Chinmaya Mission - Andover Center

This data was last updated on 3 July 2018.

Address: 1 Union Street, Andover, MA 01810
Phone: 978-749-0876

Mission Statement & Background: "The purpose of Chinmaya Mission 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 Vedanta is a system of Hindu philosophy based upon the Upanishads of the Vedas; the Upanishads are commentaries on the Vedas, which are ancient religious scriptures. Swami Chinmayananda, who died in 1993, was a world-renowned Vedantic philosopher and spiritual Guru who founded the Chinmaya Mission in 1953. Swami Tejomayananda is the spiritual head of Chinmaya Mission centers globally and aims to share the lessons of Chinmayananda. Dr. Gopala Dwarakanath and his wife, Shashi Dwarakanath, have led efforts to bring the Chinmaya Maruti in Andover to fruition. Shashi Dwarakanath teaches at the center and serves as an instrumental leader of the mission, while her husband serves as president of the mission.

Description of Center: Seeking to find a permanent home for their activities and services, the members of Chinmaya Mission Boston bought a three-acre property from the Visiting Nurses Association in December of 1999. The Center was officially founded on June 14th, 2003. A river borders the property on which the Chinmaya Maruti Center sits. The center itself is approximately 13,000 square feet in size with high ceilings, large halls, classrooms, a library, and a shrine area- all of which contribute to the Center's aesthetic appeal. The brightly lit lobby boasts a granite floor decorated with a floral design as well as a chandelier and portrait of Swami Chinmayananda. The basement level serves as both a function hall large enough for 250 people and classrooms for Sunday school. Downstairs, one encounters a thousand-pound marble statue of the monkey God Hanuman to whom worshippers pray. He is a principle deity of Hinduism as he represents devotion, dedication, power, and strength. Various food and money offerings are laid around him. The hall harboring this shrine leads into a large room half covered in oriental rugs. Various offices, classrooms, and storage rooms are adjacent to this main grand room. In addition to the Chinmaya Maruti in Andover, the Chinmaya Mission Boston has satellite centers in Newton, Massachusetts and Nashua, New Hampshire where about 80 children attend classes. The Nashua meetings are held at the Nashua Center for Multiply Handicapped; the Newton meetings are held at Lasell College in Newton.

Activities and Schedule: The Chinmaya Mission Boston meets every week in Andover's Chinmaya Maruti Center. These meetings consist of a Balavihar (children's group) for ages 4-13, a youth group for adolescents in grades 8-12, and a study group for adults ages 18 and over. Attendees come from Andover, North Andover, Lexington, Billerica, Acton, Chelmsford, Burlington, Nashua, New Hampshire, Salem, and the South Shore of Massachusetts. The Chinmaya Maruti maintains a rich schedule of meetings as well as educational and spiritual classes. Balavihar (children’s meeting) is held on Sunday mornings from 10-12 Noon and Friday evenings from 7-8:30 PM. Group meetings are held on Sundays from 10-11:30 AM for returning members and Fridays from 7-8:30 PM for new members. The spiritual class “Reading Sundar Kandam” is held on Tuesdays from 7:30-8 PM. On Wednesdays from 10-11 AM, there is a Devi Group Vedanta Class (women’s study and discussion group for the Vedanta), and from 11- 12 Noon there is a Devi Group Stotram Class (women’s group for practicing hymns dedicated to God's glory). On Thursdays from 7-8 PM, a Vedanta Class by Brni Bhamati Chaitanya is conducted. At 10 AM on Sundays, children attend Balavihar while adults attend Satsang. Satsang, which means contact with a group of people who listen to and talk about the "Truth," begins with a video-recorded lecture by Swami Chinmayananda on basic principles of Hinduism. Viewers sing along with the intermittent hymns recorded on the video. The approximately thirty male and female attendees watch attentively, some taking notes. At the end of the hour and a half long session, a discussion is held. In Balvihar, children are exposed to the Hindu faith's stories and mythology from scriptures. As Shashi Dwarakanath notes, the children are the congregation's future. The Chinmaya Maruti teaches them the rituals and deities of Hinduism, but eventually also the significance and symbolism of the actions they perform. The mission seeks to avoid blind dogmatic activity. Both children and adults gather for Bhajans (hymns), Aarathi ("removal of ignorance" during which prayers may be recited), and the pledge at 11:30 AM (schedule details). The Resident Acharya, or spiritual teacher, is Brahmacharini Bhamati Chaitanyaji who took office in June 2004 and leads the Center's activities. A Brahmacharini is an unmarried, female spiritual leader who observes, disciplines and teaches children, among other duties. Bhamati conducts Satsangs and runs a day camp for children during the summer. She also guides spiritual activities in the other Chinmaya Mission Boston satellite centers in Newton and Nashua. In addition to publishing a multitude of books, newsletters, and audio and video tapes, the Chinmaya Mission also runs schools, camps, lectures, study groups, bhajan groups, hospitals, research institutes, retreats, international programs and centers. The Center's quarterly publication is the Maruti Messenger. Immediate congregation members and other interested individuals may take copies from the center. Guest speakers, festivals, and performances by the youth group and children are also held from time to time. Swamis and teachers from other centers are frequently invited by Chinmaya Mission Boston to give lectures on various topics and to talk with the youth.

Fundraising Involvement: A concert, Swar Lahri (meaning cascade of melody), was organized by Swati Panda on December 11, 2004 to raise money for Chinmaya Mission and Panda's Raganjali School of Music. Seventeen children and eight adults sang to an audience of over 200 attendees. In the same vein, a dinner event called "Taste of India" raised more than $165,000 for Andover Chinmaya Maruti Center on November 15, 2003. More recently, to aid victims of the tsunami in south Asia, Chinmaya Maruti raised $27,000 in donations in the span of several months. The donations were given to the Chinmaya Center in Sri Lanka, one of several Chinmaya Center locales worldwide. Many of these fundraisers are accomplished, often with great results, without the aid of large-scale advertisement. Word of mouth, which often prompts personal donations, is responsible for the fundraisers’ success.

Community Involvement and Outreach: Shashi Dwarakanath and fellow mission members have visited local public schools to educate children on Hinduism and the Vedanta. The congregation is also involved in a local soup kitchen, as giving back to the community is a tenant of the faith. An interfaith service with a local Methodist church was held during Thanksgiving 2004, in which both congregations recited and shared prayers. The communal events attest to the Center's goal of being an active member in the local, as well as global, community. The Chinmaya Maruti Center gives back to its community in different ways. Not all of the Center's donations are monetary. A bone marrow drive was held on August 22, 2004 for baby Varun Bhaskaran afflicted by Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome; Sri Velukkudi Krishnan Swami, Vedic scholar from Chennai, spoke at the Center on June 5 & 6, 2004; and the Center sponsored Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, a well-known violinist, to play in a violin trio at Rogers Center for the Arts in North Andover on April 26, 2003. Because a member of the Chinmaya Maruti advisory board is also on the board of the League of Women Voters, the LWV has also paid a formal visit to the Center.

Challenges: Shashi Dwarakanath cites the training of new teachers as one of the greatest challenges facing the mission. A significantly large portion of attendees is children, so subsequently the need for good instruction is a priority. Its leaders also describe the Chinmaya Maruti as being "in its infancy," as it was erected just two years ago. The second phase of construction is estimated to be completed no sooner than 2007 and the congregation is still growing in terms of members. The size of the youth group, which is intended for 13-18 year olds, is one faction that board members would like to see expand. Columnist Mark Pickering notes that Andover's Chinmaya Maruti symbolizes the Chinmaya Mission Boston transitioning into a "new religious America."