Shravan Shukla 13, Vik.Samvat 2073. Yugabda 5118: 16 August 2016

3. 70th Independence Day 4. Hinduism does not allow conversion by aggression: Mohan Bhagwat
5. His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj of BAPS Passes Away  6.  8th Hindu Spiritual & Service Fair
7.  PRADHAN MANTRI says PoK is ours 8.  "Balasaheb was 'Deoras' in true sense"
9.   KANWAR FOR NATION 10. UK Armed Forces Celebrate Raksha Bandhan
11. Hinduism and science 12.  Georgetown - First Full Time Director for Hindu Life
13.  FIJI Third Hindu Conference 14.  Vedic science helps Rajastahn boy achieve memory feat
15. Manipuri Woman makes Naga Food a Rage in Belgium 16. RSS condemned violence against Dalits
17. Army to get steep-dive BrahMos missile regiment for China front 18. Stop baiting RSS, says BBC icon Mark Tully
19. Civilisation in Sunderbans traced to Mauryan era 20.  INDIA HEALTH LINE NOW IN KERALA TOO
21. First Ganga cargo transport trial begins 22. Bharat Appreciates Saudi Arabia's Action For bharatiya Workers
23. Kudankulum n-plant marks historic step in Bharat-Russia relations 24. SEWA BHARATI CONDUCTED Medical Camp for women-jail inmates


A HUMBLING EXPERIENCE: “Sanskriti Mahashibir”


Being a Hindu, Being an Ambassador for Hinduism

1.   FESTIVALS: Janmashtami, also known as Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, is an annual celebration of the birth of the Bhagwan Sri Krishna. The festival is celebrated on the eighth day of the Krishna Paksha of the month of Bhadrapad (25th August this year). Temples are decorated, Krishna's infancy "Laddu Gopal" is placed in swings and cradles. Devotees observe upavaas, perform bhajan-keertans. The celebration concludes in the mid-night with serving charnamrita & bhogprasad to all.

As the celebrations in Bharat and around the world, Fiji's Janmastami celebrations last for eight days leading up to the day Krishna was born. During these eight days, devotees gather at homes and at temples with their 'mandalis' at evenings and night, and recite the Bhagavat Purana, sing devotional songs and distribute Prasadam. -goTop


2. DEAL WITH DIVISIVE FORCES, INTOLERANCE FIRMLY: RASHTRAPATI JI: In his address to the nation on the eve of Bharat's 70th Independence Day, Rashtrapati Shri Pranab Mukherjee expressed hope that the country would collectively defeat polarising forces and march ahead on the path of progress. Expressing concerns over global terror activities and radicalisation and also about certain developments involving weaker sections of the country; he hoped that the collective wisdom of our society and our polity gives the confidence that such forces will remain marginalised and Bharat's remarkable growth story will continue uninterrupted. "In the just-concluded session of Parliament, the passage of the Constitution Amendment Bill for the introduction of GST amidst non-partisan and quality parliamentary deliberations is enough to celebrate our democratic maturity," he added. -goTop


3. 70th Independence Day: Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi addressed the nation on the 70th Independence Day from the Red Fort on 15th August. Slamming recent terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, Modi said that the country will not yield to terrorism and extremism and youth should shun violence and return to mainstream. He especially thanked people of Balochistan, Gilgit and PoKwho have thanked him a lot in past few days. Evoking patriotism, Modi said we may not get an opportunity to die for the country but we have the opportunity to live for the country. Shri Modi thanked all political parties for supporting the Goods and Service Tax (GST) bill. On inflation Shri Modi said his government had brought down the annual inflation rate to below six percent from 10 percent earlier and are working with the RBI to bring down inflation to 4% levels.

While deliberating on various initiatives and achievements at length, Modi sought support for the 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' initiative which focuses on the girl child. He said one healthy, educated and economically independent woman can pull a family out of poverty. -goTop


4. Hinduism does not allow conversion by aggression: Mohan Bhagwat: Hindu tradition does not allow conversion by means that amount to aggression on an individual's human rights, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Sarsanghchalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat said.

