Protocol in Hiring Priests
IN DECEMBER, 2015, India’s Supreme Court ruled that the hiring of temple priests in Tamil Nadu may continue in accordance with the guidelines given in the age-old Agamas—but only so long as the specific guidelines used do not conflict with the Constitution. The fundamental right to freedom of religion, the court ruled, is not confined to doctrines and beliefs but extends to essential practices done in pursuance of that faith.
The decision was based on Article 16(5) of the Constitution, which upholds the right of religious organizations to reserve their religious offices—including their priesthood—for members of their own religion or denomination.
The court noted that the criteria for such appointments should not include caste, birth or any other constitutionally unacceptable factors. The court will determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular appointment is constitutional.
A Tamil Nadu government order of May 23, 2006, had allowed any qualified and trained Hindu to be appointed as priest in Hindu temples. This government order had been challenged by the Adi Saiva Sivacharyargal Nala Sangam, leading to the present ruling by the Supreme Court.
Long lineage: Temple priests have always followed Agamic custom
Calling All Yogis
IN DECEMBER, 2015, The National Federation of Yoga Teachers in Mexico made an open call for expert yogis who want to be certified to teach yoga in Mexico’s public schools. Grants will be available.
A pilot program is in the works for all public elementary schools in the state of Quintana Roo, in Yucatan, joining those already under way in the state of Jalisco and the Mexico City Federal District. Approval is expected for expansion of these programs in schools across the country.
Taught by professionals: Elementary children practicing simple yoga
Mariela Ruiz, representing the Federation, feels it is only a matter of time before yoga is taught in every public school in Mexico. “The National Federation of Yoga has come up with the idea of supporting education in Mexico by promoting yoga as a sport to reduce both obesity and bullying, to change the direction of the children and have a better society,” Ruiz said. “This is not new. It is used in other countries; it reduces the children’s stress and enables them to be more successful in their studies.”
It is estimated that at least 2,000 teachers will be needed to meet the demand. “One would need to be certified by the Federation to be part of this project” Ruiz added. She also said that Tulum city is “a portal for yoga and there is the possibility of the Federation also certifying people who are not Mexicans.”
Culture Class Rejected
ON OCTOBER 30, 2015, The Academic Council of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, rejected a proposal by the University Grants Commission and the Human Resource Development ministry for the introduction of three short-term courses in Indian culture and yoga.
After being circulated among various schools and departments for feedback, the draft was put before the council along with the responses. The council unanimously rejected the proposal, an Academic Council member told sources.
No culture classes for now: JNU’s Academic Council building
The draft states that the course would be aimed at expounding the importance of the country’s culture as well as exploring the etymological, social, spiritual, cultural and mythological aspects and establishing Indian values in the world. The course would have contained the texts, thoughts and traditions of India’s different cultures and religious systems, deriving ways from these sources to make human life better. This includes reading from scriptures, such as the Gita, the Vedas and the Ramayana.
India’s new BJP government supports the idea of educational campuses working to promote the nation’s rich heritage and restore its cultural identity. This is a common objective in other countries. The rejection of the proposal at JNU by the Marxist-oriented faculty is criticized of being ideologically motivated.
Mindfulness Is Here to Stay
MANY MAJOR COMPANIES, including Google, Target, General Mills, Intel and Aetna, offer mindfulness training to their employees, some since 2006. As these organizations can attest, bringing mindfulness to the workplace decreases stress levels while improving listening- and decision-making skills, focus, clarity and overall well-being. Perhaps most importantly from a management perspective, mindfulness gives employees permission to think, to prioritize and to focus fully on the task at hand instead of diluting attention through constant multitasking.
Mindfulness is the essence of engagement. Being fully present—and allowing your team to be fully in the moment—reaps rewards on a personal, professional and corporate level.
Clearing the mind: Employees at Google participating in a MindBody Awareness class at their offices in Kirkland
First Hindu Cemetery Inaugurated
IN OCTOBER, 2015, With flowers, incense, bells and music from traditional Indian instruments, priests ceremoniously blessed Germany’s first Hindu burial ground, a 2,000-square-meter space bordering the municipal cemetery in the city of Hamm. The ceremony was attended by the mayor, who was gifted a beautiful shawl in appreciation of the city’s support for its Hindu population.
In traditional Hindu practice, the body is burned in the open air at cremation ghats and the ashes are then scattered in the Ganga or other sacred river. As Hindus settle around the globe, rituals must be adapted to the laws of the host country or region. Scattering cremation ashes on a body of water is prohibited in Germany, so instead the cremation is followed by burial of the ash-filled urn. This is not the case throughout all of Europe; in Lucerne, Switzerland, for instance, the ashes may be scattered in a river.
The wheel of dharma: Germany’s first Hindu cemetery consists of eight individual fields, created by the Hindu symbol of the wheel of Dharma. The wheel represents Hindu ethics, morality and justice.
Arumugan Paskaran, the priest of Hamm’s largest Hindu temple, believes the new burial plot will be well accepted by his parishioners.
With 25,000 of Germany’s 100,000 Hindus, Hamm ranks second only to London as a European home for Hindus. Germany’s Hindus include those of Indian, Sri Lankan, Balinese, European and Afghan origin.
Krishna on Display
THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO hosted a spectacular Krishna art exhibit from September 13, 2015, to January 3, 2016. Comprising over 100 pieces of art from public and private collections in India and the United States, the exhibition took visitors through a year in the life of Nathdwara, a town in Rajasthan, India, where the daily worship of Shrinathji (the form of Krishna as a seven-year-old boy) is characterized by the changing seasons and a bustling festival calendar.
Visitors saw gallery after gallery of pichvais, the large textile paintings displayed on the wall behind the sacred image in a shrine—each one uniquely suited to a particular festival, season or time of day. The accompanying miniature paintings offered further insight into the Vaishnava sect known as Pushtimarg: its mode of worship, history and important priests and patron families.
Enhancing the experience of the sect’s rich culture were festival and devotional music, a shrine reconstruction, touch-screen kiosks that allowed visitors to page through religious manuscripts, an artist’s sketchbook and a historic photo album. The exhibition concluded with an exploration of the works, sketches and observations of prominent 20th- and 21st-century Nathdwara artists who have kept the painting tradition flourishing.
Works of art were borrowed from the Amit Ambalal Collection and the TAPI Collection of Praful and Shilpa Shah.
Holy gathering: Art curator Madhuvanti Ghose, who conceived the exhibit; Pichvai for Morakuti (rainy season), late 19th century; Pichvai for the Sharad Purnima festival, late 19th century.
SINGAPORE HAS LIFTED THE BAN
on live music at Tai Pusam, implemented back in 1973 due to group rivalries. The Singapore government has decided to relax the rules based on ten feedback sessions with 116 members of the Hindu community. Over the course of two months, the community participants shared that music is important to the festival, with 65 percent wanting traditional Indian instruments to be part of the religious event. The release of the ban is considered by some to be an historical first instance of authorities listening to the concerns and needs of the Hindu community.
THE FIRST YOGA LOUNGE WAS
introduced to London’s Gatwick airport in October, 2015. The yoga lounge shows a short video they are calling “floga” or pre-flight yoga, to help reduce the negative effects that flying has on the body.
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