The Vedanta Society of Southern California was founded in 1930 in Los Angeles, California, USA. The Society is under the spiritual leadership of the Ramakrishna Order of India. The Society’s headquarters are in Hollywood, California and it maintains branch centers in Santa Barbara, San Diego, South Pasadena and Trabuco Canyon in Orange County.
Membership is open to those who are seriously interested in the teachings of Vedanta and have attended lectures and classes for some time. In addition, an interview with one of the ministers is required.
Information and books are obtainable in the Hollywood, Trabuco and Santa Barbara bookshops where a large selection of books on Vedanta and other religions is available. Some books are also available at the San Diego Monastery.
The historical roots of the Vedanta Society of Southern California can be traced back to Swami Vivekananda’s visit to Los Angeles in the late 1890s when he stayed with the Mead sisters in their South Pasadena home. Thirty years later, one of the sisters, Mrs. Carrie Mead Wyckoff, became acquainted with Swami Prabhavananda, a young monk sent to America by the Ramakrishna Order of India. During that time, Mrs. Wyckoff had a house tucked away in the Hollywood hills which she offered to the swami as a gift.
Soon afterwards, in 1929, Swami Prabhavananda moved to Hollywood from Portland to establish the Vedanta Society of Southern California. In 1934, the Vedanta Society of Southern California was officially established as a non-profit organization “to promote harmony between Eastern and Western thought, and recognition of the truth in all the great religions of the world.”
The Vedanta Society steadily grew, and soon there became a need for a larger hall. In 1938, with money donated by Mrs. Wyckoff, a small, white, 3-domed temple was completed and dedicated. In the early 1940s the Vedanta Society was attracting such noted writers and intellectuals as Gerald Heard, Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood.
The influence of these distinguished writers, and their literature, stimulated more growth for the Society. Sincere men and women interested in monastic life began to come, and soon nearby houses were acquired to house a convent and a monastery.
The headquarters of the Ramakrishna Order gave permission for American monastics to receive their vows in 1946. Swami Prabhavananda, the founder of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, passed away in 1976, and Swami Swahananda became the spiritual head of the center for the next thirty-six years. When he passed away in 2012, Swami Sarvadevananda became the next head of the center.
Over the years, branch centers of the main Hollywood Temple were started in Santa Barbara, Trabuco Canyon, San Diego, and South Pasadena.