He added that Hinduism is not a religion but is a tradition which believes in accepting and respecting all identities. He was addressing a seminar on 'Identity and Integration', organised to mark the 50th anniversary of UK-based charity Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), in London on 2 August.

Shri Bhagwat quoted verses from the Atharva Veda to prove that diversity existed even in ancient times and "unity in diversity" was the central mantra of Hinduism. The August 2nd seminar which concluded his UK tour included panelists like Dr Girdharilal Bhan, former national president of VHP, Samani Pratibha Pragya, head nun of Jain Vishva Bharati London, and Gauri Das, managing director of Bhaktivedanta Manor ISKCON UK. -goTop


5. His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj of BAPS Passes Away: His holiness pramukh swami maharaj, the spiritual head of Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha (BAPS) passed away at Sarangpur, Gujarat, on 13th August at the age of 95; Swami ji was not keeping well since last two years.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj was born on December 7, 1921 to a humble farmer's family in the small village of Chansad, near Vadodara in Gujarat. In 1939, he received initiation into the sadhu-fold from his guru, Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj and was named Sadhu Narayanswarupdas. In 1950, at the age of 28, Shastriji Maharaj selected him as the President (Pramukh) of BAPS in his place. Since then, he had been fondly known as "Pramukh Swami." In 1971, after the departure of guru Yogiji Maharaj, Pramukh Swami Maharaj succeeded him as the fifth spiritual guru of BAPS. Over the next 45 years, his unremitting satsang travels, selfless services to society, saintly virtues and profound devotion to God earned him the respect and reverence of countless worldwide.

He also created and consecrated over 1,100 mandirs worldwide and grand cultural complexes like Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi and Gandhinagar to portray the cultural and spiritual heritage of Bharat.

Renowned spiritual masters and heads of state have been deeply touched by his humility, saintliness and noble works. These include His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Padhan Mantri Narendra Modi, President Bill Clinton, Prince Charles, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the late Sheikh Isa bin Salman al Khalifa of Bahrain, and many royals, heads of state and other dignitaries. -goTop


6.  8th Hindu Spiritual & Service Fair: Bharat must switch to swadeshi products to achieve economic independence, said Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev while inaugurating the 8th Hindu Spiritual and Service Fair (HSSF) held at AM Jain College grounds, Meenambakkam in Chennai. Jathedar of Patna Sahib Giani Iqbal Singh, Central University of Tibetan Studies Vice-Chancellor Geshe Ngawang and Dr. Veerendra Hegde of Dharmasthala Temple were also present in the inaguration ceremony of the fair.  

During the six day long festival over 1,000 competitions and 180 traditional games were conducted and it also inlcuded stalls of 400 organisations those sell handlooms, books, devotional items. The fair has different themes each day like, Protecting environment, Respecting parents, teachers, elders, cherishing womanhood, Protecting all living beings, Promoting patriotism, and Protecting forest, wildlife. -goTop


7.   PRADHAN MANTRI says PoK is ours: Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi has asserted that Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) is ours as much as Jammu, Kashmir Valley and Ladakh. The Prime Minister asked the External Affairs Ministry to contact residents of PoK staying abroad and get information from them about the pathetic conditions in PoK and let the world know the facts. Addressing an all party meeting on August 13 in New Delhi on prevailing situation in Kashmir valley, Mr. Modi said, the main cause of unrest is cross-border terrorism emanating from the neighbouring country. -goTop


8.  "Balasaheb was 'Deoras' in true sense": "The late Balasaheb Deoras set an example of devoted life for the organisational cause and his thought process and commitment to social harmony has been the major contribution to the society which will always be remembered. Taking inspiration from RSS founder Dr Hedgewar and Shri Guruji, he tirelessly devoted 70 years of his life for the sole purpose of spreading the RSS across all walks of life. He was 'DEORAS' in true sense," said RSS Sarkaryavah Shri Bhaiyaji Joshi, while delivering Rambhau Mhalgi Memorial Lecture recently in Pune. Making special reference of this year being the centenary year of the third Sarsanghchalak of RSS Shri Balasaheb Deoras, Shri Joshi mentioned that the year is also the centenary year of great organisers like the late Nanaji Deshmukh, Eknath Ranade and Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya.

