Acarya Darshana Nanavaty is the resident acarya and founder of Chinmaya Mission Houston. She was inspired to study Vedanta after attending satsangas and spiritual camps conducted by Pujya Gurudeva Swami Chinmayananda. In 1979, she and her husband joined the two-and-a-half year intensive Vedanta residential course in Piercy, California, where they immersed themselves in scriptural studies.
In accordance with Pujya Gurudeva's instructions, after completing their Vedantika studies in 1982, the Nanavatys embarked on a life dedicated to spreading spiritual knowledge.
Acarya Darshanaji, also lovingly called "Darshanaben" or "Aunty," serves as Director of CM Houston's Bala Vihar and Yuva Kendra programs. With her calm and caring attitude, she has nurtured the Bala Vihar classes from a handful of children in 1982, to an organized program of 875 students and over 50 dedicated teachers. She has developed a distinctive, creative, and dynamic curriculum that teaches Hindu values and culture at every grade level, from KG-12. The curriculum provides an innovative way to jump start a value based education program for our children. It is a structured, age appropriate program which runs from KG - 12th grade. The program makes use of well developed teachers’ handbooks. All books have 40 lessons (estimated one per week) and each lesson runs for 60 minutes.
The multi-dimensional approach of looking at scriptures as they apply to our daily lives makes spirituality more relevant for children. We want our children to lead truly happy, peaceful, and successful lives. There is no better way but to introduce them to the science of living through this Bala Vihar program. The program has been tried and tested for last twenty five years and has proved to be extremely helpful.
Acarya Darshanaji regularly conducts Chinmaya Bala Vihar teachers' training programs in the U.S. and India.
She has been instrumental in publishing prayer books, such as Prarthana Piyusa, Slokathon, Bon Voyage, and My Prayer Book to complement the Bala Vihar curriculum. One of her most lauded publications is the multimedia CD-ROM on "Bhagavad Gita," called Journey to the Truth that brilliantly expresses her talent and creativity. With its mix of animation, folk art, traditional and classical styles of chants, games, and stories Journey to the Truth uniquely presents the profound messages of the "Bhagavad Gita" to adults, youth, and children alike.