In the Fall 2010 issue of AV, we reported on the meeting of a small group of Vedantists from around the U.S. in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a weekend of sharing and support. Those of us who participated in that meeting voted to meet again in 2011 and to continue to share ideas by e-mail on how to further Vedanta in the West. We did meet again, this time at a Benedictine monastery in Pecos, near Santa Fe, on the weekend of October 13-15. Five new participants joined the group, from Atlanta, Chicago and Albuquerque.
Amid the autumn splendor of the New Mexican landscape, we continued to explore ways in which Vedantists could bond together to develop new ways to communicate and further Vedanta in the American context.
We began the weekend on Friday evening with shared introductions and a worship service designed by one of our group. (See Vedanta Group Worship Service: An Experiment) There was some discussion of the power of ritual. A Buddhist who attended some of our sessions spoke about how a very primitive Buddhist ritual bypassed his rational mind and had a very profound effect on him.
Saturday’s program included discussions of how Vedanta relates to Integral Spirituality, a new movement in the U.S. that owes much of its inspiration to Vedanta. An introductory paper on Integral Vedanta was presented by Sister Gayatriprana. This has be posted on our AV website. A diagram outlining Integral concepts was studied and discussed, and also a map of how evolution proceeds in four domains: our own inner world, our personal relationships with others, the larger world of social organization and exchange, and the physical world, demonstrating how they are all interrelated. It was noted that Integral thought has had a considerable effect on many Christian groups, such as Father Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque.
One of our group reported on the work she is doing with children at the Atlanta Vedanta Center. (See A Montessori-based Children’s Program for Vedanta.) A lively afternoon discussion of creativity in Vedanta was followed by a simple Native American ceremony in the woods by the Pecos River, which flows south into the Rio Grande.
At the Saturday evening session one of our group presented a video she had taken of her work with homeless teenagers in Los Angeles. During the final session on Sunday morning we discussed how we had been enriched by the retreat and how we should move forward in the future, in print and online. In the present issue of AV, an article by Sister Gayatriprana draws comparisons between Swami Siddheswarananda’s thought and Integral Vedanta.
It was voted to meet again in 2012, with the location to be decided.
Some of us stayed on for a few more days of companionship and sightseeing in and around Santa Fe. We visited Ghost Ranch, where Georgia O’Keefe had painted her stunning images of the New Mexican landscape. Of special interest to us Vedantists was the friendship of O’Keefe and Gerald Heard. He had visited her there in 1937 and used to meditate under a particular tree, which O’Keefe called Gerald’s tree, and which she painted. On another day some of us attended a harvest celebration at a Native American community west of Albuquerque.
It was a joy for all of us to bond with fellow Vedantists sharing the same ideals and goals. Those who are interested to join or learn more about the group can e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.