State of the Church 2011

Digital Dharma Drive. Ebooks. Websites: Church Members, Digital Resource Library, HHE. Printed Publications: Guru Parampara Biography, Children's Books, India History Lessons, Hinduism Today. French Institute Pondicherry: Saiva Agamas. Innersearch and Retreats: California, Asia. 2013 Innersearch. Keynotes. World Travel. Premonastics. Gurudeva Maha Samadhi Observance: October 2011, tenth annual. Iraivan Temple and Aadheenam construction. Himalayan Acres.

Unedited Transcript:

The state of the church talk.

So we've been carrying that tradition forward. And this is the fourth time we've given it on the Tamil New Year calendar, because it relates better because it has to do with planning. That's the idea. This is a natural time of year to plan.

So, this is our plan in terms of some of the major events we're striving to accomplish during the coming year.

As all of you know, we had a Digital Dharma Drive last year; a fund raising effort for our websites and free digital publications. And we ran it on our website from October 1st through December 31st. And to our surprise we raised some $60,000. it was certainly more than I anticipated. And those funds have inspired us to move forward in a number of areas.

One of them is in the ebook area. Previously, we were attempting, shall I say, attempting to produce ebooks on our own. It was a very slow process because we're not experts at it. It's a new technology, how to take all these in design files, HTML files and convert them into the different formats used by Amazon.com and Apple and others. So one of the boons of our digital dharma drive is it gives us funds to have this done professionally. We can farm it out and we found a firm that happens to be in Chennai - we weren't looking there on purpose, but ended up there.

Atritex is the name, Atritex is the firm and we gave them some small projects and they sent us back the material quite rapidly. And we gave them Hinduism Today and had a little more trouble but perfected that and now we've given them a large task: "Dancing With Siva." That's going to slow them down some. And when they finish that then we'll give them another one by combination of the funds we raised in the Digital Dharma Drive - and they're reasonable prices, quite reasonable by western standards. We'll be able to move forward at a rapid pace, something we couldn't do before. So, this is a real boon. We'll be able to get all of Gurudeva's books in these various ebook formats on our one websites and as well as in the major places where they're sold such as Amazon.com, the Apple Store and so forth. We'll have them out there.

In case you haven't looked we already have the two children's books on Amazon.com and we have one of them in the Apple Store. Why the other one isn't there I have yet to find out. But, I'll check on that. There's no reason can't end up there also.

So, we're moving forward in all of that. It's wonderful energy, shall we say, that the Digital Dharma Drive released and it's been channels for this firm.

There's also, launched major projects in the website area. Wasn't really intentional; we didn't say: This is the year of the website, or anything. But, so happened it turns out to be the year of the website cause we're doing so many different projects on the web at once and in the sense of manifesting them. We can do something on the web for years and it's still in development. So no one ever sees it. But, in this case, the seen projects are manifesting this year.

We've already done the private website for church members allowing members to talk to one another more efficiently, get to know one another through pictures as well as provides an efficient channel which we're just getting used to for members and groups of members to communicate directly with the aadheenam as a group. So, this is a wonderful step forward.

Also, re-done, the look of our Hindu Heritage Endowment Website. Doesn't look the same as it used to at all. If you haven't gone there: HHEonline.org is the website. And, has a beautiful new look as well as our planned giving vendor Stelter which does the planned giving part of the website has redone their material as well and has a very handsome look. Very Hindu approach it didn't have before. So, that's in place. Still a few more things to do but as far as someone going to it is concerned it's been totally redone.

Then our biggest project is to redo all our resources on the web: the publications, the videos, the audio talks and so forth into a more user friendly, more consistent project. So, we're calling that a Digital Resource Library. And that is a big project. Requires putting all of the resources into a data base and then accessing it and then providing formats to view it and so forth. So, once that's done - and we should have good amount of that done this coming twelve months - it will provide more resources and you'll be able to find things more easily. So, it will open up the material in a much more user friendly, user accessible way then it is now.

And that is definitely compliments of the Digital Dharma Drive because we have a number of professionals helping us on that. Otherwise, we could never accomplish it. So, you can see that I did the digital before the printed. So that's where we are in modern times. Tend to think more of the digital first then the printed.

In the printed area we're also moving forward. We've finished the two Children's Books. Hindu Children's Modern Stories Volume One and Two. Those of you not familiar with them, the reading level is age 10 through 12. And Volume One has ten stories, one on each of the yamas, the ethical restraints. And Volume Two has ten stories on each of the niyamas, the religious practices. And they're modern stories, stories taking place in the U.S. or India. With drawings to illustrate that; to try and put it in the present time. Sometimes it's hard for Hindu kids to relate to stories that took place a few thousand years ago. So this, this has a modern approach to it. We don't have them here yet except a few sample copies. But, we'll have them shipped in here soon as well as in Mauritius and for sale elsewhere. So we have right now, we just have the digital edition available and the printed edition will be coming along soon.

