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Sixties Leader Ram Dass Honored

Posted on 2002/10/16 8:45:02 ( 789 reads )


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RHINEBECK, NEW YORK, October 5, 2002: Ram Dass, recognized as a New Age figurehead, was honored in Upstate New York recently where a library at the Omega Institute, a New Age retreat, was named for him. Ram Dass, formerly known as Richard Alpert, a Harvard professor fired for his experiments with LSD, met his guru in the 1960's in the Himalayan foothills. His guru, Shri Neem Karoli, initiated him as Ram Dass, meaning servant of God. After spending two years with his guru, Ram Dass returned home to America to spread Hindu teachings on compassion, meditation and dharma. He became famous in 1971 with the release of a bestselling book called "Be Here Now." American counterculture was attracted to Ram Dass who explored higher consciousness by meditation and mind-altering drugs. During the next twenty years, Ram Dass became a leader in many New Age communities before finally settling in Northern California. He spearheaded various humanitarian projects such as the Prison Ashram Project and the Hospice Dying Project. In 1997, Ram Dass suffered a stroke, which left him partially paralyzed. As a result of the stroke, which Ram Dass termed a spiritual wake-up call from his ascended guru, he has written a new book called "Still Here," a "how-to on soul consciousness in the face of aging and ill health". Kathleen Murphy, who was present at the Omega event, says, "He's helped existence make sense for me. Beauty and love pour out of him and the people associated with him." In an interview Dass says, "Reincarnation applies to all people everywhere, whether they accept if or not. There are people who want to use the name guru for me. When I hear that, I feel they just haven't seen a real one."




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Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Responds to Critics of Anti-Conversion Ordinance

Posted on 2002/10/15 8:49:02 ( 349 reads )


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CHENNAI, INDIA, October 11, 2002: The anti-conversion ordinance is "not directed against any particular religion, least of all any minority religion," the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha, has said. In a statement, she clarified that it was "directed against the use of fraudulent means, allurement and force in enticing individuals into changing their religious denomination against their will." Ms. Jayalalitha reasoned that the ordinance "clearly recognizes and provides for action to be taken to arrest a disturbing trend found in various parts of Tamil Nadu, as reported and documented, where inducements, monetary and material, fraudulent and clandestine, have been adopted by some persons and institutions to convert people to another religion, capitalizing on their poverty, illiteracy and ignorance. The State has a duty cast upon it to make laws to protect its citizens against exploitation by such unscrupulous elements." Even the Supreme Court, in its 1977 ruling in the Stanislaus vs. State of Madhya Pradesh case, held that the right to propagate one's religion (by advocacy or preaching) did not include the right to convert another. In doing so, the Court upheld a similar ordinance against conversion in Madhya Pradesh. In a report appearing in the Times of India, the Catholic Bishops' Conference denied the church was indulging in forced conversions. Spokesperson Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao said, "Anyone willing to become a Christian has to undergo preparations of six months before he is recommended." However, he also stated that the church gives scholarships and other benefits, and wondered whether these can be considered as inducements for conversion. A report in The Hindu stated that the BJP political party welcomed the ordinance, charging that the involvement of foreigners and foreign funds for conversion had been damaging the fabric of society.




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Survey Looks at American Religious Beliefs

Posted on 2002/10/15 8:48:02 ( 708 reads )


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UNITED STATES, October 10, 2002: In a new survey of American religious beliefs, conducted by the conservative Christian Barna Research Group, 44 percent of those surveyed said, "The Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths," while 38 percent of Americans disagreed with that idea. George Barna, president of the Ventura, California, based marketing research company, apparently alarmed at the results, said he thinks the results reflect an increasing inclusivity about faith among many Americans. "Christians have increasingly been adopting spiritual views that come from Islam, Wicca, secular humanism, the Eastern religions and other sources," he said in a statement. "Because we remain a largely Bible illiterate society, few are alarmed or even aware of the slide toward syncretism -- a belief system that blindly combines beliefs from many different faith perspectives."




