About Ridgely

This is the main entrance to Vivekananda Retreat Ridgely

Ridgely! During Swami Vivekananda’s first and second visits to America he spent in all at least twelve weeks of rest and revitalization at that beautiful estate, speaking day and night of God and of things of the Spirit, transporting those around him. Now Ridgely is open to spiritual seekers from all over America, indeed from all over the world, as a retreat center.

Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely, dedicated as an ashram under the Ramakrishna Order of India on October 11, 1997, is a place of pilgrimage and retreat for those who want the opportunity to engage in intense spiritual practices. As Revered Swami Bhuteshananda, the late President of the Order said in a letter of August 22, 1997, “Swami Vivekananda loved Ridgely, and on all the three occasions that he visited there, he was deeply impressed by the peaceful atmosphere of the place. The strong spiritual current that Swamiji has left behind will never go in vain. As a result of that the Vivekananda Retreat has come into existence. This is indeed a marvelous gift from Sri Ramakrishna to His admirers and devotees… I hope the Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely will be a great source of peace and spiritual support to the seekers of God.”

The Vivekananda Retreat provides a unique opportunity for aspirants to integrate and intensify their spiritual practice in an environment that is surcharged with Swamiji’s spiritual power. The Retreat is under the spiritual leadership of Swami Swahananda, who was initiated by Swami Vijnanananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. Retreatants, guided by the minister-in-residence, Pravrajika Gitaprana, will attend scheduled classes, practice meditation, and absorb the serenity that is Ridgely.

You can read a detailed account of Swami Vivekananda at Ridgely in a chapter titled “The Great Summer” in Swami Vivekananda and the West: New Discoveries by Marie Louise Burke. Please also see the history of Vivekananda Retreat Ridgely.

About Swami Vivekananda

A portrait of Swamiji

Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) was the foremost disciple of Ramakrishna and a world spokesperson for Vedanta. His lectures, writings, letters, and poems are published as The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. He felt it was best to teach universal principles rather than personalities, so we find little mention of Ramakrishna in the Complete Works. Swami Vivekananda represented Hinduism at the first World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 where he was an instant success. Subsequently he was invited to speak all over America and Europe. He was a man with a great spiritual presence and tremendous intellect. Most of the Vedanta Societies which were founded in America and Europe up through the 1930s can trace their origins directly to Vivekananda or the people who heard him speak from 1893 through 1900. After his first visit to the West, Swami Vivekananda returned to India and founded the Ramakrishna Order in 1898. (source:Vedanta Society of So. California) You can read the complete works of Swami Vivekananda here (opens in a new window).

You can read a detailed account of Swami Vivekananda at Ridgely in a chapter titled “The Great Summer” in Swami Vivekananda and the West: New Discoveries by Marie Louise Burke. Please also see the history of Vivekananda Retreat Ridgely.

Swamiji(left) is seen sitting on the back porch of Manor House

Celebrating Sri Sarada Devi (2014)

Retreat Celebrating Sri Sarada Devi Dec. 13 and 14 Pravrajikas Gitaprana, Shuddhatmaprana and Virajaprana

We will be celebrating the birthday of Sri Sarada Devi with a weekend retreat. Gitaprana and Shuddhatmaprana will be joined by Virajaprana. She is a sister of the Vedanta Society of No. Calif in San Francisco who is taking a few months of retreat with us here at Ridgely. Haha! We put her to work! She is a wonderful speaker and you will be glad that we did.

Here is the schedule for the retreat:

Saturday, Dec. 13

10am Intro 10:15 Pr. Shuddhatmaprana: “A Mother’s Heart” talk followed by discussion

12:30pm LUNCH

1:30pm Pr. Virajaprana “Holy Mother’s Common Sense” talk followed by discussion

3pm group reading and discussion of THE TEACHINGS OF HOLY MOTHER

Sunday, Dec. 14

10am Pr. Gitaprana “Mother in Form, Mother in Everything” talk followed by discussion

11:30 We will all perform a guided mental worship followed by kirtan/bhajan singing.

1:00 LUNCH

All are welcome to attend all or part of this retreat. Please RSVP this week if you are coming. If you are a singer and would like to lead some bhajans or kirtan, we would be glad to have you. All song offerings should be sing-along simple.


Please be aware that, as winter has arrived here at the retreat, we could be compelled to cancel this retreat with short notice due to snow and icy conditions.

Guest Blogger: Shivani

One day, during the garage sale at Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely I found the book that is a constant inspiration to me: the“Shrimad Bhagavad Gita” translated by Swami Swarupananda which I will quote heavily below. I had read the Bhagavad Gita before, few different “interpretations”, but this one, almost word for word translation spoke to my soul.

