By their own admission, the Self Realization Fellowship is a "religious organization". The professor said that it was a spiritual organization, specifically that it was not a religious one.
I believe there is a big difference. The various dictionaries don't make quite as large a distinction as I do though.
The part of me that has strongly ingrained American beliefs, was troubled by this assignment. No public university should require the completion of something like this unless offering a non-religious alternative or else if it were for a philosophy or religion class. I don't have a problem with it as a voluntary or extra credit assignment. I was offended (and my ancestors on all sides would be offended) that it was forced upon us.
But I went with the notion that I would find something of value in the experience. I chose the group meditation rather than the Sunday services, which are lectures.
A portrait of the founder (also on the webpage above) and Jesus took up center stage above what can only be described as an alter. There were four other large portraits there, including one of Gandhi, I think. The exhortations were to meditate on God. The song/chants were all about God. The "minister" wore vestments. The whole thing ended with "amen". The setting reminded me of every other religious fellowship worship service I have ever attended.
But overall, the experience this morning was ok. I enjoyed the meditation part even
if I was slightly uncomfortable to begin with sitting in standard church pews and listening to people sing/chant short bits about God. The time allotted for silent meditation was slightly longer than I normally spend meditating, so it was a little more difficult to come back to the usual level of consciousness. The manner of signaling the end of the meditation was interesting. There were tones played in a slightly increasing volume. This may be somewhat standard in group meditations, but since I normally meditate alone, it was unique for me.
I think I will create a CD or a tape of chimes or temple bells- first with decreasing volume and then a timed silence and then with a similar rising volume to signal the end. I stay in meditation for however long I stay, but it usually winds up being about 20 minutes, sometimes shorter and sometimes longer -depending on which of the various types of meditation I am using on any particular day. I am not sure that having a timed sequence is beneficial.. but it was a pleasant enough experience to return that way, that I may try it at home.