INTRODUCING TOPICS ON HINDU AMERICANS’ INTERACTION WITH h MAJOR CULTURE OF USA POSTED ON HINDU REFLECTIONS
( E-MAILS SENT BY N.R. SRINIVASAN, BRENTWOOD, TN, USA)
Engrossed religious Hindus in India think Hindu Americans are confused Desis born in America or emigrated from Hindustan. If only they can come to this country and spend some time with us they will sympathize with our situation trying hard to bring up our children the Hindu-Way, hold on to our culture our children who are married into different cultures, keep the harmony of traditional Hindu married life and at the same time express our gratitude to this country which has given us more freedom and limitless opportunities while preserving our culture. None of us need to convert to major religion of the country as it happened in the past in India to seek official favor. Here we need not worry about proselytization as in India. Here proselytization is between intellectual equals unlike in India where the vulnerable section becomes a scape-goat. The poor convert to Christianity out of gratitude. They find it easy to flip religions, because the caste ridden Hindu society in India treats them badly. We enjoy more freedom and privileges here than in India but temptations are many if we do not understand our culture properly. At the same time we could also play a leading spiritual role besides scientific contribution in this country and contribute something positive for world peace and spiritual evolution. I came to USA as UNIDO Expert in my field invited by the Country to help one of its ailing manufacturing industry and now after retirement I have significantly contributed to its spiritual awakening.
Eternal Tradition of Vedas from which the present day Hinduism started declares: Devo Ekah--GOD (G=Generator, O=Operator and D=Dis-solver) is one; Eko viprah bahuda vadanti--The One Pundits call by various names; Vasudaiva Kutumbakam--Whole world is one family; Aatmavat sarva bhooteshu-- The same Self abides in all (all beings are created equal); sanghacchadvam samvadadvam--Let us act together, speak together and Krinvanto viswamaaryam--Let us ennoble the world. The idea that god can be realized through different spiritual paths has been taught through the ages by many saints and Gurus of India. But the idea that all religions lead to the same God has been visualized by Ramakrishna Parmahamsa and strongly propagated by Swami Vivekananda promoting Universal Oneness and not Universal Brotherhood. He also said that Vedanta is the only religion of the future for the entire humanity that takes back our thoughts to Sanatana Dharma with which humanity culturally developed and lived with peace and harmony guided by sages in the past.
History teaches us to be progressive and forward looking to a better future towards peace and harmony. American Hindus though successfully come out of caste system and sectarian traditions living in USA are faced with a new problem of their children choosing their life partners from the major cultures with which they are living, and that too mostly Christianity. Hindu American priests willingly conduct and guide worship on all deities breaking the sectarian walls and following Smarta tradition including worship of deities of Buddha, Vardhamana, Saibaba and others in Multi Traditional temples unlike Hindu priests in India. Christianity always keeps its doors open as its main objective is to attract all faiths into its fold. We need to correct the wrong notion that Hinduism is a religion of blind faiths and pagan. Christianity is bent on influencing all with their faith. Bible says in Isaiah 56:7-- "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all". Bill of Rights gives us the freedom to practice religion as desired as well as holding on to one's faith. Even though Sanatana Dharma insists on universal spiritual approach for mankind Hinduism practiced as a religion does not follow the same in its temple worship practice.
Interfaith married couples in India are barred entry to temples if their appearance is suspicious; inter-caste married couples are not looked upon with favor if recognized by the community in religious assemblies in India. Hindu American temples have looked into these aspects and have kept the temple open to all communities as long as they show respect to the faith of the worshipers and abide by the religious discipline of the temple. But Hindu Americans they have not made their worship attractive enough to make it a common form of worship or spiritually attractive as in Baha'i Temple or Vivekananda rock Temple in India. Their objective should be to make it attractive and appealing for the followers of opposing faiths of the married couples and their families without foregoing scriptural injections. Bhagavad Gita and Sanatana Dharma give ample scope to modify our current practices in line with Vedic wisdom to make them universal in appeal. The idea is we should be able to attract all crowds of other faiths to Hinduism without proselytization by making our temple worship more focused on Vedas and spirituality focused than traditional Puranic approach based on sectarian traditions. Keeping this in view I have posted several topics on Hindu Americans’ Interaction with major culture of USA. In fact if you dispassionately think and analyze all religious preaching, worships and celebrations, they have either originated from Sanatana Dharma or inspired by it because for a long time from the beginning of times no other civilization existed, except a culture that thrived on Sanatana Dharma. Even Zoroastrianism which is also one of the oldest religion in the world owes its origin to the same scriptural source from which Hinduism has come (ref: Hymns of Atharva Zarathustra, The Parsi Zoroastrian Association, 1967). It is also our bounden duty to lead the country that is spiritually starving with our expertise sharing and caring being pioneers in the fields of spirituality, yoga and meditation.
I have taken the trouble of collecting all such E-mails sent to HR Forum Participants over a decade for your quick reading. Individual detailed discourses guided by these E-mails can be identified from my classified list for detail study or downloading.
1. HINDU AMERICAN WAY OF CELEBRATING AMERICAN HOLIDAY
2. MEMORIAL DAY WORSHIP
3. JULY 4, INDEPENDENCE DAY WEEK-END CELEBRATIONS
4. THANKSGIVING DAY CELEBRATIONS
5. GRADUATION DAY CELEBRATIONS
6. FATHER’S DAY CELEBRATIONS
7. MOTHER’S DAY CELEBRATIONS
8. CELEBRATION OF THE SEASON OF FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
9. TEACHER’S APPRECIATION DAY
10.LABORDAY WEEK-END CELEBRATIONS
11.AAYUDHAPOOJAA DAY, VISWAKARMA DAY AND SRAMIK DIN—THREE-IN-ONE WORSHIP DAYFOR HINDU AMERICANS
12.IS IT SPIRITUAL SAMHAIN OR HAUNTED A HALLOWEEN?
13.HINDU REFLECTIONS ON CHRISTMAS TREE AND LIGHTING
14.ONE HINDU TEMPLE-COMPLEX FOR MANY TRADITIONS OVERSEAS
15.MAHALAYA AMAVASYA PITRU PAKSHA—ALL SOULS DAY
16.SOME NOBLE THOUGHTS AND BIZARRE CUSTOMS IN THE WORLD ON NEW YEAR’S EVE
17.WHY AMERICAN HINDUS RUSH TO TEMPLE TO WORSHIP ON NEW YEAR’S EVE?
18.LET US FOSTER AND SPREAD MESSAGE OF PEACE AROUND WORLD
19.SMAARTA TRADITIONOF TEMPLE WORSHIP IS IDEAL FOR AMERICAN HINDUS
20.THINKING OF TRANSCENDENTAL PI AND BRAHMAN ON MARCH 14
21.UNITY IN DIVERSITY—DIVERSITY STRESS MANAGEMANT
22.THINKING OF TRANSCENDENTAL PI AND BRAHMAN ON MARXCH 14
23.UNITY IN DIVERSITY
24.YUGADI AND APRIL FOOL’S DAY
25.DID HOLY BLAZING FIRES AND BIZARRE COLORS INSPIRE WESTERN CULTURE TOO?
26.SHOULD HUNDUS RIDE A DONKEY OR A HORSE—PEAE OR DHARMA?
27.IF YOU FIND GOD IN DARKNESS, THAT IS BRAHMAN
28.MOTHER’S DAY—A DAY FOR VENERATIONFOR MOTHERS AND WORSHIP FOR MOTHER EARTH
29.CAN MEMORIAL DAY BE A SPECIAL RELIGIOUS EVENTS DAY FOR HINDU AMERICANS?
30.HAS RAMAYAN PATH OR O PARAYANA INSPIRED BIBLE MARATHON?
31.SATANIC 9/11 OF 2001AND SPITITUAL 9/11 OF 1893
32.INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE
33.HINDU REFLECTIONSON CHRISTMAS TREE AND ON AN UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS TRADITION
34.LET US CENTER OURSELVES WIDENING OUR VISION OF FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
35.DID BHARATIYAS HELP THE GROWTH AND PROSPERITY OF CHRISTIANITY?
36.HOW CAN WE ADAPT RELIGIOUS VALENTINE”S DAY TO HINDU MODE OF WORSHIP?
37.THINKING OF MOTHER EARTH ON MOTHER’S DAY…….
38.NARASIMHA STOTRA BY PRAHLADA CAN MOTIVATE HINDU AMERICANS TO CELEBRATE FATHER’S DAY
39.HINDU AMERICAN RELIGIOUS AND PHILOSOPHIC THOUGHTS ON FATHER”S DAY
40.MULTI TRADITIONAL HINDU AMERICAN TEMPLES NEED FOCUS ON SPIRITUALITY AND DEITIES TO SUIT ALL
41.VEDIC SOMA YAJNAS AND THEIR IMPACT ON CHRISTIAN EUCHARIST RITUALS
*I. HINDU AMERICAN WAY OF CELEBRATING AMERICAN HOLIDAYS
We as migrant Hindu Americans are often faced with cultural shocks and interfaith issues. Interfaith marriage is not a simple designation. It is lifelong personal experiences and ongoing internal dialogues. American Hindu caught in such a dilemma is concerned about doing what he or she thinks is right, taking risks, having faith, and nurturing the spiritual growth of his or her spouse, children and self. Regardless of their background, they are hungry for community life they live with. Brought together by love and commitment, they are soul-mates striving in the best way they know for happiness and fulfillment of spiritual values of life.
Interfaith issues affect entire families. Grandparents, parents and children all face challenges posed by different religions and cultures. Our children may choose to practice an alternative faith or choose to marry outside our denomination! Our grandchildren may like to come back to their mother's religion or father's religion. Here the community has a role to play. Communities are meant to offer support; to educate; and to help make connections to the major society that can help.
Most of the Inter-faith marriages are between the major religions of the immigrant countries which is Christianity in USA. Christianity always keeps its doors open as its main objective is to attract all faiths into its fold and they consider Hinduism as a religion of blind faiths and pagan. They are bent on influencing all with their faith. Bible says in Isaiah 56:7 "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all". Bill of Rights gives us the freedom to practice religion as desired as well as holding on to one's faith. This is not possible in Muslim countries where one has to give up his religion and convert to the religion of the land. Even though Sanatana Dharma insists on universal spiritual approach for mankind Hinduism practiced as a religion does not follow the same in its temple worship practice. Interfaith married couples in India are barred entry to temples if their appearance is suspicious; inter-caste married couples are not looked upon with favor if recognized by the community in religious assemblies.
Hindu American temples have looked into this aspect and have kept the temple open to all communities as long as they show respect to the faith of the majority and abide by the religious discipline. But they have not made their worship attractive enough to make it a common form of worship or spiritually attractive as in Baha'i Temple or Vivekananda rock Temple in India. Their objective should be to make it attractive for the followers of opposing faiths of the married couples and their families based on the fact that Hinduism has the Vedic directive "Eko Viprah bahudaa vadanti"--The ONE the learned call as Many; "Sarve janaah sukhino bhavantu"--May all live happily; Krinvanto Viswamaaryam--Let us ennoble the whole world;Om Santih! Santih! Santih--May there be peace from within, may there be peace from external disturbances and we blessed with peace from the Supreme Principle which is beyond all our expressions!
Rightly or wrongly Temples in America have attempted to adopt most of the National Holidays but celebrate them in their own traditional way guided by the priests trained by the orthodoxy in India which we are not strictly following anyhow here even in our regular worship. This is not appealing to the inter-racially married partner of love marriage who somehow gets attracted to Hinduism because of its spiritual emphasis, leaving behind the religion of his or her own. If convinced their children would be brought with Hindu spirituality. The alternate is to go to the other religion and sermonized or turn atheists altogether. It is therefore necessary make these holiday worship more meaningful and spiritually oriented if we want to keep the partners within Hindu fold and make it attractive to their children too to be brought up with Hindu values. Various discourses on American Holidays have been an attempt in that direction. Fortunately the present situation is congenial because more and more people are attracted to Yoga and spirituality. It is up to every Hindu American to think on these lines and adapt their religious and spiritual pursuits in America being situated in the crossroad of cultures.
*2. MEMORIALDAY WEEKEND WORSHIP
Hindu Temple worship originates from Puranic Tradition which again consists of Saiva, Vaishnava and Sakta as well as regional traditions (Sampradayas). Acculturation of the Brahminical forms of worship and the local regional vernacular forms of beliefs can be called Sanskritized form of worship. By and large this is the form of worship with which overseas Hindu Temple are designed. In spite of this synthesis the folk and tribal forms of worships exist in India with their own non-Brahmin priests and non-Vedic rituals. The tradition of Vitobha and Khandoba in Maharashtra, mother Goddess Kali in Bengal, Bhagavati in Kerala and Mariamman in Tamil Nadu stand prominent and retain their folk elements.
Hindus drawn from different traditions in USA are also trying to have a common form of worship overseas. Attempts are being made to draw Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Arya Samajists to this common form of Hindu worship. We can see Arya Samajists and Sikhs freely participating in Hindu worships while the idols of Buddha and Jina are being consecrated in some Hindu temples here.
Religious and envious Hindus in India say that we are America Be-taken Confused CIO (Citizens of Indian Origin) Desis (ABCD Americans). With the growing popularity of inter-racial marriages interacting with Western culture attempts are being made to celebrate all local festivals and National holidays in Hindu Temples. These National holidays of USA are shown in Hindu Religious Calendars prominently as Days for Worship for Special Events. We have seen in the past how some of these special observance days like Mother's Day, Father's Day and with little stretch of imagination holidays like Thanksgiving and Festival of Lights could be celebrated as Mass worship in Hindu Temples to fit into Hindu religious mode of worship. But it will be too far-fetched to celebrate holidays like Memorial Day, July 4 and Christmas in Hindu Temples. Hindus never celebrate Armistice Day in Hindu Temples in India which is only observed on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday. Yet Hindu religious calendars of Temples here show Memorial Day as Special Events day for special worship, keeping the temple open all day even on weekdays. Temples in USA are run as privately managed institutions rather than publicly run religious institutions though they need mass participation. The will of the elders and founding fathers of the temple prevails as to the choice of worship and deities. Religious many therefore concentrate on worship at homes while many others use temples for social exchange of views and gatherings.
It sounds logical to keep holidays like Memorial Day, July 4, Christmas etc. to their original intent and adopt selected few National Holidays with a meaningful form of worship as detailed in the discourse "Hindu Mass Worship in Temples and the Need to Focus on Spirituality". In Tennessee as you all know May 3 was observed as National Day of Prayer. It would have been a better idea to have observed May 3 as a National Day of Prayer in Hindu Temples instead of May 28 being observed as special events day with Ganesha Abhishekam and Siva Abhishekam and also keeping the temple open all day long. Local YMCA invited people of all religious faiths to join the prayer which was observed at 12 Noon on this day. This day of prayer was not any commercial day as Memorial Day, Christmas and Easter. They were not selling anything on this day. They were celebrating with all reverence. We could have given a lead in this as the followers of Sanatana Dharma.
In every one of our prayers we pray for Universal Peace. We could only pray for the concerned souls in silence affected by wars, some intentional and some unavoidable, in human conflicts.We could also think of those who gave up their lives fighting for freedom from British Empire in India like the fellow beings in America who also fought against British rule and gained independence. As Hindus we believe in the return of souls with lesser Praarbhda Karmas (past bad deeds) to lead a better life and we need not repeat after the Western prayer: "May the soul rest in peace", but pray for all round peace praying: "May the souls be spiritually elevated to return".
"Om dyauh saantir antariksham saantih prithvee saantir aapah saantir oshadhayah saantih | vanaspatayah saantih visvedevaah saantir brahma saantih sarvam saantih saantireva saantih saa maa saantiredhi ||"
*3. JULY 4, INDEPENDENCE DAY WEEKEND CELEBRATIONS
It is an irony that most of the Americans honor July 4 because they believe that is the day on which all Americans secured their freedom. But the truth is that the Declaration of independence really secured freedom for the White and wealthy men only. It did not guarantee freedom of speech, press, religion, petition and assembly--The five freedoms of the First Amendment which were later guaranteed. Declaration of Independence gave an opportunity to fight for suffrage for women, the emancipation of slaves and equality for all. Still American Constitution says all men are created equal but not all people are created equal, and word men in the Constitution is figurative some think. But it is a legal document where even a comma or period counts for legal interpretation.
December 15 is the Birthday of Bill of Rights. In guaranteeing these fundamental rights in 1791, Americans set themselves apart from all nations on the planet. It is one of the most important day in American History, and yet no one takes the time to reflect on the importance of December 15. it is forgotten amid heavily commercialized and camouflaged Festival of Lights Season or Christmas Season. FDR wanted all Americans to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and prayer to the God. Bill of Rights reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise there off".
Sri Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devasthanam in N.Y., one of the oldest temples in USA conducts special a strange coincidence; this is their Temple Anniversary Day. North American Panchangam 2012 also mentions about it but not of any other temple in USA! I thought it would cover at least the temples of the Council. Not realizing the same, many other temples in USA have earmarked July 4 for special worship and also keep the temple open all day though it is a week day. It beats our imagination how this day could be a significant day for Hindu Americans as a special religious day for worship? It would be more logical to celebrate December 15 as a special day for religious worship as it is The Bill of Rights Day that gave Hindu Americans freedom of religion and worship. Unlike in many Islamic countries here we could build so many temples to serve the needs of Hindu community. We are also not forced to study about the major religion of the country, Christianity because of Bill of Rights. Ten Commandments or any part of Bible is not displayed in Government buildings. In my days Bible was a compulsory subject for study in my school in India, as also morning prayer reading a Psalm from Bible everyday though majority who attended school were Hindus in India.
