European Hindus Unite in National Organizations
IN APRIL, 2017, THE HINDU FEDERATION of Spain (FHE) and the Swiss Association of Hinduism held events commemorating the creation of one united Hindu voice in their respective countries.
The FHE was officially launched in Barcelona with a full-day seminar in April. Conceived in 2015, the FHE held its first meeting in Madrid the following year. It has had official meetings with the Spanish government and created ties of collaboration with the Embassy of India in Spain. At the most recent meeting, Swami Satyananda Saraswati spoke of the various paths Hinduism offers, concluding that it offers a single, integrated way to cosmic unity.
Also in April of this year, the Swiss Association of Hinduism met for the first time, with representatives of one dozen organizations plus 60 private individuals. The organizations included Zurich’s network of Tamil community temples, the Ramakrishna Mission in Geneva, the Omkarananda Ashram from Winterthur and a Nepalese Hindu group.
Honoring a Great Tamil Sage
ON THE EVE OF TIRUVALLUVAR day, January 12, 2017, the Gurukulam Matriculation School, Agalar, near Ooty, India, gathered students for a mass Tirukural recitation. Some 390 students recited the sage’s 2,200-year-old Tamil masterpiece on ethics while dressed up as Tiruvalluvar himself—complete with beard and hair knot. Each of the younger students recited one couplet of the holy text, while the older ones recited two or more. The school’s principal, B. Suresh Kumar, explained why the 1,330 verses are so important: “To learn all the 1,330 couplets will help the kids not only to mold their own character, but also to influence their perspective of society itself.
“Therefore,” he tells students, “learn the Tirukural not as just a lesson in school, but as an important duty of your life.”
The Goddess in China
“THIS IS POSSIBLY THE ONLY temple in China where we are still praying to a Hindu God,” says Li San Long, a resident of Chidian, China, where a mysterious shrine to a Goddess is worshiped by a few dozen villagers, according to a report in The Hindu newspaper of Chennai.
At the Xingji Pavilion, the residents pray and burn incense—as in all the Buddhist and Taoist villages of Eastern China. But here the golden Deity is neither Buddhist nor Taoist. The four-armed Goddess has unmistakably Indian features and resembles deities in the Vishnu and Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. She sits upright, flanked by two companions and presiding over a figure representing the lower nature.
It was just a decade ago that scholars learned this Deity was not the Bodhisattva Guanyin, as thought, but a Goddess believed to have been sculpted for Tamil traders living in the area from 960 to 1279ce. The Quanzhou, downstream from Chidian, was the busiest port in the world at that time, hosting frequent trade with India.
“Until philosophers are kings:” Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull traveled by city metro train to Delhi’s famed Hindu temple of Akshardham in April, 2017. The leaders toured the vast complex, talked and offered prayers—all captured in this charming set of photos.
Colombo Center Dedicated to Satguru Siva Yogaswami
THE SIVAYOGASWAMI TIRUVADI Nilayam of Colombo, Sri Lanka, dedicated to Siva Yogaswami (1872-1964) of Jaffna, officially opened on August 31, 2016. Much credit goes to the many years of dedicated work of Somasundaram Sanmugasundaran, one of Yogaswami’s earliest devotees. “Dr. Shan,” as he was called, also assisted Yogaswami’s successor, HINDUISM TODAY founder Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, in many ways, even coming to America to record Yogaswami stories and help bring Saiva culture to the West.
Dr. Shan lived in Colombo but frequently visited his guru in Jaffna. After Yogaswami’s passing in 1964, there were only two centers dedicated to his teachings, both in Sri Lanka’s north. Though his Colombo devotees gathered every month for decades to honor him, the civil war interrupted plans for a dedicated center of their own. Once the war ended, though, it was quickly built by the Sivayogaswami Trust of Sri Lanka, whose current president is Dr. Shan’s son, Sri Ranjan.
The center was blessed by Subramuniyaswami’s successor, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami. The event started at the adjacent Ramakrishna Mission, where presiding Swami Sarvarupanandaji spoke briefly. Yogaswami’s photo was then paraded to the new facility, where an elaborate abhishekam was held to his sacred sandals, accompanied by beautifully sung Natchintanai songs composed by Yogaswami. Congratulatory speeches were made by representatives of many influential organizations.
