Vedanta vs. Buddhist Services: An Enlightening Experience

I went to the Vedanta Ashram Society this morning. The first thing I noticed was the huge figure of Durga on the main altar, riding a tiger, with all her weapons. I love Hindu Goddesses–they’re so fierce. The service was lovely. All the prayers were sung, mostly by the women, with harmonium, tabla, dohl (double-ended drum) clapping, and other percussion. I have sung enough kirtan that I understood some of the mantras and was able to sing along. There was a sermon by the pandit, Dr. Swami, on the similarities between Krishna and Christ, and the significance of the Solstice. It lasted 2 minutes, back to the singing. There was a five minute period of silent meditation, begun with three chants of the OM. They sit on the floor, but no cushions, just carpet. I was invited to introduce myself and was welcomed to come to their service every Sunday. (there were total 4 white people there) A delicious lunch of Indian food followed, with everyone present and enjoying the meal and each other’s company. I liked it very much and plan to go back once a month so that I can connect with Durga, who is one of my main Devis. I have a tattoo of Durga on my left arm.

One thing I noticed as a difference between the two experiences, besides the constant singing, is that there is no pressure to act a certain way, to sit in perfect silence or perfect posture or anything. It’s very relaxed; people frequently chat and touch each other during the service, connecting with family and friends.

I don’t have a problem with individual Buddhists (except a few) but I don’t like most Buddhist organizations. In addition to being classist and constantly demanding money, they are also very “missionary” in their approach to spirituality, that you have to meditate and do x, y and z and if you don’t, you won’t be enlightened, which amounts to the same thing as being “saved.” And you can never do enough to be enlightened; there’s always more practice you can do to be more enlightened and it never stops. The whole thing becomes a really high stress situation

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