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Residents and Temple Authorities in Conflict

Posted on 2002/10/15 8:47:02 ( 747 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, October 6, 2002: Residents of the Kailash area of Delhi have been caught up in an ongoing debate with the Sanatan Dharam Mandir. Anju Sehgal Gupta, a resident who was recently threatened by 40 temple sympathizers said, "The character of the temple has changed and authorities treat it more like a three-star hotel. Parties are hosted, as the covered area is large. There is a five-story building, a four-story building and a sammelan hall." Rajnish Goenka, the temple's president, responded, "No ... commercial activity has taken place since 1998 when the unauthorized portions were sealed. The functions are well within the Hindu rituals, like marriages." The 100 families, who live on the same lane as Anju Gupta, have taken their complaints to court. Objecting to the loud music at night and the generators, which provide uninterrupted power for the parties, the residents have made their case known to police. Goenka denies that loud Western music has been played. Sneh Mahajan, another resident who teaches history at IP College says, "The continuous tug-of-war between the temple authorities and the residents has robbed us of our privacy and thefts have been reported whenever marriages take place in the temple, as a lot of outsiders roam around the area." Temple expansion without benefit of zoning approval is a common problem through India's urban areas.




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Courting Kurta Fashion

Posted on 2002/10/15 8:46:02 ( 851 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, October 11, 2001: A fashion conscious woman asks, "What are the various lengths that I can try out in a kurta?" Femina (a women's magazines) responds, "This really depends on two primary factors: Your body type and the occasion. Kurta lengths today vary between hip length (the kurta shirt) to just-below-the-knee. On formal occasions, one should wear longer lengths, whereas casual and semi-formal dressing allows for shorter lengths to be worn over pants and jeans." When questioned about jewelry, it's suggested adding antique buttons or cufflinks to add interest. Wondering about embroidery? Go for tone on tone embroidery and experiment more with fabrics and Oriental accessories. If you want to dress up a kurta you can add a Nehru jacket or simply add another layer in the form of a separate garment to give it a dressier feel. But your best bet is an attitude to wear Indian and feel absolutely great."




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English Council Tackles Fireworks' Noise

Posted on 2002/10/15 8:45:02 ( 831 reads )


Source: UK Newsquest Regional Press





BRENT, ENGLAND, October 11, 2002: The Brent, England, City Council is taking action to tackle the nuisance of noisy fireworks. In the days leading up to Deepavali, November 4, the city council has launched a campaign to persuade revelers to be more considerate of their neighbors. Under the slogan, "Fireworks with a bang, but not too late or loud," the council has issued a request encouraging responsible fireworks use. This includes not lighting fireworks after 11:00 pm, having displays as far as possible from neighbors' homes, warning neighbors in advance, and keeping fireworks displays as short as possible. The problem is heightened because for at least a week before and after Deepavali, fireworks are let off.




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Ramayana Center in Mauritius

Posted on 2002/10/15 8:44:02 ( 1486 reads )


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ROSE BELLE, MAURITIUS, August 15, 2002: On Tulsi Jayanti day, the foundation stone laying ceremony of Ramayana Center was performed by the Mauritian Prime Minister, Sir Anerood Jugnauth. Prime Minister Jugnauth hailed the building as an historic event. Mauritius is the only country of the Indian diaspora that has built a Ramayana Center in its National Assembly. The chairman of the Center and noted Ramayana scholar, Rajendra Arun, said the institution would be developed as a learning center to promote teachings of Ramayana, a constant source of inspiration and strength to the Indian diaspora. Additionally, a fifty-foot statue of Hanuman will be erected. In a congratulatory message, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee commended this effort and praised Mauritius for having preserved the legacy of the Ramayana for succeeding generations. Swami Krishna Roopan, Ramakrishna Mission, and Swami Pranavanand, Chinmaya Mission, also blessed the gathering.




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International Yoga Convention Planned for Miami

Posted on 2002/10/15 8:43:02 ( 820 reads )


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MIAMI, FLORIDA, October 15, 2002: Sponsored by the Hindu Student's Council, an International Yoga Convention will be held October 25-27, 2002, at the University of Miami. H.H. Sri Swami Brahmavidyananda, Yoga Master from India, will conduct the convention. Opportunities to learn and practice simple aspects of yoga will be available. There will also be practical demonstrations and workshops featuring different facets of yoga. For further information, contact "source" above.




