The collective energy of my batchmates, the constant encouragement of 3 Gurus, and the discipline of Ashram living have helped me transform from what I was to who I am. My batchmates are like my brothers and sisters from whom I have learned and grown. The inspiration, encouragement and strength we provide for each other reinforces the good habits we cultivated together at the ashram.
Even one day at the ashram is highly productive and conducive to growth. The detail through which the course material is covered demands students to cultivate discipline. The daily routine is geared towards developing positive habits that can be applied toward life outside the ashram. A seed can be planted, but its growth must be sustained in order for it to flourish. At a CHYK camp, we might get that seed of inspiration. At YEP, we learn how to help it grow infinitely, into something beautiful.
Seva means “selfless” service. Spirituality is not limited a special or particular action. It is performing EVERY ACTION in a special way. SEVA also means doing the best that the situation demands of you, not just the best that you can do. There is no need for recognition or praise, because there is always a bigger picture of serving everyone. Therefore, there is no room for the ego. SEVA is an opportunity for you to serve and grow. Seva is not a gift that you are giving; rather, having the opportunity to do SEVA is God’s gift to you.
“I want nothing. I expect nothing. I demand nothing … only the pleasure of doing the right job in the right way. THAT is called worship.” –Swami Chinmayananda
Following the residential training program, each Yuvaveer (YEP graduate) will serve as key volunteers for various Chinmaya Mission projects and efforts. During this period of service, the Yuvaveer will organize and lead the youth-related activities of the center, including classes for children and youth, bhajan groups, personal development seminars, and camps/retreats. Yuvaveers can choose to serve on a full-time basis, or volunteer at the mission on a part-time basis while pursuiing their careers or studies. In the summer after each Yuvaveer’s YEP course, they will be required to dedicate 1-2 months in service as directors and coordinators for a particular Chinmaya Mission summer camp. They will, of course, be guided by a Swami or teacher of Chinmaya Mission, as well as by other Yuvaveers.
When Girishji (Acharya, Chinmaya Mission Austin) first mentioned to me that there was a YEP course taking place over the summer, I looked up the YEP program online and immediately decided to apply. I wanted to learn more about myself, the purpose of my life, what it means to be Happy, and how to get there. I suppose I could suffice it to say I was seeking Happiness. We all are. Overall, the YEP motto summaries this well: to learn, serve and grow.
Before the YEP course, I spent my days doing what most teenagers do. Hangout with friends, try to get the best grades, watch movies, and waste time. Now, I am more active and know where my priorities are. I have a higher motivation and clarity of intention to evolve as a person throughout my life. I teach bala vihar, attend weekly satsangs, read, reflect, and pray. I still do many of the same things such as hanging out with friends and watching movies, but now there is a new sweetness added to it.
Before I used to look forward to things like going to a movie or spending time with friends but now there is nothing to look forward to, rather there is an inner sense of joy and contentment wherever I am. There is more meaning to the activities that I engage in. Most importantly, there is a sense of positivity that surrounds my mentality. If there is a challenge, I welcome it as an opportunity to grow and learn. YEP gave me the opportunity to completely shift my mindset to one of productivity, motivation, and appreciation for every experience that comes to me, even if I feel overwhelmed initially.
Seva is no longer ‘another’ responsibility for me. Seva is the responsibility. I now serve with more dedication and clarity. Moreover, YEP has taught me how to manage my time. At YEP, I remember even 5 minutes were so precious. Our schedule was so intense that we quickly learned how important each moment was. In order to make more room for seva, I’ve started using my time more efficiently and effectively, something I learned at YEP. There are a limited number of hours in a day and there is a simple science to maximizing the few moments we have. The time management skills and proper scheduling are just a couple of the many skills we learned during YEP.
The application is straightforward. An applicant fills out the form and attaches a brief write up of why you want to join YEP. If you are currently not a party of Chinmaya Mission, do not worry since all candidates will be assessed on their willingness rather than current involvement in Chinmaya Mission.
