All the blog posts and comments in this blog are personal views and opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Vedanta Society of Providence.


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Sunday, December 21, 2014

PRAYER & Its Power

by Chinmaya

Climbing a flight of 200 stairs, as Surya reached the Shiva Temple at the peak of Mt. Bhupati, he reverentially stepped inside the shrine, kneeled down and with folded hands started chanting various prayer hymns to Lord Shiva. While chanting though, his mind felt ruffled; thoughts of his ailing mother at home and his ensuing Law exam kept him worried. Finishing the hymns, he started conversing with Lord Shiva, quite spontaneously and naturally, as if talking to an intimate acquaintance. He spoke about his mother’s illness and his exam, asking for Lord’s help. Very soon a deep sense of peace and assurance filled him… and he wondered – were those conversations indeed his prayers?

What is a prayer? Our inner concerns, feelings, desires when directed towards God usually gets called as prayers. Often this act of prayer is accompanied by gifts of flowers, fruits, wealth etc.

What makes us pray? Firstly, a firm conviction in God’s capacity to resolve our problems or satiate our desires plus a belief that God would “listen”.  Often this trust comes from “love” but could also be due to fear or influenced by social norms.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fortunately No God Around

By Seeker

In his Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna class (12/16/2014, Tuesday) class, Swamiji emphatically said, "We are more fortunate than the people around Sri Ramakrishna." I cannot fathom the import of that statement. With great difficulty I imagine the form of Sri Ramakrishna in meditation. Many times this imagination may not be stable and attempts have to be made repeatedly to focus well so that the act of "seeing" Him becomes natural and uninterrupted. I wonder sometimes, when will this imagination be alive (i.e., the deity meditated upon responds to you continuously as any other person around you would do in your daily activity)? When will it happen? Some of you may imagine of His being alive much more concretely than I could do (as some of my fellow class-students revealed to me), nevertheless it is only a stronger imagination (although commendable).

In the midst of these struggles, if someone told me, all I have to do is to open my eyes and I will see Him, what more could I ask for? And the more wonderful surprise if I am told that I can not only see Him, but also talk to Him and even listen to Him! And furthermore, I am told that I can actually even serve Him by offering food or other essentials (if He accepts them)! After you have been told all that, you are also then told curtly, "You know what? You are actually more fortunate now by imagining Him. So forget this notion of actually seeing, listening to, talking to, serving Him." How would that go with you?

Friday, October 31, 2014

In defense of Dr. Sarkar

by Seeker

According to the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Girish Ghosh declares that even the feces of Sri Ramakrishna, whom he considered an incarnation, were very pure. To this, Dr. Sarkar replies that he is never bothered by the human feces and it is same to him whatever be its source. With his expertise in medicine, he could truly see it as just a material. We often categorize the objects into "pure" and "impure" and steadfastly hold on to this fictitious dichotomy. We ought to be aware of this demarcation as far as their utility is concerned, but without forgetting the substratum underlying this duality. Sometimes this compartmentalization takes a morbid turn of respecting a reverential person at the cost of hurting an ordinary person. It is also not uncommon amongst devotees to treat someone, who has not followed their own methods of devotion or does not cherish their ideals, as someone who needs to redeemed although this person may be more spiritually elevated than themselves due to his/her having followed a "secular" path sincerely. It could be argued that Dr. Sarkar, through his dedication in material research, had come to some state of equanimity that was perhaps absent in many other devotees, nevertheless he was and will be treated as a "kid" amongst the "adults" for having taken the unconventional path of science to reach that state. An illustration in Sri Ramakrishna's life:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tasting Which Nothing Else Tastes Better

By Moomookshoo

The inspiration for this poem comes from  the meeting between Swami Vivekananda and Robert G. Ingersoll described on page 186 of the second volume of Complete Works. However, this poem is not a historical account of that meeting. Instead, it describes an imaginary journey of a man from the "orange" world view to the "mango" world view. The title is based on Gita 6.22.

