5 episodes

Sri Sarada Devi, the spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna, lived from December 22, 1853 to July 20, 1920. Called the Holy Mother by her devotees, she was born in Jayrambati, a village in Bengal. She was both a nun and a mother, the final arbiter of all spiritual matters at Belur Math, yet also the caretaker of her niece. To the many devotees who came to her in India and from abroad, she was their mother. She took care of their physical and spiritual needs as well as taught them spiritual wisdom. She hid her great spiritual attainments and power behind a veil of modesty. To a fortunate few, she sometimes revealed her nature as the Divine Feminine Archetype. For others, they felt their lives blessed by being able to feel her silent presence. To understand her teachings and life, we need to travel a great distance to a land where gods and goddesses live among men and women, where the spiritual realm is more real than the physical world we inhabit, and where mother is worshipped as the supreme divine power through which the entire cosmos moves.
Swami Tattwamayananda, a senior monk of the Ramakrishna Order of India, minister-in-charge of the Vedanta Society of Northern California (founded by Swami Vivekananda, the first Hindu monk to preach in the West, in 1900), an eminent Vedic scholar as well as scholar of European history and language, has shared in five sessions the fruit of a lifetime of meditating on Holy Mother’s teachings. The lectures were held at a private retreat on the Vedanta Society’s Olema retreat property in Marin County from August 31 – September 2, 2019. Swami Tattwamayananda brings his immense scholarship, spiritual insight, and understanding of the spiritual needs of our time, to bring Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi’s teachings to us through biography, history, philosophy, myth, and Sanskrit tradition.
Swami Tattwamayananda, currently the Minister of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco, (originally founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1900) served in various centers of the Ramakrishna Order in India as editor, publisher, and teacher of Sanskrit, Advaitic texts such as Sri Shankaracharya's commentaries on the 'Prasthanatraya' (the fundamental Sanskrit texts of Vedanta philosophy), Buddhism and Indian philosophy. He underwent traditional training in Hindu scriptures, Sanskrit, Vedic and Vedantic literature for many years, from his early days. Before coming to the United States in January 2012 he was teaching Sanskrit, Vedantic scriptures and Indian philosophy at the Training center in Belur Math, the institution that trains the monks of the Ramakrishna Order at the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission, Kolkata, India. Apart from his traditional education, the Swami has also received modern University education in English literature, psychology, European history, and Western philosophy. He is frequently invited for lectures on Yoga, Vedanta, and traditional Hindu scriptures and for participating in interfaith dialogues.

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Sri Sarada Devi | The Holy Mother Vedanta Society, San Francisco

    • Spirituality

Sri Sarada Devi, the spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna, lived from December 22, 1853 to July 20, 1920. Called the Holy Mother by her devotees, she was born in Jayrambati, a village in Bengal. She was both a nun and a mother, the final arbiter of all spiritual matters at Belur Math, yet also the caretaker of her niece. To the many devotees who came to her in India and from abroad, she was their mother. She took care of their physical and spiritual needs as well as taught them spiritual wisdom. She hid her great spiritual attainments and power behind a veil of modesty. To a fortunate few, she sometimes revealed her nature as the Divine Feminine Archetype. For others, they felt their lives blessed by being able to feel her silent presence. To understand her teachings and life, we need to travel a great distance to a land where gods and goddesses live among men and women, where the spiritual realm is more real than the physical world we inhabit, and where mother is worshipped as the supreme divine power through which the entire cosmos moves.
Swami Tattwamayananda, a senior monk of the Ramakrishna Order of India, minister-in-charge of the Vedanta Society of Northern California (founded by Swami Vivekananda, the first Hindu monk to preach in the West, in 1900), an eminent Vedic scholar as well as scholar of European history and language, has shared in five sessions the fruit of a lifetime of meditating on Holy Mother’s teachings. The lectures were held at a private retreat on the Vedanta Society’s Olema retreat property in Marin County from August 31 – September 2, 2019. Swami Tattwamayananda brings his immense scholarship, spiritual insight, and understanding of the spiritual needs of our time, to bring Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi’s teachings to us through biography, history, philosophy, myth, and Sanskrit tradition.
Swami Tattwamayananda, currently the Minister of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco, (originally founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1900) served in various centers of the Ramakrishna Order in India as editor, publisher, and teacher of Sanskrit, Advaitic texts such as Sri Shankaracharya's commentaries on the 'Prasthanatraya' (the fundamental Sanskrit texts of Vedanta philosophy), Buddhism and Indian philosophy. He underwent traditional training in Hindu scriptures, Sanskrit, Vedic and Vedantic literature for many years, from his early days. Before coming to the United States in January 2012 he was teaching Sanskrit, Vedantic scriptures and Indian philosophy at the Training center in Belur Math, the institution that trains the monks of the Ramakrishna Order at the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission, Kolkata, India. Apart from his traditional education, the Swami has also received modern University education in English literature, psychology, European history, and Western philosophy. He is frequently invited for lectures on Yoga, Vedanta, and traditional Hindu scriptures and for participating in interfaith dialogues.

