Vedanta Center Dedicates New Chapel in Atlanta
The Vedanta Center of Atlanta held the formal dedication of its new chapel (prayer hall). After having outgrown its meeting space, members made the momentous decision to build a separate chapel adjacent to the existing building. In October the builders handed over the keys to a brand new chapel. The shrine and other holy pictures were transferred to the new hall at an auspicious time.
The devotees were delighted when Swami Swahananda, Senior Minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, agreed to bless them by performing the dedication of the new chapel. Swami Ishtananda of the San Diego Monastery accompanied him. The dedication, held on Saturday, January 13, coincided with the celebration of the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.
The new chapel was filled to the brim as the dedication ceremony began with Swami Yogeshananda chanting prayers for peace from the Upanishads. Flowers, incense, purified water, and light were all offered to the deities in the customary manner. In a very moving part of the ceremony, representatives of the Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Sufi, and Sikh faiths offered prayers of blessing for the space and chapel.
Afterwards, Swami Yogeshananda introduced Swami Swahananda, who gave an inspiring lecture to the group. He began by stating the importance of setting aside the space as a place of worship and study of vedanta, and he emphasized that the building of this chapel only came about because of the persistence of Swami Yogeshananda. He encouraged the gathered to dedicate a corner of their homes for meditation and prayer. He noted with obvious pleasure about the appropriateness of having so many religious groups represented at the ceremony in light of Sri Ramakrishna's practicing of all faiths.
Quoting the Upanishad, he stated that the ultimate nature of being is peace – shanto abhiatman. He then admonished the group in the words of Swami Vivekanada to see God not only in oneself but in society as well. He observed that we see differences – dualities – when we separate ourselves from anything else. "God is within and god is everywhere," he said.���He encouraged daily contemplation – not on the body but on the soul.
After these inspiring remarks of Swami Swahananda, Swami Yogeshananda noted that several individuals in the audience had for many years worked towards a vedanta center in Atlanta. He acknowledged one of those individuals, Dr. Bhagirath Majmudar, who then addressed the group.
A real treat followed, with Swami Ishtananda robustly playing the harmonium and singing various bhajans in his rich baritone voice. A luncheon provided by the Center came next. A large cake depicting the seal of the Vedanta Center of Atlanta served as dessert. Following lunch, the assembly enjoyed musical offerings, first from a "pop" group composed of Center members, who performed group member Cyndi Craven's song that begins, "You are not bound, you are free..."
Rakhi Bannerjee then performed a poignant bhajan dedicated to the guru, followed by breathtaking Indian orchestral music from Amitava Sen and his group. Finally, Priya Chandrasekaran dazzled everyone on the veena with her virtuoso performance. Swami gave the closing remarks by stating that there were four parts to a dedication ceremony – a puja (worship and prayer), pravachan (lecture), bhajan (chanting) and bhojan (food) form.
The Center participates in Atlanta-based interfaith organizations and service projects such as nursing home visits and clothing donations to disabled communities. More information on the Vedanta Center of Atlanta can be sought at www.vedanta-atlanta.org.
~ Ravi R. Ponangi
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