The Vaidika Dharma influenced western philosophy and religion long before Swami Vivekananda received a standing ovation at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago on September 11, 1893. There is evidence for inspiration from India in ancient Greek thought, innovative adoption by European Gnostics and secret societies, and interest by modern academics and seekers of Truth. The United States was especially receptive to eastern wisdom as intellectual elites, humanitarians, and commercial charlatans answered the limitations of Biblical Christianity and the challenges of industrial expansion with Transcendentalism, New Thought, and Theosophy. The first teachers of Vedanta in America overcame racial bigotry, sectarian prejudice, and material adversity to establish a new tradition (and diverse imitations) that won the admiration and support of scholars, scientists, artists, writers, and mystics.
Western culture traces it origins to the ancient Greeks, who idolized the Brahmins of India.1 Not only are the plots of the Iliad and Odyssey recast from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, but it seems Hellenic thought derives from Vedic sources. Swami Vivekananda said, “Pythagoras had come to India, where he had been instructed by the Brahmins…2 Pythagoras came to India and studied this philosophy, and that was the beginning of the philosophy of the Greeks. Later, it formed the Alexandrian school, and still later, the Gnostic…3 Pythagoras learnt it in India, and taught it in Greece. Later on Plato got an inkling of it; and still later the Gnostics carried the thought to Alexandria, and from there it came to Europe…”4 In the ancient world, Truth from India was transmitted—concealed, corrupted, lost, and partially recovered—into China, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Jewish mysticism, and the Roman Initiatory Schools that became Christianity.
Pythagoras (Sanskrit: Pitaguru – “father-teacher”) was born in the sixth century BCE and traveled the known world to study cosmology.5 He lived in Egypt for twenty years and was imprisoned in Babylon until he won the affection of priests with his vast knowledge. Iamblichus claims that Pythagoras studied the Brahmanas and Upanishads6 and adopted the doctrine of transmigration from Brahmins.7 Moreover, the famous theorem on the hypotenuse of the triangle attributed to him was in fact first given in the Apastamba Sulvasutra (I.4), Katyayana Sulvasutra (II.11), Baudhayayana Srautasutra (X.19), and Satapata Brahmana (X.2.3.7-14).8 He may also have learned about the three gunas and four stages of life while in India.9
Pythagoras regarded food, exercise, music, and poetry as medicine.10 He founded a school at Crotona (Italy) with the goal of individual perfection and knowledge of changeless Truth in the world of appearances.11 The novitiate was observed in athletics and social interactions. Humor was considered especially virtuous. Before initiation, there was first a testing in a “haunted” cave; the beginner was expected to solve a symbolic puzzle, then faced mocking and ridicule in assembly. If these trials were passed successfully, the neophyte was allowed to listen to lessons for two to five years in absolute silence: no questions, no objections, no discussion. Pythagoras taught mathematics, geometry, harmonics, and astronomy from behind a curtain. The second step was monastic life with vegetarian diet and direct teachings on evolution, the unity of existence, the patterns of eternity, astronomical symbolism and correspondences, the interrelation of macrocosm and microcosm, and ethics. The day began with a solitary walk among groves and a Temple. A morning conference would include songs, dance, dream interpretation, and a breakfast of honey. This was followed by massage and physical activity including weightlifting and running. After lunch with guests, small groups would walk and converse on philosophical topics. The third step toward perfection included lessons on psychology and the immortality of the soul given at night by the seaside or in a sanctuary with rituals. In the fourth step, adepts were expected to act in the world with purity in body, virtue in heart, and truth in intellect.
The Pythagorean doctrine derived from the Vedic tradition and the Mystery Schools of Eleusis and the Orphics inspired Plato (founder of the Academy)12 and Aristotle (founder of the Lyceum).13 Ancient historians Xenophon and Eusebius documented an encounter between Socrates14 and traveling Brahmins in Athens.15 Plato’s simile of the charioteer and the horses in the Phaedrus dialogue originates from an analogy in the Katha Upanishad. The Republic and concept of the Philosopher-King is Plato’s adaptation of the Indian Manusmirti and ideal of the Rajarshi. Aristotle’s First Cause (the Unmoved Mover) has a parallel in the Sankhya principle of Purusha.16 As Herodotus cited Sanskrit grammar through acquaintance with the Ashtadhyayi, so too Aristotle’s logical system has its source in a treatise sent to him from a nephew who received it from Brahmins.17 Aristotle’s student Alexander the Great conquered Greece, Macedonia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and parts of India, where he engaged with gymnosophists18 and was rebuked by a Brahmin.19
Swami Vivekananda said, “Indian and Egyptian ideas met at Alexandria and went forth to the world, tinctured with Judaism and Hellenism, as Christianity.”20 Alexandria was the capital of the Hellenistic world, and its religious philosophy was a unique blend of Platonism, Jewish Gnosticism, and Oriental ideas. When Ashoka was emperor of India two centuries before Jesus lived and died, Brahmins and Buddhist missionaries reached Syria, Palestine, and Alexandria as messengers of peace.21 Monasteries were established along the Jordan and the Nile, and the Essenes and Therapeutae won renown as mystics with superior healing methods borrowed from the Vedic tradition.22 The climax of the East-West exchange in antiquity is embodied in Plotinus,23 who studied Kapila and Patanjali and practiced Brahmanic disciplines for eleven years.24 His disciple Porphyry25 observed him in samadhi on four occasions.26
Ex Oriente Lux
