The MU Vedic Society spent the Sunday after Thanksgiving giving back to the St. Louis community for its biannual spiritual retreat.
“For us, Thanksgiving was Sunday,” member Dibya Ranjan Panigrahi said. “Thanksgiving is thanking everybody: God, a superpower, parents, teachers. Thank them all for what you have.”
The retreat is an essential part of the Vedic Society, President Deepika Menon said. It focuses on three things, the first being spiritual awareness. The group visited Hindu, Sikh and Hare Krishna temples in St. Louis to achieve spiritual awareness.
The second focus was to provide service in those holy places. The Vedic Society members vacuumed, cleaned dishes, picked flowers and helped with decorations in the temples.
“No work was inferior or superior,” Panigrahi said. “We just asked them, ‘How can we help you?’ Anything is fine for us.”
The last focus was to eat sacred food. While at the temples, they ate whatever was served, which was typically vegetarian food.
The members said they felt privileged to volunteer and that they did not volunteer at the temples out of self-interest.
The Vedic Society, revived at MU in 2007, is comprised of students, faculty and community members. It strives to attain spiritual well-being by focusing on the mind, body and soul. Performing meditation improves the mind, doing breathing exercises and yoga improve the body and reading sacred texts improves the soul.
“It is not religion specific,” Panigrahi said. “You don’t have to follow a god in order to practice yoga or practice the Veda. That is the fundamental of the Vedic Society.”
Each meeting usually begins with a meet and greet followed by yoga, reading and a discussion of the text members have read. Some meetings are dedicated to practicing chanting.
Chanting at different pitches and speeds creates vibrations. The bigger the group chanting is, the more vibrations are felt, making a bigger impact.
“When you pronounce the words, the vibrations have a positive impact not only on your body and surroundings but also throughout the word,” Vedic Society Vice President Badri Adhikari said.