Having asked the big “WHY??” of my being here, now, on this earth for many years, I was very fortunate to come to Ridgely and get introduced to such truth and to discover the teachings of Swami Vivekananda.

The “impulses of passion”, the onslaught of thoughts troubling our mind due to Karma and the habits we formed, what is termed our “lower nature” is very strong and in being unconscious of this we make ourselves miserable. Unaware that we need to work to overrule all the attachments and aversions of our senses, we go like sleepwalkers through life. The Gita teaches that:

He who here … living in sin , and satisfied in the senses… he lives in vain.(III 16)

This was how I was feeling, so why was it that way? Again, the Gita has the answer I was looking for:

 The turbulent senses… do violently snatch away the mind of even a wise man… (II 60)

So what could I do, far from being wise or anywhere close? There again, I learned the answer from the Gita:

Knowledge is covered by… the unappeasable fire of desire (III 39)


In tranquility, all sorrow is destroyed. (II 65)

Easy for you to say was my first thought. But with the supporting community of Vivekananda Retreat, I realized that we are all dealing with the same problems mankind has for centuries. In the Gita, Arjuna asks:

But impelled by what does man commit sin, thoug against his wishes…      constrained as it were by force? (III 36)

Shri Krishna answer is:

It is desire – it is anger… of great craving, and of great sin; know this as the foe here (in this world). (III 37)

The senses, the mind, and the intellect are said to be its abode: through these,  it deludes the embodied by veiling his wisdom. (III 40)

Thus, knowing Him who is superior to the intellect, and restraining the Self by the Self, destroy… that enemy, the unseizable foe, desire. (III 43)

Freed from attachment, fear, and anger, absorbed in Me, taking refuge in    Me, purified by the fire of knowledge, many have attained My Being. (IV 10)

Thus, from the classes and talks with the Pravrajikas, with the teachings of the visiting Swamis and spiritual seekers who come to Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely, I learned about the One that is all and I practice.


I practice and practice,
Then forget that I know
Forget my practice
But, in winter, the snow flakes
Cooling my head
In spring, the babble of birds
Waking me up at sunrise
In summer, soft warm wind
Whispering through the fields
In fall, fabulous colors
Reminding me that all is One
And in this environment,
I am always brought back to my practice.
I know what I am to do:
Rise the Wind
The sweet Wind of Knowledge
To blow the smoke
The smoke hiding the Fire
The Fire that is all.

Swami Vivekananda tells us again and again to seek the truth within ourselves as in the Gita:

Better is one’s own Dharma, (though) imperfect, than the Dharma of another well-performed. Better is death in one’s own Dharma: the Dharma of another is fraught with fear. (III 35)

Swami Vivekananda emphasized that within ourselves lays the answer and one is to search it for oneself, not blindly follow another’s truth. By searching within one “un–covers”, “remembers” the truth that is. Swamiji’s strength of character, pure knowledge and enthusiasm is catching here where he spent so many weeks. When reading his teachings or listening to the Pravrajikas uttering his words, I feel such strong conviction, I have glimpses of remembrance that yes, all is within, it is so simple for me to see yet so difficult to do. The senses, attachments and aversions are very strong but here I have discovered a map, it is now up to me to follow my path, I may go the wrong way from time to time but I have the map and can always go back and start again.

All quotes are from the “Shrimad Bhagavad Gita” translated by Swami Swarupananda

Poems by Michele C. Placais, reproduction with permission only.


Ridgely in the New York Times

On December 12, 2008, Ridgely was featured in the New York Times, in an extensive article about ashrams and retreats in the New York Area by Shivani Vohra.  This post contains a small excerpt, and you can find the link to the full article below:

It began at 4:30 on a Saturday morning.
The three dozen participants started out with two half-hour meditation sessions before dawn. They then spent the next two hours doing what’s called work practice, which consisted of scrubbing toilets and raking leaves, all in silence. . . (which led to more meditation, cleaning the . . . dishes, and sleeping in dorm-style accommodations.) Sunday was an abbreviated version of the day before.
. . . Perhaps what was the most unusual aspect of this austere weekend . . . was that many of the attendees were not adherents of Eastern religious practices, but were part of an increasing number of nonbelievers who are seeking stress-free, spiritual and often inexpensive weekend breaks at local ashrams (isolated communities formed around a guru who follows Hindu philosophy) and Buddhist monasteries (residences for monks).
. . . the rigorous agenda over the . . . weekend actually left him refreshed. “It wasn’t fun in the traditional sense, but it was the opposite of my life in New York City and a return to a very uncomplicated way of living,” he said. “It gave me the rest and relaxation I was looking for.”


You can find the full text here.