Vedanta Societies/Ramakrishna Math and Mission

Vedanta Societies/Ramakrishna Math and Mission
   The Vedanta Societies are part of a missionary movement created by the monastic disciples of Sri RAMAKRISHNA Paramahansa (1836–86), the Indian saint of ADVAITA (non-dual) VEDANTA, who was considered an incarnation of God. Ramakrishna’s message was that truth can be found in all of the world’s religions. The basic tenet of Vedanta is that reality is non-dual and that one divine reality encompasses all. Swami VIVEKANANDA, a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, first introduced Ramakrish-na’s ideas of Vedanta to the UNITED STAT E S when he addressed the WORLD PARLIAMENT OF RELIGIONS in Chicago in 1893. His message was so well received that he lectured throughout the coun-try and founded the first Vedanta Society in the United States in New York City in 1896.
   Other swamis or monastics in the order founded other Vedanta Societies in major cit-ies. Swami ABHEDANANDA served the New York society and taught throughout the United States from 1897 to 1921. In San Francisco, Swami Trigunatita oversaw the construction of the first Hindu temple in the United States in 1906. Swami PARAMANANDA (1885–1940) lectured all over the United States and established centers in Los Angeles and Boston. In 1923 he established ANANDA ASHRAMA at La Crescenta, California. Swami Nikhilananda founded a center in Manhat-tan in 1933. Swami Prabhavananda (1914–76) established centers in Portland, Oregon, and Hol-lywood, California. The Vedanta Society in Hol-lywood became the Vedanta Society of Southern California, with several monasteries, a convent, and the Vedanta Press. The writers Gerald Heard (1889–1971), Aldous Huxley (1894–1963), and Christopher ISHERWOOD (1904–86) were disciples of Prabhavananda.
   The Vedanta Societies remain under the author-ity of the central monastery, the Ramakrishna Order, headquartered in Belur Math, India. The larger organization, the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, administers a network of Ramakrishna Missions in major cities and some rural areas of India. Missions sponsor hospitals in addition to religious services. SWAMIs are trained at the math and are sent to direct Vedanta centers outside India. At present, all swamis are male, although nuns are part of the organization and convents are provided for nuns through the Sarada Math, named for SARADA DEVI, the wife of Ramakrishna. Several swamis have left the Vedanta Society because of its traditional authority structure.
   Further reading: Swami Gambhrananda, History of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission (Calcutta: Advaida Ash-rama, 1957); Christopher Isherwood, Ramakrishna, and His Disciples (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1965); Carl T. Jackson, Vedanta for the West: Ramakrishna Movement in the United States (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994); Romain Rolland, The Life of Ramakrishna (Mayavati: advaita Ashrama, 1931); ———, The Life of Vivekananda and the Universal Gospel (Mayavati: advaita Ashrama, 1931); ———, Prophets of the New India. Translated by E. F. Malcolm-Smith (New York: Albert & Charles Boni, 1930); Catherine Wessinger, “Hindu-ism Arrives in America: The Vedanta Movement and the Self-Realization Fellowship,” in Timothy Miller, ed., America’s Alternative Religions, 173–190 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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