Browser Questions- Edition 3

January- March 2003
Most intruiguing inquiry:

Q: I have some questions for you regarding worship. It appears to me there are so many ways in which Hindu's worship. Coming from a Christian/Baha'i, monotheistic background I must admit I find the issue of worshiping God in his many incarnations, Ganesh, Kali, etc as quite well... strange. It seems silly, God is God and there is only God. I do however see that as humans we do have our limitations and inclinations, it is easier to have that instinctual feeling of love for a kitten than it is to love a scorpion, basic psychology. Did you experience this awkwardness initially? I used to believe in the concept in reincarnation, seems pretty logical, explains a lot of things, but what if we are created by God and only have one human life, but of course the soul does not die but rather moves on to the next world which is a spiritual world and we have this life to attain the heavenly virtues. This is the Baha'i concept of the life of the soul. Our soul continues to grow, both as a human, and as a spiritual being, until eventually we merge with the infinite. It is a different version of reincarnation. How does this fit within the Hindu faith?

A: You have posed some interesting and challenging questions. I will try to answer best I can. Regarding feeling awkard, I am not sure what awkwardness you refer to. Is it the awkwardness of 'choosing' a god? Well - if so, yes. Then while learning, I came to find out all GOD is the same God, how we look at God is different. This is based on religion and based on sects in a religion. (ie. Hinduism) Though I may pray to Ganesha (the photo, idol or in my head) I truly know in my heart Ganesha is none other than all other GODS - including Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Siva, and etc. It is like a language - for example all languages use different words to express water. But though the words are different - the idea is the same. As different people and cultures speak differently but mean the same thing, so is GOD seen differently but the same. And upon studying many different religions, there are many similarities. Though outwardly this doesn't seem so. I am still learning these, so I am not able to discuss them.

A: Regarding reincarnation, your description seemed right. As even in the Hindu faith. However as I understand it, one difference is in the idea of time. In our 'western culture' we see time as linear. However, Hinduism sees it as circular - well it doesn't go from past to present to future. Time has no definite path. Hence you can be living your past life (and be reincarnated in this life) now! This is a bit confusing to grasp. Even I don't fully get it. It is kind of like the movie 'back to the future'. The journey of the 'soul' through time does not follow any linear path, so to speak. I will try to get more on this. It is very interesting to me.
Q: Can you tell me why you feel spoken Tamil form is different from written form? Tamil is a phoenetic language.

A: Though Tamil may be phonetic, Tamil in it's written form is not how it is spoken by the lay or common person. For one, written Tamil doesn't have English words sprinkled into it, as the speech does. Secondly, many word endings that are found in written form are spoken differently or deleted entirely from spoken word.
Q: I to am a fan of saris. I am going to my leaver ball in May and have bought sari material and the top underneath but I was wondering if you knew of a way to wear it that is most elegant and figure flattering.

A: Here are a few links that either answer this question directly or through other links: http://members.tripod.com/~jap5/indianclothes/sari.html
http://www.angelfire.com/al/saree/drapeasari.html
I also have a site on tips on how to carry yourself in sari here: http://members.tripod.com/~jap5/indianclothes/wrongsari.html
Q: Hi I'm a Lord Ganesha devotee. Can you please tell me a prayer related to Lord Ganesha?

A: I have one mantra I have passed along to a friend. She said it was powerful. I have been chanting this past few days and have seen some difference in my life (positive and negative). Later I have come to find out this is part of Ganesha Puja which some perform daily.
What I mean it helped me to deal with negative things to see positives.
Here it is:

Aum shuklaa baradharam vishnum
Sashi varnam chatur bhujam
prasanna vadanam dyaayet
sarva vighno pashaantaye

Meaning:
Aum. Oh Lord dressed in splendid white, pervading all the universe, shining radiantly like the ivory rays of the full moon, having four mighty shoulders and a charming, happy face. We meditate on you, oh Lord that all obstacles may be quelled.
If anyone out there has other Ganesha mantras or prayers please send them along to me. Please include the English translation and the reason to make the prayer (ie. Studies, starting a journey, new home, etc.).
Q: Do you know of any organizations in US where other Americans interested in Hinduism gather?

A: Well- as far as organizations that Americans participate in, I can think of a few- Ramakrishna Mission, Various Gurukulams and Ashrams located throughout US Hare Krishna Temple. As far as specific temples/ashrams, I do know the Sri Vidya Temple in Rochester NY has many Non South Asian Hindus. There is also a Gurukulam in PA (name is escaping me at the moment) that many also attend (though I have yet to go).Else wise, I have been to many temples across this country and find that I usually am the only Non-Indian looking person (skin color) there. I suppose many temples in CA have Americans attending. Not sure the regularity of their visits.
Q: I am happy that you do not have a Guru, doing things that is "calling you", and celebrating your uniqueness. Everybody is unique and religion is for self-realization (what made me what I am today). I cannot talk about somebody else (what ever I talk about somebody else, is about myself!). So taking a guru leads to getting our self-realization through somebody who is talking about himself. I would like to know what aspect of Hinduism influenced you to like it?

A: Well - the openness of the 'religion'. There are so many paths - and one can even keep a non-traditional Hindu path and still 'be Hindu'. (All god is one.) Also the philosophy. Really most religions are same, but the way in which Hindu philosophy is written interested me very much in the beginning. It was intriguing - now I just feel at home picking up Ramayana, etc. I have dream to read Vedas - and understand them! I am slowly going in that way. I also liked the temple atmosphere. For more on this read my essay, Why I am a Hindu.
Q: I am an American married to a Tamil man from Malaysia. I have a son who is 2 and I want him to have some influences of his father's culture, though I am more interested in it than my husband even is. Can you give any advice on how I can go about installing my son with his father's heritage?

A: I applaud you for going to such great lengths. I feel this is something you and your husband will have to work on together, hence I won't give any advice on this.
Q: If I was to invite these Hindu neighbors of mine over for a meal, should I serve wine or other drinks or is alcohol against their/your religion?

A: Honestly, it really depends on the people. Some will socially drink and some won't (usually men will and ladies won't). But it can be totally individual. To test it on the first visit may not be the best though! (In case they would feel uncomfortable) and you can slowly ask them about it.
Q: How do I dispose of old murthis?

A: As far as riding of murthis, I am not sure. I have never done this. What is the murthi made of? Sometimes if it is made of a rock or clay (Pure) people dump it in the river (giving back to earth what it gave to us). But if it is not, I am not sure. Burying may be a good solution. If anyone out there reading this has a good idea or method of disposing old murthis please contact me with your ideas.
End of Edition 3. Copyright March 2003.
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