State of the Church 2007

Planning for the future. Shum Mamsani booklet in progress includes: Story of Shum language, states of awareness, meditations, alphabet, colors. 12 related classes during Innersearch 2008. "Saivite Hindu Religion" Book 4 published in color. "Hinduism Today" digital 5 issues online with 5700 subscribers. Palaniswami's trip to Asia. Planned travel and seminars. Highlights of Innersearch 2008. Iraivan and Himalayan Acres updates.

Unedited Transcript:

This is our first homa after the New Year in mid-April and every year we give a talk which lays out the coming year and important goals we have in mind. Gurudeva was very keen on planning, so previously we put that on his birthday, January 5th, but decided a better time for it is right after the New Year in mid-April. This is our first one on new date so we call it, the annual talk is called State of the Church, this one 2007. So being mid-April it will cover mid-April to mid-April.

And Gurudeva, we mentioned, was very keen on planning, encouraged all the families to have a plan for a few years into the future and to update the plan once a year. This is just, this time of year is the perfect time of year to update your plan; astrology is such that it's a natural time to think ahead and plan the major aspects of your life, not all the details but a few things in each major category is fine.

So in terms of what we're doing here at the monastery.

Been working hard on a booklet on the twelve Shum Mamsani. For those of you who don't know, Mamsani is a basic meditation map created by Gurudeva, just has a couple of words in it, it's not complicated. A few words in the language he created for meditation which is the Shum language. And just to make sure we didn't forget the twelve meditation maps he had them carved into the pillars of the Iraivan Temple. So, they'll be staring at us for the lifetime of Iraivan Temple which is projected as a thousand years. Gives it a guaranteed future. So the booklet has a little more than just the twelve Mamsani. Has in it also the story of Shum which is Gurudeva's personal narrative of how Shum came to be, back in 1968, when Gurudeva started the Shum language. As in the "Advaitin" which is the book Gurudeva was writing which catalyzed him to discover the Shum language, cause he realized trying to explain all of these concepts in English was impossible. The idea is that any technical subject develops a specialized vocabulary. Computers are a good example. All the words in computers weren't around fifty years ago. Developed a huge vocabulary in terms to enable everyone to be precise regarding computers. So, Gurudeva felt no language did that for meditation. He tried Sanskrit for a while but found that it was really very broad in it's terms. Take a concept like jyoti or light in Sanskrit, it had no precise meaning. Very broad so he decided to discover his own language which is the Shum language.

There's a section on awareness and consciousness. Has a simple version of the "Preparation for Meditation." Short explanation of each of the seven dimensions of the mind. Description of the seven chakras and the corresponding Shum words and the first eighteen images of the Shum alphabet along with the color. What is it some ninety pages right now? When you lay it out it's at about ninety pages of material. So it's a very good introductory study. So, what we're trying to do is tie everything together in a mystical way so that we're all meditating on the same general topics every month. So these are simple meditations in their original form and so in that way they're ideal for pilgrims who come here to practice and there's one for each month of the year. But we also have two other versions; one for members who've signed up for the Shum study and then another one for monks which has quite a few advanced words, that's for monks. So they all tie together to the same mamsani but each one's quite different.

So the versions for the members and the monks are just computer files, pdf files in the computer, we're not printing them out, we're sending them around by e-mail. So it has, a typical lesson has the mamsani, Gurudeva's bhashya on the mamsani, his commentary, has definitions of all the words in the mamsani. Then it has some Shum script practice to encourage us to learn--those of us who don't know the additional thirty-six letters, letters seventy-three to 108 script practice. Get us up to speed on 108 letters. Then it has a general exercise which has suggestions for the preparation for meditation and then it has the meditation that's in some way related to the mamsani. Depends on the mamsani-- how it works--because some of them are very profound meditations in themselves and others don't really have a lot of material right in the mamsani which you can meditate on and extrapolate out from them.

So we've been working on that and have started it. All twelve of the lessons, Shum lessons, are written, ready to be issued for the next year. And we're also developing the same material as satsanga for teaching classes on it. So it'll be a subject matter of Innersearch. Self-study program, in January of 2008, we'll have twelve classes, one for each of the mamsani. So I'm working on those still. The earliest we've prepared a study program for innersearch, sets a record. Usually that's the last thing to do. Find we have to stay up the night before, print it all out. But, I don't know about the printing, I can't guarantee when it'll be printed, but certainly it's going to be written within a month or two. And we're also drawing on some of this material for a weekend retreat in Northern California at the end of May. Memorial Day weekend retreat, there's four classes by me and so I'll draw on material for that. So we're going to make good use of it and energize the mamsani for this year. Keep it going for the future.

