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 The section of this narrative on India and Hinduism is woefully inadequate, outdated and rather offensive, and Hinduism is presented in a way which is nearly unrecognizable to an adult practicing Hindu.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!
With great enthusiasm, the monastery welcomed the two-day visit of Swami Aksharananda of Guyana. Swami has mixed with us at the annual HMEC meetings in the US and recently at the World Hindu Congress in New Delhi.
Swami came with a mission, to help the 500 students in his school. He is eager to engage them more in Hindu studies and finds the Himalayan Academy books and resources the best out there for this work. Swami also has formally invited Bodhinatha to come to Guyana, meet his teachers and students, give talks and uplift the 300,000 Hindus in the nation.
Swami told the monks during lunch that they probably do not know how deeply their work and life here affects the wider world. He said Gurudeva's ashram is unique in all the world, both for keeping the H-word in its vocabulary and for genuinely embracing and supporting all of the sampradayas in a truly universal spirit. We could add that Swami's own heart is of that same spirit.
Swami Aksharananda is a key figure in the Hindu community of Guyana. As a Hindu scholar and Prinicipal of the Saraswati Vidya Niketan (SVN) High School, he was honored by Vishwa Adhyayan Kendra and Keshav-Srishti on Friday January 4, 2008 during a ceremony at the Alkesh Mody Auditorium, Kalina Campus, Mumbai. Swami was honored for his work in the areas of education and social service in Guyana. He has an MA in Sanskrit from Banaras Hindu University and PhD in Hindu Studies from the University of Madison, Wisconsin.
Acharya Arumuganathaswami and Sadhaka Jayanatha leave home today for the open road of California's educational highway. The primary goal of their trip is to meet the Sacramento Instructional Quality Commission to discuss the standards for presenting Hinduism in California schools. Stay tuned for more updates...
Unless kundalini is active, the deepest meditative states are not available to us. But to activate kundalini, Gurudeva tells us we must invoke the grace of Lord Ganesha and Lord Murugan. "Yoga is internalized worship which leads to union with God." Experience the inside of you in a profound way. This requires dispassion. The popular term "kriya yoga" usual refers to a form of pranayama, but the original kriya yoga is defined by Sage Patanajli as the practice of three of the niyamas: tapas, svadhyaya and Isvarapranidhana. To achieve samadhi we practice yoga, steady restraint of mental activities, austerity, meditation, detachment, self study and worship of God. Communion with the Ishta Devata, the chosen God is a key and also Gurudeva tells us: the Deity chooses you.
Master Course, Dancing with Siva, Lesson 39
Master Course, Merging with Siva, Lesson 5
Patanjali's Yoga Sutras