by Gopal Stavig

Note from Anna Monday,
who is working with Mr. Stavig on this project:
“This is a work in progress, but even now interested readers will find ‘lots to chew on’ at”


This book is dedicated to Swami Prabhavananda who guided by the spiritual power and inspiration of Swami Brahmananda became the founder and developer of the Vedanta Society of Southern California.



I. The Early Years (1899-1927)

  1. Swami Sachchidananda II (1904-1913), Baba Bharati (1905-1913), and Swami Bodhananda (1912, 1925-1927)

II. Swami Paramananda and Swami Prabhavananda (1893-1929)

  1. Swami Paramananda (1902-1929)
  2. Swami Prabhavananda and the Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna (1893-1923)
  3. Swami Prabhavananda in the U.S. (1923-1929)

III. The Swami Prabhavananda Era: The Formative Years (1930-1949)

  1. Vedanta Society Activities in the 1930’s
  2. Vedanta Society Activities in the 1940s
  3. Santa Barbara Convent
  4. Trabuco College and Monastery
  5. Swami Paramananda After 1930

IV. Literary Figures and Actors (1929-1949)

  1. Percy Houston and V. Subrahmanya Iyer
  2. Frederick Manchester
  3. Gerald Heard
  4. Aldous Huxley
  5. Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood
  6. Other Authors
  7. Somerset Maugham and The Razor’s Edge
  8. Other Film Personalities

V. The Swami Prabhavananda Era: the Period of Fruition (1950-1976)

  1. Vedanta Society Activities in the 1950s
  2. Vedanta Society Activities in the 1960s
  3. Vedanta Society Activities 1970-1976
  4. Santa Barbara Convent
  5. Trabuco Monastery

VI. Literary Works (1950-1976)

  1. Swami Prabhavananda
  2. Ida Ansell (Ujjvala)
  3. Gerald Heard
  4. Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts and D. T. Suzuki
  5. Christopher Isherwood
  6. Swami Vidyatmananda (John Yale, Prema Chaitanya)
  7. Public Speakers and Film Personalities

VII. The Swami Swahananda and Swami Sarvadevananda Era (1976-2016)

  1. Swami Swahananda’s Background
  2. Swami Swahananda’s Major Objectives
  3. Swami Swahananda at the VSSC
  4. The Assistant Swamis
  5. Swami Sarvadevananda at the Vedanta Society
  6. Functional Departments of the Vedanta Society
  7. Charitable Organizations
  8. Santa Barbara, Trabuco Canyon, and South Pasadena Centers

VIII. Expansion of the Vedanta Society

  1. Affiliated Centers – San Diego, Washington D.C., Vivekananda Retreat Ridgely, and Houston
  2. Private Centers – Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, and Tucson

IX. Literary and Dramatic Productions (1976-2016)

  1. The Years After Swami Prabhavananda’s Passing (1976-1984)
  2. A Changing Profile in Literary, Creative, and Other Activities (1985-1989)
  3. New Developments in the Vedanta Movement in the West (1990-1999)
  4. The New Millennium (2000-2016)

Appendix I
Ramakrishna-Vedanta Swamis in Southern California and Affiliated Centers (1899-2014)

Appendix II
Ramakrishna-Vedanta Swamis (1893-2014)

Appendix III
Presently Existing Ramakrishna-Vedanta Centers in North America (1894-2014)

Appendix IV
Ramakrishna-Vedanta Swamis in North America (1893-2014)

Bibliography Alphabetized by Abbreviation


We are grateful and indebted to:

Joanne Euler, the original Project Director who undertook the managerial aspects of the project, and was very helpful in providing me with pertinent historical material and in making contact with monastics, devotees, and chapter editors to write about their activities in the VSSC. In addition, she kept me well informed on the activities related to the development of the manuscript.

Pravrajika Vrajaprana and Edith Dickinson Tipple for taking on the difficult and time-consuming task of meticulously editing the copious amount of material gathered for this history and helping to put it in publishable shape. Their efforts have made the book easier to read.

Swami Sarvadevananda for his proficiency in bringing all of the participants together to get this project underway and Jon Monday (Dharmadas) for his generosity and their decision to place this eBook on the Internet for the benefit of the general public.

Swami Mahayogananda who formatted the systematic layout for the eBook.

Sister Gayatriprana co-author of Chapter IX. Literary and Dramatic Productions (1976-2016), which she creatively reworked.

Chapter editors, Linda Prugh of Chapter I, The Early Years (1899-1921) and the early years in Washington, DC (1893-1917) and Ridgely (1893-1909) in Chapter VIII; Cliff Johnson for Chapter II, Swami Paramananda and Swami Prabhavananda (1893-1929); and Swami Yogeshananda for Chapter III, The Prabhavananda Era: The Formative Years (1929-1949) for their re-writing assistance.

Amrita Salm sub-chapter editor of the first two sections of Chapter VII, The Swami Swahananda and Swami Sarvadevananda Era (1976-2016).

In addition, Anne French assisted Edith Tipple in editing, helpful suggestions were provided by Swami Chetanananda (Vedanta Society of St. Louis) on Chapter V. The Swami Prabhavananda Era: the Period of Fruition (1950-1976), and editorial comments were given by Hal French (University of South Carolina Department of Religious Studies) for Chapter VI, Literary Works (1950-1976).

Brahmachari Jnana Chaitanya is to be commended for supplying me with copies of old editions of the Prabuddha Bharata, Vedanta Kesari, newsletters to the members, and other valuable historical material cited as belonging to the Vedanta Archives.

Finally, I wish to thank Swami Bodhasarananda, the President of Advaita Ashrama, for allowing me to use material drawn from the book Western Admirers of Ramakrishna and His Disciples.

Gopal Stavig is a retired statistician, epidemiologist, demographer and social researcher. He has been a member of the Vedanta Society of Southern California for over 40 years. Gopal can be contacted at

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