Monday December 17, 2018

Renovation of first Hindu Temple of the Western World almost complete

The magnificent Old Temple in San Francisco is claimed to be the “first Hindu temple in the Western World”

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A hindu temple (representative image). Pixabay
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San Francisco, Mar 13, 2017: The historic and extremely expensive renovation process of the magnificent Old Temple in San Francisco, which is claimed to be the “first Hindu temple in the Western World”, is almost complete.

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Old Temple, originally known as Hindu Temple is said to be built within four months. It is a part of the Vedanta Society of Northern California (VSNC), launched by Swami Vivekananda, a highly respected Hindu Monk 1900.

This Temple, sometimes referred as “sermon in the form of a building” and “dedicated to the cause of humanity”, miraculously survived the San Francisco earthquake and fire of April 1906.

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During the renovation process which was launched in 2014, the historic character of the temple was claimed to be uncompromised while bringing it up to current standards. The complete renovation included upgrading from foundation to rooftop regarding seismic upgrades, deepening of foundation, plumbing, wiring, fire-sprinkler system, energy efficiency, roofing, etc. It is planned to be open to the public and ready to use sometime in the spring. It was recently re-consecrated with ritual worship by monks and nuns from India, Canada and USA.

Located on Webster Street in San Francisco, this Old Temple was designed by Swami Trigunatitananda with architect Joseph A. Leonard, blending elements of East and West. Its style is influenced by old-fashioned Bengal temples, Shiva temples at Dakshineswar, Benares temples, etc. The building represents a striking profile of towers, domes, and pinnacles; and its various towers “are intended to symbolize the harmony of all religions and the pointed arches and domes the upward aspiration of the spiritual seeker”.

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Rajan Zed, a distinguished Hindu statesman commended efforts of the Society leaders and area community towards executing the thorough and elaborate renovation of this magnificent and important Hindu temple.

President of Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, requested the Hindu community in USA, about 3 million strong, to work towards preserving the historical Hindu temples and passing on Hindu spirituality, concepts and traditions to coming generations, reported the Asian American Press.

VSNC is affiliated to worldwide spiritual movement Ramakrishna Mission headquartered in Belur Math on the outskirts of Kolkata (India). Besides Old Temple and New Temple in San Francisco; it also maintains Vedanta Retreat in Olema (Marin County, California) founded in 1946 and which occupies over 2000 coastal acres, 160-acres Shanti Ashrama Retreat in Santa Clara County (California) launched in 1900, monastery and convent. Swami Tattwamayananda is Minister-In Charge of VSNC.

Vedanta was introduced to America by Swami Vivekananda at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Since then, the order has more than 180 centres worldwide which includes, California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois,  Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, New York and Washington.

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Ideology of Ramakrishna Mission, founded in 1897 by Swami Vivekananda and named after his teacher/inspiration Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) and whose current president is Swami Atmasthananda, consists of the eternal principles of Vedanta; while its basic principles include: “God realization is the ultimate goal of life, potential divinity of the soul, harmony of religions,” etc. Its motto is: Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha (For one’s own salvation and for the welfare of the world). It claims to aim at the harmony of religions, harmony of the East and the West, harmony of the ancient and the modern, spiritual fulfillment, all-round development of human faculties, social equality, and peace for all humanity; without any distinctions of creed, caste, race or nationality.

Prepared by Nikita Saraf, Twitter: @niki_saraf

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U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan

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Imran Khan, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Pakistan"s Prime Minister Imran Khan is seen during talks in Beijing, China, VOA

The United States said Saturday it welcomes actions Pakistan is taking to promote a negotiated solution to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

The acknowledgement came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his country has arranged another round of Washington’s peace talks with the Afghan Taliban scheduled for Monday.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” a U.S. embassy spokesperson in Kabul told VOA.

US negotiator

U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the spokesperson added.

Neither Khan nor the U.S. spokesperson have disclosed the possible venue for the upcoming meeting with Taliban officials.

Some Afghan sources say Monday’s meeting will take place in Islamabad, but no official confirmation is available.

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U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

Khalilzad, who is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks, is to lead the U.S. delegation in talks with insurgent representatives. This will not be the first time Khalilzad has met with the Taliban.

Since taking office in September, the special U.S. envoy has held two publicly known rounds of preliminary discussions with insurgent negotiators in Qatar, where the Taliban runs its so-called political office. The talks have been for the sake of talks, according to insurgent and other sources aware of the meetings.

Trump’s letter to Khan

U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month wrote a formal letter to Khan asking for his help to bring the Taliban to the table for negotiations. A day later, Khalilzad visited Islamabad where he met with Khan and his military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, to follow-up on Trump’s request, Pakistani officials say.

Speaking in northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday, Khan said the U.S. has changed its tune by requesting help instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. officials have previously insisted.

“By the grace of Allah, the dialogue is now happening inshallah [God willing] on the 17th [Khan did not mention the month] and Pakistan has facilitated the talks between America and the Taliban,” Khan said. He did not share further details.

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Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

Khan recounted Friday that critics used to mock him as “Taliban Khan” for saying the Afghan war could not be ended without political negotiations but now all key stakeholders are jointly working to pursue a political settlement to end the violence in Afghanistan.

“If peace were achieved, God willing, Peshawar will change and become a hub of commerce and tourism, as things around the 2,500 years old living city are likely to change,” Khan said Friday.

Ambassador Khalilzad is 13 days into an 18-day visit to the region. He has traveled to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium and plans to visit the U.A.E. and Qatar.

Withdrawal an issue

Pakistani officials privy to the U.S. interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Also Read: What to Make of Taliban’s Continued Rare Silence on Ghani’s Peace Offer? 

U.S. officials have long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces. (VOA)