WORLD RELIGIOUS PROJECTIONS
ACCORDING TO RECENT DEMOGRAPHIC projections from the Pew Research Center, the world’s religious populations could be in for some intriguing changes over the next 35 years. The projections attempt a preview of what the world would look like in 2050 if current trends were to continue uninterrupted. Taking into account the current size and geographic distribution of the world’s major religions, age differences, fertility and mortality rates, migrations and patterns in conversion, the projections show a variety of shifts.
PEW RESEARCH CENTER
Global faiths: A Hindu woman prays
One such shift is that while India will maintain its Hindu majority, it will outrun Indonesia in having the largest Muslim population in the world. In the US, Christianity will drop from 75% of the population to around 66%, and while it is expected to retain the highest population worldwide, the Muslim population will become a close second. If the global population rises to the projected 9.3 billion, the Hindu population is expected to increase 34% to nearly 1.4 billion people.
Global faiths: This chart shows 2015-2050 projections for the number of religious adherents (left column) and for the major religion’s global percentages (right)
THE VIRGINIA BOARD OF EDUCATION approved new history and social science standards in March, improving the way Hinduism and the history of India will be taught in public schools. The change was in large part due to the work of the Hindu American Foundation. The Board’s vote paved the way for a new curriculum frameworks revision in the state and subsequent textbook adoption. Previous Indian history standards placed emphasis on the caste system and Aryan migrations. The new standards will place emphasis on locating India in time and place, including its origins and early development. The Aryan migration will be presented as a debatable concept.
A complicated palate: Indian food has been found to have a complexity of contrasting flavors, unique among cuisines
RESEARCHERS AT THE INDIAN Institute for Technology in Jodhpur recently set out to discover just what it is that makes Indian food so tasty. According to a recent article in The Washington Post, the research team has discovered a key reason why Indian food is unique.
The team explored more than 2,000 recipes, breaking them down to their ingredients, then comparing how often and to what intensity the ingredients share flavor compounds. On average, ingredients will have about 50 flavor compounds, such as acetal, a refreshing, fruity flavor that you’ll find in apple and orange juices and raw beets.
It was discovered that Indian food does something radical with flavor which is quite different from what is commonly done in Western cuisines. In the West, foods are often made using ingredients that have overlapping flavors. Indian cuisine however, appears to fly in the opposite direction, combining ingredients with decidedly different flavor compounds.
Raising the bar: The new history standards will encourage accurate information on Hinduism and Indian history in textbooks
THERE HAS BEEN A RECENT flurry of Hindu temple consecrations in various European countries. The Hindu Temple of Alesund in Norway, the Edinburgh Hindu Mandir & Cultural Center in Scotland, the Krefeld Hindu Temple in Germany and the Hindu Temple of Zizers in Switzerland have all celebrated their official openings.
The Vinayagar temple in the small town of Alesund has become Norway’s fourth Hindu temple. More than 350 Tamil residents living in the area had gone a long time without a central place of worship for their community. The town and its leaders are supportive of the new temple. One Lutheran leader stated, “This is about having respect for diversity. Christians here have found such diversity very beneficial, and so has our society at large.”
After three decades of gradual improvements and community support, the Hindu Mandir and Cultural Center, Edinburgh’s first Hindu temple, has officially opened for worship with the appointment of a full-time priest. The center will also host classes for children, including music, language, dance and traditional worship.
In Germany, the Krefeld Temple concluded its renovation with a four-day festival. The interior of the former textile building has been decorated and painted, and 14 stone carvings, including several Deities, have been installed. The community’s 300 Hindu families from the surrounding area can now attend the temple.
On March 8, the Hindus of Zizers, Switzerland, completed the renovation of an industrial building to serve as their first temple. The inauguration was led by a Sri Lankan priest and included songs, prayer and dance with the traditional consecration. The temple will serve about 150 local families.
Strengthening Hindu communities: Over 1,300 people join to celebrate the opening of the Edinburgh Hindu Mandir & Cultural Center, the first of its kind in Edinburgh
MATAJI PASSES ON AT AGE 88
ON FEBRUARY 20, 2015, Ma Yoga Shakti Saraswati attained mahasamadhi in California at the age of 88. Mataji, as she was affectionately known, created and sustained four ashrams located around the world and was given the title of Maha Mandaleshwar during the 1974 Kumbha Mela at Haridwar. HINDUISM TODAY honored her as Hindu of the Year in 2000.
Suhag Shukla echoes the thoughts of Mataji’s devotees in a Huffington Post article: “She, amongst others, in following a higher calling, had entered the traditionally male-dominated world of Hindu ascetics. She was an embodiment of maternal, wisdom-filled love to all those who approached her.”
Ma Mokshapriya Shakti—ordained disciple and successor of Mataji, who has served her guru since 1978—said that Mataji’ ashes will be brought to Haridwar, India.