For more:
Web: www.sfvedanta.org
Livestream: https://livestream.com/sfvedanta
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sfvedanta
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/SFVedanta

All Original Content © Vedanta Society of Northern California

    5 - Holy Mother on Sincere Faith, Prayer, and Sublimating Your Desire | Swami Tattwamayananda

    5 - Holy Mother on Sincere Faith, Prayer, and Sublimating Your Desire | Swami Tattwamayananda

    This lecture was delivered on September 2, 2019 as part of the Labor Day Vedanta Retreat held in the Olema Vedanta Retreat.

    1. Real Faith

    -Holy Mother: “Is faith so cheap, my child? Faith is the last word. If one has faith, the goal is practically reached."

    -There is faith at the beginning in spiritual life. There is also real faith, the end of spiritual life, which is the same as experience or is based on experience.

    2. Sincere Prayer and Sincere Recognition of Grace: A Guaranteed Method

    -"Pray to God with tears in your eyes whenever you want illumination or find yourself faced with any doubt or difficulty. The Lord will remove all your impurities, remove your mental anguish, and give you enlightenment. Open your grief-stricken heart to the Lord. Weep and sincerely pray, "Oh Lord, draw me towards you. Give me peace of mind." By doing so constantly you will gradually attain peace of mind. One who makes a habit of prayer will easily overcome all difficulties and remain calm and unruffled in the midst of the trials of life. God cannot be realized without love, your sincere love. Even the impossible becomes possible through devotion."

    -Prayer is a guaranteed method for spiritual life. Intensity and integrity and sacredness and sanctity are the preconditions for prayer in Vedanta. Then, it becomes a reality. We evolve from praying for something, to praying to surrender to God. We also need to learn to recognize God's grace as God's grace. Seekers may interpret the answer of the prayer as an accident. We need to evolve a mind that can interpret and recognize grace as grace.

    3. Prayer for Worldly Needs Eventually Leads to Spiritual Wisdom, If We Pray with Complete Sincerity.

    -Four categories of seekers are there: seekers of wealth, seekers under distress, seekers of knowledge, and the wise (Bhagavad Gita 7.16). All of them are ‘udara,’ noble-hearted (Bhagavad Gita 7.18). God will fulfill your worldly desires, then he will give you the wisdom to go beyond those desires. Mother grants our needs, devotion, and knowledge. You should not think that you cannot pray for worldly things. It is better to pray to God for our desires than to resort to other means. Mother manifests in the homes of noble-minded people as ‘Sri,’ prosperity. We get sanctity, sense of sacredness, and ‘lajja’ – a sense that we should not do something that does not befit us.

    4. Channeling the Restless Mind

    -Holy Mother: "The mind is by nature restless. Therefore, at the outset, to make the mind steady, one may practice meditation by regulating the breathing a little. That helps to steady the mind. But one must not overdo it. You may talk of the vision of God or meditation but remember the mind is everything. One gets everything when the mind becomes steady."

    -Disciple: "Is it of any use to be merely repeating his name without intense devotion?"

    -Holy Mother: "Whether you jump into water or are pushed into water, your clothes will be drenched, is it not so? Meditate every day as your mind is yet immature. Constant meditation will make your mind one-pointed."

    -At the beginning, mind becomes especially restless when we try to withdraw it inward. Divert the mind and senses towards good things to keep them out of mischief. Examples from Yoga-Vasishta and Vivekachudamani are given. We should always leave a little bit of time for our own spiritual life.

    5. Sublimating Your Desires

    -A disciple asked if all men or women can get rid of desires. Mother replied: "How can they? If they could the creation would come to an end. The world is going on because not all can become free of desires. People with desires are born and born again. As long as a man has desires, there is no end to his transmigration. It is desires alone that make him take one body after another."br...

    • 1 hr 27 min
    4 - Holy Mother’s Silent Transcendental Language of Motherly Love | Swami Tattwamayananda

    4 - Holy Mother’s Silent Transcendental Language of Motherly Love | Swami Tattwamayananda

    This lecture was delivered on September 1, 2019 as part of the Labor Day Vedanta Retreat held in the Olema Vedanta Retreat.

