RAMAKRISHNA VEDANTA CENTRE - A BRIEF HISTORY
Swami Ghanananda, who founded the Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre, arrived in the UK in 1948. He quickly laid the foundations of the Centre at a public meeting held in St Ermin’s Hotel on Sunday 14th November 1948 where “it was unanimously decided that a Vedanta Centre named after Sri Ramakrishna be begun and that lectures and classes and other usual forms of activity be commenced as from the Thursday following, 18th November 1948".
A subsequent meeting of friends and well-wishers was called by the Swami in his then apartment at 8 Belsize Avenue London on Thursday 1st March 1949 to set up an Advisory Board. The Advisory Board met on Saturday 12th March 1949 at Kingsway Hall, Holborn, London where it was resolved that an official society called the Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre be formed, and that a draft constitution be prepared; it was formally adopted on 17 June 1949. In the early years, the Centre had no permanent home. The Swami stayed in various lodgings arranged by devotees and lectures were held in public halls such as Kingsway Hall. A publication called the “Vedanta Bulletin” was started in 1951 and later continued as Vedanta for East and West, still being published today with a new name, Vedanta.
Eventually, the Swami was accommodated at a house at 68 Dukes Avenue, Muswell Hill, London. It was owned by a devotee, Mr Edward Thornton, who later donated it to the Centre. This became the first home of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre from 1952. The work of the Centre grew in leaps and bounds. Swami Vivekananda’s birth centenary was celebrated in a major way in 1963. Funds were raised with the generosity of another devotee and donor Mr Henry James Newlin, to purchase a bigger and more central property at 54 Holland Park in 1965. It was named the Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre Vivekananda Centenary Ashram.
Some years later, Swami Ghanananda's health was found to be failing - he retired in July 1969 and handed over to Swami Bhavyananda who assumed the reins from the following month. Very shortly after that, on 16 November 1969, Swami Ghanananda passed away.
In 1977, the Holland Park property, along with a smaller cottage Sarada Kutir purchased in 1971 in Devon, were sold and the Centre moved to new premises at Blind Lane, Bourne End in Buckinghamshire. This marked the beginning of a long period of stability under Swami Bhavyananda. The UK Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre remains in the same place in Buckinghamshire today. Swami Bhavyananda passed away on 2 December 1993 after a period of ill health. Swami Dayatmananda had been assisting since 1991 and took over as the head of the Centre. He guided its affairs till 15 April 2018 when Swami Sarvasthananda succeeded him. Many devotees and admirers from the U.K and other countries have been drawn to the Centre and have helped in spreading the universal and inherently inclusive message of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. Some of them joined the order right from the early 1960’s as novices and later became monastics. Like his predecessors the Swami delivers public lectures on Vedanta, Yoga, Indian Philosophy and Psychology, Comparative Religion and allied subjects at the centre. The Swami also occasionally addresses meetings outside the centre too on invitation. Giving interviews for spiritual guidance, study classes and answering letters from spiritual seekers are some of the Swami's other duties at the centre. The birthdays of Sri Ramakrishna and other great teachers are celebrated at the Centre. There is a shrine with a meditation room which devotees may use and where morning and evening services are held. Monastic and lay members assist in the daily routine activities. The Centre has an elected Board of Management and Board of Trustees. It is registered with the Charities Commission as a charitable institution (Registration Number. 206169), and is therefore able to recover income tax on donations made under Deeds of Covenant. The Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre is entirely free from politics.
St. Ermin's Hotel in Westminster, London
Kingsway Hall, Holborn, London
68 Dukes Avenue, Muswell Hill, London
54 Holland Park, London
Sarada Kutir, Devon