History: The Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago Established on January 19, 1930 at 120 East Delaware Place, Chicago
Swami Jnaneshwarananda: First Monk-In-Charge & President (1929 - 1937) 1. December 1929: Arrived in Chicago to start a center in the city of Swami Vivekananda's triumph. 2. Jan 19, 1930: Established center at 120 East Delaware Place. 3. Held Classes at Masonic Temple. 4. 1933: Convention to commemorate 40th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda's advent in Chicago. 5. 1936: Centenary celebration of Sri Ramakrishna was held. 6. Swami Jnaneshwarananda left his mortal frame on Nov 14, 1937.
Swami Vishwananda: Second Monk-In-Charge & President (1938 - 1965) 1. May 1938: Arrived in Chicago. 2. Center Moved To: 506, Deming Place. 3. Center Moved To: 44, Elm Street. 4. Swami Vishwananda left his mortal frame on July 25, 1965.
Swami Bhashyananda: Third Monk-In-Charge & President (1965 - 1996) 1. July 28, 1965: Arrived in Chicago. 2. 1966: Center moved to 5423 S. Hyde Park Blvd. (Purchased with support from Chester Carlson, the inventor of the Xerox.) 3. 1967: Women's cottage at 5407, S. Hyde Park Blvd. was purchased. 4. 1970: Building at 5419 S. Hyde Park Blvd was purchased. 5. 1974: Both buildings (5423 and 5419) were joined from inside. 6. 1968: Land was purchased at Ganges; MI. Vivekananda Monastery & Retreat was constructed. 7. Swami Bhashyananda left his mortal frame on Oct. 4, 1996.
Swami Chidananda: Fourth Monk-In-Charge & President (1993 - Date) 1. May 1991: Arrived in Chicago. 2. 1993: Centenary Celebrations of the Parliament of World Religions. 3. 1993: Monk's Conference. 4. September 11, 1995: A Bronze Plaque was installed commemorating Swamiji's Historic Address (At the Parliament) at the Art Institute of Chicago (Site of the Parliament of Religions in 1893.) 5. November 11, 1995: The portion of Michigan Avenue directly in front of The Art Institute was renamed "Honorary Swami Vivekananda Way." 6. July 12, 1998: A 10' 2" Bronze Statue of Swami Vivekananda (The largest public statue in America) was installed at The Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago, Lemont, Illinois. 7. June 2001: Vedanta in the Third Millennium: Monk's Conference.
8. June 2005: Platinium Jubilee Celebrations: Vedanta for the Global Village: Monk's Conference. 9. 2003: Land purchased in Homer Glen to build Sri Ramakrishna Universal Temple. 10. Sept, 2008: Center moved to 14630 Lemont Road, Homer Glen.
Swami Jnaneswarananda: Monk-In-Charge & President (1929 - 1937)
Swami Jnaneswarananda was born as Satindra Chakravarty in the village of Shekharnagar, about 12 miles from Dhaka in East Bengal, on June 28, 1893. Because he was born on a particularly rainy day, his sister gave him the nickname "Badal" (rainy season) by which he was affectionately known. As a boy, Badal was always the leader of the village boys. He was a good actor as a child, and had a strong, beautiful voice for singing. He had a taste for religious drama and kirtan (singing the name of God) from his early years. In 1914, Swami Premananda, one of the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, came to Dhaka for the first time. Badal was still a student and only 21 years old. In a talk entitled, "The Mysticism of Love," given in Chicago, he referred
to this meeting with Swami Premananda and the impression the Swami made on him. "At that time, I was a rebel, almost an anarchist, as could be expected in India in those days. That holy man did not impress me by talk or philosophy, but by the sheer power, the sheer "mysticism of love. â€œ Badal had already joined the revolutionary party in Dhaka, which was committed to the overthrow of British rule in India. Soon after his meeting with Swami Premananda, however, Badal changed his mind about using guns to end the British dominion. He began to see that Swami Vivekananda's method was sounder, so he decided to drop his membership in the party. This took some courage, as joining required signing a pledge that stated anyone leaving the party would be shot. Badal told the party quite frankly that the path chalked out by them was not the right path, and if they spared his life he would join the Ramakrishna Mission and never divulge any information about their activities. After much argumentation, the leader's great respect for Badal's character won out and he was allowed to leave unconditionally. In 1914 he graduated from college and continued his postgraduate work for two years. Then he visited Belur Math where he received the vows of brahmacharya in 1917 and Sanyasa in 1919, both from Swami Brahmananda. He was given the monastic name