So in other areas "Saivite Hindu Religion Children's Course," Book Four was printed recently in Malaysia--we just got a few copies in the mail. Its our first one that's done in color on the inside, that's color photographs and color paintings, and much more refined publication than Books One Two and Three. We also have copies of Books One and Two that have been redone. The art work was upgraded by Manivelu in Chennai and so along with the Book Three which we had printed in the U.S. about two years ago, we now have new versions of Books One through Four of Saivite Hindu Religion Course ready to go. And Books Five and Six are still in the writing and editing stage. So they need some more effort to get them done. Then we'll have all six books in the series in the near future.

Something we started a year ago was the digital edition of "Hinduism Today Magazine." Started with the April 2006 issue. So for 2007 is online, so we created five quarterly issues so far of the digital magazine. And within a year we've managed to go from zero subscribers to the digital edition to 5700. So that's about five-hundred subscribers a month are signing up. Sivakatirswami would like to say: "Verified subscribers!" Sometimes we get some, as anyone does who has a web site, we get some people signing up on forms who are not serious about it. But we have 5700 verified subscribers and pleasant surprise to all of us was this country, with the second largest number of subscriptions, is India. You know,wouldn't have thought that right? In terms of digital edition, we tend to think of India as, those of you who are familiar with India's phone system, you know, you think technologically it's lagging. But somehow when it comes to the internet, I guess cause it's such a major source of income, they're not lagging. So the internet connection more common in India, has to do net connections than you might think. And getting even more so, so we're very encouraged by the number of subscribers in India without any advertising at all and we do want to focus sometime during this coming year in promoting the digital edition more in India. So the people... significantly increase in number of subscribers by doing that.

Important accomplishment that happened in the last few months is our new book: "What is Hinduism" finally arrived here and we've started promoting it. Most of you are familiar with it. It assembles parts of "Hinduism Today," have a center section which we call the educational insight section. Forty-six of them, in other words, we drew from forty-six different magazines, took the insight section and assembled it all together in one book. So definitely easier than thumbing through forty-six magazines. Tends to fall apart after ten to fifteen years, some of the older ones. So its a very valuable resource and it's already gaining some interest in popularity. So in order to promote it we've developed a half day seminar based on it and this utilizes the Apple computer Keynote which is the Apple equivalent of Power Point which is the common name. So we're able to project up the screen a number of slides. How many slides do we have now? So two hundred and sixty slides with commentary. It's two and a half hours of solid material, just keep going, there's a break in the middle--half an hour break. So it's an hour and a half, half an hour break and an hour. That's the general plans. Three hour seminar like from nine to twelve based on it. We call this "Session One" because we plan to develop two more sessions, two more parts. So it'll be a three part series all together and it'll be a perennial, in other words, it's not going to become outdated. It'll be useful every year as long as the book isn't significantly modified, go right along with the book, promote the book. Whole thing's going together is a good combination, because the seminar and then someone can buy the book and recall the information at home, which is the biggest challenge is retention. Everyone can understand a lot during the seminar but then it goes away quickly. It's impossible to take thorough notes but if you're able to buy the book which contains everything that was said, plus more, it's an excellent combination for teaching.

And one of the things we've found about these kind of seminars with the digital presentations are that they're very effective in helping the seminar participants focus on the material. Gives them something to look at. And I was very impressed in Singapore, we had a full day seminar. It's very hard to have the same amount of attention in the afternoon after everyone's eaten lunch and so forth, hot climate, you get sleepy. But we were going and we were going late. We were supposed to stop around five and we were still going at five-thirty. But everyone was very attentive, fully focused the screen. No one was nodding off or half there. And why was that? Because they had something to watch. Because they could see something it helped them stay attentive. Easier to concentrate. They had something to look at like I remember school teachers have always used blackboards. You put something up on the blackboard and then the students can follow it better.

So in the realm of innersearch and retreat programs as I mentioned, we have a weekend retreat coming up this Memorial Day in Northern California, and our major program of course is the three week 2008 Asian Odyssey to Cambodia, Malaysia and South India, which is January of 2008. So we have a variety of experiences planned in that program from history, going to Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia, that'll be very interesting. In a grand scale they built temples on back then. Going to Thai Pusam at Batu Caves in Malaysia and it'll, an intimate gathering with a million people. So we thought it's good for those who are used to Hinduism on a small scale to see it on a grand scale. In other words get used to Hinduism in North America for example in Europe, Australia, you never see a million people gather and worship. So it's a wonderful experience to participate in something like that, it gives you sense of the scale of Hinduism. Hinduism does have the biggest religious gathering on the planet is the Kumbha Mela. You feel like every thing's on a grand scale as well as intimate scale.

