Pages Navigation Menu

Seattle Dharma and Yoga Fest a Grand Success – Media Report

The Spiritual Community Comes together for a Day-Long Celebration of Dharma and Yoga Fest at Bellevue College

Over thousand people gather to celebrate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda through lectures and demonstrations of Yoga and cultural programs for the families.

 Bellevue, WA

August 25, 2013

 Imagine a day of lectures and discussions on spirituality espoused by Hindu religion (also known as Sanatana Dharma or Eternal Religion), questions on Yoga and meditation practice sessions, cultural programs, children doing puja to Lord Sri Krishna, exhibitors talking to their prospective buyers, food booths buzzing with activity – these were some of the scenes at the Dharma and Yoga Fest held on August 24, 2013 in Bellevue College, Bellevue, WA.

 dyflogoThe occasion was the grand celebration of 150th birth anniversary of a famous Hindu Monk, Swami Vivekananda, who made significant impact on the western hemisphere beginning with his famous speech at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. Famous Industrialists and Scientists such as John D. Rockefeller and Nikola Tesla were influenced by Swami Vivekananda during his visits to West in 1893 to 1906.

 “We are very excited to see such great response to the Dharma and Yoga Fest,” said Jayant Pant, the chief coordinator of the program and Secretary for the Greater Seattle region of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh. “Over 30+ community organizations have come together and celebrated Swami Vivekananda’s 150th Birth Anniversary,” continued Pant.  Pant’s Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh was the main host of the event, supported by co-hosts, Bellevue Hindu Temple and Kent Hindu Temple.

 “As a co-host of this unique and first-ever celebration of Dharma and Yoga in the Greater Seattle area, we are very satisfied with the quality of the program we have put together and the reception we got from spiritually minded people,” said Kul Bhushan Garg, the president of Sanatana Dharma Temple and Cultural Center, which runs Bellevue Hindu Temple and Kent Hindu Temple. “As an organization that promotes Hindu Dharma through our religious and cultural institutions, it is a natural place of affinity to work together with other community organizations like HSS to lead this effort. We are grateful to our volunteers who have worked tirelessly to contribute to the success of this event,” continued Garg.

 The statistics on the event are very impressive. The organizers have estimated the total number of attendees to be over 1000 from multiple ethnicities and races. The programs catered to the entire family, and became a perfect venue for men, women and children to indulge in their respective favorite activities.

Children performing Sri Krishna Puja under the guidance of Srinivas Khedam

 

One such event that captured the attention of the children was the Puja to Lord Sri Krishna, who Hindus believe to be the form of the ultimate Supreme God. Srinivas Khedam, a devotee of Lord Sri Krishna and an executive officer of VT Sewa, a supporting organization for the event led a group of 150+ children that paid complete attention to his explanation of Samskrit hymns and chanted mantras. Doing puja is a key Hindu ritual and is expected to provide a peace of mind and help concentrate nascent minds of children on God. “Through the Puja to Lord Sri Krishna, we intended to teach children about Lord Sri Krishna and how to do puja at home. As future Hindu Americans, these children have responsibility to be the productive citizens of USA, and to represent Hindu religion and culture adding to the beautiful diversity of the American society we all live and enjoy,” said Hemant Tanwar, who led the Sri Krishna Puja program.

 Parents were more than joyous to have such opportunities. “Unlike other festivals I attended before in the area, Dharma and Yoga Fest is very different with respect to the quality and nature of the programs,” said Rupa Shukla, a Bellevue mother of two daughters, whose 8-year old daughter participated in the Sri Krishna Puja. “It is natural to expect a completely fun environment in a festival like this, but organizers tend to depend on movie songs to deliver the fun. I really liked Dharma and Yoga Fest as a mother because it provided me an easy way to introduce our culture and dharmic way of living to my 8-year old without too much explanation, while keeping it fun and engaging to children,” continued Shukla.

