The Journey to Joy

On January 22-24, 2021, the Princeton University Hindu Life Program had the honor of hosting a historic gathering of four renowned speakers of Dharma wisdom. Swami Sarvapriyananda, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Radhanath Swami, and Sister BK Shivani joined us to explore how we might discover purpose and serve others.

Recordings of the 3-session webinar are available on our YouTube channel.

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This Week: The Journey to Joy

the JOURNEY to JOY

Discover Your Purpose / Serving the World

a Zoom Webinar featuring Dharma Wisdom Talks by four renowned spiritual teachers:

  • Friday, January 22 at 6pm EST 
    • Swami Sarvapriyananda 
    • Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati
  • Saturday, January 23 at 10am EST
    • Radhanath Swami
    • Sister BK Shivani
  • Sunday, January 24 at 10am EST
    • Special Q+A Session With All 4 Speakers

Why does true happiness or contentment so often seem to elude us? How can we discern purpose or meaning? How might we best respond to the suffering of the world around us? 

Join us for this historic gathering of four of the most renowned, beloved, and inspiring wisdom teachers living today. Representing different lineages and perspectives, our guest teachers will lead us in an exploration of these topics and inspire us to reflect deeply on the journey to inner joy.    Open to all and free of cost, but registration is required. 


Register at: 
tinyurl.com/hindulife-joy

Sponsored by the Princeton University Hindu Life Program; Co-sponsored by the Georgetown University Dharmic Life Program, Hindu Life at Yale University, and Tufts University Hindu Chaplaincy. 

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A Prayer for Reconciliation

स्वस्त्यस्तु विश्वस्य खल: प्रसीदतां
ध्यायन्तु भूतानि शिवं मिथो धिया ।
मनश्च भद्रं भजतादधोक्षजे
आवेश्यतां नो मतिरप्यहैतुकी ॥ ९ ॥

svasty astu viśvasya khalaḥ prasīdatāṁ
dhyāyantu bhūtāni śivaṁ mitho dhiyā
manaś ca bhadraṁ bhajatād adhokṣaje
āveśyatāṁ no matir apy ahaitukī

“May the entire universe be blessed with peace and hope. May everyone driven by envy and enmity become pacified and reconciled. May all living beings develop abiding concern for the welfare of others. May our own hearts and minds be filled with purity and serenity. May all these blessings flow naturally from this supreme benediction: May our attention become spontaneously absorbed in the rapture of pure love unto the one transcendent Supreme.”

(Bhāgavata Purāṇa 5.18.9; transl. Ravindra Svarupa Das)

At Princeton, we recognize — in fact, we celebrate — that our Hindu Life Program community is an incredibly diverse one, and that diversity sometimes expresses itself in terms of ideological, viewpoint, and political differences. At the same time, the events of the past few days seem to speak to something larger. This isn’t about who one voted for or which political party one identifies with. The unprecedented storming of the U.S. Capitol by a treasonous mob, incited by the seditious urging of a leader who has demonstrated unparalleled recklessness and moral bankruptcy, must be a wake-up call to all of us.

The attack on the Capitol was an affront to the values that undergird democracy itself. These values align with the core principles of Hinduism– values like unity (ekatva), humility (amanitva), truthfulness (satyam), and non-harming (ahimsa). And the attack on them illustrate the danger of indulging one’s lowest tendencies, like wrath (krodha), arrogance (mada), enmity (matsarya), and delusion (moha). We cannot aspire towards dharma if we are not willing to call out — and condemn — adharma.

As we struggle to make sense of this painful moment, we might remember this benediction, found in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa and attributed to the celebrated child saint Prahlada. Prahlada himself suffered the devastation wrought by Hiranyakashipu– a corrupt, ego-driven, exploitative leader. Yet, in response, he prayed only for reconciliation and healing. In this spirit, may we too meet the forces of hatred and division with the infinitely greater power of love and unity. 

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The Spirit of Christmas

For those in our community who celebrate Christmas, religiously or culturally, we wish you a joyous and blessed holiday.

