Profile of Houston's Vedanta Society

August 18, 2006

Source: Houston Chronicle


On August 18, 2006 the Houston Chronicle reported, "There are many paths to God, says the Vedanta Society of Greater Houston, and it encourages believers to explore all of them. 'No religion is bigger or smaller,' member Kewal Chawla said. 'All religions lead you to the ultimate truth, to eternal peace and happiness.' The concept of the oneness of religions is a driving force and attraction of the Vedanta Society, said Swapna Chaudhuri, society president. 'I studied at a (New Delhi) Catholic convent school, and I learned all about Jesus Christ and Christianity,' said Chaudhuri, now a community college professor of Spanish. 'I learned that the basic teachings are all the same. The religions teach the same basic things.' The society traces its beginnings to the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, a 19th-century Hindu who practiced Buddhism and Christianity as well as Hinduism at his temple near Calcutta. He taught that 'God can be realized through all paths' and 'all religions are true.' His disciple and the society's founder, Swami Vivekananda, caused a sensation at the 1893 Parliament of World Religion in Chicago when he brought Ramakrishna's message to the West. The center's small shrine features photographs of both men. But it's also flanked by images of Buddha and Jesus Christ. The society's philosophical approach to Hinduism and other religions may limit its appeal to many Hindus, Chaudhuri acknowledged. There is less emphasis on worship rituals and devotion to deities such as Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of wisdom and courage, or the popular Krishna, a divine incarnation. The center also does not promote the Indian cultural traditions that are part of temple programs. Instead the emphasis is on study of the teachings of Ramakrishna, who, with his wife, Sarada, is considered a divine incarnation."