 

Raja Yoga Track in Session

Everyone had something to enjoy is probably be the best way to describe the Fest. Bellevue Mayor, Honorable Conrad Lee, 48th District Representative Cyrus Habib and Bellevue City Council Candidate Vandana Slatter graced the occasion and shared a few words. Adults who are interested in learning more about Sanatana Dharma and Yoga listened to eminent speakers such as Swami Bhaskarananda (Head of Vedanta Society, Western Washington), Phil Goldberg, the author of American Veda (keynote speaker), Dr. K.V.Ramanathan (Professor Emeritus and Former Chair of Department of Accounting, University of Washington), Dr. Udaya Bhaskar Deekshith Parasharm, founder and head priest of Sri Venkateshwara Temple, Redmond, Dr. Madhu Prashar, Ayurvedic Doctor from Dubai and Sri Vijaya Simha, Software Management Consultant and Joint-secretary of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, USA.  Yoga enthusiasts have practiced complex yoga asanas (postures) and meditation led by supporting organizations like Sahaja Yoga, Isha and Art of Living (AOL). Experts from these organizations also answered questions on daily use of yoga and healthy living devoid of stress. Dr. Shailendar Sodhi explained how Ayurveda can do wonders as Preventative medical system that treats person holistically and contributes to overall health care system. Skit on Swami Vivekanada ‘s life by kids brought out aspects of religious tolerance, world peace and respect for others, which fosters harmony in the society.

 The highlight of the show was kept for the afternoon session, where Vidyalakshmi Vinod, a well-known dancer of Bharata Natyam discipline and the Founder/Artistic Director of Nrityalaya and Ramamani Keeran, a project manager from T-Mobile and an accomplished dancer have put together an enthralling cultural show for children and adults filled with bhajans, skits and dances. A few programs stood out such as a puppet show on Lord Sri Krishna’s life by Global Organization of Divinity (GOD) and a fast-paced dance depicting the popular movie song – Deva Shree Ganesha –  from the movie Agneepath.  In addition to the cultural programs, Hindu Yuva from University of Washington hosted a Bone Marrow Camp, to drive bone marrow donor registrations.  Hindu Yuva also organized a Food-packaging Sewa (Service) Project onsite for all the participants in the festival, provide them a chance to earn good karma, while highlighting the value of community service to younger generations.

 Over 100+ volunteers have worked together from various organizations for over three months to make the program happen and at the end of the show, all volunteers enthusiastically joined a Family Dandiya program, a popular form of folk dance from the western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat in India.

 Overall, the programs in the festival highlighted Swami Vivekananda’s message of Universal Peace through Dharma & Yoga – Inner peace through Yoga manifesting external peace  through Dharma. 

Event Photos

Shree Ganesha Dance by HSS Video

 

About Dharma and Yoga Fest

Dharma and Yoga Fest is the culmination of a year of celebrations to commemorate Sri Swami Vivekananda’s 150th Birth Anniversary. Other celebrations include Dharma Bee, a competition on Swami Vivekananda and Lord Sri Krishna for children from 5 years to 15, Swami Vivekananda Exhibition – a traveling exhibition with 26 exhibits depicting the life and message of Swami Vivekananda, and Vivekananda Express – a guided tour for youth to retrace Swami Vivekananda’s travel within the US between 1893 and 1896. The Dharma and Yoga Fest is being held in over 30+ cities all over the United States of America under the leadership of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh with active support from various community and spiritual organizations.  For more information on Dharma and Yoga Fest, please visit http://dharmaandyogafest.org.

 

About Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS)

hss_logo2Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) is a non-profit Hindu cultural organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Hindu values amongst American society. It is headquartered in New Jersey and has around 150 chapters all over the USA. HSS runs weekly sessions for children in the name of Bala Gokulam and adults in the name of HSS chapters to teach Hindu culture, good values (samskaras), Yoga and meditation. All HSS chapters end the program with a prayer to the Supreme Being to seek support to get universal peace for all communities.  More information on Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh can be obtained from http://www.hssus.org.


About Sanatana Dharma Temple and Cultural Center (SDTCC)

Started a decade ago in Maple Valley, Sanatana Dharma Temple and Cultural Center runs two Hindu temples in Bellevue and Kent to promote the Sanatana Dharma. More information can be obtained from http://www.sanatandharmatemple.org/.

bellevue-hindu-templekent-hindu-temple 

Media Contacts

Jayant Pant (strategy.jp@gmail.com)

