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Religion Scholars Release "Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the World's Religions."

Posted on 2016/10/1 19:28:00 ( 521 reads )


MONTREAL, CANADA, September 16, 2016 (Anglican Journal, by Harvey Shepherd): An international, interfaith group of religious scholars has released a document they hope will begin a new chapter in global discussion of human rights. On September 15, a group of scholars from several countries, led by Professor Arvind Sharma, professor of comparative religion at the School of Religious Studies at McGill University, unveiled a "Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the World's Religions." The document, the product of 18 years of meetings and consultations, was released at the end of the 3rd Global Conference on World's Religions After September 11, a daylong event held in Montreal.

Brian D. Lepard, professor of law at the University of Nebraska and a member of the latest drafting committee for the document, said earlier drafts and its preamble had been changed to make a stronger stand against terrorism, recognize evolution in thinking about rights, recognize the contribution religions have made to rights and emphasize that rights are everyone's responsibility.

The preamble to the latest version states that "it is imperative that the world's religions be included as a positive resource for human rights." The world's religions, it continues, "teach the fundamental truth of the oneness of the human family."

The declaration is inspired by and seeks to complement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 by the United Nations, Sharma said. It seeks to balance what some regard as an undue emphasis on individualistic and Western values, he said, putting more emphasis on collective, as opposed to individual, rights. It also emphasizes duties as well as rights, and the responsibilities of people and organizations. Earlier drafts were presented at two predecessor conferences in Montreal in 2006 and 2011, as well as at several scholarly conferences in different countries starting in 1998.

More than 500 scholars and others attended to the conference. Speakers at this year's conference included Karen Armstrong, the bestselling British historian of religions and author of the recent "Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence;" veteran ecumenist Gregory Baum, of Montreal; U.S. speaker and author on mind-body healing Deepak Chopra; U.S. theologian Harvey Cox; Susannah Heschel, professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire; Amir Hussain, professor of theological studies, specializing in Islam, at Marymount University in Los Angeles; Indian guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; Manjit Singh, Sikh chaplain at McGill; and Charles Taylor, professor emeritus at McGill and a prominent philosopher and activist.

Iranian civil rights advocate and Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, who presented a draft of the declaration at the 2006 Montreal conference, sent a videotaped message.

In a message released just before the conference, Sharma, a Hindu, said recent conflict in the Middle East, terrorist attacks elsewhere, controversy in the U.S. presidential election campaign and other events served to underline the document's importance.

"We did not anticipate this summer of fatal fanaticism when we decided to hold the Third Global Conference on World's Religions after September 11 in Montreal this year," he said. "Little did we know while we were planning the conference that its purpose and goal would become even more relevant today."

The preamble also states that "the conscience of people of faith has been shaken by individuals and authorities within the world's religions who have failed to defend human rights and have committed atrocities and violations of human rights in the name of religion, including acts of terrorism."

This School Has the Coolest Detention - Yoga Meditation for Kids

Posted on 2016/10/1 19:27:49 ( 430 reads )


BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, September 23, 2016 (Morning News USA): What would a school do when one of its students misbehaves? Detention is one common action. But Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore is doing something unique -- meditation. Detention is a common disciplinary action among schools to address students' misbehaviors. It involves a trip to the guidance counselor for a series of activities, depending on the extent and degree of misbehavior.

The school set up a room called Mindful Moment Room, in partnership with Holistic Life Foundation. The room is not the typical cold, lifeless, white-walled empty room with the bare essentials. The Mindful Moment Room has lamps, artsy decorations, and purple pillows. When kids are sent to this room, the aim is to help them practice meditation by teaching them breathing exercises, and encouraging talk therapy. Kids meditate about their behavior, talk about the things that led to the misbehavior, and discuss ways to avoid such incidents from happening in the future.

