Sunday Service: Planning, Monastic Style

Week of Nov 16 – 22, 2014

The value of holy company. We are told that we are the company we keep, and spiritual people tell us that we should spend the majority of our time in holy company. This will uplift us and show us the right path.

Like many people, I had heard these words. But I didn’t fully understand the lesson until 2011, when I lived and worked at a Vedanta monastery in Delhi. Holy company makes a huge difference, and if anything its importance is undersold.

Surrounding yourself with holy company isn’t about getting spiritual lessons 24/7. When I was living in the monastery, there actually was very little instruction. And when I did talk with the monks, the conversation was often about mundane things. Holy company isn’t about grabbing spiritual gems.

Well, not directly at least.

What surprised me during my first prolonged stay in a monastery was the indirect effect of holy company. It wasn’t that the monks were teaching me, or that I could define a concrete list of things I had learned. The main value of holy company, for me at least, was the subtle uplift it brought.

When I was at the monastery, my spirituality just was more potent. There were more insights. My behavior started to change. I grew more calm. Among other changes.

We all learn by modeling others. As kids it is obvious that we model others, but the process doesn’t stop in adulthood. And that is the main value of holy company: We have good models, which helps us act according to our values and grow spiritually.

In our daily lives, most of us are surrounded by  quiet selfishness, by materialism, and by a host of other beliefs and actions that go against our spiritual beliefs. We can counter this bad learning through regular attendance of religious services—touching back with what we actually believe. But even better is living and working alongside people who are dedicated to living their spiritual beliefs on a daily basis.

This is the real reason to surround yourself with holy company, and this was what I found living in Delhi at the monastery.

This week we bring you a light and slightly quirky essay I wrote while living at the monastery. Enjoy.

Yours in service,


ChaiThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

Planning, Monastic Style

By Peter Kowalke

Two brahmachari and I were sitting at a table in the dining hall, sipping chai. Brahmachari are monks-in-training, a process that takes at least eight years.

“Sometimes I ask brahmachari about their lives,” I said. “They don’t always answer. Is this them just not wanting to answer, or is there a deeper spiritual reason for their silence?”

They grew silent. The older of the two brahmachari paused, then answered slowly. At first each word was measured.

“We try to live in the present. That’s the main idea of Buddhism. Live in the moment, not in the past or in the future.”

“What about people who are not monastics?” I asked. “If they don’t plan, won’t this lead to ruin?”

He nodded. “We don’t recommend that householders follow this advice.”

“What about the Secretary of the Mission? If he doesn’t plan, it will be hard to hold events and keep the Mission running.”

“Planning is okay if not planning for yourself.”

(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 emailFacebook 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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