Read More

Patanjali Yoga Sutras

posturesFrom the time culture this subcontinent ‘Bharat’ existed, yoga has been the part of life. References are there in Vedas, Ramayana and in the form of Bhagavad-Gita in Mahabharata and many other texts to show that yoga has been part of life here. Bringing this science in the form of a separate treatise is the task undertaken by Sage Patanjali. This text of Yoga sutras is one of the extraordinary gifts of Sage Patanjali to mankind which will not only be the highest respected information but also the guide for future mankind as something to shape everyone’s life. He is a scientist par excellence because he has written about the inner science of mind in such scientific way. Several factors show his scientific accuracy in this work. A material science can be tested in the laboratory and this yogic science can be tested in the inner lab. In lab we need concentration and in inner study we need meditation. What we call as experiment outside is called as experience in the inner world. The sooner the world proceeds to take greater cognisance of experience than experiment the world will start respecting eastern sciences like yoga. Unfortunately even yogis are focussing more in experiment than experience!  When a scientist speaks about his science he leaves nothing in the form of ambiguity. Same way Patanjali in his yoga sutras clearly defines every concept he uses taking away the mystic element. even the word like Iswara he clarifies in his next sutra. Another glaring feature is, for a scientist there is nothing like good or bad, right or wrong and in the same way sage Patanjali though defines yoga as consciously calming the wandering or active mind, he has nothing against the wandering mind. One can see his attempt is to indicate that the mind needs to go out for managing in this world. But we also need to have the training and confidence to bring back from the bondage of material world whenever we want. Wandering is the very nature of the mind like to burn is the nature of the fire, and because of which we are able to transact in the world. But by calming the mind we are resting in our natural state. The wandering he calls as vrutti and cessation of this vrutti state is yoga. From this we can get the message that when we say atman or Brahman we do not want to reject jagat or the matter.

He further indicates that we should not fight with the mind. The more we fight with it the more the mind becomes agitated.  We are the mind and if we are fighting, we are fighting with us only and in this fight we can never be the winners. The so called victory we perceive is only temporary and cosmetic. It is necessary that we establish in that state. This is brought about eloquently in many sutras.

Sage Patanjali though gives us the methods such as Ashtanga yoga and kriya yoga to practice in order to go to that experience of cessation of vruttis of mind, he really meant that this is not something to do for an hour of the day or so but it has to become our nature, and we need to become that! That is indicated in the sutras wherein he says when you are established in truth (not just telling) or when you are established in non violence (not just practicing for an hour nonviolence)  etc. then the real transformation takes place. Thus for sage Patanjali yoga is not limited to doing but it has to become our nature, it is not workout but it is work-in!!

To be relaxed is our nature, to be healthy is our nature and more than anything to be blissful is our nature as much as truth and non violence are also our nature. It looks very simple but when we start sincerely practicing then we will know the difficulties involved. The disturbances appear to be difficult not because they are difficult but we are so habituated and nurtured disturbances for such long time which even percolated from many previous lives that it requires a ‘conscious disciplined practice’ ( Abhyasa) of letting go (Vairagya)  of our inflexibility at all levels,

These yoga suras are divided into four chapters. The first chapter gives us the levels of silence of mind called Samadhi chapter. The second chapter gives the details of practice in the form of sadhana chapter. Third chapter gives the map of how  the cause at subtle level manifests in the form of effect in the material plane or from subtle to gross level in the form of Vibhuti chapter and finally the goal of life is given in the form of Kaivalya chapter.

These four chapters roughly depict the journey of life as envisaged in the scriptures such as dharma (Samadhi) ardha(Sadhana) kama(Vibhuta) and  Moksha( Kaivalya).

A very beautiful analogy he brings about by calling wandering of mind as vrutti. In Sanskrit vrutti is similar to circle or vruttam. Circle cannot exist without centre. But centre itself is dimensionless or not available for any senses motionless expressionless and since it has no dimension it is also deathless! The moment you give dimension to it is no more centre. In the same way Brahman or Atman is also not available for senses but that is the root and everything depends on it. We are Brahman but when we are playing several roles in the world we operate on concentric circles. When we are the boss in office we operate in one circle; as son in front of father, another circle, husband to wife is another and so on. We will be efficient and peaceful in all these transactions if we know how to withdraw from one role before we enter into other role. Swami Vivekananda explains it with a very unique analogy. He said don’t be a photographic place be a mirror meaning when an object is taken away from in front, a photographic plate does not leave the image of the object. As a result there will be super imposition of several pictures and in turn creates confusions. On the other hand, he recommends one to be like mirror meaning that mirror reflects clearly the object in front and the moment the object goes away from in front of the mirror  and another object comes it reflect another without even traces of the previous object. Our perception has this confusion but mirror has none. Thus practice and establish in yoga removes all confusions in the worldly transactions.

This is the only science which will give us method to consciously practice this inner control. All other sciences are giving us training externally.  Therefore in the present fast life style every one, young or old, boss or subordinate, student or teacher, child or adult everyone requires yoga.

