Sunday Service: How to Judge Spiritual Progress

Happiness and Bliss

Week of Aug 9 – 15, 2015

When you eat healthy foods, sometimes you feel it immediately. But other times, the effects are subtle and you don’t notice right away. It is only later, after several weeks of healthy eating, that you look back and go: “Wow, I feel better. Eating better really does help!”

It is the same with spiritual growth. Sometimes we feel the effects right away, but more often spiritual growth is subtle and we only notice it in retrospect.

That’s one of the challenges of spiritual life. We want instant gratification and feedback that we’re “doing well.” But often the results are subtle, and it takes time to understand that we’re on the right track.

So stick with your spiritual practice, even if you’re not getting immediate results. I’m not suggesting you abdicate thoughtfulness–you do need to know when something is not working. But give it time. Spirituality is a subtle thing.

This week we bring you a spiritual talk on how to judge spiritual progress. We focus on the Sufi saint, Hazrat Azad Rasool, who has some great things to say on the topic.


Peter Kowalke


ContentmentThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

Judging Spiritual Progress

By Peter Kowalke

Faith. When people think about religion, most think about this idea of faith. The skeptic argues that the spiritual practitioner needs faith to follow something that makes no sense. The spiritual practitioner argues that faith is essential because the deepest truths are beyond the limitations of the senses.

Neither is quite right. There is proof, and we can see it. But spirituality is subtle, so we won’t be hit over the head with it. It is not like being turned on by a sexy woman. It is more like slowly falling in love with your best friend; one day you wake up and realize you are in love, even though you might have been slowly falling in love with them for years.

So if spirituality is subtle, observing spiritual progress is not an easy task.

New spiritual practitioners sometimes think the answer lies in mystical visions and supersensory phenomena, in levitation and voices from God. Such shows of spiritual power are not indicative of much, however, as we’ve discussed elsewhere. A man in the driver’s seat of a car and one in the trunk both reach the destination at the same time, even if only one is seeing the scenery along the way. Likewise, visions can come from our imagination and prove to be nothing more than attempts at validating our path.

So “what are the criteria of progress if visions and phenomena are not?” rhetorically asks Hazrat Azad Rasool, a modern Sufi saint.

(read more)


Video of the Week

Buddhist Meditation and Vedanta

Peter Kowalke, an assistant secretary of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Association of Thailand (RVAT) and founder of American Vedanta, gives a brief workshop on Buddhist meditation as it related to Vedanta.

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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