Vedanta Movement in Queensland
Indian philosophy, particularly Vedanta, has been studied and practiced in Australia since the early 1900’s. Mrs Elsie Picket (Hari Priya) and Sister Abhavaniya, taught overseas by Swamis of the Ramakrishna Order, held Vedanta classes in Australia and New Zealand. Then James Wale (Brahmachari Vivekchaitanya) from NSW, returned to Australia from the Ramakrishna Math in Calcutta and gave talks to small groups on Vedanta until his death in 1951. However, after the visit of Swami Ranganathananda of the Ramakrishna Order, first in 1969 and later regularly upto 1983, the movement spread throughout Australia.
The Vedanta Movement in the state of Queensland dates back to 1978, when the Late Swami Ranganathananda (who later became the President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission) used to visit Brisbane annually to inspire devotees and spread the message of Vedanta as manifested in the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda.
Thereafter, the movement continued to gain strength by visits from the late Swami Damodarananda from Fiji and other Monks who used to hold Satsangs (holy gatherings to chant the Lords name and preach his teachings) and valuable religious discourses on the Vedanta to inspire the growing number of devotees.
The objectives of the movement are:
- Promote the study, practice and teachings of Vedanta Philosophy and the concept of Universal Religion as expounded by Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda.
- Promote harmony between Eastern and Western thoughts.
- Set up educational programme for teaching philosophy, comparative study of religions, cultural, moral and spiritual education and yoga lessons; and
- Develop programmes of philanthropic and benevolent nature to assist the poor, the needy, the aged, the lowly, the afflicted and the sick in various parts of the world.
The official start of the Vedanta Movement in Queensland began in February 1986 with the initiative of Dr.Mahalingam Sinnathamby (who is currently the Patron of the Centre) along with his family. With the registration of the society, a formal committee was established, and fortnightly meetings and prayers began to be conducted at SWARA and at the Theosophical Society in Spring Hill. Reading from the Ramakrishna Gospel and discussions pertaining to Vedanta philosophy were part of the main activities.
The next 20 years saw several cultural and religious activities and endeavors to keep the movement alive and strengthen it. By the turn of the century, the number of devotees increased from a handful to a significant mass and the confidence to financially support a permanent and independent Ashram was gained. In the year 2005, a private house was rented in Sinnamon Park to start an independent Ashram. During 2005 and 2006, several spiritual activities were started along with spiritual discourses from the revered Swami Sridharananda who pays occasional visits. Swami Atmeshananda visited Brisbane from Sydney every month until November 2013 when he began to reside permanently in Brisbane.
On August 6, 2006, a house at 181 Burbong Street, Chapel Hill, Queensland was purchased and the Centre began to function on a regular basis. Daily worship, classes and activities continued in this house for several years. Then in 2015 a gift of a parcel of land in Springfield Lakes by Dr.Maha Sinnathamby of Springfield Corporation spurred the resolve of devotees and followers to construct their own building for the Ashram. Thus in July 2015 the Burbong Street house was sold and Swami Atmeshananda moved to temporary rented premises at 12, Greenwood Street, Springfield Lakes to oversee the Vedanta Precinct Masterplan.
The first phase of construction was for a multipurpose building housing a prayer and meditation hall, library, office, function hall, monks’ residence, guest rooms, community kitchen, parking and landscaping. The ‘turning of the sod’ ceremony on 16th August 2017 saw the start of the construction activity. Within a short time of nine months, the construction was completed.
The inauguration of the new Ashram multipurpose building was held on 30th of June 2018. From 27th to 30th June traditional pujas (worship) were performed to sanctify the building.
The Vedanta Centre in Springfield Lakes is open to all, irrespective of their faith or belief. Centre runs a number of benevolent activities like food relief to the needy, activities for children & youth, yoga, meditation, classes on Vedanta, educational workshops, community events and volunteer opportunities. The Centre has a cafe, gardens, bookshop & library. Special festivals and birthdays of Saints, teachers & Hindu deities are celebrated regularly.
In April 2020 a licensed commercial kitchen was built as an extension to the building on the lower ground floor. Here operates a soup Kitchen and community cafe. The Vedanta Springfield Foodbank and Soup Kitchen has provided more than 6,000 free meals and around 700 pre-packed grocery hampers to people in need since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When we started our service, our needs assessment with the community showed that whilst some organisations were providing cooked meals, no one was providing nutritious vegetarian meals. We saw this as a unique opportunity to be able to serve the community as we only provide vegetarian meals.
In the second phase of the Vedanta Precinct Masterplan will be a childcare facility, followed by community residences for those who like to lead a life of peace, harmony and spiritual fulfilment.
The Ramakrishna-Vedanta movement that began many years ago silently has, by now, grown significantly. There is much more to be done in the future. The cooperation, help and goodwill of the general public to make the Vedanta Precinct a haven of Peace and Tranquility is much appreciated.