Read More

Universal Peace through Dharma and Yoga

Saumitra Gokhale HSS Intl. Coordinator

Saumitra Gokhale
HSS Intl. Coordinator

There are numerous individuals and organizations sincerely promoting and working for the ideal of world peace. Every year several concerts, walks, and seminars are organized to further the cause of peace. Symbols and monuments for peace are everywhere. But today we see so much strife and turmoil in families, communities, and nations. The question then arises is that in spite of so many earnest efforts, why is peace so elusive? Are these efforts insufficient or incomplete? How can we create the right spirit and order that would lead the world towards a more peaceful existence? The eternal wisdom traditions from India can provide insights and solutions to our modern day predicament. These Dharma traditions are based on principles that are universal and hence can be applied globally.

Peace-breakers

According to Vedanta, this phenomenal world is a result of the loss of the state of equilibrium and hence afflictions are bound to be there. All the afflictions can be categorized into three types.

Ādhidaivik: Disturbance of peace due to natural causes such as earthquakes, hurricanes etc. Human beings have very little or no control over preventing these situations.

Ādhibhautik: Afflictions essentially caused by social surroundings. They could be as a result of political disturbances, economic situations, extremism, environmental degradation etc.

Ādhyatmika: Afflictions due to internal causes. This could be due to an unstable mind, depression, passion etc.

Hindu prayers end with Om Śāntih Śāntih Śāntih so as to ask for peace in all the three categories. Broadly speaking, there are external and internal reasons for the breach of peace. If human beings are peaceful within and in harmony with all the entities they interact with, then peace can be achieved. The principles and practices that will help individuals to attain peace within by realizing their true nature is called Yoga. The values and order that will build and sustain a harmonious and peaceful society is called Dharma.

Dharma for social harmony

Dharma is a comprehensive term meaning the natural order or that which upholds. It carries the meaning according to context. Dharma, in relation with others in the society, is duty or responsibility. An individual may have many responsibilities such as a responsibility towards parents, family, neighbors, a nation etc. Being duty-conscious about others’ rights ensures peace, prosperity, and social justice in the society. A social order based on Dharma essentially means that it is based on the idea of duty. This can develop through laws, customs and traditions conducive to Dharma. In this regard it is important to see what Swami Vivekananda says, “Duty is seldom sweet. It is only when love greases its wheels that it runs smoothly…” So a Dharma based social order is not only based on the idea of duty but enshrines the spirit of family in all relationships. For example a school is seen as a family consisting of the teachers, students, parents and other staff. A shop-owner sees his customers, suppliers, and employees all as part of a family and he feels duty-bound towards them. With a sense of responsibility towards them, he seeks the welfare of all. The same family spirit can be applied in different scenarios and ultimately expanded to seeing the whole world as one family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam).

Dharma also means righteousness and is considered the source of all prosperity. The ten characteristics of Dharma according to the scriptures are virtues such as forbearance, forgiveness, self-control, non-stealing, purity, non-sensuality, wisdom, knowledge, truth, and non-anger. Educating every upcoming generation in virtuous behavior should happen in every family, school, and community. Not only laws and customs, but individuals instilled by Dharma in life are absolutely necessary for creating a vibrant and peaceful society. As a natural progression, a person on the path of Dharma also learns to go beyond the call of duty. He offers himself in the service of those who may be in distress. Being environmentally conscious and proactive also becomes his expression of Dharma. He is motivated to do selfless actions for the welfare of all. A Dharmic person is thus self-actualized not only for material progress but for spiritual upliftment as well.

Yoga for inner peace

Yoga means uniting ourselves with our true nature. It is being centered in the innermost core of our being. In Swami Vivekananda’s words, “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work (Karma-Yoga) or worship (Bhakti-yoga) or psychic control (Raja-Yoga) or philosophy (Jnana-Yoga), by one or more or all of these, and be free.” This freedom and the spiritual happiness is the source of peace within. Swami Vivekananda says, “The ideal man is he who, in the midst of the greatest silence and solitude, finds the intensest activity, and in the midst of the intensest activity finds silence and solitude.” Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita that by seeking the knowledge of the Self, practicing meditation, and by giving up the fruit of all actions, we can attain inner peace. Once we have attained this tranquility through Yoga all suffering ceases.

