Ramakrishna Vedanta Association of Thailand

Frequently Asked Questions

This list of questions and answers comes courtesy of American Vedanta, a web site run by Peter Kowalke.

Vedanta Basics

What is Vedanta?

See our brief overview of Vedanta.

Do I have to change my religion to practice Vedanta?

No, not at all. We don’t convert, we accept all religions as valid paths to God. There is only one God, although people may use different names, such as Jesus, Allah, Brahman, etc. Because there is only one God, through Vedanta a Christian, for example, can learn about meditation and apply it in a Christian context. See American Vedanta’s essay, “One Truth, Many Paths.” -Adapted from the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago

How do I find God?

He’s usually at the corner grocery store. But if you can’t find him there, we recommend following one of four spiritual disciplines: The path of knowledge (jnana yoga), love (bhakti yoga), work (karma yoga) or meditation (raja yoga). Contact us for help on how to follow one of these spiritual disciplines.

Is there one God or many?

Vedanta believes in one God that can be expressed as many. It is not polytheistic, although it can seem that way because the many aspects of God can be represented in different forms.

Why do you have so many gods and goddesses?

There are many–thousands, in fact. Each god or goddess represents a different aspect of the one God. And since God is infinite, it’s no wonder there are so many different expressions! For instance, the god Brahma represents that aspect of God which is the Creator; the god Vishnu represents that aspect of God which sustains creation; and the god Shiva represents that aspect of God which transforms. All are representations that help the individual conceptualize the infinite. -Adapted from the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago

Is Vedanta the same as Hinduism?

Vedanta is one of the six main schools of thought in Hinduism. Hinduism includes all the social and religious customs of anyone living in the subcontinent of India who is not a Muslim, Christian, Jew, Jain, Sikh, Zoroastrian or Buddhist. There are many different understandings in Hinduism; it is a complex collection of many religious traditions. Vedanta is the underlying philosophy for many people who call themselves Hindu. -Adapted from the Vedanta Society of Southern California

Isn’t yoga about poses and postures?

Yoga actually is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, not necessarily stretching and poses. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility. The West primarily knows the poses and stretching that come from Hatha Yoga. But yoga is more generalized than that. -Adapted from Wikipedia

Is Vedanta life-denying?

Some sects of Vedanta emphasize the illusory nature of the world and the futility of taking part in it. Mainstream Vedanta, however, recognizes four main goals in life: Dharma (pursuit of righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (sense and artistic pleasures), and Moksha (liberation). Although the world is illusory compared with the fullness of God, it still is a manifestation of divinity and a temporary reality. Hence one should do one’s duties and participate in the world in a way that will lead to liberation rather than greater bondage. -Adapted from the Vedanta Society of Southern California

Is it necessary to adopt Indian dress and Hindu food restrictions to be a Vedantin?

No. Habits of dressing and eating are cultural things, not spiritual things. The Vedanta philosophy is universal, and it can be adapted to any culture and time. -Adapted from the Vedanta Society of Southern California

Do you believe in karma?

Yes, but karma comes in a future life. It doesn’t come in this life. If you do good, you won’t necessarily be rewarded by good karma later in this life.

I don’t like to think of God as a person. Can I still practice Vedanta?

Yes. God manifests in different forms for the sake of devotees with different temperaments. Almost all religions have some symbol for God. God can be personal or impersonal, with form or without form. God may be approached in many ways.

Vedanta philosophy can be used with any aspect of God. A personal aspect of God is not essential to spiritual practice. However, using a personal form of God can help us focus the emotional-devotional component of our nature to help us along our spiritual path. Christ, Mother Mary, Buddha, or other great spiritual beings can all be used as symbolizing the personal form of God, or a generalized love for humanity if done correctly. -Adapted from the Vedanta Society of Southern California

Spiritual Questions

What’s the purpose of life?

Realizing that you are one with God in every moment.

What is love?

Love is a momentary glimpse of your infinite nature and your Oneness with everything. True love. Infatuation is not love. Learn more about the role of love in Vedanta by reading the essay, “Love as the Basis of Ramakrishna Monasticism.”

Does evolution exist?

Yes, evolution is consistent with the Vedanta view that everything is One. Vedanta does not dispute scientific findings, although it cautions that there is more to the world than what can be seen and sensed.

Is God feminine or masculine?

God is everything, so it is both feminine and masculine.

Is there a devil?

Basically, no. God is beyond good and evil. When Oneness appears as many, it must, out of necessity, manifest as pairs of opposites. Good and evil are inevitable consequences of the One appearing as many. Good is that which helps us eventually see through the illusion that we are many. Evil is that which perpetuates our ignorance of our true divine nature. -Adapted from the Vedanta Society of Southern California

Is there sin?

The important thing is to realize that our true nature is divine. What some people call “sins” actually is an action not conducive to our spiritual goal. They are errors. Conduct can be judged as right and wrong. But we feel that it is not healthy to consider oneself or others as sinners. This puts the focus on our impermanent, imperfect nature. Think of your permanent, ever-pure nature instead. We should learn from our mistakes and go forward. -Adapted from the Vedanta Society of Southern California

Ramakrishna Mission & RVAT

What is your relationship with the Ramakrishna Mission?

The Ramakrishna Vedanta Association of Thailand (RVAT) is an unofficial Ramakrishna center founded by senior Ramakrishna monk, Swami Damodarananda, and currently overseen by the spiritual head of the Ramakrishna Mission in Delhi, Swami Shantatmananda. While it takes spiritual direction from monks of the Ramakrishna Order, at this time it is not an official Ramakrishna Mission center.

Is there an official Ramakrishna center in Thailand?

No. We are currently the only Ramakrishna center in Thailand, and we are overseen by Ramakrishna monks. But there is not yet any official relationship between the Ramakrishna Vedanta Association of Thailand and the Ramakrishna Mission.

Who is Sri Ramakrishna?

See our page on Sri Ramakrishna.

Who is Swami Vivekananda?

See our page on Swami Vivekananda.

Who is Sarada Devi?

See our page on Sarada Devi.