For a decade now, Holistic Life Foundation has been offering a program called Holistic Me, an after-school meditation program for pre-kindergarten to fifth graders. They partnered with Robert W. Coleman Elementary School and created a mindfulness exercise program, and yoga practice to be included in the school's system.

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2016/10/1 19:27:39 ( 314 reads )


For seven lives in seven bodies the grateful will remember friends who relieved their anguish and affliction.
-- Saint Tiruvalluvar's Tirukkural, verse 107

Pakistan National Assembly Passes Hindu Marriage Bill

Posted on 2016/9/27 17:58:02 ( 732 reads )


PAKISTAN, September 27, 2016 (News 18): Six decades after it came into existence, Pakistan gave nod to a Hindu Marriage Bill that seeks to set up a legal framework for marriage and divorce [previous non-existent for Hindus] besides addressing issues including forced conversions. The Hindu Marriage Bill 2016 was tabled before the Pakistan National Assembly by Human Rights Minister Kamran Michael and was passed unanimously. The bill will now be forwarded to the Senate for consideration and passage.

According to The Express Tribune, the bill will institutionalize all legal rights relating to marriage. "All Hindu marriages will be registered in accordance with the provisions of this act. Such registration shall take place within 15 days of a marriage. Hindu widows will now have the right to remarry of their own free will six months after the death of her husband, according to the provisions of the bill. The bill will also help put an end to the practice of abduction of married Hindu women," it said.

California Department of Education Calls for Textbook Reviewers

Posted on 2016/9/27 17:57:52 ( 565 reads )


SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA, July 2016, (CDE press release): The California Department of Education and State Board of Education (SBE) are seeking reviewers to participate in the 2017 History-Social Science Instructional Materials Adoption for grades kindergarten to 8. Reviewers will evaluate the instructional materials for alignment to the California history-social science standards and the newly revised history-social science curriculum framework, utilizing the standards maps and evaluation criteria maps that have been approved by the SBE for this adoption.

Information about this review and the online application process is available on the CDE HSS Instructional Materials Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/im/. The deadline for submission of applications is October 19, 2016. For more information, contact: 916-319-0447 or kmcdonal@cde.ca.gov.

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2016/9/27 17:57:41 ( 381 reads )


There are three kinds of devotees. The inferior devotee says, "God is out there" and thinks God is different from His creation. The mediocre devotee says, "God is antaryami, the inner guide who dwells in everyone's heart;" thus the mediocre devotee sees God within. But the superior devotee sees that God alone is everything, for He has become the twenty-four cosmic tattvas. That devotee finds that everything, above and below, is filled with God.
-- Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa (1836-1886)

Priests Object to Online Pind Daan, the Post-Death Rituals

Posted on 2016/9/26 19:21:01 ( 563 reads )


INDIA, September 26, 2016 (by Amrita Verma, The Asian Age): Hindu priests in Allahabad and Varanasi demanded a ban on performing the pind daan, a post-death ritual believed to ensure salvation for departed souls, over the Internet. The pind daan is performed mainly during the Pitra Paksh, a 16-day lunar period during which Hindus pay ritual homage to their ancestors.

Pandit Kishore Upadhyaya, a priest from Varanasi, said that the growing trend of offering online pind daan was "unethical" and should be banned. "The ritual requires the person to be physically present and make offerings to the departed souls. It is an elaborate ritual and cannot be performed in absentia," he said.

According to him, a large number of websites now offer "online tarpan" for a price. These websites are doing big business, but the people are being duped, he said. "We understand that working people are short on time and cannot travel to religious places like Gaya, Allahabad, Varanasi or Haridwar to perform the ritual, but they can opt for the ritual in their own cities. In fact, some religious organisations even arrange for collective pind daan for those who cannot afford to travel," he said.

Another Varanasi priest, Pandit Shiv Misra, said that the idea of online pind daan was "ridiculous," and should be stopped. "This is almost like asking someone else to eat or sleep for you. How can anyone else pray for me? The websites that are offering the 'services' take money and then claim to have performed the rituals for your ancestors," he said.