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Hindu Missionaries Head Overseas

Posted on 2002/10/14 8:49:02 ( 792 reads )


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DELHI, INDIA, October 11, 2002: Nearly 600 years after the first Christian missionaries landed in India, brahmin priests are being readied at a seminary near Delhi to take their religion worldwide and defend "the rights of Hindus against conversion." Religious organizations aligned with India's Hindu nationalist-led government, committed to preserving Hinduism in its purest and most traditional form, said the priests would try and dilute the influence of Christianity on expatriate Hindus. Three brahmin graduates from the Hindu Heritage Parishthan at Modipuram, 70 km. from Delhi, left recently for the United States, Singapore and Mauritius. Their missionary work amongst overseas Hindus will last at least a decade. "Well versed in ancient scriptures, these priests are expected to spread the virtues of Hinduism and perform rituals for the Indian diaspora," said Shashi Sham Singh, head of the seminary. All entrants to the Modipuram Seminary are required to be proficient in Sanskrit and have a working knowledge of English. During nine months of training, at the end of which they are awarded a diploma, they study ancient texts, learn to perform complicated Hindu rituals like marriages, child-naming ceremonies and death rites. They also recite lengthy and complicated Sanskrit prayers from memory. "It is not only Hinduism the priests are taught, but also other religions to enable them to counter Christian arguments."




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Hindu Missionaries Head Overseas

Posted on 2002/10/14 8:49:02 ( 727 reads )

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DELHI, INDIA, October 11, 2002: Nearly 600 years after the first Christian missionaries landed in India, brahmin priests are being readied at a seminary near Delhi to take their religion worldwide and defend "the rights of Hindus against conversion." Religious organizations aligned with India's Hindu nationalist-led government, committed to preserving Hinduism in its purest and most traditional form, said the priests would try and dilute the influence of Christianity on expatriate Hindus. Three brahmin graduates from the Hindu Heritage Parishthan at Modipuram, 70 km. from Delhi, left recently for the United States, Singapore and Mauritius. Their missionary work amongst overseas Hindus will last at least a decade. "Well versed in ancient scriptures, these priests are expected to spread the virtues of Hinduism and perform rituals for the Indian diaspora," said Shashi Sham Singh, head of the seminary. All entrants to the Modipuram Seminary are required to be proficient in Sanskrit and have a working knowledge of English. During nine months of training, at the end of which they are awarded a diploma, they study ancient texts, learn to perform complicated Hindu rituals like marriages, child-naming ceremonies and death rites. They also recite lengthy and complicated Sanskrit prayers from memory. "It is not only Hinduism the priests are taught, but also other religions to enable them to counter Christian arguments."


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Tirtagangga Water Palace Lovingly Refurbished

Posted on 2002/10/14 8:48:02 ( 770 reads )

Source: Jakarta Post

JAKARTA, INDONESIA, October 3, 2002: Tirtagangga (literally meaning the blessed water of Ganga) Water Palace is located at Ababi village, north of Amlapura, the capital of Karangasem regency, around two hours drive from the island's capital, Denpasar. The five-acre complex was built in 1946 by the last King of Karangasem, as a royal bathing and leisure compound. Located in a scenic area, Tirtangga has been a favorite spot for both the members of the royal family and the local people. Tirtagangga consists of three levels. A small temple, swimming pool and two decorative ponds are situated on the highest level. The complex's center and main attraction, a towering eleven-tiered fountain which rises from a beautiful pond is located on the middle level. In 1963, Bali's largest and holiest mountain, Agung, located only 15 miles away, erupted, triggering a series of powerful earthquakes that severely damaged the complex. Today a comprehensive restoration program, aimed at reviving the initial beauty of the Water Palace, is being carried out by the grandsons and granddaughters of the last King of Karangasem. Along with the restoration of the water fountain, several new buildings will be added to the complex to provide space for exhibitions, conferences and a handicraft center. New plants and statues will be added and pools will be refurbished using the original Karangasem-style tiles. The project is scheduled for completion in 2006.