Tasting Which Nothing Else Tastes Better

Once in the olden times,
Somewhere in the Western climes,
There was a very good and learned man,
A very intelligent and "rational" man.
He worshiped "reason" in every season,
Any deviation from reason, for him, was treason!
He was very happy and content with his "world",
Which he thought was very "rational" and "bold".
He thought his world was complete and whole,
Unfortunately,  he left out his very own soul!

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Working Hypothesis from Retreat on Patanjali's Way

by Charlie

I learned an important lesson from Pravrajika Gitaprana's retreat on Patanjali's Way. Up until now I have felt that I needed to have proof of such things as Thakur being an Avatara or meditation leading to God-realization. I have felt that without proof, I could not accept these things. I have never felt comfortable with the idea of faith, or belief without proof.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Third Twin

By a Wanderer
(A story with fictional characters in real setting) 
We are twin sisters. She loves roaming, and I love eating. Recently, we attended a retreat by a Swami in Rochester. I was promised that the food will be awesome and evening dessert will be the best. We both sisters were attending the classes. However, my mind was always dreaming of the next meal. One evening I couldn't resist the delicious desert and ate more than I should. Next morning, my stomach was bothering. Just to divert my attention from stomach pain, I attended the class. Swami: “We perceive the world with our senses and mind. Senses have limited strength, and the mind is clouded by desires and wants. As I change, the world view changes. Our awareness governs our behavior. Limitations of senses need to be felt penetratingly. Senses cannot take us any further. Following the senses will lead to suffering. God cannot be perceived by senses. God cannot be subject of physical science.”

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Snake and the Mantra

 By a Wanderer

(Phew, what a relief! It's not the same “Snake and Rope”)

In the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Ramakrishna tells a parable of a snake to explain how to deal with the wicked.
He says, “A man living in society should make a show of anger to protect himself from evil-minded people. But he should not harm anybody."
The primary message from this story is clear, “You must hiss at wicked people. You must frighten them, lest they should do you harm. But never inject your venom into them. One must not injure others.”
Interestingly, this short parable also talks about importance of repetition of Holy Name (Japa) as discussed below.

Friday, August 15, 2014

When Death Met Its Death

 by Disciple

Kathopanishad's protagonist is a young boy Nachiketa, who on account of being honest, proceeds to face his own death embodied as Yama. Curiously, Yama was missing at his abode, perhaps aware of the portending meeting with this prodigy. Having been made to wait for three nights without food (makes us wonder whether we see day/night and need food after death), Yama as a gesture of making it up to Nachiketa, agreed to grant three boons, one for each night that he had waited.

Nachiketa was either smart as he did not ask the boons in reverse order of what he had actually asked or he made spiritual progress very fast seeing through the true nature of things (so we were told). As first boon, which itself is an intelligent concatenation of multiple wishes, he made sure he will go back to his father alive who would be pacified and also recognize him.  As second boon, he wanted to know the method to attain heaven to enjoy happiness. Yama graciously gives two extra boons here: naming this method by the name Nachiketa besides granting a garland to him.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A New Time Share

By a Wanderer  (A story with fictional characters in real setting)

We were all set to go for our yearly vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We have a beautiful time share right on the beach. I, my wife, three kids and two dogs; we were all excited. Everything was going according to plan until last week. Right before our departure, an unexpected series of events forced us to cancel the whole trip.  Everything fell apart.

While searching for an alternative, I came across a sign board for a retreat “Meditate-A-Thon” - a two-day residential meditation retreat at Vedanta Society of Providence. I registered for both of us. This was the first summer when we were doing something without kids. My wife was reluctant to attend, but in the end she agreed to participate.

