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. And now Ridgely will be offered to spiritual seekers from all over America, indeed from all over the world, as a retreat center.
The Manor House in Summer
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 Manor House in Spring
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.
Autumn in Ridgely
The estate was created by Francis Leggett in the early 1890s; he later became a friend of Swami Vivekananda and the first president of the Vedanta Society of NewYork (founded by Swamiji in 1894). Ridgely has been the home of Leggett’s heirs since his death in 1909.
While visiting America in 1993, Swami Gahanananda, vice-president of the Ramakrishna Order encouraged the Vedanta societies to purchase the Ridgely property. After some time the newly formed Sri Sarada Society worked for several years to acquire it.
In March 1997 the Trustees of the Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission (Belur Math, India) decided to seriously pursue the acquisition of Ridgely. Persistent efforts included a thorough feasibility study, which enabled Swami Swahananda to authorize the purchase of Ridgely.
A large downpayment, offered by devotees in America, was accepted in August, 1997, and by May 1999 a total of over $1.2 million was raised.
With the help of an interest-freeloan of $400,000 that was given to theretreat, the mortgage was paid in full by mid summer 1999.
As of January 2005 the interest-free loan was also paid back in full.
This was made possible through a bequest of Sister Gargi (Marie Louise Burke) and the generous donations of many people. Since 1997, we have raised over $2 million that has permitted us to purchase the property, convert the property from private to public use, pay off the loan, and make needed renovations and improvements.
Going forward, our fund raising efforts must be directed toward the establishment of an endowment fund to ensure Ridgely’s long-term security.