Self-Realization Fellowship Blog

Brother Chidananda Breaks Ground for New Meditation Hall at SRF Greenfield Retreat

January 03, 2024

Greenfield Ashram and Retreat Front Royal Virginia
The main building at the SRF Greenfield Ashram Center and Retreat in Front Royal, Virginia.

This past October, Brother Chidananda, president and spiritual head of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, traveled to the SRF Greenfield Ashram Center and Retreat in Front Royal, Virginia, to preside over a special groundbreaking event for a new meditation hall at the retreat facility, and to hold a satsanga with SRF members and friends from the region.

This was the first public program conducted on the East Coast of the U.S. by Brother Chidananda since becoming president in 2017, and his first visit to the Greenfield Retreat — a beautiful 500-acre ashram in the Blue Ridge Mountains west of Washington, D.C. The SRF nuns who reside in the Greenfield Ashram Center (Sister Brahmani, Sister Shankari, and Brahmacharini Ann, assisted by two nuns who had traveled from the SRF Mother Center in Los Angeles) organized the event. Brother Chidananda was accompanied by Brother Kamalananda (a member of the SRF Board of Directors) and Brahmachari Anttoni.

Brother Chidananda welcomed by SRF members at Greenfield Retreat
Brother Chidananda, after arriving at the groundbreaking ceremony at the SRF Greenfield Retreat, warmly greets the SRF members in attendance.

Groundbreaking Ceremony (October 28)

The groundbreaking ceremony at the Greenfield Retreat took place the morning of Saturday, October 28, and was attended by longtime members of SRF who are deeply devoted to assisting the work of the retreat center and were instrumental in making this much needed project a reality.

As Brother Chidananda broke the ground for the new meditation hall, conch shells — a traditional Indian symbol — were triumphantly blown by the monks assisting him. Brother Chidananda then blessed the site with soil brought from Mahavatar Babaji’s cave in the Himalayan foothills — the sacred location where the ancient teachings of Kriya Yoga were reintroduced in this age — as well as soil from the four ashrams where Paramahansaji meditated and taught in the U.S.: The Mother Center, Encinitas, Lake Shrine, and Hollywood. All in attendance then joined Brother Chidananda in showering rose petals on the location where the construction will soon begin.

Ground breaking Front Royal
Brother Chidananda breaks ground for construction of the new meditation hall.
Brother Chidananda rose petals at Greenfield Retreat
Brother Chidananda gathers rose petals to join with devotees in showering the ground with petals at the ceremony.

The New Meditation Hall

The architecture of the new meditation hall is designed to harmonize with the look of the main building at the retreat (see picture at top of page). In addition to a meditation chapel, the new building will include a bookroom for SRF publications; a classroom for children’s programs; meeting rooms and offices; as well as space for dining and fellowship for those on retreat.

Design for new meditation hall at Greenfield Retreat
An architectural rendering of the new Greenfield Retreat Meditation Hall

The meditation hall is designed in a way that will fulfill the current needs for this still-developing spiritual center, providing a place for seekers to gather in divine communion and fellowship.

Brother Chidananda’s Satsanga (October 29)

On October 29 Brother Chidananda gave a public satsanga, held at the Northern Virginia 4-H center to accommodate the large audience who participated. Many volunteers contributed their services to make this event possible, some traveling from hundreds of miles away.

Brother Chidananda welcomed to satsanga in Front Royal
SRF devotees shower SRF/YSS President Brother Chidananda with rose petals as he arrives for the satsanga.

Prior to Brother Chidananda’s speaking, Sister Brahmani, minister-in-charge at the Greenfield Retreat, shared some of the history of the Greenfield Ashram. After the site (including its large mansion dating from the 1800s) was donated to SRF by a devoted member several decades ago, Sri Daya Mata, third president of SRF, had visited and had commented about its “perfect retreat environment,” which she hoped would draw devotees from all over the East Coast to meditate and seek God in its environment of peace and natural beauty. “I think she would be so pleased to see,” Sister Brahmani said to those attending the satsanga, “that we have representation from twenty-one states here today, and from Canada.”

Sister Brahmani also mentioned the constant prayerful support and interest expressed by fourth president Sri Mrinalini Mata for the development of the Greenfield Ashram over the years.

Brother Chidananda and altar at Front Royal satsanga
Brother Chidananda offering the flower garland he had received at the picture of Paramahansa Yogananda on the altar

Heartfelt Appreciation Shared by All

Sister Brahmani then welcomed Brother Chidananda, fifth president of SRF, to the stage, with words of appreciation for his spiritual leadership and loving care for SRF members and friends worldwide.