 Presiding over the function, RSS Akhil Bharatiya Sampark Pramukh Prof Aniruddha Deshpande recollected the association - Pune had with Balasaheb Deoras including the imprisonment at Yerwada Jail during the Emergency.  Ravindra Sathe briefed the audience about the activities of the Prabodhini and mentioned the international recognition that it received from the UN. -goTop


9.   KANWAR FOR NATION: It was a different Shiv Ratri (Shravan Krishna Triyodashi) in North-West Uttar Pradesh this year. The Dharm Jagran Samanvaya Vibhag (DJSV) of RSS, Merath  Prant, struck the novel idea to carry "Ek Kanwar Rashtra ke Nam". They got printed thousands of saffron T-shirts with these words and also arranged for thousands of national flags. They called upon the youth to make a 'sankalp' for the country along with their personal wishes while carrying the Gangajal to be offered on the Shivlingas. The idea proved a big hit among the youth.

Shri Ishwar Dayal, DJSV head West-UP and Uttarakhand, said, "Initially we planned for about 3000 Kanwariyas constituting 280 groups from as many places of Meerut Prant, but as it turned out more than 30,000 from about 350 places and this spirit widely adopted by other Kanwariyas and the number exceeded lakhs." This year hundreds of Kanwar service camps also displayed pictures of Bharat Mata and played patriotic songs. -goTop


10. UK Armed Forces Celebrate Raksha Bandhan:  Armed Forces personnel from across the United Kingdom celebrated Raksha Bandhan. The event was celebrated at the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir in London on August 12. Speaking at the event, minister of state in ministry of defence in the House of Lords, Earl Howe said the festival's "potent symbol" resonated to all servicemen of all kinds of faith.

"The tying of Rakhi to symbolise bonds of mutual protection is a potent symbol for all here today and one that resonates beyond the Hindu religion to all servicemen and women, whatever their beliefs," he said. The event was also "to celebrate the contribution of Hindus to the defence of the UK".

"There are currently around 2,500 Hindus serving in the armed forces and they continue the proud tradition of their predecessors in serving their country, upholding the values that we all hold dear," said Armed Forces Hindu Network Champion, Rear Admiral Graeme Mackay. -goTop


11. Hinduism and science: Hindu Conference in Australia in Adelaide (SA Chapter) recently organised its first Hindu Conference on the theme "Hinduism and Science".

The conference was started with presentation by three young Swamis of BAPS on contributions of Hindu rishi-scientists to science and mathematics. Several other topics like Aryabhatta and Bhaskaracharya, aeroplane construction in Bharadwaja's writings dating back to 400BC were presented by students and professionals. Prof. Himanshu Pota in his concluding remarks said that there is a need of good understanding of Hinduism through rigorous research and analysis. Dr Nihal Agar, Dr Dilip Chirmuley and Chirag Trivedi were among the organisers of the conference.  -goTop


12.  Georgetown - First Full Time Director for Hindu Life:Interim Vice President for Mission and Ministry Rev. Howard Gray, S.J. on August 8 appointed Brahmachari Vrajvihari Sharan as Georgetown's first full-time director for Hindu life starting this fall, making him the first Hindu priest chaplain in the United States. Before joining Georgetown, Sharan was honorary Hindu chaplain at the University of Edinburgh since 2010. Sharan, Ph.D. in Sanskrit from University of Edinburgh was initiated in 2003 at Shri Golok Dham Ashram where he is currently a senior monk. He also served as a lecturer of Asian religions at Cardiff University in Wales and as a senior teaching fellow in Sanskrit at the University of London in England. -goTop