Jnaneswarananda, meaning the infinite bliss of knowledge of God. The new swami was first posted for five years (1917-1922) to Benares Sevashram serving the sick. While in Benares he came under the influence of Swami Turiyananda. From Swami Turiyananda he learned fearlessness and mindfulness. In 1922, Swami Turiyananda suggested that Jnaneswarananda be sent to open a center in Patna, Bhiar. The work began modestly with two small mud-walled, thatched-roof huts. Among the devotees was Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who later became the first President of Independent India. In the latter part of 1926, the Swami was transferred to Belur Math, and after a short time he was sent to America to assist Swami Bodhananda at the Vedanta Society of New York. In December 1929, he left New York for Chicago to start a center in the city of Swami Vivekananda's triumph. The center was established at 120 East Delaware Place. The swami had his living quarters there, and this is where he gave interviews and held public and private classes. Public lectures were given in a lecture hall at the centrally located Masonic Temple. In 1933 the Swami began to suffer from a heart condition. A trip to India in 1934 only aggravated his condition, and Swami Jnaneswarananda passed away on Sunday, November 14, 1937 from a sudden massive heart attack.
Swami Vishwananda: Monk-In-Charge & President (1938 - 1965)
Swami Vishwananda was a disciple of Swami Brahmananda, one of the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. Born in Bengal, he graduated from the University of Calcutta with a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy. He came from a remarkable family: two of his brothers also joined the Ramakrishna Order after college, one being also a medical doctor. The swami joined the Order as a novice in 1920, and after receiving brahmacharya worked for some time at the Madras Center, finally receiving Sanyasa in 1923. Within the year he was assigned to start a center in Bombay. Those who knew the swami at this time characterized him as â€œThe sociable Swami, strikingly resembling a
Christian priest or pastor with his flock...moving among them and casually visiting the homes of people. He did not inflict any religious discourse, but talked with everyone with a streak of humor. He readily accepted invitations to dinner and had no restrictions on food." When the call came to go to America, an unusual "culture shock" awaited the swami. He had been used to the life of a Mohanta, with all devotees eager to serve him. The gregarious nature of his predecessor, Swami Jnaneswarananda had drawn to the Chicago center an avant-garde group of anarchists, saints, mystics, "hippies," and musicians: a group used to treating a swami as a jolly good fellow and a friend. For whatever reason, the Swami became rather a recluse, with a deep meditative life revealed only occasionally in talks with his brother-monks and chosen devotees. In his lectures and classes he was profound and brilliant: an accomplished story-teller with a photographic memory for incidents and names, nourished by his extensive readings in world literature. On the voyage from India to America, he met the author W. Somerset Maugham, who was so impressed by The Swami that he modeled a Swami character in his book "The Razor's Edge" on Vishwananda A few years after his arrival in Chicago, Swami Vishwananda moved the Center to 506 Deming Place, a rented apartment with a large living room where
he held classes on the Gita while continuing to give Sunday lectures in a rented hall usually at a Unity Church. Then in 1955 a building was purchased at 44 East Elm Street in a quiet, respectable neighborhood. Swami Vishwananda's last days were especially revealing. least three observers confirm that during much of the time when the doctors said he was in "coma," the swami was actually quite alert, but in deep meditation from which he could be only briefly roused by questions from near ones or bodily pains. Even then, only to smile or indicate that he was all right. And so he gave up his body on July 25, 1965.
