The eight lectures that constitute this book were delivered in America by Swami Ashokananda. They give a comprehensive view of the history, theory, and practice of Vedanta. Speaking to the minds as well as to the hearts of his listeners, the Swami dwells in each lecture upon one aspect of Vedanta. The book as a whole, therefore, not only will provide the student with an intellectual grasp of the background and present-day significance of the Vedanta philosophy and religion, but will help the spiritual aspirant along whatever path, or yoga, he or she may be following.
While these lectures were delivered to a Western audience, they have a universal relevance.
Swami Ashokananda joined the Ramakrishna Order in 1921 and took the vow of Sannyasa in 1923 from Swami Shivananda, second President of the Order. He served as the editor of the Prabuddha Bharata, English monthly organ of the Ramakrishna Order, from 1926 to 1930 and was Swami-in-charge of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco (founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1900) from 1932 till his passing away in December 1969 at the age of 76.
The Swami rendered great service to the cause of Vedanta movement in the West by his clear and thorough expositions of Vedantic teachings through lectures and classes for nearly four decades. During his ministry the Vedanta Society expanded its activities greatly, adding to it two sub-centres and two forest retreats and a new temple at San Francisco.
From 1953 onward the Swami's lectures were recorded on tape. The present group of eight lectures was selected to give the reader an overall view of Vedanta with its historical background as well as with its theoretical and practical aspects.
We are thankful to the Vedanta Society of Northern California for editing these lectures and making them available to us for publication. We hope that this selection will serve as an introduction to future collection of Swami Ashokananda's lectures and classes and will be of benefit to those who are aspiring toward the goal of spiritual life, whatever their chosen path may be.
Advaita AshramaMayavati1 March 1990
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