A group of Vedantists from different parts of the United States held a working retreat at Our Lady of Guadalupe Benedictine Monastery in Pecos, New Mexico last October 13-15. One of the topics discussed was the place of group worship and ritual in Vedanta in the West.  [See the article Ritual and Communal Worship.] An experimental worship service was tried in the opening session. Those participating found it meaningful and moving. The text of the service follows. Notation of the chants and songs can be downloaded.

The format is intended as a template. The symbol on the altar could be OM, pictures of saints, or an abstract painting. Readings could be from other teachings or teachers. Different Vedic chants, different songs and musical instruments could be used.

Participants sit in a semicircle several paces from a central table holding a simple altar, with a framed picture containing symbols of major religious traditions and a candle. Behind the altar is a Tibetan-style hanging featuring a figure in meditation. Bowls/plates of items to be offered are placed in front of the visual symbols.

Flute prelude—about 30 seconds

Invocation (in Sanskrit and English)
Om—Sahanaa vavatu
Sahanau bhunaktu
Saha viiryam karavaavahai
Maa vidvishaavahai
Om. Shaantihi shaantihi shaantihi
Om—May Brahman protect us,
May Brahman guide us.
May we have strength and right understanding.
May love and harmony be with us all.
Om. Peace— Peace— Peace.

Sahanaa vavatu / May Love and Harmony

(from Iroquois thanksgiving prayer:)

Leader: We turn our thoughts to the Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth.

Response: For all the love that abides around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.

(from Svetasvatara Upanishad:)

Leader: The divine Spirit is present in the north, in the east, in the south, in the west. That Spirit enters into all wombs and is born as all beings, now and in the future. It is within all persons as the Inner Self, facing in all directions.

Response: Let us adore that Spirit, the bright one, who is in fire, who is in water, who is in plants and trees, who pervades the whole universe.

Leader: O Brahman Supreme! Formless are you, and yet you bring forth many forms: You bring them forth, and then withdraw them to yourself.

Response: Fill us with thoughts of you!

Leader: You art the fire, you are the sun, you are the air, you are the moon, you are the starry firmament, you are the waters. You are Brahman Supreme, creator of all.

Response: Fill us with thoughts of you!

Leader: You are woman, you are man, you are the youth, you are the maiden, you are the old person tottering with a staff; you face everywhere.

Response: Fill us with thoughts of you!

Leader: You are the dark butterfly, you are the green parrot with red eyes, you are the thunder cloud, the seasons, the seas. Without beginning are you, beyond time, beyond space.

Response: Fill us with thoughts of you!

Short flute interlude. The candle on the altar is lit.

(from Iroquois thanksgiving prayer:)

Leader: Now we gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people.

Response: With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to these caring Teachers.

Leader: We salute Sri Krishna, who taught the liberating power of selfless work.

(from Bhagavad-Gita, chapter 4:)

Reader 1: None shall escape from work by shunning action;
None shall attain perfection, ceasing work.
No one indeed can ever rest from action:
Nature’s law compels us all to work.

Those with integrity control their senses
Using the power of well-guided will.
Along the path uniting them with Brahman
All their acts are done not seeking gain.

Do your allotted task with right intention;
Yield not to laziness and love of ease.
Work is more excellent than idle languor:
Lacking work, your very life will cease.

The world is bound in chains of its own action
Except when work is done for love of God.
Therefore as sacrament do every action
Free from longing for the fruits of work.

(from Gita, Chapter 9:)
Whatever one gives me in true devotion:
Fruit or water, a leaf, a flower:
I will accept it. That gift is love,
The heart’s dedication.

Short flute interlude. The reader may offer a flower, leaf, fruit or water on the altar.

Leader: We salute the Buddha, the awakened, the compassionate.

Reader 2: All that we are is the result of what we have thought; it is founded on our thoughts, if is made up of our thoughts. If a person speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.

More than your mother, more than your father, more than all your family, a well-disciplined mind will do you great good.

Good will toward all beings is the true religion; cherish in your hearts boundless goodwill to all that lives. . . No evil word should escape your lips; you should remain benevolent, with your heart full of love and void of secret malice; and you should enfold even these malefactors with loving thoughts, with thoughts generous, deep and limitless, purged of all anger and hate.

Short flute interlude. The reader may offer a flower, leaf, fruit or water on the altar.

Leader: We salute Jesus the Christ, who gave his life that all persons might be set free.

