledge depends upon how much of what we hear from our teachers is absorbed. Knowledge that has been assimilated becomes part of our personality and is reflected in our actions. When I say, "I know this, but I cannot practice it," it is evident that the knowledge has remained mere information. The means for internalizing knowledge is called mananam, or reflection, and the Study Group is centered precisely on that.

After his jnana yajnas, Pujya Gurudev would advise all present to form Study Groups. He also gave them a scheme of study, so that they could go about it in a systematic manner. What is important to bear in mind is that while the jnana yajna is for listening, the Study Group is meant for reflecting. The change in the personality comes about slowly, and the proof of it becomes evident in one's actions and attitudes.

I was once in Allahabad with Gurudev when a Mission member asked how the Study Group could be made interesting. Gurudev, in his inimitable style, said, "Take a paper and a pen," and then, after a brief pause, continued, "and invite some musicians and dancers!" The man was shocked. So was everyone else! Then, after another brief pause, Gurudev continued: "You see, if you want to make the Study Group interesting, you have to study. Only then will it become interesting, not by doing something else." That was shock therapy!

Many people are content with just sravanam, or the listening to discourses. The result of that is illustrated by a beautiful story from the Puranas. Once, a person called Cokarna conducted a seven-day discourse on the Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavat Saptaha), which many people attended. At its conclusion, an airplane came from the abode of the Lord to take just one member of the entire assembly to Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Visnu, Taken aback, all those present asked the pilot why only one person was chosen when so many had listened to the same discourse. The pilot replied that all had, indeed, listened to the discourse, but, thereafter, none had given a second thought to what had been heard. Everyone went home and got busy with other things. This one man, however, was in great distress. He continued thinking about what he had heard, of how to put an end to sorrow. As a result, he was able to gain the knowledge. The others had merely heard the talk.

Thereupon, Cokarna declared that they would have a second Bhagavat Saptaha. This time, everyone in the assembly made it a point to listen attentively. At the end of the program, another airplane came and, this time, everyone was taken to Vaikuntha.

This story simply illustrates that no transformation is possible without reflection. Gurudev used to give a beautiful example: if you have a cup of coffee or tea with sugar and you don't stir in the sugar, then when you sip it, the coffee or tea remains bitter or insipid. The sweetness comes only from the stirring of the sugar. In the same way, unless we assimilate all that we listen to or read, the knowledge does not get internalized, and no sweetness is reflected in our personality.

Scripture as Mirror

When you study physics, chemistry, or any other subject, your attention remains on that topic. In the same way, when I give you an object, say, a wristwatch, and you look at it, your whole attention remains on that object. If, however, I give you a mirror, then when you look into it, your attention is drawn to yourself. You become aware of the faults in your face or figure, faults that you would not appreciate having others point out to you.

Now, the subject matter of the scriptures is Self-knowledge. The sastras tell us about our mind, thoughts, emotions, and our own true nature. They point out why and how the mind acquires impurity. What is interesting is that the scriptures don't say that we are impure. Instead, they highlight how it is only the mind that is impure.

That the scriptures act as a mirror is best illustrated by a story of the great saint Eknath Maharaj. He had a daughter who was married to a scholarly pundit. That young man developed some wrong habits and started enjoying an immoral life. The unhappy daughter complained to her father, urging him to find a solution to her misery. Eknath Maharaj assured her that all would be well. Calling his son-in-law, he mentioned how he had heard about the young man's nightlife. Without complaint or criticism, he explained that his daughter was not educated and suffered because she did not have enough dispassion toward her husband and his inclinations. Eknath Maharaj went on to suggest that the husband spend a little time with his wife every evening teaching her one or two slokas from the Bhagavad-gita before stepping out. That, he assured his son-in-law, would help considerably and take the young woman's mind off her sorrow. The son-in-law readily agreed.

The study commenced. By the time they reached the second chapter, where it is described that the senses are turbulent and even learned persons get carried away by them, the son-in-law was shocked into a new sense of self-awareness. He suddenly became aware of the fact that he was not simply teaching his wife. The Gita was, as it were, holding a mirror up to him. Realizing what he was doing, he became a changed person.

This true story shows what the study of Bhagavad-gita can accomplish. The study of the scriptures is like looking into a mirror. It is only when we become aware of our faults that we can be motivated to transform ourselves. Therefore, the weekly study class is very important. Preparation for that class implies daily study because, as Bhagavan Sankaracarya says, vedo nityam adhiyatam - you must study the scripture every day. A scheme is given for systematic study that you can follow.

Daily study is a must. Just as we eat and sleep every day, so also we need to study the scriptures on a daily basis. This is because we are experts in forgetting. If we don't remain in touch with this knowledge, even for a few days, we tend to lose sight of the goal. If, on the other hand, we are reminded of it every day, it remains in our mind, constantly. The Upanisad declares, svadhyayanma pramadah - never be negligent toward study. Certain things like prayer to God and the study of scriptures should never be forsaken even for a single day, because the mind has the tendency to slip very easily.

Studying the scripture for the assimilation of knowledge and for the consequent self-transformation is one aspect of scriptural study. However, there is also a second aspect. The Taittiriya Upanisad declares, svadhyayapravacanabhyam na pramaditavyam - whatever you learn must also be shared with others. Gurudev wanted everyone who attended the Study Group to also start a new Study Group after some time somewhere else, so it would have a ripple effect. Instead, what often happens is that people become so fascinated by textual study that they go on indefinitely, and just remain in a small group. Therefore, it is your duty to study for yourself, and also to share the knowledge. Don't become a guru immediately, but share what you have learned, because it is only by sharing that your knowledge gets strengthened.

