By Girish Parikh
Sacramento: Swami Prapa-nnananda came to America in March 1989 to become Assistant Minister of Vedanta Society of Sacra-mento. After the passing away of Swami Shraddhananda in July 1996, he became a minister and teacher of the society. He joined the Ramakrishna Math, Belur Math, India, in 1966 and had his monastic vows from Swami Vireswa-rananda, the then president of the Order in 1976. Before coming to the US, he was in the Rajkot center in India for about 21 years. Swami regularly gives talks, conducts classes, and grants interviews at the center. He also goes out to give talks to different groups.
In an interview, he spoke on Vedanta, spiritual practices and the God. Here are the excerpts:
Q: What does your name mean?
A: Swami means a respected monk. Prapannananda means one who takes delight in surrendering himself to the God.
Q: What is Vedanta?
A: Vedanta arose in India over 5,000 years ago, and its central ideas guide the spiritual lives of more than a billion people today. The Sanskrit word Vedanta means end of the Vedas — the word "end" meaning the peak or high point.
The Vedas are the oldest spiritual writings in wide use today. They were passed from teacher to disciple for countless generations before being put into writing by the great sage Vyasa about 3,000 years before the birth of Christ. The Vedas describe many religious rituals and practical rules for everyday living, but they also contain many short books called Upanishads that delve deeply into the meaning of life and how to live it to the fullest.
Vedanta is based on the philosophy and practice described in the Upanishads. Its penetrating applied psychology shows how to reach peace and inner freedom by training the unruly mind. As applied psychology, Vedanta can give aid to all people in their spiritual unfoldment, whatever their religious faith may be. It is a constantly-growing philosophy that draws insights from every religion, every age, and every realm of human inquiry — as must be the case to meet human needs in this ever-changing world.
Vedanta is a universal philosophy, belonging to no one group of people, but to humanity as a whole.
Q: Please describe the purpose of the Vedanta Society of Sacramento in one sentence.
A: It is a non-profit, non-sectarian religious organization devoted to the study and practice of universal philosophy and religion as taught specially by Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
Q: Can you elaborate on the major programs and services of the society.
A: We have Sunday services; Wednesday classes; interviews for personal spiritual growth and development; practical instructions for prayers and meditation; special celebrations on the holy occasions and birthdays of spiritual personalities with programs of worship, meditation, chanting, devotional music, discourses, daily worship in the chapel every morning; daily meditation in the morning and the evening; library and reading room; bookstore; retreats, etc.
Q: How do you plan to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda?
A: On this occasion we are inviting guest Swamis from different centers and organizing special lectures by them.
Q: What will you like to add?
A: We have a monastery, where monks and spiritual seekers live to do spiritual practices and also live a life dedicated to the service to others.