| CENTER PROFILE
When Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda founded Chinmaya Mission West (CMW), year after year, devotees organized Gurudev's talks in their local communities so all sincere seekers could benefit from Vedantic wisdom. In 1979, the spark kindled in one such discourse by Pujya Gurudev on "Cause and Effect" at Oak Brook Church in Oak Brook, Illinois, planted the seed for the first Gita jnana yajna held in Chicago (Aug. 10-19, 1980), and resulted in the establishment and incorporation of a regional CMW center in Chicago, blessed by Pujya Gurudev as "Badri: A School of Vedantic Studies."
Inspiration gained from several yajnas spurred volunteers to start and conduct Chinmaya kids'/youth camps to orient the younger generation with their rich spiritual heritage. Hundreds of children participated in these camps every year. Weekly Chinmaya Bala Vihar and Yuva Kendra sessions began in living rooms and basements, and were highly effective in the education and inculcation of universal values.
Spiritual camps and retreats had to be conducted in expensive rental facilities available only at certain times during the year. To serve this need and the growing number of participants in CM classes, CM devotees set out in search of a suitable place to establish an ashram in the Chicago area.
As a centrally located city, accessible from all directions in all modes of transport, Chicago was uniquely suited to house a CM center. After a thorough search and careful analysis, with Pujya Gurudev's blessings and approval, CM Chicago purchased 6.5 acres in Hinsdale. The Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve forms the scenic backdrop for the serene and secluded ashram, which is also easily accessible from major highways. The existing building on the property was improved with 5,000 sq. ft. of structures in order to better serve the community.
Soon, through growing and enthusiastic responses from families, the existing classrooms, halls, and parking lots were overflowing, requiring immediate ashram expansion. To meet these immediate and future needs, expansion construction began in July 1992. The first phase covered a new two-story building, with a meditation hall and shrine to Lord Badri Narayana on the upper level, and classrooms, kitchen, and dining hall on the lower level. CM Chicago was most fortunate that on July 1, 1993, Pujya Gurudev blessed the devotees and the work by spending two hours at the shrine location. Though in a wheelchair, he gave detailed instructions for the upcoming inaugural function.
The formal inauguration was to be done by Pujya Gurudev on Aug. 28, 1993, but he attained mahasamadhi on Aug. 3. The inauguration of the new building and the sthapana mahotsava of the idol of Lord Badri Narayana took place on Oct. 24, 1993, presided over by Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda.
CM Chicago's success is due to Pujya Gurudev's blessings, Pujya Guruji's guiding grace, resident acharya Swami Sharananada's love and service, CM acharyas' visits, the dedicated and enthusiastic services of local devotees, and the encouragement and support of all members. Loved by all, Swami Sharanananda is an inspiring beacon for CM Chicago and its satellites.
To date, CM Chicago has been instrumental in starting satellites and centers in various areas, including Minneapolis, northern Illinois, northwest Indiana, Peoria, Springfield, and Iowa City. The former three have become official independent centers.
Activities at Badri have been flowing and growing since its inception. Regular classes are held throughout the year, including summertime. Presently, two Sunday Bala Vihar sessions are conducted, with simultaneous classes for adults on yoga, meditation, Gita, and Study Group. Families leave after arati and lunch prasad.
Additional Sunday sessions at Badri include Gita chanting, Hanuman Chalisa chanting, Sanskrit classes, and dance classes. Weekly Devi Group is also held, along with Pujya Gurudev's Gita on video and Pujya Guruji's Ramayana on video. Lord Badri Narayana's puja is conducted daily on weekdays.