What is This Center and Why are We Here? – Br. Shankara

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July 5, 2020

July is a month for study of Jnana Yoga (Advaita Vedanta). As a jnana yogi, you practice discrimination, reason, detachment, and satyagraha (insistence on Truth).

The goal is freedom from limitation (moksha). Our teachers say that all miseries in life are caused by seeing inaccurately. An earnest and persistent jnani may break through this misapprehension (maya) and see only the Divine Presence everywhere, in everything and everyone.

What is This Center and Why are We Here? Here, this question will be answered in some detail.

We start in 1881, when a teenager named Narendranath Dutta met Sri Ramakrishna. According to Narendra, Ramakrishna carefully trained him for the mission he was to undertake. That training took six years — from 1881, when Narendra was 18 years old, until 1886, when the Master passed away. Narendra was 23.

Over the next seven years, from 1886 to 1893, Narendra became Swami Vivekananda, fit for the work Ramakrishna had in mind. The Swami left for America at age 30. He took ship from Mumbai on May 31st, 1893 and docked in Vancouver, British Columbia on July 25th.

Then, on September 11th, at the first World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Swami Vivekananda spoke the words that began to unfold his destiny as a teacher of Vedanta in the West: “Sisters and brothers of America,” he said, and an audience of thousands rose to offer him a two-minute standing ovation. Vivekananda went on to become the 16-day-long event’s most popular and influential speaker. He stayed to teach in the West for most of the next 10 years; as he said in February 1895, “I have a message to the West as Buddha had a message to the East.”

Swamiji called that message Vedanta. It has resonated with spiritual seekers throughout the Americas, from the early 1890s until today. That resonance, and what has resulted from it, is what we define and explore in this talk and discussion.