Once the application is complete, a yuva veer will be in touch with you. A follow-up phone interview with Swami Sarveshananda may follow. The most important thing here is to think carefully about why you want to do YEP and if you can commit to the service period afterwards.
I conduct a CHYK study group at my house, I teach 2 classes of Bala Vihar, I help out with local Mission Center events (publicity, fundraising, physical attendance). I contribute to the local Chinmaya Mission newsletter, and I help organize local CHYK events (like our local temple Yatra, the CHYK Garba event, etc.)
I have been more productive in helping my parent’s at home maintaining the house. I also teach one bala vihar class, and am involved with a CORD seva project.
I have helped my community after YEP overall by being a better human being. It has resulted in a variety of projects and volunteering initiatives. Most importantly, I am a happier person.
I’ve not yet returned back home. Therefore, I am not directly serving my community. I’m currently serving within Chinmaya Vibhooti, Pune, India – the Vision Centre for Chinmaya Mission. I’m part of the Swagat, the event management team. The Vision Centre is the dream project of Guruji, Swami Tejomayananda and dedicated to our Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda.
I get to meet people from all walks of life and try to practice what I’ve learnt from YEP. The position comes with many compliments as camps are so well organized by the residential team here and I get to be a part of that for a short period.
The most important part of this for me is the constant inspiration. I work a 7-day week here without a second thought and have done late nights, early starts, and ‘all-nighters’ to get things done. Throughout it all, I just felt very lucky to be doing it. Being able to do my little bit to help people be part of a potentially life transforming camp makes my day. It doesn’t matter what the task is, I’m just happy to be here!
For me, I believe the positive attitude has led me to be a better team player at my local center. I have had the opportunity to help my community by working on the YEP 2014 team at a national level. Locally, I have worked on camps, special satsangs, and lock-ins. Moreover, I have been involved with fundraising, event organization, and inspiring the younger generation through teaching. I have also benefitted tremendously by representing my local center at regional and national conferences and by learning what other centers are doing in their communities. Most importantly, these opportunities to serve my community have ultimately helped me grow as an individual.
The Youth Empowerment Program is designed to engage a youthful and energetic age group. For example, we participated in sports on daily basis, but were encouraged to reflect on the lessons we learned on the field. We completed an obstacle course in which we climbed over hills, forded a river, all while reciting vedic mantras and shlokas from chapter 15 of the Geeta.
Every aspect of YEP is geared to make you do THE activity most advocated by Swami Chinmayananda – THINK! We did an activity where we were blindfolded and had to find a river several hundreds of yards away. That taught us the value of intuition, listening to all 5 of our senses, and teamwork. We hiked barefoot in the redwood forest and up a rocky hill, which taught us to be patient and endure difficulty in order to accomplish our goals. We practiced public speaking, which gave us confidence. We “dined in the dark,” which was an activity where all our sense organs were blocked. We were blindfolded, had to eat with our non-dominant hand, had overpowering garlic taped to our noses, and cotton balls in our ears. We could not even see the food in front of us! This was a very moving experience because it made one realize how much we take for granted. The fact that we have such strong and vigilant senses means that there is so much more we can do, rather than living without awareness and taking everything for granted.
Some other memorable activities include: celebrating Guruji and Vivekji’s birthdays, barefoot hikes, painting the ashram as part of a seva day, star-gazing, water sliding, paduka puja by the riverside on guru-purnima day, 24-hour Hanuman Chalisathon, trust falls, garba night, and movie workshops.
Spirituality in essence is integration of body, mind and intellect. It is not limited to quietude in the seat of meditation. In fact, Pujya Gurudev specifically says that this balance should be maintained even in the din of market place. Once this is realized, the question is how to achieve it? It is best done in the presence of swamijis who are already established in that balance. The YEP course, with both teaching and regular monitoring by specifically chosen acharyas, satisfies the conditions perfectly until the student develops the balance and monitoring capacity on his own. Moreover, the hours served and types of seva activities pursued is monitored and collected on a regular basis after the course.
Therefore, The YEP course is a great opportunity to prepare young minds. YEPsters return to world to test themselves in self control while staying focused on their chosen fields of application whether it is college, home or work.