The priests have decided to take up the matter in the annual Magh Mela that is held in Allahabad in January and ask the Dharam Sansad to convince the government to ban the virtual pind daan services. "We have come to know that a website that offers virtual 'pind daan' in Varanasi, is receiving 200-250 requests every day which means a large number of people are being fleeced," said Pandit Shiv Misra.

History of India Visually Over 5,000 Years

Posted on 2016/9/26 19:20:51 ( 0 reads )


INDIA, May 2016 (You Tube): This video will show the entire history of India from 29th century BCE to 2016 in the form of an ever-changing map indicating the location of the cultures and empires that existed over the centuries. Indus Valley and Vedic periods are shown as they changed decade by decade, after 413 bce, the maps change each year. The 12-minute video shows the growth and demise of dynasties, empires and kingdoms in India and Sri Lanka from 2800 BCE right through to 2016.

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2016/9/26 19:20:40 ( 334 reads )


The sages, being filled with universal love for all beings, did not want to keep their enlightenment to themselves. They declared to all: "O mortals, striving and struggling upon this Earth plane, weeping, wailing, buffeted by the vicissitudes of life: we have come upon a great discovery. There is something beyond these appearances, these vanishing names and forms that go to make up this universe. There is something beyond, which is the very source and support of all these objects of the phenomenal world. Why do you search in vain for happiness outside? Come, come, happiness resides within."
-- Swami Chidananda (1916-2008), president of Divine Life Society

Sri Ramanuja: The Great Integrator

Posted on 2016/9/25 19:13:34 ( 490 reads )


INDIA, May 5, 2016 (The Hindu, by Dr. Prema Nandakumar): What makes Sri Ramanuja relevant today? Dr. Prema Nandakumar writes on the saint-philosopher in the context of his 1,000th birth anniversary. One thousand years have gone by. Ten centuries. In India alone, there were so many kingdoms which tried their best to put an end to the religious and cultural traditions that had flourished from time immemorial. In spite of all that, Vedic culture not only survived but also gained new spaces. The adherents of the culture have had the benefit of leadership by spiritual personalities from time to time, re-formatting the culture in a positive manner without losing any of its seminal strengths. Of such great men, Sri Ramanuja, who was born in the 11 century, takes the pride of place as he remains relevant even today.

How shall we crown Sri Ramanuja? Is he a fine-tuned philosopher or a poet? Does his sociological thinking exceed the commentator? Does he loom large as a temple-builder or as a management expert? Does his concern for helping the common man out-top his blazing spirituality? Is he greater as a student or as a teacher? A deeper and wider engagement in his life and ministry makes it very, very difficult to decide. But one thing is clear. His virtue was compassion: his means, integration. The two main reasons why Sri Ramanuja remains perfectly relevant even today.

Sister Nivedita said that the history of India is the land itself. Applied to Sri Ramanuja, we can read his life in the temples, the rituals he set up, in his philosophy and poetry, and his untiring and patient moves to bring down man-made differences and integrate the society by applying the ideal of compassion. "He (Ramanuja) felt for the downtrodden, he sympathised with them. He took up the ceremonies, the accretions that had gathered, made them pure so far as they could be, and instituted new ceremonies, new methods of worship, for the people who absolutely required them. At the same time he opened the door to the highest; spiritual worship from the Brahmin to the Pariah." That was Ramanuja's work.

Much more at "source" above.

First Swadeshi Indology Conference

Posted on 2016/9/25 19:13:23 ( 396 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, September 25, 2016 (Swadeshi Indology): The first Swadeshi Indology Conference was held in Chennai on July 6-7, 2016. A welcome address was given by Prof. K.S. Kannah and the keynote address by the organizer, Rajiv Malhotra.