Gurudev declared that he did not wish to stamp anybody as his devotee. Instead, he urged one and all to "be devoted to that knowledge." If he had any Guru-mantra to give, it was that alone.


This is the story of Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda's grand vision of spiritual and cultural revival of India's timeless heritage. It is also the story of the empowered householder (grhastha), who became a key player in the establishment and development of the Master's mission. Ruthlessly discarding beliefs and practices that had become obsolete in the modern era, Gurudev fearlessly and resolutely restored what was relevant and noble from ancient tradition. The Study Group is a modern adaptation of an ancient concept with roots in the Vedas.

The Study Group, as envisioned by Gurudev, is nothing short of a stroke of genius. With it, he created sacred learning spaces for individual and collective transformation. Through it, he ensured that scriptural knowledge, which had been the preserve of mathas, asramas, and temples, reached homes, factories, schools, corporate offices, and public places. In this manner, he wove spirituality into the fabric of everyday life and made the householder the instrument for a national awakening into higher consciousness.

Totally dedicated to this knowledge, which had transformed him and led him to the ultimate state of Self-realization, Gurudev sought to make that wisdom accessible to each and every member of society. His entire work and teaching emanated from this knowledge and was for this knowledge. He inspired each one who came in contact with him to study, because through this knowledge alone could they attain lasting happiness. Through it alone could they become positive contributors to society.

The number of sannyasis would always be limited. The householders, however, would always constitute the great majority. While the trained, dedicated missionary would take the Master's teachings to a vast public, the devoted and inspired householder would sustain and deepen those teachings within a limited group. Householders would, therefore, be pivotal in the process of national revival. For they were teachers, soldiers, corporate leaders, administrators, and others, who shaped the values and aspirations of society. They had the power to implement policies and lifestyles inspired by the scriptures. And the platform on which this initial self-development would take place was the Study Group.

This book is divided into two parts. The first part deals with the vision of Gurudev as declared by him through numerous talks, writings, and letters. It roots the Study Group concept in the vast continuum of Indian thought and tradition, thereby highlighting its crucial role in the renaissance of Hindu culture. As Gurudev points out :

The word 'Hindu' is universal rather than communal. He who respects and reveres the noble and the ethical values of life, who lives in self-control, whose mission in life is to end the animal in himself and regain the Kingdom of God 'within' - all such men of cultural ambition are Hindus, and there is necessarily a deep affinity of soul between such men of similar life values.

The foundations of this way of life are spelled out in the Upanisads and the Bhagavad-gita.

The first part of this book also elaborates on the concept of the Chinmaya Study Group and the strategies adopted to make it relevant in the contemporary context. Thereafter, a brief history of the actual implementation of the idea follows. Like everything else, this concept came with its own set of rewards and challenges. The fact that the Mission has grown into what it is today is testimony to the experiment's grand and continuing success.

The second part of this book reflects the many voices that share their stories and experiences on the journey to self-transformation. Rich in narratives from around the world, it captures how the Study Group has impacted the personal, social, and professional lives of those who have been, and those who continue to be, a part of this grassroots activity. It reflects how numerous people, through contact with the presence and teachings of Gurudev, assumed roles they had never dreamed of. They discovered their hidden potential and saw it blossom. Their lives and their work were inspired by the Divine and dedicated to the Divine. The stories of their journey and their legacy must be told, because their challenges and obstacles are no different from what successive generations will face, for the human mind does not change. Its characteristics and aspirations remain ever the same. These stories will help us better appreciate and nurture Gurudev's legacy. It will guide us in becoming, in turn, worthy instruments of the world-transforming movement he set in motion.

This second part of the book also offers an insight into the perspectives of the different protagonists who have been a part of this effort - Gurudev himself, Guruji Swami Tejomayananda, many Acaryas, countless dedicated members of Study Groups, and others who, at some point in time, have been associated with this activity.

These stories will speak to the hearts and minds of the readers and enable them to gauge the power of this deceptively simple forum. We hope that the readers will be inspired to enroll in Study Groups, start new ones, discover hidden abilities within themselves and play their own role in the spiritualization of contemporary life.


  PART ONE The Seed  
  The Vision  
I The Birth of Chinrnaya Mission 3
II The Chinmaya Study Group 8
III Discussion in the Vedantic Tradition 11
IV The Empowered Crhastha 20
  Concept and Strategy  
V Relevance of Scriptural Study 27
VI Aims and Objectives of the Study Group 31
VII The Role of the Sevak 42
VIII Spiritual Sadhana of the Sevak 47
IX Scheme of Study and Format of the Class 50
  Implementation - A Brief History  
X Phase I - The Beginning 58
XI Phase II - Expansion and Consolidation 73
XII Phase III - New Developments and Experiments 84
XIII Phase IV - A Temporary Lull 94
XIV Phase V - A New 102
  PART TWO The Forest  
  Multiple Voices - Individual experiences  
XV The Pioneers 113
XVI Some Inspiring Study Group Members 129
XVII Influence of Study Group on Professional Life 136
XVIII Influence of Study Group on Personal Life 149
XIX Acaryas as Catalysts 155
  Multiple Voices - Collective Experiences 109
XX Creating Communities 165
XXI A New Role for Women 177
XXII Vedanta in the West 184
  Views, Recollections, and Reflections  
XXIII Gurudev Answers 201
XXIV Guidance from Guruji 209
XXV Acaryas' Views 213
XXVI Reflections of Group Sevaks and Members 220


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