Swami Vedananda, a senior monk of the Vedanta Society of Northern California
in San Francisco, is well known and respected for his contribution to interfaith dialogs and to guiding students in Vedantic philosophy and religion. Before taking monastic vows to renounce the world and become a monk in 1970, he earned a Ph.D. in physics and left behind a promising career in science. His order of monks belongs to the unbroken ancient lineage established in pre-BCE Vedic period. Since 2005, he has been leading a small discussion group at Stanford University
, for the study of Vedanta philosophy and the Sanskrit language.
The Swami has helped seekers of various faith traditions in spiritual practice and renewal over the years. A Christian journalist wrote
about how his encounters with Hinduism through interfaith conversations with the Swami helped him to counteract his own growing skepticism and allowed him to save his own Christian faith: "Viewing Christ’s teachings through the beliefs of a Hindu presented the familiarity of my own faith in surprising newness, giving our interpersonal relationships a sense of holy urgency and joy with the idea of meeting the Divine, not a mediated metaphor of God, when we meet someone."
In addressing Eastern and Western approaches to seeking wisdom, the Swami has written
, "Within everyone is the light of wisdom -- some people call it the spark of God, or the Buddha nature, or the voice of conscience, or the true Self, or the Great Spirit -- this is admitted by all cultures, Eastern, Western, Northern, or Southern. The names are different, and the methods are different, but in some fashion this is the truest vision admitted by vastly different cultures in far ranging areas of the globe. This would imply that all wisdom is already within. We do not get it from the experience of others, and we do not get it from our own experience. It is already ours. The experience of others or of ourselves only makes us aware of what we already have."
Some years back, Swami Vedananda shared an impromptu reflection on "What is Spirituality?" The video
received over 14,000 views and inspired many to reflect deeply. When informed that this video had 90 likes and 5 dislikes, Swami Vedananda responded, without skipping a beat, "I must have been one of the 5 who disliked it." A steady sense of humor, characteristic of this monk, is an attribute that he suggests can be a test for distinguishing between karma
(normal action) and karma yoga
(action as a spiritual practice).
Five Questions with Swami Vedananda
What Makes You Come Alive?
To try to understand what is real here, what is permanent, fundamental and unchanging, as differentiated from that which is merely superficial and apparent on the surface of things. To search for the spiritual and eternal reality at the heart of all experience.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
Meeting with, learning from, and being accepted by the extraordinary personality who became my spiritual teacher.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
Being accepted as a monk in the monastic order founded by Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
I do not know what is meant by the expression: "Bucket list".
One-line Message for the World?
Beneath the surface of things which come and go, there is an infinite existence and joy which never changes.