    1. From Ritualistic Devotion to Highest Devotion

    -Disciple: "Once I had wanted to take my grandmother on a pilgrimage, but as the time was inauspicious, my grandmother refused to start. I referred the matter to the Holy Mother for her guidance."

    -Holy Mother: "Son, some say that a man loses the merits that he has already earned if he visits a pilgrimage center at an inauspicious time but it is wise to perform all holy acts without much delay."

    -Disciple: "I could not satisfactorily comprehend her meaning and so expressed my doubt to her once again. I specifically asked her what I should do in my present circumstances."

    -Holy Mother: "People no doubt say that pilgrimages during inauspicious times are prohibited. One can postpone a holy duty out of consideration of time but look death takes no notice of time. Since death has no fixed hours, one should perform holy duties as soon as an opportunity comes, or as soon as the thought emerges in our mind."

    -If there is an auspicious thing, do not delay it. If we are not so sure about something, then we can delay it. Spiritual life is a journey from faith to experience. There is an evolution from ‘Vaidhi Bhakti’ to ‘Para Bhakti.’ In ‘Para Bhakti,’ the mind automatically goes to God without any effort, without any labor on our part. Till then, we need to follow certain traditions. Those rituals are time-tested paths to experience.

    2. Sri Sarada Devi and the silent transcendental language that linked her to all.

    -Sister Nivedita, Josephine Macleod, Sarah Bull, Sister Devamata, Betty Leggett, and other western women came to see Holy Mother. They didn't know each other's language, but they could speak to each other in an inaudible transcendental language.

    -``On 22 May 1898 Sister Nivedita wrote to her friend Mrs. Eric Hammond in London:
    I have often thought that I ought to tell you about the lady who was the wife of Sri Ramakrishna, Sarada as her name is. To begin with, she is dressed in a white cotton cloth like any other Hindu widow under fifty. This cloth goes round the waist and forms a skirt, then it passes around the body and over the head like a nun's veil.” (Sri Sarada Devi and Her Divine Play, 212)

    -"Holy Mother's relationship with Nivedita was sweet and touching, yet awe-inspiring. From the very beginning, Nivedita occupied a special place in Holy Mother's heart. During Nivedita's first visit to Holy Mother, Swamiji was a bit apprehensive: Holy Mother had been born and brought up in an orthodox brahman family in a village. She was not familiar with Western etiquette, and she did not know English. How would she receive his Western disciples? Swamiji sent his disciple Swami Swarupananda as an interpreter. When Swarupananda brought Nivedita to Holy Mother, she asked her name. Nivedita replied, "My name is Miss Margaret Elizabeth Noble." Swarupananda translated holy Mother's Bengali: "My child, I shall not be able to utter such a long name. I will call you Khooki [baby]." Nivedita said joyfully, "Yes, yes, I am Mother's baby." She then went to Swamiji and said: "Mother blessed me touching my head, allowed me to bow down and touch her feet, offered prasad, and said she would call me 'Khooki.'" (Sri Sarada Devi and Her Divine Play, 217)

    -Holy Mother is an example of universal spiritual feminism. All aggressiveness and rivalry has to calm down in Mother's presence. Where women are honored, everything is auspicious. Otherwise, no puja or other actions can bear fruit. Holy Mother’s spiritual feminism unified all.

    -Devamata, the disciples of Swamiji and author of Days in an Indian Monastery, wrote: "We had no common language, but when there was none to interpret for us, she spoke that deeper...

    • 1 hr 30 min
    3 – Understanding God’s Grace as God’s Grace | Swami Tattwamayananda

    3 – Understanding God’s Grace as God’s Grace | Swami Tattwamayananda

    This lecture was delivered on September 1, 2019 as part of the Labor Day Vedanta Retreat held in the Olema Vedanta Retreat.
    1 – Spiritual Wisdom and the Power of Selfless Work

    -Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother, Swami Vivekananda, and Shankaracharya are examples of spiritual teachers who had developed a spiritual faculty capable of penetrating into the true nature of everything. Coupled with the complete awareness of being instruments in God’s hand, they could do tremendous impactful work without any fatigue.

    2 – The Ability to do Good without Any Expectation of Reward

    -"If you love any human being you will have to suffer for it. He is blessed indeed who can love God alone. There is no suffering in loving God." – Holy Mother

    -A person for whom you have done everything, there is at least a 50 percent chance that that person will become your enemy. Help and do your duty, but remember that love is for God alone.