Universal Peace

Understanding the Divinity of man and the Spiritual oneness of existence is an assurance for peace. Peace can be achieved through Dharma and not dogma. Peace can be attained through spirituality and not fanaticism. At the final session of the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 Swami Vivekananda stated with confidence, “If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of the others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance: “Help and not Fight,” “Assimilation and not Destruction,” “Harmony and Peace and not Dissension.” May we all be inspired to pray and work towards universal peace through Dharma and Yoga. Om Śāntih Śāntih Śāntih.

Read More

Healthy living in Dharmic way with Bhakti, Yoga and Ayurveda

Vedacharya Dr. David Frawley   (Pandit  Vamadeva Shastri)

Vedacharya Dr. David Frawley
(Pandit Vamadeva Shastri)

True health is not just a matter of mere freedom from disease or absence of pain. It means total wellness or the full harmonious functioning of all of our faculties, manifesting our highest potential in life. This is not just a matter of taking the right medications or receiving the best medical therapies. It requires following a life-style that allows our higher energy and vitality to develop, and one rooted in a deeper awareness that brings the healing power of consciousness into all that we do.

Right living is not just about the quantity of one’s wealth or possessions. It is about the quality of one’s life. This quality of life is best measured by how we feel inside ourselves, particularly the degree of peace, inspiration, and higher awareness that we have. If we possess that inner wealth, then outer health and abundance will not likely be far away.

Right living implies Dharma or understanding the natural and spiritual laws that govern both our souls and the universe as a whole. We cannot be happy with a life out of harmony with nature, or a life in which our own deeper Self is not expressed.

Vedic knowledge provides us with a number of knowledge systems that aid us in right or dharmic living, true health, and optimal well-being. In fact the purpose of the Vedas, as is the whole of Hinduism, is to teach Dharma for the benefit of all beings and for the removal of all suffering. Hinduism has many Dharma Shastras that teach the importance of Dharma, as well as books on Karma Yoga that teach us the right actions to follow in life. Dharmic action leads us by degree to the supreme goal of Moksha, liberation, Self-realization, and the release from all sorrow.

Bhakti or devotion implies that we respect the sacred nature of all life and recognize the Divine presence in all creatures and in the entire universe.  We must learn to see our chosen form of divinity, or whatever we most revere in life, as dwelling in all creatures. True well-being arises from our contact with the sacred powers of life. Bhakti is our means of partaking of that. Bhakti employs mantra, chanting, ritual, and meditation to add more meaning and beauty to our life activities.

Yoga, which means unity, implies that we take an integral approach to life, bringing unity and harmony into all aspects of our own nature and our outer relationships as well. Yoga is not just a matter of performing asanas but of breathing with the universal life, speaking with the Divine Word, and meditating with the Divine Mind. Yoga in this sense is the highest action that we as human beings can do.

Ayurveda means health that is rooted in the wisdom of life itself, which is the wisdom of eternity. It requires that we open ourselves to the universal Prana or the greater life-force of nature that is the source of all true and lasting healing. We can discover that higher prana in natural foods and special healing herbs and preparations that Ayurveda has in great abundance. Ayurveda provides us with important clinical detoxification measures of Pancha Karma to help us remove any disease-causing factors within us. Then it brings us special methods of rejuvenation or Rasayana to help us bring in higher positive energies and a deeper vitality.

Ayurveda is the medicine of Yoga that brings us back into harmony with the whole of life. Yoga naturally leads us to devotion, not as a mere outer emotion, but as a living connection with the love and bliss that pervades the greater universe of consciousness. The Vedic systems of knowledge fit together and help us play our role in the cosmic order, bringing a greater consciousness into the world. It is important that we study and propagate these systems for the benefit of the entire world.

By Pandit Vamadeva Shastri

(www.vedanet.com)

Read More

Hinduism and Modern Life

 

Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami Kauai's Hindu Monastery

Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami
Kauai’s Hindu Monastery

Does humanity’s most enduring faith maintain its relevance amid the challenges of 21st-century life? Some months back in Australia, a group of Hindu teens asked me what relevance Hinduism and temples have to modern life. They said it as though the answer were obvious: None. But they were callow and yet to be schooled in the noble religion they had been born into. After our session, their question echoed in my mind for days. It is a question on many minds, deserving a complete answer. I would like to share with our readers the four major virtues that I singled out for those students, virtues which make Hinduism profoundly relevant in today’s world: nonviolence, tolerance, worship and life’s four noble goals.

