Chinmaya Sanjeevani

By Pallavi Muluk

December 2019

As a small bright orange building in the middle of Monroeville, Chinmaya Sanjeevani is a religious center for the teaching of Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Throughout the week, it holds classes, fundraisers, community events, and other spiritual activities. What started as an organization of a few family friends and 60 students in 1978 has grown into an enormous group of almost 600 people. With three centers known together as Chinmaya Mission Pittsburgh, Chinmaya Sanjeevani continues to be the spiritual home of the organization because of its unique aesthetic.

Facade of Chinmaya Sanjeevani Center
Façade of Chinmaya Sanjeevani Center. Photograph by author.

Perhaps the most eye-catching aspect of this building is the altar area in the central foyer of the building. As the first thing that one sees upon entering the building, the altar area houses a magnificent marble statue of the monkey-faced Lord Hanuman who is adorned with glimmering jewels and bright, embroidered clothing. At his feet are offerings of fruit and incense placed there by the priest who cares meticulously for the space and conducts regular rituals. The presence of this idol orients all who come into the building and clearly designates the space as sacred and sanctified. It purifies and primes the mind before its spiritual encounter and transforms the space from ordinary to divine.

While Hinduism calls for an ultimate transcendence of the material altogether, the idol is acknowledged as a necessary starting point in preparing oneself for the arduous task of achieving this abstract and daunting goal. The idol of Hanuman serves to connect worshippers with the divine through the personal, emotion-provoking medium of imagery. Eventually, the student of Vedanta must transition to seeing God not only in this idol but in everyone, every object, and every experience. Finally, the truly learned one will understand that God actually has no form at all (nirguna ishwara); God is simply the underlying principle behind the universe. In this way, idol worship is the first step in the path to contemplating and identifying with something greater than oneself.

Further Reading

Chinmaya Mission Sanjeevani. Chinmaya Mission Sanjeevani,

Pandya, Samta P. “‘Guru’ Culture in South Asia: The Case of Chinmaya Mission in India.” Society and Culture in South Asia, vol. 2, no. 2, July 2016, pp. 204–232.

“Prominent Hindu Teacher Swami Tejomayananda to Speak at Monroeville Convention: Subject is the Holy Epic of Lord Rama.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), 2010.

Srimad-Bhagavad-Gita, translated by Swami Paramānanda, The Vedanta Centre, 1913.

How to Cite

MLA: Muluk, Pallavi. “Chinmaya Sanjeevani.” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh, 21 January 2020,

APA: Muluk, Pallavi. 21 January 2020. Chinmaya Sanjeevani. ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh.

Chicago: Muluk, Pallavi. “Chinmaya Sanjeevani.” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh, 21 January 2020.