Vedanta Archives

About Us

Vedanta Archives contains a treasure-trove of pictures, documents and sound recordings not found anywhere else in the world. We have historic materials that date back to the late 19th Century, beginning with Swami Vivekananda's stay in Southern California, to the contributions of such luminaries as Aldous Huxley, Gerald Heard and Christopher Isherwood—as well as recordings of almost all of the Ramakrishna Order monks who came to teach in the West during the 20th Century.

Promoting a Message of Harmony

First introduced to America through the writings of American Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman, Vedanta has had considerable influence upon American philosophical and literary thought. Based on the ancient sacred texts of India including the Vedas, Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, Vedanta affirms the oneness of existence, the divinity of the soul, and the harmony of religions. This philosophy has particular poignancy in our current time of discord between faith traditions—Vedanta has the potential to help establish better understanding and more peaceful relations. The Vedanta Society of Southern California (VSSC) was established as a non-profit organization in 1934 "to promote harmony between Eastern and Western thought, and recognition of the truth in all the great religions of the world." It is one of the western branches of the Ramakrishna Order of India. The Society maintains centers in Hollywood, Santa Barbara, San Diego, South Pasadena and Trabuco Canyon. Its temples and bookshops are open daily; lectures and weekly classes are offered free of charge to all.

A Priceless Collection of Historic Vedanta Materials

Vedanta Archives is possibly the largest repository in the world of the accumulated teachings of Vedantists from America, India, and other countries. Our collection includes an estimated 10,100 1/4" reel-to-reel tapes, 780 wire recordings, 2,400 acetate discs, 15,000 cassette tapes, 14,400 slides, 1,890 transcriptions, hundreds of letters and manuscripts and thousands of photographs. Our acetate discs and wire recordings include well-known writers such as Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood, key American figures in the Vedanta movement such as Josephine MacLeod, talks by almost all of the monks who founded American Vedanta centers, and even radio addresses from the 1940's by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Moreover, the speakers in our collection relate firsthand accounts of their meetings with respected founders of the Ramakrishna Order as well as famous international dignitaries and scientists of the 20th century such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Albert Einstein and John Archibald Wheeler.

Humble Beginnings

The formal organization of the Archives began in 1997 when we were given an amazing gift—the legacy of a lifetime of effort by an humble monk named Swami Krishnananda (George Fitts). George Fitts joined the Vedanta Society in the early 1940's and quickly became known for his daily routine of photographing and recording life around him. When Swami Krishnananda died in 1997, his brother monks began sorting through his possessions. They discovered hundreds of stacked trunks and boxes containing audio tapes, wire recordings, acetate record albums, photographs, slides, film, videos, transcriptions and a vast collection of notes. Of particular value are the audio recordings that capture our oral history—recordings of Vedanta monastic and lay members giving first-hand accounts of their experiences establishing Vedanta centers in the United States as well as reminiscences of the founders of the Ramakrishna Order. In addition to Swami Krishnananda's materials, our collection includes letters, newspapers and photos dating back to 1893, when Swami Vivekananda began his work in the West at the Chicago World's Fair, Parliament of Religions. Swami Krishnananda left a dedicated fund to help establish a permanent repository for his collection. The Vedanta Society contributed a house in which the materials could be arranged, catalogued and preserved.

Preserving the Past—Inspiring the Future

We are working to make this remarkable collection known to the American public, scholars and spiritual aspirants worldwide. Highly regarded in academic circles, the Vedanta Society is frequently contacted by researchers who wish to access records from Vedanta Archives. We are cataloguing our materials in searchable databases to better respond to these requests, but the work is time-consuming and we rely on a volunteer staff to complete the task. Our Archives website offers searchable catalogues, free audio and video streaming of the Vedanta Society's Sunday lectures. A priority is to preserve our historic materials based on modern archival standards. Photographs must be removed from acidic photo albums, cleaned and transferred to archival folders. Manuscripts are transferred to buffered archival sleeves. Slides are scanned and tapes are digitized to facilitate public use without damage to source materials. Selected audio and video recordings have been digitally remastered and can be purchased on our website as MP3 downloads or from Vedanta Catalogue at

In Partnership with the Community

Vedanta Archives has received federal grant funding from the National Archives/National Historical Publications and Records Commission to help preserve our audio collection. Our work is also supported by generous donations of money and equipment, as well as service from a team of dedicated volunteers and advisors. We rely on the support of individuals like these who see the value of our collection—a priceless record of the history of Vedanta in America. To volunteer at Vedanta Archives or donate equipment please CONTACT US.