It should be noted the views expressed on American Independence Day and Bill of Rights Day is based on the White Americans' voice as appeared in Tennessean. It makes no sense to run to the temple for special worship and to glorify July 4 as a special day for religious worship. This day should be left to its original intent to be celebrated as a secular National Holiday and honored where we could all participate. Who knows one day some Hindu might come with the idea that Statue of Liberty is Aindra Maataa, as we refer in religious resolution (sankalpa) USA as Aindra Khanda based on Bharatmata concept for whom a temple exists in the holy city of Haridwar. He may even insist on consecrating Aindrmata in a Hindu temple if he is the major contributor to the temple just as it happened in Albany temple for Buddha and Mahaveer Vardhamana. Bhaaratmaataa was a creation of freedom fighter Bankim Chandra Chattarjee to rouse the spirit of Indians to fight against the foreign rule of the British. This is the only temple where Independence Day and Republic Day are celebrated as special worship religious days in India. In fact August 15 is the Saddest Day of Partition when India lost all its pride of association with Sindhu (Indus Valley Culture). We lost on this day again large bit of land as Pakistan as in the past centuries losing Tibet, Burma and Afghanistan. Had we continued fight and insisted on majority voice, India would not have been partitioned. Can there be a day when we can attract all these countries to embrace India in a Federation like USA and live peacefully to revive the concept of Vasudeka kutumbakam? The words Hindu, Hindusthan and India, all based on the word Sindhu, is no more meaningful to Indians. They should be content with Khanda Bharat (Mini Bharat) and not Akhanda Bharatas it stands today, for a land called Bharatvarsha and Bharatakanda once. Fortunately the discovery of Khambata (Cambay) in Gujrat gives Hindus an opportunity to shift their pride to Khambata from Sindhu to prove we are the most ancient cultural descendants in the world.
*4. THANKSGIVING WEEKEND CELEBRATIONS
"Maanavajanma balu doddadu, idanu haanimaadalu-bedi hucchaapaagalira" says a famous song in Kannada by a great devotee of the Lord-- Human life is the greatest, don't waste it! Hindu scriptures also say "Narajanmam durlabham"--to be born as human is unique opportunity. Humans are the most perfect among living beings in Intelligence Creation by the Supreme Spirit. It is the stepping stone for final liberation through spiritual evolution. Humans alone are provided with three types of bodies called gross body, subtle body and casual body presided over by Aaatman the Self as you have learnt in Vedanta. It is therefore logical that Hindu Immigrants are celebrating Thanksgiving Day in tune with the National Spirit of their adopted land but in their own spiritual way of thinking. Migrant Hindus celebrate Thanksgiving Day in Temples as the day to express their gratitude to the Lord for this rare opportunity.
Hindus begin every prayer in rituals with an expression of gratitude and obeisance to parents and teachers (guruparampara)--"Asmadaachaarya paryantaam vande guruparamparaam". It is therefore appropriate and logical to make this day ear-marked to the great sages who had provided the knowledge by way of Srutis (vedas) and Smritis (Geeta etc.) which are the fountain-heads of the knowledge for spiritual evolution to reach the Supreme for final Liberation.
Expression of Gratitude is a positive emotion. It is foremost among humanity's powerful emotions. Expressing thanks is a potent emotion that feeds on itself almost the equivalent of being victorious. It does make people happier. It is that incredible feeling. One of the reason why it works so well is that it connects with others. Gratitude really changes our attitude and our on-look on life. Thanksgiving can give a big boost to our outlook. Grateful people are less likely to experience envy, anger, resentment, regret and other unpleasant states that produce stress. It is a stress buffer.
Lot of research is going on in brain chemistry and hormones in the blood and neurotransmitters in the brain that are connected to feelings of gratitude by McCullough and others in USA. The left fore-frontal cortex of the brain which is also associated with positive emotions like love, compassion etc., seems to be a key-spot on study in humans, based on a study made on Buddhist monks who are always engaged in meditation. In whatever way it works in the brain, there is little doubt it works says Doctor Robert Emmons, psychology professor at Davis Medical center in California.
*5. GRADUATIONDAY CELEBRATION
May and June in spring are the months for celebration of High School Graduation in USA. This is the time to feel pride and this is time to give council, this is the time to depart and there is time for everything. In keeping with the traditions of the country of adoption Hindu migrants also celebrate the High School graduation of their children not only at their homes but also in the Temple by offering prayers through special pooja to express their reverence to the Almighty for having blessed their children with this educational success, their first milestone of success in their lives and also for their success in securing admission to a college of their choice in their chosen line of study for a bright future. The children also actively participate in such poojas. I am confident they will continue to cultivate the values taught by the Sunday School and their parents when they move out.
I still remember the Convocation Address delivered by the great Statesman of India C. Rajagopalachari affectionately called Rajaji, giving us his valuable advice as to how to shape our life for the betterment of the nation, when I graduated from A.C. College of Technology. Such a practice is also there in USA when one completes the college education, but by then the children more often than not move away from their parents and such graduation celebrations are not much noticed. But Hallmark makes a good business out of it. In India generally they do not celebrate High School Graduation on such a grand scale as by then worry starts for admission to a good college to pursue higher studies.
It is customary in USA for the Valedictorian to deliver speeches thanking everyone and advising fellow students how to succeed in the long and winding path in furthering education and get on with life as useful citizens serving the society. Students of Hindu origin, bound by their tradition, would also like to pay their respect to their chosen deity as well as their parents and well-wishers, though not a common practice in India, as they will be moving away from their parents for the first time to pursue studies or career and try to practice living an independent life. In Vedic days, this was done after the Upanayana Samskara when the child had the last meal from the mother and entered Gurukula. This samskara is no longer practiced vigorously but for few boys from Brahmin migrant families who celebrate it on a grand scale. Those who undergo Upanayana do not study Vedas as in olden days
On this occasion, it is worth-while to look back on the past Vedic Culture, learn basic values of education and derive benefit from the Values it promoted for a better life, one's duty and service to family that had helped initially and the duty towards the society in which one has to live. I have therefore pleasure in attaching "Convocation Address by the Guru to his Disciple" from Taittireeya Upanishad after completion of studies at the Gurukula and also my discourse on "Hindu Education through the Ages". Please bring the essence and value of these discourses to your graduating children or pass it on to your friends whose children are graduating.
(June 2012; June 2013
*6. FATHER’S DAY CELEBRATION
All said and done world remains predominantly patriarch, more so USA. Americans are yet to see a woman President though they have elected a woman as the first woman governor of South Carolina that too of Indian origin. Of course there is the other woman Governor too but this happened for the first time in South Carolina where Christian feelings are strong. Of course this Governor of cross culture is fully sold to Chuch and not Gurudwara. Hindu Americans are used to the American Constitution which says "All men are created equal". They also know that in Christian Faith, the religion of majority of the Land, Holy Father, Holy Son and the Holy Spirit are worshiped but not Holy Mother though saints are beatified as Mother. In their religious pursuits, Hindus recognize Brahma as Pitaamaha (Paternal Grand-father) and Siva as Pitaa (father) Mahadeva who as a single parent was responsible for the birth of Kartikeya denying Parvati an opportunity to be equally responsible, which she compensated by creating Ganesha as her Maanasa putra (mind born son). Vedic mantras direct us to "Matru devo bhava, Pitru devo bhava and Aaachraya devo bhava" and in that order meaning treat your mother, then father and then teacher as god. Purposely father is placed in the middle because he could be as well be a mother and a teacher if occasion demands. Epic Mahabharata says father is equal to ten Vedic scholars in imparting worldly wisdom and knowledge to the kid. You know the story of Valmiki who as a foster father raised two kids of Rama in his absence and neglect. Great Sages like Valmiki and Kanva (foster father of Sakuntala) showed the world how they were concerned with the world and served humanity by raising other's kids with fatherly care and love as foster fathers though they were recluse (sanyasis) in their pursuit.
In American Way of life, forced by divorce as well as other compelling reasons father is often forced to play the role of single parent to take care of children, playing the role of mother too in addition to his role as a father. Even while parents live together, if both are working, they are forced to share the responsibility together in raising kids which they do willingly and gladly. You all remember the Herculean efforts of Sonara Smart Dodd who knocked at every door to promote the concept of Father's Day Celebration in USA at National level in memory of her great father who raised six kids all alone as a single father when his wife passed away early in their lives. He did not remarry nor seek anybody's help. Her dream came true after a long time when Richard Nixon made a law making every Third Sunday of June a National Holiday of Celebration to honor all fathers. This day is also a highly commercialized special worship day in churches though not as thickly attended as Mothers' day in USA.
The social fabric of Hindu Americans is so knitted that no celebration and as a matter of fact no human activity can be segregated from the divine inspiration. So they rush to the temple to celebrate this day for a special worship of Lord Siva who too was a single parent of Lord Subrahmanya to whom he imparted all secular and spiritual knowledge and made him commander of the divine army. Lord Subrahmanya could even defeat his father in spiritual knowledge and valor and so he is praised as Guruguha (mystic Guru). It is also fitting and proper to dedicate this day to Lord Brahma who set up the precedence of single parent who is glorified as first Pitaamaha (paternal grand-father). As you are all aware there are no temples for Brahmaexcept for the lone temple in Pushkar in India though no worship is complete without his invocation in any Hindu worship or ritual. He therefore deserves a day earmarked for his exclusive worship and Father's Day will be a fitting tribute.
As a general rule every great kid had a great father to support; without him it is a life-long struggle. The shocking revelation that has affected children in American Society in fatherless homes is detailed in the discourse on the subject. Just as the Vedic dictum "Pitru Devo Bhava. Holy Bible also conveys Lord's command to father and the child to live together happily and not to become a victim of his wrath. While overall divorce rate in the USA has decreased since 1990, gray divorce has doubled for those over age 50. While there are varying reasons, one compelling reason is no kids to use as a reason to stay together. Hindus in USA are not lagging behind here. We have moved away from the Hindu tradition of living with sons after getting old and also neglect spiritual concentration as we get old being materialistic in outlook inherited from the land of our adoption. Children brought up the American Way also contribute a lot towards this disharmony.
(June 2012; June 2013)
7. MOTHER’S DAY CELEBRATION
Mother's Day is celebrated all over America on 13th of this month as a social event honoring mother for giving birth and well bringing up children with care, love and affection and with a spirit of sacrifice. America thought of honoring motherhood on a special day very recently as you could see from the discourse posted on the blog <nrsrini.blogspot.com>. This was by the inspiration of a lone daughter Anna Jarvis in America moved by her love for mother. President Woodrow Wilson passed a bill to honor a specific mother Ann Jervis (mother of Anna Jervis) in May, from whence the tradition began.
Mother occupied an honored place from the Vedic days as evidenced by the Vedic Mantras Matru devo bhava, Pitru devo bhava, Achaarya devo bhava and Athiti devo bhava in Taittareeya Upanishad. Every student after the completion of Vedic studies at Gurukula took leave of his Guru paying him guru-dakshina according to his capability in ancient days. Guru in turn gave his final convocation address to all students advising them to follow his Commandments and serve the society. The very first commandment was Matru devo bhava--honor thy mother as Goddess, then comes father, teacher and the guest in that order to be venerated as Gods.
Mother's Day is a way to draw attention to maternal mortality, the cause at the heart of Every Mother Counts advocacy campaign by Christy Turlington Burns, for women who died from issue related to pregnancy and child birth as per the original intent. But to-day, unfortunately it is commercially exploited, and estimated to be around 18.96 billion dollar business. Why not celebrate this day not only as family get together but also make it a moment of solidarity with many other moms, and have in those surroundings all those women to appreciate them.
Hinduism is one of the few surviving religions where the divine principle is adored in female form. This again is cited in Vedas which by to-day's estimation from historic underwater explorations of Dwaraka and Khambata (Cambay) dates back to more than 10000 years about which I had informed you. Mahanarayana Upanishad (MNU) says; "Mother Earth is Aditi and she is the mother of all entities inclusive of the stationary entities. She is glorified as mother of all beings such as gods, gandharvas, human beings, the manes, asuras and others". Other cultures should have followed Sanatana Dharma for the tradition of Devi worship, but somewhere in the middle in the male dominated society Mother worship has been forgotten. In Japan she was Amarterasu (sun goddess), in Greece Demeter(the corn goddess), in Egypt Isis (the river goddess); The Viking called her Frejya; the Eskimos Sedna; the Romans Artemis; the Mexican Coatlicue: the Tibetan Tara. The Hindus later called her Sakti and still continue with the tradition of Sakti worship.
American Hindus in their anxiety to blend with the local culture are keen to celebrate this day on a grand scale at community level and with all mothers getting together and honoring them. The social fabric of Hindus is so knitted that no human activity can be segregated from the divine. As a logical conclusion they have taken the Mother's Day Celebration to Hindu Temple complexes where all followers of various Hindu deities with different traditions (sampradayas) meet. Vaishnavites think of Lakshmi worship and Saivites Parvati or Durga who are quite popular. This trend perhaps in due course may be an eye-opener and could revive the long forgotten tradition in all the cultures, who have forgotten mother worship or treat mother with due respect equal to God.
It would be logical to dedicate this day to the worship of Bhoodevi who is glorified in Upanishads as the Universal mother. Invariably we see Bhudevi and Sridevi together as the consorts of Vishnu in all processional deities. But somehow Bhudevi is forgotten by all like Brahma and Saraswati in our veneration. Except for few lone temples for Brahma and Saraswati their worship is not a dominant feature in mass worship in temples. There is no temple for Bhudevi as far as my knowledge goes though she is invoked in Vedic Mantras in almost all temple rituals and worships. There is a temple for Bharat Mata in the holy city of Haridwar. Worship of Mother Earth as Bhoodevi suits all.
Please refer to my discourse on the Blog for Bhudevi Mantras "Some Vedic Mantras used in Hindu Rituals" from MNU. Please also visit the Blog for my discourse on:"Matru Devo Bhava-The Hindu American Way", a discourse on Mother's Day.
8. CELEBRATIONS OF SEASON OF FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
Watching the enthusiasm of my grand-kids to put up the Christmas Tree and the lighting and looking forward to the customary multiple and attractive gifts soon after Thanksgiving my thoughts took me to different heights of Vedanta. Many families of Hindu-Americans put up Christmas Tree and the Lighting which is the Western Culture. This is to express the feeling that they too are participating in the merrymaking and acts of national integration and understanding in their land of adoption which trend perhaps has its inspiration from the Vedic culture which absorbed many traditions of worship and different races into its fold of Sanatana Dharma. To me X-Mas is more than saying Merry Christmas!
Hindu temples in USA surprise us with their special mention in the Temple Religious Calendar about Christmas Long week-end. What could have inspired them while Hindus do not go to temple on Christmas week end except some holiday visitors? Probably they are thinking of another prayerful celebration on the Friday23 of Christmas Week in 2011 during the Happy Holiday Season in their process of Hindu-way of celebrating American festivals like Thanksgiving! Similarly they have mentioned that 30th December another Friday is New Year week end, but also added January first in the Religious Calendar as many Hindus rush to Temple on that day like those regular visitors to Pittsburgh Temple on New Yea Day, Tirupati of America. On these two days being Fridays they may want to attract visitors and inter-racial couples also to the temple giving it a Hindu religious piety. The lights we see from Sivaraatri, Ramaadan, Deepaavali, Kartigai (Annamalai Deepam), Hanukah, Kwaanzaa, Christmas and Makara Sankraanti (Makaravilakku at Sabari Malai) are not ordinary lights but sacred lights of heaven that can never be extinguished from the hearts of those who celebrate and bring in Joy and Happiness.
Observing divine light and later showing little lights or putting up lights as an act of gratitude and glorification to the Lord and celebrating the festivals starts with Sivaratri (a column of fire). The divine light travels round the globe and ends with the Eastern Tradition as Makara Vilakku (light) in Sabarimalai in January. As you all know slowly the nights get lengthened during the latter half of the year bringing more darkness which needs more light. This is thus carried on to the New Year with love, goodness, hope and joy being the terms used by everybody to greet each other. We should make it more meaningful if we a were to bring these Holidays under Hindu Religious (They may be in Indian calendar but not in Hindu Religious Calendar) Calendar or worship.
Following the path shown by our ancient sages long back, three wise men, later, but 2011 years before, observed a divine light (star) in the sky which led them to Bethlehem where a baby boy was born. They announced it to the world and much later when calmness prevailed people began to celebrate the day with lights. If you closely study Vedas and the Bible, Jesus just dwelt upon only on the Wisdom of Vedas as you could see in the Discourse "Christianity Echoes Wisdom Thoughts of Eternal Tradition". What Krishna (Kris) taught to enlightened Arjuna, Jesus preached to the people drawn from lower strata of human society (like fishermen) in a simple language, as elaborate in the discourse “Wisdom of Geetaa's Teachings and Bible's Preachings".
Christmas Tree draws its inspiration from Aswattha celebrated in Geetaa that reaches great heights which has its roots in heaven nourished by heavenly light. The Lights we put up are symbolic of heavenly Bright Light Stars that lead us to brighter and better worlds, from darkness to light to bring peace and prosperity. Aswattha is peculiar to East under which Lord Buddha also got his enlightenment and in its absence in the West the towering Christmas tree which points to heavens plays its role. The darkness of prejudices, cynicism and materialism are wiped out by these heavenly lights. Neither the Sun nor the Moon nor the Stars can match that Universal light (Sivaraatri, Annamalai Deepam and Makara Vilakku) we seek after. In what way can these ceremonial lights we put up during festivals can match that light of several thousands of Suns!
How best can we then enjoy putting lights and tree after Thanksgiving which lasts till January 1, for the Holiday season, as is the Tradition in USA, and also celebrate it in our own way of Hindu Worship in temples, choosing a memorable day during the Holiday season as we do for some other American Holidays but within the Hindu scriptural injunction? We cannot kill the enthusiasm of our kids to put up the tree and the lights. We also owe an explanation to our visiting parents who may be disappointed to see our celebration of American Culture at homes and see how we have changed here! The discourse on Festivals of Lights--Ancient Traditions of Universal Appeal in the Blog: <nrsrini.blogspot.com> throws light on these aspects.
*9. TEACHER’S APPRECIATION DAY
Those of you who are living in Tennessee should know that May 8, 2012 is Teacher's Appreciation Day. In fact this whole week is Teacher's Appreciation Week to let your teachers know that you value them and their dedicated service.
Having been educated in India and Germany for some time this does not appear anything new to me. As a kid I learnt that Guru is my third God after mother and father. Aachaarya Devo bhava is a Vedic command--Treat your teacher as God. While in Germany I learnt that it is almost impossible to meet your Professor. Meeting a professor and have personal advice is more difficult than to be in communion with God. He is venerated and well respected and student are afraid to reach his sanctum. I almost used to meet my professor every week-end and had often dinner with him. This was a unique blessed privilege and many German students were jealous of me.
