Moving to Powai 15 odd years ago, each time when I’d wait for the elevator my eyes would be drawn to the beautiful glistening Powai Lake and the hills beyond. Around the Renaissance area, I’d see this huge dome shaped structure and wonder what it is. From that distance it seemed to be quite a few floors high. Later I found out that it was a mammoth Lingam atop a Shiva temple in the Chinmaya Mission campus. Since then I had wanted to visit it but the opportunity never came probably because fate decided it wasn’t yet time. A few months back too I went to the campus and couldn’t get darshan but recently I had occasion to actually see this beautiful temple from close quarters and was totally blown away. Simply couldn’t take my eyes off the pure white marble image of Lord Shiva in Samadhi pose with a half-smile on his lips. Completely mesmerizing and drawing you close.
It was a dear friend’s son’s wedding in this very temple’s premises and though we were constantly on our toes running around organizing and taking care of the guests yet every few moments we’d be glancing at the deity. So powerful is the idol that one just can’t stay away. A friend and I walked around the entire temple, akin to a pradakshina and the view from every angle was beautiful. We found a spot where you could sit by yourself and steal a few moments of escape into this verdant haven; a shangrila that reminds one of the golden age of India where thinking was high and living simple and basic. Nature, in all its’ glory showers its bounty in this peaceful undisturbed solitude.
The temple was consecrated in the late 60s although the Chinmaya Mission came into existence in the 50s and the Sandeepany Sadhanalaya that runs residential Vedanta courses, on the 9th of Jan 1963. The temple gate draws inspiration from the Sanchi Stupa, the pillars have Shiva Purana stories carved on them while the centre beam on top of the pillars has an inscription from the Quran carved on to it. This message of the unity of faiths is heartening to see.
Once you climb uphill from Larsen & Toubro, it’s so easy to forget that one is in a bustling city that literally never sleeps. The traffic, the crowds everything is left behind giving way to peace and tranquility. The campus is thus ideal for the soul searching and spiritual growth that the students come to this ‘gurukul’ for. The sadhaks live here meditating, chanting and studying the various ancient scripts. They have classes for Vedantic texts like the Upanishads, Bhagwad Gita, granthas authored by Adi Sankara and other scholars. Sanskrit and the Bhakti Literature like Ramayana are studied in depth. Students get an overview of all philosophical systems of India and the basics of world religions. They also participate in Satsangs and Bhajans and Shramdan during the day. The logic of spirituality and the science of living is the biggest contribution of the Chinmaya Mission to the world. They have over 250 centers in India and a presence in 25 countries across the world.
At the end of the 2 year course, they can either be integrated into the mission or become positive contributors in the real world. The only way to be happy is to realise the Self and it is these inner disciplines that are taught here. Named after the great rishi Sandeepany, it tries to revive our ancient culture and raise an army of Vivekanandas to solve the problems facing our country. 12th Jan is the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekanand. It is also the anniversary of the Sandeepany Sadhanalaya therefore it is appropriate timing to publish this piece in this month.