Category Archives: Spiritual Centers

Opening Ceremony of Universal Temple of Sri Ramakrishna, Homer Glen, IL

Dear All,
Hari Om !

Chicago holds a special place in the field of spirituality because it is here that Swami Vivekananda gave his historical speech of “Dear Brothers and Sisters of America…” with the message that each and everyone is potentially Divine, in the World’s Parliament of Religions on 11th September, 1893.

The Vivekananda Vedanta Center was first established in Chicago by Swami Gnaneswarananda of the Ramakrishna Order in the year 1930, who was then succeeded by Swami Vishwananda. Swami Bhashyananda later succeeded him and it was he who bought the present quarters at 5423 South Hyde Park Boulevard in Chicago with the assistance of a staunch devotee from New York, Chester Carlson, the inventor of the Xerox. The new temple, which was located near the University of Chicago, was dedicated on September 7, 1966.

For over 40 years, the Ramakrishna Mission and Vivekananda Vedanta Society in South Hyde Park has been very active and dynamic in disseminating the gems of wisdom and pearls of Vedant and Upanisads. Swami Chidananda is now the current In-charge and Head of this Center.

Under his tireless work and guidance, the concept of Universal Temple has materialized. Land was bought in the Homer Glen village in IL, near Lemont’s Sri Rama temple and construction work had started three years ago. The Universal Temple is now ready to accommodate the gamut of activities of Ramakrishna Mission and it is being consecrated with the installation of the idols on September 21, 2008.

Model of Universal Temple of Sri Ramakrishna in Homer Glen, IL

After 35 years of operations from the Hyde Park location, in order to accommodate the expanding activities and outreach programs to spread the message of the ancient Vedas, the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago will be moving to 14630 S. Lemont Road, Homer Glen, IL 60491 from September 21, 2008.

Event details on the opening of Universal Temple in Homer Glen, IL:

DATE: Sunday, September 21, 2008

TIME: 11:00 AM–2:00 PM

VENUE: Sri Ramakrishna Universal Temple
14630 South Lemont Road
Homer Glen, IL 60491

The Vivekananda Vedanta Society will begin all services from the new temple from September 21, 2008.

Please try your best to attend this ceremony and get Sri Ramakrishna’s and Holy Mother’s blessings.

Yours, In Service of the Lord and Gurudev,
Aparna Hari

Yamunotri – New Chinmaya Mission Center in GraysLake, IL

Dear All,
Hari Om !

Yamunotri – a new branch of Chinmaya Mission has opened in GraysLake, IL and the Prana Prathistha of the Radha Krishna idols was performed by Param Pujya Swami Tejomayananda ji, President of International Chinmaya Mission.

Yamunotri in Grayslake, IL
RadhaKrishna in Yamunotri

On the ceremony of inaguration of the center and the shrine, Swami Tejomayananda ji has visited from India and gave soul-stirring discourse on Gopika Geet. Thiis new center will cater to the spiritual interests of adults and children in Chicago, IL, Milwaukee, Madison and all nearby areas.

For more information on Yamunotri and its activities, please visit the following link:
Yamunotri – Chinmaya Mission Center in Grayslake, IL

Yours, In the Service of Lord and Gurudev,
Aparna & Hari

Uddhava Gita and Vedanta Dindima – Swami Tattvavidananda

As some of you know, we attended the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam (AVG) retreat last ThanksGiving day (November 2006). Swami Tattvavidananda had conducted this retreat. He stayed in the US till January 2007. During his stay, he visited many places like Canada and Mexico where he delivered “wonderful” and “vairagya-inducing” lectures on “Uddhava Gita” ( Lord Sri Krishna to Uddhava) and “Vedanta Dindima” (of Sri Adi Sankaracharya). These discourses are very enchanting and wonderful. Everyday we would put on his audio and listen to it doing whatever household work we have. They are short (generally 1.5 hrs) and full of nectar. I can’t describe in words how much Swamiji has influenced our daily thoughts and actions through his vast and deep insights, humorous anecdotes and stern advices.

Please download these audio , which are freely available, on the AVG website. I am giving the links here so readers can follow these links. Please do listen to them. You will get the grasp of some of the Fundamental Truths so instantaneously through his powerful talks. Hari and I love to re-listen to them many times, even though we heard them all.

Also, if anyone of you are in US, please consider attending Swamiji’s retreat this year in September or Novemeber 2007. Please check their main website for the schedule of retreats for the year – 2007. If you could not find on their website, please contact one of them and request for a copy.

DOWNLOAD section of Arsha Vidya Gurukul (AVG)

Jai Sriram !
-Aparna Hari

Bhakti Yoga of Swami Vivekananda : Retreat with Swami Chetanananda

We attended a one-day retreat with Swami Chetananda ji of Ramakrishna Mission (St. Louis Branch) on April 14th. This retreat was conducted at Vivekananda Vedanta Center, Chicago. Hari and I were looking forward to go to this retreat. We already decided that we would try to attend all the retreats that are conducted in Ganges, Michigan.

The retreat was on Bhakti Yoga by Swami Vivekananda. Swami Chetananda ji is a Bengali, and he provided very good and humorous anecdotes when talking about how to develop Bhakti Yoga. He is a very great devotee of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ma Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananada. He is a very humble person. He also emphasized that Bhakti and Jnana are not mutually exclusive paths, but very compatible and one cannot exist without the other.

He also presented a meditation technique which I found very interesting – of dynamically meditating on the life of our Ishta-Devata. It is like a movie, only difference is here, our hero is our Lord and all the scenes are his glories or acts and deeds, which we might have read in any devotional text like Ramayana and Bhagavata.