The Virtue of Nonviolence: On November 13, 2006, we watched with interest a television report on the groundbreaking ceremony inaugurating a memorial to American civil rights hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Washington’s front yard, the National Mall. President Bush said he was proud to dedicate the memorial in its “rightful place,” between monuments to Thomas Jefferson, who “declared the promise of America,” and Abraham Lincoln, “who defended the promise of America.” Dr. King, Bush offered, “redeemed the promise of America.”

Dr. King came from a staunch Christian family. His grandfather was a Baptist preacher. His father was pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. King earned his own Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozier Theological Seminary in 1951 and his Doctor of Philosophy from Boston University in 1955. While at the seminary, King became acquainted with Mohandas Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolent social protest. On a trip to India in 1959, King met with followers of Gandhi. During these intimate discussions, he became more convinced than ever that nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.

Dr. King went on to effectively utilize the Gandhian principles of nonviolent social protest to bring to the world’s attention the unjustness of US racial discrimination laws, which were subsequently changed. Dr. King and all the millions he impacted would certainly affirm the relevance of the key Hindu principle of nonviolence in modern society.

The world has changed significantly in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Everyone has become more aware, and increasingly appalled, by the rampant incidents of brutality occurring worldwide every month. A great deal of violence is based upon the concept of the strategic necessity of retaliation – “An eye for an eye.” “If they kill one of us, we must kill one of them.” Contrarily, Hindus view retaliation as unwise. Gandhi made an insightful statement to counterpoint the call for revenge. He warned: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” He also declared, “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

In a world awash in wars and conflict of every kind, Hinduism’s gentleness and noninjury by thought, word and deed is more than a relevance. It is a necessity for the future of humanity.

The Wisdom of Tolerance: The Hindu value that compliments and underlies the principle of nonviolence is that of tolerance. The Hindu belief that gives rise to tolerance of differences in race, religion and nationality is that all of mankind is good; we are all divine beings, souls created by God. Hindus do not accept the concept that some individuals are evil and others are good. Hindus believe that each individual is a soul, a divine being, who is inherently good. The Upanishads tell us that each soul is emanated from God, as a spark from a fire, and thence begins a spiritual journey which eventually leads back to God. All human beings are on this journey, whether they realize it or not. The Upanishadic mahavakyam, or great saying, that expresses this is Ayam atma brahma, “the soul is God.” The Hindu practice of greeting one another with namaskara, worshiping God within the other person, is a way this philosophical truth is practiced on a daily basis.

This is taken one step further in the Vedic verse Vasudhaiva kutumbakam, “The whole world is one family.” Everyone is family oriented. All that we do is for the purpose of benefitting our family. We want them all to be happy, successful and religiously fulfilled. And when family is defined as the whole world, then it is clear that we wish everyone in the world to be happy, successful and religiously fulfilled. The Vedic verse that captures this sentiment is Sarve janah sukhino bhavantu, “May all people be happy.” Certainly the key principle of tolerance is a major demonstration of the relevance of Hindu teachings to our modern world in providing a more compassionate and universalistic worldview, one that embraces the growing pluralism in world societies.

Effective Forms of Worship: One question the teens in Australia asked was, “If God is omnipresent, what is the need to build big temples to worship Him. The cost of construction is quite large; plus after it is built you have the ongoing cost of monthly maintenance. Couldn’t all that money be spent in a better way?”

I asked them a question in response: “Since God is omnipresent, shouldn’t we able to experience Him equally everywhere? For example, God permeates this room. By looking intently at the room shouldn’t you be able to experience God? In theory you should.” I then asked, “How many of you can see God permeating this room?” All present had to admit that they could not.

Practically speaking, God’s omnipresence is a marvelously subtle form of consciousness, too subtle for most of us to experience unless we are skilled in meditation. I continued by giving the following series of analogies with other objects that are difficult to see. If we want to see a distant galaxy, we must go to an observatory and use a powerful telescope. To look into the nucleus of a cell, we go to a laboratory and use an electron microscope. Similarly, to see God, we go to the temple and experience God through the sanctified murti, or statue, of the Deity. Temples – and particularly the murtis within them – can connect us with the Divine because they are especially sacred. There are three reasons for this: construction, consecration and continuous daily worship.

A temple is designed and built according to strict rules laid down in scripture. This governs what shrines are included in the temple, the shrines’ location and the overall dimensions of the temple. Consecration occurs through the powerful ceremony called kumbhabhishekam, during which a large number of priests perform elaborate rites for days on end. Thereafter begins the routine of daily worship conducted by professional priests. In these three ways, the temple and the murtis within them are sanctified and endowed with potent energies.

