MA Center Chicago’s 10th Anniversary Retreat with Swami Shantamritananda Puri

A montage of MACC 10th anniversary retreat images including Swamiji performing the homa, the cake, the water tower, the bonfire, the altar with Amma's photo

The ashram of a living master serves as a sanctuary, where one can contemplate, reflect, and recharge. The MA Center Chicago 10th Anniversary retreat, held on the beautiful 142-acre MA Center Chicago campus Friday May 13 through Sunday May 15 was the perfect sanctuary for the 150 retreatants, many of whom hadn’t been able to visit the Center for years due to the pandemic.

The 10th Anniversary Retreat began with an auspicious Maha Sudarshana Homa, performed by Swamiji in the quad located at the center of the ashram. The retreat also included an MA Center Chicago 10-year planning workshop, a ceremonial 10th anniversary tree planting, seva opportunities, an AYUDH food drive to benefit two local shelters, satsang and bhajans with Swamiji, a late-night bonfire with Swamiji, and watching Amma’s livestream from Amritapuri as a group – all of which culminated in Amma calling the AV team in Amritapuri to show retreat participants on camera during the live stream the last morning of the retreat.

Amma says that people can achieve a lot through unity of effort. During Swamiji’s satsang on Saturday, he shared that since MA Center Chicago’s inception and with Amma’s grace, significant improvements have been made to the 142-acre ashram grounds, including the demolition of approximately 120,000 square feet of unusable structures and the renovation of about 135,000 square feet of commercial and residential structures. We have made multiple upgrades to the water system, stormwater, wastewater, HVAC, gas, and electric systems. Since the ashram was purchased, we built 10,000 square feet of new construction, replaced about one mile of road, and installed a new one-acre pond. MA Center Chicago’s beautiful campus is the perfect venue for many events, especially Amma’s annual Chicagoland program, which we have hosted 8 times for about 100,000 visitors. We’ve also held numerous other events here, including: 

  • Six annual AYUDH International Summits, with more than 1,000 AYUDH members attending from all over the world
  • Workshops including beekeeping, permaculture, seed saving, tincture making, and more
  • Externally-hosted events, such as Samskrita Bharati (a Sanskrit retreat)

Amma says any sadhana (spiritual practice) we do benefits the entire world. The vibrations from chanting and meditation purify the atmosphere and our minds. MA Center has been and continues to host many programs for that purpose:

  • Approximately 65 homas and pujas
  • Yoga, meditation, and other retreats
  • Regular programs for our residents and community, including archana, satsang, guided meditations (IAM-35 and Amma’s White Flower meditation), Amrita Bala Kendra, bhajan class, and more.
  • Weekly Bhagavad Gita classes with Swami Shantamritananda Puri
  • Cultural celebrations and festivals, such as Krishna Jayanthi, Christmas, Buddha Purnima, as well as many others

Amma says that our duty to God is compassion and love for the poor and needy. In that spirit, we have held and continue to hold programs to provide food for the hungry, clothes for the needy, and to protect Nature, including:

  • Donating an estimated 15,000 meals to local shelters
  • Donating about 100,000 pounds of food to area food pantries
  • Planting approximately 1,500 trees
  • Providing much needed food, clothing, and household items to local families and regional Native American communities

All of these projects were undertaken with Amma as our inspiration. Amma says, “The ashram is Mother’s body. Whenever you do any service for the ashram, you are doing it for Mother. The ashram is not anyone’s private property; it is a means of providing peace and harmony for the entire world.” It is this teaching that motivates us to find more ways to live our lives in tune with Amma’s example, and the MA Center Chicago 10th Anniversary Retreat was the perfect time to reflect on what  how much has been accomplished and how much more we want to do. Swamiji announced plans for Amrita Research Center, a not-for-profit entity focused on education for social needs, here at MA Center Chicago, which was met with much excitement, as it signals a new phase for MA Center Chicago and new ways for us to be a part of Amma’s humanitarian mission.

Without a doubt, the grand finale of the retreat was the live Zoom with Amma as her Sunday morning live stream drew to an end. Everyone present smiled and waved at Amma, and Amma asked repeatedly for us all to come back on camera so she could see and hear us. After Amma lavished attention on everyone present, hearts blossomed and everyone felt even more inspired to live in accordance with Amma’s teachings, to be a living example of compassion and service to humanity and Nature.

After, as retreatants walked toward the satsang hall for our last lunch together and the final session, which included an MACC-through-the-years presentation, a gentle rain fell like a blessing upon all. A short time later, when the retreat was officially over, a brilliant rainbow stretched across the sky, arching over the MA Center Chicago water tower – a visible sign of the incredible Grace experienced by all throughout the retreat. Amma has said that her essence and wealth are her children. Let us pray that by living our lives in accordance with Amma’s teachings, we become like incense spreading the divine fragrance of love and service to all beings.

Aum Amriteshwaryai Namah