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Friday, June 28, 2019

Kul Bhusan Chaudhary ‘Bush’ – A Friend of Vedanta Society Passes Away

By Swami Yogatmananda, Minister, Vedanta Society of Providence

‘Namaskar, Swamiji’ – Kul Bhusan Chaudhary was on phone. ‘There is a festival in the Providence today, where different ethnic groups will be gathering and will be displaying the exhibits about their culture, arts, history & so forth. It will be nice if you can come. I can pick you up, when you are ready’.

It was the summer of 2001. I had been in Providence then barely for two months. This gentleman had met me just one or two times before at Vedanta Society, when he had come primarily to meet my predecessor, Revered Swami Sarvagatananda. He introduced me to ‘Bush’. Just one brief meeting was enough for us to form a cordial bond of friendship. He offered to introduce me to the socio-cultural backdrop of Rhode Island/ Providence and the Indian Community here. I was quick to take this offer. He opened many windows for me; it was a difficult task during my initial days here in US, to get culturally adopted to the new paradigms. But Kul Bhusan made things easier for me. 

He taught me how to walk on snowy, icy sidewalks around with less chance of slipping. ‘no, no – watch me – you have to step on the fluffy snow and avoid those shiny patches’ – was a simple tip he gave that saved me many a nasty fall. He asked me to come for the first Indian Classical Sitar concert at the India Museum hall at Telle St. Our talks ranged from the American political system, interaction between religions, the lessons of 9/11 terrorist attacks, nuances of American English, … down to how to use a dishwasher most efficiently.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Spiritual Retreat at the Vedanta Society

By Suprabha Tripathi, Ph.D.
(The author and her husband live in Colorado, and she visits her daughter, Tara, at Brown University during the summer months.  Suprabha serves as Sr. Director, NTT Data Services.)

Swamiji’s persuasive nature prodded me to attend the first ever Spiritual Retreat in my life.  The Retreat presented an opportunity to explore something new.   I was initially reluctant to attend but now at a certain phase of my life, the Retreat presented itself as an offering that was left to be taken.  I hemmed and hawed, not wanting to open myself up so.  After inquiring about my daughter’s schedule and Swami Yogatmananada’s urging, I decided to indulge myself in the pleasures of a Retreat.  

Our honored guest, Swami Kripayamayanandaji from Toronto, expounded on two discourses.  The information he shared was not unknown perhaps to most of us.  Yet in his words there was an element of clarity and awakening that led to an interesting Q and A session, providing insight between the seekers of knowledge and the knowledgeable.  My takeaway was simple.  Seeing the divine in others is a conscious decision.  It is intentional and enlightening.  It seemed as I sat there, years of loneliness and emptiness melted away. I felt younger and lighter as I walked out that day.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Black Hole

By Atreya Chatterjee

(The author is Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from Brown University and is currently a post-doctoral research  fellow at Harish-Chandra Research Institute (HRI), Prayagraj. chatterjeeatreya@gmail.com)

Nature has strange ways of attracting our attention towards the truth. Black hole lies at the heart of many converging streams of knowledge starting from physics, mathematics, computer science, information theory, “artificial” intelligence, linguistics and probably many more.

General relativity, discovered by Einstein, is theory of gravity. Our first encounter with black hole was in 1916 when Karl Schwarzschild found a prediction of the phenomenon. David Finkelstein in 1958, interpreted this prediction as a spherical ball in space from which not even light can escape, hence “black”. Everything can go inside but nothing can come out of it, hence “hole”. Boundary of this ball is called Event horizon. As a faraway observer looks closer and closer to the horizon, time slows down, events happen slower and slower. Ultimately, time stops flowing at the horizon! So this is the horizon of all events or happenings. Radius of this ball is called Schwarzschild radius.

This already sounds so fascinating! But real story begins now. Since things can go inside but cannot come out, information of in-going object is lost. As if black hole can wipe out information from nature. This is a big problem. One thing we all feel is that nature (events in the universe) is smooth and continuous. If today’s temperature is 20C tomorrow will be between 18C to 22C and not 0C or 40C. Changes happen in small steps. But if information is lost then there is no meaning of continuity. If nature forgets that yesterday was 20C then it will not know where to go today!! On one hand nature seems to have information of the past, on the other hand black holes seems to wipe out information. This is the tension.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Story Time -- Are You Crabby?

