Chinmaya Mission, Houston

This profile was last updated in 2006

History

In the mid-twentieth century, the man now known as Swami Chinmayananda travelled to the Indian mountain region of Rishikesh in order to research an expose on the Divine Life Mission. Rather than discovering the giant cult and swindle he had expected to find, he was impressed by the spirituality of Swami Sivananda and, naming himself Chinmayananda, he decided to spread the message around the world. His intent was to revive a Vedantic Hindu devotion in the Indian (and then international) populace, not to begin a new denomination, but a Chinmaya Mission Center was formed against his wishes in Madras in 1953. Eventually gaining his approval, such centers were founded around the country and the world. Most centers have ties with Hindu nationalist groups such as the VHP.

Many members of the Houston community were concerned by the relaxed attitude taken by many American Hindus to traditional Hindu practices; when they encountered children at Chinmaya Mission performing skits based on the Purana stories and adults taking Sanskrit classes, they felt they had found their spiritual home in the US. The Mission often becomes members’ main activity. One member interviewed spends all Sunday at the mission, teaches classes, and attends study groups three times a week.
Several people have left Chinmaya Mission in favor of the Meenakshi Temple or without replacing it with another religious affiliation. These former members have two main complaints. Many people from other parts of India feel unwelcome in the heavily Gujarati congregation; additionally, some former members express a belief that Chinmaya Mission is not a form of Hinduism with which they are comfortable.
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