Retreat began with Swamiji's short talk. Thought of long meditation sessions gave me shivers down my spine (unfortunately it was not awakening of Kundalini). I was uneasy but couldn’t talk because of silent retreat. At last, I decided to deal with - 'I' and 'my mind'. Two days of complete silence. Slowly, serenity of the environment took over. I determined to stay instead of running away.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Spiritual Retreat for Youth: Lessons Learned

By Ankur Chiplunkar (participant in Youth Retreat held at Vedanta Society of Providence, July 25-27, 2014)

This retreat has been a great success for me. The topic of Buddha’s Noble Eight Fold path was very appealing, leading to enriching discussions and wisdom. The best part I liked about this approach is that it is very practical! Difficult, but not impossible. The beauty of the approach is that you can apply it to your day to day activities, making you very efficient and productive at your daily tasks. At the same time, this approach can be applied to the bigger picture of attaining liberation and help you organize and execute your spiritual progress plan.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Insights from the Young Adult Retreat

By Rohan (participant in Youth Retreat held at Vedanta Society of Providence, July 25-27, 2014)


1.    “Noble” comes from Arya Satyam, meaning “deliberate, elevated, wisdom, and finesse.” The definition of Noble is fitting for the title “Noble Eightfold Path.” It clarifies that life should be lived on the Path deliberately, consciously, and with thought into each action. Successfully staying on the path is only achieved by being present in the moment of thoughts and actions.  It is by way of overcoming the instinctive or animalistic life: one that is stimulated only by external forces, and is reactive.

It is difficult, not impossible.

2.    The Four Truths are:

a.    There is suffering.
b.    There is a cause.
c.    There is a state of infinite peace, and it can be achieved by removed by removing the cause of suffering.
d.    This can be achieved through life on the Eightfold Path.

Meditate-a-thon 2014

The residential long meditation retreat was held at Vedanta Society from 6:00 PM Aug. 01 (Fri.) to 1:00 PM Aug. 03 (Sun.). 17 people including Swami Yogatmanandaji participated in this retreat. The retreat constituted meditation from 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM on Friday, 5:30 AM to 9:30 PM on Saturday and 5:30 AM to 12:300 noon on Sunday with short breaks in between. The participants will present their thoughts, opinions and feedback on this retreat as comments to this post.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Quantifying Dukkha

By Atreya (participant in Youth Retreat held at Vedanta Society of Providence, July 25-27, 2014)
Having read books by Swami Vivekananda, it is very difficult to resist the temptation of - giving up the worldly life and taking up the life of a monk. This spiritual retreat, under the guidance of Swami Yogatmananda, provided a balanced learning experience. It helped me gain better control of my emotions, behavior and actions while humbly reminding that we have lot more to know about this universe.

Walking the noble eightfold path, encompassing Samyak- drishti (view), Sankalpa (intention), Vac (speech), Karmanta (action), Ajiva (livelihood), Vyayama (effort), Smriti (midfulness) and Samadhi (concentration), we can completely eradicate Dukkha from our life. As any other powerful tool, these are difficult to master. These are to be practised simultaneously like spokes of a wheel.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Youth Retreat Thoughts

By Ratana  (participant in Youth Retreat held at Vedanta Society of Providence, July 25-27, 2014)

During this retreat we went over the Noble Eight Fold Path. This is a system used by the Buddhists to control one's mind. The ultimate goal of this path is to attain release from suffering. In order to reach the goal we are instructed to follow the right wisdom, ethical conduct, and concentration.

To begin on the path, we must first realize that suffering is an unavoidable part of life. No matter how much we try to fix the world, suffering will always be a part of it. Therefore, we must turn inwards and adjust our own perception. We have to WANT to be free from suffering - this is what is meant by having the right view.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Logical Extension

By BeJoy

What are dreams made of? Is dream furniture made of wood, nails and fabric? Are dream people made of flesh and blood? How preposterous is that! We all know dream objects are not for real, they are made of mind-stuff.

Now what stuff is the real world made of? That cup I see on my desk, what stuff is it made of? Actually, what I see is nothing but light of different shades and hues as presented to the retinas in my eyes. Beyond that, the cup is indeed a bunch of electrical signals through the nerves. Do we know what those neural currents look like? A further hodgepodge of processing in the brain and -Voila!- the cup shows up in the mind! The cup exists only in the mind. And it is made purely of mind-stuff, the same stuff that dreams are made of. Indeed the whole world exists only in the mind!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Two Hikers and a Porter

By a Porter

On a sunny day, the porter came to the base of the mountain with his mule. Today two hikers were his customers.

