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Lutheran Priest Faces Expulsion for Praying with Other Faiths
Posted on 2001/12/8 22:46:02 ( 685 reads )


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ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, December 8, 2001: To the Rev. David Benke, the ceremony at Yankee Stadium a month ago was a blessing, an opportunity to join other religious and civic leaders in offering comfort to a nation raw from the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. He joined the celebrities and politicians on stage to sing patriotic songs and to pray. But some fellow clergymen took quite a different view: They saw his participation in an interfaith event as heresy. Last week, six pastors from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the nation's second-largest Lutheran denomination, filed formal charges calling for Benke's expulsion from the church. Benke "participated in idolatry by participating with non-Christians," one of the dissident pastors, the Rev. David Oberdieck said, objecting to Benke's "syncretism," or promoting the view that all religions are equal. Benke insists that the Yankee Stadium ceremony was not a formal worship service, and thus was not off-limits to Missouri Synod members. A Hindu priest was part of the service, along with Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and Christians.




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Scientists to Study Near-Death Experiences
Posted on 2001/12/8 22:45:02 ( 631 reads )


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SOUTHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM, November 30, 2001: Dr. Sam Parnia, a physician at Southampton General Hospital, has been given approval to conduct a large scale study on this experience. A pilot project on 63 patients who were revitalized after cardiac arrests revealed that four of these patients reported encounters with pre-deceased relatives or tunnel journeys. Patrick Tenney, a patient whose heart stopped ten years ago, vividly recalls, "It was beautiful, one of the most wonderful things I've ever seen. I floated or walked down the tunnel, moved into another tunnel -- it wasn't very long -- and I stood there and saw a huge mass of color." Dr. Parnia is hopeful that the study will help the medical community and society to make a more informed decision about euthanasia. BBC Radio 4 reports and an opinion poll with 1000 participants revealed that 10% of people have had an "out of body experience."




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Stony Brook University Celebrates Center's Fourth Year
Posted on 2001/12/5 22:49:02 ( 779 reads )


Source: Press Release





STONY BROOK, NEW YORK, December, 3, 2001: Leaders of the Indian community, scholars, and artists gathered last Saturday to celebrate Stony Brook University's Center for India Studies' fourth year of bringing Indian culture and scholarship to the New York area. The evening's program included the honoring of distinguished contributors to Indian art, education and community fellowship. The gala event raised $250,000 toward a $750,000 fund-raising goal. Dr. Nirmal K. Mattoo, the new President of the India Studies Foundation said that the monies are intended to create a permanent endowment for the Center, so that the kind of quality programs on India that the Center has initiated and that have found resonance in the community can continue in perpetuity. The Center offers about 20 courses a year on topics such as Indian history, languages, literature, religions, music, dance, and foreign affairs. In the last four years, over 2500 undergraduates have taken courses in India Studies. The Center has conducted numerous outreach programs in area schools, universities, museums, libraries, and community organizations.




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Taiwan Buddhist Open World's First Museum of World Religions
Posted on 2001/12/5 22:48:02 ( 746 reads )


Source: Central News Agency





TAIPEI, TAIWAN, November 9, 2001: Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian, and 12 local and foreign dignitaries, including Swami Dayananda Saraswati, opened the Museum of World Religions" in suburban Taipei today. Chen said, "The inauguration of the museum is a pride and glory of the 23 million people of Taiwan, as it is the first of its kind in the world. The museum symbolizes respect, tolerance and benevolence." The museum was developed by Master Hsin-tao Shih, abbot of Ling Jiou Mountain Wu Sheng Monastery, in Fulon, Taiwan. It cost US$58 million and took ten years to complete. There are on display numerous religious scriptures, artifacts, instruments, object d'art, more than 7,000 books on various religions, as well as 2,000-plus video and audio recordings on religious subjects. The Ling Jiou Mountain Wu Sheng Monastery, one of the five most prominent monasteries in Taiwan, was established on a mountain facing the Pacific Ocean in the northeastern township of Fulon by Hsin-tao Shih more than two decades ago. Hsin-tao Shih was born in Burma to Chinese parents in 1948. He came to Taiwan as a youth and practiced Buddhism, striving for virtue by isolating himself for years before taking formal monastic vows. Hsin-tao Shih decided to build the world religion museum some ten years ago in an attempt to break lay people's superstitions, to help raise cultural standards and to help cultivate the inner virtues of human beings, a spokesman of the museum said.