13.  FIJI Third Hindu Conference: The third National Hindu Conference was held at Studio 6 in Suva on August 6. The conference was well atteneded by Government agencies, Hindu organizations, temples respresentatives, businessmen and volunteers which drew at least 200 delegates. National President of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) Fiji, Jay Dayal said: "The conference provided a platform to address how successful Hindus have been serving their communities. This was in line with our conference theme 'Serving Community, Serving Fiji'." Dayal said the one of the major task undertaken by the VHP was the relief work for post Cyclone Winston. He added, "VHP exercised all due care to reach out to people irrespective of their race, religion or creed."  His Excellency Vishvas Sapkal the High Commissioner of Bharat, Kamlesh Arya of Arya Pratinidhi Sabha Fiji and Virendra Lal of Shree Sanatan Dharm Pratinidhi Sabha Fiji were also present in the conference. -goTop


14.  Vedic science helps Rajastahn boy achieve memory feat: A 19-year-old student of Shiksha Shastri at Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Rajasthan Sanskrit University, Sunil Kumar from Jaipur set a world record by memorising 5,710 post-decimal digits of the square root of two. He recently broke the 10-year-old record set by a US citizen who has held the record for 10 years. The achievement has been registered by Pi World Ranking List, a body which registers records of memorising the highest number of Pi and Sqrt(2) values. Sharma set the record by reciting post-decimal values of square root of two in one hour and 42 minutes. Sharma's life transformed after his father insisted that he study Rig Veda and Yajur Veda.  The Vedas taught Sharma to recall information by memorising them as pictures. -goTop


15. Manipuri Woman makes Naga Food a Rage in Belgium: It is surprising to see how Lulu Pheiga, a woman from the Rongmei Naga tribe of Manipur, has made Naga food a 'rage' in Genk, Belgium. Lulu's Tribal Kitchen serves simple North East Indian food, using authentic spices and condiments she imports from Imphal, Manipur. Lulu's food truck reads 'Back to the roots'. Lulu said, "I am trying out our recipes with right ingredients so I started import local northeastern herbs which would benefit people who want to explore the cuisine as well as help the farmers back home." -goTop


16. RSS condemned violence against Dalits: Deploring in strong terms the violence against the Dalits in different parts of Bharat, the RSS on August 8 condemned the tendency to take law in hands and inflict inhuman atrocities and exploitation on the Dalits. In a statement issued in New Delhi, RSS Sarkaryawah Suresh alias Bhayyaji Joshi described such acts as injustice and inhuman treatment meted out to a section of society.  "This disturbs the communal harmony and encourages confrontationist tendencies", he said.

Joshi also appealed to all the sections of the society to strive hard to create an atmosphere of trust and goodwill. At the same time, the RSS appealed to the admnistration to take stringent action against such anti-social elements without losing time. -goTop


17. Army to get steep-dive BrahMos missile regiment for China front: The Bharatiya government has given the final go-ahead for the Army to induct and deploy an advanced version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, with "trajectory manoeuvre and steep-dive capabilities" for mountain warfare, in the northeast as a conventional deterrent against China. The 290-km range BrahMos is a tactical or non-nuclear missile with "nine times more kinetic energy than sub-sonic missiles" for greater destructive potential. The Navy has already installed the missile on 10 frontline warships, including the latest stealth destroyers and frigates. -goTop


18. Stop baiting RSS, says BBC icon Mark Tully: The Media and critics should stop blind criticism of RSS, said former BBC stalwart Mark Tully on August 8 in New Delhi. He was speaking on the occasion of a book release titled "Modi & His Challenges" penned by Rajiv Kumar.   BBC icon Mark Tully has welcomed the book saying that critics should stop RSS baiting and instead engage with it, endorsing a view that Rajiv Kumar expresses in the book.

