Towards the Integral Pluralism of Vijnana Vedanta through the lineage of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo


In this episode we meet Swami Medhananda, ordained monk in the order of Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. He is also an extremely well respected scholar working in the fields of cross-cultural philosophy and religious studies. Medhananda shares about his background as a cultural Indian born in the USA, and the journey which led him to become a monk and live in India for over a decade . We discuss his approach to the scholar-practitioner model of academic research and the challenges of bringing together spiritual commitment with academic rigor. The conversation then focuses on material from Medhananda’s book “Infinite Paths to Infinite Reality: Sri Ramakrishna and Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion”, which argues for a rigorous religious and salvific pluralism which can avoid the pitfalls of relativism if it is based on a doctrinal inclusivism. The conversation turns to explore the lineage of vijnana vedanta, based upon Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo’s engagement with an integral theology in which the Divine is personal and impersonal, transcendent and immanent. We discuss the implications of such a paradoxical approach to the Divine, and its importance in cultivating pluralism in our contemporary times.

Swami Medhananda (Ayon Maharaj) is a monk of the Ramakrishna Order and Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy at the Vedanta Society of Southern California in Hollywood. He also serves as Hindu Religious Director at the University of Southern California and as Section Editor for the International Journal of Hindu Studies (Springer), overseeing submissions in Hindu and Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion. From 2010 to 2021, he was Associate Professor and Head of the Program in Philosophy at the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Educational and Research Institute in Belur Math, West Bengal. His current research focuses on global philosophy of religion, cosmopolitan approaches to consciousness, Indian scriptural hermeneutics, and Vedāntic philosophical traditions, especially the philosophies of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, and Sri Aurobindo.

Publications: Swami Vivekananda's Vedāntic Cosmopolitanism (Oxford University Press, 2022; South Asian edition now available at, Infinite Paths to Infinite Reality: Sri Ramakrishna and Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion (Oxford University Press, 2018), and The Dialectics of Aesthetic Agency: Revaluating German Aesthetics from Kant to Adorno (Bloomsbury, 2013).

The EWP Podcast credits

Your Host

Stephen Julich and Jonathan Kay

Stephen Julich has worked as an adjunct instructor in History and Anthropology at the City College of New York, as a lecturer in Jungian Studies at the University of Philosophical Research in Los Angeles, and as an adjunct instructor at the California Institute of Integral Studies where he has taught classes on ensouled writing and Western Esotericism.

Jonathan Kay is a professional musician, and is currently a PhD student in the department of East-West Psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco under the mentorship of Dr. Debashish Banerji.

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