Sunday Service: Morning Ritual

Week of Nov 10 – Nov 16, 2013

Ritual plays an important but subtle part in spiritual development, as we noted last week.

This week we continue our focus on ritual.

While I was living in India at the Delhi Ramakrishna Mission in 2011, I was confronted with far more ritual than I had grown up with in the United States. My starting point was a flippant “that’s good for them, but I don’t need that.” But I was there, in Delhi, and as a part of the community I could not avoid all the Ramakrishna rituals. So I took part.

What I discovered–one of the breakthroughs of the trip, really–was the subtle but important role that ritual plays in spiritual development. If I had just been following my mind, I probably would not have practiced the rituals. But when I did practice them for a period of time, I started discovering their hidden importance and what they could bring to spiritual life.

This week’s spiritual talk is part of that journey for me, and I hope it will help you with your own spiritual advancement as well.

Peter Kowalke


MorningThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

Morning Ritual

by Peter Kowalke

At 4:50am, the Indian capital is quiet. At least Paharganj, where the Ramakrishna Monastery is located.

The streets outside the temple complex are completely silent, in stark contrast with the boisterous hustle and bustle of Delhi by day. The footpaths inside the complex are silent and serene, too, but a few lone figures make their way to the temple. A floodlight at the front gate, and a few strategic lamps elsewhere, create beautiful silhouettes of the temple spires and ornamentation. A fog that feels like burnt trash still hovers, but it is softer and more personal in the morning. The air is cold, and you can see your breath.

Inside the temple there are no lights at first, just half a dozen monks on the floor in the lotus position, facing a shrine to the Order’s three most important homegrown saints—Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and Sarada Devi. A few minutes after 5am, lights in the shrine are switched on and the ritual begins. A gong is tapped lightly, a small organ plays, monks near the front chant four prescribed songs, and a designated monk performs an offering from within the shrine. Afterwards the silence returns, and each worshipper files out silently in his own time. This is morning aarati.

Every religion has its rituals and ceremonies. Technically they are not needed.

(read more)


The Way of ZenBook of the Month

The Way of Zen

by Alan Watts

Watts takes the reader back to the philosophical foundations of Zen in the conceptual world of Hinduism, follows Buddhism’s course through the development of the early Mahayana school, the birth of Zen from Buddhism’s marriage with Chinese Taoism, and on to Zen’s unique expression in Japanese art and life.

Many popular books have been written on Zen since Watts’ time, but few have been able to muster the rare combination of erudition and clarity that have kept The Way of Zen in readers’ hands decade after decade.

(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.


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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