(C2-20) Global Hinduism – The Chinmaya Mission in India and around the world

The overarching aim of the project is an increased understanding of the formation of modern Hinduism between world religion, national religion and cosmopolitan spirituality across national boundaries, which was initiated by Swami Vivekananda in the 19th century and significantly shaped by the Chinmaya Mission under postcolonial conditions. The project investigates for the first time the Chinmaya Mission, founded in 1953, which today has approx. 300 centres around the world. It is one of the most influential reform movements of modern India, also having attracted Westeners and diaspora Hindus since the 1960s/1970s. Its founder, Swami Chinmayananda (1916-1993), preached, commented, and translated the previously inaccessible source texts of Vedanta (Upanishads, etc.) in English as the “science of perfection“ for all people – independent of caste, gender, religion, and nationality. At the same time he, who felt educated Hindus had lost their cultural identity under colonial rule, pursued the reformation programme of “converting Hindus to Hinduism“. In 1964, he was one of the co-founders and the first president of the VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad, “World Hindu Council“) which aimed at reaching diaspora Hindus. Later, the VHP became controversial when it hit the headlines in the 1980s and 1990s due to its involvement in the Ayodhya dispute. However, the Chinmaya Mission as an institution did not get involved in this conflict. It has always emphasized cosmopolitan and socio-cultural revivalist concerns – values, inner transformation, a spiritual quest open to all denominations, and intellectual inquiry. This research project explores how the emphasis on the spiritual quest, ethical values, and all-inclusiveness is being implemented and embodied. The major focus is on the dynamic developments which have been taken place in the past decades under Chinmayananda’s successor Swami Tejomayananda. An important aspect to be explored is the cross-cultural and religious transfers taking place in different centres of the Chinmaya Mission International.

The Project is part of interconnecting platform F Transcultural Entanglements and H Cultural Ambiguity and coordinated project group Exchange among and between ‘world religions’: appropriation – transformation – demarcation.