Special Report for American Vedantist

By Sister Gayatriprana and John Schlenck

Over the first weekend of October, a small group of long-time Vedantists met at a lovely retreat center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in spiritual friendship. Several of the group had settled in New Mexico in recent years and wanted to reach out and invite other Vedantists from around the country to gather for a weekend of sharing and support, and to encourage one another in their work with their own small groups, websites, and organizations. We wanted to get to know each other better and to explore how we might pool our ideas and resources for the furtherance of Vedanta in the West.

Albuquerque Ballon Festival

Balloons of the 2010 Albuquerque Balloon Festival, rising in the morning sun, seemed to symbolize the gathering’s aspirations to reach toward the light, moving forward and upward.(Image courtesy santabarbaraairbus.com)

Participants came from New York, California, New Mexico and Utah, and together we looked at a range of topics and ideas. Many of us got new insights and fresh ideas to move forward the work of what we call Integral Vedanta, the overarching, all-inclusive vision of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda.

We used a number of methods of communicating. Quaker-style meditative sharing and decision-making was much appreciated by all of our participants, and set a tone of harmony, warmth, and centeredness from the opening session on Friday evening. There were regular presentations from the widely varying experience of the group, and discussion and voting on a list of issues that had particularly sparked interest and enthusiasm. We also enjoyed video, music, and readings from works created by the members of our group.

Formal presentations were made on these subjects:

  1. The democratic, gender-neutral, world-embracing, service-oriented aspects of Tantric philosophy and practice that are basic to Integral Vedanta, and in many ways links the more abstract Indian philosophical traditions to the West.
  2. The need to connect with the Western Integral Movement that is so successfully exploring Western ways of applying Vedanta in our contemporary society.
  3. The need for more organized service in the West, including a pub-
    lication which embraces Western science in addition to Vedanta.
  4. The importance for the West of Vivekananda’s tremendous teaching and personal demonstration of the science of self-transformation, and how this is important as a role model for Transpersonal Psychology.
  5. The spiritual value of group sharing and exploration in moving our work forward, based on a psychologist’s professional experience with twelve step programs, to which our discussion added the Quaker experience.
  6. Music as spiritual practice and the need to get out original, Vedanta-inspired music in the West.
  7. Outreach round the world to disadvantaged and indigenous peoples, sharing in creative art expressed through ritual, dance, graphic art, music, and participatory events which express universal spiritual principles.

Some of the presentations stimulated lively discussion, and the con-
versation has continued by e-mail.

We decided to meet again next year, to keep in touch with each other meantime, and to communicate new ideas and the results of our experi-
ments with what we discussed this year. We are also interested in any other individuals or groups who might resonate with our goals and projects and want to share with us.

We all had a grand time and left feeling more connected, with new ideas and enthusiasm. The sight of the balloons of the annual Albuquerque Balloon Festival, rising over the mountains in the morning sun, seemed to symbolize our aspirations to reach toward the light, moving in a natural current forward and upward.

SISTER GAYATRIPRANA is a writer on Vivekananda Vedanta, with a
background in the neurosciences. Formerly a monastic member of the
Vedanta Society of Southern California, she retired to Santa Fe, NM.

JOHN SCHLENCK, a composer of music, is Associate Editor of American
Vedantist and Secretary-Treasurer of Vedanta West Communications. He is
a resident member and Secretary of the Vedanta Society of New York.

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