Hindu temples in every corner of the world offer Hindus an achievable way to experience God’s sacred presence. Divinity’s presence uplifts those attending the temple, inspiring them to bring forth and perpetuate traditional Hindu culture in the form of sacred music, art and dance. As such, the temple becomes the hub of religious life in the surrounding Hindu community and thus is undeniably relevant to modern life.

Four Noble Pursuits: Hinduism’s relevance to modern life is perhaps most personally important in the sphere of spiritual fulfillments and worldly attainments. Each Hindu seeks the highest and best for self and family, including closeness to God and blessings in every arena of experience. Hinduism has tools, maps and guidelines for reaching those very human goals. Consider the concept of the purusharthas, Hinduism’s four traditional pursuits. The first two are wealth and love, known in Sanskrit as artha and kama. Common to all mankind, these embrace the pursuit of love, family, children, career and financial abundance. The third is dharma, which provides direction and balance to the first two. Dharma is piety, virtue and right living. It includes the ideals of seeking wealth and love in an ethical manner, being honest in business and loyal to one’s spouse.

The fourth noble pursuit is moksha, spiritual illumination and liberation from rebirth on Earth. Liberation comes when all our karmas are resolved, dharma has been fulfilled and God has been realized. Hindus know that dharma, artha and kama are not ends in themselves. They provide the necessary surroundings, relationships and experiences which help the embodied soul mature over many lives and attain an ever-deepening God consciousness. This maturing process eventually culminates in moksha, at which point the soul has outgrown the need to continue its cycle of birth, death and rebirth. The goal of moksha, which sharply distinguishes Hinduism from Western religions, reminds us not to become so enthralled with the world that we neglect our foremost aim: God realization and liberation.

It is hard to imagine a mega-message greater than Hinduism’s call for human concord, noble aims for our worldly existence and spiritualizing of our daily life. In addressing these fundamental human needs, no system of thought and theology is more germane. Having visited communities around the world, I am convinced that Hinduism remains vitally relevant in this era of space travel and global communications, and of worldliness and conflict on every continent. This vitality derives from its yoga, its teaching of all-pervasive Divinity, its health system of ayurveda, its mystical architectural system of vastu, its immense cultural gifts and so much more. It is relevant in providing the human race a profound self-understanding – illumined insights into life and consciousness, into human nature and our highest purposes. We can restate the Australian youths’ question: “Is there any religion in the world that is more relevant today than Hinduism?” Our answer is a resounding no.

By Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami

Courtesy: Hinduism Today 

Also see a nice video of Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami on the topic of improving our character

Read More

Vedic nectar found its way into American homes

Philip Goldberg Author of American Veda

Philip Goldberg
Author of American Veda

I was a student in the mid-1960s when I first heard about something called The Bhagavad Gita.  I had taken my first tentative steps on the spiritual path that would come to define my life, and I had I come across several references to the Gita, but Henry David Thoreau’s reverence for it made me sit up and take notice.  In his classic essay, Walden, about his year of solitude at Walden Pond, Thoreau wrote: “In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny and trivial.” Elsewhere in the book, he praises the Gita’s “sanity and sublimity,” and says “the reader is nowhere raised into and sustained in a bigger, purer, or rarer region of thought.”

If the great Thoreau had such high praise for an ancient text from India, I had to read it.  Believe it or not, it wasn’t easy to find a copy in New York City then.  But I finally tracked down the translation by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, and devoured it in one sitting. My life was never the same.  Four decades later, when I was researching my book, American Veda, I interviewed many people who also credit the Gita with kick starting their passion for Vedanta, Yoga, and other aspects of the Hindu dharma.

I’m sure that one day historians will recognize the transmission of Sanatana Dharma to the West as one of the most significant developments in history—as important, if not more important, than the flow of technology and industry from the West to India.  It has transformed American spirituality.

The process began more than 200 years ago, when the first translation of the Gita, along with other Vedic texts and respectful commentaries by European scholars, arrived in the libraries of leading thinkers.  The most important was Ralph Waldo Emerson.  As the country’s leading home-grown philosopher, Emerson has been called America’s Plato.  I think of him as America’s Shankaracharya.  Inspired and informed by Hindu and Buddhist texts, he composed essays and poetry that captured the non-dual essence of Vedanta in lucid American prose.  It was his copy of the Gita that his protégée, Thoreau, read each morning on Walden Pond.