In an attempt to break the myths around Narendra Modi, the author  Rajiv Kumar, senior fellow at CPR (Center for Policy Research), attempts to take us through a journey of the leader's life. Energy Minister Piyush Goyal was also present at book launch. -goTop


19. Civilisation in Sunderbans traced to Mauryan era: A new archaeological find could rewrite the history of the Sunderbans and set the clock back by more than 20 centuries. Scientists have stumbled upon a cache of remains that indicates the existence of an ancient civilisation in the mangroves dating back to the Mauryan period (322-185 BC). The civilisation, significantly, lasted for the next 500-600 years. In folklore, the history of the Sunderbans area can be traced back to 200-300 AD. The forests have ivory gamesmen, miniature pots, pastel, semiprecious stone beads, net sinkers and pot shards and other antiquities. An analysis of the collections indicates that a wide variety of antiquities date back to the Mauryan era (3rd century BC) and the early centuries of the Christian era. -goTop


20.  INDIA HEALTH LINE NOW IN KERALA TOO: In order to offer free consultancy by specialist doctors like Cancer Surgeons, Cardiologists, Gynecologists, Nephrologists, Urologists and many other specialist to the needy patients, India Health Line (IHL) was officially launched by VHP working president  Dr Pravin Togadia at Kochi in Kerala on July 31. The number of the Call Centre is-18602333666.  -goTop


21. First Ganga cargo transport trial begins: The country's first national waterway, NW-1, from Haldia to Allahabad was notified in October 1986 and commercial transport of coal on HaldiaFarakka stretch started in 2013. Now NDA government launched its first trial of cargo transport from Varanasi to Kolkata. The government's blueprint to promote "pilgrimage through cruises" mainly focuses seven major identified hubs - Varanasi, Allahabad, Bhagalpur, Patna and Kolkata - that are located close to Ganga. "It will take a week for the two cargo vessels to reach Kolkata," said Prabir Pandey of Inland Waterways Authority of Bharat, which is responsible for developing the stretches. Shipping minister Nitin Gadkari said that the holy river can become a stretch of major economic activities without harming the ecology and environment. -goTop


22. Bharat Appreciates Saudi Arabia's Action For bharatiya Workers: Bharat appreciated Saudi Arabia's prompt action to provide relief to Bharatiya workers who were retrenched by a Saudi Arabian company. Following reports of retrenchment of the workers by the Saudi Oger company, Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh visited Saudi Arabia recently and met with Saudi Minister for Labour and Social Development Mufrel Al Haqbani. As a result of these meetings, the process of lodging claims and making arrangements for those Bharatiya workers wishing to come back to Bharat or relocate to another company has started. -goTop


23. Kudankulum n-plant marks historic step in Bharat-Russia relations: Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalitha jointly inaugurated the unit 1 of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant on August 10. Speaking on the occasion through video conferencing, PM said that Kudankulum nuclear plant marks another historic step in Bharat-Russia relations. Russian President Vladimir Putin said it is a part of the privileged strategic partnership between the two. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha said the nuclear plant is a monument to the friendship between Bharat and Russia. -goTop


24. SEWA BHARATI CONDUCTED Medical Camp for women-jail inmates: Sewa Bharati organised a medical camp for the women jail inmates at a special women jail in Chanchalguda, Hyderabad. Prof of Gynecology at the Gandhi Hospital in Secunderabad.  Dr Hari Anupama led the team of doctors from Gandhi Hospital. General and Gynecological check-ups of the inmates were carried out. Additional Director of GHMS Dr Padmaja provided free medicines. Diabetic and Thyoroid tests were carried out. Jail Superintendent The check up was carried out on 185 prisoners of the Jail. -goTop


25. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Pravas: Dr Ram Vaidya sahsamyojak Vishwa Vibhag is on a pravas to Mauritius, Seychelles and Kenya.  Visitors: Mahesh and Jaimini Popat UK

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Pleasure from the senses seems like nectar at first, but it is bitter as poison in the end. - Sri Krishna, SrimadBhagwatGita. -goTop




"Sanskriti Mahashibir"

Prerna Lau Sian

The Sanskriti Mahashibir - displayed the inspiring work undertaken by the HSS UK in its 50 years of existence in the country and their commitment to upholding the Hindu principles of equality and Sewa

From July 29 to 31, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh United Kingdom (HSS UK) celebrated their 50-year anniversary. The three-day Sanskriti Mahashibir celebration was concluded with a special Sanskriti Samarop in presence of over 2,200 people attend. The grand occasion illustrated the achievement of the Hindu community in unifying and preserving some of our ancient traditions and values.