I was quite disappointed when I came to USA. Education here seemed to me is run like a business. Nobody is seen respecting teacher the way I learnt it and everyone on the other hand acts as a guru himself. I was therefore attracted to read a letter to the editor from Tennessean and felt how wrong I was. Instead of coming with elaborate apologies and explanations I would like to reproduce a grateful mom's letter to the editor of Tennessean:
"Teachers teach more than just the curricula. They teach manners and acts of helpfulness. They teach neatness and organizational skills. They teach healthy habits and responsibility for actions. They teach decision making how to be good citizens and myriad of other things besides 3R's. Our schools and teachers provide practically every service a child will need in life except a living home with religious instruction which should be left up to the parent. Few professionals impact as many lives as teachers do. We should respond when criticisms are hurled at our schools and think of the huge responsibility we place in the hands of our teachers. Praise and support can accomplish more than criticisms"
This is a remarkable change seen in USA, almost bringing the message given in Vedas of venerating our teachers. I wonder why our temples in USA do not want to celebrate a Teacher's Day like what they do on Mother's Day, Father's day and many others. I wonder why Hallmark and American Greetings have not exploited the business potential. Our Sunday school Teachers in temples have even taken the responsibility of giving religious instructions and whatever is left behind from the teachers of secular education knowing the busy nature of working mothers in USA. As you know in in India we are all grown with the idea of servant maids, drivers, dhobis, scavengers etc. But yet it is a pity we do not think of earmarking a day for honoring their selfless service!
*10. LABORDAY WEEKEND CELEBRATIONS
USA has adopted first Monday of September as Labor Day in place of May Day (International Labor Day) celebrated as workers day all over the world. This was initiated by the Central Labor Union of New York in 1882 which later became a National Holiday approved by the congress. It is also popularly enjoyed as labor weekend or long holiday week end. Majority of Americans being Christians, attend special mass worships in all churches conducted on Sunday of the Labor week. Hindu Americans do not lag behind. They go out of the way to keep the Temple open on Labor Day Monday, all day long and also observe it as a special religious day of observance and conduct special pujas. Hinduism is a religion of conveniences and compromises as we all know. One justification for holding such special poojas on non-religious Hindu days seems to be, the holiday weekend attracts crowds from neighboring towns and so temple should be kept open for longer hours. It is a good idea to keep the temple open on all days so because not all the people who attend temples are working people. By and large in Hindu families only one of the parents is working, there are unemployed (who feel the importance to visit temple as the proverb goes when in trouble dial Venkateswara) and retired people too. They attend temple at their convenience as we have seen. But why to give it a color of special religious observance day is not understandable? Other major religions do not act that way interfering with their faith or accommodating other faiths. The other reason seems to be to accommodate the feelings and sentiments of Hindu Americans married to someone from the major religion of the country. At present this happens to be Christian community. It is to welcome and attract Interfaith married couples to Hindu Temples and allow them to participate in Hindu religious worship,and impress upon the public of the broad outlook of Hindu community. Unfortunately such worships are not possible in India if Inter-faith couples reveal or expose their identity as they enter a Hindu temple. On the other hand Christians and Jews welcome the same wherever they are because Bible says; "My House shall be called a House of Prayer for all peoples" (Isiah 56:7). No such open declaration and practice is seen in Hindu worship as temple worships are of recent origin and are regimental as decided by the religious and temple authorities. Muslim countries give no scope for this even though there are isolated Hindus who are married to Muslim community which is rather rare. Migrant Hindus therefore do not have to observe Ramadan as a special fasting Vrata Day. May Day is a National Holiday in India but has not entered the portals of Hindu Temples in India for any kind of celebration like Independence Day and others.
Worship pattern in Hindu Temples in migrant countries by and large depends on major contributors, founding fathers and chosen management and not necessarily to the needs or feelings of the community drawn from different Traditions or logic. Therefore let us leave this matter to the wisdom of temple authorities. They often work as Private Institutions though take public help a lot and need their participation. It is however true we owe an obligation to our country of adoption and also want to blend with the local culture. It is also true the social fabric of Hindus wherever they are settled is so knitted that no human activity is segregated from the divine. That is the reason why Hindu temples rush to celebrate every National Holiday with a divine fervor unlike other faiths. It would have been proper to leave some of them to their original intent like Independence Day, Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving Day, Halloween, Christmas etc.
Major faith and culture of America blends some of these National Holidays with its religious faith. They do not however invite people on Labor Day Monday to hold a special mass worship. How can we as Hindu Americans then adopt Labor Day to suit our religious practices? Every such worship need not end up with Abhishekam or Homam to the Main deity or on the same day as Labor Day, taking the clue from the major faith of the land. Other faiths do not react like us. Hindu temples in migrant countries are temple complexes and should be appealing to all Sampradayas among Hindus for active participation. It should also reflect the importance of the day like Saraswati Puja Day. It should be appealing to Inter-faith families to participate. Here it is important to stress the importance and value of Labor. As we know all over the North in India Viswakarma Day is observed as a religious day of great importance, particularly in Bengal, Orissa, Jharkand, U.P., Madhya Pradesh and others. Usually this is celebrated on September 17 or 18. Bengal observes on 18th this year. I do not know whether America drew inspiration from India to have Labor Day in September? Some States observe Viswakarma Day on the Sankranti day prior to Ganesha Chaturthi. Some other States observe on the day next to Diwali. There is a good following among Hindus who call themselves as Viswakarma Community. I need not stress the importance of Viswakarma Pooja who is popular with all Hindus and venerated. Even south Indians keep one day exclusive for Ayudha Puja during Navaratri (eighth day) and in turn pay obeisance to Viswakarama indirectly, who is the son of Brahma who helped him in his task of Creation and building the Universe and townships. He was a product of Milky Ocean like Lakshmi. Let us therefore dedicate this day to the great Architecht of Industrial development for Humanity and make it more significant to our children to stress the value of Labor and hard work! Fortunately even among Hindus in India there is no particular day ear-marked for Viswakarma. It is a National Holiday in some States. Viswakarma puja should be appealing to all the Hindu Americans drawn from different traditions of Hindus from India and there can't be any other day better suited than Labor Day. It should also be appealing to specialst migrants who are by and large engineers or specialists from India and who are in large numbers. Incidentally Hindu Temple worship in migrant countries is also Puranic based and traditon oriented as in India and not spiritually motivated to avoid all confusions. No doubt Puraanic following keeps the temple running economically viable than spiritually driven worship which is dry and philosophical!
11. AAYUDHA POOJAA DAY, VISWAKARMA POOJAA DAY AND SRAMIK DIN POOJA DAY—THREE-IN-ONE WORSHIP DAY FOR HINDU AMERICANS
Worshiping their tools is an age old tradition with Hindus. It all started with the concept of Sastras and Astras mentioned in Puranas sought after by the divines and the demons. All these weapons have their birth in Sudarsana Chakra known as Aayudha Purusha. These weapons need divine invoking of th presiding deities of weapons of war by appropriate mantras initiated by their Gurus. WMD need computer assistance (Invisible Guru) now-a-days. Even a blade of grass could be turned to a powerful steel blade with a mantra and could be used as a weapon as we learn from Puraanas. Slowly this worship got extended to all tools in the hands of Labor so needed for earning his livelihood in their peaceful life. Society started honoring Labor, users of tools, serving the society. This dignity of labor started with Brahma, the Creator himself. He in his role as Viswakarma was the divine architect, builder, craftsman, carpenter etc. Hindus started worshiping Supreme in his emanation of Viswakrma or worshiped him as Brahman Himself honoring tools and the man behind the tools. Honoring labor force and worship of tools became a regular annual event in a Hindu's life.
In North India Labor Day and Aayudha Pooja Day concepts are combined together prominence being given to the Universal Man behind the tools, Viswakarma with his tools. He is a favorite of labor force and considered as their Guru if not the leader. His idols match with that of Brahma. So He and the working tool are worshiped together. This extends to factories and machines as in Aaydhapooja in the South.
In the South commercial enterprises largely remain in the hands of non -Vaishnavites. Majority Labor force is Saivism oriented. Hence Ganesha is elevated to be the presiding deity on Aayudhapooja day. Ganesha with his powerful animal goad used to drive elephants symbolically idealized using his tool to goad people out of their ego. While Ganesha represents Viswakarma for them his goad represents tools. Sudarsana who is hailed as Aayudha Purusha and is in control of all Aayudhas in the world has gone to the background who became popular with Vaishnavites who are mostly study oriented. There are many powerful slokas on Sudarsana and he is a popular deity in Orissa too. South Indians however have taken to Saraswati worship restricting their worship to books and musical and art instruments which are tools for artists. May be computer will join them too! Labor is honored by declaring Aayudhapooja Day and Viswakarma Day as a Labor Holiday for all factories, industrial establishments and shops in India.
However highly educated or materialistic a Hindu American may be he never fails to rush to a temple to get a pooja done for his new car. He starts working on his new computer only after a pooja if he is not an atheist. I have seen Hindus keeping an icon of their chosen deity in car and start driving only after paying obeisance even in USA. Hindu Temples though have their reasoning, do not fail to keep the temple open all day long with special worship on Labor Day in September which is a National Holiday which all American Hindus celebrate and enjoy. The concept of Aayudha (Tool) and Labor coming together (cannot be easily dismissed. Hindu Americans however do not conduct separate Aayudha pooja as in India for they rarely own commercial and industrial units, which remain with Western culture or dominated by their culture. They combine it with Saraswati Puja as indirect or token worship. Why not then combine all these concepts and celebrate Labor Day in Hindu Temples dedicating Labor Day to Lord Viswakarma or the Creator? This will appeal to all traditions; to South Indians as Ayudha Pooja and North Indians as Viswakarma Pooja. Orissa will be thrilled to remember Viswaakrma's hands in shaping Jagannath's icon to pay their obeisance on this day, so also Aiyappa worshipers who owe their temple to him!
Please go through my discourse on Aayudha Pooja posted a Hindu Reflections: Hindu Worship of Weapons, Tools and Universal Crafts Person led to Labor Day Celebrations (Aayudha Poojaa; Viswakarma Poojaa; Sramik Din Poojaa).
12. IS IT SPIRITUAL SAMHAIN OR HAUNTED HALLOWEEN?
I have talked about Druids and Dravidians before. October 31 is the Halloween. The picture we get of Halloween is that it captivates children with goblin dresses roaming in the neighborhood collecting Candy with their ghost appearances. Hindu children join the fun for they can't avoid it. If you look into origin this is based on the Druid tradition which the Christians follow copying the ugliness than spirituality. Druids call it Samhain, a spiritual festival which has much in common with Hinduism in its thinking. In the ancient British Isles, October 31, was the night when the veil between the living and the dead was thinnest. The shadow play of imagination, with its great hunches about the great and beyond, was given license amid bonfires and new beginnings. As we all know the Druids believe that the soul never dies and also believe in reincarnation. Christianity also believed in reincarnation (punarjanma) till a house cleaning was done around 15th century. It is interesting to note Mahaalaya Paksha falls near about this period (Sept-Oct). The last day Mahalaya Amavasya is the most important day in the year for performing obsequies and rites to departed souls. To an average Druid this jack-o'-lantern lit night is the most sacred night of the year like Hindu Mahalaya Amavasya observed during that time.
Yet another fact is Samahain salutes the end of harvest time and the start of winter dark. At this time of the year, nature gets into its pensive mood. The swirling orange leaves are a signal of dramatic transition. Daylight Saving time ends on November 3 this year. We celebrate Diwali with lights over- coming the darkness during this time. Strangely on Sunday 3 November this year falls Diwali and coincides with Halloween. In some Hindu traditions that lighting continues month long culminating in Kartikai Deepam being the darker nights of the year. Probably we are more conscious because of the sudden change till we get used to it for a longer period . Also in some Hindu Traditions New year starts on Deepavali day. Samhain is a logical time for a New Year, it has a lot going for it. It is New Year day for Druids. This was shifted to Gregorian later.
With the same logic and thinking of the philosophy of Druids, I have said previously it makes lot of sense to start Hindu New Year Day for all traditions on Makara Sankranti Day, when Uttarayana Punyakala begins and close to Gregorian Calendar. Makara Sakranti signifies an agricultural bench mark day and spiritual bench mark day. This day can therefore be celebrated with larger significance in Hindu American Temples clubbing January 1 celebrations. After all American Holidays are celebrated more often than not on week-ends to suit their convenience. I have also said that we should shift our New Year Day Celebration in Temples to this Day as the reigning New Year at the start of January looks arbitrary and underachieving by comparison. In fact Karunanidhi enforced it for a while in Tamilnadu making it Tamil New Year day which Jayalaita squashed it politically to embarrass Karunanidhi. January first celebrates no seasonal or agricultural bench mark. It rolls in like a momentary spasm between Christmas and the Super Bowl, a distraction from the three wise men's trek to Bethlehem robbing their religious thoughts. They arrived only on January 6, Epiphany Day.
Celtic Christianity allows some pre-Christian ideas to linger like Samhain, especially a vivid mysticism of nature, a connection between mother Earth and Divinity which is invariably noticed in Hindu religious practices and mantras. Celtic spirituality is marked by the belief that what is deepest in us is the image of God (the Self within us). Sin (Maaya) has obscured that image but not erased it (avidya). While majority of Christians (Mediterranean Tradition) in their doctrine of original sin teach what is deepest in us is our sinfulness. This has given rise to a tendency to define in terms of the ugliness of their failings instead of the beauty of their origins. Halloween thoughts are diverted to goblins from the thought of Self within us or souls and spirituality. Celtic Benediction declares: "Glory be to you , O God, for the gift of life unfolding through those who have gone before me; (pitrus); for your life planted within my soul (antaryamin); and in every soul coming into the world; for the grace of new beginnings (incarnation); placed before me In every moment and encounter of life; for the grace of new beginnings in every moment of life" Pagan book of Halloween says; "It is time when the spirits of deceased loved ones and friends are honored, as well as a time to gaze into the world of things yet to come"
13. HINDU REFLECTIONS ON CHRISTMAS TREE AND LIGHTING
The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmas time. Tradition of using small candles to light up the Christmas Tree, dates back to at least the middle of the 17th century. In 1882, the first Christmas tree was lit by the use of electricity in USA. Edward Johnson lighted up a Christmas tree in New York City with eighty small electric light bulbs. It should be noted that Edward Johnson created the first string of electric Christmas lights that were then mass produced around 1890. Deepaavali, Kartigai and Christmas are the season for LED lights today in all American homes and public places. This year The Tennessee State Christmas tree is adorned with 3000 LEDs, the Rockefeller Plaza tree has 45,000 and the landscapes at Gaylord Opryland Resort Center in Nashville feature 2 million LED’s providing brilliant light for all to enjoy. In recent years Christmas is celebrated by all in America as a great commercial and social season and therefore addressed as Festival of Lights Season or Happy Holiday Season, to conform to American secular status but needing participation by all faiths for its commercial success. This is the greatest and largest month long shopping season of the year.
During Janmaashtami Celebrations Pinna Maram (a favorite tree under which Lord Krishna rested while grazing cattle) is decorated and worshiped; this is Alexandria Laurel Dali oil tree. It is the sacred plant found in front of Santana Venugopalaswamy Temple in Chennai. This tree or its branches are brought and worshiped as in Christmas as a part of celebration of Krishna’s birthday in Tamil Nadu. Tree worship and lighting is everyday act of worship in Hindu Tradition with vivid display and elaborate worship on specific days. Veneration of trees and lights might have sprung from Hindu Tradition. Its famous Gaayatree Mantra worshiping Supreme Being as Sun and Fire, the visible form of Light is as old as the Universe itself. As seen above the Christmas Trees and Christmas Lights are of recent origin. With its triangular shape Christmas tree points towards heaven. Hindu trees for worship are all pervading (Vishnu, Earth, sky and plant kingdom --Banyan, Aswattha, Pinnai etc.). There is no Biblical reference to lighting or tree during Christmas as far as my knowledge goes. Therefore the inspiration in mid-centuries should have come from others sources like Hanukkah, Pagan traditions which again should have drawn their inspiration from Sanatana Dharma; similarly, many other traditions that celebrate Festival of Lights. Hindu festivals of lights Deepaavali, Karthigai and Makra Vilakku of Makara Sankranti Jyotir Linga on Sivaratri Night culminating with bonfire on Holy night which I have detailed in my discourse “Festivals of Lights in Ancient Traditions of Universal Appeal” have many references in Hindu Scriptures unlike Christmas Lighting and Tree decoration during Christmas celebrating Birth of Christ.
Christmas tree and Lighting starts immediately after Thanksgiving Holiday and these decorations are removed on or after 5th of January. Hindu religious Festivals of Lights starts with Deepaavali and ends with Holi when the winter season ends. Will it not be a good idea for Hindu Americans to start the lighting decorations a day prior to Deepaavali and end a day after Holi or at least the day after Makara Sankranti (14th or 15th of January) when Uttaaraayana starts learning from the Christian tradition? Festival of Lights Season in America falls in between. Thus the two cultures can meet in tradition and significance with different themes to suit their tradition visiting churches or temples.
Muslims do not join others in decorating their houses with lights during the season though they have originated from the same belief of God as Christians. Islam is against idol worship and theoretically against any form of symbolism. They are up against Hinduism because of this reasoning pointing their fingers that Hindus do not obey Qu'ran. But green color, stars and crescent moon are elaborately used religiously in many ways. Red represents sacrificial blood of Ismail symbolized during Bakrid Festival similar to red being the sacrificial blood of Jesus. Hinduism has many stories to tell about all these symbolism. There is an 800 year old tradition of lighting with lantern in Egypt during Ramadan. Yet Muslim Americans do not join the mainstream to display colored lights like Hindu and others during the Holiday Season. All other traditions join the holiday Season by decorating Christmas tree and lighting while children eagerly wait for their customary gifts under the tree and mouth-watering cookies and candies.Whether Hindu American parents like it or not, to their children it is an eagerly awaited cheerful season to enjoy Christmas Holidays with trees and lights coming up and waiting to receive surprise gifts from Santa. Thi is also a Holiday Season in India with music and dance festival. Christmas Day and New year Day are National Holidays In India.
Please go through my detailed discourse "Hindu Reflections on Christmas Tree and Lighting" and "Festivals of Lights in Ancient Traditions of Universal in Appeal" as attached and also posted on the Blog Hindu Reflections.
