American Vedanta Blog

The latest news, sermons and resources from American Vedanta

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Sunday Service: Joy in Nonattachment

Far from deadening ourselves, true nonattachment is loving everything in every moment.

July 17, 2016 by

How to Love

How to Love, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Nhat Hanh brings his signature clarity, compassion, and humor to the thorny question of how to love, and he distills one of our strongest emotions down to four essentials: you can only love another when you feel true love for yourself; love is understanding; understanding brings compassion; and deep listening and loving speech are key ways of showing our love.

How to Love shows that when we feel closer to our loved ones, we are also more connected to the world as a whole. With sections on Love vs. Need, Being in Love, Reverence, Intimacy, Children and Family, Reconciling with Parents, and more, How to Love includes meditations readers can do alone or with a partner to expand their capacity to love. -from the publisher

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July 9, 2016 by

Rope as snake

Sunday Service: When We See God All Around Us–Then We Are Free

Happiness and peace is as simple (or hard) as finding God all around us.

May 15, 2016 by

Sunday Service: Five Things I Learned from Monasticism

The five most important things I learned from living in a monastery.

May 8, 2016 by

Rope as snake

When We See God All Around Us We Are Free

By Pravrajika Vrajaprana

Vedanta declares that our real nature is divine: pure, perfect, eternally free. We do not have to become God, we are God. Our true Self is one with God.

But if our real nature is divine, why then are we so appallingly unaware of it?

The answer to this question lies in the concept of maya, or ignorance. Maya is the veil that covers our real nature and the real nature of the world around us. Maya is fundamentally inscrutable: we don’t know why it exists and we don’t know when it began. What we do know is that, like any form of ignorance, maya ceases to exist at the dawn of knowledge, the knowledge of our own divine nature.

God is the real truth of our existence: in God we live, move, and have our being. Sarvam khalvidam brahma: “All this is indeed Brahman [God],” the Upanishads—the scriptures that form Vedanta philosophy—declare. The changing world that we see around us can be compared to the moving images on a movie screen: without the unchanging screen in the background, there can be no movie. Similarly, it is the unchanging God—the substratum of existence—in the background of this changing world that gives the world its reality.

Yet for us this reality is conditioned, like a warped mirror, by time, space, and causality—the law of cause and effect. Our vision of reality is further obscured by wrong identification: we identify ourselves with the body, mind and ego rather than the Atman, the divine Self.

This original misperception creates more ignorance and pain in a domino effect: identifying ourselves with the body and mind, we fear disease, old age and death; identifying ourselves with the ego, we suffer from anger, hatred and a hundred other miseries. Yet none of this affects our real nature, the Atman.

Maya can be compared to clouds which cover the sun: the sun remains in the sky but a dense cloud cover prevents us from seeing it. When the clouds disperse, we become aware that the sun has been there all the time. Our clouds—maya appearing as egotism, selfishness, hatred, greed, lust, anger, ambition—are pushed away when we meditate upon our real nature, when we engage in unselfish action, and when we consistently act and think in ways that manifest our true nature: that is, through truthfulness, purity, contentment, self-restraint and forbearance. This mental purification drives away the clouds of maya and allows our divine nature to shine forth.

Shankara, the great philosopher-sage of seventh-century India, used the example of the rope and the snake to illustrate the concept of maya. Walking down a darkened road, a man sees a snake; his heart pounds, his pulse quickens. On closer inspection the “snake” turns out to be a piece of coiled rope. Once the delusion breaks, the snake vanishes forever.

Similarly, walking down the darkened road of ignorance, we see ourselves as mortal creatures, and around us, the universe of name and form, the universe conditioned by time, space, and causation. We become aware of our limitations, bondage and suffering. On closer inspection, both the mortal creature as well as the universe turn out to be God. Once the delusion breaks, our mortality as well as the universe disappear forever. We see God existing everywhere and in everything.

Pravrajika Vrajaprana is a nun at the Vedanta Society of Southern California’s Sarada Convent. This essay first appeared in the book, Vedanta: A Simple Introduction, under the title, “Why Are We Unaware of Our Divinity? The Concept of Maya.” We thank Vedanta Press and the Vedanta Society of Southern California for the permission to reprint it here.

May 4, 2016 by

Swan

Sunday Service: Does Divine Love Cost Human Love?

Loving the divine aspect of a person is taking love to a higher level, but is something lost?

April 17, 2016 by

Hands

Sunday Service: 5 Kinds of Poverty

As we move toward God, most of our needs fall away.

April 10, 2016 by

Sandcastle

Sunday Service: The Implications of Our Essence

Why our essence does not change even though our body and mind do evolve.

April 3, 2016 by

Compassion

Sunday Service: The Limits of Compassion

Compassion is like walking for five minutes every day, while love is like jogging for 45. Compassion just doesn’t cut it.

March 27, 2016 by

Sufism

Sunday Service: Spiritual Exercises from the Naqshbandi Path

Whatever your background, the spiritual exercises of Naqshbandi Sufism will help you better live truth.

March 20, 2016 by

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