A few themes of the conference:

Is Sanskrit dead or alive?
Critique of Sheldon Pollock's views on Shastras
Ramayama as a Political Tool
Pollock's position that Sanskrit was responsible for holocaust
Some Indic viewpoints to refute Pollock's positions
Murty Classical Library--a panel discussion

A summary of the conference with a complete list of presenters, themes and accompanying videos is at "source" above.

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2016/9/25 19:13:12 ( 291 reads )


To define God is grinding what is already ground; for He is the only being we know.
-- Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), founder of the Ramakrishna Mission

Ganga River Theme for Trindad's Coming Diwali Nagar

Posted on 2016/9/24 17:56:15 ( 590 reads )

Paras Ramoutar

PORT-OF-SPAIN, TRINIDAD/TOBAGO, September 23, 2016 (Paras Ramoutar): "Mother Ganga--Mother of the Oceans and Rivers" will be the theme for the 30th edition of Diwali Nagar in Trinidad and Tobago, according to Dr. Deokienanan Sharma, president of the National Council of Indian Culture(NCIC). "This year's theme has serious and profound religious meaning as Lord Shiva is reputed to hold the Ganga River on His Head," Sharma said. Sharma said that this year's show will run from Thursday October 20 to Friday October 29 at a projected cost of US $800,000. "Diwali Nagar has grown to be a huge economic and business enterprise with over 70 large, medium and small enterprises participating locally, the Caribbean and India, among other places".

"Diwali Nagar which started in 1986 has now become a national, and probably an international institution in terms of its total presentation, glamour, originality and content. "Diwali Nagar has been able to foster further ethnic unity in our land, and other countries are taking a page from our social, religious and cultural disposition, all of which augur well for the unity and brotherhood of all mankind. Diwali Nagar fosters social mobility and it is an interactive model, worthy of emulation worldwide." Mangaroo said.

Religion Data of Census 2011: XXIX Northeast States

Posted on 2016/9/24 17:56:04 ( 466 reads )


INDIA, September 18, 2016 (Center for Policy Studies): Christianity in the Northeast has spread mainly through the conversion of the Scheduled Tribes (STs) of the region. There are numerous tribes that live here; specific tribes often dominate a specific district or even a sub-district. It is fascinating and instructive to look into how the religious demography of different tribes has changed over time; how and when they have moved away from their native religions--which in their doctrine and practice fall within the Hindu fold--to Christianity. In this and the following notes, we discuss the spread of Christianity among the specific individual tribes of the Northeast.

We begin with Assam, where the situation is very different from other States of the region. The spread of Christianity in Assam has been limited and, more surprisingly, less than 20 percent of the Christians in the State are from the Scheduled Tribes. This is very unusual. Elsewhere in the Northeast, the Christians are almost entirely tribal. The peculiar situation of Assam is because several essentially tribal communities of Assam have not been included in the ST list. Such communities include the tea-tribes, one-fifth of whom are said to be have been converted. Estimates indicate that perhaps all of the non-ST Christians of Assam are from the tea-tribes.

Christians form 12.8 percent of the current ST population of the State. Their share has risen to this level from 7.6 percent in 1991 and 8.8 percent in 2001. There are two separate ST lists for Assam, one for the autonomous hill districts and the other for the rest of Assam. The proportion of Christians among the hill STs is higher at 27.4 percent; among the STs of the plains, the share of Christians is lower at 9.7 percent.

To read more of the spread of Christianity among the individual Scheduled Tribes of Assam, Tripura, and Sikkim, see "source."

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2016/9/24 17:55:54 ( 310 reads )


Everyone has willpower. It is inherent to the makeup of the physical-astral-mental-emotional body. The center of willpower is the manipura chakra, located at the solar plexus. Unlike other energies, the more willpower we use, the more willpower we have to use. This happens when we work a little harder than we think we can, do a little more than we think we can do. By putting forth that extra effort, we build up a great willpower that we will always have with us, even in our next life, the next and the next.
-- Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (1927-2001), founder of Hinduism Today

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