Sunday Service: Monasticism is a Choice We All Can Make

Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham

Week of Feb 8 – 14, 2015

Last week was my 36th birthday. Now for most people this is not a landmark age, but for me it was very significant.

That’s because for at least the past five years, I have been seriously considering whether or not I should join the Ramakrishna Math as a monk. The cutoff age is 35, so on my 36th birthday I ended a debate that had been raging in me for years.

I haven’t given up the calling to live a monastic life, however. Instead, I am attempting a slightly slower, slightly more independent route. It is a route we all can take, even if we have children or have other seemingly insurmountable obstacles to monastic life, such as liking sex too much.

Since this week’s spiritual talk is widely applicable to many of my projects, you also can find a version of this talk at the Philia Mission web site, the Ramakrishna Vedanta Association of Thailand web site, and my own personal site,


Peter Kowalke


Peter Kowalke at the Singapore Ramakrishna MissionThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

Monasticism is a Choice We All Can Make

By Peter Kowalke

Not many people know that I want to be a monk. But I do. And I’m actively working on it.

For several years I’ve been seriously considering whether or not I should join the Ramakrishna Math, a Vedanta monastic order. On the one hand, joining the Order as a monk is the all-in path and the most obviously legitimate route for being a monastic. On the other hand, the Order has an Indian cultural outlook that I do not fully share, and I am not sure it is the best way I personally can serve others.

So one part of me wants to join, and the other part of me knows I should not join. I’ve more or less decided that I should not join the Order, and that instead I should chart a middle path that has me functioning as a monastic but less perfectly and more in the world. But every week I ask myself if this is a mistake, if really I am just not confident enough to take the plunge as a “real” monastic.

There actually is a deadline for this decision of whether or not I should join the Ramakrishna Order. That deadline is February 6, 2015, my 36th birthday.

The Ramakrishna Order only accepts monastic aspirants who are 35 or younger (30 in India). This limit is imposed on the grounds that it is important to train people before they are set in their ways—and so people don’t live a materialistic life and then join the Order as a kind of cost-free retirement option. Some people have argued that this is a silly policy and I could get an exemption anyway. But generally I agree with the policy, and if I’m going to take the plunge I really should do it now and not “some day.”

So this week is a big one for me. It is my last opportunity to (easily) become a monk. I probably should celebrate the milestone, but the irony is that as a monastic aspirant I shun “special” days and celebrations that focus on me.

After February 6 of this year, my options for becoming a monk will narrow considerably. But that doesn’t mean I have given up the plan to become a monk. I’m already living it, just slowly, quietly and less completely than my brothers who are training at monasteries.

I have big plans to continue this process of quiet transformation. The plan revolves around the idea that monasticism does not have to be all or nothing.

(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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