This data was last updated on 16 July 2019.
History: The inspiration behind the Vedanta Society was the Hindu saint Ramakrishna (1836–1886). His disciple Swami Vivekananda, who represented Hinduism at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893, founded the Ramakrishna Order, whose branches in the West are known as Vedanta Society. Vivekananda taught that Truth is one and that it can be found in all religions. The Ramakrishna Vedanta Society has been in Boston since 1909, making it the third oldest Vedanta Society in North America. The Society began meeting in a small studio apartment on St Botolph Street. After moving through a variety of rented apartments and houses throughout Boston, it settled permanently in a building near Kenmore in 1941.
Description: Nestled on a quiet corner behind the hustle and bustle of Kenmore Square lies the three-story brick home to the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society of Boston. The building, complete with a view of the Charles River and a small side yard, was originally a residential home that was converted to fit the needs of the Vedanta Society. The upper level serves as a monastery and the lower level serves as the worship space for the community. The property fits a living room where small groups can meet for discussions, with a Sunday school area in the back for children, a bookstore, a small space for tea and coffee, and a chapel. The chapel, capable of holding up to one hundred people, includes a piano and an altar. Quotes and symbols from diverse religious traditions decorate the walls, and photos of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi, Buddha, and Jesus flank the walls of the main altar.
Demographics: Sunday services at the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society of Boston usually cater around 80-100 people coming from the greater Boston area. Because the society is inclusive in its teachings, the congregation is diverse in cultural and religious backgrounds. Besides the members who self-identify as Hindu, a significant section of the community is comprised of members from religious traditions, such as Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Many say that their study and practice of Vedanta helps them become better members of their respective faith traditions. It is also important to note that while the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society of Boston serves a local community, resources like online video streaming and audio podcasts allow it to serve a global community as well. The live streams of Sunday worship draw anywhere from 150 to 250 people worldwide, while its podcasts have reached millions.
Activities and Schedule: Besides the Sunday worship services (called Satsang) and Wednesday study groups, the Society offers arati (a Hindu religious ritual of worship) and meditation Tuesday and Saturday evenings. There are also free lectures online through iTunes, which can be accessed on their website. Because of the religious diversity of the community, the Vedanta Society celebrates major holidays such as Christmas or the Buddha’s birthday in addition to the traditional Hindu festivals.
For a complete list of events, including weekly satsang, arati, meditation, children’s groups, and study groups, visit the society’s online calendar of events.
Partnerships: While no official partnerships exists, the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society is involved with student communities from local colleges and universities. The swami is the Hindu chaplain at Harvard and MIT.