Swami Bhashyananda: Monk-In-Charge & President (1965 - 1996)
Born April 18, 1917 in Akola in Maharashtra state, Swami Bhashyananda was given the name Vasant Vishvanath Natu. His father, Vishwanath Vasudev Natu, and his mother, Annapurna, were pious, orthodox Brahmins, and he began his Vedic studies in early childhood. At the age of five his father began to teach him how to sit for meditation.Vasant received his Master in Arts from the University of Nagpur in central India, and held the highest academic degree at that time in Sanskrit from a recognized Indian university. Before graduating from college, he began to attend and finally joined the Ramakrishna order in Nagpur in about 1936. Under the guidance of his Guru, Swami Virajananda, then president of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, he practiced Raja yoga for several years. In 1962 he was transferred to Calcutta to assist Swami Ranganathananda
in the work of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, where he became assistant director. In 1964 he was transferred to New York to assist Swami Nikhilananda, where he became well adjusted to American ways. And finally, on July 28, 1965, on the passing of Swami Vishwananda, he was appointed Swami-in-Charge of the Vivekananda Vedanta Society in Chicago. Swami Bhashyananda's work in Chicago was distinguished by vigorous expansion. Within a year of taking charge, the congregation of the center tripled and in 1966 he moved the center from its Elm Street location to Hyde Park, Chicago. In 1966, Swami bought a quarter at 5423 South Hyde Park Boulevard in Chicago with the assistance of a staunch devotee from New York, Chester Carlson, and the inventor of the Xerox. The new temple, which was located near the University of Chicago, was dedicated on September 7, 1966. In 1970 the house next to the main temple (5419 S. Hyde Park Blvd.) was purchased and these two building were joined into one in 1974. In 1967, a one-story building, located at 5407 South Hyde Park Boulevard, was acquired by the society and named "Holy Mother's Cottage" to house women devotees who wished to lead a spiritual life. The most dramatic expansion of the Society was the purchase of 110 acres of land in 1968 & subsequent development of the Vivekananda Monastery &
Retreat facility in Ganges Township, Michigan. The ground-breaking ceremony for the new temple at the Retreat was performed on May 15, 1971. The Monastery land, with fruit trees, garden, a small lake and stream, bee-hives, farm acreage and farm animals, is restful to the eye and the mind. It now contains a temple, library, museum, and book store, auditorium, dining hall, and guest facilities for retreatants. Each year there is a children's camp. Swami saw the Vivekananda Vedanta Society grow from a small center on Elm Street to a large complex of buildings at Chicago and Ganges. Swami Bhashyananda was a frequent traveler, making semiannual pilgrimages to India and dividing his time between Chicago and Ganges, as well as establishing over 40 "satellite" Vedanta groups throughout the United States and Canada. A tall, well-proportioned, athletic man with regal features and a broad smile, Swami possessed an excellent sense of humor, and was an able story teller. His knowledge of the Hindu scriptures was broad and he had a talent of making lucid the most abstruse philosophical points. In college, wrestling and soccer had been favorites of his and after the Vedanta Center moved to Hyde Park, Chicago, he would take long walks along the lakefront. Once, he and two of the bramhacharis took a walk that lasted for 22 miles! In the mid-1980's, Swami Bhashyananda suffered the first of eight strokes. He
continued to perform his duties as Swami-in-Charge for several more years. Swami Chidananda was sent by Belur Math, India to assist him in 1991. After suffering a series of strokes, Swami Bhashyanandae left the body on October 4, 1996.
Swami Chidananda: Monk-In-Charge & President (1993 - Date)
Swami Chidananda Born 9 October 1932 (Vijaya Dashami) in Banglore at Karnataka, India. Was Given Name Laxmana. He got B.S.C. on Engineering. Joined the Ramakrishna Order in 1956 at the Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Bangalore, Karnataka, after completing his university education. He was initiated by Yatishwaranandaji, Vice President of the Ramakrishna Order 1956 when he was 24. During the formative years of his monastic career, he had the privilege of receiving direct guidance from the Revered Maharaj, the author of "Meditation and Spiritual Life." Brahmacharya from Swami Vishudhanya 1966 given name Gadadhar Chaitnya. As a monk, He took Sanyasa at the Belur Math from Swami Vireshvarananda in 1966.
Swami Chidananda became President of Sri Ramakrishna Ashram, Bangalore, in Nov. 1983. Some of his most noteworthy achievements in this capacity include: He oversaw several schemes such as the Integrated Rural Development Project for the all-around development of fourteen impoverished villages, providing drinking-water facilities, school for the children of the villages, mobile dispensary, and similar facilities. 1. Transliterated Yajur-Veda & Rig-Veda into Kannada & Published Two Books (Saswar Veda Mantra) 2. Started Vivekananda Yuvak Sangha 3. Conducted Youth Conventions (Attended by over 25,000 Students) 4. In 1986, Organized Drought Relief & Rehabilitation for Over 4000 Cattle. 5. Adopted 14 Impoverished Villages For Development, a Far-Reaching, Visionary Project Involving. Construction of homes for villagers Introduction of modern agricultural technologies to increase food production Vocational & Practical Training To Upgrade Village Economy Establishment of a Fair-Price Depot For Village Trade Founding of School for 350 Village Children Instituting Mobile Dispensary to Bring Regular Modern Medical Care to 70 Villagers.