Swami Vivekananda said, “It is Greece that speaks through everything in Europe. Every building, every piece of furniture has the impress of Greece upon it; European science and art are nothing but Grecian…27 The whole of Europe nowadays is, in every respect, the disciple of ancient Greece…28 The voice of Europe is the voice of ancient Greece…29 Ancient Greece, the fountain-head of Western civilisation, sank into oblivion from the pinnacle of her glory, the vast empire of Rome was broken into pieces by the dashing waves of the barbarian invaders — the light of Europe went out… [A thousand years later, t]he wisdom, learning, and arts of ancient Greece entered [again] into Italy, overpowered the barbarians, and with their quickening impulse, life began to pulsate in the dead body of the world-capital of Rome… This is called Renaissance, the new birth.”30
The European Renaissance and Enlightenment were informed by Greek ideals of political liberty, man as measure of all things, and control of the environment for power and pleasure. The modern intellectuals soon discerned that ancient Greece was illumined by light from the East. It was assumed most Sanskrit scriptures were lost.31 Rare texts were hidden from public view in private libraries.32 Immanuel Kant33 collected information about India from travel books34 and invoked Hindu deities in his treatise on religion.35 Voltaire36 wrote, “I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges”37 and translated the Yajurveda from French to German.38 The source document was posthumously proven as a forgery.39
European colonialists seeking India’s minerals, textiles, and spices recognized language as the key to domination; this positively led to the spread of translated scriptures and a new academic discipline of comparative philology.40 By the turn of the nineteenth century, renderings of the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads were widely available and inspired such literati as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Honoré de Balzac, William Blake, Victor Hugo, and Arthur Rimbaud. George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel41 was too literal-minded to appreciate Hindu myth,42 but he respected the etymological connection between Sanskrit and German,43 credited India’s logical method as a precedent for his dialectical system,44 and suggested the treasures of India were tied to the fate of nations.45 Arthur Schopenhauer46 read the Upanishads and wrote, “Indian philosophy streams back to Europe and will produce a fundamental change in our knowledge and thought.”47 Friedrich Nietzsche48 was dissatisfied with the partial understanding of Vedanta in Schopenhauer’s writing,49 so he studied the Upanishads and Manusmirti, which informed his vision of an ethical society ruled by a noble elite and the Übermensch as the supreme potential of human life.50 The Oxford scholar Friedrich Maximillian Müller, a pioneer of comparative religion and mythology, translated the Rigveda and wrote, “If I were asked what I considered the most important discovery of the nineteenth century with respect to the ancient history of mankind, I should answer by the following short line: Sanskrit Dyaus Pitar = Greek Zeus Pater = Latin Jupiter = Old Norse Tyr. Think what this equation implies!”51 Comparative studies suggested not only a common origin of various languages, but universal ideals behind diverse descriptions.
Across the Atlantic, indigenous civilizations such as the Aztec, Mayan, and Inca may have been influenced by Indian mariners, whose unique cotton (gossypium arboreum) dating back more than 4,500 years was found in Peru52 and joins a growing body of evidence of ancient exchange.53 The modern era of global trade began when Christopher Columbus sailed west in search of a faster route to India. To European settlers, America was the site of an appointment with destiny and an experiment in rights and opportunities. Two of the Founding Fathers of the United States discussed Vedic literature and esoteric history in their personal letters. John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson, “Pythagoras passed twenty years in his travels in India… he conversed with the Brahmins, and read the Shastra, five thousand years old, written in the language of the sacred Sanskrit… These doctrines, sublime, if ever there were any sublime, Pythagoras learned in India…”54 American Deists made comparative studies of Christianity and the Vedas as early as 1784.55
The American Transcendentalists56 abandoned Puritanism and looked for other sources of spiritual edification as the nation expanded in territory and technology. Ralph Waldo Emerson57 was a popular lecturer and openly preached Vedantic concepts.58 He wrote, “In all nations there are minds which incline to dwell in the conception of fundamental Unity…This tendency finds its highest expression in the religious writings of the East, and chiefly in the Indian Scriptures, in the Vedas, the Bhagavat Geeta, and the Vishnu Purana. Those writings contain little else than this idea, and they rise to pure and sublime strains in celebrating it.”59 His apprentice Henry David Thoreau60 first encountered Vedanta as a student at Harvard. He edited the Manusmirti for publication62 and studied the Bhagavad Gita and Mundakopanishad during his two years at Walden pond.62 The poet Walt Whitman wrote in the margins of the Bhagavad Gita before composing Leaves of Grass.64 In the late 1800s, the Gita was as accessible in the West as to the common Hindu.65
“Naren will teach loudly”
There were no monasteries or temples in the ancient Vedic religion. Upon reaching adolescence, a student would leave his family to live with a teacher, typically a retired householder well-read in the scriptures and free from lust and greed. At age 25, the graduating student would join the ancestral business, marry, and raise children. It was socially unacceptable to become a wandering beggar or a solitary renunciate. However, a few preferred an ascetic lifestyle and sometimes groups united around common discipline and ideals. Giving shelter to bands of mendicants during the rainy season was a Buddhist innovation that led to schools and religious communities with vows.66 The construction of temples toward the end of the Puranic period gave rise to priestly sects. The various lineages were later integrated in a structure devised by Adi Shankaracharya.67
