‘Like the gentle dew that falls unseen and unheard, and yet brings into blossom the fairest of roses, has been the contribution of India to the thought of the world’ – these words of Swami Vivekananda is very apt to describe the progress of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda-Vedanta movement in Australia.
Indian philosophy, particularly Vedanta, has been studied and practiced in Australia since the early 1900’s, even though in minuscule numbers. Mrs Elsie Picket (Hari Priya) and Sister Abhavaniya, taught overseas by Swamis of the Ramakrishna Order, held Vedanta classes in Australia and New Zealand attended by only a few. 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.
Since the early 1980’s, a small group of followers of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda met regularly at the Theosophical Society and SWARA, held discussions and invited Swamis and Nuns of the Ramakrishna Order to give talks and hold retreats. After the arrival of Swami Sridharananda in Sydney in late 2000, the impetus to start a Centre in Brisbane strengthened. A gift of a parcel of land by Dr.Maha Sinnathamby of Springfield Corporation made the resolve of the devotees and followers stronger to construct a building to carry on the activities of the Centre.
In 2009, the Ipswich Council approved the Vedanta Precinct Masterplan to be built in due course at Springfield Lakes. In March 2015, the Springfield Land Corporation handed over the land to the Vedanta Centre of Sydney, Brisbane chapter at a grand function. The Brisbane Chapter’s committee soon set forth to draw a plan for constructing a multipurpose building housing a prayer and meditation hall, library, office, a hall to be used for functions, monks’ residence, guest rooms, a community kitchen, parking and landscaping. After calling for Tender, the construction contract was granted to James Trowse Constructions. 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 this facility will be held from the 27th to 30th of June 2018. There will be traditional pujas (worship) on the 27th evening and the mornings of the 28th and 29th performed by Sri Sullur Siva Shanmugam Gurukkal of the Helensburgh Temple in Sydney. Different groups of devotees will offer bhajans (singing) in the evening on these days. On the morning of 30th of June, there will be blessing of the land by an indigenous elder followed by a colourful procession of monks and devotees around the building. The dedication of the building would then take place with formal worship by Swami Tyagananda, the Hindu chaplain of MIT, Harvard, USA. Sri Ramakrishna practiced and preached the harmony of all religions. The Centre would, therefore, have shrines for Buddha and Christ as well as emblems of all religions depicted in its shrine. At 11.15 a.m., Buddhist monks would dedicate the Buddha shrine and Rev.Father Stephen Bliss will dedicate the shrine to Jesus Christ. This will be followed by prayers by representatives of different religions. In the evening, the Centre will organize a multicultural function at Robelle Domain from 4.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m with music, dance, play enactment by children of the Centre’s Sunday class (Bala Sangha) and other attractive performances.
The Centre would be open to all, irrespective of their faith or belief. Plans are afoot to conduct regular workshops and sessions on alternative medicine and Yoga at the new facility. The Centre would also, in due course, equip the community kitchen and start a Soup kitchen and food bank for the benefit of the less fortunate.
In the second phase, the Centre would build 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. Donations towards the building fund are Tax Deductible.