14. ONE HINDU TEMPLE-COMPLEX FOR MANY TRADITIONS OVERSEAS
Unlike Hindus in India, Hindu Americans flock to one temple-complex to fulfill their religious aspirations grown with their family traditions, which differ widely from region to region in India, even on their specific festival and ritualistic worship days; they are living amid majority who follow Christianity a founded religion which never understood Hinduism based on Eternal Tradition (Sanatana Dharma) or want to do so, but for a handful who are spiritually inclined and are seeking guidance from Hinduism resorting to Yoga and meditation. Even among Hindus who are disgruntled or dissatisfied have moved out from the majority to set up their own traditional temples like Swami Naaraayan Temple, Saibaba Temple, Kaali Temple, Aiyappan Temple, Hare Krishna Temple etc., however uneconomical they may be to run and how limited the crowd may be, for they are rich and affluent. Even within temple-complex some groups not satisfied with the main mass worship have forced their own traditional worship on the same day of main worship as seen in Jagannatha sanctums with liberal donation. In Hindu-complexes the will of the founding fathers or the trustees prevail with the motto take it or leave it, though temple is registered as public place of worship and non-profit organization. Sometimes we point at Christianity showing their different churches, leanings and different mass worships; yet they laugh at us as viewing us confused and misdirected. Jesus thoughtfully said: "Father they know not what they do, forgive them". Of late they too are awakening to have one broad based mass to suit all drawn from different church beliefs. It is true Neo-Buddhists, Arya Samajists, Jains, Christian-Hindu mixed faith families and even some non-traditional Sikhs (not panje-pyaare) want to visit Hindu Temple-Complexes. Thus both vertical disintegration and horizontal expansion is taking place within migrated Indian community who have taken foreign citizenship and yet want to hold on to ethnic and cultural identity. This is easier with others like Chinese or Japanese migrants than Hindus where their God is faith based.
It Is high time in the interest of future generation we recognize these problems early, and follow the examples of Hindu temples run within Ramakrishna Math complexes or as practiced from some Hindu groups who have lost touch with India over generations like the Fiji Hindu Temples where the focus is more towards the Universal Oneness of Sanatana Dharma and spiritual goals in practice than complex detail oriented ritualistic approach with no focus on spiritual thought. Keeping this in view I have prepared a draft as attached above whose objective is clear--to focus on One Mass Worship, Universal Oneness and spiritual focus to evolve ourselves within our scriptural sanctions sticking to the dictum Vedokhilam Dharmamoolam--Vedas are our final authority. We in USA enjoy religious freedom and are not controlled by bureaucracy with government interference like the Hindu Religious endowment Boards or constantly bugged by minority of a secular State who are given more attention than major religion as experienced in India. So these thoughts are essential for Hindu settlers here but they are equally important to Hindus in India being a majority how to make the much needed reform to make it a casteless and blind faith free society and to realize Universal Oneness and Supreme Principle (Tadekam). Caste and blind-faith have crept into Hindu culture over a long period. Migrants overseas are led to a caste-less society indirectly without their knowing or feeling the pinch and many traditions are also fast vanishing. In the bargain we should not be drawn to other non-dharma based traditions.
Please visit Hindu Reflections: <nrsrini.blogspot.com> for a detailed discourse on “One Hindu Temple-complex for Many Hindu Traditions Overseas”
15. MAHALAYA AMAVASYA PITRU PAKSHA--ALL SOULS DAY
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In Catholicism, All Souls' Day, also known as the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed is observed principally in the Catholic Church, although some churches of the Anglican Communion and the Old Catholic Churches also celebrate it; the observance is the third day of Hallow mas and annually occurs on November 2.
In Hinduism, the dark fortnight of Aswayuja (September-October) is known as the Mahalaya Paksha, a fortnight sacred for offering oblations to the departed ancestors. Offerings made during this period benefit all the departed souls, whether they are related or known to one or not. Thus it is an All Souls Day for Hindus. Charity in the form of food is important during this observance. Even regular Hindu Tarpana (Water and sesame seed oblation) is directed to all the departed souls and not restricted to ancestors or near relatives or friends.
Hindu Temples of America help their members perform the Last Rites (Antyeshti) for the departed and to conduct Anniversaries of the diseased parents with the guidance of priests in the temple premises. Many Hindus in USA do not perform the Anniversary ritual for their deceased parents like in India. This important ritual is slowly fading away from Hindu culture overseas with some lame excuse. Many even do not remember the date of passing away of their dear ones. It will be fitting and proper to revive this ceremony by participating in a mass ritual on the holiest last day of Mahalaya Paksha similar to what is being done every day at the pilgrimage center of Gaya in the Vishnupada temple helping the pilgrims to pay their obeisance to 33 generations of the past and acquaintances. All castes of all traditions can take part in such a ritual at the same time irrespective of the dates of the deceased as explained in my detailed discourse on the subject. Devoted Christians do it wherever they are every year on Nov. 2. Mahalaya Amavasya day is a fixed holiest da in the year for remembering all souls in Hindu belief whatever may be the date of the deceased. Please find below a message from Sankar Math of the North which focuses on this important ritual:
"Pitri Paksh is perhaps the most important period whereby Hindus remember their ancestors in a spirit of love, prayer, fasting and admiration for sacrifices made by their forefathers. Why would such emphasis be placed on ancestral reflections? The Hindu scriptures mention that sons that willingly and dutifully perform the rights and rituals in remembrance of their ancestors attain merit and are blessed ten-fold when compared to worshiping the various forms of God. Hindus live lives that are duty bound and indebted! This does not mean that one’s life is burdened but the principles of Sanatan Dharma ensure that Hindus understand the importance of daily living.
The tenets of Hinduism enhance and strengthen the discipline and responsibility necessary for Hindus to live long and fruitful lives. We can’t get up when we want, sleep when we want, eat what we want and live how we want. This is not the Hindu’s way of life. Daily prayer and worship; fasting, meditation, yoga, japa, tapa and performing the paanch nitya karmas are advised. Shankaracharya the late great Pundit Hari Prasadji lived and preached such disciplines. Of the many mentioned in his lifetime is the gem, “Everything should be done in moderation…except prayer. It is the only activity that can be overdone without creating negative side effects.” In a special interview he stated, “My parents were my living breathing gods on earth and now that they have gone on to the great beyond it is my responsibility, despite whatever obstacle or situation I am faced with, to do this for them” (pitru havan, tarpanam).
The two weeks that are put aside every year on the Hindu calendar is never enough to repay the sacrifices of our ancestors. What better way to appreciate them than to live the lives that they wanted for us – lives full of meaning and purpose, driven by a quest for knowledge both secular and spiritual. If we accept the wisdom of the ancestors, a happier life is guaranteed. One of the founding senior pundits of Swaha, Pundit Balram Presad, reaffirms that one’s success in life can only come through parents’ grace and blessings; if we as children turn our backs on this then failure stands in the path of our bumpy journey to realization. In the context of our indentured past, our ancestors understood that Bhesh, Bhaasha, Bhau, Bhajan and Bhojan will lead us to Bhagwan. This means that the clothes we wear, the attitude we adopt, the language we use, the songs we sing and listen to and the food we eat will lead us to God or take us away from him – it all depends on whether we make the right choices and live saattvic lives of purity and devotion. Let not this special time pass without remembrance of our great ancestral history".
If even Western culture attaches so much importance to All Souls Day why not Hindus known for their adherence to worship, festival celebrations rites and rituals? This will be acceptable to inter-racially married couples too if they have not turned atheists due to poor upbringing, to remember their ancestors on special days and pay their obeisance.
*16. SOME NOBLE THOUGHTS AND SOME BIZARRE CUSTOMS IN THE WORLD ON NEW YEAR’S EVE
Hindu custom is to distribute both sweet jaggery (bella in Kannada) and bitter neem (bevu in Kannada) on their New Year's Day! Life is both bitter and sweet, so endure and enjoy!
A. Here are few thoughts for the month of December and wishes for the New Year 2014:
Luck is not a factor, hope is not a strategy and fear is not an option.
Speak only when you feel that your words are better than your silence.
We make our decisions and then our decisions turn around and make us.
Life is a continuous challenge and an unending struggle; we are not made rich by that’s in our pocket but we are rich by what’s in our heart.
Stay focused, and live a healthy life; there is no competition in destiny, run your race and wish others well.
Millions of trees in the world are planted by squirrels which bury nuts and then forget where they hid them; do good and forget – it will grow.
Good things come to those who believe, better things come to those who are patient and best things come to those who don’t give up.
B. The social fabric in a Hindu's life is so knitted that no human activity is segregated from the divine and so he rushes to the temple on New Year's Day to seek Peace, Prosperity and Health from God though not a religious day for him, while he watches TV late midnight to see the dawn of official New Year on New Year's Eve. But see below World's bizarre New Year eve's customs of ten countries of the world:
The 18 countries polled were the US, Britain, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, the Czech Republic, Russia and Poland.
Here's the list of 10 strangest customs revealed in the poll:
1. Gathering in a graveyard to be with dead relatives (Talca, Chile)
2. Trying to hear animals talking; if you fail, it's good luck (Romania)
3. Banging bread on the walls to frighten away bad spirits (Ireland)
4. Throwing furniture out the window (Johannesburg, South Africa)
5. Diving into a frozen lake, carrying a tree (Siberia)
6. A "possum drop": lowering a possum over a noisy crowd (North Carolina, US)
7. A village punch-up with neighbors to settle old disputes (Peru)
8. Parading the street while swinging balls of fire over your head (Scotland)
9. Watching an old British TV comedy sketch about a lonely dinner (Germany)
10. A giant, three-day water-fight, with water balloons and buckets (Thailand)
(Source Times of India)
You will receive my detailed discourse on “Why Hindus rush to Temple on January 1?” Please give a quick reading before you settle down before TV to watch the dawn of New Year on New Year Eve!
Wish you all A Happy and Prosperous New Year.
17. WHY HINDU AMERICANS RUSH TO TEMPLE TO WORSHIP ON NEW YEAR’S EVE?
It is customary for Hindus to rush to temple on every January 1 and offer special prayers seeking peace and prosperity from their chosen deity. Hindus worship the Supreme Being (Brahman in Sanskrit) through their chosen deities. It is difficult to find the word Brahman in Rigveda. He is worshiped as elements of Nature and as natural cyclic phenomena like Samvatsara or Year or Time (Kaala). Hindus name their week after five moving planets, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and Sun and Moon known as grahas in Sanskrit. These are seven out of the nine planets worshiped as Navagrahas. We often hear from Upanishads that our ancient sages meditated upon these derived visible lights of planets and star from Brahman the Supreme Light, as Brahman alone.
New Year's Day is observed on January 1, the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar and adopted by all Nations of the world as their official New Year's Day though they celebrate their own religious New year's day independently. . January 1 date was known as Circumcision Style because this was the date of the Feast of the Circumcision, considered to be the eighth day of Christ's life, counting from December 25 when his birth is celebrated. This day was christened as the beginning of the New Year by Pope Gregory as he designed the Liturgical Calendar.
Hinduism with its different regional cultures celebrates New Year at different times of the year. The New Year is celebrated by paying respect to elders in the family and by seeking their blessings as well as by rushing to temples to offer special worship seeking prosperity and happiness. They also exchange tokens of good wishes for a healthy and prosperous year ahead. It also includes prayers for universal peace and contentment. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led Government of Tamil Nadu declared in 2008 that the Tamil New Year should be celebrated on the first day of Tamil month of Thai (14 January) coinciding with the harvest festival of Pongal. The 2008 legislation of the previous DMK-led administration has since been annulled by an act of the Tamil Nadu Assembly in August, 2011. January 14 is a very significant holy day for all Hindus in India called Makara Sankranti. Makara Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India. Many Indians also conflate this festival with the Winter Solstice, and believe that the sun ends its southward journey (Sanskrit: Dakshinayana) at the Tropic of Capricorn, and starts moving northward (Sanskrit: Uttarayaana) towards the Tropic of Cancer, in the month of Pausha on this day in mid-January. Makara Sankranti commemorates the beginning of the harvest season and cessation of the northeast monsoon in South India. The movement of the Sun from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti and as the Sun moves into the Capricorn zodiac known as Makara in Sanskrit, this occasion is named as Makara Sankranti in the Indian context. It is one of the few Hindu Indian festivals which is celebrated on a fixed date i.e. 14 January every year (or may be sometimes on 15 January (leap year)). It sounds logical to me that India could have adopted Makara Sankranti as their New Year's Day for the whole of India. My reasoning is: 1. It is the holiest day in Hindu concept as Bheeshma waited for this day to give up his ghost to ascend to heaven; 2. It is the only Hindu festival that coincides with Gregorian Calendar falling on 14th of January every year; 3, It is the closest to January 1, the official New Year’s Day of all Nations of the world; 4. It would suit all traditions.
Hindu American temples like Pittsburgh are fully packed on January 1 as many Hindus are very religious and sentimental. We also notice that most of the national holidays in America but for a few are celebrated as to the convenience and generally planned for the weekend to have a long week end like President's Day, Labor day etc. Even January 1 which is actually a Christian religious day is a convenient date to celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ after eight days of his birth. I wonder why they did not combine it with January 5 which would have been the 11th day of the birth of Jesus. In Hinduism naming of a child takes place on or after 11th day of birth. Perhaps that is why the Christmas tree and lights in America are taken out on the 11th day, the day significant for naming in ancient traditions. I therefore feel there is nothing wrong in our celebrating New Year's Day on Makara Sankranti Day, after a fortnight, a day closest to Januar1 and auspicious to Hindus instead of rushing on January 1, a day most significant to Christian Faith only. Our fortunes and luck will not fluctuate by this postponement date for seeking prosperity and happiness for the rest of 350 days. The wisdom for conducting special Pooja by the temples on a day holy to Christians is therefore not understandable but the temples could be kept open for long hours to facilitate visiting devotees leaving the option to devotees to do any pooja of their choice and not make it a significant Hindu religious worship day by the temple.
Wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year!
18. LET US FOSTER AND SPREAD THE MESSAGE OF PEACE AROUND WORLD
Hindu Vedic sages in their prayers expressed their longing for living hundred winters “Jeevema saradssatam, pasyema saradssatam” and also “mrityor maa amritam gamaya” lead us from death to Immortality and ended up all their prayers seeking all round peace thrice “Om Shantih, Santih, Santih” directed to Supreme Principal. They did realize the severity in life and feared the cold winters of the Himalyas. That is why they said let us live to see 100 winters (Sarad) and not years. They realized death as a fact of life and also death is only part of the journey in soul’s struggle to earn permanent happiness and oneness with God. But at the same time they desired full span of life to live serving people in sound health and peace. That is why they practiced Yoga and meditation and sought all round peace including plant and animals which in modern terms we say Eco-friendly measures and Preservation of flora and fauna which is also expressed in their prayers. They also invented Ayurveda which is the Science of Longevity and not a system of medicine alone as is conjectured today. Ayurveda means Wisdom for Longevity. These prayers were not directed to sages alone for they pleaded for God’s intervention for all beings making it an universal prayer.
To-day Peace on Earth has become an annual slogan to voice on a specific day and forget as we celebrate International Peace day as well as World Day of Peace at different times while exchange our greetings in January with the most popular and universally appealing to all peoples of the world, the phrase “Peace on Earth” seeking the divine intervention though not openly expressed. This dream of Peace has been working into the heart of the society for millenniums initiated by the wisdom of Vedas. Wendell Berry says; “We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world… We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it”. This very much echoes wisdom of Vedas for universal peace. Vedas said leave the choice to God, just pray; He knows what is good for us and what we are destined to.
Peace can be defined not just the absence of war in the negative thinking but also the presence of the conditions for just and sustainable peace, including access to healthy food, clean drinking water, education for women and children, security from physical harm, Eco-friendly measures, preservation of flora and fauna, and other inviolable human rights, as its positive contributions to promote peace. Today companies are setting goals to achieve green image--Energy management, zero waste, Value water and Green and Healthy surroundings of work place. Thoughts are focused on increasing recycling and material-sourcing efforts and establishing a zero-waste-to-landfill policy; Water has been treated as an endless resource for long, which is not the case to-day with the population explosion so there are efforts being made too desalt sea water, recover clean water from sewage (research is going on in Germany to make it cheap) and evaluate rain water harvesting. Vedas consider water as Brahman himself and there are number of prayers focusing Brahman as water element and meditate upon. A discourse will soon follow on water deity. It is therefore duty of everybody to treat water with respect and enjoy the benefit it provides. Companies are trying to focus on the health of their employees to create a greener and healthier workplace which in turn would attract and retain top talent. Recent story of Shanghai submerged in pollution making life hard to breath and step out of homes within the city should come as an eye opener to learn, what the cost of neglect of Eco-friendly measures and destruction of nature is?
The Christmas and New Year Celebration is long and widespread and is a continuous celebration of many religious events and peace messages coming from world’s leading faith, Christianity which claims to be the only hope for the world. January 1 and New Year Celebration for all was promoted by Catholic Popes in the past and present whose speeches indirectly motivated mass conversion though the Popes themselves might not have intended. They also included World Day of Peace to the Festival Season to be observed on January 1 when Popes address the world. Can we as Hindu Americans also contribute something here? American Hindus could as well include this theme to Makara Sankranti Day to celebrate the New Year and spread the message of Peace on Earth dedicating the day for the special worship of Earth and Sun learning from the wisdom of Catholic Popes, if not from the wisdom of Vedas. They could conduct an Yajna for Viswa Shanti rounding up their everyday prayer for Peace for the World on a magnified sacrificial ritual and as a holy observance day instead of reducing it to a food stuff named festival, Pongal and Maattu Pongal (Cow kichadi or pilaf) religiously celebrated. Germans have a beer festival and I believe it is not labelled religious. Hindu religion often enters the kitchen and names some of its festivals instead focusing on the deity. Previously I talked about Makara Sankranti could be observed as New year celebration common to all Hindu Traditions. Here we could also add World Peace as Christianity has done.
