216 19th Avenue South East St. Petersburg, Fl 33705
The Vedanta Center of St. Petersburg
Rev. Malcolm Panton and his wife Earnly came to St. Petersburg in 1951, when Rev. Panton accepted the job of the Minister at the Church of Spiritual Philosophy. Both were serious students of Swami Nikhilananda of Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York City. Relocating the church in 1958 to its present home and renaming it as the Church of Spiritual Philosophy and Vedanta Center, the Pantons worked together to introduce Vedanta to Western students. After the Pantons' passing, Rev. Panton in 1976 and his wife in 1983, the members of the congregation, under the leadership of Swami Adiswarananda of the New York Center, requested recognition from the Ramakrishna Mission as a branch of the Ramakrishna Order. Since becoming an official branch of the Order, the Vedanta Center of St. Petersburg has had a monk of the Ramakrishna Order in residence to conduct regular services and classes. The Vedanta Center of St. Petersburg has the distinction of being the only branch of the Ramakrishna Order in the whole Southeastern area of the United States.
Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) was born in India at an important juncture of human history, as the old order of human society was about to give way to a more inclusive one. His unique experiences in realizing Unity of Godhood and Harmony of all Religions were successfully unveiled in Chicago in 1893 to the greater civilized world by his illustrious disciple Swami Vivekananda(1863-1902). The Religious Order founded in India by the Swami in 1897 to perpetuate and energize the spiritual bequest of his teacher for the good of all mankind was named The Ramakrishna Mission. Branches of the Order in the Western World is known mostly as ‘Vedanta Center’ or ‘Vedanta Society’ and they are primarily dedicated to the propagation of the universal spiritual message of India, also called Vedanta. The Vedanta Center of St. Petersburg was added as a branch of the Order in 2005.
Activities of the Center
The Center is open to the public four days a week, when classes and services are conducted. In addition, special annual celebrations are observed. Classes remain suspended during the summer months of July and August every year. A week-long summer camp in July and occasional local day-retreats are popular among the members of the Center. The center is very active in supporting the city's homeless through regular large donations to the local food bank. In addition, funds have been raised to support worthy causes in other countries. A modest book store is stocked with religious books and incense. A small library of religious books is housed in the residence. The Center participates in several city-wide annual events by opening book stalls at the events. When invited, the resident Swami speaks to and conducts classes on Vedanta for various organizations and institutions locally and out-of-state. The Swami is available for private spiritual counseling to sincere spiritual seekers.