The Vedic religion stagnated in the Muslim invasion of India and British domination. In the early nineteenth century, the Bengali Brahmin Rammohun Roy denounced superstitious idolatry, advocated for Indian emancipation from foreign domination, and promoted social reforms aimed at empowering women and extending rights and opportunities to all classes of society.68 His exposition of human perfection according to Vedanta and translations of Vedic scriptures were popular in England and America.69 Unitarian Christians supported his religion of reason not dependent on priestcraft or revelation by sponsoring a missionary project70 that became the Brahmo Samaj, the House of God. According to the real estate trust deed, the property was dedicated to informal meetings without dogma, ritual, or hierarchy. Roy’s successor, Debendranath Tagore, established an educational program and required a declaration of belief in monism and ethical vows to join the group.71 The organization fragmented during the tenure of Keshub Chandra Sen, who deviated from logical Vedanta into sentimental Tantra, including image worship, sacraments, recitations, and other ceremonies.72 He experimented with asceticism, communal living with disciples, and established a school for the study of comparative religion.73 He declared himself the prophet of a New Dispensation and avatar of Universal Religion,74 an eclectic syncretism intended to resolve theological differences and unite all churches.75 His numerous critics mocked him as a foolish madman.76
Swami Vivekananda was a member of the Brahmo Samaj and said, “But for Ramakrishna I would have been a Brahmo missionary.”77 In their first encounters, he was skeptical of Sri Ramakrishna and challenged the Kali temple priest’s spiritual authority, but gradually, through testing and experience, his doubt was allayed. The Master instructed the young aspirant in religious wisdom and asked the other disciples to accept him as their leader. Sri Ramakrishna informally initiated Swami Vivekananda and eleven others when he spontaneously gave them the ochre clothes that symbolize renunciation.78 When most of the devotees scattered after Sri Ramakrishna died, a small brotherhood rented a dilapidated house and swore a monastic oath on Christmas Eve 1886.79 A few weeks later, Swami Vivekananda presided over a ceremony confirming their vows.80 Traditional Brahmins criticized this unorthodox ordination,81 and present-day academics continue to dispute82 the line of succession.83
Swami Vivekananda left the abbey on a solitary pilgrimage in 1890 and departed for the United States in 1893 with the Bhagavad Gita in one pocket and in the other, the Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. Meanwhile, the Ramakrishna Brotherhood relocated to a different building and learned of his achievements through newspaper articles. Some of his fellow monks disapproved of the reports from America84 but they ceased ridicule when Swamiji wrote letters expressing faith in their guru, explaining his plan of campaign,85 and directing the monastic order.86 When he returned to India in 1897, he proposed87 a formal Association88 and acquired land in 1898 for construction of a temple and institutional headquarters. Two legal structures were established: first, the Ramakrishna Math89 for the training and maintenance of cenobites; second, the Ramakrishna Mission90 for public education and social work. In the Rules and Regulations, Swamiji wrote, “Now the aim is to gradually develop this Math into an all-round university.” He forbade severe austerities, promoted freedom of thought and action among different individuals with unique temperaments, and advocated for principles in action over personality worship and rituals. There was no process of conversion91 or homogeneous regimen.92
“Sisters and Brothers of America”
When Swami Vivekananda left India to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions, he had no invitation or credentials and little money. Neither the Brahmo Samaj nor the Theosophical Society responded favorably to his request for support and actively opposed him.93 By chance acquaintance with Harvard professor Dr. John Henry Wright, he received the necessary letter of introduction to the Chairman of the Committee for the Selection of Delegates.94 He emerged as a star speaker and crowd favorite, though some academics note that he exaggerated his monastic affiliation by claiming to belong to an ancient order of sannyasis despite a lack of orthodox ordination.95 Following the Columbian Exposition, he faced many difficulties in launching his missionary work including an unscrupulous lecture bureau and slanderous accusations by jealous Christian ministers. He was given aid by Dr. Merwin-Marie Snell, chief of the Scientific Section at the World’s Fair and founder of the enigmatic Mahacakra Society,96 who wrote letters to newspapers exalting the Swami’s preaching and popularity.97 He was also assisted by the Grand Master of Freemasonry, George Cooper Conner, who vouched for the Swami’s Masonic degree98 and exhorted the fraternity to extend a cordial welcome.99
Swami Vivekananda claimed more than three thousand disciples in the West and alarmed the Indian elite because he gave diksha initiation reserved only for Brahmins.100 He also administered vows of brahmacharya101 and sannyasa102 in formal ceremonies. Swamiji established a structure (to schedule classes and lectures, advertise, publish pamphlets and books, manage property and assets) in New York in 1894 with the stated desire to build a “Temple Universal,” envisioned as a college of religious education and spiritual growth with branches in every major city. “My idea is for autonomic, independent groups in different places. Let them work on their own account and do the best they can.”103 In 1895, he explicitly rejected institutional procedures and hierarchy among his votaries: “Each one is quite independent to teach, quite free to preach whatever he or she likes….Individuality is my motto, I have no ambition beyond training individuals up…I again repeat, I form no sect, nor organization.”104 He prescribed this model again in 1896: “As to the teaching part, my friends will go over this country from place to place, each one independent, and let them form independent circles.”105 However, he insisted on promoting principles, not personalities. “That Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was God — and all that sort of thing — has no go in countries like this. M— has a tendency to put that stuff down everybody’s throat, but that will make our movement a little sect. You keep aloof from such attempts; at the same time, if people worship him as God, no harm. Neither encourage nor discourage. The masses will always have the person, the higher ones the principle; we want both. But principles are universal, not persons. Therefore stick to the principles he taught, let people think whatever they like of his person.”106 He prioritized meditation, study, altruistic work, and character-building; he warned against rituals and severe austerities.
