Sunday Service: Guru Sold Separately

Week of February 1 – 7, 2015

This week we bring you a spiritual talk from our archives. We’ve published or reprinted so many spiritual talks over the years, sometimes it is good to go back and reprint some of the earlier work; this site is too deep to fully explore, so many gems can get lost or overlooked.

It is worth noting that we also have pages devoted to faiths other than Vedanta that highlight spiritual talks we have delivered in the context of those faiths. These pages include Christianity, Buddhism and Islam right now. All of our talks are in the context of Vedantic truth, of course, but these pages help bridge the gap between religions and share truth that otherwise go unnoticed in the Vedanta tradition.

So here you go.

Enjoy, and happy Sunday! Peace be unto you. Peace be unto all.

Yours in service,


This Week’s Spiritual Talk

Guru Sold Separately

Note: Let truth guide you, not us. Our humble disclaimer.Guru included

Indian education is pretty rigid by American standards. There are uniforms, lots of rote memorization, and a culture of undue deference to the teacher. The uniforms and deference squash independent thinking and the joy of learning. The memorization just wastes everybody’s time. A deeper critique is left for others, like the handful of Indians unschooling their children.

I blame the gurukul system for the rigidity.

I love the gurukul system, which basically stresses passing down knowledge directly from teacher to student in an unbroken line. Those who have knowledge guide those who do not, and in the process any misconceptions are quickly nipped in the bud. But I also blame the gurukul system for India’s current educational morass. The system, embedded deeply in the minds of Indians, disenfranchises the learner and creates a strict hierarchy of knowledge.

I’m an educational cowboy, so I frequently butt against this deference to guru and scripture.

Questioning is baked into my DNA as a self-directed learner who didn’t go to school, both because there were no teachers who claimed authority and because questioning the school system got me wondering what else should be questioned. Challenging and verifying truth myself, no matter the source, has always been my modus operandi.

This is perfectly aligned with Vedanta in theory. Vedanta fundamentally empowers each person to question and find truth wherever it may be found, taking nothing on faith. If a group of unschoolers got together and made a religion, it would be Vedanta.

But then there is the gurukul system and India’s rigid hierarchies of knowledge. The guru is always right, and we must defer to our teachers. Truth can be challenged, but only by those who are saints. The deepest knowledge came from men who experimented and questioned, but now we defer to their scriptures as the final word. What a let-down.

Or so it seems if you visit India and embrace its religious traditions in toto—if you become an Indian Vedantin.

The trick is separating truth from culture and individual need. Whenever we encounter an idea, we must tease out its essential truth and ignore the cultural and individual elements that also are a part of the idea. Truth is only useful if it can be applied, and the application of truth requires wrapping it in a layer of culture, which in turn is wrapped in the specifications best suited for the person using the knowledge. This process of wrapping the general in the specific is great for making truth useful, but it sucks for passing truth from person to person, culture to culture, age to age.

Truth gets muddied, littered with cultural and personal artifacts.

(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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