Sunday Service: Lost at the Bookstore

Week of  Nov 30 – Dec 6, 2014

Context. This matters a lot when it comes to understanding something. It is even more important for spirituality, which needs to resonate or else it won’t endure in a person’s life.

There are many spiritual paths that ultimately lead to the same end. But that doesn’t mean we should adopt just any path. We need to make sure that whatever we are following is in the context of the culture we grew up in or know. This can mean focusing on the knowledge traditions we grew up with, or adjusting the cultural side of a tradition that is foreign to us until it is familiar again.

That’s what I’m doing in Thailand right now, actually. I’m currently writing this from Wat Suan Mokkh, a Buddhist monastery near Chaiya in Thailand. One of my Vedanta roles is helping the Ramakrishna Vedanta Association of Thailand, and that means adapting Vedanta’s cultural message so it speaks Thai. Which means Buddhism. Which means I need to understand Buddhism better. So I’m here at Wat Suan Mokkh for the next 12 days working intensely on living Thai Buddhism.

This idea of context and making something alien seem more familiar is the point of this week’s spiritual talk, too. I wrote the talk in 2012, while living at a monastery in Delhi.

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

Yours in service,


This Week’s Spiritual TalkPeter at bookstore

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)


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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