Then we have some important temples in Tamil Nadu, and we'll have some quality time there, we promised not to rush in and out. We voted for taking our time and getting special pujas arranged, so we're going to for example, Rameshvaram, Tiruchendur Temples. And we have two class times, quiet times. The first is on Langkawi Island in Malaysia and the second in Kovalama, Kerala India. We started promoting this program early and we have a record number of enrollees already. How many do we have? Thirty nine. Thirty nine individuals who've signed up already for this program. That's quite a lot. Last program we took what, ninety plus to India? We didn't know how many to take but that's roughly almost half the normal sized group to India signed up already.

And in terms of travel, our first major trip of the year is today and I'm not going. Five week trip, marathon trip to India and Mauritius. Paramacharya Palaniswami and Yogi Jivanandanatha are going. And Mauritius the program is mainly with the members and students there, are giving a half day seminar, public talk on the first Sunday of the month. In Mauritius we have a public homa which attracts, at this point, at least a thousand people. Every Sunday come, cause there parking havoc in the neighborhood but no one cares in Mauritius. So on Ganesha Chaturthi get over five thousand people through out the day, not all at one time. People coming off the... Somewhere between one and five thousand people the number that come for the special homas there so with Palaniswami and Jivananda there, they'll probably get fifteen hundred people at least for that event.

Satsangs in member's homes and a few public talks at temples. In India the time is mostly project oriented and includes important meetings to advance the Iraivan Temple carving and various publication and video projects. Palaniswami has lined up appointments for all throughout North, Middle and South India. So this is going to be a grand trip which departs this afternoon at what time? Three, leaving here at three this afternoon.

In terms of my trips, we're going to Flint Michigan about a week from now, I better look at the date. For Hindu Temple Council of North America. Regional Temple Council in the U.S. originally formed by the Ganesha Temple in New York. So normally we don't go but they insisted. Kept calling and calling and saying: "You have to come." They want to give us an award for our efforts in promoting Hinduism, which of course award should go to Gurudeva but we'll take it, good to have. So just a weekend event they have there in Flint a Siva Temple, Sivalingam Temple where it's being held at.

End of May is our Memorial Day weekend retreat in Northern California. And the next scheduled trip is in July, we're making a short trip, it's only about a week long, to Singapore and Malaysia. Short version this year so have the seminar on Saturday in Singapore and a half day seminar Sunday in Malaysia, so there's be satsangs around that.

And then in October, middle of October, we have our standard program. We go through Southern California for a reception on Saturday and Northern California reception on Sunday and send out invitations to a larger list of devotees so we can share with them what we are doing.

So of course at the Aadheenam our main activity continues to be the Iraivan temple jointing. And we have all the pillars except two outside. Those two are not up on purpose, they need to do certain things. Once we put them up we can't get the forklift or the ... or both in, can't get them inside, both of them inside. So as soon as we put up those pillars it'll block, too narrow for equipment to drive in. So we need to use equipment inside two very ... equipment and then once that's all done, put up the final two pillars, that's why that hasn't gone up.

Silphis have been keeping busy with ornamentation of the sanctum, fine designs that Sthapati Selvanathan came here and made out for them to do. There'll be refinements going all around outside of the sanctum, various courses throughout more refined, developed.

And then across the river we have some land that keeps us busy, four hundred acres over there, agricultural activities and our major focus is on trees. So we're continuing to plant trees for windbreaks, fruit production and hardwood over there. So it's coming along well, four hundred acres altogether of former sugar cane land with takes forever to get functioning as something else. We've been working at it, how many years now have we been working? Five or six years we've been working at it. How many acres do we have in decent shape? However you want to define it. O.K. Four hundred acres is a large piece of land when you see it openly. Main impression it just keeps going and going and going. So it's coming along, we don't have the best soil nor do we have much potential for irrigation so we, the crop that grows the best is anything that's off the ground, freeform, a form of tree that does really well over there, don't mind the soil or the lack of irrigation. Or sometimes we get a lot of rain too.

So that gives you a sense of some of the things that are happening over the next year.

[End of transcript.]