Sunday Service: Put Philosophy into Practice

Spiritual Exercise

Week of July 6 – July 12, 2014

This week we bring you the final part of a three-part series on Vedanta put into practice. The essays were first published by the Ramakrishna Vedanta Association of Thailand, a Bangkok-based organization where I am an assistant secretary. Originally the series was delivered as a talk in Thailand, and Bindu Anand and I have adapted it as a series that gives a good starting point for anyone new to the faith.

There are many ways to practice Vedanta, of course, and this is just one of many. But it should give people new to Vedanta a nice primer, and it serves as a refresher for anyone already practicing the faith. Our thanks to Bindu for allowing us to reprint it here.

Enjoy!

Yours,
Peter Kowalke

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RamakrishnaThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

Practicing Vedanta, Part 3: Put Philosophy into Practice

By Bindu Anand

In part one, we talked about the difference between the real and the unreal. In part two, we discussed the four yogas. In this third and final part of our series, we’ll take a look at how to put Vedanta into practice on a practical level.

During the 1800s, India found its religious community divided and fragmented into feuding sects. It had lost its spirituality, its essence. It was at this time that Sri Ramakrishna, a renowned mystic and illumined saint, was born. He taught that these philosophies were not contradictory, but were to be used in a practical manner in our everyday life.

Sri Ramakrishna was born in a small village near Calcutta in 1836, and he lived for only 50 years. He experienced his first mystical state when he was just a child, and from 1848 onwards he would often enter into high states of mind. He worshipped Kali, the Divine Mother, without whose permission he never did anything. His relationship to her throughout his life was that of a child to its mother.

Although he did not have much schooling, he was a knower and living embodiment of the Vedas. In 1864, he was initiated into the Advaita path by his teacher, Totapuri. It had taken Totapuri forty years to accomplish what took Ramakrishna only three days, that of achieving Nirvikalpa Samadhi (absorption in the Supreme Self without self-consciousness where the knower, act of knowing and the object becomes dissolved into one non-duality).

Ramakrishna lived during British rule, when Christians were denouncing Hinduism as idolatrous and Indians were losing faith in their age-old religion. It was Ramakrishna who not only brought Hinduism back to its former glory, but also taught the harmony of all religions. Sri Ramakrishna believed that one could achieve realization through worship of God both with form and without form.

“It is by the will of God that different religions and opinions have come into existence,” noted Ramakrishna. “God gives to different people what they can digest. The mother does not give fish pilau to all her children. All cannot digest it; so she prepares simple fish soup for some. Everyone cherishes his own special ideal and follows his own nature.”

He not only preached, but actually practiced Vaishnavism, Tantra, Christianity and Islam, trying on different religions to understand them. He concluded that nobody needed to convert to a different faith; all they needed to do was follow more intensely whatever path they were on.

Ramakrishna’s personal path was the path of love and renunciation; He taught that first one should realize God, and only then should one become a part of this world. He realized experientially “that God Himself has become the universe and all living beings, that He is not outside the world.”

Sri Ramakrishna never stepped out of his community to preach, but his chief disciple, Swami Vivekananda, was to travel all over the world and become an instrument to spread his master’s teachings. Swamiji’s contributions are too many to list here, but to him goes the credit for equating the worship of God with service to mankind. He believed that Karma Yoga could best be performed by seeing God in others and serving them, especially those who were under-privileged, the poor and the needy.

In the words of Swami Vivekananda, “after so much tapasya (spiritual discipline), I have understood this as the highest truth: God is present in every being. There is no other goal besides that. He who serves all beings serves God indeed.”

The more one studies Swami Vivekananda’s teachings, the more one realizes that they express the essence of Vedanta.

(read more)

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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.

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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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