Sunday Service: Eyes of Love

Andre and Peter

Week of Sept 28 – Oct 4, 2014

What we focus our attention upon can, to a large degree, alter the kind of world we live in. If we want to change the world, all we really have to do is change how we look at it.

This sounds pithy, because when we talk about changing the world we usually talk about righting wrongs, helping others, and fixing broken things. But changing how we look at things as a way to change the world is not as pithy as it sounds. Not only can it make a HUGE difference in terms of our quality of life, but it also can make the world a better place by putting us in a mental and emotional space to make good decisions, project calmness and contentment, and offer more love to others.

Changing how you look at the world definitely can “change the world,” and the truth is that this magic is available to us at all times. This is what the path of knowledge is all about, Jnana Yoga.

This week we bring you a spiritual talk that addresses that subject. Back in 2012 I was living in India, and in March of that year I traveled from Delhi to Calcutta to spend time at Belur Math, the heart of the Ramakrishna community. I wrote this essay my first day in Calcutta, and it highlights how our focus can really change the world we experience.

Peter Kowalke


Calcutta train stationThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

Taxi Through Calcutta

By Peter Kowalke

The red bricks of the train station, and its surrounding buildings, catch my eye and signal that I’m no longer in Delhi. They have a pleasing colonial style that resembles, if squinting, the images in my head of Nineteenth Century India. I’m expecting hand-drawn rickshaws and laborers with baskets on their heads selling cucumbers. Which my eye finds, amusingly enough. But the red bricks draw my attention. They’re different. I notice them.

Otherwise, I don’t notice much. The travel writer in me wants Calcutta to be different and exciting, remarkably foreign somehow, but really it looks like the rest of India. The script is different than the Hindi I see in the Northwest—Bengali, the language of Calcutta, is jauntier and seemingly more sophisticated. The streets are a bit tired, too. But it looks like India.

I ponder this fact as I take a prepaid taxi from the train station to Belur Math, the world headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission and my base for the next month. I usually don’t notice much. In India or elsewhere.

The imagined criticism of an ex-girlfriend pops into my head.

“Unbelievable. You’ve visited India many times before, and you still can’t describe the architecture? You can’t describe the food? You can’t tell me how Calcutta is different than other cities?”

She always was perceptive and sharp, frustrated that I didn’t see the world as she observed it.

For the past few hours I have been reading a book, and I’m tempted to keep reading now that I’m in the taxi. But I put it down and look outside instead. I try to take in all the details, notice little things about the environment that will make my Calcutta visit memorable. If I don’t notice the city, from a tourist standpoint I might as well be in Delhi or New York.

More than looking, though, I must see. The city must make an impression on me. But it doesn’t. The red bricks caught my attention, but otherwise I’m looking past the buildings, the trees, the food, the kinetic motion of Calcutta. Instead, I’m looking at the people.

All I see are the people.

When I stare out the taxi window, I see people I want to love. There are the girls with the cute faces and the brightly-colored salwar kameezes, of course; I notice them right away. But my eyes also alight on the fat, mustachioed men with no fashion sense, the haggard old women with colorful saris, and the skinny chai merchants who are completely nondescript. All draw my attention and immediate affection. I don’t know them yet. I probably won’t ever know them. But I yearn for understanding and communion with these people, and they drown out everything else around me.

It is as if I’m a chocolate addict and everyone secretly is a hollow chocolate Easter bunny.

(read more)


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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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