While hiking, he found their conversation a little boring because they were not talking about sports, politics or any kind of gossip. They were joyfully talking about a person called ‘Sri Ramakrishna’ and now and then referring to a thick book that they were carrying.

Curious porter continued to listen to these simple, loving and joyful hikers. As time went by he started enjoying their association and spiritual conversations. 

On the way back, hikers took a break to meditate in the woods. Porter also sat with them imitating but could not still his mind. He miserably failed to calm it down. This was the first time he came face to face with the rebellious inner world. He became anxious and wanted to know more …..

After a while conversation continued….

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Comment on "Mysticism of Sound and Music" class (Tuesday, July 08, 2014)

by Srikanth S.

I have some points for discussion regarding Tuesday's class on "Mysticism of sound and music" and hopefully someone may get interested to drop in his/her views about these.
Swamiji presented that the sense of taste is more or less available in all, whereas the sense for music is not. I humbly disagree with this view. Over 99% of humanity listens to some kind of music but only the genres differ. So one who likes classical music will find it difficult to appreciate rock music and vice versa. Similarly not everyone likes a particular food item. Some foods can be appreciated only after taste has been acquired over repeated attempts. So the sense of appreciation of music and taste is prevalent amongst almost all, but only they are directed towards a particular kind in each human being. Swamiji supported his viewpoint, stating that the nuances of musical notes are lost on many untrained people. But the same can be said about taste also: many nuances of taste in the food are lost to the untrained people. Just like there are virtuosos in music, so there are in taste field too: the big bucks that restaurants pay to such trained minds in taste is a pointer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Religious Liberty, Equality, and Solidarity Revisited

by Charlie (Prana) Feldman

A while ago, I sent in a blog entry on religions and the archetypes of liberty, equality and solidarity. I now think I can simplify this by saying that Hinduism emphasizes liberty, or freedom to choose from many paths toward God-realization; Buddhism emphasizes equality, in that we are all said to be potential Buddhas; and the Abrahamic religions emphasize solidarity, saying that loyalty to the given path (and interpretation of scripture or ecclesiastical body) is the best or only way to attain God's favor.

This ties in with the Vedantic idea that different religions suit people of different tendencies.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Particle World: ONE, two, ... Creation

By Abhijit

My friend, much has been talked about the "free" electron. Such an electron flew unrestrained, undetected, ever-oblivious of the world.  Without the world, there was no me nor mine; no knower or known; no creation, nor non-creation. "What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping?" The Veda reveals: "tadānīm!"

My friend, much has been talked about the electron-proton bond. The electron slowly opened up her eyes to the undeniable presence of the distant proton. O what Rajas came about! The bounty of happiness was full of promise. Yet there was the relentless drag of inertia..... And thus began the story of (+) and (-), of harmony and chaos, of states and transitions. And sure enough, from duality came multiplicity and from thence, my friend, came you and me and all this.

But much was talked about as to "why" and "how" could the freedom depart and bondage arrive. Indeed, there was a lot of fuss. But the wise one, with closed eyes, retreating deep within, left behind only a smile, curious and glowing. The Veda reveals: "tadānīm!" The Ganges tide of pure bliss is ever ablaze; it can still be seen.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kabir Mala (a garland of Sant Kabir's couplets)

by Moomookshoo

Sant Kabir Dasji (c. 1398/1440 - 1518 CE) is undoubtedly one of the greatest Vedantic poets of all time. There are many references to Kabir Dasji in the Gospel and the Complete Works. The following is a humble attempt to render some of Kabir Dasji's couplets into English. The original couplets are given within "/* */".  The poetic depth and the enchanting play of words of Kabir Dasji's couplets are hard to translate. These are best appreciated in his  original inimitable words.