By Prasoona

There was once a crab seller, who would export the best crabs across the world. What impressed the people that received these imports was how they were packed - a dozen crabs in a long cylindrical metal canister WITHOUT a lid! No one could figure out as to how the exact number of crabs as ordered were unerringly present in the canister. Finally one person couldn't hold his curiosity any more, and so traveled the distance to meet the crab seller. Mr. Curious asked the seller, "Sir, I have been purchasing your crabs all these years. Please enlighten me about your packaging technique. Every time we receive the canister, my team counts the number of crabs hoping that at least one would be missing, but alas! How, without a lid, are you able to send them with the confidence that all of them would reach the destination?" The seller smiling, picked up a shipping metal canister and tucked in about a dozen crabs that would just fill half the tube, set it aside on the deck and said, "just watch!"  A crab in the canister started to crawl up the tube, but much before it would reach the top of the tube, the crabs from underneath would pull it down! Another crab would attempt similarly, only to meet the same fate. Only a package with just one crab would need a lid to keep it in!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Christmas 2017: Karma Yoga in Sri Ramakrishna's Room, Part Two

By Vivek

Lesson learnt: Spilling water in a holy place of pilgrimage may make a priest angry 
As I was counting my blessings, devotees continued to file into the small room to pay their respects, to sit a while, but only to be reminded by the temple priest to not stay too long. Sometime after, as I got up to throw out a bit of trash that a devotee had dropped, my water bottle fell open and water splashed across the floor and onto the sarees of some devotees, who needless to say, cried out in alarm. However, I was a tad more concerned about the mess I had caused in Sri Ramakrishna's room, probably as a result of my clumsiness (which was strange, since I am obsessive compulsive about tightening water bottle lids … among other things). And whether I had unwittingly desecrated the sacred room. And about the temple priest glaring at me in visible disgust.

Divine Grace/Guidance: A Karma Yoga opportunity dawns: A glaring priest can't make me cry over spilt water
However alarm quickly changed into enthusiasm as an opportunity to do devoted service to Sri Ramakrishna presented itself. I quickly asked for a cloth to clean up the spill. This was reluctantly fetched from behind a usually closed door that I could peek into and I think (unsure) was the Holy Mother’s Nahabat, which I had unsuccessfully looked for earlier. I spent the next few minutes on all fours thoroughly and happily cleaning up the floor, never having imagined in my life I would be given an opportunity  to do ‘seva’ to Sri Ramakrishna in this manner. I stopped only when I was told to … having mopped more of the floor than had been wettened. I  thought in passing of asking the priest if I could do the whole room, but feared being kicked out.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Christmas 2017: Karma Yoga in Sri Ramakrishna's Room, Part One

By Vivek

As a volunteer at the Vedanta Society in my younger days, I used to look forward to contributing my bit to weekend Karma Yoga sessions when we spruced up our place of worship. On Christmas Day (Monday, December 25, 2017), I had a chance to do just that in Sri Ramakrishna’s room, in which I also spent 4 hours (by His and the Divine Mother's Will and Grace), while visiting the Dakshineshwar Kali temple amidst teeming Christmas weekend crowds. That Monday morning, I set out for Dakshineshwar, planning to spend as much time as I could in Sri Ramakrishna’s room in the corner of the awe-inspiring temple complex.

Early morning ferry: Belur to Dakshineshwar to beat the crowds
I had been warned by many about the throngs of devotees who would visit the temple that day, and of the long lines that would ensue. I reached the Ferry Ghat near Belur Math after being treated to a hearty Christmas breakfast at the Belur Math Guest House before 8:00 a.m. It was a pleasant surprise to find myself the lone voyager across the Ganges/Ganga on an empty government ferry. The early morning crowds at the temple were sparse and the entrance lines nice, thin and short. I was comfortably settled in my little corner of Sri Ramakrishna’s little corner of the temple by 8:45 a.m. or so, planning not to lose the spot at least for the next several hours or until kicked out in accordance with the ‘DO NOT SPEND TOO MUCH TIME IN THIS ROOM’ policy boldly displayed on the notice board.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

From Day-Dreaming to Meditation

Blog Administrator’s Note:  We are making an exception to the usual blog policy to share this short article by Swami Yogatmananda, with his permission. We encourage all to read it.

Summary: In this short essay, Swami Yogatmananda expands on the spiritual journey that culminates in God realization. We may frequently get off track when pursuing this journey by fantasizing and daydreaming about how our everyday lives could be different. Daydreaming is a fruitless effort, in that, as even Freud pointed out, it is not possible to fulfill desires in this way. In daydreaming, we are seeking to fulfill desires that are unreal, and as we keep expanding our desires, our lives increasing become filled with frustration. Like meditation, and unlike nighttime dreaming, day dreaming occurs while we are conscious and capable of using our awareness. Yet, by shifting the focus from that which is unreal to that which is Real, meditation enables us to use the imagination to attain God Realization, the journey’s ultimate Goal.