    3 – The Wisdom to Look Beyond the Body

    -"Everything - husband, wife, or even the body - is only illusory. These are all shackles of illusion. Unless you can free yourself from these bondages, you will never be able to go to the other shore of the world. Even this attachment to the body, the identification of the self with the body must go. What's this body? My dear, it is nothing but three pounds of ashes when it is cremated. Why so much vanity about it? However strong or beautiful this body may be, its culmination is in those three pounds of ashes. And still people are attached to it too much. Glory to God. The happiness of the world is transitory. The less you become attached to the world, the more you enjoy peace of mind. These earthly ties are transitory, today they seem to be the all and all of life but tomorrow they vanish. Your real tie is with God." – Holy Mother

    -The story of Chitraketu from the Bhagavata Purana illustrates the fact that life cycle after life cycle, we have temporary associations with different parents and relations. These relations are indeed sacred, but we should not wait for fate to teach us the hard way that these relationships are temporary.

    4 – The Real Meaning of Suffering: God in Vedanta

    -"You see my son, it is not a fact that you will never face dangers. Difficulties always come but they do not last forever. You will see that they pass away like water under a bridge." – Holy Mother

    -Difficulties and happy experiences are both transitory. Vedanta teaches that suffering is not suffering from a spiritual perspective. They are natural, inevitable stages in our spiritual evolution.

    -Ananda, the disciple of Buddha, was grief-stricken over the loss of a family member. Buddha asked him to find one single home that had not suffered from death, old age or disease. He could not find one and was then consoled.

    -The real cause of suffering is our constant expectation that what is essentially changeable, the empirical world, should be the unchanging. When we take our priority to be the unchanging transcendental reality, we are able to see suffering as part of God’s grace. This unknown factor is what makes life profound and meaningful and is often needed for us to be able to grow in spiritual life.

    -This perspective also resolves the major objections of Agnostics and Atheists such as Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens to religion.

    -We should recognize God's grace as God's grace. A man asked for 1000 dollars from God. He promised to give 500 dollars if he got it. He found 500 dollars on the street, pocketed it and said, "God, you have already taken your share." We often interpret God's grace in our terms instead of recognizing it as God's grace.

    -In a famous Sanskrit verse, God says, "If I want to bless somebody, I will take away all his wealth, I will make his sycophants and flatterers desert...

    • 1 hr 26 min
    2 - Holy Mother on the Power of Japa and Holy Association | Swami Tattwamayananda

    2 - Holy Mother on the Power of Japa and Holy Association | Swami Tattwamayananda

    This lecture was delivered on August 31, 2019 as part of the Labor Day Vedanta Retreat held in the Olema Vedanta Retreat.
    -Holy Mother: One utterance of ‘japa’ with great concentration of mind and with focus on the meaning of the mantra is equal to a million mechanical repetitions of the mantra with the mind elsewhere.
    -‘Japa’ has four stages: The first stage is verbal repetition of the holy ‘mantra.’ In the second stage, the verbal repetition has no sound. In the third stage, there is only mental repetition concentrated on the meaning of the ‘mantra.’ In the fourth stage, one fully internalizes the ‘mantra’ and becomes one with it. Meditation starts at the third stage.
    -Beginners can practice external ‘japa’ to keep the mind away from harmful objects. But this is only the beginning. Advanced seekers can practice complete identification with the ‘mantra.’
    -The Bhagavata Purana teaches how to leave this world with God’s name on your lips and God’s form in your heart. It is a devotional classic. At the same time, it is full of Advaitic teachings. It was written by Vyasa, after Narada instructed him to write something that serves not only to teach how to live ethically in society but as a guiding light to spiritual seekers to reach the highest fulfillment. When Vyasa finished writing the book, his own depression lifted and he attained inner contentment.
    -The most intelligent way of leaving the world is repeating the name of God having attained inner fulfillment. King Parikshit’s story is discussed. Sage Shuka taught him the art of life by answering his two questions: “What should a dying man do?” and “What should a dying man not do?”
    -Jada Bharata’s story is discussed as an illustration of the danger of “forgetting japa”. Even after taking to spiritual life, distractions, such as obsessive attachment even in the form of apparent compassion, can take place leading to long delays in spiritual evolution.
    -Ajamila’s story is discussed to illustrate the importance of remembering ‘japa.’ At the point of death, when he uttered “Narayana”, his son’s name, he suddenly remembered its true meaning as a name of God. The good ‘samskaras’ he had accumulated early in his life, suddenly linked him to God and he was liberated in the end.
    -When a ‘mantra’ is repeated by countless saints and sage across thousands of years, it gains spiritual potency. That potency is transmitted to a seeker, when he utters the ‘mantra’ with great faith, ‘shraddha,’ and focused on the meaning of the ‘mantra.’ For Sri Ramakrishna, one utterance of the Mahavakya, “Tat Tvam Asi,” was enough to take him to ‘Samadhi’ – what he heard became a matter of experience.
    -‘Japa’ helps one in this life as well as in future lives. Lord Krishna says: “You can’t help but reconnect with your spiritual past.” Your spiritual wealth is never lost.
    -Holy Mother warned disciples to be careful of who they associated with and the context in which they were associating. They should develop and practice discerning wisdom. The highest devotee is one who sees the whole creation in God and who sees the presence of God in everything in the world. This is the highest stage – however, when one is evolving, one needs to be careful about association.
    -‘Prema,’ ‘maitri’, ‘kripa’ and ‘upeksha’ are discussed as methods to regulate all external relations. A beginner should keep a long distance away from those who may distract him from his spiritual path. A beginner should not try to transform others. He should keep himself focused on a higher ideal. Judging, criticizing, and analyzing others can be harmful so he should remain indifferent to negative associations. -----However, if someone has a sincere interest in spiritual life, the spiritual seeker should have sympathy and help in w