1. /* Kabira va din yaad kar, pug oopar tal sheesh
Mirta lokme aayeke bishar gaya Jagdeesh

Kabir, remember the day of your birth,
When you came to this sorrowful earth,
Head first and feet last,
Forgetting the Lord and your past!
[cf. Gita 4.5 and 9.33]

 2. /* Raat gavaya soye ke, divas gavaya khae,
       Hira janaam amol tha kauri badle jae

The night was lost sleeping,
And the day was lost eating.
Thus, the life that could have bought the Priceless,
Was spent on  things that are worthless!
[cf. Gita  5.22 and 7.23]

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sri Ramakrishna’s Teachings

By Ben Baker

(Originally given as a speech at the Vedanta Society of Providence at the  Symposium on Sri Ramakrishna’s Birthday Celebration March 2, 2014)

I’m a student of philosophy and law, and my approach to Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings and other topics often discussed in this center is fairly conceptual. Those who have heard me speak before will correctly guess that this talk will try to shape in theoretical space something we learn from and about Sri Ramakrishna. But, I’ll try not to let things get so abstract that they float away out of sight.

At its broadest, the question I want to explore is just one version of a most fundamental one for anyone moved by Sri Ramakrishna’s life and teachings; how does one properly understand the idea of the Self? Anyone who has seriously sat and thought about it knows that the Self, conceptually, is a slippery thing. Both in ordinary language and in the words of wise and spiritual individuals, the term “Self” seems to capture different things at different times, and even at a given time it proves difficult to precisely delineate the boundaries of one’s “Self.” Today I’d like to hone in on the idea of Self, not by building or defending a fully comprehensive definition, but by describing three different perspectives from which to view the Self. To my mind, each of these visions of Self has its own validity to it, and all three can be readily drawn from the words and actions of Sri Ramakrishna. It is worth considering each of these descriptions of “Self” in turn, since they each carry an important lesson that we can use in our own journey through life, guiding us, in the spirit of Sri Ramakrishna, towards Self-realization. He maintains firmly that Self-realization is our ultimate goal, and in his overflowing kindness and humanity he would do what he can to lead us there, but we are quite liable to lose our way if we are conflicted in our ideas about what the Self is (before we even come to ask what it is to realize the Self).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


by Candace Breen

We are all one,
Our blood runs
Together like the rivers and streams.

Although our tongues,
May differ,
We all speak
The same language of love.

Our shades of skin,
Are a tribute to
The beauty
That is God
Represented in each of us.

We are not,
Our ever-changing bodies
But spirits entwined
In harmonious dancing.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mantra in the Method of Discernment

By Kaivalyam

Some of us are breaking the ice literally these days, so I thought why not do it figuratively on this blog?

We are aware of the usage and utility of “mantra” (sacred formula or phrase) in spirituality. Technically mantra means “manaḥ trāyate iti” (“that which frees the mind”). Therefore, although mantra is usually associated with a deity in the path of devotion, the common phrases used in the path of discernment: “I am not the body/mind” or in positive sense, “I am the Existence, Consciousness, Bliss, Absolute,” etc., could also be called mantra.

While the repetition of mantra definitely has its utility , it is so abstract that it doesn’t sink in that deeply in our mind in the initial the stages of its usage. Also, some of these mantras have been overused to appear as cliché with no special impact on the one who practices it. So while the repetition of mantra, along with corresponding feelings to generate devotion to the deity or dispassion for the objects of this world, should be done, one could also look for a more detailed simple mantra that would have a direct impact on one’s mind.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

One year completion: Report

By Moderator

Happy New Year!

It was about one year ago we began this blog and since then there has been some significant interest and contribution from many people. A report on how this blog was received by all is being given here. This is being done mainly to disseminate the fact that your articles and comments are being widely read.

The total number of visits in 2013 was 7705 (excluding the visits by moderator). Sometimes these visits are by internet bots and even if we consider a conservative estimate of 50% as spurious visits, over 3600 visits in a year of its inception is still a pleasant surprise (i.e. an average of 10 per day).

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Universal Archetypes Applied to Religion

by Charles Feldman (Prana)

Political tendencies may support liberty (the libertarians), equality (the communists) and solidarity (the reactionaries). Most religions contain all three of these archetypal values. 

The Dharmic religions seek the ultimate liberty in freedom from the finite, or living with God eternally, while the Semitic religions preach free will to accept or reject God's scripture, which leads to the freedom of eternal heaven if accepted. The Buddha preached liberty when he said we should each be lamps unto ourselves.