Durban: Dr Thillayvel Naidoo of Durban North who worked for the department of science at the University of Kwazulu-Natal conducted more than six decades of research on the Hindu religion. The religion approximately is more than five thousand years old.
He has launched several books in the past, came up with his latest book entitled “Three canons to religious intelligence”, which is a definite read for the young generation as well as the religious scholars and spiritual leaders.
Naidoo has given many lectures on Hinduism and written and published many books on Hinduism before. He said, “The book is my interpretation of three of the most outstanding scriptures produced by the Hindu religion. My reason for writing the book is to express the fact that I regard the three scriptural texts as the greatest the world has produced. The three canons are the Upanishads, the Bhagwad Gita, the Brahma Sutras. I am perfectly happy to explain this to any person or group of people who have a genuine interest in religion. The condition, however, is that people must understand that I can only discuss my position if people are willing to discuss to religion intelligently and not turn the discussion into an argument or sparring session.”
Religious intelligence has also been extended to several other religions practiced in South Africa. Naidoo said, “My own life has been based on my belief that religion must make sense to me first before I extend that interest in talking to and teaching other people. It is important to know how Hinduism began in India before it arrived in South Africa and other parts of the world.”
“My book presents my interpretation of the spiritual message of Hinduism in a very modern context and I would like very much of the message of Bhagavan Sri Krishna to be better understood by all people. I place emphasis on Bhagavan Sri Krishan who I regard as the greatest of the world’s religious teachers”, said Naidoo.(Inputs from agencies)
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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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)