So, that took a few years to accomplish. And we have the story writer is in Bangalore and the artist is in Kerala. And we have to coordinate them and get it all to come together. So, we've got that system working and now we're going to start on a Volume Three which is pretty far along. And it will have ten stories, these are on the 9 parenting guidelines which has to become 10 stories. We're adding one more to fill it out to ten. Remember they all begin with "P." It starts out: Positive Self Concept, Profound Self Confidence, Prejudice Free Consciousness, Perceptive Self Correction, Pious Character, and so on. I don't remember them all but they all start with a "P" so you can memorize them. And we're doing stories on those as our Volume Three. It's both designed for the kids and the parents; to remind the parents too that these are the qualities we want to do our best to instill in our children as they grow up. That's why they're there.

Certainly the major publication we're working on - in terms of it's overall importance and long term impact - is the biography of our guru parampara. And we're in what we call the final editing stages. And, looks very positive that we'll print it in the coming 12 months and make it available. It's filled with fascinating stories and information that you've never heard no matter how long you've been around. Some of it is new. And it's going to be a real treasure for Gurudeva's devotees to have in their library.

Our Hindu history lesson, we've published it in five parts in the magazine. And we're going to publish 16 to 20 pages of photos, historical photos of India, in the magazine and then we'll add that to the book. So we'll have the five parts plus the photos as a Hindu history book for children and that will also come out this coming year. And the first part in particular is the one that gets the most usage as it relates to what's being taught in the schools at the sixth grade level, right? Sixth grade level so this material can come in to supplement that and if you approach the teacher in the right way. They're supposed to allow that. So, it's being used on that basis in a number of school districts by aggressive Hindus as well as it's being taught in certain Hindu temples and all in the U.S.

An interesting aspect of our publications is that more and more Hinduism Today is getting praised and recognized by prominent Hindus, Hindu leaders, in various parts of the U.S. and India and so forth. Seems to be a strong trend. So, I wrote it down. And one of the examples is: There's an award being given by Swami Ganapati Satchidananda in June, in Pittsburgh, to Hinduism Today. So, we're going there to receive the award. He gives awards on his birthday every year. So, we're getting the award on behalf of Hinduism Today. This is just an example of that trend that Hinduism Today is getting greater recognition.

And the last publication area, again it's wrapping up this year, is the digitalization project in Pondicherry that we undertook - is it two and a half years ago? And it's on schedule. This is unheard of; it sets a president for something done in India, actually come in on time. And it's two collections of manuscripts in leaf form, most of them. Some of them in paper form. And for those of you who don't know the story, we've been interested in the Saiva Agamas for a number of years and we became aware that the major source of them was the collection at the French Institute in Pondicherry. And, because the French institute under Mr. Bhatt had gone around and collected them up from all the priests to preserve them on the basis that they were going to fall apart and get lost unless they were centralized in one place. So, they've all been collected up.

And a few years ago we said: Great, okay we'll go there and study them and this and that. And then we went there a number of times and we realized that they're all falling apart. And they're not designed to last forever. They have to be recopied every 50, 100 years. Even though they're on these leaves and they're oiled properly they won't last forever. And no one, these days is going to take the time to recopy these manuscripts. It's just not going to happen. So one by one they're sitting there falling apart on us. And plus, there was a tsunami there that fortunately didn't come in but they're very close to the ocean. So they're subject to tsunami as well. So we came to the realization that, you know, rather than translate and type or something, we have to step down to the level of preservation. That if we didn't preserve these manuscripts by digitizing them, taking photographs of them, they'll go away in another 50 years. They just won't be there.

So, that was a fairly major undertaking. Thousands of bundles had to be photographed. How many, what was the average size of our team? How many people did we have? Six? Six so we, Arumugaswami assembled a team of six to photograph and process the photos. And they've been working for almost two and a half years, initially on the bundles at the French Institute. And then, The School of the Far East which is a sister organization did the final six months of the project. Two years on the French Institute. So, that's wrapping up in the next couple of months. And when we go over there in July we'll be formally ending that phase of the project.

So, that's a wonderful accomplishment and it creates in digital form, photographs of all these manuscripts that any scholar can use which is a good step forward. We can put it all on the drive. So, that's wrapping up.

Innersearch. There's no innersearch this year, sorry. But we're planning the next one. And next one's tentatively scheduled for 2013. So, when we get our plans a little further along we'll announce them this year.

But there are three weekend retreat programs. June has retreats in both Malaysia and California. And July has a one day retreat in Singapore. So those are three programs coming up very soon.

One of our key ways of presenting information when we travel is keynotes. Keynotes are the Macintosh equivalent of Power Point Presentations. And the Ganapati Kulam has come up with a new style, very modern style of presenting them. Sometimes the type is sideways or doing all kinds of interesting things to make it look modern and attractive. And we're also using more photographs then we used to. We used to use more painting by Manivelu and Rajam. So we have a nice modern look and so far, for this year, we've created four of them and we've used them all on the Texas trip which took place in March. We had 18 day trip with 17 presentations. So, it was a record trip for number of presentations not a record trip for length of travel or places traveled. But, usually we don't have so many presentations. It was a presentation intensive trip and the main one is what we call our generic temple presentation for 2011. It's called "Prayer and Meditation" and that one was very well received I'd say. We gave that one in the most locations. Probably about 10 different locations.

