Sunday Service: Expectations and Loss

Week of Aug 10 – 16, 2014

Sometimes things just don’t go our way.

This was the case in February, 2012, when I was living at the Delhi Ramakrishna Mission and suffering from flu, sleeplessness, and some inconveniently-placed holy days that brought hoards of loud devotees to the monastery (making sleep even harder).

There are many ways that we can approach seemingly bad situations. Usually we feel bad about the perceived loss, and if we’re sad about the loss we might not let these setbacks go from our minds.

This mental anguish is exactly what Vedanta can help combat. It also is the topic of this week’s spiritual talk.


Peter Kowalke


Don't know HindiThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

The Shirt

By Peter Kowalke

“Take off your shirt.”

I get asked that a lot. The requests usually come from men, so it is a lot less exciting than it sounds. But it still is exciting.

My undershirts are famous. People love the shirts, and everyone who has seen one remembers the experience. They ask to see it, and they quote the writing on the shirts from memory. This includes some of the monks.

There’s really only one shirt, but I have it in different colors and sizes. The shirt reads, “Teach me Hindi, buddy.” It reads funnier when not translated.

Indians like the phrase, but the message really captures them. “I like your culture,” the shirt says, which should not be underappreciated given how many times people have colonized India. The country has lots of pride in its more than 5,000 years of culture, but it also has a massive chip on its shoulder from the British past and all the shiny conveniences now coming from the West. So an American asking for Indian culture is pleasing. And unexpected, especially from a pithy phrase on a shirt.

I made the shirts as part of my plan to learn Hindi. My primary objective for the trip is spiritual growth, but I also hoped to learn conversational Hindi, get to know Delhi, and sightsee a bit in the South. I’ve been chasing Hindi fluency for years, and this looked like the trip that would put me over the edge: Six stable months living and working with Indians who don’t automatically default to English when they see a white man. I came armed with the latest Rosetta Stone Hindi course, some dictionaries and educational aids, and a deep commitment to pound through the language. This would be my year. Enlightenment and a second language.

But I’m not learning Hindi.

I was learning Hindi, and the shirts were my secret weapon for when the weather warmed. The first two months were really productive, both for language study and just about everything else. But then came February and weeks of sleep deprivation. One week of subpar work became two, then three, then a week in bed with fever, then a week of holy days when nobody slept.

Next thing I knew, my plans were shot.

I’m still studying Hindi, but I won’t come home fluent. The shirts are more of a cruel joke now, a reminder of what I’ve lost through no fault of my own. I tried learning Hindi, but life had other plans.

A deeply spiritual man might shrug his shoulders and call it God’s plan. A friend of mine who works here at the monastery just caught tuberculosis, and that’s what he says every day. It’s God’s plan. It’s God’s grace. God will provide. God is great. There’s a reason for everything.

I am not that man, even if I am deeply spiritual. So then what?

(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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