Transcending race, religion, nationality

Many affluent Canadians have realized material comforts do not necessarily bring peace of mind. Some of them fail to find inner peace and harmony by following organized religions, but still search for satisfactory answers to such questions as: Who am I? What is the real purpose of my life on this Earth? Where do I go from here?

Many such spiritually frustrated Canadians are attracted to spiritual movements rooted in an ancient Hindu philosophy called Vedanta. It has a non-sectarian and universal approach to God that explains the relationship between God and His creation in a logical manner.

The Vedanta philosophy unites the peoples of the world by promoting the concept of one formless and impersonal Universal Soul (called Brahman) that resides in the bosom of every human being, transcending race, religion and nationality. Various independent institutions based in India are promoting this non-sectarian spiritualism internationally. They neither propagate Hinduism, nor do they seek converts, as proselytizing is not a part of the Hindu belief system.

One such spiritual movement is the Chinmaya Mission, named after its founder, the late Swami Chinmayananda (1916-1993). Anyone may join this movement while still practising his or her own religion.

Swami Chinmayananda (originally known as Balkrishan Menon), was a freedom fighter who was imprisoned by the British. After his release, he became a journalist and initially wanted to write an expose of swamis and saints. To this end, he visited the famous Swami Sivananda. During the interview, the cynical journalist was so affected by the knowledge revealed to him that he experienced a total transformation within himself and became Swami Sivananda’s humble disciple. After intensive spiritual training under the guidance of his Guru, the once-skeptical journalist Balkrishan Menon was initiated as Swami Chinmayananda and was given the mandate to promote world peace by spreading the Vedanta philosophy. Swami Chinmayananda was known for his passionate discourses and oratory and became an international icon in spiritual communities. In 1953, he established the Chinmaya Mission with this purpose:

“Chinmaya Mission makes available the ageless wisdom of Vedanta, knowledge of One Reality, and provides the tools to realize that wisdom in one’s own life. To give happiness to the maximum number for the maximum time is the tenet that drives members to uplift humanity beyond selfish, sectarian attitudes and activities. Each person’s gain is manifold: personal growth, heightened efficiency, contentment, and living in peace and harmony” (www.chinmayamission.com).

The followers of Swami Chinmayananda established chapters of the mission all over the world. The first Canadian chapter was formed in Toronto in 1972. A serene woman named Swamini Shivapriyananda, who was born and raised as a Christian in Poland, currently heads it. She first became interested in this movement when she met Swami Chinmayananda in 1981 while he was on a lecture tour of the United States.

The Canadian Chinmaya Mission chapter, now located in Maple, is regularly attended by about 200 seekers looking for inner peace and harmony through self-realization. Although most of the congregation are educated Hindu-Canadians, about 10 per cent are non-Hindus of various backgrounds. They learn about the Vedanta philosophy by attending a series of lectures and study circles and by studying the proper techniques of meditation. Practicing meditation regularly is the gateway to self-realization that eventually leads to God-realization.

The concept of self-realization is very difficult to explain to those who are not spiritually inclined. According to Swamini Shivpriyananda, “it means the awareness of our true nature. Our true nature is a state of beatitude, perfection, happiness, and freedom from all limitations.”

This is why the Vedanta philosophy states, “Thou are That,” meaning every human soul is divine in nature or has the potential to become divine. When a seeker achieves this realization during meditation, he or she becomes a jivmukta, or one who is liberated while living.

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Article By: Ajit Adhopia