Speaking of travel, there's a lot of travel coming up this year. And in May we're off to Singapore and Malaysia. Our annual trip to Malaysia, Singapore gets more visit because we have to stop there on our way to Mauritius or our way to India. But, Malaysia gets one major visit a year and sometimes a minor one. And then we get to come back for a couple of days and fly off to Pittsburgh to receive the award. And then July we have the California retreat and then we're off to Singapore and India. August is Maryland and then some East coast. We go to the Murugan Temple Festival there every year, standing invitation.

And the Caribbean, they've started playing some of material on television and radio in the Caribbean. We'll be a little better known this time when we go, it's Trinidad. Lot of potential for Gurudeva's teachings in Trinidad for various reasons which we don't have time to go into.

September, of course, is our donor appreciation reception in Palo Alto and a few other U.S. destinations and then November is Mauritius, annual visit. We're planning a different kind of visit this year; we've been doing a seminar, usually, a keynote. All day keynote seminar in the Vivekenanda Convention Center. Attracts I think around 4, 500 people. So this year we said we'd do something different. We're having a children - youth fun day. So, whatever kind of activity the families want to arrange for the children and youth. Be all day activity and part of our, we'll come and go.

And part of it is we want to take the new photograph for the website of each child and get to know the child and youth a little better. They're growing up so fast I can't keep track, you know. Remember what they look like two or three years ago but when you have that many children, can be hard to remember them all. So, trying to get a new photograph, get a new image in my mind of what each child or youth, where they are in life at this time. And have some fun, fun games and different things and food. We're focusing on the children and the youth. We'll have other activities for Master Course students and teachers.

One other travel is: Two Swamis, Sadasivanathaswami, in case you haven't met him he's also known as Palaniswami. Sadasivanathaswami and Senthilnathaswami are traveling to the Hindu Mandir Executive Conference which this year is in Columbus, Ohio. Give some presentations and last year went very well. The delegates there were extremely appreciative of our presentations and the material that we had assembled on the festival. Was a particularly new material there, 15, was it 15 festivals? Fifteen festivals designed to be put in newspapers and magazines. That material was extremely well received. So we're generating new material for this year.

One new resident here at the monastery. Aspirant Mayuran has arrived to start his Supplicant and Postulant Training.

Then we have Gurudeva's Maha Samadhi Observance coming up. It's the tenth one and on there own many individuals have indicated they're taking special interest in this year's and are planning to come. So, we'll have a bigger group than usual. We haven't done anything to promote it, differently. But, that's the general feeling and so on our side we definitely want to come with some, make it more elaborate then usual, shall we say. Do a few extra things.

And, as everyones noticed: Where are the silpis? No silpis here and since last December. What happened is we started carving in 1990 and started jointing in 2001. So the carving had an 11 year head start. We also had 65 individuals carving when we started. Now we only have 25. They're harder to find. So the jointing caught up with the carving. So, we ran out of things to joint. So we have to let the carving generate some new items. It's finishing up the Nandi Mandapam and it's being carved in more detail then other parts of the temple. So, it's going to be the first thing you see and you'll see extra refinements in it that you don't see here throughout the temple.

So that's going to be finished fairly soon and then the major project is the perimeter wall which goes around the edge of the foundation, has to be carved. So when the Nandi Mandapam is finished and we have some of the perimeter wall done that'll be enough work for another batch of silpis to come and joint. So, that's a couple of years away.

Secondary construction project, you can't help but notice when you arrive, unless it's dark, which is our quartzite going on all the paths out front. It's creating a nice upgrade and when it's all finished it'll definitely be an enhancement for the front part of the property.

And, unless you've gone across to Himalayan Acres, our property across the river, which some of you have to help out. Not aware of what's going on there. Our existing activities last year was the 5 acres of organically grown noni trees which are continuing to mature and our goal is that in the near future, they'll be mature enough, producing enough fruit, that we can harvest every week. Right now it's not quite enough to be efficient.

Longest term project is mahogany trees. They take, I think, it's twenty-five year cycle there from when they're planted. So we have, those are continuing to go in the ground.

And then we have a new activity which is specimen trees. Trees that we can sell after a few years, three to five years, to companies such as landscaping companies on the island or nursery professionals. Buy them to put in new houses or new hotels. They're always in need on the island. So made a major effort in the last few months to establish that over there.

So, that gives three different kinds of trees, basically. It's the land up here, that land is former sugar cane land and it's not what they consider prime land for growing things. So, but it's very good for growing some things, particularly trees. Or rather, with the rain and all works well different kinds of trees.

That gives you an idea of some of the major things we're planning for the coming year.

So, thank you very much.

[End of transcript.]