Coronavirus Alert: As of today, we are not cancelling any services/lectures but congregation members are advised to take care and use the sanitary measures displayed. Disinfecting liquids and wipes are kept in easy reach for all to make use of them.
ALSO, THE STATE HAS PROHIBITTED GATHERINGS OF OVER 25.
Our gatherings have been much smaller than that. after the outbreak of COVID 19. Most have switched to attending our classes, lectures live online. In the unlikely event of the number of people reaching 25, access will be closed. Also, people attending are asked to use the disinfecting measures and to sit with a good distance (6’ or so) from each other. Our hall has enough room to do that.
The upcoming day-long retreat of Sat April 4, is postponed till the situation becomes normal. Those who have registered and paid fee for the retreat can either keep it for the future retreat or can get it refunded.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: COVID 19 RELIEF
Many in the state are facing huge financial hardships due to business closures, loss of wages etc. Vedanta Society will offer some relief to such people. Please contact 401-421-3960 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment.
Weekly Schedule (in addition to Daily Schedule given below)
|Fri. March 20||7:00 – 8:45 pm: Arati, and Study Class on ‘Stories from Srimad Bhagavatam’ by Srikanth Srigiriraju
|Sat. March 21||8:30 – 10:30am: Karma Yoga (Cleaning & Work-service)
11:00am – 12:00 noon: Guided Meditation & prayers
|Sun. March 22||5:00-6:00 pm: Lecture: Sun lecture on The Karma Theory, by Prof Sukalyan Sengupta. Arati, meditation.
|Tue. March 24||7:00 – 8:45 pm: Arati, meditation and A talk on ‘Swami Saradananda’ by Prof. Sukalyan Sengupta|
|Morning||5:45 – 6:45 AM: Meditation
6:45 – 7:00 AM: Chanting followed by a short reading from The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda
7:00 – 7:25 AM: A short ritual worship/Puja. Open to all, but one must enter before 7 am
|Evening||(Except on Sundays)
7:00 – 7:15 PM: Aarti (devotional music), with a short reading from ‘Uniqueness of Sri Ramakrishna’ by Swami Bhuteshananda
7:15 – 8:00 PM: Meditation. Open to all.
Fri Mar 13: Birthday of Swami Yogananda direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna- was observed with a special chant in the morning, and the ‘birthday-song’ and biography reading in the evening.
Synopses of Past Classes
(All classes given by Swami Yogatmananda, unless otherwise stated)
Friday, March 13 – Study Class on Stories from Srimad Bhagavatam
Class 10: Gajendra Moksham (given by Srikanth Srigiriraju)
Self-surrender is the conscious process of surrendering one’s individuality to this higher entity called God, the creator, preserver, and destroyer of what we see. If we constantly remember God, we will cultivate devotion. As this attachment to God grows, we will feel eager to be with Him, and sorrow/pain at not being united with Him. Unfortunately, most of us only cultivate this attachment to God through misery. We should devote our energies to dreams and aspirations that will serve, not harm, our spiritual progress.
In this story, we see the transformation of the elephant Gajendra, a bull elephant proud of his physical strength (like we who are attached to the body). While bathing, Gajendra’s leg is caught in the jaws of a crocodile and the tug between the two creatures lasts for thousands of years. The elephant weakens physically and mentally; finally, Gajendra turns to God in his utter distress and helplessness, prays for liberation, and is granted liberation because he resigned himself to God’s will. As Swami Vivekananda said, “God helps those who don’t help themselves.”
As we cultivate more and more devotion to God, we begin to offer the fruits of actions to God and do not hanker for the results of our actions. Eventually, we will develop almost perfect self-control over our innate desires, though we will continue have some craving for sense objects. In the last stage of self-surrender to God, we have perfect self-control, have ceased to do self-effort, and wait patiently for God realization.
Sunday Service, March 15 – The Atman – A Philosophical Meditation – a talk by Swami Sarvapriyananda
There are three big ideas regarding the Atman:
1) The central teaching of Advaita Vedanta is Om, or That Thou Art: ‘That’ refers to God, and ‘Thou’ refers to the individual. A question arises: I am a little being. How can I be God? God is the consciousness associated with Maya, and Thou is the consciousness limited by individualized Maya. The same consciousness appears as God and the individual. This means that you are not flesh and blood, and God is not distant. God-oriented religions focus on God as almighty, controlling everything, and being loving and just. Self-oriented religions ask: Who am I? The disadvantage of focusing on God is that this type of religion is based on faith, so there is doubt. No one tries to prove one’s own existence. Descartes said that we can doubt everything except our own doubting. The advantage of God-oriented religion is that, while we live through disease, failure, and disappointment, God is perfect. God is infinite – doubtful but perfect, while we are certain but finite. While God-centered religions are devotional, self-centered religions are meditative and philosophical. In Advaita Vedanta, the seeker for God, and the inquirer into the self, get the same result. The certainty of the self and the infinity of God are brought together. There is nothing to believe, as it is based on experience.