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India to Allow Sale of Genetically Modified Cotton
Posted on 2001/12/5 22:47:02 ( 610 reads )


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DELHI, INDIA, December 6, 2001: Following the illegal sale of genetically modified cotton seed in India, the government has now said it will soon allow the cotton crops to be sold commercially for the first time. The government has been studying the GM cotton for over a year. It is resistant to the bollworm, which causes considerable damage to India's cotton crop each year. HPI adds: This report does not say whether the government will enforce the rules set up for this cotton in the USA. There, the Environmental Protection Agency requires farmers to plant a certain percentage of non-GM cotton along with every GM crop, to ensure that the bollworm does not quickly develop immunity to the built-in pesticide of the GM cotton.




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Amnesty International Appeals to Bangladesh Government
Posted on 2001/12/4 22:49:02 ( 750 reads )


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December 5, 2001: The Bangladeshi government must take urgent action to protect the country's Hindu minority following weeks of grave human rights abuses, Amnesty International said today in a new report. Before the general election in October, the Hindu community was targeted, reportedly by supporters of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for their perceived support for the rival Awami League. The backlash after the elections was systematic and severe. Bangladeshi press has reported that attackers have entered Hindu homes, beaten family members and looted their property. "Successive governments have let down the Hindu minority in Bangladesh and the last two months show exactly how vulnerable the Hindu community is. The government must live up to its responsibility to protect all of its citizens and it must do it now," Amnesty International said.




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Virtual Journey into Varanasi
Posted on 2001/12/4 22:48:02 ( 618 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, December 5,2001: A multi-media exhibition that applies some of the latest interactive technology to one of India's most sacred cities, Varanasi (Banaras), has just ended in the Indian capital of Delhi. It took viewers on a virtual journey -- including a ride on an electronic rickshaw -- to explore what is widely believed to be one of the world's oldest living cities. The director of the unusual exhibition, Ranjit Makkuni, said his objective was to demystify modern technology by presenting it in culturally recognizable forms. At a turn of its handle, it takes you through Varanasi's streets. The exhibition also included an installation that focuses on the Ganges in the form of what Makkuni calls an electronic-pot. Footage of the river as it actually flows by Varanasi is interspersed with classical dance recitals by some of India's leading artists telling the story of the river's arrival on Earth via the matted locks of God Siva.




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Vietnam's Siva Lingams
Posted on 2001/12/4 22:47:02 ( 767 reads )


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VIETNAM, June 23, 2001, A Siva Lingam monument, a relic from the lost Champa Kingdom, stands proudly at the My Son site in Vietnam. Statues depicting Lingam and Yoni can be found in Hindu-influenced cultures across the entire Asian region. But the Cham religion in Vietnam has taken these images and fashioned them into a distinctive and different form. Lingam and Yoni in the Cham religion differ from their Indian progenitors and their presence in Vietnam is evidence of the profound influence of Indian culture and religion in the country. It is also proof of the strong sense of identity of the Cham people, who borrowed from Hinduism and created statues and temples with a style all of their own. Cham Linga sculptures generally have a flat top, with only a few featuring spherical shapes. they are generally found in three different styles: square; another in two parts, one cylindrical and one square; and another has a cylindrical upper, the middle is octagonal and the bottom is square. Linga and Yoni are usually constructed as one structure. Traditionally only one Linga is attached to the Yoni, but in some Cham sculptures many Linga can be found on a single Yoni platform. The differences between Cham sculptures and those found else where in the Hindu world demonstrate subtle changes from their origins.




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Call for Papers on South Asian Studies
Posted on 2001/12/4 22:46:02 ( 666 reads )


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MADISON, WISCONSIN, December 5, 2001: Frank Morales of the University of Wisconsin at Madison writes, "This proposed anthology will include papers by leading scholars and professors who specialize in many fields of South Asian Studies. These fields include: Religious Studies, Philosophy, History, Literature, Political Science, Languages, Indigenous Sciences, Anthropology, Geology, Psychology, Medical Sciences, Sociology, etc. The focus of the book will be on new approaches, epistemological issues and methodological developments that will encourage a shift in South Asian Studies away from a neo-colonialist perspective and towards a perspective that is more sympathetic to the indigenous Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain cultures of South Asia. Additionally, we are especially seeking papers that critique the last 200 years of Indology/South Asian Studies, either on specific points or more generally. Papers must strictly fit these criteria to be considered for inclusion." Contact "source" above for further information.




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Correction on India's President
Posted on 2001/12/4 22:45:02 ( 754 reads )


Source: HPI





December 5, 2001: A report yesterday mistakenly identified Sri R. Venkataraman as "India's President." He is, of course, a past president of India. The present president is Sri K.R. Narayanan.




