Life at the Centre

The Vedanta Centre is an ashram. In other words, it is a spiritual community led by a monk, who has been designated by his peers in light of his experience in meditation and spiritual guidance.

A typical dayA typical SundayWelcoming visitors to the ashram requires a number of activities on a daily basis, including building maintenance of the buildings, tending the grounds, and various housework. These preparations are carried out by volunteers who reside at the Centre and have no other commitment than that of serving their ideal, their neighbour and the ashram.

Being an ashram, the major Hindu religious festivals are celebrated at the Centre. At the same time, because the Centre follows the philosophy of the Vedanta, the birthdays of major spiritual leaders (including the Buddha, Jesus, etc.) are also observed. In the same way, other religious traditions of the world are studied at the Centre, in addition to Indian scriptures.

Our visitors come from all paths and are driven by various goals. They come from Paris and its surroundings, as well as from other parts of France. They also come from Europe, as well as from Africa, the Americas, and Asia. Our visitors come to observe ceremonies, to participate in events, to join lectures, to consult the Swami, to share in communal activities, or simply to appreciate the Hindu character of the Centre and its inter-religious vocation. The rhythm of life in the ashram is guided by its spiritual activities, by its daily tasks, and by the regular meals served.

Sunday is the most appropriate day to discover the Centre, and the main schedule is listed above (see ‘A typical Sunday’). One can visit at any time during these hours, although we recommend calling in advance to confirm that the planned activities are still scheduled, and also to sign up for any meals. All activities are free, although a contribution is requested for meals.

Nutrition at the Centre

Food is the result of energy from the sun, itself emanating from the Infinite, and thus brings joy and energy to the body and spirit. Cooking and meals can also be ways of praying and meditating. Meals served at the Centre are free of meat, fish, and alcohol, and mix oriental and western flavours. Our orchard and garden furnish a portion of our fruits and vegetables, as do our cows (dairy) and our bees (honey).

The Park

Both entrances to the grounds lead to the “chateau”, the building where visitors partake in the main activities of the Centre. The “chateau” includes the chapel, where one meditates and prays, the “Sarada Devi room” (located below the chapel), and a room for ayurvedic practices. A reading room that hosts evening lectures and discussions is also on the same floor. In the main entrance is a welcome desk and, behind, the bookshop. Further down the main hallway are a large kitchen and dining room, from which one looks onto one of the prairies for the Centre’s cows to graze on. This space for the Centre’s cows makes up the largest portion of its 15 hectares of land.
At the end of this prairie is a gazebo bearing Shiva’s crescent on its roof and two aphorisms on its stained glass windows: “when I know that I am all, then I know” and “when I know that I am nothing, then I love”.
To the right of the gazebo is a wood full of birdsongs and, thereafter, the largest cow pasture. Those accompanying the cows to this area will find it an ideal place for contemplating the stars at nighttime or the golden light of the sun at dawn. Bucks also often visit and find sanctuary in these parts.
Turning back towards the “chateau”, we come to the Sarada Mandir (a two-story building on the left of the gazebo) via a flower bed, itself a reflection of both the heavens and ingenuity. A greenhouse is also just nearby, where ceremonial flowers are prepared and sheltered.
Taking the path bordering the greenhouse, one observes on the right a gate to Yatiswarananda house and another wood. Further on the path is a shed that serves as a workshop. Opposite the shed is a gate leading to the vegetable garden, which is bordered by millstone walls and criss-crossed by several paths. In addition to a well, the garden contains a basin covered with lotuses and full of goldfish swimming along as if enchanted by the watchful presence of a nearby Krishna playing his flute.
Retracing one’s steps from the basin, one comes to the stable, along which are the beehives, where the bees gather their treasures. The stable hosts both peaceful residents (the cows) as well as lively summer guests (swallows). Sometimes a calf or heifer can be found, and with it the possibility for visitors to help out with milking—much to the delight of kids.
The third gate of the vegetable garden gives onto the Brahmananda Bhavan: the dormitory for our guests, which is near the Boulevard Victor Hugo. Right at the end of the walk is the orchard, which can be found by following the wall of the vegetable garden on the right.
And, now that the tour is complete, let us each choose our path!