Toward the end of the 19th century and into the 20th, the founders of the New Thought movement drew directly from Vedic texts (and from Emerson).  Ever since, anyone involved with Theosophy, Christian Science, the Unity Church, or Religious Science has been impacted by Sanatana Dharma whether they know it or not.  I often surprise Unity audiences by quoting their founder, Charles Fillmore, who wrote, in 1889, that “the evolution of the spirit has created a demand for a religion of broader scope, and we turn to the lore of India, for lack of a better system nearer home.”

Most of those early adopters got their inspiration from books, but some were present when the transmission accelerated thanks to the triumphant appearance of Swami Vivekananda at the World’s Parliament of Religions, in 1893.  The enthusiastic reception Vivekananda received in Chicago, and at his subsequent lectures, marked the beginning of a new era.  It gathered steam in the early years of the 20th century, as swamis of the Ramakrishna lineage educated American seekers in the Vedanta Societies founded by Vivekananda.

Other gurus, swamis and yoga masters came and went as the century progressed, attracting a small number of followers.  One, Paramahansa Yogananda, arrived in 1920 and stayed for the next 32 years of his life.  His Self-Realization Fellowship became a major force, and his seminal memoir, Autobiography of a Yogi, turned millions of seekers toward India—and continues to do so today.

The next major breakthrough came in 1967 and 1968, when the Beatles met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, took up his Transcendental Meditation, and spent time at his ashram in Rishikesh, all under the relentless gaze of the world’s media.  This tidal wave triggered scientific interest, leading to hundreds of subsequent studies and the mainstreaming of meditation as a medical intervention, a mental health therapy, and a spiritual practice.

It also opened the floodgates to a parade of gurus who attracted sizeable followings in the 1970s and onward.  Swamis Vishnudevananda (Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers), Satchidananda (Integral Yoga Institute), A. C. Bhaktivedanta (Hare Krishna), Muktananda (Siddha Yoga), Rama (Himalayan Institute); hatha yoga innovators like K. Patthabhi Jois and B. K. S. Iyengar; and iconoclastic teachers such as Sri Chinmoy, Rajneesh (aka Osho), Amrit Desai, and Jiddu Krishnamurti brought out different aspects of the dharmic repertoire.  That march of masters continues today with gurus such as Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma), Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.

But it wasn’t just the teachers from India who disseminated dharmic wisdom; a vital role was also played by Westerners.  Some were trained as meditation or hatha yoga teachers by their gurus, or were trained to perform bhajan and kirtan.  Many absorbed the teachings and assimilated them into their own areas of expertise, and some of them were prominent enough to introduce Sanatana Dharma to millions of people—sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly, sometimes overtly and sometimes covertly, sometimes granting proper respect to the source and sometimes appropriating teachings as if they had thought them up themselves. They ranks include prominent intellectuals like Aldous Huxley, Huston Smith, Joseph Campbell, Ken Wilber, and Alan Watts; psychologists like Abraham Maslow, Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass), and Stanislav Grof; physicians and medical researchers like Dean Ornish, Mehmet Oz, and of course Deepak Chopra, who crossed over from doctor to public philosopher.  The transmitters also included poets (Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot, Alan Ginsberg); novelists (Herman Hesse, Somerset Maugham, J. D. Salinger); and musicians, the most important of whom was George Harrison, who studied sitar with the great Ravi Shankar and introduced his fellow Beatles and millions of Baby Boomers to the Hindu Dharma.

Through all these streams and tributaries, the Vedic nectar found its way into American homes. The result is a new paradigm in the way Americans view themselves, understand religion, and practice spirituality.  The inner experience of one’s own divine nature through methods of one’s own choosing has replaced belief and identification with a religious tradition as the main driver of spirituality.  Pluralism has overtaken exclusivism: most people now realize there are many pathways to the divine, and no religious tradition is the “one true way.”  These trends point to an evolutionary shift in consciousness toward the fundamental principles of Sanatana Dharma (even among people who never heard the term).  It suggests that the great historian Arnold Toynbee was correct when he wrote, in 1969, that “a chapter which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the human race.”

 

Philip Goldberg

Author of American Veda

Philip Goldberg is a spiritual counselor, meditation teacher and ordained Interfaith Minister. The author or coauthor of 19 books, he lectures and leads workshops throughout the country. He lives in Los Angeles, where he founded Spiritual Wellness and Healing Associates (SWAHA).

Read More