Ramakrishna Vedanta Centres of New Zealand Inc

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Atmano Mokshartham Jagat Hitaya Cha




Sri Ramakrishna




Vedanta in New Zealand


The Early Years

During the middle of 1897, Swami Vivekananda deputed Swami Shivananda (his brother disciple) to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in response to an appeal made to him for a spiritual teacher by Hindu communities during his visit.
Swami Shivananda, in addition to arousing an interest for the Vedanta Philosophy among the Tamil and Singhalese population, began classes in which he taught Raja Yoga and Srimad Bhagavad Gita. His Gita classes were attended by several Europeans. His patient and proficient ways of teaching was deeply admired by his students.

One of his students, Mrs. Elsie Pickett, to whom he gave the name of ‘Hari Priya’, he especially trained so as to make her qualified to teach Vedanta to fellow Europeans. He sent her with his authority to Australia and New Zealand to prepare the way for a teacher of Vedanta there. She toured both countries, attracting interested earnest students and began classes in

Adelaide, South Victoria and Nelson.

Vedanta, however, was formally introduced to New Zealand by Ms. Blanche Baughan, a Maoriland poet, short story writer, novelist, mystic and social reformer. She had come to know about Vedanta while living in the United States of America and became a student of Swami Prakashananda, then the head of the Vedanta Centre of Northern California (San Francisco).
By 1916 Ms. Baughan was corresponding with Swami Prakashananda and Swami Prajnananda at the Advaita Ashrama (Mayavati). Her poems were being published in the Ramakrishna Order’s journal Prabuddha Bharata. She visited India also during this time. Mrs. Baughan passed away in 1957 and we do not have much information about the group that she had formed to study Vedanta.

From 1970 To 2000

In 1976 Swami Damodrananda was posted to the Ramakrishna Mission in Nadi, Fiji. In 1979 he was invited by Ms. Jean Watson, a social worker among the poor in India, for a week long retreat in Wellington. This was followed by an invitation from Mrs. Joy Cowley, a famous writer, for a similar retreat in Picton.

These visits gave Swami Domodarananda exposure to interested groups, e.g. students of the School of Philosophy and Religious Studies and departments of various universities in major centres in New Zealand. He was regularly invited to address these groups. Following these visits and addresses to these groups, Swami Damodarananda was, in his own words, ‘discovered’ by the Indian community, initially in Wellington and then

Auckland and other centres.

In 1987 Swami Adibhavananda was also posted to the Ramakrishna Mission, Nadi, Fiji. In 1988 he started visiting New Zealand and established very close contacts with the Indian (mainly Gujarati) communities in Auckland, Pukekohe, Hamilton, Rotorua and Wellington.
Swami Muktirupananda and Swami Bhaktirupananda also visited New Zealand briefly while they were based at the Nadi centre.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the Nadi Centre started inviting senior monks of the Mission to visit Fiji on a regular basis. Among them were Swami Bhuteshananda, Swami Ranganathananda, Swami Gahanananda, Swami Atmasthananda, Swami Smaranananda, Swami Sridharananda and Swami Jagadatmananda .

Swami Damodrananda would accompany these visiting Swamis to various centres in New Zealand and Australia, where they inspired people to study the teachings of Vedanta as demonstrated in the lives of Sri Ramakrishna,

Sri Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda.

From Year 2000 Onwards

With the retirement of Swami Damodarananda from the Nadi Ashram and the arrival of Swami Sridharananda as Head of the Sydney Centre in 2000, the Vedanta movement in New Zealand gathered momentum. After putting the Sydney Centre on a firm footing, Swami Sridharananda turned his attention to New Zealand. He began visiting New Zealand twice or thrice in a year and on each occasion gently encouraged the New Zealand devotees to organize themselves into a formal group. The group with the guidance and leadership of Swami Sridharananda purchased a property in 2007 at 27 Arawa Street, New Lynn, Auckland. Since then all its activities are conducted at that premises.




Swami Vivekananda's 150th Birth Anniversary_A report


















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