Making Sanskrit Approachable
ROHINI BAKSHI’S UNUSUAL style of teaching Sanskrit through Twitter, #SanskritAppreciationHour, has been going on since 2013. The outgrowth of this is her new 500-page book, Learn Sanskrit Through Your Favorite Prayers.
The book is a treasure house of details in Sanskrit and in English. The effort by Bakshi and co-author Narayanan Namboodiri constitutes a welcome enhancement to the overall, universal campaign for Sanskrit. The book makes it possible for people to study Sanskrit outside the rigors of a classroom regimen—a laudable step. Bakshi and Namboodiri provide the original Sanskrit verse, a word-by-word translation and a prose version in English for eleven popular Sanskrit stotras (prayers), including Ganeshashthakam, Shri Hari Stotram, Rudrashthakam and Aditya Hridayam. Seven are from the works of Adi Shankara. Hindus who know these verses can now learn their exact meaning.
Reviewed by Prof. K.K.
Chawla, Alabama, USA
Major Christian Charity Pulls Operations from India
COMPASSION INTERNATIONAL, a Colorado-based Christian charity, was given the option to either register as a religious organization or stop transferring funds to India. In response, after 48 years of work, the organization decided to discontinue its operations in India.
According to The New York Times, more than 11,000 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have lost their licenses to accept foreign funds since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014. Compassion International, repeatedly ranked as India’s largest single foreign donor, has been transferring around US$45 million each year. The organization solicits donations through its $38-a-month “sponsor a child” program and distributes them through church-affiliated service centers.
In January, 2017, Compassion’s general counsel went to New Delhi to plead their case to India’s foreign secretary, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in a meeting also attended by the second-ranked United States diplomat in India. Indian officials suggested that Compassion International re-register its Indian partners as religious entities. The charity’s legal team discouraged this option, saying it would lead to further paralysis.
A Ministry of External Affairs official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Compassion International’s partners were violating Indian law by engaging in religious activities, and confirmed that the organization had declined a government offer to re-register as a religious organization, which would have allowed it to continue its work in India but under increased governmental scrutiny.
An Indian Home Ministry official interviewed by The Hindu said, “Compassion Int. has been told it will not be taken off the watch list. The representatives were here a few days ago and they were shown evidence of religious conversions being done by NGOs funded by them. There is no rescinding the decision,” At the meeting, various sources confirmed, the Indian side made it clear that CI, accused of funding NGOs unregistered for religious activity, would get no exemption from the FCRA ruling for “prior permissions.”
Adverse reports on two CI-funded NGOs—Chennai-based Caruna Bal Vikas Trust and Compassion East India—were instrumental in putting the foreign donor on the Home Ministry’s watch list, said The Hindu’s sources. Among other regulatory issues, CI’s own mission statement on its website, which says its aim is for “children in poverty to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults,” had raised a red flag.
IN NOVEMBER, 2016, MALAYSIA issued 750,000 postage stamps in a series called “Places of Worship.” The stamps feature houses of God for five major religions—Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Buddhism.
IN INDONESIA, US VICE PRESIDENT mike Pence met with religious leaders of Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Confucianism in April, 2017. Pence expressed appreciation to the nation “for its shared commitment to religious freedom and reaffirmed that the United States will continue to defend this fundamental freedom, at home and abroad.”
KANSAS STATE’S BENEDICTINE College announced in April, 2017, that the campus will no longer offer academic or recreational yoga classes after spring semester 2017. The decision was made in response to a growing number of concerns from students, alumni and faculty, and by request of Archbishop Joseph Naumann and Abbot James Albers. College president Stephen Minnis summarized, “Yoga as created has some potential for Eastern mysticism, which has caused concern among members of the Catholic Church.”
THE HINDU UNIVERSITY OF America, in conjunction with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, announced a two-part on-line training course to become a certified Hindu chaplain. Chaplains work within hospitals, hospices, prisons or schools, providing spiritual care to patients, inmates or students. The self-study course is supervised using state-of-the-art virtual class software by Swami Sarvaananda, a board certified chaplain with 15 years experience in medical and hospice chaplaincy. The first 12-week course introduces students to the concept of chaplaincy, while the second teaches the basics of pastoral care and spiritual counseling. See: bit.ly/HinduChaplain.
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