Many Hindus have found ways to incorporate Christmas into their own spiritual practice, and a number of Hindu teachers consider Jesus, his teachings, and his example,  resonant with the wisdom of the Vedic tradition. One such master, Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), often spoke about Christ Consciousness.

In that spirit, we wanted to share this reflection… an invitation to see Christmas as a day to cultivate love, forgiveness, compassion, and a vision of equality in our hearts and lives. 

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Happiness Beyond Mind

A few months ago, a friend excitedly recommended Happiness Beyond Mind to me. I told my friend I’d check it out (more out of politeness than genuine interest, if I am to be honest), and quickly forgot about it. But while Amazon searching for another Gita-related book, I bumped into the book and decided to take the plunge.

I’m so glad that I did. Happiness is a lovely blend of personal experience, textual exegesis, and practical application. The author, Rajesh Sengamedu, writes compellingly and lucidly about how we can transform our approach to happiness by shifting our framework.

I am delighted that the Hindu Life Program is hosting Rajesh for a talk this week on the book. 12/3 at 6pm ET. I hope you can join us.

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Gratitude

In Sanskrit, the word for “grateful” is kritajna, which literally means “one who remembers the past deeds of another.”

My spiritual teacher once shared with me a wisdom lesson he had received, decades earlier, from a wandering monk in India. The Holy Man had told him: “If you wish to live in this world with a peaceful mind and a heart full of love, there are two things you must try to forget and two things you must strive to always remember.” 

The first thing to try to forget: “The bad that has been done to you, try to forget that.” Let me clarify here. I don’t read the Holy Man’s advice to suggest that we allow ourselves to be mistreated or excuse inexcusable behavior. I don’t think he is asking us to forego processing our grief or hurt. We must do that in order to heal. But what happens once we are done processing?  Are we willing to move into a space of letting go, and perhaps even forgiveness? Or are we still holding on to the hurt, nursing the wound, and even plotting revenge? I read “forgetting the bad done to us” as an act of compassion and self-compassion that allows us to let go and re-vision the challenging experience as something that came into our lives to teach us something. If we can do that, perhaps we can even feel grateful for it. 

The Holy Man continued, “The good you have done for others, try to forget that.” Again, some commentary may be in order. Of course we should acknowledge and celebrate the good we do. But let us not fall into the trap of becoming so fixated on patting ourselves on the back that we eclipse the good deed or the recipients of that deed. When we commit a good deed and let it go to create ripples in the universe, we feel grateful to be instruments. When we make it all about receiving acknowledgment, accolades, or applause…when it is all about being seen or getting credit…we turn the act into an exercise in ego-bolstering and ‘keeping score’ instead.

What about the two things to always remember? The Holy Man instructed, “We must always try to remember the bad deeds we have committed to others.” Why hold on to the memories of our misdeeds or remind ourselves of how we’ve hurt others? Of course, beating ourselves up doesn’t do anyone any good. Still, we might take this as a call to own up to our past mistakes rather than to try to avoid them or gloss over them. Let us be cognizant of the ways we have fallen short, take responsibility for addressing what needs to be addressed, and keep those memories vivid as a way of guarding against repeating our mistakes.

And finally—“always remember the good that others have done for us.” No matter how small or seemingly insignificant, let us not take it for granted. If we are honest, everything we benefit from—from the food we eat and feed our families, to our jobs and finances, to our ability to live with safety and security, to the clothes on our back and the phones in our pockets—all of it is the result of the hard work and sacrifices of others. We are tiny parts of a larger circle of life. When we are grateful, we honor that circle, acknowledge the sacrifices of others, and step up to make sacrifice when we are called to do so. That is always true, but perhaps even more starkly clear in these days of the pandemic, when we cannot deny that we are recipients of gifts and beneficiaries of those on the frontlines. 

Hindu scripture reminds us that Ishvara, the Supreme Lord, is infinitely grateful. He remembers our efforts, honoring even the smallest attempts and forgiving us our shortcomings or failings. When we choose to be grateful—to remember the deeds of others—we reflect his love for us, and act as his instruments to share that love with others. 

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