Swami Abhedananda inherited the American mission, established a New York center, and extensively toured the country. Swami Vivekananda told him, “California is the place where Vedanta will grow.”107 Swami Abhedananda prophesied, “There will be a spiritual wave starting in Los Angeles & San Diego…and from this Coast it will inundate the world.”108 He also ordained monks, including Cornelis Johanns Heijblom as “Gurudas Maharaj”109 who then joined Swami Turiyananda at Shanti Ashrama in California and later became Swami Atulananda. Appointed to the task of building a retreat center on a remote property gifted to the lineage, Swami Turiyananda was ambivalent about organization and did not restrict his students’ self-determination. He said, “Why do you want rules? Is not everything going on nicely without formal rules? … Let there be freedom, but no license… We have no organization, but see how organized we are. This kind of organization is lasting, but all other kinds of organizations break up in time. This kind of organization makes one free, all other kinds are binding. This is the highest organization; it is based on spiritual laws.”110 He welcomed everybody without exception.111
His successor, Swami Trigunatita, constructed the “First Hindu Temple in the Whole Western World” in San Francisco. An eclectic building dedicated to the service of the Truth of all religions, its exotic facade did not resemble a traditional Indian temple,112 and its interior was more schoolroom than house of worship.113 There was a Sanskrit class but no rituals. Unlike the previous swamis, Trigunatita set a rigid schedule and uncompromising expectations for his disciples. He required initiates to sign a declaration114 and tolerated no disobedience.115 He gave instructions on how to continue the work at the Temple after his death,116 and in his will, he instructed: “This temple is to be under the charge, supervision, and direct management of, and its religious and other works are to be conducted by either married people who are always in good terms….or, by unmarried or widowed people who will very strictly…devote almost all his or her time to the spiritual culture.”117 He also drafted “Rules and Regulations Governing Vedanta Centers” open to any sincere person with the desire for Truth.118 He imagined branches with a definite goal of improving the conditions of the mind and stipulated group work led by a “Mother” or “Father” would be motivated by circumstances of public need and not attached to any personality.
The direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna attracted many prominent figures of Western society. For example, John D. Rockefeller inaugurated philanthropic work after a command by Swami Vivekananda.119 Despite antagonism by the Theosophists, Swamiji met President Annie Besant for tea in London; she praised him as a lion and proposed friendship between their organizations.120 The Russian artist Nicholas Roerich corresponded with Swami Abhedananda and wrote almost thirty articles for publications of the Ramakrishna Order; he visited the headquarters in India, where one of his paintings now hangs in the old monastery building.121 He also organized the Roerich Pact, an international agreement signed at the White House in 1935 that protects sites of historical and cultural significance during times of war. The Tantric expert Sir John George Woodroffe wrote over forty articles published by the Order and was president of the Vivekananda Society of Calcutta.122 The psychiatrist Sigmund Freud based his idea of the “oceanic feeling” on the recorded experiences of Ramakrishna.123 Carl Jung visited the Math headquarters and discussed spiritual topics with swamis on four different occasions.124 The behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner cited Ramakrishna as the example of compassion based on metaphysical unity.125 Swami Vivekananda demonstrated samadhi to the Harvard professor William James.126 The inventor Nikola Tesla learned of Vedantic cosmology from Swami Vivekananda and attempted to give a mathematical demonstration.127 Thomas Edison received lessons in cosmology and meditation from Swami Abhedananda.128
Despite episodic attacks by bigoted anti-cultists,129 the disciples of Ramakrishna’s direct disciples successfully developed the presence of Vedanta in the modern West. Swami Ashokananda expanded the Northern California work with new construction in San Francisco, Sacramento, Berkeley, Lake Tahoe, and a retreat house in Marin County.130 He forbade western devotees from worshipping Hindu deities131 and trained monastics using techniques borrowed from Catholicism.132 Swami Prabhavananda produced eloquent translations of Sanskrit scriptures for a general audience and built the “Tiny Taj Mahal” in the Hollywood Hills, where he was surrounded by eminent writers such as Gerald Heard,133 Christopher Isherwood,134 and Aldous Huxley.135 Monastic training in Southern California was open and informal.136 In New York, Swami Nikhilananda instructed J.D. Salinger;137 the mythologist Joseph Campbell served as the society’s President and edited the English translation of the Sri Sri Rāmakrishna Kathāmrita.138 When Swami Satprakashananda faced racial discrimination in St. Louis, the popular scholar Huston Smith acted as front man for a real estate transaction. The religious order and spiritual community founded by Swami Vivekananda was the forerunner to organizations such as the Self-Realization Fellowship, Divine Life Society, Maharishi Foundation, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Chinmaya Mission, Siddha Yoga, Isha Foundation, and others.139
Is Vedanta the Future Religion?
