Sunday Service: Life in a Monastery

Main Ramakrishna Temple

Week of May 4 – May 10, 2014

Living your beliefs. It is easier said than done.

That’s because not only must be grapple with the challenges of actually putting our beliefs into practice and figuring out what that means today, but also dealing with the culture around us that subtly is pushing us in a direction that’s not usually in line with our beliefs.

Last week we featured a spiritual talk on karma, the impressions that we take from living that affect our future course.

One way that many people who are serious about living their beliefs combat unwholesome impressions is by living in spiritual community that promotes wholesome impressions. That’s one of the arguments for monastic life.

Back in 2011, I went to live in a monastery in Delhi to see if this monastic life was for me. Below are some of my early impressions from this experiment.


Peter Kowalke


BedThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

Life in a Monastery

By Peter Kowalke

There are stages in life.

Vedanta has the idea that people basically go through four stages: first education, then house and two kids, then retirement, then leaving it all and finding something more important. Monastic people skip the middle stages and go straight to the last step. There’s nothing wrong with going through all the stages, but if you’ve got the bug, you’ve got the bug.

Do I have the bug? Friends have been wondering for years if I will go monastic. I have, too.

This question reemerged within hours of my arrival at the Ramakrishna Center in Delhi, my home base while in India. I had visited the center before, briefly, but I wasn’t sure if the place was a “center,” an “ashram” or a “monastery.” While these terms overlap and all are applicable, on my arrival I quickly learned that it definitely is a monastery; there are roughly 10 Sannyasins who live monastically on the campus, and a handful more in training. (Sannyasins wear orange robes, sannyasins-in-training wear white robes and go through at least eight years of training before getting their “color.”) All day I watched the Sannyasins, wondering if I could be one of them.

Monasticism is about renunciation, so I knew living conditions would be basic. My host had warned me about this, writing in an email that “accommodations will be austere, but there will be lots of love.” If anything, I was surprised it was not more basic—the room had a shower and hot water, which is more than I got the first few days I was in the country.

(read more)


Teachings of the Christian MysticsBook of the Month

Teachings of the Christian Mystics

edited by Andrew Harvey

The Christian mystics  remain little known among Vedantins and Christians alike, yet they explore many of the same ideas of Vedanta. This book takes selections from all eras of the Christian tradition, including Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton and others.

(get the book)

Other books we recommend can be found in our Books section. We also recommend YouTube videos, 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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