2) The Problem of Consciousness: Eastern spiritual traditions can contribute to consciousness studies. The hard problem of consciousness is: How can something physical have an inner state? Neurons are the last word for science. In the philosophy of mind, there is no such thing as consciousness. They reduce consciousness to brain and behavior. This has come about due to the overwhelming successes of physicalism. Advaita Vedanta says that what we categorize as this is not consciousness. A table, our hands, our thoughts, and our feelings are all objects of consciousness. We can seek this definition in our own experience and become illumined.
3) Advaita Vedanta and Ethics: Some attempts at a theory of ethics are utilitarianism, and the de-ontological view, which says that I believe it because it is my duty. In Advaita Vedanta, ethics is grounded in the Oneness of existence, which brings harmony. Descartes found clear knowledge of the things he doubted, and no clear knowledge of the thinking being. You do not have to be smart to feel pain. A computer may be smarter than an animal. Ethics depends on whether we are being selfish or unselfish. Even if we kill or die in a just war, it is only the body that dies, and not the soul. We have faith even in a secular teacher, that he or she is not lying to us, so we need to have the same faith in our Guru.
Tuesday, March 17 – Life and Teachings of Mahapurush Maharaj – a talk by Prof. Sukalyan Sengupta
Mahapurush Maharaj, Swami Shivananda was the 2nd president of Ramakrishna Order from 1922-1934. His key characteristic was that he had drained his body of ego and completely filled it with Sri Ramakrishna. He was born in Barasat – about 25km from Kolkata. His father Ramkanai Ghoshal was a pleader in Rani Rasmani’s estate. He and his wife Vamasundari Devi had prayed to lord Tarakeshwar Shiva for a son and named the son Taraknath. Tarak’s mother used to say that whoever has given this child (lord Shiva) will take care of him. Though Ramakanai was a wealthy man his fortunes reversed and Taraknath had to take up a job in Indian Railways after his school studies.
He was obsessed with the idea of samadhi and it was in pursuit of samadhi that he met Sri Ramakrishna. He saw Sri Ramakrishna as his mother. When Sri Ramakrishna touched him for the first time, Tarak lost his outer consciousness and could vividly see that he is The Atman and Sri Ramakrishna is God incarnate. He later had a number of spiritual experiences in company of Sri Ramakrishna. Later he told Romain Rolland that that he had seen God three times during his association with Sri Ramakrishna. He was with Sri Ramakrishna through the latter’s days of illness. Around this time, during a trip to Gaya, Naren (Swami Vivekananda) had a vision where he saw light emanate from Buddha and enter the body of Taraknath. After the demise of Sri Ramakrishna, Tarak moved to Barahnagar – the first monastery of the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. He took the monastic vows with other disciples at Antpur and took on the monastic name of Swami Shivananda. Naren used to call him Mahapurush for his unbroken chastity even when he was married.
As a monk Swami Shivananda traveled across the country. He used to love Himalayas and went there often. He made Almora his base and spent a lot of time there, where he met ET Sturdy who became an English disciple of Swami Vivekananda. Upon Swamiji’s return from the West, he sent Shivananda to Sri Lanka where he stayed for 10 months. In 1902 Swamiji asked him to start the ashrama in Varanasi. Swamiji passed away soon after Shivananda went to Varanasi. He placed a picture of Swamiji in the shrine at Varanasi – the first time that Swamiji’s picture was put in a shrine. He stayed in Varanasi for 7 years. In 1922 he became the 2nd president of the Ramakrishna Order. He focused on training the monastics. While he used to be mostly quiet and indrawn, he was full of love for them. He had a prophetic vision and could often foresee things before they happened. He had 2 dogs Kelo and Bhelo whom he loved immensely. In 1933 he suffered a stroke of apoplexy that paralyzed his right side. Nine months later he contracted pneumonia and passed away on Feb 20th, soon after Sri Ramakrishna’s birth anniversary. A scholar once said that until he met Swami Shivananda, he had only read about Jivan Mukta (a soul that is free while living), but upon seeing Swami Shivananda, he said “I have now seen a Jivan Mukta”.