Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami spent the weekend at a ranch in Lucas, Texas (near Plano), with the national officers of the newly formed Hindu Students Association. They requested this retreat with Bodhinatha to help them get a better, more solid foundation in Hinduism so they could be effective leaders of their organization and lead more balanced, religious lives themselves.
During the morning, Bodhinatha took a walk around the ranch. There is a small pond on the 33 acres.
The road up to the main house on the left. Stables on the right, and a couple of old barns nearby.
There is Sonny Mehta on the left. He is a marketing executive for a hospice in Houston and the president of Hindu Students Association.
On the right is Jiger Patel, a software engineer and vice president of HSA, and on the left his new wife, Swati. They live in Irving, near Dallas.
Kushal Mehta, HSA’s CTO, recently moved to Cambridge to start his PhD work in astronomy at Harvard. Ramya Ravi, a field engineer for a medical device company in Houston, is HSA’s CFO.
Kavita Pallod from Houston, currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Education and Psychology from University of Texas at Austin, is an HSA executive branch president. Atul Agrawal, an engineer at Exxon Mobil in Beaumont, Texas, is HSA’s executive secretary.
Sonal Dhawan, a physical therapist from New York.
All of the leaders were completely engaged and full of excellent questions. Understanding Hinduism and applying it in their lives is paramount to them. Bodhinatha presented fantastic material, mostly on the topic of developing oneself in the four yogas (karma, bhakti, raja and jnana) to give them a better idea of what the different sects and sampradayas within Hinduism teach, how to tell them apart, what they all mean, how they each take a slightly different path to the goal and how a balanced life includes some of all four. Other topics included mantra, affirmation, tantra. Senthilnathaswami gave early-morning classes in hatha yoga and meditation and led a discussion on how to have effective harmonious and effective leadership discussion. All the topics were chosen by the leaders themselves prior to the retreat. The material Bodhinatha prepared was thorough and ever so applicable to their lives in every way.
The leaders asked Senthilnathaswami to guide them in cooking lunch after teaching a class on the basics of the ayurvedic approach to food for spiritual living.
Everyone was involved. Here, a little training in how to chop vegetables.
String beans. Lots of string beans. Some parents and other guests from the community were invited, so we were cooking for about 25 people.
Electric stove. OK… We can do this.
Sonal fries onions and spices for the dal in ghee we made on the spot.
Our menu included brown rice, simple sambar, beans poriyal and paneer with spicy tomato gravy. (Thanks to Padmaja Patel for bringing homemade paneer all the way from Midland! Preparing the paneer alone would have taken an extra hour or two.)
We only had an hour and a half, but we did it! Part of the idea was to show how easily and quickly a delicious, nutritious Indian meal could be created. Of course, cooking just for oneself or for a few others could be done in an even shorter period, maybe one hour. It beats frozen food or take-out!
After lunch, Karishma Himatsinghani from Radio Karishma interviewed Bodhinatha for her local Internet radio station.
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Bodhinatha's Latest Upadeshas: "The Difference in Practice of Theism and Monism" (September 3, 2014)
During a puja we're in Theism, to receive the blessings of the Deity. After a puja we can go within our self in meditation, giving up the idea of an external Deity, Monism. Monistic Theism: Advaita Ishvaravada. Advaita means the Monism; Ishvara means the Theism.
In Shum we use two words that relate to that: shumif and dimfi. First, perfect your Theism. Then become a monist. That's called Saiva Siddhanta; one leads to the other.