Sunday Service: The Power of Pilgrimage

Peter in Vrindavan

Week of Sept 7 – 13, 2014

As I plan my next trip to Asia, I am reminded of the power of pilgrimage.

Many of us think of pilgrimages as a religious duty, or as glorified sightseeing. But they can be much more than that; they can be an opportunity for spiritual growth.

Serious people have long visited spiritual pilgrimage sites even when they have given up the need to sightsee. That’s because many spiritual sites are charged with the energy of hundreds, thousands or even millions of people who have been in touch with their higher self. A trip to one of these spiritual-charged places, if you are sufficiently receptive to it, can open up new opportunities for spiritual insight.

Or so great spiritual people have said. When I visited Jayrambati (birthplace of Sarada Devi) and Kamarpukur (birthplace of Sri Ramakrishna) in 2012, holy sites in India, I was not so convinced that there was any real power to pilgrimage. But I was open to the possibility, and to my surprise there was something to this truth about holy places. This week we bring you an essay I wrote while staying in Kamarpukur about my early experiments with pilgrimage.

I hope the essay will encourage you to think seriously about trying your hand and pilgrimage, too, and seeing if there really is something to this idea of spiritually-charged places.

Peter Kowalke


VrindabanThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

The Power of Pilgrimage

By Peter Kowalke

What is holy?

I’ve been visiting lots of “holy” places in and around Calcutta the past few weeks, 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.

(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 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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