The Vedanta Centre of Sydney recently celebrated its 22nd annual day with a cultural program at Carlingford which showcased some of the community’s finest talent in music and dance
Though the centre was established in 1984 by Mr and Mrs Ramakrishna, it was in 2000 that Sydney was declared as the official branch of the Ramakrishna Math of India. Swami Shridharananda now heads this institution and the Sydney Centre is the hub of many activities espousing the Vedanta philosophy.
There are free educational programs for all age groups including talks and classes on yoga, meditation and the scriptures such as the Bhagwad Gita and the Upanishads. A number of events are organised on special days such as Ram Navami, Durga Pooja and Buddha Poornima.
As a philosophy and religion, Vedanta is over 3000 years old. It was Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda in the 19th century who rejuvenated this age-old religious philosophy into its present form. It is now accepted by people from many cultures and religions.
In the main hall of the Vedanta Centre in Sydney, you will find the images of Jesus and Buddha besides Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Ma and Swami Vivekananda. Sri Ramakrishna always maintained “Yato mat tato path” which translates as “As many faiths, so many paths”.
Vivekananda’s teachings made Vedantic concepts acceptable to the modern minds by interpreting these in the light of rational thought and science. The basic principle of Vedanta is the presence of divinity with all of us and this is manifested by the way we lead our lives.
In his address to the gathering at the annual function held on 1 May, Swami Shridharananda reiterated this message and said that we can all find divinity within ourselves, while fully leading our daily life and meeting responsibilities. He said that creative arts such as music and dance not only give enjoyment to the listener and the viewer but are also a manifestation of, and a dedication to, the divine within us.
With the context set by this message, the program began with some Rabindra Sangeet by Chandana Ganguly followed by devotional bhajans by Srijani Dan, both noted community singers.
Dance performances included Mohini Attam by Anjana Chandran, Rabindra Nritya by Ajanta Bhattacharya’s Rhythms Dance troupe and Odissi dance by Nirmal Jena’s group. The closing sitar recital by visiting artistes from Pune, Jyoti Thakkar and Arvind Paranjpe, was very well received.
Over the years of its existence, the Vedanta philosophy faced many challenges, both from internal dissensions and from external influences such as Islam and Christianity. However, they believe that the greatest challenge to its philosophy in Indian society was Western cultural influences. These are the beliefs in rational thought and science and the emphasis on an open society which values freedom and social justice.
By re-interpreting the age-old wisdom of the Vedas in the light of such rational thought and science, Vedanta centres the world over are bringing youth from Indian and other backgrounds back to studying and exploring ancient truths and finding ways they can practically apply Vedantic principles to everyday life. It is this balance of modern and ancient that seems to draw young and old to the Vedanta philosophy.
Amidst all daily stresses and struggles in a new country, institutions such as the Vedanta Centre of Sydney, at 2 Stewart St, Ermington, provide a meeting and learning place for spiritual and philosophical explorers.