Therefore my current discourse “Let us foster and spread the Message of Peace around World” should interest you all as attached and posted as well on the Blog of Hindu Reflections: <nrsrini.blogspot.com>
19. SMAARTA TRADITION OF TEMPLE WORSHIP IS IDEAL FOR AMERICAN HINDUS
Even in America when we go to a temple to witness a festival being celebrated or a ritual being performed in Hindu Temple complexes where a number of deities are installed in individual sanctums we sometimes wonder what goes on with our sectarian outlook with which we are brought up. Our priests who are Sectarian Aaagama trained also often indulge in their usual practice of worship directed to the Ishta-devata or the deity focused for the day or event. Temple authorities justify saying that they want all other traditions to get acquainted with what is going on for a particular tradition focused on the day. But the attendance is invariably thin on all such days while focus is on minority tradition oriented worship. In the previous two or three discourses I have tried to bring home how all our worships are directed to Trinity whoever may be the deity we are worshiping who is none other than Saguna Brhaman in his three aspects of Srishthi (creation), Sthiti (maintenance or Preservation), and Laya (dissolution) which are cyclic in nature in order to facilitate the individual Self to merge with the Universal Self that is Brahman. So our prayer ends with looking upwards as we look at the Vimana (cupola) before we leave the temple after contemplating on Nirguna Brahman in his elemental manifestation.
It is true we are brought up with sectarian outlook as Saivites or Vaishanvites or Saktas. But what we have missed in our upbringing is the most logical worship tradition promoted by Sankara as Panchayatana Puja (five-in -one worship) in his Shanmata consolidation (bringing Hinduism within the fold of six schools of worship out of the confusion that prevailed). This is being followed by a small group of Brahmin community today who call themselves as Smaartas and who are also Advaita followers who say Sankara is the originator of their Tradition and even today Sringeri Jagadguru They are smart too! Sankaracharya is their traditional head. Sankara himself could not do much because his focus had been on Advaita philosophy to fight nihilism and atheism and also he brought out this Smaarta tradition concept towards the last part of his missionary pursuit. it is also clear Sankara was not a Sectarian promoter of saivism but Universal Oneness. Vivekananda and ramakrishna are considered to belong to this Smaarta Tradition.
Smaarta Tradition followers in Karnataka are known as Sanketis. They have a powerful organization in USA called NASA--North American Sanketi Association. Smaartas are well read in Sanskrit and most of them study Vedas. Even in Tirupati people who chant Vedas during Lord's procession are Smaarta Vedic scholars though the priests are Vaishnavites. The attached discourse gives a brief description of this most effective Hindu Tradition which is non -sectarian and suits all particularly Hindu Americans who are drawn from different traditions. They go to Hindu Temple Complex for mass worship where any one deity is worshiped as per the program of the day which often they do not follow meaningfully if they don't belong to that day's traditional worship; nor anybody tries to explain it. Smaarta Tradition is the most suitable among Hindu Traditions for adoption by Hindu Americans to follow with one unified form of worship of Saguna Brahman as Trinity in the three aspects of Srishthi (creation), Sthiti (Preservation) and Laya (dissolution) to facilitate contemplation on Nirguna Brahman in the final act. If only we are able to understand the meaning of all the Veda Mantras that are chanted during worship and slokas recited in Sanskrit it will be obvious our worship is only addressed to Trinity through the deity we are watching. Even if we are familiar with divine aspects of temple design it would be clear. Please refer to my discourse--Divine character of Hindu Temples in Concept and Design, February 2012. Unfortunately this is not understood by many who follow the worship of the day blindly but with implicit faith in their chosen deity of Puranic lore. If we follow the Smaarta tradition this concept of Saguna Brahman worship will be obvious by the procedures followed and mantras chanted. There are exclusive Smaarta Tradition Worship Temples in India and Sringeri guides them all.
20. THINKING OF TRANSCENDENTAL PI AND BRAHMAN ON MARCH 14
Yesterday was the Day 3.14, a day of infinite possibilities like the Pi the greek symbol used in our calculations of area and volume of circular and elliptical objects. Pi is the ratio between the circumference and diameter of a circle with a never ending accurate value of 3.1415926............
Pi is a transcendental number, a concept that transcends our ability to understand like Brahman that inspires lot of spiritual thoughts in us. The simple beauty of Pi inspired USA Congress to pass a resolution in 2009 to declare March 14 "Pi day"
What makes Pi=1415926… mystic is its decimal part which runs to infinity after the decimal point. This reminds me of the Vedic description of Transcendental Brahman, “anoeraneeyaan mahatoe maheeyaan”—Smaller than the smallest and larger than the largest. To the left side of the number 1 to start with the decimal portion converges to a point as the smallest. To the right side it goes to infinity. The decimal part imparts to it transcendental stature while the numerical part whole rational number reminds of saguna Brahman in his three aspects of Creation (Srishthi), Sustenance (Sthiti) and Dissolution (Laya). Please go through the more explicit and thought provoking details in the discourse.
I have focused on spiritual rendering of the March 14 pi Day in a discourse as attached to this e-mail which is also posted on the blog Hindu Reflections: <nrsrini.blogspot.com> Your comments are welcome.
*21. UNITY IN DIVRSITY
My thoughts were drawn to a recent column by our popular columnist Sarita Prabhu in Tennessean this weekend titled “Cultural Differences can be topic of honest conversation”. Influenced by the wisdom contained therein I thought I should draw your focus on some of my discourses.
As you all aware Martin Luther King Jr Magnet High School In Tennessee had for the first time Diversity Day on March 14 in which students originating from 70 countries studying there, speaking 60 different languages at home often brought up in their own culture at home but studying together with fellow students with so much cultural differences almost spending 30 to 40% of the day. In fact they are spending their active life in a world of their own which is like a microcosm. Children shaping out of such diversity are often identified as products of American culture which is hard to define. It is as diversified as Hindu culture of migrants from the Sub-continent of India. Unlike some major religious groups of the world born and brought up in monotheistic, one-track society, Hindu Americans know how to survive and succeed and even out-beat the majority in multicultural atmosphere in public life. They do not like to build colonies like the 17 Greek Fraternities in UTC campus who are dissatisfied with American Culture. In public life Hindus believe in Unity in diversity. In religious life they have moved too far from Universal Oneness of Sanathana Dharama to Multiplicity of Traditions making their religious life complex even in migrant countries. Today the original four caste system of Hindus has multiplied enormously and we have today more than 60 scheduled castes alone in Hinduism with countless deities for worship due the political wisdom of independent India. This has resulted in countless political parties too based on their religious bias. America does a great job assimilating immigrants. Hindu Americans though managing well in a foreign soil can do better and even lead the Country in Diversity Stress Management like what MLK School does as micro cosmos. My religious and spiritual thoughts often pull me out of my narrow traditional Hindu-way of thinking and make me ponder over how we can find a common ground with our cultural differences and make it appealing to all without sacrificing intended Hindu Values. Such integration is taking place in the major religion of the Country too to have one unified church and one mass worship. For this we have to learn a lot about these cultural differences, have meaningful conversations, and find common grounds while preserving our own Hindu Values with malice towards none. First generation American Hindus though brought up with conservative outlook, have learnt how to live with different cultures making compromises. Here these cultural differences have exploded as you see in the little cosmos of MLK. We have created more problems by way of inter-racial and inter- traditional wed-locks. Keeping these diversities in view I have brought forth a number of discourses as to how we could spiritually orient ourselves gradually, first having a basis as one traditional worship and then leading it to Universal Oneness. Such an approach will contribute a lot for peace all around, healthy living, mental peace and progress.
My discourses in this context are: 1) Smaarta Tradition springs out of Sankara’s five-in-one-worship for all; 2) Whose Abhishekam are we watching on Mahasivaratri?; 3) One temple complex for many traditions Overseas and others.; 4) Why temple outside prakaras are painted red and white? Etc. I have also focused on many American Holidays as to how to make them appealing to others who have not only moved out of Hinduism or resorted to atheism but also make them appealing as a world religion for all taking back our thoughts to spirituality of Sanathana from the traditional Puranic ritualistic and faith oriented worship, keeping its essential traditional worship pattern. Our temples have started the process by keeping the temple open on all American holidays for long hours marking it as Special Religious Events Day. We could learn a lot and change our modality of worship if we focus on these issues though not a serious concern at present but will come as a shock in the near future. Otherwise we will not be able to revive the principles of Sanatana Dharama: ”Eko viprah bahudaa vadanti”, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, Krinvanto viswamaaryam” and “Sarve janah sukhino bhavantu” but can parade in vain proclamations while not implementing.
*22. YUGADI AND APRIL FOOL’S DAY
Yugaadi (Also called Ugaadi) means Yuga+Aadi i.e. New Year. It is believed that Lord Brahma started creation on this day. In the Gregorian calendar January 1st is called New Year’s day. In the Indian almanac the New Year is reckoned on the basis of movement of Sun (called Souramaana) movement, of Moon (called Chandramaana), and the movement of planet Guru (called Brihaspatyamaana).
One Souraamana year is the time taken for the Sun to transit from Mesha Raasi to Meena Raasi, and occupies about 365 and a quarter days. One Chandramaana year is the time taken for transit from Chaitra Sukla Prathama to Phaalguna Krishna Amavaasya. The duration is about 354 days. In order to reconcile the difference with the Souramaana year, an additional month(13th) is periodically added to the Chandramaana year. This is called Adhikamaasa. Brihaspatyamaana year is the time taken for Guru to transit the Zodiac. The duration is approximately 361 days. Two other less prevalent systems are Savanamaana--which is a year of 360 days each day being interval of time between two successive sunrises, and Nakshtramaana which is a year of twelve months, each month being interval of time between successive occasions of Moon’s entry into Aswini Nakshatram (Total duration is around 361 days). Souramaana system is followed in Tamilnaadu and Kerala. Chandramaana is observed in Karnataka, Andhrapradesh, Kashmir and Maharastra. Brihaspatyamaana is in vogue north of Vindhyas. This year we celebrated Yugado on 31 March, 2014. It would be logical to have Makara Sankranti as our New year for it comes on the same day as per official calendar and was tried out in Tamilnadu.
Yesterday was April 1 celebrated as April Fool’s day in the western Culture. I believe Pope Gregory fooled everybody shifting a religious day to January 1 to fulfill his ego.In 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII decreed the adoption of the “Gregorian calendar” — named after himself — which moved New Year’s Day from the end of March to Jan. 1.Probably it was also Yugadi day like Chaandramaan Yugadi observed by Hindus, then.
The change was published widely, explains Ginger Smoak, an expert in medieval history at the University of Utah, but those who didn’t get the message and continued to celebrate New Year on April 1 “were ridiculed and, because they were seen as foolish, called April Fools.”
Even though the annual panoply of pranks meant to mock the gullible or to send a friend on a “fool’s errand” may not be grounded in any ancient religious merrymaking, the notion of “holy fools” does have a long and respected place in Judeo-Christian history.
Hebrew prophets were often scorned as mad or eccentric for pronouncing unwelcome or uncomfortable truths. The Apostle Paul talked to the Corinthians about becoming “fools for Christ.” And Eastern Orthodoxy still sees the “holy fool” as a type of Christian martyr.
How foolish then we are to rush to temple on January 1 to celebrate New Year! The Temple is also kept open on January1 and is busy with Special worship all day long. Even for Christians it s does not make sense to celebrate New Year on this day which is supposed to be the Bitrhday of Jesus Christ which falls on Decxember 25..May be January 1 is his Namakarana Day? Pope Gregory XII is the author of this calendar, who brought into force on February 24, 1582 which was forced on all in the world progressively by the Western Powers on all their subjects. In fact Pope Gregory was following Julian calendar for religious observances in churches which he revised later to satisfy his ego. He not only fooled us but also fooled all Christians. Let us add All Fools Day also for our list of Special Religious Events Day as some Christians do.
23. DID HOLI BLAZING FIRES AND BIZARRE COLORS INSPIRE WESTERN CULTURES TOO?
Holi is the world renowned Festival of Colors known for its Bonfire, Bright Colors and Universal Oneness. Though this festival was to be celebrated on the auspicious day of March 16, Phalgun Poornima Full Moon Day, American Hindus chickened out to celebrate it in the open-air due to wet and bone chilling weather. But their enthusiasm will not die. They will celebrate it when the weather cheers up; better late than never. Holi is a spring festival and so they wait for the real spring to arrive. In India the weather was friendly and so the celebrations took place as scheduled. Hindus are not very serious to go to temples on this day and it is more a social event than a religious event probably an event of a Dharmic day which brings home the concept Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the whole world is one family.
Holi is known for its Bonfire and Bright Color Runs blasted and reveled by all participants. Bonfire and revelry in colors motivated by Holi are seen in many traditions around the globe, particularly noticeable even in Western Cultures of Europe and America. Muslims do not participate. The latest inspiration is visibly seen in "The Happiest 5 K on The Planet" Color Run that suddenly became a brain wave of America year before last that has caught the mood of many globally. In my own city annual Color Run actually shone a little better this year, with a persistent cold drizzle making the event's trademark tinted powders stick even better. Rain or shine, the determined enthusiastic runners got messy having fun. They did not postpone like Hindu Americans. Coming to America we have learnt holidays are to be celebrated as per convenience and enjoyed to the maximum. Many National Holidays are planned that way. We have the guidelines from President's Day.This concept is slowly extending to all religious holidays too.
Please enjoy the attached discourse on the pristine festival Holi, a festival of fun and frolic in celebration but deep in its thoughts and also the inspired celebrations in other cultures from many lands and the recent world Event "the HHHappiest 5 K On The Planet"
*24. SHOULD HINDUS RIDE A DONKEY OR HORSE—PEACE OR DHARMA?
April 13 in 2014 is Palm's Sunday beginning the most sacred week of the year for Christians as Holy week when we celebrate Phalgun Poornima Festivals. The Tamils celebrate it as Panguni Uttiram. April 14th is our Solar New Year's day. Please refer to my discourse on these subjects if you have not already gone through. They are available on Hindu Reflections' Blog site.
Jesus decided to enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. This may look as a punishment to a Hindu riding a donkey. In first century Palestine, when a king would go to war he would ride on a war horse and when a king came in piece he would ride on a donkey. Jesus was coming in peace as demonstrated by his donkey ride. People also welcomed him with the words "Hosanna" meaning "Save us now". For that he has to sacrifice himself the next Friday called Good Friday and resurrect on Sunday called the Easter Sunday which is the holiest day of the Holy week.
Bhagavadgeetaa begins with the words "Dharmakshetre Kurukshetre samavetaa Yuyutsavah" -- both Pandavas and Kauravas were assembled together to break the news to the world that they were assembled there to fight a war. Krishna turned that place to a Field for Action and Field for Dharma. Only action will tell. It is said in Bhagavadgeetaa whenever the land is threatened with declining Dharma He will reincarnate to protect the righteous, destroy the evil and establish Dharma thus bringing peace and harmony to live. It was not a promise but a divine guarantee so the outcome of war was known even before it started though Krishna was not an active participator. It was not a peace mission but one of justice. Krishna and Christ seem to be not in agreement on the issue of Al-Quid a!
Hindus always feel Jesus is an incarnation or a liberated soul. He therefore took no direct action and resorted to a Philosophical approach sacrificing himself. He also said "Oh lord! Why have you forsaken me!" while giving up his ghost. He was pleading for mercy from the Supreme on everybody's behalf as it was not within his own powers. It was a mission of peace and mercy. That is why he was riding on a donkey. He rose from the dead but decided to remain as inner controller of all. Those who believe, realize and visualize will be liberated. Others are doomed forever. It is all one's life chance for ever. Hindu God is more merciful. He says "Take any number of births but arise and be awake, you will be my honored guest when you so desire"
Krishna too went on a peace mission from Dwaraka to Hastinapura. No donkey or horse could help in his urgent mission. He flew. Peace did not appeal to the crowd. He showed his strength to some and returned. Peace or no peace one has to get through Karma and reap the benefits good or bad. He did not change his rules. Result was Kuruksehtra or Dharmakshetra, Choice was peoples. He was their judge.
Are we all Pagan? You may be surprised when you come across some of the Easter practices. The Burning of Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jess is common in some Latin American and Greek traditions. It is similar to our burning of the effigies of Ravana, Indrajit and Kumbhakarna during Dusserah. Also Ascension of Jesus Christ is celebrated by flying kites decorated with Jesus Christ in Bermuda on Good Friday. Hindus believe in mythical animals like Krauncha, Sardula (Yali), Hansa, Gandaberunda and this looks bizarre to our Western friends. Do you know what the Randy Easter Bunny is? In the old Anglo-Saxon festival Easter was spring festival in glorification of Goddess Estre whose symbol of fertility was a rabbit. Germans who settled in Pennsylvania in the 17th century brought from the motherland tales of the "Oster-hase" Easter rabbit, the mythical egg laying bunny that children have come to love and commercially exploited! In Sweden it is mini Halloween scaring away Easter witches. Bizarre traditions are there in all faiths not in Hinduism alone! Enjoy the hot cross buns of Easter but do not look at the white cross on it for it is an echo of Christ's sufferings on the cross on Good Friday. Otherwise it is a sweet bread lightly flavored with fruits and spices, a British invention.
25. IF YOU FIND GOD IN DARKNESS, THAT IS BRAHMAN
Barbara Brown Taylor, who ranks among America’s leading theologians is encouraging believers and non-believers not only seek the light but to face the darkness too, something that 21st century Americans tend to resist. God declared in the beginning “Let there be Light”. Scriptures therefore concluded light as holy and condemned darkness to hell. A walk in the dark can lead to wisdom, deliver us from fear, and bring us closer God, believes Taylor. Darkness was often the setting for humanity’s closest encounters with the divine. God appeared to Abraham in the night and promised him descendants more numerous than stars. The Exodus happened at night. God met Moses in the thick darkness atop Mount Sinai to hand down the Ten Commandments. The Apostle Paul’s conversion happened after he lost his sight. Jesus was born beneath the star and resurrected in the darkness of a cave. Most of the world’s major religions have something to say about finding the God in the shadows. Gautama Buddha meditated in the caves of Northern India. Muhammad received Koran in a cave outside Mecca. St. Francis prayed in a tiny grotto near Assisi. Darkness is inviting everyone to know God.Taylor believes, to heal us of our weakness and strengthen us for the journey.
