In honor of our beloved chameleon Huxley, we hiked to the interdimensional edges of space and time to rediscover the divinity within us all.
The Ramakrishna Monastery in Trabuco Canyon had its beginning in 1942 when Gerald Heard, a British writer and a disciple of Swami Prabhavananda, founded the Trabuco College of Prayer on 300 acres in what was then a remote area of the Santa Ana mountains, about sixty miles south of Los Angeles. The property was rugged, consisting mainly of rolling hills and ravines covered with native grasses, chaparral and live oak trees. Assisting him in the planning were Aldous Huxley and Eugene Exman, religious editor of Harper & Brothers, along with others of his friends and students. Heard had the buildings beautifully designed in the style of an Italian monastery, complete with oversized bricks for the walls, tile roofs, bell tower and heavy beams. The purpose of the college was to provide a place for prayer and the study of Eastern and Western mysticism. When Gerald realized, however, that his experiment was impractical, he persuaded the college board members to deed the property over to the Vedanta Society.
The Trabuco College of Prayer was thus formally rededicated as the Ramakrishna Monastery in 1949. A number of young postulants were assigned by Swami Prabhavananda to reside at the new monastery. Swami Aseshananda, who had come to assist Swami Prabhavananda, also lived there most of the time. Besides doing the daily chores of the monastery, the young monks also conducted a noon ritualistic worship and an evening arati service in the chapel.
Swami Prabhavananda had admired the statue of Swami Vivekananda sculpted by Malvina Hoffman for the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center in New York. He thus commissioned a copy of the statue to be made for the Trabuco monastery. It was installed in the courtyard, with a lily pond in front of it and a sweeping view of the valley and hills behind. On July 4, 1951, the statue was dedicated with a special worship, attended by over three hundred people. Since then, there has been a yearly tradition of a special ritualistic worship and open house on every 4th of July.
Sunday lectures for the public were started in the early 1950s, drawing people from San Diego and various cities of Orange and Los Angeles counties. The lectures were dropped during periods when there were not enough speakers, but were permanently resumed in 1977.
In the mid-sixties the monks built a cottage for the visits of Swami Prabhavananda and guest swamis. In the 1970s, a shrine trail consisting of seven rustic, outdoor shrines to different religions was constructed by the monks in order to visually portray the Vedantic ideal of the harmony of religions. In recent years a small bookstore was also opened. Additionally, the monastery has served as a place for men to go on retreat. During their stays they often contribute their skills and energy by assisting the monks in the work of the monastery.
As Orange and Los Angeles counties have become increasingly developed over the last few decades, more and more visitors are finding their way to the still rural and scenic monastery, which has become known as a refuge of peace and tranquility in the midst of the urban sprawl and hectic pace which characterize Southern California.