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Women's Peace Conference Decries Violence

Posted on 2002/10/14 8:47:02 ( 737 reads )

Source: Religion News Service

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, October 10, 2002: The Global Peace Initiative of Women ended three days of meeting Wednesday, decrying all forms of violence and seeking to forge new strategies to bring peace to areas engulfed in conflict. Some 500 delegates from more than 75 nations ended the meeting with a statement, "The Geneva Declaration of Women for Global Harmony, Peace and Justice," that said they condemn "all forms of violence against women whether in the name of religion, custom or tradition, and call upon the world community to outlaw all inhumane and barbaric forms of punishment deployed against women." The meeting was generated by the Millennium World Peace Summit in August, 2000, which brought more than 2,000 religious and spiritual leaders to the United Nations in New York City. "The operative word is 'respect.' Respect means that you can't force anyone to pursue God in your way, and no one else can force you to pursue God their way," said the Rev. Vashti Murphy McKenzie, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church from Ellicott City, Maryland. "Education is key, for many women don't know their rights, even within their own families," said Joan Helpern, cofounder of Joan & David, and an adjunct professor at Columbia University. Delegates in Geneva, who repeatedly stressed that politics without spirituality is doomed to failure, called for a greater reliance on the power of prayer. They declared November 3 as a Worldwide Day of Prayer for Peace. On this day, women religious leaders across the globe will wear white ribbons and are asking their congregates and followers do the same.


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Tirupati Enlivens for the Festival of Brahmotsavam

Posted on 2002/10/14 8:46:02 ( 728 reads )

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TIRUPATI, INDIA, October 7, 2002: An estimated one million pilgrims flocked to the temple town of Tirumala, Andra Pradesh, last Monday to participate in the festival called Brahmotsavam. Honoring Lord Venkateswara and Goddess Padmavathi, the entire Tirupati hill was decorated in festival style. The presiding deity, Lord Venkateswara's utsava murthi was decorated with rare and dazzling diamond jewels. The Lord has been decorated with a golden vesthi which weighs more than 65 kg. diamond studded crown and other ornaments.


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Jail House Rocks With Bhangra-Rap

Posted on 2002/10/14 8:45:02 ( 738 reads )

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OXFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND, October 11, 2002: Multiculturalism finally entered the grim world of England's famously-austere Victorian prisons on Thursday, but it marched to the sweet tones of the sitar and sang in Hindi. Two Jalandhar boys -- one behind bars, the other strutting the world stage as creator of bhangra-rap -- brought India to hundreds of petty criminals, murderers and white collar criminals in the first Asian music festival inside a Western high-security prison. The concert, part of Britain's prison reform and rehabilitation drive, took Steve Kapur into Her Majesty's Prison Bullingdon. South Asian prisoners are doubly benefited, said Katy Lewis of the the charitable Irene Taylor Trust, adding that research had found "Indians don't normally participate in prison events, but such a festival also helps the white prisoners understand their culture." Some of the Hindu prisoners (there aren't many) have formed a bhajana group.


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Violence Targets Bangladesh Hindus Ahead of Navaratri

Posted on 2002/10/11 8:49:02 ( 820 reads )


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DHAKA, BANGLADESH, October 9, 2002: Police have detained ten people suspected of vandalizing eight statues of the Hindu goddess Durga at the Shivkarunamoyee Laxmi Narayan Jeu temple in Narayanganj, near the capital city of Dhaka. The temple's security guard and nine others have been detained on suspicion of vandalizing the statues, police said. Temple authorities said the attack might be linked to a long-running feud with local residents over temple land because on Saturday a court ruled the land belonged to the temple. Ahead of the festival, Bangladesh has detained more than 1,400 people in a security crackdown. State Minister for Foreign Affairs Reaz Rahman said security forces would guard 13,000 places of worship during the festival. "The people and the government of Bangladesh believe in and are deeply committed to communal harmony and equal rights to religious activities of all its citizens," Rahman said. Many non-Hindus participate in the festivities, and the main prayer day is a national holiday in Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country. Nearly 88 per cent of the country's 130 million people are Muslims, 10 per cent are Hindus and the rest are Buddhists and Christians.




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