The 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago envisioned in the Columbian Exposition an electrical future technopolis of abundant material prosperity, and the Parliament of Religions aimed for liberty, rights, and opportunities so all could live in the conditions favorable for the fulfillment of human potential and spiritual realization. Swami Vivekananda believed that the United States has a special task in bringing forth the highest spiritual truth for the world.140 In the twentieth century, the philosopher Oswald Spengler foresaw an overthrow of science and revival of ancient religions in the twenty-first century.141 Arnold Toynbee also predicted renewal of religious experience and an advance of interfaith dialogue due to the breakdown and dissolution of society caused by technological idolatry.142 The Orientalist view of history imagines the world united by a rebirth of the Vedic tradition in the West.
Swamiji suggests that all religions feature a combination of principles, mythology, and ritual.143 His ideal religion unites science, philosophy, and poetry.144 He praised variation and individuality and said, “Our watchword, then, will be acceptance and not exclusion…We take in all that has been in the past, enjoy the light of the present, and open every window of the heart for all that will come in the future.”145 He outlined a plan of deliberate spiritual development when he wrote, “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy – by one, or more, or all of these – and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.”146 Aldous Huxley [co-founder of the Happy Valley School with Annie Besant and Krishnamurti147] emphasized the Vedantic concepts of the philosophia perennis in a Minimum Working Hypothesis: there is a Godhead which is the unmanifest principle of all manifestation; it is simultaneously transcendent and immanent; it is possible for humans to love, know, and become identical to Godhead; unity with Godhead is the final end and purpose of human life; there is a law to obey if this end is to be reached.148
Gerald Heard, author of Training for a Life of the Spirit and founder of the Trabuco College of Prayer, maps three phases of spiritual evolution: the Novice who purges for catharsis, the Proficient who is enlightened and free, and the Perfect established and integrated in the Vision of God. He writes, “To change the focus of consciousness is difficult and skilful work. It does not happen by accident nor by simply leaving the mind open.” In Pain, Sex, and Time, he outlines three ranks within a monastic society: first, the learners, who serve the senior monks without rule or direction; second, the educated, residents with a general discipline and specialization, alternating solitude with group rituals, gardening, and household duties, especially in the dining hall; third, the Doctor-Proficient who heals by teaching, a Neo-Brahmin and bodhisattva unrestricted by cloistered virtue, the incarnate good will and conscience of mankind, and the answer to the powers that hypnotize and destroy.
According to the prospectus Heard drafted in collaboration with Huxley,149 Trabuco College of Prayer facilitated transformation of character through 1) open-minded inquiry, 2) literary research and personal integration, and 3) experiment with techniques and the application of the most auspicious methods as a daily routine. The Founders imagined a self-sustaining center where residents live simply and work in the garden or perform other duties according to capacity and strength. No fee was required of genuine associates, who were envisioned as guests and the school as their headquarters. The College was dedicated to peaceful lovers of Truth and Freedom as a place for the study of mysticism, the advancement of arts and science, and other social services. The Trabuco College of Prayer inspired the human potential movement150 and was donated to the Vedanta Society of Southern California.
The Ramakrishna Order does not aggressively proselytize or recruit, so to find or join a Vedanta Center is a rare and perhaps puzzling encounter. The heroic path requires perfect sincerity, gigantic intellect, and strong will for personal liberation and the welfare of the world. Initiation involves both an introduction to the ideals, practices, and history of the lineage, and also private counseling, personal instruction in meditation and other disciplines, and transmission of spiritual power from an unbroken succession of teachers. The initiated disciple must be obedient to the Guru’s directions in a clean lifestyle of religious pursuits and service with holy company for support, encouragement, training, and guidance. Members attend lectures, classes, private talks with the swamis, and enjoy library privileges and a vote in business meetings. Some welcome newcomers to study groups and meditation centers, giving guided tours of the center and the history of Vedanta in America and in that location, introducing activities, events, reading suggestions, and inviting guests to meet the senior swami. Some are ritualists who perform the daily temple ceremonies and occasional worship. Those who complete a course of study with sufficient years of practice may lecture, and qualified teachers may give introductory meditation instructions and spiritual consultation.151 Some are employed in the work of a center or reside in sub-centers, and others are independent with families and professional obligations. No group constraints (“go anywhere and do anything”) allow for exceptional talent to make a unique contribution to the world and influence all sectors of society with spiritual ideals.152
The Open Secret
The Vaidika Dharma is not foreign or alien to western culture, but is in fact, a hidden influence in its philosophy and religion. In the ancient world, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, and Porphyry borrowed from the Vedic tradition. Modern Europeans like Kant, Voltaire, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and others were inspired by the ideals from India. In the United States, comparative studies were popular in the early days of the Republic, and exchange between Bengali aristocrats with Unitarian Christians and Transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau resulted in the revival of Brahmanism in its native land and enthusiastic reception of Swami Vivekananda at the World’s Parliament of Religions. Aided by his fellow monks and disciples, Swamiji’s exhortation of spiritual truth reached a wide audience including John D. Rockefeller, Sigmund Freud, William James, Carl Jung, B.F. Skinner, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Aldous Huxley, Joseph Campbell, J.D. Salinger, Huston Smith, and many more. The religious order he founded planted roots in America and now bears fruit in a variety of approaches to Vedanta.
