698. Swami Medhananda

Swami Medhananda is a monk of the Ramakrishna Order and an academic philosopher, currently serving as Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy at the Vedanta Society of Southern California in Hollywood. He is also the Hindu Chaplain at both UCLA and the University of Southern California. He is 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. He received his PhD in 2009 from the University of California at Berkeley, where he specialized in German aesthetics. He was also a Fulbright Scholar at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (2006–7) and a Visiting Student at Oxford University (2000–1). His current research focuses on global philosophy of religion, the epistemology of mystical experience, cosmopsychism, Indian scriptural hermeneutics, and Vedāntic philosophical traditions, especially the philosophies of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, and Sri Aurobindo.

He is the author of three books: Swami Vivekananda’s Vedāntic Cosmopolitanism (Oxford University Press, 2022), 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). He is the editor of The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Vedānta (2020) and co-editor, with Benedikt Paul Göcke, of Panentheism in Indian and Western Thought: Cosmopolitan Interventions (Routledge, 2023). He is also the editor of two special issues of the International Journal of Hindu Studies, one on “Swami Vivekananda as a Cosmopolitan Thinker” (2023) and one on “Vedāntic Theodicies” (2021). He has published over thirty articles in leading academic journals.

He is currently working on two book projects: Karma and Rebirth in Hinduism (Cambridge University Press, under contract) and An All-Embracing Oneness: Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Advaita and the Legacy of Sri Ramakrishna (Oxford University Press, under contract).

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group

Summary and transcript of this interview.

Interview recorded January 22, 2024.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

644. Pravrajika Divyanandaprana Mataji

Pravrajika DivyanandapranaPravrajika Divyanandaprana is a monastic member of Sri Sarada Math and is currently the Editor of the English journal Samvit published in New Delhi. She has been Principal of Nivedita Vidya Mandir School from 2014 to 2019.

She specializes in Yoga-Vedanta. In addition to studying the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature, she has extensively studied the Yoga-Vedanta texts based on these twin philosophies which include the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Raja Yoga, Upanishads, and the Prakarana Granthas (auxiliary scriptures of Vedanta like Vedantasara, Vivekachudamani, etc.) along with their commentaries.

A gold medallist and topper, Pravrajika Divyanandaprana has a unique combination of knowledge in the conventional sciences and traditional Yogic and Vedantic texts. Pravrajika Divyanandaprana has been lecturing all over India since 2010, including at the Indian Institute of Technology campuses in Madras, Delhi (she has spoken many times at Vivekananda Study Circle of IIT-Delhi), Kharagpur, Mumbai, and Kanpur; Indian Institute of Science Bangalore; Delhi University; Vivekananda International Centre; Ramakrishna Mission; Engineering and Medical Colleges in Mumbai, Pune, and Kolkata; and sometimes in schools. She offers courses on Yoga-Vedanta every semester at IIT Delhi. The courses are available on YouTube at IIT’s official channel: NRCVEE IIT Delhi.

She has traveled to hold classes or deliver lectures in South Africa at Cape Town, Durban, Ladysmith, and Kwa Zulu Natal University among other places. Subsequently, she traveled to Ireland, Great Britain, UAE, and recently to Canada for talks, lectures, and scriptural discussions. She has spoken at Imperial College and Logan Hall, London University in 2013. In May 2018, she was in Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, and Nova Scotia where she gave a number of talks on Self-Knowledge, exploring the Subjective Sciences, and finding the interface between Subjective-Objective Sciences. She has extensively traveled in the US and addressed Vedanta Societies of Iowa, Washington DC, and so on. Purdue University hosted her talk on Mind Management recently.


Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Transcript of this interview

Interview recorded May 1, 2022.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

YouTube Video Chapters:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction to Buddha at the Gas Pump
  • 00:06:06 – The Importance of Method and Sadhana
  • 00:11:18 – Samskaras: The Building Blocks of Character and Behavior
  • 00:16:12 – Importance of Manana and Dwelling on Scripture
  • 00:21:02 – Becoming Intensely Aware
  • 00:25:39 – Intensified Awareness and Conscious Knowledge
  • 00:30:43 – The Significance of Being and Becoming
  • 00:36:01 – The Science of Happiness and its Connection to Awareness and Advaita Vedanta
  • 00:41:32 – The Source of Awareness
  • 00:46:50 – High Energy Output and Engagement in Activity
  • 00:51:54 – The Power of the Spirit and the Meissner Effect
  • 00:57:21 – Universal Values of Ethics and the Mind
  • 01:02:42 – Ending Mental Afflictions with Ashtanga Yoga
  • 01:08:04 – Mediums and Psychics in Vedantic Perspective
  • 01:13:22 – Engaging in Various Yogas
  • 01:18:36 – Developing Vairagya
  • 01:23:57 – The Ramakrishna Math and Mission
  • 01:29:00 – Renouncing the Essential Bliss of Life
  • 01:34:21 – Finding Happiness Within
  • 01:39:33 – Distinguishing between different types of happiness
  • 01:44:33 – Understanding the Factors of Happiness
  • 01:50:07 – Experiencing Bliss in Samadhi
  • 01:55:31 – Peace within the Radius of the Realized Being
  • 02:00:58 – The Five Sheaths and Self-Awareness
  • 02:06:03 – The Experience of Absence during Sleep
  • 02:11:27 – The long dream of ignorance
  • 02:16:23 – Experiences of Expanded Consciousness
  • 02:21:30 – The Importance of Yogic Life and Samskaras
  • 02:26:42 – The Importance of Inner-Outer Purity
  • 02:31:49 – The Concept of Worship and Praising God
  • 02:36:56 – Wrapping up and future plans

608. Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, 2nd Interview

Sadhvi Bhagawati SaraswatiThis interview centered around Sadhvi’s new book, Hollywood to the Himalayas: A Journey of Healing and Transformation. Her website dedicated to the book is hollywoodtothehimalayas.com.

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Ph.D. is a renowned spiritual leader, author, and motivational speaker based in Rishikesh, India. Originally from Los Angeles and a graduate of Stanford University, Sadhviji has been ordained into the sacred order of Sanyas by her guru HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and has been living at Parmarth Niketan Ashram for the past twenty-five years. She is the Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, an international interfaith organization dedicated to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; president of Divine Shakti Foundation, a foundation that runs free schools, vocational training programs, and empowerment programs; and director of the world-famous International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh—which has been covered in Time, CNN, the New York Times and other prestigious publications and has been addressed by both the Prime Minister and Vice President of India. She serves on the United Nations Advisory Council on Religion and on the steering committees of the International Partnership for Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD) and the Moral Imperative to End Extreme Poverty, a campaign by the United Nations and World Bank. She was also the Managing Editor for the monumental project of the 11-volume Encyclopedia of Hinduism. She oversees a variety of humanitarian projects, teaches meditation, lectures, writes, counsels individuals and families, and serves as a unique female voice of spiritual leadership throughout India and the world.

Some of the topics discussed in this interview:

  • How Sadhvi’s journey has bridged spirituality and humanness.
  • Grace doesn’t discriminate. Spirituality is available for everyone!
  • The ecstatic story of Sadhvi’s awakening on the banks of the Ganga and the healing and transformation that followed.
  • The lifelong process of integration and embodiment of spiritual awakening experiences.
  • How we can see the Divine in all beings and how that increases our spiritual experience.
  • The role of the guru: the guru shines the light that enables us to see our own light, thus dispelling our darkness of ignorance.
  • How Sadhviji’s guru Pujya Swamiji inspires her to dedicate herself to awareness of that which is eternal rather than things that quickly fade.
  • Becoming a vessel for the flow of grace.
  • Everyone enters the world with their own karmic packages, and awareness of our own and others’ packages is key.
  • Mindfulness teaches us how to stay conscious and present.
  • In order to experience grace, sometimes there’s a lot of work to be done!
  • Sadhviji’s childhood trauma and how she was taught to forgive and let go so she could be free.
  • Forgiveness: regardless of what others have done we deserve to be free. Freedom is our birthright, our highest dharma, purpose, and calling.


Book: Vegetarianism: For Our Bodies, Our Minds, Our Souls & Our Planet

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Transcript of this interview.

First BatGap interview with Sadhvi.

Interview recorded July 25, 2021.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

YouTube Video Chapters:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction to Buddha at the Gas Pump interview
  • 00:03:30 – Honesty and Humaneness in Spiritual Awakening
  • 00:07:49 – Bridging the Gap: Hollywood to the Himalayas
  • 00:11:38 – The Shift in Perception
  • 00:15:15 – A Sudden Knowing in Rishikesh
  • 00:19:19 – A Profound Spiritual Experience on the Banks of Ganga
  • 00:23:52 – Swarg Ashram: The Heavenly Abode
  • 00:27:41 – The Beauty of Being Non-Verbal
  • 00:31:29 – Living in the Deepest Level of Awareness
  • 00:34:52 – Shame and Authenticity
  • 00:38:01 – The Humility of an Enlightened Master
  • 00:41:14 – The Qualities of the Guru
  • 00:44:41 – The Light of the Guru
  • 00:48:02 – The Garden and its Animals
  • 00:51:03 – The Story of the Sleeves and the Cat
  • 00:54:17 – Emptying the Cup and Finding the Guru
  • 00:57:46 – Overcoming Unconscious Patterns with Mindfulness
  • 01:01:24 – Being Present in Daily Life
  • 01:04:39 – Productivity in Moments of Freedom
  • 01:07:10 – The Experience of Grace without Spiritual Practice
  • 01:10:43 – A Transformational Experience
  • 01:14:11 – Renunciation and Transformation
  • 01:17:36 – The Biological Urge for a Baby
  • 01:21:01 – The Journey of Forgiveness
  • 01:24:25 – The Power of Forgiveness
  • 01:27:47 – The Stain on Our Hearts
  • 01:30:53 – Letting Go with Forgiveness
  • 01:34:05 – Understanding Dis-ease and Harm towards Others
  • 01:37:10 – The Transformation and Healing Journey
  • 01:40:39 – Sharing and Appreciation
  • 01:43:26 – The Spiritual Path