After placing the garland he had just received at the altar under the picture of Paramahansa Yogananda (see picture above), Brother Chidananda remarked to the participants: “There is no more sacred, no more inspiring altar than that one that God, through the divine Guru, creates in the hearts and the souls, in the thoughts and feelings, in the actions and desires of each of his committed, loyal, dedicated disciples and devotees of this path. I honor him in each of you.”

He then praised the steadfast loyalty to the spiritual path exhibited by those present, many of whom had been dedicatedly applying the Kriya Yoga teachings of Paramahansaji for decades. Brother Chidananda told them that he appreciated “how you have allowed the seeds of Guruji’s blessings and teachings to take root in your very being, and become a constant and perennial source of spiritual nourishment. It is very beautiful.”

Brother Chidananda satsanga in Front Royal
The audience listening to Brother Chidananda’s satsanga

Brother Chidananda then delivered a stirring and encouraging talk about how to convert the inspiration of Paramahansa Yogananda’s wisdom into a tangible reality in our lives. He concluded by greeting each of the hundreds of attendees individually. (We look forward to releasing a video of his talk in our weekly online inspirational services series later this year, so please stay tuned for that.)

Enthusiastic messages conveyed after Brother Chidananda’s visit to the Greenfield Ashram Center and Retreat expressed gratitude for receiving his wise counsel during the satsanga and personal attention shared by the SRF president with those present during this special weekend, as all look forward to the future growth of this unique sanctuary for spiritual development.

Below are a sampling of these thoughts of sincerest appreciation:
“I have no words to thank you enough for the opportunity of having the satsanga with and the blessings from revered Brother Chidanandaji. Being in the midst of that satsanga was like being in heaven.” —A. J.

“What a life-changing joyous weekend! What a joy to serve together!” —L. F.

“I wish to thank the Greenfield nuns for the immense amount of service they gave during Brother Chidanandaji’s visit. I really can’t convey in words how grateful I am. The groundbreaking ceremony was so moving — again I am speechless.” —S. L.

“We are all still basking in the blessings of Brother Chidananda’s visit. It was a wonderful and special event on so many levels….Thank you, Brother, for everything, for your generosity of spirit and abundance of love for all of us.” —C. R.

“Meeting Brotherji in Greenfield gave us all here on the East Coast an incredible infusion of spiritual energy. His greeting each of us individually made Guruji’s love so palpable. His kindness radiated through our hearts and stays with me even now. Jai Guruji!!” —S. G.

“There are no words to express my gratitude for all that the Sisters and the volunteers did to make the satsanga with Brother Chidananda such an amazing and thrilling event….How infinitely kind of him to greet each devotee individually and to fill them with the love and grace of our Gurus and Divine Mother. We will remember this experience forever with the deepest joy and gratitude.” —S. M.

Learn More About the Greenfield Retreat

To learn more about the SRF Greenfield Retreat, which offers both conducted retreats for men and women as well as personal retreats for women throughout the year, we invite you visit the Greenfield Retreat website.

Leave a comment
Nancy Waters

What an amazing article and photos - I feel like I was there for this special event! When I first came on the path 35 years ago, I had the great blessing of attending many retreats at Greenfield. I can still recall the wonderful feeling there, amidst Mother Nature. My husband and I were married at Greenfield by Sister Subrata nearly 30 years ago. It is so wonderful to see the plans for a new meditation hall. Sending my love and prayers and remembrance to this sacred place and Master's devotees. Jai Guru!

Salvatore Aleo

E' tutto così meravigliosamente magico che mi piacerebbe essere un americano per vivere questi edificanti momenti, ed edificanti meditazioni e ritiri che si potranno fare in questo nuovo faro di luce ed amore ...... jai Guru

Teddy Woizeski

Having just completed our spiritual lessons & anticipating the arrival of the at home Kriya Initiation Ceremony, this event was so poignant for us!. After hearing Brotherji speak, my wife & I were surprisingly asked to join, as one before him, to receive a benediction as part of the greeting he was giving to each individual attending. Placing of hands, on each of our foreheads, he blessed us as new disciples of Gurujis. We were so, very honored. It was a moment we will always revere & remember. One for which we shall both be forever grateful!

Deborah Sheetz

Thank you for this uplifting accounting of this blessed event. The hard work of the nuns and volunteers to make it go so smoothly and beautifully was very much appreciated. Reading the article and the seeing the pictures brought back some of the immense peace and joy I felt while in attendance. We are so fortunate to have Brother Chidanandaji share his wisdom and love as he leads the organization and the Greenfield ashram to a bright future.

Martin Madsen

Thank you for sharing this beautiful account of the groundbreaking of the upcoming new Greenfield Retreat Meditation Hall. My wife and I eagerly anticipate enjoying the Brother Chidanandaji talk when it is released. Jai Guru!

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