| CENTER PROFILE
The Chinmaya Mission Washington DC Regional Center services Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia.
Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda’s first jnana yajna in Washington DC was in 1978, organized by Acharya Vilasini and her family. Pujya Gurudev returned for jnana yajnas in 1985 and 1987, and conducted residential camps in 1988 and 1989. Chinmaya Mission Washington Regional Center (CMWRC) was formed in 1988 and the founding trustees included Dr. Sadananda, Acharya Vilasini, and Nanik Lahori.
In 1988, in the auspicious presence of Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda, CMWRC inaugurated its newly purchased building on a three-acre property at 46 Norwood Road in Silver Spring, Maryland. Thus began the first Sunday Chinmaya Study Group and Bala Vihar classes. In 1989, Pujya Gurudev blessed the new center by installing the idol of Lord Jagadishvara (Lord Shiva), and named the ashram, “Kailas Niwas.” He then appointed Swami Dheerananda as CMWRC’s resident acharya.
In accordance with Pujya Gurudev’s instructions during his last visit in 1993, CMWRC embarked on the construction of a new building adjacent to Kailas Niwas. Construction was completed in 2002, and on August 3, the new building was inaugurated by Pujya Guruji and named by him as “Chinmayam.”
In addition to the relocated shrine of Lord Jagadishvara, Chinmayam houses a 320-person assembly hall with a stage, 10 classrooms, an office, and a bookstall. Most of CMWRC’s activities are now conducted in this new facility. Due to increased participation and limited parking space, three weekend sessions are now held (Saturday morning, Sunday morning, and Sunday afternoon).
When CMWRC first formed in 1998, simultaneous classes were begun in Springfield, Virginia, in a devotee’s home. Founded with less than ten families, this satellite now serves over 200 adults and 200 children through its Chinmaya Study Group and Bala Vihar classes, which are held at a rented facility. In September 2007, upon the completion of the two-year Vedanta course in Mumbai, India, Pujya Guruji appointed Acharya Pramila Poudel as CM Springfield’s resident acharya.
Over the years, two new chapters emerged on Maryland’s eastern and western fronts, Salisbury and Frederick, respectively. Frederick activities increased and it has now grown into a satellite center. CM classes for adults and children are conducted in both locations at rented facilities.
Since 2005, CMWRC has also been conducting Chinmaya Study Group and Bala Vihar classes at a rented facility for 35 families in its local chapter of Richmond, Virginia.
Chinmaya activities saw an explosion in the Northern Virginia area of Dulles. In 2005, CMWRC began the Dulles chapter with limited capacity. To the surprise of all, registration for CM classes on the first day became full, and a waiting list began and continued to rapidly increase. Encouraged by the overwhelming demand to expand and accommodate the extensive waiting list, the Dulles chapter has since then continued to grow in incomparable proportions. CM classes are held at a rented facility for over 200 children and 200 adults. The new chapter is now looking into purchasing property. In September 2007, upon the completion of the two-year Vedanta course in Mumbai, India, Pujya Guruji appointed Acharya Anant Sarma as the resident acharya in Dulles.
The seeds for the Chinmaya Movement in Virginia were laid by Vijay Kumar, who began the first Gita Study Group at the local temple and introduced the community to Chinmaya Mission. Through his encouragement, many attended Pujya Guruji’s inspiring talks on “Jnana Sara” in Washington DC in 2004. In early 2005, a few families felt the need for Bala Vihar in the Virigina region, considering CMWRC’s ashram was more than 30 miles away. The group approached CMWRC’s Secretary, Sethuraman Balan, who in turn asked the group of over 25 families to find local meeting place in Virginia. In August, 2005, over 20 families began the new Dulles chapter. Two months later, on Oct. 1, 2005, Swami Dheerananda inaugurated the classes and activities at the Arcola Community Center in Sterling, Virginia.
Originally planned for around 40 families, the inaugural function saw an overwhelming response from the community with almost 200 people. As the new satellite began functioning, the first step for the coordinators was to increase the number of classes to accommodate more families, which it did in January 2006. In its second year, the Dulles chapter faced the challenge of not having enough space at the facility. The problem was solved when the Community Center itself is moving to a newer and larger building. Membership grew to over 160 families, with more than 210 kids enrolled in Chinmaya Bala Vihar. Over the years, the numbers continue to grow. CM devotees in Dulles organized their first jnana yajna in December 2006. In April 2007, Swami Ishwarananda conducted a one-day camp on “Manisha Panchakam.”
In 2011, the Springfield and Dulles chapters were consolidated into 280 families of the Northern Virginia chapter under the leadership and guidance of Acharyas Anant Sarma and Pramila Poudel. CMWRC purchased new property in Chantilly, VA, and construction is underway. The new ashram has been blessed by Pujya Guruji with the name, “Chinmaya Somnath.”
CMWRC currently has almost 900 Chinmaya Bala Vihar students and over 800 Chinmaya Study Group members. Language and music classes are conducted and local social service projects are organized.
Every December, CMWRC organizes and conducts a fundraising banquet with a renowned keynote speaker. The event is always well-attended, and helps strengthen the Chinmaya Family bond of love and support. CMWRC annually conducts its successful summer day camps for children. Over the years, growing interest and participation in its month-long day camps has required CMWRC to conduct camps in two to three locations. The spiritual classes and activities are conducted by Swami Dheerananda and CMW Acharyas/Sevaks from different CM centers. Local volunteers assist with all other camp activities.
The Chinmaya Gita Chanting Competition is conducted annually for children and adults. This event has grown in popularity and enthusiastic participation over the years, and has over 250 participants.