Both children and adults from all Shakhas throughout the UK came together to display musical, yoga and martial arts performances. A huge exhibition had been put together by hundreds of volunteers that took visitors back in time through the history of HSS. The exhibition showed the success of setting up HSS in the UK, which attracted the attention of senior dignitaries such as the then serving Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1990. It illustrated how the organisation had since expanded and developed, whilst also inspiring other partner organisations such as the National Hindu Students Forum and Sewa UK to grow.

The exhibition highlighted the charitable projects undertaken by HSS members throughout the UK and globally, including the large funds raised to help natural disasters both in Bharat and outside. Recent examples of funds raised by HSS were for helping the victims of the earthquake in Nepal and the floods in Uttar Pradesh. Many walking through the exhibition felt a strong sense of pride and honour at the large amount of sewa activities undertaken by the Hindu community.

Chief Guest, Shri Mohan Bhagwat, the sixth and current Sarsanghachalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, addressed the captive audience at the Samarop closing ceremony. His inspirational speech reiterated the basic Hindu principle of equality. He stated that "Equality is our mantra and with equality we will progress together". This notion is already being practiced in India, which has long been a sanctuary for minorities persecuted in neighbouring countries. Shri Bhagwat also spoke about the beauty of Hinduism, which respects all other religions and doesn't impose or enforce traditions and beliefs on others.

In line with Hindu dharma and as stated in the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Mohan Bhagwat reminded Hindus to fulfill their civic duty. He said that, "Everyone in the Hindu society should bring together all activities and contributions for the good of society." This notion is already evident from the great charity and educational work not only being undertaken by the HSS, but also the RSS in India. He also reiterated that Hindu society is not about supremacy and that the "world is our family". Only by working together and respecting one another a society can progress and develop.

Overall, the Sanskriti Mahashibir displayed the inspiring work undertaken by the HSS UK in its 50 years of existence in the country and their commitment to upholding the Hindu principles of equality and sewa. It was a humbling experience for all to hear the respected Shri Bhagwat's speech on our ancient values which Hindu organisations in the UK and Bharat strive to uphold. - Organiser 14 August 2014. (The writer is a London based Barrister (NP), writer, broadcaster on Nusound Radio 92FM and is working in Investment Banking)  -goTop


Being a Hindu, Being an Ambassador for Hinduism

Padma Kuppa

We live amid challenging times, where ignorance about your neighbor can lead to not just "otherizing" someone you don't know, but also to violence -  violence that stems from fear and distrust of someone whose beliefs and practices seem alien and in opposition to your own. When I moved to Michigan nearly two decades ago, I was one of a handful of people "farmed out" to be a speaker when the meager office staff received a call asking for a Hindu representative, from schools, colleges and other groups actively seeking to meet and talk to a Hindu. In 2006, as a result of the increasing stream of requests that I personally received (I had co-founded an interfaith organization in 2005), the Temple formed the Outreach Committee with this mission:

"Take the lead to represent the Bharatiya Temple in Inter-faith and Intra-faith activities in the Metro Detroit area. The committee will accomplish this by working with many different wisdom traditions, groups, specific audiences or the general public."

Ten years later, the Committee continues to fulfill its mission, but the critical nature of its purpose has not engaged the consciousness of the broader Temple membership or the large Hindu community in the region.  I have also realized that we have a larger challenge: to ensure that the Hindu community is better prepared for the ever-increasing number of non-Hindu visitors. While the need for outreach efforts has multiplied, the basic challenge for Hindus in America still remains: outreach is not in our DNA, and we are not able to articulate our faith in a way that dispels stereotypes and reduces bullying of our children.