Reader 3: Then the King will say to those at his right hand, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?”

And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it unto me.”

Short flute interlude. The reader may offer a flower, leaf, fruit or water on the altar.

Leader: We salute Sri Chaitanya, who lived and taught the glory of divine love.

Congregational song: Chant unceasingly the name of the Lord and his glory, that the mirror of the heart may be cleaned of its dross and the mighty forest fire of desire may be quenched. O name, stream down in moonlight on the lotus heart, opening its cup to knowledge of yourself. Oh mind, bathe in his name, that bath for weary souls, drowning deep in the waves of his bliss. Oh Lord, various are your names; in each and every name your grace and power are present in full. No times are set, oh Lord, for chanting of your name, no rites are needful, so vast is your mercy. How great, then, my poverty who find in this empty life and heart no devotion to your holy name. Oh mind, be you more humble than a blade of grass, be forbearing and patient like a tree. Give honor to all, take no honor only to yourself, chant unceasingly the name of the Lord. Oh Lord, mine is no prayer for pleasure, wealth or fame; I want only steadfast devotion to you. For you are my heart’s beloved, you and you alone; do with me whatever you will.
Chant the Name-melody&words

Short instrumental interlude. The reader may offer a flower, leaf, fruit or water on the altar.

Leader: We salute Sri Ramakrishna, who lived and taught the truth of all religions.

Reader 4: Infinite are the names of God; infinite are the forms of God. Whatever name and form you choose, love and yearning will lead to him, love and yearning will lead to her.

Aqua, water, pani or jal—call it by any name you like; whether from bottle, spring or tap, water will surely quench your thirst.

One can ascend to reach the roof using a ladder, stairs or rope: many the ways to climb to God; each religion shows a way.

Different creeds are different paths taking us toward the house of God. Follow your path with love and zeal: you are certain to reach the goal.

Calling him father, mother or friend, worshiping him as lover or child, surely he knows the aim of your heart. Strive to reach his warm embrace.

Infinite Being, Knowledge and Bliss—Brahman, Allah, Hari or God, whatever name you use to call, God will know you are calling on him, God will know you are calling on her.

Short instrumental interlude. The reader may offer a flower, leaf, fruit or water on the altar.

Leader: We salute Sarada Devi, who embodied universal motherhood.

Reader 5: I am the Mother of the good and I am the Mother of the wicked. . . . He is unfortunate indeed who does not feel my compassion. I do not know anyone, not even an insect, for whom I do not feel compassion. . . . If anyone wants something of me, I feel I must grant it. . . . Cling to what you have found. Say to yourself, ‘Even if I have no one else, I have a Mother’. . . . If my child gets covered with mud or dust, is it not my duty to cleanse him and take him on my lap? . . . I shall ever be with you. Don’t be afraid!

If you want peace of mind, do not find fault with others. Rather learn to see your own faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger, my child; this whole world is your own.

Short instrumental interlude. The reader may offer a flower, leaf, fruit or water on the altar.

Leader: We salute Swami Vivekananda, apostle of strength and fearlessness.

Reader 6: This is a great fact: strength is life; weakness is death. Strength is felicity, life eternal, immortal; weakness is constant strain and misery, weakness is death . . . . Have faith in yourselves and stand upon that faith and be strong. If faith in ourselves had been more extensively taught and practiced, I am sure a very large portion of the evils and miseries that we have would have vanished. Throughout history, if any motive power has been more potent than another in the lives of all great men and women, it is that of faith in themselves. Born with the consciousness that they were to be great, they became great. . . The old religion said that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new religion says that he is the atheist who does not believe in himself. But it is not selfish faith, because the Vedanta, again, is the doctrine of oneness. It means faith in all, because you are all.

Short instrumental interlude. The reader may offer a flower, leaf, fruit or water on the altar.

(from the Gayatri mantra:)

Leader: (others may join in)

Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat.

Congregation: We meditate on the glory of the divine Being who illumines all things. May (s)he guide our understanding.

(5 minutes of silent meditation. Anyone who feels inspired may speak.)

Concluding peace chant:

Asato maa sadgamaya
Tamaso maa jyotirgamaya
Mrityormaa (y)amritam gamaya

Lead us from the unreal to the Real.
Lead us from darkness into Light.
Lead us from death to Immortality.
Om— Peace, Peace, Peace.

Gayatri Mantra-Asato Maa Sadgamaya

(Those who like may take the offered fruit, flowers, leaves, or water.)

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This