Lord Krishna was born in pitch dark in the prison and Lord Narasimha during dark twilight zone. Rama entered Ayodhya in Pitch darkness. Narakasura was killed in the night. Vishnu rested in perfect tranquility in pitch darkness. Nara Naryana, sage Vyasa and others have all meditated in dark caves. Lord Siva is embodiment of Tamasa Guna and darkness. We worship him for his Tamasa Guna which brings hope for new cycle of birth and salvation; otherwise life will be stagnated and condemned for ever. It is the contemplation on darkness that led the Upanishadic sages to spiritual goals. The Vedic poet and the Upanishadic seer alike pictured a state of affairs where the light was hidden and darkness prevailed, where death swept across and deathlessness was covered over, and where the unreal held the real in captivity. This realization gave birth to the famous Upanishadic prayer “Lead me from unreal to the real, from darkness to light, and from death to deathlessness”
The inner chamber of the temple is called Garbhagriha which literally means “womb chamber”. This chamber resembles a dark cave. Here the deity is located. Garbhagriha does not have windows. Instead it has a wide front door which allows the devotees sitting watch the ritualistic worship focused on the deity. You know why horses are provided eye guards and kept dark to focus on its straight speed run. The Self or God within us is kept dark from us. When we take pains to focus on that our thoughts get diverted to spirituality, elevation and liberation from materialism, ego and selfishness. The revelation that has come to Barbara Taylor is long understood by Hindus. Darkness and light being pairs of opposites have their due place in Hindu philosophy.
When a devotee entering the temple gets the first vision of sanctum where the icon is kept in darkness with dim light he gets into the state of dream. As he proceeds towards the sanctum and stands in front of the sanctum he sinks into the state of deep sleep. When he looks at the icon, the higher state of tranquility descends upon him. And when he is suffused with the vision of the icon, he gets into the state of tranquility and he no longer needs the help of the icon. His thoughts are one with the Supreme within himself and he turns inwards. That is why Hindu temples differ from other religions in its temple traditions. Vedanta says man has to go through four states to reach Brahman—Wakeful, Dream, Deep- sleep and the Fourth State of transcendence called Tureeya.
26. MOTHER’S DAY—A DAYOF VENERATION FOR MOTHERS AND WORSHIP FOR MOTHER EARTH
Mother’s Day is a day of Veneration to mother and worship to Bhoodevi Mother Goddess. Mothers' day is an American Invention. As per the original intent Mother’s Day should be singular possessive, for each family to honor their mother, not plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world. But today it has turned out to be a celebration honoring mothers, motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. Strangely this has also been given a religious importance in America as special masses are held in all churches honoring mothers.
The modern Mother's Day has been assimilated into Indian culture and it is celebrated every year on the second Sunday of May. In India, mothers are considered as god to their children. Taittareeya Upanishad in its Sikshavallee mandates the student graduated out of Vedic school to worship the Mother as the first God, “Matru devo bhava” . India does not celebrate the occasion as a religious one, but do their best to thank their mothers for care and love. The day is celebrated mostly in urban centers, by performing special acts to honor mothers and their contribution to the family fashioned after American culture. As per Hindu tradition, mothers are paid homage on Saraswati pooja day during Devi Navratri, with "Maatru Pooja" (worship of mother). This and similar celebrations come from age old traditions compared to the US-inspired celebration.
In the United States, Mother's Day remains one of the biggest days for sales of flowers, greeting cards, and the like. Mother's Day on May 11 this year will complete its 100th year of celebration. Mother's Day, attracts the highest church attendance after Christmas Eve and Easter. Many worshipers celebrate the day with carnations, colored if the mother is living and white if she is dead. Hindu Americans do not lag behind. The temple is kept open for long hours and treated as special religious events day unlike in India. Mothers are also honored with special worship to Goddess Parvati if it is a Saivite main deity based temple or Lakshmi if it is a Vaishnava main deity based temple or the main goddess if the temple is Devi temple invoking her blessings for all mothers. But Bhoodevi is the most appealing Goddess suited to all American Hindu Traditions and other cultures.
No Hindu Worship ever takes place without honoring Mother Earth. Hindu temple visit starts with paying respect to Mother Earth at the flag-post. Brahman in his omnipresent aspect is worshiped as Vishnu. He pervades the entire Earth and so mother Earth pervaded by Vishnu is considered as his consort and called Bhoodevi. She is his accredited agent to bring forth children and take care of them as he can't be doing all this himself. Vishnu is always worshiped with Bhoodevi along with Sridevi. It is strange that while there are many days earmarked for special worship for Sridevi and other Goddesses there is not a single day earmarked for special worship of Mother Earth in Hindu Temple Tradition. Processional deity of Vishnu is invariably accompanied by Sridevi and Bhoodevi yet there is no iconic worship of Bhoodevi with significance.She is lost in glorification of Lakshmi.
Mahanarayaa Upanishad glorifies Earth as the Universal Mother in its Mantra as follows: Mother Earth is mother of all beings such as Gods, Gandharvas, human beings, pitrus or manes, asuras and she is signified by names Prithvee and others".This goes with the famous Vedic saying: “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”—whole world is one family under the care of Universal Mother. Why there are no exclusive temples or iconic representations for Mother earth, I can't tell? A lone temple for Bharatmata exists in Haridwar honoring the land of India only, an outcome of Bankim Chatterji’s patriotic inspiration but not for Bhoodevi. Hindu Americans dedicate Graduation Day to Goddess Saraswati even though they do not have regular iconic worship for her or build temples for her. It is therefore fitting and proper to dedicate Mother’s Day to Goddess Mother Earth and make her the presiding deity while honoring all mothers.Christian Americans have turned this day as a popular religious mass worship day too. A Hindu mass worship should inspire those Hindu Americans who are married into Western culture as well as all other cultures who generally visit Hindu temples to appreciate our concept of Universal Oneness
Maatru devo Bhava | Esha aadesah | Esha upadesah ||
Be one for whom Mother is a Goddess. This is the command; this is the instruction. (Guru to disciple in Taittareeya Upanishad)
*27. CAN MEMORIAL DAY BE A SPECIAL RELIGIOUS EVENTS DAY FOR HINDU AMERICANS?
Hindu Temple in Nashville was kept open all day long for Memorial week end to facilitate participation by all as Special Religious Event's day and may be other temples in USA too. USA holds special masses in churches on Memorial Day praying for the departed souls who fought for their Motherland or the need and ambition of their Motherland. Sri Rama though did not fight for the freedom of his country (he only fought for the freedom of his wife whom he later deserted) said in Ramayana “Jananee janmabhoomischa praanaadapi gareeyasi”. Mother and Motherland are dearer than one’s own life. Bhagavadgeeta says no sins will ever touch a person who fights the war for the sake of Dharma. Geeta ended abruptly to fight the justified war and so was not there to glorify Pandavas and elevate them to noble war heroes. Yama took advantage and punished the four Pandu brothers. Mahabharata glorifies Veera Abhimanyu and all the Kauravas too as they were not found in Naraka like the Pandava brothers by Yudhisthira. They all attained Veera Marana, glorious death fighting a war and reached heaven, perhaps a short cut method for liberation. The incarnation of Rama and Krishna was to fight the War of Dharma and lucky those who died at their hands also reached heaven. So, there is a justification to pray for the souls of all those who died in wars fighting for their country and also worship Rama and Krishna if not Arjuna who fought the war of Dharma on Memorial Day.Arjuna as Nara is worshiped only in Badrinath. Of course Lord Siva is also a sure candidate for worship on similar grounds along with Ganesha, Leader of Ganas and Subhramanya, Commander in chief. Durga and Kali cannot be forgotten. There are many other Goddesses too on the waiting list. Every student who enters the college and seeks Government loan for education in USA is duty bound to fight the war. This also makes the day significant to Hindu Americans. Of course there are many other kinds of wars today and I am not sure whether all those who die in those wars are eligible for Veera Marana--noble death qualifying for Svarga. Fight for the preservation or establishment of democracy seems to be a War of Dharma to-day.
Upanishads do not talk about the kind of wars we discussed above while Puranas do. Upanishads talk about the fight amongst Panchapranas as to which one is great! But there are three Trisuparna Mantras about which I talked about in my discourses on Mahanarayana Upanishad (MNU). MNU considers Brahma hatya (killing a Vedic scholar), Broona hatya (killing of the fetus) and Veera hatya (killing of a War hero) are capital sins. Of course there are quick remedies too. Simply meditate on Trisuparna Mantras or Naraynopanishad. Those who fight for abortion for or against can refer to MNU.
Someone wrote to me some time back why Hindu temples should be kept open all day long and also be notified as Special Religious Events Day. I had no ready answer then. Now I am more than convinced our Founding Fathers of Hindu Temples in America are not wrong and I was only wrong like the other curious individual. An atheist will dismiss all my justification saying it is purely commercialization to attract crowds on Holidays to fill the coffers of Hindu Temples. I wonder still why America has not thought of commercialization Greeting Cards though they do not fail to greet each other with the words Happy Memorial Day! Of course it is a great day for shopping if not convenient to visit to symmetry or go to churches or temples. American Hindus do not lag behind!
*28. HAS BIBLE MARATHON READING INSPIRED AKHAND RAMAYANA PARAAYANA OR PATH?
I never could imagine that my discourse “Why do we revere Ramayana Parayana or Ramayana path” circulated to you some time back would become so popular among my indirect participants with whom I am not in touch through blog or mail? I had some nice compliments too. Evidently Hindu belief in such non-stop reading or listening to lead one to the path of Svarga seems to be very strong. In Hindu Temples of America non-stop reading (Akhand Path) of Sundarakanda if not whole Ramayana, Bhagavadgeetaa, Hanuman Chalisa (40 times), Vishnu Sahasranama (108 times), Lalita sahasranama, Durga Saptasati etc., are very popular. It should be much more in India to include many other texts including Tamil. These thoughts are inspired by the Adikavya, Ramayana to begin with. Ayodhyakanda ends with the following recommendation: “He who reads this whole Ramayana of Sri Rama undoubtedly shall attain the World of Vishnu after the end of this life. His father, grand- father and even fathers of sub-ancestors attain the abode of Vishnu. The exploration of Sri Rama bestows four objects—Kama, the gratification of desire; Artha, acquisition of wealth; Dharma, discharge of duty and Moksha, emancipation. So, one should listen carefully and diligently. Listening even one syllable or a quarter of the verse of the Ramayana with reverence one attains the world of Brahman and is regarded as respected there by Him. Thus runs this historical narrative”. We also celebrate the reading with special worship and mouth-watering Prasad (blessed food). At homes when performed we invite many for a special festive meal.
You may be surprised to know where this commendation of Ramayana and the belief leads us today. Vedas only recommend acquiring knowledge of Vedas or Brahma Jnaanam. But today many chant Vedas blindly without understanding as highway to heaven. Tamils who find hard with Sanskrit resort to Tiruvoymozhi, Tiruppukazh etc. also not understanding for their text is also not that simple to read and digest. May be Geet Govind is popular in Orissa likewise!
But what is more surprising to-day is, this belief and practice has crossed International boundaries influenced by Eastern cultures based on Hinduism. They use the word Marathon for Akhand path. I am sure some of you might have gone through the column “Bible marathon goes on despite low turn-out” in the local newspaper The Tennessean. Not that our parayana has large turn-out; but may be better being a long tradition. May be Grantha Sahib has better attendance. The gist of the news given here should interest you all coming from our critics of misunderstood and misinterpreted idol worship and Puranas. In due course they may resort to idol worship too openly like us! Then we need not struggle hard to find an alternative word for idol fering Islam and Christianity.
“…Volunteers read the Bible nonstop, from cover to cover. It takes volunteers about 90 hours to read from Genesis to Revelation. During the marathon at Bible Pathway Ministries—a Christian publishing house that produces Bible study aids—volunteers read the Bible non-stop from cover to cover. Last year about 250 volunteered to participate in the public reading…..The marathon reading in its 18th year, kicked off on Sunday evening after a community cookout and live music performances….. Three years ago a Murfreesboro man decided to turn his life around after attending the event. He returned to the reading this year. ‘It is worth it if we can help one person get saved’ says Palafox, daughter of a Methodist Minister”
This is rather a bold exercise by Bible enthusiasts, may be influenced by Eastern culture of Hinduism Buddhism Jainism and Sikhism. This is a better approach than open street propaganda of Christianity saying that everybody who does not believe in Bible is a sinner. This goes on in India even today with conversion of the down trodden and ignorant. Will the new Namo Government put an end to such forced conversion as misleading the ignorant? Bible is not that easy for mass reading like our slokas for mass recitation. Probably resorting t to Psalms only as we have resorted to Sundarkaand Path may be easy for mass reading together. Of course many do not understand what they read in our Path or Paaraayana approach to Bhaktimaarga.
29. SATANIC 9/11 OF 2001AND SPIRITUAL 9/11 OF 1893
Memories of 9/11-2001 haunt us still and we all participate in paying tribute the 3000 people who lost their lives in terrorist attack. The problem seems to be some self ascertained religious protagonists have claimed themselves to be champions of Islam and in the name of religion carrying out atrocities round the globe. India has also been threatened recently. It is very necessary for everyone of us to understand what is a true religion in the words of Dalai lama. It is also advisable to recall what happened on 9/11 of 1893 which brought so much of wisdom to Light from India by way of Wisdom of Vedas to World Forum on this memorable day by Swami Vivekananda. Please go through the attached discourse. Your comments are welcome.
30. INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE
Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. To mark the 30th anniversary of the General Assembly Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace the theme of this year’s International Day of Peace is the “Right of Peoples to Peace”. This anniversary offers a unique opportunity to reaffirm the United Nations commitment to the purposes and principles upon which the Organization was founded. The Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace recognizes that the promotion of peace is vital for the full enjoyment of all human rights. The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by resolution 36/67of the United Nations General Assembly to coincide with its opening session, which was held annually on the third Tuesday of September. The first Peace Day was observed in September 1982. In 2001, the General Assembly by unanimous vote adopted resolution 55/282which established 21 September as an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire.
The United Nations invites all nations and people to honor a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.
Pope Francis called on moderate Muslims and all religious leaders to condemn Islamic extremists who pervert religion to justify violence. Francis said religious intolerance was an “insidious enemy” alive in parts of the world today. He urged all believers to “firmly refute as false” any perversion of religion for the sake of violence.
2014 – Right to Peace --The theme of the 2014 International Day of Peace is the Right of Peoples to Peace, reaffirming the United Nations commitment to the UN Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace, which recognizes that the promotion of peace is vital for the full enjoyment of all human rights.
To bring awareness to Peace Day 2014, the think PEACE Network promoted a Peace Day Comedy program, "Stand-Up for International Peace," held in over 50 global comedy clubs. The Waves of Kindness Global Initiative celebrates the United Nations International Day of Peace though global meditation events. Many States and Churches observed this day by one minute silence and mass worship.
Hindu Temples in America let this day as normal and did not make it a Special Religious Events Day. The reason behind this may be that all Hindu prayers end with “Sarve Janaah Sukhino Bhavantu” and “Krinvanto Viswamaaryam” and Aaatmat Sarvabhooteshu” whose meaning I have explained several times. This would bring the awareness in Hindu American children brought up amid different cultures and often confused.
Yet it would have been a fine gesture to have joined the several churches to make it a day of special religious significance and observed one minute silence with a Yajna (Fire Sacrifice) for International Peace which we occasionally do in our Mass worship invoking Supreme for all-round Peace, Prosperity and Happiness particularly at a time when the whole world is disturbed including India which is severely affected by religious intolerance by a handful of people who are its citizens instigating from outside.
*31. HINDU REFLECTIONS ON CHRISTMAS TREE AND ON AN UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS TRADITION
Being Hindu Americans, noticing that USA has moved away from the concept of Christmas Lights to Festival of Lights Hindu Americans can justify their decorating the courtyards and house fronts with the latest and expensive LED lighting with special exhibits including Kamdhenu, Varaha and Koorma while Christian Americans include sheep, cow , ass and camel which they can definitely afford being in higher brackets of income. They need not worry about our Muslim neighbors as they do not believe in Christmas Lighting or tree or else they may face Sharia Law. Only we Hindu Americans have to start decorative lighting on Diwali day and take off after Kartikai or at best extend to Makara Sankranti glorifying Makara Vilakku at Sabarimalai in Kerala and celebrating Sun’s commencement of journey towards Northern Solstice though actual Winter Solstice is on December 22. When in doubt we have to go by astrology and not astronomy as Geeta says “Tasmaat saastram pramanm te”.
But how do we justify artificial or real green fir tree with decorations inside our homes? For that we should understand first how this tradition started even in Christianity. In the 12th Century in Germany a fir tree was used in mystery plays as the so called “paradise” tree. These dramas were held outside during the Advent and Christmas seasons and the fir tree symbolized the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. The evergreen fir tree was viewed as sign of hope throughout the winter season--hope in the promise that the rest of nature too will awaken to new life in the coming spring. Through Jesus Christians hope for everlasting life—the paradise as well as the new Adam. Jesus Christ is the new green tree of life to Christians. Fir tree is evergreen. So Christians hope that earthly season must come to an end, and yet they will have eternal life believing in Him. When Christians hang child’s first ornament on the tree each year, symbolically they place their son or daughter back into the arms of Jesus; so also many things under the care, protection or supervision of the Lord or in appreciation of his kindness.
Secular America argues Christmas tree is another name of fir tree and nothing to do with religion. In 2013, 1.2 billion real fir trees were cut for Christmas tree decorations. It is therefore obligatory on our part to plant at least the same number of trees if not more during the season. Arbour Day Foundation is very active during this season sending tree saplings for planting but people just ignore being busy with festive activities. Now there is a tendency not to decorate the tree but decorate with the tree in the house. Non Christmas trees have come into display by Christians. Anyhow many resort to fake trees with flakes which are not religious either symbolically moving away from the original thought of natural evergreen real tree. It can be beautiful to use undecorated trees or branches to celebrate the season now called Festival of Lights, whether or not we celebrate Christmas. Woody trees just really evoke feeling of coziness and wintry weather, so trees do not have to be associated with an actual holiday or religion. Some of us keep all the time rubber tree at home. It is more about the warmth of gathering with friends and family during the colder months. In Hindu tradition for three days of Kriashna Jayanthi celebrations a tree similar to rubber tree called Pinnai with fruits is decorated in a canopy (pandal) along with Krishna idol recalling his relaxing under this tree and playing game of dice with Gopis in his boyhood days like Christians during Christmas is in vogue. I have seen this in my own house my parents doing it while I was young and lived with them. So we can keep a rubber plant during this Festival of lights season and move it out in spring, summer and early fall season a Hindu tradition giving an impression to others that we are one with the nation in the celebration of Festivals unlike Muslims.
