- Gail Sutherland
Prabhavananda (26 December 1893–04 July 1976), founder and spiritual leader of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, was born Abanindra Nath Ghosh in Surmanagar, India, a small village outside of Calcutta (parents’ names unknown). Like numerous other Indian saints, Swami Prabhavananda claimed to have been interested in religion even as a child. By the age of thirteen he had read the books of the Bengali saint, Ramakrishna, and had come into contact with one of his followers, Swami Sadananda, a disciple of Ramakrishna’s direct disciple, Swami Vivekananda. In 1911 Abanindra met his future teacher, Swami Brahmananda, another direct disciple of Ramakrishna, in the monastery of the Ramakrishna Order in Belur, on the Ganges. Before the religious life became Abanindra’s central preoccupation, however, he became active for a while in a subversive student group that was working covertly to bring about Indian independence from the British. He continued his studies, which focused on philosophy, at the University of Calcutta, where he received his B.A. in 1914. Abanindra dropped his political activities abruptly when he decided to join the monastery as Brahmananda’s disciple. He took his final vows and was given the honorific name Swami Prabhavananda by his teacher in 1921....