Sunday Service: Buddhism by Another Name?

Swami Shantatmananda and the Dalai Lama

Week of July 13 – July 19, 2014

The Vedanta Society centers throughout the U.S. are mostly on “summer recess” until September, a break from weekly services and a time when the monastics get a rest and members of the community go on longer, spiritual retreats.

One of the retreats I attended recently, although really it was more of a one-day celebration, was the annual Ramakrishna Mission event at Ridgely Manor on July 4. I also am planning to spend the summer focused on Buddhism and its deeper truths.

One of the organizations I’m working with is Dharma Drink in New York City,  a hangout for Buddhists and likeminded people such as myself. The group is loosely associated with the Chan Meditation Center in Queens, and last week I had the pleasure of talking Vedanta (er…Buddhism) with venerable Chan Meditation Center abbot, Guo-xing.

You can join me at these Dharma Drink events if you are in New York, as the events we’re attending are listed on our New York City calendar of events.

We also have events in other cities, notably Cleveland. We recently started a Vedanta group in Cleveland earlier this year, and on July 23 the spiritual head of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, Swami Sarvadevananda, will be speaking at our Cleveland group. I encourage anyone near Cleveland to attend, especially since there are not regular services right now at U.S. Vedanta Society centers.

We at American Vedanta still have you covered, though, even if the Vedanta Society centers are on recess and you don’t live near one of our local groups. Every Sunday we publish our Sunday Service like this one you’re reading now, and you can subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to never miss a week.

Just because it is summer, that does not mean it is time to take a break from your spiritual practice. So I encourage you to read our weekly service and also experience the truths in other spiritual traditions over the summer.

This week we bring you a spiritual talk I wrote while at the Jaipur Ramakrishna Mission in 2011. It talks about how Buddhism and Vedanta are cousins more or less pointing in the same direction. The language is sometimes different, as is the emphasis. But both are good spiritual vehicles if followed rigorously, and both lead in the same ultimate direction. That’s part of what we try to emphasize at the Ramakrishna Vedanta Association of Thailand, in fact, a bridge between the two faiths where I’m one of the assistant secretaries. I encourage you to visit their site if you’re both interested in Vedanta and Buddhism.


Peter Kowalke


BuddhaThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

Buddhism by Another Name?

By Peter Kowalke

Often I describe my faith in terms of Buddhism. People do this on their own, giving me Buddha statues and confusing my faith with Buddhism, but I also perpetuate the connection because the two faiths do have a lot in common. They’re close cousins.

The difference between Vedanta and the Buddhism advocated by Buddha is one of emphasis. The Buddha lived in India, and initially he was a monk in the pre-Vedanta tradition of the Vedas. He couldn’t realize God through the spiritual techniques of the day, however, so he developed new ones. This is where we get his Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths. Following the great Vedic tradition, the Buddha took the wisdom of the day and interpreted it in a new and meaningful way. He created a massively useful interpretation for finding enlightenment.

But Buddhism is Vedanta at its core. It just emphasizes different things.

(read more)


videoVedanta Television

American Vedanta on YouTube

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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