The area around San Jose Municipal Rose Garden bustles with activity every Sunday morning. Cars slow down near Lincoln High School and wait for women in saris and men in kurtas to cross the road. Pigtailed girls in salwar kameez play tag on the school lawns. At 9 a.m. children wave their parents goodbye and run toward their respective classes.

In the class, they take a break from math, Kumon, and piano to learn something entirely different. They sit wide-eyed as their teachers tell them tales from Hindu mythology. Elsewhere, men and women debate about the relevance of Bhagavad Gita in today’s life.

“As human beings we have several duties to fulfill,” says Subbu Venkatkrishnan, a board member of Chinmaya Mission, San Jose.  “One of them is Acharya Rina, or the debt one has towards ones’ teachers. We fulfill that by to passing on our knowledge to the next generation.” The mission conducts Balavihar courses for children from kindergarten through 12th grade. Younger children learn bhajans, slokas, and morals from various epic stories, while the older kids learn scriptures. Currently, 1,950 children attend Balavihar. The success of the program is evident from the year over year rise in the enrollment.

Chinmaya Mission has been renting various properties around the Bay Area for their classes. Due to the high cost of rentals and exponential increase in enrollment the mission is venturing to build a new ashram on Clayton Road in San Jose. This new building will have 20 classrooms, a lecture hall, and a temple. The estimated cost for this new ashram is $7.6 million. “We are 100 percent volunteer based. So, we are looking to the community to help raise money for the building,” says Venkatkrishnan.

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In order to raise funds, the mission is organizing a 5K/10K run/walk. The goal is to have 100 percent participation from the Chinmaya Mission families and friends and raise $100,000. “The kids are extremely excited about OM run and their enthusiasm is infectious,” says Sanjay Bombwal, a member of the OM run volunteer team.

Ruhi, a first-grader has this heart-warming message on her fundraising web page. “Dear Family & Friends, I go to Chinmaya Mission Bal Vihar to learn a lot of important things. Chinmaya Mission is very important to me, and my family. I get to learn about Rama and Krishna, Shiva and Parvati, Ganesha and Hanuman. Many people have joined Chinmaya Mission and we need to get a bigger place—but that is expensive! So, I want to raise money for the new building. And for that, I am participating in the Om Run Walkathon/Run. Would you like to help me reach my goal? Could you please make a donation of any amount by clicking on the ‘Donate’ button soon? And, it is tax-deductible—you don’t have to pay any taxes. Thank you very much. Love, Ruhi”

The OM run will be held in the scenic Los Gatos Creek trail. The run will start in downtown Los Gatos, where the trails nestle comfortably between lush green hills. The turn around point of the trail will be Vasona Park. “Our goal is to have every participant reach the finish line without injury,” says Prasana Iyengar, a member of the OM Run training team. “We are placing a lot of emphasis on training. Safety is our number one priority. We have put together an emergency-response team for the event.”

Camaraderie is visible in the training sessions. Each participant is assigned a mentor. The mentor tailors the training program to match individual needs. Special care has been taken to meet the needs of senior citizens who are participating in the event. All mentors are experienced marathon runners who are volunteering their time for this event.

Brahmachari Prabodh Chaitanya is the resident Acharya of Chinmaya Mission San Jose, and teaches Bhagavad Gita and other devotional texts. He explains complex philosophical concepts using simple everyday examples. He and many of his students will be participating in this event as well.

Venkatkrishnan says, “There is no dichotomy. Physical fitness and spiritual journey are not orthogonal entities. Physical well being is essential for spiritual well being.”

Sujatha Ramprasad loves to read poetry and  philosophy. She is an ardent fan of Harry Potter.

Sunday, March 21, 10 a.m. Los Gatos High School, 20 High School Court, Los Gatos. To participate, write to pananthan@yahoo.com orsanjay@saphirus.com. www.chinmaya-sanjose.org.http://omrun.chinmaya-seva.org.

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