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Devadasi Tradition Subject of New Film
Posted on 2001/12/3 22:49:02 ( 817 reads )


Source: India West





LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, December 1, 2001: The dedication of girls to temples in India is the topic of "Maya," a new film from director Dijvijay Singh. The film's release was hailed for its unsparing depiction of India's little-understood devadasi tradition. The film centers around twelve-year-old Maya (Nitya Shetty) who lives with her middle class family. The day that Maya reaches puberty, her childhood comes to an abrupt end as relatives start planning for the biggest event of the young girl's life: a feast and ceremony to dedicate her to the Goddess Yellamma. The films producer, Dileep Singh Rathode, stated that the subject matter is never made titillating, nor is it glossed over. "Reports from nongovernmental organizations state that until recently, as many as 15,000 girls were believed to be dedicated as devadasis in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Karnataka." Although this practice has been banned by the Indian government, the devadasi tradition persists, primarily among the dalit or "outcaste" community.




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Krittika Bonfires Light South India
Posted on 2001/12/3 22:48:02 ( 695 reads )


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TIRUVANNAMALAI, INDIA, November 30, 2001: Hundreds of thousands of devotees witnessed the grand spectacle of the lighting of the Annamalai Maha Deepam (bonfire) on top of the 2,668-feet high Annamalai hills on the occasion of Krittika Deepam which marked the culmination of the 10-day Krittika Deepam festival here on Friday. Bonfires are lit near temples throughout South India on this day, also known as Sivalaya Deepam, with the Annamali fire the grandest of them all.




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Conversion in New Delhi
Posted on 2001/12/3 22:47:02 ( 725 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, November 15, 2001: Speaking out against religious conversion Swami Dayananda Saraswati, a Hindu spiritual leader, says at a meeting here, "If a person is converted by proselytization, he's uprooted from his tradition. There's a need to see we all live in harmony and mutual respect." Despite these sentiments, conversion is a reality throughout India which has left the aftermath of hard feelings between Hindu Groups and Christian missionaries. Hindus feel that the Christian groups have forced conversion on poor Hindus who are offered education and health care after they have converted to Christianity. Denying the accusations, Christians say they only want to help the needy. In the early part of November, thousands of Hindu Dalits ("untouchables") converted to Buddhism. Even though the caste system has been banished in India, 160 million Dalits have been denied basic social rights. They felt the conversion would give them social status. India's President, R. Venkataraman, spoke candidly, "Conversion leads to animosity among religious groups. They also lead to retaliation by reconversion. You should not try to convert by force, fraud, or inducements."




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Harrison's Ashes Bound for India
Posted on 2001/12/3 22:46:02 ( 690 reads )


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VARANASI, INDIA, December 3, 2001: George Harrison's intimate relationship with Indian mysticism, music and Hinduism sent his wife and son on a pilgrimage to the holy Ganges river in India, where his ashes will be scattered. No report has appeared as to where or when Harrison's widow, Olivia and his 23-year-old son, Dhani, were to arrive, but it is believed they will scatter Harrison's ashes both at Varanasi and Allahabad, site of the recent Kumbha Mela. Harrison had his first contact with Hinduism in the sixties at the Himalayan retreat of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Hindu spiritual guru. This discovery of Eastern mysticism eventually led him to his involvement with the Hare Krishna movement.




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Delhi's Teens Get Religion
Posted on 2001/12/2 22:49:02 ( 703 reads )


Source: Times of India





NEW DELHI, INDIA, November 27, 2001: Teenagers in Delhi are conformists to the core -- they are more religious than their peers in other metros and want mama to choose their life partners. A recent survey conducted by Hyderabad-based market research firm NFO-MBL over five metros found 53 per cent of Delhi's youngsters saying religion was an important part of their lives. The survey covered those in the 15-19 age group and represented the top 60 per cent of the socio-economic strata. Priests at the Sai Baba Temple in Lodhi Road, Hanuman Temple in Connaught Place and the Chattarpur Temple near Mehrauli corroborate these statistics. Pandit Sudhir Sharma, the chief priest of Hanuman temple found an increase of 35-40 per cent attendance by youth over the last two years. Mumbai, at 21 per cent, records the lowest religious-orientation among youngsters. Chennai, Calcutta and Bangalore are a respectable 30 per cent. Sociologist Renuka Singh says there is a positive correlation between religion and family ties. "Religious orientation is something a child picks up from home.




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