Sunday Service: Judging Spiritual Progress

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Week of Dec 8 – Dec 14, 2013

We at American Vedanta have started a relief effort to provide food to victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Roughly 11.4 million Filipinos have been affected by the storm, which ripped through the Philippines in early November. There are currently about 670,000 displaced people and 300,000 who have no shelter at all. Then there’s the lack of food…

We are delivering food to the hard-hit areas of northern Cebu, areas hit almost as hard as the spots mentioned on the news but a lot less supported by relief work. We have locals already on the ground and supporting those in need, and we encourage you to donate to the effort. Every dollar is a mouth fed.

People from all over the world, including swamis, have donated to our relief effort. Join us in helping those who are in crisis right now.

You can learn more about the typhoon and how to help by visiting our disaster relief site, Philia.org.

Yours,
Peter Kowalke

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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.

Rasool, in his book Turning Toward the Heart, gives a surprisingly concrete answer to this question that is applicable both to Sufis and Vedantins alike.

(read more)

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Jnana-YogaBook of the Month

Jnana-Yoga

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.

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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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