A woman of vision: Ma Yoga Shakti quietly traveled around the world, teaching yoga, singing bhajana, advising and uplifting all
HEALTH & WELLNESS
A SECOND CHANCE
MARK BERTOLINI, THE 58-year-old chief executive of Aetna—one of the largest healthcare insurers in America—almost died in a skiing accident in February of 2004. In the years following his near-death experience, he set about overhauling his personal health regimen. He has also reshaped the culture of his company with a series of unorthodox changes.
Attributing his own recovery to yoga, Mr. Bertolini saw an opportunity to improve Aetna by introducing free yoga and mindfulness/meditation classes. At the end of a three-month test period, participants reported significant reduction in perceived stress and sleep difficulties. In addition, measures of heart rate variability and cortisol levels decreased.
To develop the curriculum, Aetna enlisted the American Viniyoga Institute, which advocates a form of yoga involving breathing techniques and gentle poses. To develop the meditation program, Aetna turned to eMindful, a Florida-based company that takes its inspiration from the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, an avid proponent in the mindfulness movement.
To date, over 13,000 workers have participated in the classes.
“Yoga has made me question what I do and how I look at the world,” Mr. Bertolini said. “It’s made me consider my influence and how I treat people.” Case in point: in January, 2015, Mark gave his lowest-paid employees a 33 percent raise.
Unorthodox leadership: Mark Bertolini, chief executive of Aetna
GODS AND GODDESSES
EXPRESSING HIS SPIRITUALITY through art, Indra Sharma’s (1923-2006) unique masterpieces inspire peace and reflection in the viewer. A new edition of his book In a World of Gods and Goddesses, first published in 2001, contains sections on major Hindu Deities and classic Vedic texts. The book includes smaller, reformatted art and accompanying descriptions with text from James H. Bae, a practitioner of Hindu yoga, and a forward by Indian sociologist Dr. Yogesh Atal.
By combining contemporary and traditional artistic styles, Sharma creates images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses that are altars of worship. Sharma has produced several hundred masterpieces over the past five decades, and a generous selection of these is presented here to preserve these timeless paintings for posterity. With painstaking detail put into each illustration, these beautiful works of art highlight the intricate mythology and beauty of the Hindu pantheon. As quoted by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, “Indra Sharma has been an emissary for Hinduism’s rishis and the beings of the Devaloka, bringing their darshan through his paintings.”
Indra Sharma: “For me, painting is my prayer, painting is my puja, my ultimate joy and peace with nature”
REMOVER OF OBSTACLES
DURING THE 2015 SUPERBOWL, professional American football player Tom Brady of the New England Patriots—considered one of greatest quarterbacks of all time, earning over $30 million in 2014—had a small Ganesha murti in his locker. When a visitor expressed curiosity about the statue, Brady responded definitively: “The remover of obstacles.” His team won the game.
Ganesha’s help: The remover of obstacles silently assisting in the professional quarterback’s locker
MORE THAN 220,000 CHANTERS
were brought together on January 31st, 2015, by Ganapathy Sachidananda Swamiji in Tenali, India, to chant for world peace. The participants repeatedly chanted verses of the Hanuman Chalisa, praising Lord Hanuman, who manifests energy, happiness and protection. The Guinness Book of World Records has recognized the event as a world record for the most people ever chanting at once.
HINDUISM TODAY AND KAUAI
Aadheenam are pleased to announce the posting of key Saiva Agamas translated into English by Dr. S.P. Sabharathnam Sivacharyar of Chennai. His works finished works during the past few years include: (1) part one of the Kamika Agama’s Purva Pada and most of part two of the Uttara Pada; (2) the Vidya Pada of four Agamas: Raurava, Pauskara, Mrgendra and Matanga; and (3) the Yoga Pada of the Sarvajnanottara Agama. Each of these Agamas is a key scripture of Saiva Siddhanta, and this is the first time these sections have been translated into English. Visit bit.ly/saivaagamas [http://bit.ly/saivaagamas] to see them online.
ACCORDING TO A 2014 STUDY
done by the Barna Group, 1.2 million people will leave the Catholic Church this year. This will coincide with over 10,000 Christian churches closing down. The majority of leaving individuals say they no longer feel connected.
THE 2015 UNITED STATES
Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has submitted its recommendations, which are intended to inform the USDA’s official 2015 dietary guidelines (to be released later this year). According to the chapter on food sustainability, an organic, vegan diet has the highest potential health benefits and provides food security while sustaining natural resources for future generations. A vegetarian diet is one of three recommended for overall health.
INDIA’S UNION SCIENCE AND
Technology minister Harsh Vardhan announced in February his theory that physicians in India used ayurveda to immunize against smallpox hundreds of years before the vaccine was made widely understood by Edward Jenner in 1796. “The facts will all remain facts,” the Minister quipped, not wanting to boast about the sophistication of Indian medicine so many centuries ago.
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