Patrick Horn (email@example.com) was initiated by Swami Swahananda and lived with monastics in Hollywood, Orange County, and San Francisco. He is a Parliament of World’s Religions – Emerging Leader and member of the United Religions Initiative, Religion Communicators Council, and Religion News Association. He contributes to Reading Religion, published by the American Academy of Religion. Patrick studied Liberal Arts and Science at L.A. Valley College, Literary Theory and Criticism at California State University Northridge, Mythology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and launched a Capstone Project in Interfaith Action at Claremont Lincoln University.
1.Von Franz, Marie Louise. Alchemy: An Introduction to the Symbolism and the Psychology. Inner City Books: Toronto, 1980.
2. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume IV: “Reincarnation”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971.
3. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume II: “A Study of the Sankhya Philosophy”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971.
4. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume II: “Sankhya and Vedanta”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971.
5. Huffman, Carl, “Pythagoras”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2014/entries/pythagoras/>.
6. Tathagatananda, Sw. Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Vedanta Society of New York: New York, 2002. p109
7. Huffman, Carl, “Pythagoreanism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/pythagoreanism/>.
8. Tathagatananda, Sw. Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Vedanta Society of New York: New York, 2002. p107
9. Ibid. p111
10. Guthrie, Kenneth Sylvan, et al. The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library. Phanes: Grand Rapids, 1988.
11. Schuré, Édouard and Frank Rothwell, tr. The Great Initiates: The Secret History of Religions, Vol. II. Rider and Son, Ltd.: London, 1913. pp63-161.
12. Kraut, Richard, “Plato”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/plato/>.
13. Shields, Christopher, “Aristotle”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/aristotle/>.
14. Nails, Debra, “Socrates”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2017/entries/socrates/>.
15. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume I: “Privilege”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971. pp432-3.
16. Behanan, Koover T. Yoga: Its Scientific Basis. Dover Publications: New York, 2002. p56
17. Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Idea. V1. Trubner and Co: London, 1883. p62.
18. Tathagatananda, Sw. Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Vedanta Society of New York: New York, 2002. p109
19. Booth, Mark. The Secret History of the World. Overlook: New York, 2010.
20. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume 9: “The Temple at Pandrenthan”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1997.
21. Tathagatananda, Sw. Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Vedanta Society of New York: New York, 2002. p130
22. Ibid. p133
23. Gerson, Lloyd, “Plotinus”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2014/entries/plotinus/>.
24. Tathagatananda, Sw. Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Vedanta Society of New York: New York, 2002. p141
25. Emilsson, Eyjólfur, “Porphyry”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2015/entries/porphyry/>.
26. Tathagatananda, Sw. Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Vedanta Society of New York: New York, 2002. p141
27. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume 3: “The Work Before Us”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971.
28. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume 3: “The Problem of Modern India and Its Solution”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971.
29. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume 4: “Christ, the Messenger”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971.
30. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume 5: “The East and the West”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971.
31. Tathagatananda, Sw. Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Vedanta Society of New York: New York, 2002. p239
33. Rohlf, Michael, “Immanuel Kant”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2016/entries/kant/>.
34. Tathagatananda, Sw. Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Vedanta Society of New York: New York, 2002. p251
35. Kant, Immanuel and Werner S. Pluhar, tr. Religion Within the Bounds of Bare Reason. Hackett: Indiana, 2009. p18
36. Shank, J.B., “Voltaire”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2015/entries/voltaire/>.
37. Voltaire (December 15, 1775). “Lettres sur l’origine des sciences et sur celle des peuples de l’Asie” Paris, 1777.
38. Tathagatananda, Sw. Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Vedanta Society of New York: New York, 2002. p179
39. Rocher, Ludo. Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century. John Benjamins Publishing Co: Philadephia, 1984.
40. Tathagatananda, Sw. Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Vedanta Society of New York: New York, 2002. p329
41. Redding, Paul, “Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2017/entries/hegel/>.
42. Tathagatananda, Sw. Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Vedanta Society of New York: New York, 2002. p249
43. Ibid. p243
44. Ibid. p267
45. Ibid. p268
46. Wicks, Robert, “Arthur Schopenhauer”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2017/entries/schopenhauer/>.
47. Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Idea. V1. Trubner and Co: London, 1883. p461.
48. Anderson, R. Lanier, “Friedrich Nietzsche”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2017/entries/nietzsche/>.
49. Tathagatananda, Sw. Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Vedanta Society of New York: New York, 2002. p296
50. Ibid. p300
51. F. Max Müller. “The Lesson of Jupiter.” The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art. New York, 1885. p831.
52. Klostermaier, Klaus K. A Survey of Hinduism. New York: State University of New York Press, 2007. p29
53. Jett, S. C. Ancient Ocean Crossings: Reconsidering the Case for Contacts with the Pre-Columbian Americas. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2017.
54. John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, December 25, 1813. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/mtjbib021602/>.
55. Altman, Michael J. Heathen, Hindoo, Hindu: American Representations of India, 1721-1893. Oxford University Press: New York, 2017. pp11-21
56. Goodman, Russell, “Transcendentalism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2017/entries/transcendentalism/>.
57. Goodman, Russell, “Ralph Waldo Emerson”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/emerson/>.
58. Syman, Stefanie. The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: New York, 2010. p20
59. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. And Edward W. Emerson, ed. The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Centenary Edition, Vol 4. Houghton Mifflin: Boston, 1903-1904. p49.
