I was very surprised at myself when I signed up for it. I don't consider myself a religious person, and I am extremely wary about mysticism and rituals. But the Vedanta Retreat sounded promising: a three-day event in the lush green outskirts of Olema, California, where we would meditate, read Hindu scriptures and have spiritual discussions. The spiritual discussion piece really caught my eye. I was looking forward to hear from others about their perspectives on life and meaning.
It is so easy to get lost within the flow of the external world. I have been on autopilot many times, seamlessly navigating the incentives of the system around me. As I have grown older I have become increasingly aware that I can choose my path. But the world, with its infinitely many choices, is very confusing: What are my values? What lifestyle works for me? What do I want to create? Which community do I belong to?
The Vedanta Retreat was an absolute blessing in this sense. It did not give me all the answers to my problems. But the meditation, the enlightened company, the readings, helped me enlarge my perspective about what is important. It made me realize, at least for a fleeting moment, that some of the things that I constantly worried about were actually quite petty in the grand scheme of things.
But what made me turn to spirituality to address the deeper questions about my life? I look back to more than ten years ago when I was in school, when we had Saturday meditations, daily reading of Gita, and deep discussions about spiritual concepts. Jnana Prabodhini is unique in that it has blended a strong spiritual culture into its educational environment. I consider myself extremely lucky to have been at a school which emphasized meditation and engaged its students in deep philosophical texts.
Full disclosure: as a high school student, I did not immerse myself in these spiritual exercises. I found them interesting but they were never at the front of my mind. I was simply a semi-active participant.
But tens years later, I am now benefiting from that early exposure. I do not feel like a stranger to the wisdom of the Gita and the Upanishads. The idea of meditation, of sitting still for long stretches of time, does not scare or drain me: on the contrary, I feel delighted by the image of stillness. And it is an absolute privilege to be able to bond with other people on this deeper level and have conversations about living a meaningful life. I am really grateful that Jnana Prabodhini introduced me to these precious spiritual resources. As an older version of myself, I am now in a position to cultivate these resources and use them to develop calmness and perspective.
We all have our unique spiritual journeys ahead of us, and we are meant to traverse them at our own pace. What are the things that you find meaningful in life? And what does spirituality mean to you?
PhD student in Computational and Mathematical Engineering
Stanford, CA, USA.
Jnana Prabodhini Prashala Pune, Batch of 2009.