Hinduism is not a faith that requires propagation as a pillar of its practices, so telling people about Hinduism, or inviting others to become Hindu is not common. Thus the language needed to explain about one's faith to an outsider is typically not part of a Hindu's repertoire:  most Hindu Americans are either from India (as a result of immigration) or children of immigrants from India - a place where they usually also don't have to self-identify as Hindu because of its pluralistic, largely Hindu population and ethos. And due to the incidents beginning with 9/11/2011, in America, it has been our Muslim and Sikh friends who have had to bear the larger burden of the violence targeted towards the religious Other - although hate crimes against Hindus definitely happen. We are not forced to come out of our self-segregated worship, spiritual and cultural circles to explain, educate and advocate, to dispel misconceptions and stereotypes about our faith and its practices in the same way that Indian immigrants who are Muslim and Sikh do.

Our visitor groups don't necessarily know all this  and often expect the same organized efforts for outreach from the Hindu temple that a local mosque does. Visitors we host include teachers and students from local educational institutions, who reach out to the Temple, or those we invite - such as the local historical museum members wanting to learn about the temple and see its award winning architecture, or the broader community that we invite to the temple's annual fun-festival Anand Bazaar.  We also have local students who are often sent by their professors, to learn about Hindus and how Hindus worship who often pop in randomly.  While all these people may want to know who their Hindu neighbor is, walking into a Temple without a host to help navigate the customs and practices of this open-source faith could leave a visitor more confused, with stereotypes that are not dispelled, and a lack of understanding that can create more divisions between people of all faith communities. In additional, various temples have different practices and expectations of its membership - guidelines for attire, photography, etc. - which a young highschool or college student may not think of before walking in.  That a teacher of religion or sociology would send a student into a stranger's house of worship without respect for the sacred space and those who hold it sacred - or for putting that student into a potentially awkward situation - has always surprised me. When I am at the Temple and encounter such drop-in visitors, I usually drop my original intentions and engage them, explaining the history of the temple and the basic concepts of Hinduism. They have an opportunity for a more meaningful understanding of what Hindus have done to create sacred space, and hopefully come away with awareness of the complexity of this pluralistic faith -  but I lose the opportunity to engage the sacred per my original intention. I can easily reconcile myself to the change in plans, since Hindus believe in Athidhi Devo Bhava - that guest is God - and serving a visitor in this capacity becomes my act of worship for the day. And every once in awhile, in answering the question of a temple guest, I am often put in the position of questioning my own practices, and seeking answers which deepen my connection to the Divine.

This natural willingness to play "host" at the Bharatiya Temple or to be a Hindu voice in the larger metropolitan Detroit interfaith community, has further been enhanced by being a member of the Hindu American Foundation's national leadership team for the last six years. I have had an opportunity to work with HAF's Director of Education, Murali Balaji, and a team of stellar staff and academic advisors, as they create and develop materials for HAF's Hinduism 101 program:

An interactive, user-driven resource for learning how to teach about Hinduism according to your needs and at your own pace. We've partnered with educators and academics to create these free and accessible educational modules, so that everyone invested in teaching about Hinduism in an accurate and engaging way can do so easily and effectively.

This program is in partnership with other initiatives, such as the Teach India! workshop and Dharma Ambassador training, where we seek to encourage Hindus to become empowered to speak about their practices and precepts in a way that a predominantly Western, American audience can comprehend. Temples can be a place not only to help a person be a Hindu, they can also help a person learn about those who are Hindu.  At the end of the day, at the end of a visit - we create pluralism by promoting understanding between neighbors. --, July 31, 2016, (Writer is IT professional, Board of Directors 'Hindu American Foundation', USA) -goTop

Shri Vishwa Niketan

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