60. Furtak, Rick Anthony, “Henry David Thoreau”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/thoreau/>.
61. Tathagatananda, Sw. Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Vedanta Society of New York: New York, 2002. p440
62. Ibid. p441
63. Ibid. p442
64. Ibid. p449
65. Sharpe, Eric J. The Universal Gita: Western Images of the Bhagavad Gita. Open Court Publishing Co: La Salle, 1985. p68
66. Elkman, Stuart. “Buddhist Monasticism.” Monasticism: Ideal and Traditions. Sri Ramakrishna Math: Madras, 1991. p175
67. Srishachaitanya, Br. “Evolution of Monastic Ideal in India.” Monasticism: Ideal and Traditions. Sri Ramakrishna Math: Madras, 1991. p126.
68. Kopf, David. The Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind. Princeton University Press: New Delhi, 1988. p3
69. Hodder, Alan D. “Emerson, Rammohan Roy, and the Unitarians.” Studies in the American Renaissance: 1988. p133-148
70. Altman, Michael J. Heathen, Hindoo, Hindu: American Representations of India, 1721-1893. Oxford University Press: New York, 2017. p45
71. Kopf, David. The Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind. Princeton University Press: New Delhi, 1988. p163
72. Ibid. p269
73. De Michelis, Elizabeth. A History of Modern Yoga: Patanjali and Western Esotericism. Continuum: New York, 2004. p46
74. Kopf, David. The Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind. Princeton University Press: New Delhi, 1988. p269
75. Sen, Keshub Chunder. The New Dispensation: Or, The Religion of Harmony. Bidhan Press; Calcutta, 1903. p253
76. Kopf, David. The Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind. Princeton University Press: New Delhi, 1988. p250
77. Jackson, Carl T. Vedanta for the West: The Ramakrishna Movement in the United States. Indiana University Press: Bloomington, 1994. p23
78. Gambhirananda, Sw. History of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Advaita Ashrama: Calcutta, 1957. p37
79. Ibid. pp50-51
80. Ibid. p65
81. Rolland, Romain. The Life of Vivekananda and the Universal Gospel. Advaita Ashrama: Calcutta, 1970. pp8, 13
82. Sinclair-Brull, Wendy. Female Ascetics: Hierarchy and Purity in Indian Religious Movements. Curzon Press: Surrey, 1997. pp23-26
83. De Michelis, Elizabeth. A History of Modern Yoga: Patanjali and Western Esotericism. Continuum: New York, 2004. pp105, 107-108
84. Chattopadhyaya, Rajgopal. Swami Vivekananda in India: A Corrective Biography. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers: Delhi, 1999. p156-157
85. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume VI: “Epistle XLI”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971. pp250-256
86. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume VI: “Epistle XXXII”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971. pp491-498
87. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume VII: “From the Diary of a Disciple”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971. pp476-479.
88. Ananyananda, Swami. The Life of Swami Vivekananda by His Eastern and Western Disciples. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1981. pp247-249
89. Ibid. pp582-583.
90. Rolland, Romain. The Life of Vivekananda and the Universal Gospel. Advaita Ashrama: Calcutta, 1970. pp319-320
91. Lokeswarananda, Sw. “Monasticism with a New Face.” Monasticism: Ideal and Traditions. Sri Ramakrishna Math: Madras, 1991. p238
92. Sunirmalananda, Sw. “Monasticism of the Ramakrishna Order: A New Orientation to Monastic Life” The Story of Ramakrishna Mission: Swami Vivekananda’s Vision and Fulfillment. Advaita Ashrama: Calcutta, 2006. p374
93. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume III: “My Plan of Campaign”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971.
94. Stavig, Gopal. Western Admirers of Ramakrishna and His Disciples. Kolkota: Advaita Ashrama, 2010. p413
95. De Michelis, Elizabeth. A History of Modern Yoga: Patanjali and Western Esotericism. Continuum: New York, 2004. p112
96. Laccetti, Nicholas. “The Esoteric Dimensions of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.” The Light Invisible, 12 Apr. 2017, thelightinvisible.org/2017/04/12/the-esoteric-dimensions-of-the-parliament-of-the-worlds-religions/
97. Chattopadhyaya, Rajgopal. Swami Vivekananda in India: A Corrective Biography. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers: Delhi, 1999. p161
98. It is not widely known that Swami Vivekananda earned the degree of Master Mason on May 20, 1884. Freemasonry is the successor to the Mystery Schools of the Western Esoteric Tradition. The three ranks of apprentice, fellow-craft, and master give lessons in character transformation, civic duty, and classical philosophy reconciled with theology in an exhaustive account of ancient symbolism and religious myth. Swami Abhedananda and Swami Chetanananda record instances where Sri Ramakrishna visited Beadon Square in Calcutta to see Masonic emblems.
