Sunday Service: The Value of Spiritual Community

Peter Kowalke

Week of January 4 – 10, 2015

Happy New Year!

This year I spent New Year’s Eve in Vientiane, Laos. While my time in the Buddhist city of Vientiane is only lightly centered on spirituality, my larger six-month trip in Asia is almost entirely about spiritual community. Early in my trip I’m working with the Ramakrishna Vedanta Association of Thailand, and later in my trip–around April–I will be visiting Vedanta monasteries in Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and India.

Visiting these monasteries is basically about visiting family–my Vedanta family, both close family and distant family I hope to make close in the near future.

I am visiting these monasteries to better know my family–and to better connect and integrate the family in my life. This is important because my world can be filled with the spiritual or it can be filled with something far less wholesome; one way or another I will be surrounded people, culture and values. So it is important to make sure that the lion’s share of my time is spent in wholesome company and with wholesome community. The more that I connect with others who have committed to living their lives in a wholesome way, the more I am likely to also direct my energies on the wholesome.

There are other reasons to visit my spiritual family, too, of course–the holy sites I will visit, the spiritual guidance I will get, the service I can render, and other reasons. But the most important might be this subtle benefit from spending time around and identifying with people who live value-centered lives.

Not all of us have the opportunity to travel around to distant monasteries, however, or even to live in a place with a Vedanta community. That’s a big part of why we run American Vedanta–to help foster community and Vedanta in areas where there is less Vedanta community.

It also is the subject of our talk this week. Enjoy.

P.S. For those who are interested in learning more about my travels in Asia, a fuller account can be found on my personal web site,

Yours in service,


This Week’s Spiritual Talk

The Value of Spiritual CommunityNamaste

By Peter Kowalke

It is hard to overstate the value of spiritual community. Connecting with the divine is an inward process, completely free from external stimulus, but going inward can be tricky on an empty stomach—or when isolated and living in a world that is constantly, subtly promoting duality and distance from the divine.

While I advocate a nuanced view when it comes to gurus and spiritual guides—basically, always take responsibility for your own spiritual journey—I am not meaning guidance and community are not helpful. Guidance is vital for the serious spiritual seeker, even the “advanced” spiritual seeker (whatever that means).

So it is important that each of us tap into a community that directly addresses our spiritual path, whether our path is Vedanta, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, humanism or something else.

(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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