True sannyasa is the freedom in action and not freedom from action. It is not giving up the world physically but renouncing its lingering sway on the mind without affecting our duties at hand.
The program is not encouraging YEP students to choose a path of sanyas. Instead, it shows that regardless of which path you take, you will be able to reach a state of equipoise. The YEP course focuses on teaching the students that:
- Your happiness is in your hands
- Each individual can choose to respond to a situation rather than react irrationally
- In every interaction there is a lesson to be learned as to how one can improve oneself
All of these skills can be used to increase the successful relationships between young students and married couples alike. The YEP course helps strengthen a person in all stages of their life, regardless of which path they choose to take. It may inspire them to choose the path of Sanyasa at a later stage, but YEP does not offer this option, nor is this the intended purpose of the course.
Time-management, social skills, ability to take on challenges and conquer them, confidence, leadership
The most important skills I cultivated at YEP include:
- Using time efficiently and effectively
- Ensuring I complete each task to the best of my abilities
- Learning to accept myself
- Learning to stop judging others
I cannot emphasize enough with words how much I have improved in terms of maximizing my time usage after YEP, I am now wasting less time and using it wisely. Something that I thought was impossible for me to accomplish before YEP.
Understanding the value of time & how to make each moment count. Understanding the value of our scriptures & how to navigate through life. Understanding the value of this mission & forever be grateful through seva
One important skill, or mind set, that I gained was that regardless of obstacles in your path, we must work hard and face the problems to the best the situation demands, not to the best of our abilities (going above and beyond). We also worked on goal setting at various levels to remind ourselves to remain motivated and positive. Time management was a key skill that was worked on to improve productivity in day-to-day life. We also learned to stop judging ourselves and others, like Devaki stated. As Reena stated, it’s important to realize the value of Seva because it is important to give back to the community that does so much for us. We worked on public speaking skills and social skills that will help us in school and work. Organization was another important skill I gained from YEP.
YEP helps define where to prioritize time and how to get over any inhibitions one may have in him/herself.
The most valuable “skill” YEP gives is how to go about understanding ourselves, the purpose of this life and the means to achieve success and happiness so we can go out to the world and strive with confidence to realize our inner potential.
YEP is a holistic program aimed at giving us a better understanding into the 7 layers of our personality. Guided by our Acharyas, the texts we study are brought to life as "a mirror" for us to see ourselves. A detailed insight is provided into our inner being: the workings of and relationship between our physical, emotional and intellectual personalities. This is then connecting to how we interact with the outer world of objects, beings and situations and how it forms the foundations of our patriotic, cultural, social and universal personalities. Entwined into all this learning are skills valued today whether you are a student, professional or managing a family e.g. time management, prioritizing tasks, communication and presentation skills and more.
Parents are definitely encouraged to visit and spend time at the ashram, preferably as sevaks. Some parents even sat in a few classes and enjoyed the experience. Phone calls, letters, emails, etc were often exchanged between parents and students. Many parents, including my own, came as sevaks as mentioned above.
The Youth Empowerment Program is a classroom for life! It is inclusive of having a career or degree, and sheds light on a variety of topics a CHYK will come across as a youth in today’s society.
An internship will provide your child experience in a narrow field of study. However, the YEP program provides knowledge in a much broader scope of experience! Moreover, it provides tools to cultivate focus and discipline that can easily be applied to school, work, or an internship next summer!
YEP gives us the opportunity to develop skills that are values in today’s world e.g. communication, organization and other personal development skills, but with the added value of being grounded in the time tested methods of our scriptures. By giving us a better insight into ourselves, YEP gives us what we need to excel in whatever field our natural tendencies take us towards.
Today the education system is geared towards secular knowledge, skills to prepare us for the competition of the workplace. So, often emphasis is given on results rather than turning this information into wisdom which will aid in all aspects of our life.
All Yuvaveers will take on as much responsibility as they can but within the confines of their other responsibilities. Some activities are expected from them (listed below) while others are more discretionary (ie: full-time student and employees will have less time to do other Chinmaya Mission related activities outside of the requirements).