    • 1 hr 27 min
    1 - Holy Mother on the Role of Physical Work as Karma-Yoga in Spiritual Evolution | Swami Tattwamayananda

    1 - Holy Mother on the Role of Physical Work as Karma-Yoga in Spiritual Evolution | Swami Tattwamayananda

    This lecture was delivered on August 31, 2019 as part of the Labor Day Vedanta Retreat held in the Olema Vedanta Retreat.
    -Holy mother Sri Sarada Devi is the embodiment of motherhood. Because she was a nun, her motherly regard was able to transcend all national, cultural, religious, and racial boundaries and reached the transcendental spiritual dimension. Because she was more than a conventional ‘acharya’ and a conventional mystic, her spiritual insight and spiritual experiences were far greater. Yet she preferred to modestly hide her extraordinary spiritual power. Every person who came to her felt that she was not only embodiment of divine motherhood but also felt as if they were in the presence of their own biological mother.
    -“Matri devo bhava” is an instruction which means: Let your mother be “deva” (God) to you. ‘Deva’ is one who answers our prayers, sits in our heart, is effulgent, kindles the light within us and lives in the celestial world. Mother has all the same attributes – she is the first and eternal teacher.
    -According to Manu, an ‘acharya’ (teacher) deserves ten times the respect given to an ‘upadhyaya’ (guest teacher). A father deserves 100 times the respect given to an ‘acharya.’ A mother deserves 1000 times the respect given to a father.
    -Holy Mother played a crucial role as a head of the Ramakrishna monastic order and had a unique synthesis of spirituality and insight into human affairs. Even luminaries such as Swami Vivekananda sought her advice and blessings. Swamiji’s story of invoking Mother Saraswati before his Chicago lecture is discussed.
    -Holy Mother had spiritual common sense. With enlightenment, she developed unique insights into the nature of things and gained direct understanding of many problems related to our practical spiritual life.
    -Holy Mother: “How many are there who can meditate and practice ‘japa’ all the time? At first they very earnestly practice these disciplines, but their brains become heated in the long run by sitting constantly on their prayer rugs. They become very vain. They also suffer from mental worries by reflecting on different things. It is much better to work than to allow the mind to roam at large. For when the mind gets a free scope to wander, it creates much confusion. My Naren thought of these things and wisely founded institutions where people would do disinterested work.”
    -When a beginner tries to meditate, the mind does not always co-operate. Mind does not co-operate due to certain past ‘samskaras’ that are not conducive to spiritual life. This friction can be reduced by increasing the balance of positive ‘samskaras’. Though one cannot directly control the mind, one can, to some extent, consciously do physical work for a good cause and this will divert our mind towards positive channels to generate spiritual energy, increase the balance of positive ‘samskaras,’ reduce mental conflicts and evolve in spiritual life.
    -Work can be physical in nature, such as cleaning a temple, or it can be more subtle in nature such as reading a good book.
    -Starting with noble work done with a selfish motive is better than doing nothing. One can then evolve towards doing selfless work.
    -A beginner has less freedom at the mental level, and encounters conflicts. However, he has more freedom at the physical level and should start his spiritual life with physical activities. Physical energy, especially for noble purposes, has a purifying effect on the mental system and generates ever higher aspirations.
    -‘Karma’ is not the final goal of life. If one feels an inner contentment after completing work, that means the work has had purifying effect on the mind. If that contentment is absent, then it is just perfectionism at the empirical level. ‘Karma’ is not the goal, it is just the beginning stage.
    -Holy Mother: ‘Asanas

    • 1 hr 29 min

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