Sunday Service: Lost at the Bookstore

Bookstore

Week of Feb 2 – 8, 2014

Truth that doesn’t feel true is pretty useless. At best a hollow truth is something we will intellectually register but not be put into practice, and at worst we won’t even recognize it as truth on the intellectual level, let alone the emotional level.

That’s why learning often is most effective when it is student-led. If knowledge is imposed by someone else, it is a lot less likely that it will be remembered and internalized. Such learning will not have the power of learning that is relevant to the student and integrated with the other knowledge they know.

The same is doubly true with spiritual knowledge. As American Vedanta stresses almost every week, it is crucial that spiritual truth feels like truth, and that takes contextualization.

Truth is truth no matter how you look at it (otherwise it isn’t truth), but to make it relevant you need to wrap it in your culture, and wrap it in your own personal culture. Then you take something as abstract as truth and make it useful and relevant.

The spiritual talk we’re featuring this week is all about making truth relevant.

While I was living at a Vedanta monastery in Delhi, I was immersed in Vedanta but it sometimes felt hollow to me. That’s because while the monastery was suffused with truth, I got lost in the Indian culture of Delhi surrounding the truth. Instead of taking the universal truth in the monastery and wrapping it in my American culture and my Peter culture, I tried to digest the truth with its Indian culture still wrapped around it. And that felt alien. It felt hollow.

But read on to learn more about this journey I had in Delhi back in 2012.

Enjoy.

Yours,
Peter Kowalke

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Peter at bookstoreThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

Lost at the Bookstore

by Peter Kowalke

Some days I think my Indian spiritual journey is a mistake. I’m in the right place for Vedanta. I’m reading life-changing books. My toughest questions have tentative answers. This trip is 80 percent of its best possible scenario. Yet, some days the path toward enlightenment feels hollow. I’m not even sure I want it.

The head sannyasin has given me work in the bookstore, which is a blessing. At first I assumed it was a temporary position while I settled in at the monastery–a holding pen where I could serve before we discovered where I could serve. But the bookstore is a brilliant placement, and I’m not pushing for different work. The bookstore acts as a de facto welcome center for visitors, and a hangout spot for staff. It also exposes me to all the Vedanta literature in the Ramakrishna universe and gives me the time to read it; when nobody needs service, I sit by the register and read one of the books that caught my fancy during shelving.

So I’m reading a lot, reading foundational texts such as the Upanishads and the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, reading spot topics such as raja yoga and the role of monasticism in spiritual life. When combined with the monastery routine and conversations with resident and visiting monks, the reading is grounding me in the mainstream practice and ideals of Vedanta. Which is good and what I need. But it doesn’t sing to my soul, even as it feels right.

Which makes me concerned.

(read more)

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peace is every stepBook of the Month

Peace is Every Step

by Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing is deceptive in its subtlety. He’ll go on and on with stories about tree-hugging or metaphors involving raw potatoes; he’ll tell you how to eat mindfully, even how to breathe and walk; he’ll suggest looking closely at a flower and to see the sun as your heart. Yet, sooner or later it begins to sink in that Nhat Hanh is conveying a depth of psychology and a world outlook that require nothing less than a complete paradigm shift. Through his cute stories and compassionate admonitions, he gradually builds up to his philosophy of interbeing, the notion that none of us is separate.

(Learn more about the book)

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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