Sunday Service: Pilgrim Power


Week of Jan 19 – 25, 2014

Pilgrim Power

by Peter Kowalke

What is holy?

I’ve been visiting lots of “holy” places in and around Calcutta the past few years, mostly related to the Ramakrishna movement. Initially I thought of them as historically significant sites with a religious character. A spiritualized Gettysburg or Valley Forge, so to speak. But then I had a moment in one of the holy places. Ideas came into my mind from nowhere, the kind of spiritual insight you imagine the angel Gabriel whispering in the ear of Muhammad, or the kind of insight that spontaneously came to the Buddha under the bodhi tree.

I’m not comparing myself with Muhammad or the Buddha, and there were no fantastical “visions.” But there was a moment. It got me thinking.

I understand what holy is supposed to be. It is a place or item coursing with extra spiritual juice. But what does that mean experientially? What could I get from this holy place, and how do I get it? More importantly, what do saints get from holy places? Vedanta is a very empowering faith inasmuch as it says we all can be saints if we only knew how. So if I can be a saint, if I can be a Ramakrishna, how do I be one? What does this experience look like?

At each holy place I have been working on this question, experimenting. I’m sure there is a manual for God intoxication, but I’m starting with play. Later I will read the manual and polish or scrap what I already know. Play whets my appetite and engages me in practice immediately, so I’m starting with that.

What I’ve discovered so far is the need for preparation, an open mind, and sensitivity. Find a place that gives off a subtle holy vibe, come prepared with an understanding of the holiness at that place, clear the mind, and wait—usually 30 minutes or more. If the mind is open and ready for anything, a big if, something might come—which is kinda like inspired writing; it can’t be forced. When something does come, it usually is not a big ah ha moment. It is more like a whisper. Very subtle. Very quiet. Easy to miss, like standing on the bank of a river and waiting for a lone fish swimming downstream.

This has been my early experience, at least.

(read more)


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.


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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