Native American spirituality is as vast a subject as the North American continent itself, which stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the frozen expanses of the Arctic to the steamy jungles of southern Mexico. At this point we will only be able to gain a few impressions of the breadth and depth of the ideas and beliefs by which the First Peoples of this continent lived. We have available a staggering wealth of material on their myths, traditions, and practices, written by Native American holy men and women themselves and also by sympathetic religious scholars.
The following are study notes for the Ashtavakra Samhita, a Vedantic scripture. These are the notes that the late Revered Swami Shraddhananda wrote in the margin of his copy of the text. The notes were written in English, Bengali, and Sanskrit in his handwriting over years of study.
Chicago has a special place in the hearts of devotees and students of Swami Vivekananda because it was in Chicago that the seeds of the Vedanta movement in the West were first planted. Ganges has a special place in their hearts as well, for the delightful coincidence of having a Vedanta retreat in a place with a name that spontaneously draws the veneration and love of all Hindus.
Once when I was eight years old, Thakur (Sri Ramakrishna) came to our house for a meal. I was playing around, being naughty, and my mother told the servant to catch me. Thakur asked my name. Mother told him: “Hubi.” (“one who speaks late,” meaning a child who took long in learning to speak.) Thakur wanted to change the name. It was the custom then to give a girl the name of a flower, but he named me Bhavatarini, after the Divine Mother at Dakshineswar.
Christopher Columbus came to America in the year 1492—and his arrival here was considered the discovery of a new world. Not everyone apparently agreed with that. A Native American chief of the Onondaga Iroquois is reported to have said: “You cannot discover an inhabited land. Otherwise I could cross the Atlantic and ‘discover’ England.”