Sister Gargi

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Sister Gargi
Marie Louise Burke.gif
Sister Gargi
Born Marie Louise Burke
June 23, 1912
United States
Died January 20, 2004(2004-01-20) (aged 91)
San Francisco, United States
Nationality American
Other names Pravrajika Prajnaprana
Occupation Nun, writer, researcher
Known for Research on Swami Vivekananda

Sister Gargi (Bengali: [sister ɡaːrɡiː] (About this sound listen); June 23, 1912[1] – January 20, 2004), born Marie Louise Burke,[2] was a writer and an eminent researcher on Swami Vivekananda,[3] and a leading literary figure of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda movement.[4] Sister Gargi was introduced to the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda movement in 1948 by Swami Ashokananda. She is known for her six-volume work, Swami Vivekananda in the West: New Discoveries.[5] Her New Discoveries are considered as indispensable for Swami Vivekananda research.[6][7]

Religious life[edit]

Sister Gargi was born as Marie Louise Burke in 1912 in the United States.[2][8] In 1948, she was introduced to the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda movement by Swami Ashokananda.[5] In 1957, Advaita Ashrama published her biography of Swami Vivekananda, Swami Vivekananda in the West: New Discoveries in two volumes, well known in the Vedanta circles,[3] and the book was later published in six volumes in 1983—87.[9] She also wrote articles in Vedanta journals.[2]

In 1974 in India, Burke took her vows of Brahmacharya from the Ramakrishna Mission. At that time she was given the monastic name "Gargi" (this name was inspired by Vedic scholar Gargi). In 1983, Burke was awarded the first Vivekananda Award by the Ramakrishna Mission for her research works on Swami Vivekananda.[5] Later she took her final vows of Sannyasa, and was given the name Pravrajika Prajnaprana.[3]

Burke continued writing even in her 90s and continued staying at Vedanta Society of Northern California in San Francisco.[5] She died on January 20, 2004 after suffering from cancer, at the convent of the Vendanta Society in San Francisco.[3][4]

Literary career[edit]

Sister Gargi was encouraged to write by her teacher, Swami Ashokananda. He asked her to write about Swami Vivekananda, but told her she could write about himself when she was finished with her work on Vivekananda.[5]

Swami Vivekananda in the West: New Discoveries[edit]

Swami Vivekananda in the West: New Discoveries, a series of biographical books, were Sister Gargi's most prominent work. This series of book was first published in two volumes in 1957. In 1983-87 these series was republished in six volumes.[9] Swami Vivekananda spent a number of years teaching and lecturing in the West (specially in America and England). Sister Gargi researched for many years and then published her findings in these works.[10]

She wrote about Vivekananda's spiritual quest— "Quite literally, he planted the seeds of spirituality deep in the hearts of innumerable human beings, changing the course of their lives forever... He was a prophet who prepared us to meet the modern age, which not only needs philosophy or Vedanta to solve its many and complex problems but requires thousands of spiritually awakened people to put that philosophy into practice and make it a living force in the future history of the world."[11]

Books on Swami Ashokananda[edit]

Sister Gargi wrote multiple books on the life of Swami Ashokananda (1893—1969), a monk of the Ramakrishna Order who spent his life expanding the Ramakrishna—Vivekananda movement in northern California. Ashokananda was Sister Gargi's teacher who initiated her into the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda movement in 1948.[5]

In 2003 her book A Heart Poured Out: A Story of Swami Ashokananda was published. In this book she discussed the life of Swami Ashokananda. She explained the reason of writing a book on Ashokananda in this book's preface—[12]

Why, then, have I tried to write about Swami Ashokananda, who habitually dwelt in high altitudes of the Spirit where we cannot or think we cannot, follow? I write about him because in whatever height he had has moorings, his heart beat in tune with that of every human being who aspires upward, and he led us with a firm and unerring hand into his own realm, where, he was convinced, we all belong. In short, I have written about him because he was an authentic spiritual teacher whom each of us can benefit by knowing.

In the 2004 book Shafts of Light: Selected Teachings of Swami Ashokananda for Spiritual Practice, Gargi presented Swami Ashokananda ideals and selected teachings.[13] The 2003 book A Disciple's Journal: In the Company of Swami Ashokananda had autobiographical components.[14]

Other books[edit]

Swami Trigunatita: His Life and Work was published from Vedanta Society of Northern California in 1997. In this book she discussed the life and works of Ramakrishna Order monk Swami Trigunatitananda. In the book Vedantic Tales, published from Advaita Ashram in 2000 she narrated tales of Vedanta and ancient India.[5]

Sister Gargi's 2003 book A Disciple's Journal: In the Company of Swami Ashokananda tells of her personal experiences during her spiritual instruction from Swami Ashokananda, from 1950 until his death in 1969.[15]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Library of Congress Authority Record : Burke, Marie Louise, 1912-2004". Library of Congress. Retrieved 29 June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Pravrajika Vrajaprana (1 May 1994). Living Wisdom: Vedanta in the West. Vedanta Press. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-87481-055-4. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Sister Gargi dead". The Hindu. 2004-01-22. Retrieved 2013-06-05. 
  4. ^ a b "Sister Gargi passes away" (PDF). Prabuddha Bharata. Advaita Ashrama (109): 56. March 2004. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "About the Author". Kalpa Tree Press. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  6. ^ Chaturvedi Badrinath (1 January 2006). Swami Vivekananda: The Living Vedanta. Penguin Books India. pp. 417–. ISBN 978-0-14-306209-7. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  7. ^ "New Discoveries". Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  8. ^ "Article on Sister Gargi". 
  9. ^ a b Chattopadhyaya, Rajagopal (1999). Swami Vivekananda in India : a corrective biography (1st ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 326. ISBN 8120815866. 
  10. ^ "Books on Vivekananda". Vivekananda Foundation. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  11. ^ Dr. Shivendra Kashyap and Er. Richa Lohani. Motivational Leadership. Vivekanand Swadhyay Mandal. pp. 29–. ISBN 978-81-923019-1-4. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  12. ^ Marie Louise Burke (2003). A Heart Poured Out: A Story of Swami Ashokananda. Kalpa Tree Press. p. Preface. ISBN 978-0-9706368-1-2. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "Shafts of Light". KalpaTree. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  14. ^ Marie Louise Burke (2003). A Disciple's Journal: In the Company of Swami Ashokananda. Kalpa Tree Press. p. preface. ISBN 978-0-9706368-2-9. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  15. ^ "Disciple's Journal In the Company of Swami Ashokananda". Vedanta Press and Catalog. Retrieved 29 June 2013.