Manoj Chalam is a Murti Wallah, somebody who schleps and sells Murtis (statues of Hindu & Buddhist deities), teaches their symbolisms, archetypes, philosophy, mythology and is a story teller who combines science, popular culture, psychotherapy and whatever he can get his hands on. Manoj is a scientist by training (Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Cornell) and tries to keep the whole thing real with a healthy dose of humor.
When the Yogic statues are energized, they are often termed as Murtis. A murti can be made of metal (brass or bronze), stone, or marble and is usually on the main altars (sanctum sanctorum) in temples.
You can energize these Murtis in a couple of ways:
One technique is called Prana Pratishta where the priest usually invokes Vedic mantras to imbibe Prana into the murti. This is usually done in temples. I don’t recommend this method for most householders because you then have to do Puja everyday to the murti and dress and feed the murti. We live busy lives and it’s difficult to meet this commitment.
What I recommend is Mantra Pratishta where the Murtis are energized by mantras. That’s what we do in our temple. You can actually measure the energy in these Murtis by a technique called GDV (Gas Discharge Visualization) which is an enhancement of the aura photography technique (Kirlian effect). Several companies had made these measurements on Murtis and have shown they hold energy and that’s why the Murtis need to be metal, stone or marble.
Manoj teaches about the statues of the deities and relates their symbolisms to our journey towards enlightenment. Through humorous archetypical story telling, he will help you discover your Isthadevata (personal archetype), and will uncover their secret symbolisms to learn the five ways of working with them as part of a practice towards spiritual awakening.
Enlightenment (in the Vedanta tradition) is the journey of Knowing the Self, abiding in the Self and seeing the same Self in others with love and compassion. What role do these deities such as Ganesh, Shiva, Lakshmi, Buddha, Tara, etc. play in this journey?
Manoj typically teaches to the three pillars of Yogic philosophy:
- Bhakti devotion to Murti archetypes and the Self.
- Sadhana Practices, including team exercises with yogic archetypes.
- Intellectual Jnana philosophy of Advaita Vedanta.
Our retreats are typically 80% lecture and practices, 10% meditation, 5% Mantras and 5% light spiritual stretches.
We have recently moved the Temple from our long-time San Diego home in the warehouse district of Mira Mesa to a more centrally positioned San Diego location adjoining the United Lodge of Theosophists on El Cajon Blvd. The benefit to relocating our Ashram to this new home is a freshly remodeled showroom for the Murtis, a large central garden courtyard and access to shared lecture space. The building is roughly 100 years old, so there are some ongoing improvements to the space, but we are very happy with what Ganesh has provided us with to continue sharing Murtis and Advaita Vedanta to those desiring to learn.