Vedanta Society of Providence

This profile was last updated in 2005

Activities and Schedule

Sunday Service: 5:00 P.M. Tuesday and Friday Study Groups: 7:30 P.M. The Swamis are also available for individual spiritual instruction by appointment.

History

The Vedanta Society of Providence was founded by Swami Akhilananda in 1928 and met at the Providence Biltmore Hotel until it established its first chapel on Angell Street in 1931. (This was ten years before the opening of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society in Boston, with which it is closely affiliated.) Swami Sarvagatananda came from India in 1954 to serve as the official spiritual leader to both the Providence and Boston societies. In 1998, Swami Tyagananda came to the U.S. and eventually assumed responsibility for leading all of the religious services. In June 2000, Swami Tyagananda assumed full-time spiritual leadership of the Boston society, and the recently-arrived Swami Yogatmananda assumed leadership of the Providence society.

Description

The regular weekly activities of the Providence society include a formal Sunday Service with prayer, music, and an extended sermon, and more informal Tuesday and Friday Meditation and Vedanta Study Groups. Sunday prayers are taken primarily from the Hindu Vedas and the music from a Vedanta hymnal, and the Tuesday and Friday classes involve a combination of scriptural study, commentary, questions and answers, and discussion. In addition, the society celebrates roughly thirty festivals throughout the year, including the birthdays of various Vedanta philosophers and swamis, Siddhartha Gautama, Zarathustra, Krishna, and Jesus, as well as Hindu holidays such as Shivaratri, Guru Purnima, Durga Puja, and Deepavali. The Boston and Providence societies share a retreat in Marshfield, MA, which they use during the summer.

The society’s current chapel is a beautifully renovated historic home on Angell Street directly across from its original center. The sanctuary lines the right side of the building and centers on an altar with a photograph of Sri Ramakrishna (the founder of the modern Vedanta movement). The altar is inscribed, “Truth is one, the wise call it by many names.” In front of it are two podiums with chairs, a lower one for reading and a higher one for preaching, and facing them are some sixty chairs for the congregation. There is also an organ and a piano, and lining the walls are plaques with symbols and sayings from various world religions. The building also includes a library/bookstore, a child care room, a dining room, and resident rooms for the Swamis.
The society publishes a weekly schedule announcement in local newspapers, and its swamis are frequently invited to speak about Hinduism and Vedanta at local schools and colleges. Moreover, the society’s interreligious, public service, and civic presence and activities are increasing with the presence of a full-time Swami.