99. Stavig, Gopal. Western Admirers of Ramakrishna and His Disciples. Kolkota: Advaita Ashrama, 2010. p505
100. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume V: “Conversations and Dialogues”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971. pp376-378
101. A summary of the rite of first vows is given by Yale, John. A Yankee and the Swamis. George Allen and Unwin Ltd: London, 1961. pp202-205
102. A summary of the rite of final vows is given by Saradananda, Sw. Sri Ramakrishna and His Divine Play. Swami Chetanananda, Tr. Vedanta Society of St. Louis: Canada, 2003. pp309-311
103. Burke, Marie Louise. Swami Vivekananda in the West: New Discoveries – The World Teacher, Part One. Advaita Ashrama: Calcutta, 1985. pp367-371
104. Ibid. pp326-328. Epistle XXVII in volume 7 of the Complete Works is incomplete and misattributed.
105. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume VIII: “Epistle LXVIII”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971. p371
106. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Volume VI: “Epistle XCVII”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971. p362
107. Stavig, Gopal. Western Admirers of Ramakrishna and His Disciples. Kolkota: Advaita Ashrama, 2010. p776
108. Ibid. p772
109. Chetanananda, Swami. God Lived With Them: Life Stories of Sixteen Monastic Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. Vedanta Society of St. Louis: St. Louis, 1997. p468
110. Ritajananda, Sw. Swami Turiyananda: A Direct Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna Math: Madras, 1973. p60
111. Ibid. p71
112. Sen, Arjit. “Architecture and world making: production of sacred space in San Francisco’s Vedanta temple.” South Asian History and Culture. Vol. 2, No1, January 2011, pp72-102.
113. Sen, Arjit. “Staged Disappointment: Interpreting the Architectural Facade of the Vedanta Society, San Francisco. Winterthur Portfolio. Vol. 47, No. 4 (Winter 2013). pp207-244
114. Burke, Marie Louise. Swami Trigunatita: His Life and Work. Vedanta Society of Northern California: San Francisco, 1997. p192
115. Ibid. p166
116. Ibid. p175
117. Ibid. p225
118. Ibid. pp107-113
119. Stavig, Gopal. Western Admirers of Ramakrishna and His Disciples. Kolkota: Advaita Ashrama, 2010. pp476-477
120. Ibid. pp292-293
121. Ibid. pp86-87
122. Ibid. pp556-557
123. Ibid. pp81-83
124. Ibid. pp93-95
125. Ibid. p168
126. Ibid. pp423-424, 428-430
127. Ibid. pp518-519
128. Ibid. pp 701-702
129. Prothero, Stephen. “Hinduphobia and Hinduphilia in U.S. Culture.” The Stranger’s Religion: Fascination and Fear. Anna Lannstrom, Ed. University of Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame, 2004. pp13-16
130. Burke, Marie Louise. A Heart Poured Out: A Story of Swami Ashokananda. Kalpa Tree Press: New York, 2003.
131. Brahmaprana, Pravrajika. “Ramakrishna Movement in America: The Middle Phase (1920-1970). The Story of Ramakrishna Mission: Swami Vivekananda’s Vision and Fulfillment. Advaita Ashrama: Calcutta, 2006. p374
132. Ibid. p369
133. Stavig, Gopal. Western Admirers of Ramakrishna and His Disciples. Kolkota: Advaita Ashrama, 2010. pp146, 153
134. Ibid. pp162-166
135. Ibid. pp146-147
136. Brahmaprana, Pravrajika. “Ramakrishna Movement in America: The Middle Phase (1920-1970). The Story of Ramakrishna Mission: Swami Vivekananda’s Vision and Fulfillment. Advaita Ashrama: Calcutta, 2006. p370
137. Stavig, Gopal. Western Admirers of Ramakrishna and His Disciples. Kolkota: Advaita Ashrama, 2010. p627
138. Ibid. p154-155
139. Goldberg, Philip. American Veda. Harmony Books: New York, 2010. p104
140. Altman, Michael J. Heathen, Hindoo, Hindu: American Representations of India, 1721-1893. Oxford University Press: New York, 2017. p133
141. Spengler, Oswald. Decline of the West, vII. George Allen & Unwin Ltd.: London, 1928. p310-311, 504
142. Toynbee, Arnold. An Historian’s Approach to Religion. Oxford University Press: London, 1956.
143. Vivekananda, Sw. Complete Works, Volume II: “The Ideal of a Universal Religion”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971.
144. Vivekananda, Sw. Complete Works, Volume II: “The Absolute and Manifestation”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971.
145. Vivekananda, Sw. Complete Works, Volume II: “The Way to the Realization of Universal Religion”. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1971.
146. Vivekananda, Sw. Raja Yoga. Advaita Ashrama: Calcutta, 2015. pp200-201
147. Lutyens, Mary. J. Krishnamurti: A Life. Penguin Books: New Delhi, 2005. p370
148. Huxley, Aldous. “The Minimum Working Hypothesis.” Vedanta for the Western World. Christopher Isherwood, Ed. Vedanta Press: Hollywood, 1945. p34
149. “Trabuco College, September 1942.” Aldous and Laura Huxley papers (Collection 2009). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
150. Miller, Timothy. “Notes on the Prehistory of the Human Potential Movement: The Vedanta Society and Gerald Heard’s Trabuco College.” On the Edge of the Future: Esalen and the Evolution of American Culture. Jeffrey Kripal and Glenn Shuck, eds. Indiana University Press: Indianapolis, 2005. pp80-98
151. Schindler, William. “Suggestions for Expanding Roles for Lay Vedanta Members in America.” Ashram West Tantra Brotherhood: Hollywood, 2011.
152. Burke, Marie Louise. “The Third Order of Vedanta.” Prabuddha Bharata. Vol 98. Ramakrishna Order: Calcutta, 1993. pp335-342