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     Mary Beth Hughes 

Issaquah, Washington State

My introduction to Vedanta was through my closest friend Graza (Boyce) Doyle.  We have a very special bond and have been friends for over 35 years.  Although I would not have called our relationship “Holy Company” prior to being introduced to that phrase through Vedanta, that is truly what our relationship has grown to be….

 

Graza was initiated by revered Swami Aseshananda at the Portland, Oregon Vedanta Center in 1975.  After moving to Seattle years later she was also closely associated with the Seattle Vedanta Center, for many years.  Graza and her husband Tim currently reside in Portland. 

 

At Graza’s invitation, I was fortunate to have attended talks with her at both the Portland and Seattle Vedanta Centers in the early 2000’s.  However, it was not until the fall of 2013 when I was facing a significant challenge with my long-term personal relationship that I was drawn to the Seattle Vedanta Center again and met Swami Bhaskarananda.  I never looked back. 

 

From the moment I sat in the Library off of the Chapel after having attended the Sunday Talk given by Swami and he enthusiastically and warmly asked me if he may know my name, I knew I had found a spiritual home.  A home where I felt love and support unlike any other, I had experienced in my life.  It was this past June, during the height of the Pandemic of 2020, I was initiated by Swami Bhaskarananda.

 

Although baptized Roman Catholic, from my earliest childhood recollections, I always felt something was missing.  I was struggling to understand and connect with ritual and scripture.  I had so many questions but was discouraged from asking them. 

Someone once told me I have come into this world asking: “Why, Why, Why, Why Why”. 

 

Although I explored a number of options to find answers, I wasn’t realizing any, until Vedanta.  I am blessed to have my Guru in my life and at his direction a method and a path to answers left unresolved for such a long time.  Whenever I express my thanks to Swami for his guidance, he always says “It is not me, but through Thakur and Ma’s grace.”  I am forever grateful.  

 

Up and until the Seattle Center was closed last year due to the Pandemic, I was attending weekly Sunday talks and Tuesday evening Classes on the Bhagavad Gita and The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.  I have always felt welcomed at the Center and the teachings presented by Swami always touched me deeply.  They were instructional and inspirational but most importantly, helped me make the spiritual connection I was longing to find. 

 

You can imagine when the Talks and the Tuesday night classes resumed via “Zoom” in late March 2020, I was very happy.  I am grateful to my fellow devotees Devra and Allen Freedman, Scott Wirth and of course Swami Avikarananda at the Seattle Vedanta Center who worked to setup the technology and schedule the Sessions.  When news regarding the Pandemic was dire, I always knew I could count on Swami’s Zoom Meetings, my studies and daily practice to guide and comfort me, a very special blessing.

 

Each morning I read the day’s passage from the Book of Daily Thoughts and Prayers by Swami Paramananda.  The passages act as my daily guidepost and focal point for reflection.  I also continue to work on improving my lifelong practice of meditation, my studies and devotional prayers. 

 

Vedanta has definitively changed my life.  I am forever grateful to my friend Graza for having introduced me to Vedanta and her loving encouragement and gentle guidance when adversity struck in my life.  Through my adversity I was led to “God’s opportunity”. 

 

And finally, never-ending Pranams to Swami Bhaskarananda for his continuous love and support through which I feel Thakur and Ma’s eternal love manifesting in my life every day.  Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.