In May 1989, He was named Assistant Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Calcutta. In August 1993, Swami Chidananda Was Appointed As Minister-In-Charge & President of The Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, Illinois, & The Vivekananda Vedanta Monastery in Ganges, Michigan. The Swami has recorded CD of Devotional Songs, of selected mantras (Vedic Chanting) of the Upanishads, of the 18 Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita (Bhagavad Gita chanting). Swami Chidanandaâ€™s weekly classes on the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna and Bhagavad Gita Discourses. Swami Chidananda has great emphasis on Spiritual Retreats. Every year, Swami Chidananda invites Swamis of the Ramakrishna Mission to conduct retreats. These monthly retreats are well attended & have a become a spiritual staple of the devotees. Annually, 10-11 retreats are conducted with a retreat every month.
Under his dynamic leadership following special events were conducted: 1993: Centenary Celebrations of the Parliament of World Religions. 1993: Monk's Conference. 2001: Vedanta In The Third Millennium: Monk's Conference. 2005: Vedanta For The Global Village: Monk's Conference. These conferences are attended by all the Monks of The Ramakrishna Order in the West. Over Thousands of
devotees attend these programs & are greatly benefitted by them.
Swami Chidananda has made great strides to publicly honor the memory of Swami Vivekananda in Chicago. Under his dynamic initiative and leadership the following honors were made: September 11, 1995: A Bronze Plaque was Installed Commemorating Swamiji's Historic Address (At the Parliament) At the Art Institute of Chicago (Site of the Parliament of Religions in 1893) November 11, 1995: The Portion of Michigan Avenue Directly In Front of The Art Institute Was Renamed "Swami Vivekananda Way." July 12, 1998: A 10' 2" Bronze Statue of Swami Vivekananda (The Largest Public Statue in America) Was Installed At the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago, Lemont, Illinois.
Swami Vivekananda visualized a "Temple Universal in The West". To fulfill Swamiji's vision, in 2003, Swami Chidananda purchased 15 acres of land in Homer Glen, a suburb of Chicago to build new Sri Ramakrishna Universal Temple. Temple moved from Hyde Park to Homer Glen on 21st September 2008.
Activities Weekly Classes & Monthly Retreats on Spiritual topics Major Pujas & Celebrations. Sanskrit, Yoga & Childrens Classes Book-shop & Library Free Medical Clinic Exhibition Gallery: (Swami Vivekananda in Chicago)
Time: Saturday: 9:00 - 10:30 am Instructor: Dr. Usha Mahisekar Dr. Usha Mahisekar (Medical Practioner) is a Samskrita Bharati Instructor. Students will learn to read, speak & write Sanskrit. (Prior knowledge is not needed.) Samskrit Bharati has developed a curriculum to help anyone with no prior knowledge of Sanskrit to learn & start understanding Scriptures (Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana etc.) within 2 years.
Yoga (Pranayama) Class
Time: Sunday: 9:00 - 10:30 am Instructor: Dr. Brij Kumar Kamboj Dr. Brij Kumar Kamboj is a "Certified Level 3 Yoga Teacher" from Swami Baba Ramdev's Patanjali Yogapeeth Trust, Haridwar, India. Classes are based on: 1. The 5 principles advocated by Swami Ramdevji 2. A mix of Yoga Asanas, Pranayama, Natural Living & Balanced Thinking.
Free Health Clinic
Time: Sunday: 12:00 - 1:00 pm & by appointment. Attending Doctors: 1. Dr. Deepak Bakane: M.D. 2. Dr. Subhash Vaikar: M.D. 3. Dr. Ramesh Kharwadkar: M.D. Medical consultation is available free of cost by eminent Medical Practitioners
Sunday school For Children
Time: Sunday: 11:00 am - 12:30 pm Some of The Topics Are: 1. Introduction To Sanskrit. 2. Introduction to Deities 3. Srimad Bhagavatam 4. Great Spiritual Masters of India