Chicago IL: The Annual Fundraising Banquet for Chinmaya Mission Chicago harmoniously blended inspirational thoughts, spirited fundraising, sumptuous food, and artistic performances into a memorable evening. The event took place at Waterford Banquet and Conference Center in Elmhurst, IL on November 8, 2015, with the goal to raise funds to support and enhance the programs offered by the two Chinmaya Mission centers in the Chicago area—Badri Center in Willowbrook, IL, and Yamunotri Center in Grayslake, IL. A new downtown Chicago location is now serving families with weekly Bala Vihar and adult study classes conducted for approximately 60 children and their parents.
With over seven hundred people in attendance and more than two hundred fifty thousand dollars raised, the event was an overwhelming show of support for the spiritual and service-oriented work being done by Chinmaya Mission, both at the local and global levels.
May 8, 2015 marked the beginning of the centenary birth year for Pujya Swami Chinmayananda. A commemorative coin was released on this occasion by the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendara Modi. Many festive events are being planned at each of the over 350 mission centers world-wide.
Chinmaya Mission was founded in the 1950s by the devotees of one of the greatest Vedantic Masters of twentieth century, Swami Chinmayananda. Its purpose as stated in the words of Pujya Swami Chinmayananda is, “To provide to individuals from any background the wisdom of Vedanta and the practical means for spiritual growth and happiness, enabling them to become positive contributors to society.” The current worldwide head of Chinmaya Mission is Pujya Swami Tejomayananda, who is continuing the work of his Guru with immense love and devotion.
The evening started by welcoming the revered guests. Swami Shantananda (President of Chinmaya Mission West and resident Acharya of Chinmaya Mission Tri-state area), Swami Sharanananda (resident Acharya of Chinmaya Mission Chicago), Swamini Swaprabhananda (resident Acharya NW Indiana Omkara center), Acharya Jetindra Nayar & Acharya Swapna Nayar (resident Acharyas of Chinmaya Mission Chicago), Acharya Shanker Pillai (President, Board of Trustees for Chinmaya Mission Chicago), and Acharya Dhiren Khatri (serving Chinmaya Mission Chicago) were received with the traditional purna-kumbha welcome ceremony,. This was followed by lighting of the lamp in front of Pujya Swami Chinmayananda’s portrait, invoking His blessings to begin the program. Special invited dignitaries and supporters present were: Drs. Sankara and Jyoti Peruri, Mr. Raja Krishnamoorthi
Drs. Ramesh & Asha Chhablani, Dr. Sudarshan & Mrs. Neetu Sharma, Mr & Mrs. Nakul Chand, Mr & Mrs. Chotalal Patel, Nakulchand Singh, Dr. Anil Agarwal, and Ms Catherine Thorat.
The highlight of the evening was the inspiration kindled by the Acharyas. Swami Sharanananda gave the inaugural welcome. Swamiji is Chicago’s beloved acharya, who works relentlessly serving many centers in Chicago and its surrounding areas. He underscored in his message that the highest form of charity, which is much above providing food or donating money, is the gift of knowledge. He said that parents, in the interest of helping their children succeed and be happy, often tell them what to do. However, Chinmaya Mission does not attempt to tell people what to do. Instead, it helps individuals understand their true nature, because once a person realizes his/her divine nature, the actions follow accordingly.
Swami Shantananda brought out the importance of family life (grihastha ashram). Each individual plays a particular role and has certain duties to fulfil. The beauty of the family life is in the spirit of sacrifice and service to the other ashramas. Swamiji, in spite of his hectic schedule, made time to visit Chicago and grace the annual banquet with an inspiring message for all attendees. Swamiji’s love and affection for all families was evident throughout the evening.
Acharya Shanker Pillai outlined the goals, activities, expansion plans, and the need for funds to continue meeting the growing needs of the community. He announced about an accredited International Sanskrit University under the Chinmaya Mission umbrella, approved by the Government of India, and the seed funding in place. Dr. Ashok Dholakia (vice president of Chinmaya Mission Chicago) then elaborated on the current financial obligations of Chinmaya Mission and the various means to help with the funding of the new proposed expansion of the Badri center complex. The current living quarter is nearly 100 years old. Dr. Ashok Batia reported on the interest free loan (Sangam fund) and the monthly recurring contribution opportunity (Ananda fund).
The entertainment for the evening was an enchanting mix of dances and music presented by children from the Bala Vihar program, supported by adult volunteers. Bala Vihar is an integral part of Chinmaya Mission and was started by Swami Chinmayananda to instill good values right from childhood and inspire kids to live a nobler life. In his own words, “Children are not vessels to be filled, but lamps to be lit.”
High school youth and College and young professional members (CHYK) provided service throughout the evening by babysitting children of banquet attendees and helping with collecting donation envelopes. CHYK group had also organized a separate event during the summer to raise funds for the Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development.
The event came to a conclusion with a vote of thanks by Dr. Arun Mehrotra (Secretary, Chinmaya Mission Chicago) and the chanting of Bhagavad Gita chapter XV, followed by a delicious meal served by India House restaurant. A complimentary souvenir book with inspiring articles, information about classes offered at Chinmaya Mission Chicago, class pictures, and advertisements from local supporting companies was given to each family as a token of appreciation for attending the banquet.
The message of “We Stand as One Family” resonated throughout the event, evident in the harmonious working of the volunteers, both on and off the stage.
For over 37 years, Chinmaya Mission has been serving the Chicagoland area by conducting weekly Bala Vihar classes & adult study groups, summer youth camps, and spiritual retreats. Please contact Acharya Shanker Pillai (630-886-6442) for details regarding activities at Badri Center (11S080 Rte. 83, Willowbrook, IL 60527/www.chinmaya-chicago.org
) center, and Mrs. Rajul Bhalala (847-302-2383) for details regarding Yamunotri Center activities (30877 N Fairfield Rd, Grayslake, IL 60030/ www.chinmaya-yamunotri.org). Bala Vihar and adult class activities in Downtown Chicago, Peoria (IL), Springfield (IL) Columbus (OH), Saint Louis (MO), Iowa City (IA) and Milwaukee (WI) are supported by Chinmaya Mission Chicago.