Yuvaveers are expected to do the following:
- Form a core team of CHYKs in their local center (if one is not existing)
- If the center already has a CHYK group, the Yuvaveer must expand the CHYK base and initiate various projects that will help their overall center’s growth (fundraisers, expanding CHYK to local universities, theater productions, camps, movie workshops etc)
- Assist with Bala Vihar as needed
- Initiate & teach JCHYK classes
- Play an active role in CHYK West projects (as per assigned by Swami Sarveshanandaji)
- Inspire more youth to take the next Yuva Veer course
This is the tip of the iceberg of possibilities to get involved.
The general seva is defined before the YEP course. However, after the YEP course, the Yuvaveers should interact with their local Acharyas to determine center-specific tasks and the order in which they should be performed. It should be as per the needs of the center and as per what they have committed to CHYK West (National Seva Project, CAMTRACON, Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development, etc). As we grow, the seva roles will be more defined.
Chinmaya Mission offers a value based program of holistic development from womb to tomb. In order to ensure that Bala Vihar children continue to be committed Mission members in the long run, they must be engaged throughout their youth, adulthood and old age. Hence, volunteers from each age range are necessary to connect with people and keep them inspired.
It is absolutely necessary to create this platform. If and unless we do not groom our youth, how will the future of Chinmaya Mission be shaped?
Furthermore, youth volunteers provide us with a broader range of skill sets and enhance the overall experience of an event. They encourage younger members (like Bala Vihar students) to see spiritual activities not as a forced-learning environment but as a place where they can grow and mature as young adults and have fun doing it.
“Youth are not useless, they are used less” – Gurudev
YEP is a program in which Chinmaya Mission Acharyas train CHYKs to facilitate workshops, study groups and various activities. They are also taught Vedic chanting, Sanskrit, organizational skills and public speaking. These skills will help them further develop Bala Vihar, JCHYK and CHYK in their local centers. When we look at the future of Chinmaya Mission, these trained youth are our hope to shoulder the responsibilities.
Furthermore, YEP provides our youth with the skills and knowledge to pursue and succeed in all aspects of their lives including study, work, familial relationships, team building, and more. It gives them a solid foundation for the rest of their lives.
Yuvaveers have had the chance to experience living in a spiritual environment as a family for a period of two months. They have been personally taught and guided by Chinmaya Mission Acharyas. This provides them with a deeper understanding of Vedanta and hands on training in various aspects (workshops, study groups etc). After the course, their service period provides them with in-depth experience.
There is no other difference between the CHYK and the Yuvaveer but that Yuvaveers have had 2 months of learning and 10 months time to apply and reflect upon the concepts taught. This year of intensive Vedantic training provides a skillset and knowledge database, which only adds to the growth of the individual.
The YEP course is much more rigorous and disciplined but it shows students that ‘fun’ can be found even in the most challenging of situations. It also enables exponential personal growth to take place in a relatively short amount of time. While camps focus more on selected works or a single text, YEP covers a wide range of scripture and enables students to begin to live what they learn.
YEP also provides a stricter, ashram style living environment, which camps cannot. The intensity and caliber of the YEP program is much higher than a camp in this way.
YEP is a much shorter commitment and it’s presented to people that don’t necessarily consider themselves ready for a full-scale Vedanta course but are interested in learning more about our spiritual legacy. It is also geared towards students and young professionals and serves to add dynamism into their daily lives in work and in school.
Furthermore, the two courses are not comparable in their aims, objectives or execution to warrant such a comparison. One should not look at YEP as a mini Vedanta course even though it provides a great foundation in fundamental principles of Vedanta. However, the YEP course has inspired some students to commit to the 2-year course.
Not at all. YEP adds to and complements existing Mission programs in many ways. YEP provides the Mission with more dedicated sevaks to work along side current volunteers. Yuvaveers around the country can be found organizing Mission camps, retreats, study groups, classes, etc. YEP simply provides another platform for growth and development, like all other Mission programs.
Though it does stand alone in its uniqueness of experience, it is a brilliant course that will never compete with already existing programs.