Sunday Service: Better Understanding Karma

Week of Jan 10 – 16, 2016

Today I’m speaking at the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society of the Philippines in Manila on the topic of “Making Vedanta’s Timeless Truth Culturally Relevant Today.” In the talk, I plan to discuss how Vedanta only becomes relevant and useful when it is applied to the societal and personal culture of the person in question.

The deepest truths must always be timeless if they are to be truth, as the famous Indian philosopher, Shankaracharya, has brilliantly proven. Yet, applying these truths to our lives is not easy. It requires taking the universal truth and mixing it with very impermanent daily life and values that are constantly changing.

The point of my talk will be that an American needs to contextualize Vedanta for his American culture to get the most out of it, and an Indian needs an Indian Vedanta, and a Filipino needs a Philippines Vedanta. It is the same deeper truth, but it is expressed slightly differently depending on your personal background and situation. This is part of the magic of Vedanta, and why it is still so relevant after thousands of years.

At the same time, not everything must be so deeply remixed; some concepts stay more or less the same no matter where you stand. The idea of karma might be one of those concepts.

With that in mind, this week we bring you an essay that explores karma. It was first published by the Ramakrishna Vedanta Association of Thailand, of which I’m deeply involved.

Speaking of which, I’ll be in India next week and back in Thailand starting February 1. If you live outside of the U.S., please visit the American Vedanta Tour page and see if we’ll be in a city near you. Each year we travel for several months outside of the U.S.–partially to see how others are contextualizing Vedanta for their community. We’ve just begun this year’s tour, which runs through June.


Peter Kowalke


Karma: Cycle of birth and deathThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

Karma: Karma: How to Avoid Having Bad Things Happen to Good People

by Bindu Anand

Karma is a word that has truly entered the mainstream today. Some old ideas may still exist, but new meanings have been added as well. So, it will be helpful to revisit the definition.

Karma comes from the root word, “kri,” which means “to do.” Therefore, all action is karma. The result of an action is actually karmaphala (fruit of an action), but today we tend to use the word karma for both the action and the result of the action—which of course causes a bit of confusion. People tend to say, “This is my karma,” meaning the fruit, not the action itself.

From our everyday experience we believe that actions have consequences—that each action has a reaction. We throw a ball on the ground and we expect it to bounce up; we call someone and expect an answer; we work and expect to be paid. We hope that the actions we do will lead us to happiness and that we will attain the things that we work for with our actions.

We also hope that there is justice in this world: that if we do good deeds, it will lead to pleasant results, and if bad deeds are done, there will be punishment or consequences for those acts. These are the very premises that the karma theory is built upon.

When we use the word karma as the result of an action, saying “this is my karma,” when a good or bad thing happens to us, we should be forewarned that karma determines our experience, not our action. Thus if we do something, that is not our karma, but it is done by our own free will. The joy or sorrow that comes our way is karma, which is a result of our previous actions.

To delve into it a little deeper, action can produce two results:

(Read more)


Video of the Week

The Difference Between Gradual and Sudden Enlightenment

The goal of both sudden and gradual enlightenment is to understand our larger spiritual nature. For one who is enlightened, however, practice is still important.

Finding lasting happiness. Applying the Bhagavad Gita to daily life. Learning about the history of Vedanta in the U.S. These are some of the topics covered at American Vedanta’s YouTube channel. We curate a list of spiritual videos that will help advance your spirituality and expand your mind. When wanting spiritual videos, give our YouTube channel a look.

We also recommend other resources such as Booksaudio lectures and web sites, among other resources.


Spiritual Fitness

Do You have a Spiritual Routine?

Vedanta, if not practical, has no other relevancy. The key to practical Vedanta is an individualized spiritual routine.

There are six components of a good spiritual routine.

Swan1. Find a Community. If you have an existing church, temple or mosque, attend regularly. If not, join our Facebook group and see our list of recommended spiritual organizations.

2. Seek Guidance. Find a mentor within your existing spiritual community or contact us for a referral.

3. Attend Spiritual Services Regularly. If you don’t live near an appropriate spiritual community, we offer a weekly spiritual talk delivered by email, Facebook and Twitter. We also host a regular Vedanta Dinner for those who live in the New York City area.

4. Incorporate Individual Study. We keep a list of books and resources for your individual study needs.

5. Take Responsibility for Your Spiritual Life. Read our talk about listening to your own inner compass and contact us when you have a question that your spiritual community isn’t answering adequately.

6. Leverage Rituals Thoughtfully. As an example, read our essay about the power of saying grace.

Our longer talk about spiritual routine can be found here.

Happy Sunday! Peace be unto you. Peace be unto all.

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