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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Dr. Lewis Janes, a Son of Providence: "Philosopher, Patriot, Lover of Man," Part 1 of 3

By Fred Richardson

In the early years of Swami Vivekananda’s time in America there were a number of individuals who stood out in their support of his Mission. Some of them are well known to us, while others appear more in the background and are perhaps less appreciated. One of these individuals was Dr. Lewis G. Janes. His name comes up occasionally in books and letters in relation to Swamiji, but who was he and what role did he play in the establishment of the message: “Truth is One, Sages call it by various names”?

Dr. Janes was born in Providence RI in 1844 to a family with deep roots in New England who espoused the values of freedom and equality for all. They were adherents to Emerson’s Transcendentalism, the Abolitionist movement to end slavery, and the Universalist Church with its main principle of the “Inherent Worth and Dignity of every person.” He was educated in Providence and matriculated at Brown University. He was unable to complete his degree due to illness but was a self-taught scholar who in 1895 received an Honorary Master’s Degree from Brown for his intellectual achievements. Prior to this he had been the President of the Brooklyn Ethical Cultural Society and belonged to the Free Religious Association where he was “devoted to the spirit of free inquiry.” 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Some Reflections on ‘Science and Religion’ by Swami Ranganathananda (Part 2 of 3)

By Ezenwa Onwugbenu 

In recent centuries, dogma-based religions have been eclipsed by a more scientific worldview. However, the triumphant sciences have not strictly held fast to the spirit of free inquiry. Rather, in not-so-subtle ways, the sciences have put on the same inflexible modes of mind characteristic of the authoritarian creeds of old. I think we see this most clearly in the medical sciences. Let me illustrate this with two points.

First: Modern, science-based medicine operates on the peculiar idea that only synthetic compounds are to be used in drug therapy. This dictum ought to be considered a mere “article of faith” or “creed” because it has absolutely no scientific basis.

If you enter the word “turmeric” into the search engine on PubMed.gov, a biomedical research database, you will find thousands of research articles on this herb. A collative study of this literature reveals that certain compounds in turmeric, known as curcuminoids, have over 250 pharmacological actions and a therapeutic effect on over 900 diseases and absolutely zero side effects. Other common herbs like ginger, beetroot, and neem also yield a good amount of research evidence, in both animal and human studies.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Young Adult Retreat Reflections 2021

By Kanna Pichappan

The discussion of “Who Am I?”, our young adult retreat topic, began three days before the retreat when Swami Yogatmanandaji sent us the study material: Swami Vivekananda’s lecture, “The Real Nature of Man.” The packed schedule of the retreat, featuring lectures by Swami Yogatmanandaji, Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, and a stroll in the park, left minimal time for our minds to wander elsewhere and kept us focused on spiritual growth. My sincere thanks go to Swami Yogatmanandaji, the volunteers who worked tirelessly, and my fellow devotees for their wonderful company! I truly appreciate the love and care that everyone at the Vedanta Society of Providence showered on us! 

A few learnings from the retreat:

  • W. asked, “Am I my body”? Our body is nothing but processed food… So, is “I”=Body=processed food?

This idea was monumental for me because it prompted me to ask: Am I a combination of rice, dahl, and pancakes?

  • If we have no body, it means we were never born and will never die. The purpose of our body is to serve as an instrument for God’s work. We discussed that instruments, such as cars and machinery, don’t become attached to the work they are doing. In the same way, we can do work while (1) knowing that the work does not belong to us, and (2) not becoming attached to the results of the work.

The implications of this seem tremendous! The vast majority of my worry and misery stem from association with “me and mine” (ex: my college applications, my reputation). It seems that if I can do the work but not associate the results with myself, our fear and sorrow can vanish!

Friday, September 3, 2021

Some Reflections on 'Science and Religion' by Swami Ranganathananda (Part 1 of 3)

By Ezenwa Onwugbenu 

I have recently been reading a book titled Science and Religion. It is a transcript of two lectures given by Revered Swami Ranganathananda. It is a thought-provoking study to say the least. Here are a few initial reflections.

First: Positivistic science and dogmatic religion are two sides of the same coin, in that both are doctrinal systems that obstruct a free, broad-minded search for Truth. The doctrine of positivistic science broadly denies the existence of the metaphysical, and the doctrine of dogmatic religion broadly denies the direct experience of the metaphysical. The end result is that both systems firmly bind man to the sense plane of experience. The scientist merely gathers and classifies sense data. The religious man merely believes in stories beyond sense data. Both are comparably ignorant of the inner world of man. Both are comparably fixed to a set of inflexible, authoritative principles. The scientist limits all his search for truth to matter; and the religious man limits all his search for truth to one or more scriptures.

Second: Positivistic science and dogmatic religion are motions of cowardice. Both share a singular lack of courage to expand the domain of their inquiry, and this self-imposed limitation leads both into varied ruts of illogic. Let me give two examples: