In December, Acharya Arumuganathaswami and Sadhaka Jayanatha spent more than a week in California talking with Hindu parents and then attending the meeting of the Instructional Quality Commission of the State Board of Education. Here, you can download the list of edits that was submitted for the proposed revision of the Framework for 6th grade teaching of ancient India and Hinduism in US schools. This revision was assembled in collaboration with Dr. Shiva Bajpai and the Uberoi Foundation. While in California, the two spoke with over 400 parents and students, mostly at the Bal Vihar classes of Chinmaya Mission. Many of those parents wanted to know how they could help, having had first-hand experience with the impact on their own children of the dismal presentation on Hinduism given in 6th grade. As a result, Hindu parents, students, academics and our two traveling monks gave testimony at the IQC meeting. This is compilation represents what they said. The Framework is to be fully revised by the Fall of 2015.
During our most recent Maha Samadhi Observances, Shanmuganathaswami gave a class to all in attendance on the sacred cow with many dimensions of this most wonderful animal. In an instant all the half sleeping children in the class moved to the front and started asking many questions! This was their favorite class of the week! After class, one of our Kulamatas created a project where they could channel their appreciation and love of the cow.
We recently received these photos from our team at Ellora Caves. Sushma Parmar of Cutting Chai Productions and actor Raj Narayan recently received permission to film at this historic temple site. Ellora was carved over a period of 100 years, straight out of the mountain side. Part two of the Hindu History movie series, as well as some shots for part three are being done here. You can watch Part 1 here
In the final stage of their journey, Acharya Arumuganathaswami and Sadhaka Jayanatha made their way through California's recent rainstorms to the state's capital. Sacramento is actually rather nice. Its downtown area is one of low-rise buildings. Interspersed around its large government offices, one finds an array small businesses, parks and unique restaurants. The goal while here is to attend the Instructional Quality Commission meeting. The IQC is reviewing the California textbook narrative, a standard narrative by which textbook publisher's model their books. The section of this narrative on India and Hinduism is woefully inadequate, outdated and rather offensive, and Hinduism is presented in a way which is nearly unrecognizable to an adult practicing Hindu. The good news is that California tends to set the educational standards for the country, and if change happens here, it is likely to ripple out to the rest of the United States.
The Monks had a day to prepare before the following day's meeting. Dr. Bajpai and Dr. Nalini Rao flew in to add their academic clout as well as their own comments at the meeting. In the evening the two monks visited the Ramalingam home in northern Sacramento. Gurudeva had personally set up their shrine room many years ago. The Hindu History Movie was presented to the attending group, and Acharya gave a short summery of the textbook issue, adding more Hindu thought behind a building energy which would culminate the next day.
The ICQ includes a discussion by the board, followed by public comments and ideally, the board then goes through all the proposed edits by various groups, such as the Koreans, Hindus, Polish, LGBT, environmentalists and more. As this is a very rare opportunity to make an impact in the educational system, some 700 edits were proposed by various groups. This large submission caused the board to make the meeting primarily for public comments, after which a group of writers and academics would go through each edit and create a new draft by May.
For what it was, the meeting went extremely well for our proposed edits to the narrative. The monks headed to the department early on the first day, as everyone had been anticipating huge crowds. Thankfully that wasn't the case. Hindus made up half of the public comments, and it was Hindu children that made up nearly a quarter of all public testimony. One of the greatest aids to our position was the group of Hindu youth and parents of the Chinmaya Mission, who we had spoken to days earlier about the issue. Again, Tushar was instrumental in making this happen with his wonderful organizational skills.
There is a section of California State Law which states that in the presentation of religion in public schools, students should always be able to remain secure in their religious beliefs. With the current presentation of Hinduism, we were hearing testimony of children feeling ashamed of their religion, some not wanting to be Hindus anymore. It is on this point that we saw the greatest potential for change. The Hindu children, who had their own personal impressions of what they'd seen in school about their religion, spoke with clarity, power and one pointed dedication to change the way Hinduism is taught. The board was extremely impressed by their words. In fact, everybody was.
The commission adjourned early, and all that seemed readily memorable of it was that the Hindu's wanted change. Their children were asking for it and nearly everyone endorsed the proposed edits of Dr. Shiva Bajpai, Acharya Arumuganathaswami and the Uberoi foundation. The next narrative draft is out of our hands now, but we think we made and strong statement.
Following the commission meeting, our monks visited the Sacramento Ganesha temple with Easan Katir, and the next day, drove to San Fransisco for their last night in the Golden State. There they walked the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoyed the foggy weather of the Bay. The next day the two travelers returned to Kauai.
After many moons the eloquent carpentry and stone work in the Media Studio Cave Entryway has finished. This was a creative collaboration between the monks (design), Kanda Alahan in California (fabrication of the roof shrine, plus innovations), and Bhani Karthigesu in Singapore (engineering the masterful and colorful wooden sculptures in North India). The result is simply magical, providing a moment of blessing and change of consciousness as one moves from the tropical gardens into the more-akashic-than-physical space of the Media Studio.
Jai to teamwork!
Bodhinatha's Latest Upadesha: "The Summit of All Religions; Regular Meditation" (February 13, 2015)
Religion has a oneness in mysticism but has major differences in terms of beliefs and practices. Unrelenting effort, working on the outside with our faults and weaknesses, allows us to manifest actual experience as a mystic, intensify our purification. We are perfect on the inside. Condition the mind by practicing meditation daily; hold a meditative vibration, samskara of restraint.
Master Course, Living with Siva, Lesson 305
Patanjali's Yoga Sutras