It's a bit ironic that Preeti Gupta first heard about "Vedanta," a philosophy of life rooted in ancient Indian teachings, through the medium of YouTube.
It was there that Gupta, who is a member of Lexington's Indian and Hindu cultural center, the Bharatiya Temple and Cultural Center, also discovered videos of Jaya Row, one of Vedanta's (pronounced VAY-dahn-ta) most prominent modern voices.
Gupta became enthralled with Row's lectures on the philosophy, and has been trying to see her in person for several years. Her quest will be realized on Monday when Row comes to Lexington to deliver a seminar.
Lexington is near the beginning of Mumbai native Row's monthlong spring speaking tour in the U.S.
Groups who have enlisted her instruction include the World Economic Forum, Coca-Cola, and Washington University in Saint Louis. Her teachings, and those of the Vedanta philosophy, are not limited to any one demographic or religious belief, Row explains, and are more or less as commonly practiced in Western countries as more Eastern ones.
"Vedanta is a technique of living, just as when you learn a sport, you need to know the technique of playing that game," she said in a recent phone interview. "It's similar when you live life; you need to know the rules of life and the technique."
Row has been practicing that technique for more than 40 years. Her moment of epiphany came when she was 20 years old, in college at Bombay University, India.
"I was looking to do something outside of myself," she said. That search led her to read the teachings of Rama Tirtha, one of Vedanta's oldest philosophers. She specifically remembers stumbling on an illustrated page with his quote: "If you are not happy as you are, where you are, you will never be happy anywhere else."
"At first I read that and I thought, either he is right, or I am right, because I disagreed," she said. "Luckily, however arrogant I may have been as a young person, I had to concede that he was right."
And her study of Vedanta began.
One of Vedanta's main teachings is tied to the concept that drew Row to it in the first place: happiness. This is also the topic of Row's seminar in Lexington on Monday. Vedanta holds that happiness is within and does not lie in the world as something you have to go out and find.
Row says, "We get misled by believing happiness is outside, because we obtain something and become happy, and therefore think the object has given us the happiness." She insists instead that the happiness has been within the whole time, and with Vedanta, one can learn how to access it.
Another of Vedanta's primary philosophies is that developing the intellect is essential to the full living of life. Row has a degree in microbiology. Many other teachers of Vedanta also have diverse and challenging academic backgrounds, including one of the most famed, Swami Parthasarathy, who holds degrees in science, literature, and law.
The practice of Vedanta has helped Row reduce the amount of stress and agitation in her life, she said, permitting her to excel in her career faster and further than she otherwise might have.
She endorses it by saying, "Vedanta enables me to have a proper assessment of what the world can offer... so with that I am more happy."
Row has dedicated her life's work to sharing the practice with others, through her speaking tours and through many blogs, videos, and other materials available at her website, Vedantavision.org.
Though rooted in some of the same ancient Indian teachings as Hinduism and Buddhism, Vedanta belongs to no one religion. Row explains that the teachings belong to science, to logic, to nature, and to many different religions of the world. She believes that all religions teach essentially the same thing, only tailored to different audiences. Vedanta distills truths common to all of them that are particularly beneficial for living and makes them its own, she said.
Lecture by Jaya Row
When: 6:30 p.m. April 15
Where: Bharatiya Temple and Cultural Center (BTCC), 3050 N. Cleveland Road
Cost: Free, but donations will be accepted