We are also criticized for the cruel scene of burning Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Indrajit during Dussera as the most cruel act of punishing criminals or prisoners or enemies. You are hearing so much about waterboarding of Al Qaeda prisoners now-a-days. Even many in Tamil Nadu think this North Indian tradition of Dussera burning is cruel and also targeted by Aryans against Dravidians and Ravan was a religious Dravidian, worshiper of Siva—a theory promoted by EVR of Dravida Kazhagam to persecute Brahmins and capture power. Don’t think that such unusual traditions are there only in Hinduism. A 13-meter goat figure made of straw was erected in the town square of Galve in Sweden around 25 years before. At midnight on Christmas Eve, the goat went up in flames, but the town never stopped building in year after year and the tradition continued.The last reported was in 2011. Why goat? I got no explanation from my Christian friends.But based on Christian symbolism of evergreen Christmas-tree I drew my own conclusions. You know why Muslims hate pigs and get insulted when somebody offer them pig meat? Goat is a stubborn animal that can destroy all green vegetation, except one plant. So it is the enemy and against the spirit of Christmas-tree which is symbolized as Jesus. Hence you can find sheep, deer etc., but not goat in Christmas animal display.
32. LET US CENTER OURSELVES WIDENING OUR VISION ON FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
Celebrating festivals with lights has been prevalent in many countries and traditions from ancient past. It all began with the city of Ayodhya being lit to welcome Rama after completing his 14 years of exile which day later Hindus called Deepaavali which means row of lights. South Indians celebrate Thiru Kaartikai Deepam in the Hindu Tamil month of Kaartikai and it is prefixed as sacred and suffixed as Light. In fact at least two oil wick lamps lit on Deepaavali day are carried through to light oil wick lamps of Kartikai on Kartik Poornima Day. Following this tradition it will be a good idea for Hindu Americans to start the ceremonial lighting day on Deepavali and finish it on Makara Sankranti Day. In that act they will also include the Festival of Lights Season of USA which is described below. Makara Sankranti is known for its Makara Vilakku, dedicated to Aiyappan, a compromising deity for both followers of Siva and Vishnu and they need not worry like fighting to celebrate two different Kaartikai festivals one called Siva deepam and the other Vishnu Deepam if they are his followers. Aiyappan is born to Siva and Vishnu (in his Mohini Avatar). Makara Sankranti is the holiest day for which Bhishma waited to give up his ghost and ascend heaven. Thinking of a day to start New Year suitable to mankind, it would have been ideal to have made Winter solstice day, a landmark astronomical day as International New Year Day and not the Christian Religious Day of Circumcision of Jesus Christ and force it on world population of various faiths.
In fact Karunanidhi Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu even moved Tamil New Year Day to Makara Sankranti Day for two years approved by a legislation which got reversed when Jayalalitha came to power. This would have been ideal as New Year day for all Hindu Traditions as an astronomical land mark day when Sun’s rays turn toward Northern Solstice(Uttarayana) for whole of Secular India. Americans generally celebrate their festivals and Presidents Birthdays as per convenience except a few. Hindu Americans also celebrate many of their religious festivals on weekends including Durga pooja as per convenience only. They can also significantly push their Special Religious New Year worship to the most auspicious Makara Sankranti Day which makes lot of sense. Incidentally it will not hurt the Christians or interfaith married couples and children whoever may be the other partner of Hindu. To a Christian it is still the day of Circumcision of Jesus as this is the day of Circumcision of Jesus observed by Eastern Orthodox Christians.
We are now celebrating our fasts and festivals after 23 days of their actual happening, Saastras’ prescribed time. All our Panchangas (almanacs) need to accommodate to this change. The present Niryaana system is not accurate. Our calendar is based on seasons, ayanaas, equinoxes, etc. Moreover the stars are not placed evenly in heavens and the view of them through ecliptic does not yield 2.25 stars (27 Nakshatas; Aswini—Revati. 2.25X12=27) per zodiac sign. Stars are of unequal span. Who is prepared to bell the cat and teach ,wisdom to Indian Government to have a calendar suitable to all starting on Astronomical Winter Solstice Day, on December 22?
USA starts its ceremonial lighting of the tree and Christmas season lighting immediately after Thanksgiving and many take it out after January 1. For many religious Christians Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th and ends on January 6th if you have listened to the Christmas song. Christmas is actually a festival of 12 days of celebrations as Diwali is of 5 day celebrations or Dusserah of ten days. In many traditions the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th with the following day December 26th being considered the First Day of Christmas. In this case January 6 would be Epiphany the 12th Day of Christmas. Even though December 25th is celebrated as Christmas in most cultures, January 6th is often the day for giving gifts. January 1 is yet another significant day in this 12 days of Christmas being the day of Circumcision of Jesus Christ. Pope Gregory adopting the Roman calendar whose first month was dedicated to God Janus made this day as his New Year Day for his Christian Calendar after whom the Gregorian Calendar is named. British powerfully ruling the world enforced the Gregorian calendar as International Calendar. When Hindu Americans rush to the Temple on January 1 to make New Year resolutions and celebrate it as a special Religious Events Day they are just joining their Christian friends to celebrate the holy day of Circumcision of Jesus on January 1 which is not an auspicious festival day for them. On one occasion taking all risk I drove from Albany to Pittsburgh through snow on cold winter night on December 31 to witness the ceremonial Abhishekam conducted to Lord Venkateshwara on January 1. The temple was packed unlike the other Hindu festival days perhaps with the exception of Diwali. I have not seen any such mass worship or Yajnas conducted in temples in India on January 1, which is celebrated as a Special Religious Day of Worship in American Hindu Temples.
Festival of lights--green tree with lights wrapped around, decoration inside the house and enchanting music--are all focused on the warmth of gathering with friends and family during the colder months. As American Hindus we can with pride and reverence join the the tradition of erecting a natural tree with lights, lighting the house and put up an exhibition of "Theme Park of Creation" in lieu of "Nativity and walk through Bethlehem". t is this motivation that drives Tamils to hold their Music Festival in the month of December which to Tamils in Chennai are their ideal and enjoyable winter days to sit inside a Music Hall and listen to the music with friends and family. They also enjoy the variety of delicious food sold in the adjacent mobile canteens, an added attraction.
The attached discourse elaborates on this subject which includes a list of countries and traditions that celebrate Festival of Lights. As Hindu Americans begin your ceremonial lighting for Holiday Season in USA on Deepavali Day and end it on Makara Sankranti Day which would please all and also our interfaith couples and children. It is both the holy Uttarayana punyakala and the holy Circumcision Day of Jesus Christ. What other Day would be so ideal to celebrate cross cultures as New Year pleasing cross cultures and all traditions within Hindu fold?
33. DID BHARATIYAS HELP THE GROWTH AND PROSPERITY OF CHRISTIANITY?
I thought about a discourse for your Christmas Eve enlightenment and enjoyment as you wait for the Good Lord to arrive! So please go through, it is not too long. I believe you have gone through Economist of December 20th that inspired me to come with this discourse!
Magi means Kings in Persian who visited the baby Jesus Christ as displayed in Nativity and walk through Bethlehem mentioned in my discourse.
The New Testament does not give the names of the Magi, however, traditions and legends identify a variety of different names for them. the Western Christian church they have been all regarded as saints and are commonly known as:
· Melchior a Persian scholar;
· Caspar also Gaspar, Jaspar, Jaspas, Gathaspa, and other variations), an Indian scholar;
· Balthazar also Balthasar, Balthassar, and Bithisarea, an Arabian scholar.
Encyclopædia Britannica states: "according to Western church tradition, Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Gaspar as a king of India." These names apparently derive from a Greek manuscript probably composed in Alexandra around 500, and which has been translated into Latin with the title Excerpta Latina Barbari. Another Greek document from the 8th century, of presumed Irish origin and translated into Latin with the title Collectanea et Flores, continues the tradition of three kings and their names and gives additional details.
One candidate for the origin of the name Caspar appears in the Acts of Thomas as Gondophares (21 – c. AD 47), i.e., Gudapharasa (from which "Caspar" might derive as corruption of "Gaspar"). This Gondophares declared independence from the Arsacids to become the first Indo-Parthian king, and he was allegedly visited by Thomas the Apostle. According to at least one scholar, his name is perpetuated in the name of the Afghan cityKandahar, which he is said to have founded under the name Gundopharron. Christian legend may have chosen Gondofarr simply because he was an eastern king living in the same period. You may kindly recall my referernce to St. Thomas Mount in Chennai, the town ship named after him and the church on the top of the hill in St Thomas Mount.
The Economist December 12 states the magi came from, most probably the border between Iran and Afghanisthan, probably India, via the Silk Road and they were scholars and difficult to say what sort of scholars they were. It also says heavenly phenomenon the wise men were meant to have seen is probably a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces in 7 BC; and possibly a comet, since the star's beams were often said to stream and wave like.
Various factors described in the discourse attached above beginning with the visit of a wise king of Bharat as a team member of Magi to Bethlehem to see the Christ-child, a friendly Sanatana Dharma crowd favorably disposed to Gnostic philosophy oriented St. Thomas, absence of revolters who later walked out of Judaism and hated Christianity who were yet to form a new religion of their own (later formed Mohammedanism) at that time and many other factors have contributed to make Christianity the Religion of most followers in the world. Christians claim it is easy to follow Christianity with less restraints, with one scripture and only their powerful God, no castes but only the rich, the middle class and the poor, with the philosophy that men need some religion and Christianity is convenient in contrast to spirituality which is vague, practiced by the prosperous and powerful society in the world, not the poor and Pagan, and not necessarily aimed at permanent Liberation and Eternal Bliss to merge with the Supreme. In that bargain they don’t mind one time hell or heaven and no hassle of repeated births and deaths which makes the world crowded though everyone can be saved. Why should anybody be saved if they do not believe in Jesus? Christians are also free to divorce and marry as many times as possible leaving many children to Good Lord to take care of. It also allows widow marriage. Everyone has to repent for his sins and God will save them how serious their sin may be if he is a true Christian! Do what you want including capital crimes but repent once, for Good Lord atoned already for your sins on certain conditions! Amen is sweet and Om is too much of an exercise and too long!
34. HOW CAN WE ADAPT RELIGIOUS VALENTINE’S DAY TO HINDU MODE OF WORSHIP?
Why can’t Valentine’s Day be a Special Religious Day in Hindu Temples like New Year's Day if people go around greeting everybody with "Happy Valentine's Day" in Temples in USA?
Valentine’s Day is observed as a festival to honor St. Valentine could be traced back to a Roman holiday to honor Goddess Juno. Juno was the queen (Mahishee) of Roman gods and goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the Goddess of Women and Marriage. February 15th was celebrated as Feast of Lupercalia, even earlier predating the above honoring Juno. In those days, the lives of young boys and girls were strictly separate as in Hindu culture. However, on the eve of the festival of Lupercalia, the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed in jars. Each young man would draw a girl’s name from the jar and would then be partner for the duration of the festival with the girl whom he picked. Sometimes the pairing of the youngsters lasted an entire year, and often, they would fall in love and would later marry. I have already given the story behind this mysterious saint who is celebrated on this day. In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius set aside February 14th to honor St. Valentine. In USA, Miss Esther Howland is given credit for sending first Valentine’s cards. Commercial Valentine Cards were introduced in the 1800. Western World has not only highly commercialized it but also convincingly converted to a Religious Day of worship in churches praying for the better-halves and for the harmony of married life of their dear ones directed to fair sex with special prayers and Masses.
Hindu Americans make often the American Holidays their Special Religious Events Day most popular one being New Year’s day celebrated with Shiva Abhishekam etc., in order to make New Year Resolutions attracting large crowds of worshipers. They often resort to Vedas to find necessary justification. Samvtsara is glorified as Brahman in Vedas. We have umpteen number of Samvatras in India. Even Vedas describe five kinds of Samvatsaras of which I talked about. Hence there is all justification they say. Vedas preach Universal Oneness and so all Samvatsaras are but Vyahritis of Brahman. Hindu Temples celebrate many divine wed-locks arising out of love affairs like that of Siva Parvati, Radha and Krishana, Venkatesa and Padmavati, Rama and Sita, who were long separated and united, Andal and Ranganatha (Panguni Uttiram) etc., and also of couples Savitri and Satyavan (Karadiyan Nonbu). Such celebrations are done with religious devotion seeking divine intervention and blessing, for choosing a boy for the girl as well as long happy married life or longevity of husbands as when desired.
When I came to USA I had a cultural shock when I saw males walking with roses in their hands offering to ladies and greeting them with Happy Valentine's Day and arranging festival lunch tables and serving them food in temples after worship. Hindu Temple in Albany also conducted special Puja to Lakshmi that day. Things were not much different when I came to Nashville. I slowly realized how Hindu Americans influenced by Western Culture were also struggling hard to keep their married life happy and so needed divine help. I got used to the changing pattern of Hindu culture and even started feeling there is nothing wrong in celebrating Valentine’s day in Hindu temples as New Year Day and only it needed change of name and proper way of worship to suit our culture, looking at the practice of church Mass Worship on Valentine’s Day.
Are we violating Hindu religious codes by our worship to Hindu Deity on Valentine’s Day? Looking at our Vedic ritual of Kamokarsheet Homa and celebration of Karadiyan Nombu and Vata Savitri Vrat in temples I felt the need for celebrating it is more than not, and felt it is not against our culture. Vedas have deified Kaama (infatuation) and make fire offerings(Homa) to avoid evil influence of Kaama. Puranas have deified Obstacle and call the deity as Vighnaraja, the Lord of Obstacles. Here the focus is on fear of negative influence of these characteristics but our focus could well be diverted to positive thinking for promoting peace and harmony in family life in that process of deifying and worshiping. Kubera is invoked as Kamesvra in our daily worship. Tamils have long tradition of celebrating Karadiyan Nombu in Temples as Special Religious Day, while in the North same is celebrated as Vata Savitri Vrat to commemorate the dedication and love of Savitri to her husband Satyavan pleading to Yama for long life and seeking divine intervention a gesture of Pativrata Dharma. Here they are not any deities of worship. It looks strange to others when Tamils often designate their festivals to food stuffs and animals (Mattu Pongal). If Hindu ladies are thus celebrating love, Hindu males also need to fulfill their obligation as she is Sahadharmini. What better day is well suited to American Hindus to celebrate Valentine's Day and with Radha Kalyanam? You are also aware how Geet Govind and Tiruppavai the two love-based esoteric compositions are almost equated with holy scriptures and liberally employed in our daily worship. If you had read my discourse Hindu Reflections on Mating Season Festival that inspired St. Valentines Religious Festival, it would make lot of sense in the above context. I also find this to be one of the popular discourses read by many around the globe. Of late Valentine’s Day is observed with great enthusiasm in India though it has not reached Hindu Temples as in America. This day can be made a worshipful day devoted Kubera (North dikpalaka) who is worshiped as Kameswara in all Hindu worship and who is sought after Ashtaisvarya (glorified in Lakshmi ashtottara), eight kinds of wealth and who is also the spouse of Goddess Rajarajeswari and worshiped in Badrinath, like Christianity which made Valentine's Day, a religious day which we all need, more so living in USA faced with marital problems as well as interfaith, inter-caste and inter-racial marriages.
Western culture believes a February bride will be an affectionate wife and a tender mother. To Tamils January 14 which is the first day of Tamil month of Thai heralds auspicious marriage season and February 14 which falls in Thai/Maasi or Maagha calendar months is considered auspicious day for match-making or match-finding. It also comes in the mating season for birds and animals. Therefore it is an ideal day to propitiate Kubera, God of Love or Kamesvara and celebrate any divine wedding in Hindu temples. Simply going around in a worshipful place greeting everyone Happy Valentine’s Day makes no sense and simply enjoying a ceremonial lunch in a worship place without the proper blessing of the Lord for the occasion makes also no sense. At the same time the temple cannot discipline the enthusiasm that goes around when people come together in public places like temple. A Hindu social life is so knitted with religion they can't think of any social event without invoking God! Therefore it is worth making it a Special Religious Events Day. That this day deserves such a consideration more than any other American Holiday will be clear when you go through my detailed discourse on the subject. Your comments are welcome.
Raajadhi raajaaya prasasya saahine | namoe vayam vaisravanaaya kurmahe | sah may kaamaan kaamaaya mahyam | kaamesvaroe vaisravanoe dadaatu || Kuberaayaa vaisravanaaya mahaaraajaaya namaha ||
We offer obeisance to Kubera, who is the King of kings, who commands one’s possessions by his power. May that Kubera, the Lord of Desires (Kaama) fulfill my desires! I offer my obeisance to Kubera, the son of Vaisravas and King of Kings. [This prayer is offered n in all daily worship in homes and Temples]
35. THINKING OF MOTHER EARTH ON MOTHER”S DAY
Mother’s Day 2015 Message to Religious Hindus:
Mother’s day is celebrated on May 10 this year being the second Sunday of May. It is celebrated with special worship in all churches in USA. Hindu Americans do not lag behind in rushing to temples and join the special worship program in temples. One temple for all Traditions is the general convention in USA. In spite of this, sectarian form of worship continues in USA Temples attracting few members on festive day barring few festivals common to all. It will be fitting and proper to at least focus on certain important day’s worship oriented to suit all traditions and cultures. Important National Holidays such Mother’s Day, Memorial day and Father’s Day etc. give us an opportunity to make these special worshipful days more meaningful to make it more broad-based to suit all traditions and cultures.
Generally Mother’ day is dedicated to some kind of Devi Worship dedicated to Lakshmi or Aandal by Vaishanvites, to Parvati Durga, Srilalita or Kali by Saivites and Saktites or for Devis to whom they have established sanctums within the complex. Unfortunately there is no specific day designated for Bhoodevi’s worship in Hindu calendar. ButBhoodevi or Mother Earth is invoked in all sectarian worships as Goddess of all Entities and Supreme Being with the Veda mantra "Gandhadvaaraam duraadarshaam". The Mantra “Matru devoe Bhava”—Regard mother as goddess does not say your mother. Mother therefore should necessarily mean the Universal Mother Bhoodevi first and then mortal mother who gave birth to us. Durga Saptasatee also says “Yaa devee sarvabhooteshu matru-roopena samsthitaa," referring to element Earth as Mother.
