Thursday, August 23, 2007
Scholastic Daniel Hendrickson, S.J. "My Swami Said So!"
With a nod of his head to the left and a smile, my swami said, “Yes, well, God is hiding in you. Now come.” He was expounding a truth while ushering me to the door, concluding a last conversation of a short series of meetings through last spring’s academic semester.Originally from India’s Bengali region, Swami Aparananda is the proud pundit of The Vedanta Society of Berkeley, located not far from the University of California’s Sather Gate. Landscaped with lush colors, his compound seems like a quaint, well-kept mission preserved and presented by the state of California. The auditorium-like temple looks rather Western. Inside, moreover, padded chairs sit like pews in forward formation, facing what could pass easily as a Christian sanctuary. My saffron-wrapped swami will convince you otherwise, yet, pointing – as he did with me – to the centralized picture of another swami, Swami Vivekananda. This one preceded mine by a couple of generations and is responsible for what emerged as a network of Upanishadic, Vedantic places of study and worship in the western part of the world. These gurus and their Vedanta Society vie to share “the immortal teachings of the Upanishads” with curious people like you and I, and to make it easy they speak three truths.The first insists upon recognition of a supernatural force which underlies all reality. God is omnipresent and there is nothing his ubiquity does not pervade, you and I included. As God is present in all things of the world around us, God is also present in us, ideas not unfamiliar to practitioners of Jesuit spirituality. The second truth unfolds from the first. God’s presence within human life is hidden. A worthy goal for any of us, then, is to expose God. My swami told me that good moral behavior achieves this. Spiritual practices of prayer and mediation help, too. We can divulge the divine within and discover it of another alike. My swami said the third, professing that truth is universal. “We are all of one heart and one mind, yes?” Certainly not, I thought. Not in practice for sure, nor even theoretically: people are different. More on the Swami (here)