Thursday May 24, 2018

Dr. David Frawley: To respect Hinduism is to respect our ancient spiritual roots

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By David Frawley

Saying “I am a Hindu” is bound to meet with denigration in the West and even in India – more so if someone born in the West states to have formally become a Hindu.

Yet for someone in the West to say that they have become a Buddhist or a Muslim does not meet with the same negative response. Nor does it occur for someone in India, even from a Hindu background, to say that they have become a Christian or a Muslim.

Like a number of Westerners starting in the 1960s, I became immersed in Hindu based practices of yoga and vedanta, extending to the worship of Hindu deities like Shiva and Devi.

When people asked me what religion I followed, I realized that I was clearly a Hindu in my way of life from puja and pilgrimage, to mantra and meditation. I decided to formally become a Hindu to affirm this, particularly when I saw Hindus in India remaining under extensive conversion assaults.

Here is a link to books written by Dr. David Frawley.

Students of yoga and vedanta

However, most in the West who take up yogic teachings do not formally call themselves Hindus, even if they adopt Sanskrit names relating to Hindu deities. This is owing to deep-seated propaganda against Hinduism as characterized by backward social customs, not enlightened spiritual teachings.

Many yoga students claim to be followers of their particular guru or sect. Others claim to be part of a universal tradition of yoga that includes all religions, of which Hinduism is only one. Yet all follow ideas and practices rooted in the Vedas, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras – primarily Hindu sources – overlooking the fact that they are benefitting enormously from Hindu teachings.

Some say practicing yoga will make a Christian into a better Christian. I had given up my Catholic background because I could not accept the theology, rituals, or conversion efforts behind it. The law of karma, rebirth and the pursuit of liberation in Hinduism made much more sense to me, not the heaven, hell, sin and salvation of Christianity.

If practicing yoga and meditation, with statues of Shiva and Devi in my shrine, made me into a better Christian, it was not something any mainstream Christian group would acknowledge or recommend.

There are those in the West who want to become Hindus, but find little support. The most helpful group I discovered was the Hinduism Today magazine and some thoughtful, articulate Western Hindu swamis associated with it. In India, most helpful was the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and authors Ram Swarup and Sitaram Goel, who wrote extensively on modern challenges to Hindu dharma.

The situation for Hindus today

To tell Christians or Muslims today that one has become a Hindu is to invite ridicule and charges of idolatry and superstition. Academicians disparage Hinduism as a strange, sensational set of cults, ignoring its profound meditation-based philosophies – a negative approach they would not take relative to any of the other great religions of the world.

The success of the Hindu community in the US and UK has muted these criticisms, but not removed them. Hindu-Americans still have to face both religious and racial prejudices for the images of their deities and the color of their skin.

You will not find a single department of Hindu Studies at any major India universities, even BHU (Banaras Hindu University). You can find a lone Hindu department at Oxford in UK, run largely by non-Hindus, but none elsewhere at any major universities in the West. This is though Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world and has the oldest and most diverse literature of any religion.

Clearly there has been a long history of maligning and suppressing Hindu dharma that continues worldwide today. There has been a deliberate strategy, both to discourage people from becoming Hindus and to discourage Hindus from asserting their own identity. The influence of vested interests from missionary, colonial and Marxist groups is easy to discern behind these concerted efforts, often with extensive political and media support.

Today in India when Hindus question this long-standing and well-funded anti-Hindu bias that they continue to face, they find themselves demeaned as “intolerant”.

Fortunately, there is a slow awakening to the value of Hindu dharma and its rishi traditions. To respect Hinduism is to respect our ancient spiritual roots and our potential for higher consciousness. (The article was originally published in DailyO)

Here is a link to books written by Dr. David Frawley.

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Buddhist Monk Losang Samten Uses Colors to Spread Message of Peace

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

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Samten
Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten uses colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. VOA

According to one estimate, there are a 5 quintillion, 5 hundred quadrillion grains of sand on earth, a number so large it must be approaching infinity. This makes sand an appropriate medium for the construction of spiritual images of the universe.

Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten does just that, using colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. VOA

Decades of mandalas

Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama.

“When I was a teenager, age of 17,” he told VOA, “I had a privilege to enter His Holiness Dalai Lama’s monastery … in India. I have been studying sand mandalas ever since then. So it’s a long time.”

VOA found Samten painstakingly layering grains of colored sand at the gallery of the Philadelphia Folklore Project. The particular mandala he was working on was the mandala of compassion, or unconditional love.

Far from random designs, mandalas have been perfected over centuries.

“These are uniquely designed many, many, many, many, many years passing to an artist to another artist to another artist to another artist,” Samten said. “The color has a meaning, the shape has different meanings. Not my design; it didn’t come out of my own idea.”

When Samten created a sand mandala at the American Museum of History in New York in 1988 at the request of the Dalai Lama, it was the first time the 2,600-years-old ancient ritual art was seen outside of monasteries. Since then, Samten has made sand mandalas in museums, galleries and universities across the U.S. and many parts of the world.

“They are used to enhance the spiritual practice through image and meditation, to overcome suffering. Mandalas represent enlightened qualities and methods which explain this path, making them very important for the spiritual journey,” Samten wrote on his web site.

Nothing is permanent

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama. VOA

“In the winter of 1959, [we] crossed Mount Everest, it took us two months to cross,” he told VOA. “You cannot travel during the day and so scared and not enough food not enough clothes. I was age of 5. I saw, I mean unbelievable dead bodies, people dying without food. I became a monk at age 11 when I was in school, refugee school.”

Samten left monastic life in 1995 and became the spiritual director at the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. He says the patience of the creative process, can lead observers to find calm determination within themselves.

“When I am doing this mandala at universities and schools, many kids came to me, (saying) ‘when I saw you doing the sand mandala, that help me so much to finish my education, patience …’ I have a lot of stories,” he said.

Monk Samten
Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. VOA

Beauty comes and goes

After a sand mandala is completed, it is dismantled ceremoniously.

“Dismantle has many different reasons,” Samten said. “… One thing is, dismantle is a beauty, whatever we see as a beauty on the earth, never be everlasting as a beauty and impermanent, impermanent, comes and goes. It’s like a season.”

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Or like sand, ever changing in the wind.

Samten often invites children to participate in the ceremony.

To gallery visitor Traci Chiodress that was part of the charm of the event.

“I think it’s powerful to see something so beautiful created, and then taken apart, and to be done in a community with a group of people of different ages,” she said. “I just think it’s an important type of practice.” (VOA)