We also saw a movie, as part of our retreat, on Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It was a Bengali movie which was taken in may be 1940s or so, and a Black & White film. There were subtitles in English. We enjoyed the movie thoroughly. We made our way to the front and sat on the floor. Lord Mahaprabhu is the incarnation of love for Sri Krishna. He has revolutionized by the Chanting movement.

The movie was so wonderful. After finishing the movie, the second part of the discourse on Bhakti Yoga continued. In the evening at 6:00 pm, we had Rama Naam sankirtan. Swami Chidananda ji is a very great soul and his love-filled bhajans are melodious. We had a wonderful satsang in this retreat. We returned in the night to Milwaukee.

We look forward to Swami Brahmarupananda’s retreat on “Kaivalya Upanishad” in Ganges, Michigan on May 12, 2007.

Thanksgiving Day Retreat at Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Saylosburg, Pennsylvania. 23 – 26 November, 2006

We came to know from a family friend about Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in Pennsylvania. Swami Tadatmananda, who is a disciple of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, often visits Milwaukee, USA, the place where we live, to conduct satsangs, Lectures on Bhagavd Gita and Vedanta. Actually, Swami Tadatmananda was born and brought up in Milwaukee and studied here before his spiritual quest carried him to India, and there met his Guru Swami Dayananda Saraswati. We had great fortune to meet Swami Tadatmananda and attend his discourses. In this context, we came to know that Swami Dayananda Saraswati has an ashram in Saylosburg, and that it was established in 1986. We took the 2006 Retreat Schedule at this ashram. Hari and I were excited about this opportunity and we registered for the Thanksgiving retreat on “Yama and Niyama of Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras”, which was to start on Thursday, November 24th on Thanksgiving day and conclude on Sunday, under the guidance of Swami Tattvavidananda.

We set off in the early after-noon on Wednesday, as we had a plan to stop-over in Chicago for Sundarakand Path by Sri Ajay Yagnik, a great artist, with whom we had the fortune of meeting during Sri Rama Navami this year. As usual, it is so vibrating and enchanting. As expected, we were held up in traffic in Chicago, but could reach the host’s house where the satsang was to be conducted at around 7:00 pm. The satsang concluded at 11:00 pm, and then we drove on, inorder to complete as much distance as we could during that night. We continued for an hour or so and lodged that night in Hampton Inn, and continued at sunrise the next day. Then it was my turn to drive and I speeded up, as we had another plan of stopping at Pittsburgh to have darshan of Lord Venkateswara. And as I speeded up, I did not know that Ohio cops were always on the alert. So I was signaled by the cop to pull over. The police officer was so courteous and he just gave me an unofficial warning. This was the first time I met with a cop, and I was almost on the verge of asking the cop to pose for a photograph, but ofcourse did not ask him. Then, we maintained a 75-ish speed and reached Pittsburgh at around 2:40 or so, had darshan, had curd rice and pulihora, and proceeded to Saylosburgh. The orientation for the retreat was to commence at 8:00 that night. We knew we could not make it to the orientation. The mapquest cannot give exact directions to this Gurukulam, and says “Address cannot be found”. The Gurukulam website has specific directions as to how to reach them.

We reached the Gurukulam at around 9:00 or so. It was raining heavily. There were some cottage kind of houses disperesed here and there, and we were given the ‘Room 331” in “Godavari”. We were very happy. In other retreats that we attended (Kenopanishad and Chandogya Upanishad retreat in Ganges, Michigan, and Didji’s retreat near Milwaukee), men and women had separate rooms or dormitories. But, here, the rooms were allotted to families. Our room was very cosy and another family was staying in the room opposite to us and we shared a common bath. Totally, there are 4 families per cottage. We went to the kitchen, had some food, and then slept heartily as we were very tired that day.

Every day at Gurukulam starts with Abhishekam to Lord Dakshinamurthy, the personification of Jnana and the Universal teacher. I cannot describe in words how beautiful the statue of Dakshinamurthy is. He has a wonderful smile. The retreat was to be conducted by Swami Tattvavidananda, who is from Hyderabad and who took up sannyasa five or six years ago. After the Abhishekam, there is half an hour of guided meditation, and then breakfast. Breakfast was very tasty (Upma, cereal, bread, whatever you want), and there is selfless service in Gurukulam’s kitchen-cutting vegtables, making chapathis, and the like. Hari and I enjoyed this immensely, because in any other retreat, we were eating, listening and sleeping. There was no service. Always, the same set of people had a monopoly over the kitchen, and other gurukulam matters. After the selfless service, there is some coffee, and then the class started.

It was on Yama and Niyama – Control of the Senses, which according to Patanajali, is the actual yoga. Swami Tattvavidananda is a natural, capable and yet humorous speaker. We enjoyed all his classes thoroughly. There were some very nice anecdotes, stories and similies that he brought into the discussion. They were very enlightening, very kind and very upto the point. After a class, there is a chai break, and either a chanting class or music class followed it. Later, we had another class, lunch break and free time. We walked over the gurukulam in our free time, wondering at its natural beauty and its tall pine trees. At 3:00 in the evening, we had Yoga by a Yoga instructor. She is a disciple of Sri Iyengar, who is an exponent in Hatha Yoga. We learned some very important techniques in her class. This usually lasted for an hour and a half. After that, snacks, and then one more class, followed by dinner. After dinner, we had satsang, when Swamiji would kindly answer our questions and enlighten us on some sadhana etc. On the last day, the children enacted a play, sang bhajans and danced and all were given a chocolate by Swamiji.

We enjoyed this retreat immensely and we derived new motivation from this satsang. We look forward to visiting Gurukulam next year.

I will try to upload the class material that Swamiji has chalked out and some points and anecdotes that we noted. It is of benefit to all of us.

-Jai Sri Ramji ki