Sunday Service: Road Trip

Andre and Peter

Week of July 26 – Aug 1, 2015

Vedanta is not about the truth of a particular guru, a particular religion, or a particular geographic place. It aims for universal truth; truth that is true everywhere and at all times.

Yet, any serious study of Vedanta will eventually lead back to India–and probably sooner rather than later.

That’s because Vedanta is the foundation of Indian culture, and so many great Vedanta thinkers have been born there. At this point it also attracts those interested in Vedanta because the focus runs so deep.

Visiting India can be a challenging experience for the first-time visitor, however; it is physically challenging, even if it becomes a little more sanitized every year.

Back in 2011, I was living and working at the Ramakrishna Mission in Delhi when a tall Brazilian walked into the monastery. He was experienced with Vedanta, and in fact he knew the Vedanta devotional songs much better than I did. But he was new to India–and it showed.

This week we bring you a spiritual talk I wrote in 2011 about meeting this Brazilian and taking a road trip with him to Agra, Jaipur, and the spiritually-famous Vrindavan, which is where the Hindu God, Krishna, was supposedly born. The more I traveled with this devotee, the more I realized that just visiting India can be a spiritual discipline unto itself.


Peter Kowalke


Peter Kowalke and Andre with the SwamiThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

Road Trip

By Peter Kowalke

One day last week a burley, good-natured Brazilian man stepped into the bookstore and asked for directions. We get lots of visiting monks and lay devotees at our monastery, this being India’s capital city, so I thought nothing of it. But 24 hours later I was in a private car with this man, embarking on a weeklong road trip to Vrindavan, Agra and Jaipur.

It all happened so fast. I showed him the cyber café. I discovered he was staying at the monastery. I discovered we were staying in the same room. He went with me to get an Indian cell phone plan. He booked a car and a private driver. He invited me along. Thus began the road trip.

I took to Andre quickly partially because this is his first visit to India, and everyone needs a friend their first time here. The economist John Kenneth Galbraith once described India as functional anarchy, and he wasn’t even addressing the physical hardships of the place. India is a wonderful country, and I’d argue it is the spiritual capital of the world. But comfortable it is not.

First, there is the hygiene. Nothing is clean. The floors are dirty, and you often go without shoes. The walls of buildings, the tea cups, the necessary Bislari bottled water is covered with dust or grime. The air smells of body odor, curry and burnt trash (although this is getting better with Westernization), and for some reason there is construction rubble around even the upscale shopping malls. You eat with your fingers and don’t use toilet paper in the bathrooms. I always get sick. Always.

Second, there is the population, the poverty, and the influence this exerts on social interactions. India is the second most populous country in the world behind China, with 1.21 billion people, and more than half of these people are below the poverty line. Indian society does an amazing job keeping the peace, but there are people everywhere and they all want something. This has facilitated the functional anarchy Galbraith talked about, with a hurried everyone-grab-what-they-can bustle mixed with cheap, can-do creative solutions. You’ll lose your hat if you don’t stay sharp and quick here.

Third, there is the inconsistency.

(read more)


Video of the Week

Purposeful Living with Vedanta

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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