Mother Earth is the most celebrated deity in Vedas and Upanishads. I often wonder why Bhoodevi who is so glorified in Vedas (MNU) as Mother of all Mothers and asIsvareegam sarvabhootanaam-- Mother of all entities is not even remembered on this day. Exclusive temples to Mother earth are few and far between. I have neither come across any Ashtottaras and Sahasranamas for Bhoodevi nor any special festival and ritual day for her exclusive worship though we chant Bhoosooktam and Mrittikaa Sooktam often contained in Vedas and she is invoked in all worships and rituals along with other deities. Mother Earth is not a sectarian deity. She is worshiped by all--Vaishanvites, Saivites, Saktites and others with equal respect. She suits all traditional worship. She is respected as Mother in all World Cultures. What better day can be there than Mother’s Day to worship her?
Carbon dioxide level is at all-time high this month. Levels of carbon dioxide reach their heights in May and then going back down as plants absorb the gas. But the long term trend is up according to NOAA. Our attempts to find an alternate source for living in another planet and find food have remained a dream though shows some promise, so for! Incidentally worshiping Mother Earth on Mother’s Day will remind the Hindu Community their awareness to preserve the flora and fauna and the pristine beauty of Mother Nature while continuing to enjoy her love and affection as benevolent Mother.
Please go through my Mother's day Message in detail as attached above and my discourses on MOTHER'S DAY on the Blog Hindu Reflections: <nrsrini.blogspot.com> for origin and nature of its celebration in all parts of the world.
“……Prithvee santih aapah saantih osahadhayah santih vanaspatayah santih ……sarvam santih saantireva santih saa maa saantiredhi! Saantih! Saanth! Saantih!”
May there be peace on Earth! May there be coolness in the water! May the medicinal herbs retain their healing powers! May the plants give us peace! May everything in the Universe be peaceful! May Peace pervade everywhere! May that peace come to me!
May there be Peace in the outside world! May there be Peace within! May there be Peace of God that passes all our understanding!
36. NARASIMHA STOTRA BY PRAHLADA CAN MOTIVATE HINDU AMERICANS TO CELEBRATE FATHER’S DAY
My thoughts were focused on to the hymns composed by Prahlaada and addressed to Narasimha when his father was killed which perhaps inspired us to respect one's father however cruel he may be! With these hymns Narasimha not only calmed down who descended as Ugra (ferocious) Narasimha but who melted down and turned to Prhalaada Varada (boon giver to Prahlaada) who at once not only granted salvation to Hiranyakaipu but also blessed Prahlaada to be Chiranjeevi relieving him from the cycle of repeated births and deaths. Other known important Chiranjeevis are Hanuman and Vedavyasa.
Prahlaada set a noble example by pleading for the liberation of his father with his prayers as his choice which option was given by Narasimha to Prahlaada. Here we are reminded of another Incarnation of Vishnu as Prasurama in his human portrayal. Parasurama implicitly obeyed his father and instantly beheaded his mother Renuka, a ghastly act. Why did he do so? You know Jamadagni had a weakness like Durvasa and would be angry at least provocation. He reduced 60000 sons of Sagara to ashes. Had he not killed his mother as ordered by his father, Jamadagni would have reduced to ashes both Renuka and Parasurama. So Parasuram instantly acted and when his father wanted to grant him a boon for his implicit obedience to a father, Parasurama wanted the restoration of life to his beheaded mother. Here is an obedient son respecting his cruel father honoring Shruti " Pitru devo bhava".
Father is the one responsible for Garbha--daana, a charity directed to the soul, though mother is responsible for the birth of the child accepting the charity. Garbhadaana is a sacred act of charity and not an act of love infatuation as per Hindu Dharma and therefore is a prescribed sacrament. But by this act the father makes a charity to accommodate a wandering soul searching for a home.The soul taking birth as a human child will have a chance to elevate itself in this birth reducing the load on recycle of births and deaths. The choice is that of the child but the father has done his charity. That is why he is honored however bad or good he may be.
You may remember Prahlaada as the prime motivator of Father's Day and chant the slokas on Father's Day like Karavalmba Sloka of Sankara which I added in my very popular discourse with my audience on Narasimha. If you do not agree with "pitru devo bhava" concept of Parasurama you may give him the credit of "Matru devo Bhava" and prime motivator of Mother's Day but for whose respect for Mother, Renuka would have been reduced to ashes. Please also note the first worship in Navakalevara to Lord Jagnaantha starts with Nrisingha Yajna where chanting of these hymns by Prahlaada assumes great importance and religious sanctity. Here is the scenario of the great devotee of Sriman Narayana pleading to the most ferocious Avatar for the most cruel father which reminds every dutiful son to be compassionate to his father however cruel he may be! Therefore keep these slokas handy for the occasion as attached with meanings and explanations. We will talk about Father's day in detail in the near future!
37. HINDU AMERICAN RELIGIOUS AND PHILOSOPHIC THOUGHTS ON FATHER’S DAY
As Hindu Americans we want to rush to the temple to dedicate this day to our Fathers and also propitiate a deity from our assembly of deities on this
day. Father’s day was founded in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonar Dodd. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis’ Mother’s day in 1909, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June. By the mid-1980s the Father’s day had become a “Second Christmas” for all the men’s gift-oriented industry. President Richard Nixon signed into law designating third Sunday in June as Father’s Day in 1972.
Our children today know more about Puranas than we do having been made wiser by our Sunday Schools. Let us therefore propitiate a deity of right choice on this day who would be more convincing to them based on their scriptural knowledge! I have therefore substantially revised my earlier discourse titled "Philosophically thinking about Father's Day-- June 2014" as " Hindu Religious and Philosophic Thoughts on Father's Day, June 2015" and posted on the blog this month.
Based on Kalidasa’s portrayal of Siva as ideal father Hindu Americans who are largely followers of Saivism ably supported by Sakta followers resort to Siva worship on Father’s day dedicating the day to Him. But Puranas and scriptures do mention about other Gods too. Let us examine the same when we think of celebrating Father’s Day in Hindu Way.
Arjuna pays tribute to fathers addressing Krishna in Bhagavdgeetaa thus: Pitaasi lokasya charaa-charasya tvamasya poojyascha gurur gareeyaan | na tvat-samo-asty-abhyadhikah kutonyo lokatraye-apya-prathima Prabhaavah ||
You are the Father of the World, of all things that moves and that does not move. You are its most venerable Guru (teacher). There is none equal to you in all the three worlds. How can then be anyone greater than Father, Oh! Lord! Of matchless greatness!
You are the Father of the World, of all things that moves and that does not move. You are its most venerable Guru (teacher). There is none equal to you in all the three worlds. How can then be anyone greater than Father, Oh! Lord! Of matchless greatness!
A Tamil scripture (Tiruvoymozhi) glorifies father thus: Our Father is the unparalleled One and Unmatched. He has no equal and none superior to Him. He is the most mysterious Lord- who has no equal and none superior. Tamils address father as "En Appan" meaning my father, Hole bile in Tamil addresses holy Spirit as"Paramapitaave", Supreme Father. Christianity address their religious gurus (pastors) as Fathers.
The growing equality of the sexes is one of the biggest achievements of the post-war era; people have greater opportunities than ever before to achieve ambitions regardless of their gender but some men have failed to cope with this new world. Badly educated men in rich countries have not adapted well to trade, technology or feminism. More schools would like to have more male teachers to serve as role models for boys, but they find not many volunteers. And poorly educated men are often much worse at things such as showing up in time and being pleasant to customers than their female peers are. Couples split for variety of reasons, but a common complaint is that the man was not doing his fair share.
Absence of a father affects the children growing with mother alone. Children who grow up in broken families do worse in school, earn less as adults and find it harder to form stable families of their own. Boys are worse affected than girls, perhaps because they typically grow up without a father as a role model. The problems of marginalized men tumble on down the generations. Men who never shoulder family responsibilities miss out on a lot of joy, and so do many fatherless boys.
When men live with women on more equal terms, they may grow closer to their children. Father may find they like being attentive, and would certainly be good for their kids, especially boys. “Fathers are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us towards it. But if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that what too many fathers also are missing—missing from too many lives and homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weak because of it” said our president Obama on Father’s day in 2008. Plenty of fatherless-boys turn-out to be fine. But the point of our conservative President which many more conservatives echo is sound. There are many ways to be a father and man. But not all of them are equally honorable. Even our Gods have shown this disparity. Not all Gods who are hailed as fathers in hymns have been good role models.
In my opinion neither Siva nor Rama are ideal fathers. Judging by what is said in the Puraanas Lord Siva was not an ideal Father or Husband. He often went recluse. Rama deserted his wife when she was pregnant and never thought about his children. When he got the opportunity for family reunion he badly handled the situation and left his children orphaned. As always been when in doubt or troubled referring to Geetaa is ideal! You will always find an answer. Lord Krishna as Jagannatha seems to be ideal father to be propitiated on Father’s Day. Krishna always cared for his family, mostly his wives and children. He was affectionately called Vasudeva-suta and Nanda-kumara. I have therefore pleasure in drawing your attention to the relevant sloka in Bhagavdgeeta as above. I believe Thiruvoymozhi also refers to Krishna only projected as Supreme Being as Jayadeva said in his Dasavatara stotra! To avoid all controversies it is logical to dedicate this day to Lord Jagannatha who has also favored Lord Krishna and His Parivara in His physical portrayal.
An American author brings forth his philosophy that we are all Children of Immortal Bliss which means Aanada and Brahman which only reiterates Bhagavadgeetaa statement "Piataa asya aham Jagato"--Supreme Being is the Father of the World. As we have learnt Jeevaatma integrates with Parmatma and enjoys the company with the Father as an integral member, but some say it dissolves in Paramaatman and loses its identity. I would go more by the Father and child relationship as Supreme Being is eternal Bliss and so Love too!
Puranas talk of Brahma being born out of the navel of Narayana (Vishnu) and Rudra being born of Brahma. This establishes father-son-grandson relationship as the plan of Creation; being all of them in masculine gender in Sanskrit it shows the importance given to Father; Brahma divided himself as male and female and started the process of creation. Here all thoughts are focused on Father! Hence from Puranic angle also worship directed to Jagannatha on Father’s Day satisfies both religious and spiritual aspirants as there is no direct worship done to Brahma unfortunately in temples!
38. MULTI TRADITIONAL HINDU AMERICAN TEMPLES NEED FOCUS ON SPIRITUALITY AND DEITIES TO SUIT ALL
A casual visitor to a Hindu temple in USA is bewildered and confused to see a cluster of deities forced by individual magnanimous contributors as well as several kinds of worship and rituals simultaneously going on at the same time to suit these assemblies of Gods in individual sanctums and at the same time unfamiliar to many participants often. Poor assembly of Gods have no place to relax or to communicate with their devotees personally and are forced to face South too!
Hindu Americans are drawn from different traditional family background all of which they can’t adopt living with a major culture as well as several minor cultures too. They may however practice them in their homes to possible extent. They are slowly evolving for themselves a new culture known as Hindu Dharma American Culture. They are also trying hard to preserve their culture unlike the Europeans who gave it up in frustration. Present Hindu American culture is also fast changing as their children are attracted to find their partners mostly from major culture Christianity and to some extent from minor cultures too. You have seen how spiritual Yoga Has turned into Physical and Mental Yoga and celebrated as International Yoga. At the same time religiously inclined philanthropists are building more and more temples with a presiding deity of their Ishtadevata and worship directed by priests trained in India with sectarian views following the preset pattern and frame of mind. This will neither be in the interest of present generation nor will they be able to hold back the future generation in the fold of Hindu Culture. Present temples may remain as archaeological places of interest if not pilgrim centers or the idols may find a place in an art gallery or museum like some we see in India from ancient cultures for periodic exposition of our culture when these temples are not able to sustain themselves economically.
It is therefore necessary to change our way of thinking of sectarian based worship loaded with rituals copied from India witnessed by a few and to think of ways and means for mass worship, spiritual advancement and motivation to other cultures or culture oriented for days to come. All this is possible within our scriptural injunctions if properly thought about seeking help from the wisdom of Vedas. We have here enough guidance from our own past cultures based in India. We have the choice to choose what is ideal for us. There is no meaning looking for total outmoded guidance from present India where they can afford to continue with their sectarian traditions and fights which they have developed over years. Here we have one temple for all traditions mostly. We have seen some rich and affluent walk out and set up their own sectarian or faith based temples in frustration or ego, jeopardizing the economic running of both the institutions for they depend on the same crowd.
The present discourse draws its wisdom from the great pilgrim centers of India which attracts people of all traditions with no caste or creed distinction and which have universal appeal to those who are dedicated to Hinduism. They too have made some changes here and there; for example, Bilva worship on Vishnu deity and bathing ceremony of Linga and Salagrama together. This discourse recommends Jagannatha and Venkateswara as ideal deities to suit American Hindu Culture with the addition of non-sectarian based deities Aiyappan and Durga quoting the Wisdom of Vedas and Puranas as the ideal deities appealing to all with focus on spiritual advancement. It also recommends the colorful annual event of Brahmotsava in these famous temples which will remind us of the Creator whom we do not worship but venerate and preserving colorful culture as annual event in which animals also participate as divine spirits which also finds favor with orthodoxy.
We can make Hinduism more meaningful and restore the glory of Sanatana Dharma, Mother of all Religions. We are Hindus First known for Philosophic Clarity and Americans next known for Action.
39. VEDIC SOMA YAJNAS AND THEIR IMPACT ON CHRISTIAN EUCHARIST RITUALS
The most mysterious of the Vedic traditions is the ritual consumption of Soma, a drink said to grant immortality and communion with the gods. In the Vedic tradition, Soma is simultaneously a plant, a person (god), and a heavenly body (the moon). Monday in Sanskrit is Somawara, named after Soma or the deity of Manu. Soma is one of the Vedic deities among the Eight Vasus.
Soma as The liquid divine drink is usually described as golden or bright red, which is poured into milk which is described variously as Soma deified being adorned with white robes or the milk serving as a healing balm (compare Jesus’s body clothed in white robes). All plant life is influenced by moonshine or Soma.
As a plant we are told that Soma was sacrificed, crushed through stones to express the liquid. All plant life contains Soma (Moon Effect). But it is the effects of the Soma drink that capture one’s attention: one who consumes it enters a rapture that is exhilarating, increasing one’s vitality, creativity, and intelligence. We are told it makes one happy, mentally powerful, increase one’s sensuality and beauty, prolongs life, and even frees one of sinful reactions.
In the Rig Veda we learn that Tvastar, the maker of divine implements, is the guardian of the Soma drink. He fashions a golden chalice which holds this drink for Indra the King of Heaven. Some view the Moon as the cup that Tvastar made to hold Soma, with the waning of the moon the consumption and the waxing the refilling of the vessel. In time the gods ask the Ribhus to create four new drinking cups to hold the Soma so that other gods may partake.
During the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, the forces of darkness (demons) and the forces of light (demigods) cooperated to create Amrita – the Nectar of Immortality. The Chief Minister of the demons, Rahu, through subterfuge, begins to drink some of the Nectar. However, the Sun and the Moon see through his trickery and advise Mohini, the female Avatar of Lord Vishnu of this deception. She subsequently cuts off his head. Because the Nectar of Immortality passed through his throat his head remains immortal. Rahu (the head without a body) seeks to consume the Sun while Ketu (the body without a head) attacks the Moon. In art they are depicted as a snake. On a gross/physical level the Solar and Lunar eclipses represent the demon’s severed bodies continually attacking the Sun and Moon as revenge.
The Eucharist (also called Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper) is a rite considered by most Christian churches remembering Christ' sacrifice of himself once and for all on the cross. According to New Testament it was instituted by Jesus Christ giving his disciples bread and wine during the Passover meal referring to the bread as "my body" and the wine as "my blood”.
One of the most unusual influences on European culture is that of the Vedic god Mitra. Mitra (Friend) is a solar Vedic deity among the twelve Aadityas. He is often clubbed with Varuna (one who encompasses and binds) and worshiped as Mitra-varuna. This god, who the Romans referred to as Mithras, was a Vedic solar deity. He was very popular among Roman Emperors and soldiers alike. There are literally hundreds of temple remains scattered across the old Roman Empire as far off as Great Britain.
It is most likely that Mithraism of Hinduism influenced Greek soldiers returning after Alexander’s invasions of the East. The Greeks and Romans were far below the Vedic standard. No doubt much of the religion was changed but a Vedic cosmological pattern was imprinted upon European religious symbolism.
We know that Soma-deva in Rigdeva is a plant while Jesus describes himself as a grapevine in the Bible. Both Soma and Jesus are sacrificed. The grapes are crushed to produce Jesus’s blood in the cup of wine. Both Soma and the blood wine are golden/red, sweet, and provide a gladdening effect. Both grant immortality/everlasting life. Both provide communion with God(s) and both are held in a golden cup. Both Soma and Jesus are depicted clothed in white robes. Soma juice mixed with milk and consumed is deified as Soma deity clad in white in Rigveda. The bread, known as the host, acting as the body of Jesus, is a white circle reminiscent of the moon. During the ritual the host bread is encased in a ceremonial vessel known as a monstrance. This represents the rays of the Sun.
The glass container, holding the bread/body in the center, is known as the Luna (Latin: Moon), and the crescent metal clip that holds the host is called the Lunette (little Moon). And so we see the Moon (host) held directly in the center of the Sun, symbolic of the Solar eclipse.
To quote Bible “The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” -Joel 2:31 and “The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood.” Revelations 6:12. Christians refer to these as the ‘blood moons’ which occur as a consequence of an eclipse. Unfortunately Christianity lacks the Hindu Puranic description and so they do not understand the maleficent effects. The Sun attacked by Rahu becomes black and the Moon attacked by Ketu appears as a golden/red cup full of blood.
The Bible reads: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body (sōma | σῶμα).” – Matthew 26:26 By strange coincidence the word used in the original Greek for the body of Jesus is Soma. The Greek word Soma is of “undetermined” origin and refers to the body of a plant, a person (mystical/physical), as well as a heavenly body.
With all of these points of similarity we can state conclusively that the key religious ritual of Christianity is patterned on Vedic cosmology. Unfortunately people who talk about Mithraism and Eucharist ceremony overlook this Vedic cosmology or are ignorant. Probably Hindus know more about these Christian rituals than Christians know about Hindu Eclipses and Somayajna. Please read my discourse and see the original Communication from IndiaDivine.Org with glamorous photographs. Please also read my discourses on Hindu Reflections on Eclipses ad Blood Moon the second most read of my discourses.