July 5, 2023

Vedic Cultural Program Offers Free Meals and Spiritual Nourishment

By Wendy Greenberg

For more than a decade, a spiritual organization has offered vegetarian meals to the community the last Sunday of each month, and served a side of spiritual nourishment for those who want to partake.

Since 2012 from 20 Nassau Street, and currently from the YMCA at 50 Paul Robeson Place, the Princeton Bhakti Vedanta Institute has been distributing sanctified vegetarian meals, and also offering, for those who desire, the spiritual piece called kirtan (ecstatic mantra meditation).

The free program, next held on Sunday, July 30 from 1 to 3 p.m., is called Vedic Cultural Immersion: Prasadam & Kirtan. Prasadam refers to the sanctified vegetarian meal, and kirtan, to the spiritual aspect, both practiced in the Vedic culture since ancient times in India, according to the Institute. Prasadam is specially prepared food that has been offered to God and then consumed for spiritual purification. Not only is it vegetarian, but it excludes garlic and onions. 

The Sunday meal and community engagement have taken place at the Princeton YMCA since 2021. Krishna Keshava Das, speaking for the group, said that since partnering with the Y, there is more visibility both indoors and outdoors when weather permits, especially outdoors in a red tent. 

The food distribution has expanded to include the Princeton Food Kindness Project, every Tuesday from 3:45 to 5 p.m. at the Clubhouse at 100 Redding Circle for the Princeton Housing Authority. With the meals offered in both places, the group offers 75 meal trays a month.

The Vedic Cultural Immersion is intended for anyone who would simply like a vegetarian meal, and also for “sincere seekers interested in learning more about the
nonsectarian approach to spiritual life that Vedic philosophy and culture offers.” The full program was initiated during the pandemic to engage with the community.

According to Das, the group has established some positive connections with community members who have attended the program, and some interfaith dialogues have ensued, he said.

The group hopes more people take advantage of the program, he said, with the objective to promote vegetarianism, “which is positive for society,” and for those interested, to learn about spiritual life, and engage in kirtan.

The nonprofit is also seeking donations, as the food is an out-of-pocket expense.

“We look forward to continuing this program and remain grateful to the Princeton YMCA for being an incredible community partner,” he said.

The Bhakti Vedanta Institute of Spiritual Culture and Science (BVISCS) is a nonprofit educational organization with a mission to “disseminate relevant knowledge through multimedia content and educational resources/programming that encourages and facilitates the practical application of wisdom found in the East from the lineage of Sri Chaitanya-Saraswat and in the West from the lineage of Plato-Aristotle-Hegel, towards contemporary investigations of the origin, purpose, relationship, and organic unity-in-diversity of nature (matter), life, consciousness, and Spirit,” according to its website.

In addition to the meal distribution, the Institute holds a  Science & Scientist annual international conference, interdisciplinary discussions between the sciences and humanities, interfaith dialogues, and provides online educational resources.

For more information, visit bviscs.org.