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The Ramakrishna Vedanta ashram of Phoenix
BY: Phoenix Alternative Religions Examiner Wayne Purdin
During the Spring and Summer of 1984 I was enrolled in the second level of Summit University at The Summit Lighthouse's ranch near Corwin Springs, Montana. As part of this course we had to do an in-depth study of the life of Ramakrishna, using his biography by Christopher Isherwood, Ramakrishna and His Disciples. One of the aspects of Ramakrishna's life that made a deep impression in my mind was the intensity of his devotion to God. At times, his devotional exercises would throw him into a state of ecstasy so profound that his body would remain immobile for days.
I wondered what he experienced during these periods of samadhi. No doubt his dualistic mind could not remember because it was a state of union with the divine. But his soul remembered and retained some of the divine intelligence that he came in contact with. Swami Vivekananda said of his master: "this great intellect never learnt even to write his own name, but the most brilliant graduates of our university found in him an intellectual giant."
Two years ago as part of my efforts to promote sungazing in Phoenix, I became friends with Dr. Tushar Ray, director of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Ashram of Phoenix. He invited me to attend a lecture by visiting Swami Atmarupananda of the Vedanta Society on the Katha Upanishad. Swami Atmarupananda was an American from a Christian background, so he related the reading from the Upanishad to Jesus' sermon on the mount. It seemed strange to hear Bible verses from a Swami, but I found out that the concept of the unity of all religions is a key tenet of Vedanta and is based on Ramakrishna's experience. In his thirst for the divine, Ramakrishna followed different religious paths including various branches of Hinduism. Not content to stop there, however, he also practiced Islam and Buddhism and later meditated deeply on Christ, experiencing the same divine Reality through these non-Hindu paths. Thus, he came to the conclusion, based on his direct experience, that all religions lead to the same goal.
Vedanta is one of the world's most ancient religious philosophies and one of its broadest. Based on the Vedas, the sacred scriptures of India, Vedanta affirms the oneness of existence, the divinity of the soul, and the harmony of religions. Vedanta is the philosophical foundation of Hinduism; but while Hinduism includes aspects of Indian culture, Vedanta is universal in its application and is equally relevant to all countries, all cultures, and all religious backgrounds.Some would even say that it isn't religion or philosophy but science.
I asked Dr. Ray what the mission of the ashram is and if anything was happening this month. He said, “Our mission is to promote and follow the ideal and teachings of Vedanta as taught by Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda. We conduct spiritual programs and classes with this aim and to bring better understanding of Yoga and Vedanta concepts for individual peace and progress and work for the good of the world. Our method is to stimulate the spiritual growth of an individual through discourses, retreats, meditation, and spiritual guidance. The disciplines provided by the monks of the Ramakrishna Order are imparted to suit the individual needs and temperaments.
“There are two events coming up this month at the ashram:
(1) Revered Swami Baneshanandaji Maharaj from Germany will be our honorable guest and first time visitor to RKA during August 11 – 13. He will be speaking on "Vedanta and the Spirit of Service" on the12th, Wednesday, at 7 pm. There will be a brief Q/A period followed by a pot luck dinner at 8 pm.
(2) Revered Swami Sridharanandaji Maharaj of Australia, who blessed us with a highly stimulating talk last April as well as on several occasions in the past years, will kindly visit us again on August 22 and 23. He will give a talk, "Sri Ramakrishna as Swamiji Saw Him" on Sunday 23rd at 6 pm. There will be a Q/A period followed by a pot luck dinner at 7 pm.
"True evolution consists in learning to make use of words, either spoken or written, with a divine end in mind, in other words to use elements of the Word solely to create what is right, good and beautiful." Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov