Sunday Service: Give a Smile This Holiday Season

Andre and Peter

Week of Dec 22 – Dec 28, 2013

A crisis as large as Typhoon Haiyan doesn’t end just because reporters have moved on to other stories. It doesn’t end because relief workers have visited and “done their part.”

For most of the 673,000 Filipinos who were displaced by the storm, everything is gone. There is no home, few possessions and little opportunity to rebuild because homes were not the only things destroyed. So were livelihoods.

On the eve of Christmas, American Vedanta’s philanthropic arm, the Philia Mission, is taking its cue from the examples of Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa and the monks of the Ramakrishna Mission who helped famine victims even when they themselves barely had enough to eat.

In the spirit of Christmas, this week the Philia Mission will return to Bogo and the northern parts of Cebu with more food and aid. Some families have recovered, but many have not. For those who are still struggling, support is needed now more than ever.

In this season of giving, please consider donating to our relief effort.

Since it is the week of Christmas, this week we’re also serving up a short essay about smiles that I wrote while living at the monastery in Delhi in 2011. Smiles are easy to give, but they also are valuable and spiritually fruitful if done in the right way. Please read on. And enjoy.

Peter Kowalke


NamasteThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

Walking Joy

by Peter Kowalke

When I approach, they smile. Almost everyone.

My coworkers at the bookstore do it. The groundskeepers and the administrative staff do it. Even the monks have begun doing it, a reversal of the normal practice where we acknowledge them.

People smile, or they say “namaste” and put their hands together in a prayer, or their face lights up. Often there is an informality bordering on rudeness here in India; no goodbye at the end of a conversation, no “please” when you ask for salt, no recognition when you pass someone on the street. But with me there always is a moment; there always is a smile. I am walking joy, as someone described it.

This is not because I exude some ineffable quality that commands love or respect. People smile when I approach because I smile back, because they have learned that I will be saluting them. I smile and give a casual but significant “namaste” to everyone I pass, strangers and friends alike. In group settings, sometimes it looks like I am working a crowd.

Some wait for my salutation; you see it in their eyes, waiting with hands and smile at the ready for my hello. Others break into smile whenever they see me, as if I were an object of adoration. They pay their respects to the saints on the wall with a prayer, then they turn and pay their respects to me with a smile.

But really I am the one praying. They are my objects of adoration, which is why I smile with such meaning.

(read more)


Jnana-YogaBook of the Month


by Swami Vivekananda

Jnana-Yoga, the Path of Knowledge, describes the essence of Vedanta philosophy – the wisdom of the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita in a modern scientific manner. Jnana-Yoga, along with Swami Vivekananda’s Karma-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, and Raja-Yoga, are considered classics and outstanding treatises on Hindu philosophy. The Swami’s deep spiritual insight, fervid eloquence, and broad human sympathy shine forth in these works and offer inspiration to all spiritual seekers.

(download the book for free)

Other books we recommend can be found in our Books section. We also recommend audio 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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