Browsing: Faith

India’s many faiths – Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism & Zoroastrianism

2 What’s in a Name?

Recently US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard got married in a Vedic ceremony in Hawaii. A Hindu, she has even taken her congressional oath on the Bhagavad Gita. Her name Tulsi means the Holy Basil which is so central to Hindu belief. Her mother Carol Gabbard was brought up in the Brahma Madhwa Gaudiya tradition and named her five children Bhakti (worship), Jai (a Hindu salutation), Aryan ( noble one), Tulsi (sacred plant) and Vrindavan ( Lord Krishna’s abode).

It got me thinking – what’s in a name and how can one use such a simple device to enhance the spiritual lives of one’s children? It certainly has deeper connotations than naming a child after candy or a jewelry store!

4 The Power of Chanting in a Stressful World

There’s probably nothing more valuable that you could introduce into your life than chanting. It’s been practiced for centuries in so many different faiths but is especially powerful in the Hindu tradition, where the Shastras and gurus have extolled the virtues of chanting God’s name as an anchor in the turbulence of life.
Listening to a chant can be as powerful as chanting yourself. Whether it is the sages chanting on the banks of the Ganges or a New Yorker commuting to work in the subway and listening to a CD of chants on her earphones, there’s a way to keep the spiritual in your life, no matter what life you’re living.

5 Holi, Hindu festival, Colors New York

Imagine entire streets, neighborhoods drenched in color. Imagine people so immersed in red, purple, green and yellow powders that you can’t distinguish one from the other!
Yes, Holi, the Indian festival of colors is here, heralding Spring and the exuberant love of Radha and Krishna in Mathura. There’s joy, playfulness, a reaching out to friends and strangers. The festival has traveled well to America, brought in as part of the traditions of Hindu immigrants. And on May 2nd it’s being celebrated in a free fun festival by a group of young Indian-Americans in Manhattan.

4 In Search of Yoga’s Shining Past

“But isn’t yoga an English word?”

This was the plaintive response one American had when she was told that yoga’s original birthplace was India. Indeed, this ancient practice from India has traveled so far and been so cut off from its moorings that many current day practitioners in the west seem to think it was always a part of American life.

Now comes a comprehensive art exhibition in America, the first of its kind, which through the language of visuals – paintings, sculptures and photographs – traces yoga’s roots back to India, back to Gods and Goddesses, back to spiritual and philosophical aspirations. It can be seen at the Cleveland Museum of Art from June 22 to September 7, 2014.

0 Encountering Ganesha

Lord Ganesha enters people’s lives in mysterious ways – sometimes it can even be just a chance encounter on a busy New York street! When photographer Shana Dressler passed a bookstore in Manhattan, she stopped in her tracks. In the window was a photography book which had on its cover a striking 20-foot high plaster of Paris statue of the elephant-headed God in the water, being splashed by a small army of men.

1 Ganesh Chaturthi – Celebrating the God of Prosperity

The most beloved god in the Hindu pantheon is surely Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati. He is the God of Auspicious Beginnings, the one whose presence assures the success of any venture. Whether it is the birth of a child, the opening of a new business or even the buying of a new car, nothing begins without the blessings of the Elephant-headed God. He is beloved by students too because a prayer to Him ensures better grades in an exam.
So it is no surprise that Lord Ganesha’s birthday is a time for great joy and celebration. Ganesh Chaturthi is the 9 day festival celebrating the birth of this joyful deity and is one of the most colorful Hindu festivals. This year the festival is celebrated from September 11 to 20th.

1 How to Find Happiness in an Unhappy World

It costs nothing and you can’t buy it in a store. Yet we all hanker for it. We are talking, of course, about “Happiness” and everyone wants it. There’s nobody who says “I want to be unhappy. I want sorrow.” Yet, happiness is elusive. We all think we will be happy if only we could change our job, our spouse, our status, our lives. If only, if only!

The change happens and initially we are happy but very soon we are once again needing some other change to be really happy.
But what is real, lasting happiness – and how do we find it?

5 Thomas Kelly and the Sadhu Universe

“These sadhus are like a living question that people have forgotten to ask,” says noted photographer Thomas Kelly. “Their painted bodies confront us with essential questions at the heart of existence…provoking the questions, ‘Who am I?’ ‘What do I need?’ ‘What is really important?’”

So as we ponder this, we can take a stroll through the beautiful Rubin Museum of Art situated in frenzied Manhattan and see how the sadhus are trying to make sense of the world.

I’m always intrigued by the fact that this gorgeous museum devoted to the soul and to spirituality was once a highly materialistic shopping heaven – Barneys! Now to walk through it is like being in a temple of peace, and each of us is free to find our own path to salvation.

1 Eboo Patel & Interfaith Youth Core

Dr. Eboo Patel is a man of peace in a time of violence. At a time when a Muslim name automatically gets equated with terrorism and Islam itself is misunderstood, this young Muslim Indian American shows the power of interfaith dialogue.

Recently he was honored in New York with the 2012 Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize, established by Hofstra University with a gift by the Bindras, a prominent Sikh American family in New York. This award has earlier been given to the Dalai Lama, Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Religions for Peace.Patel has been successful in propagating the very commonsense yet outrageous idea that given a choice, young people of different religions will prefer love over hate, peace over violence.

1 A Day of Light and Sweets

The fireworks still explode in the memory, and the taste of nuts and cream and sugar still linger on the tongue. For immigrants from India, the childhood memories of Diwali are strong, for it is a time when India transforms into one glittering celebration. Public buildings are illuminated with neon lights and every home, no matter how humble, is ablaze with earthen lamps. In fact, entire villages are turned into fairylands, dotted with millions of lamps, glowing in the dark of night.

0 Diwali in Obama’s America

Today Diwali is being celebrated in the White House. And yes, ‘Happy Diwali’ is trending on Twitter in America. What more could a Hindu ask for? So before you do your puja and enjoy the jalebis and laddoos, listen to the Prez. And we will also share with you in another post the great work Hindus are doing with disaster relief for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Here are President Obama’s thoughts on Diwali. “Many who observe this holiday will light the Diya, or lamp, which symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. As that lamp is lit, we should all recommit ourselves to bring light to any place still facing darkness. Earlier this year, we were reminded of the evil that exists in the world when a gunman walked into the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and opened fire.

In the wake of that horrible tragedy, we saw the resilience of a community that drew strength from their faith and a sense of solidarity with their neighbors, Sikh and non-Sikh alike. We also saw compassion and love, in the heroic actions of the first responders and the outpouring of support from people across the country. Out of a day of sadness, we were reminded that the beauty of America remains our diversity, and our right to religious freedom.”
– Barack Obama

0 Roberto Custodio: It’s All About Reincarnation

What is art exactly? In a throw-away world where material things lose their value all too soon, the Brazilian artist Roberto Custodio celebrates art as reincarnation, art as renewal of the spirit. Old, discarded magazines become the building blocks of his art, as he picks and chooses images and bits and pieces of different worlds to juxtapose a totally new reality, a fresh take on things.

A ragpicker of the soul, Custodio creates a gorgeous puzzle of tiny shards from different lives and invites you into a whole new universe. His earlier work from found and discarded publications brought into existence a whole pantheon of Hindu Gods from Brahma and Shiva to Krishna and Kali. Now in his latest exhibition ‘Your Royal Highness’ he turns his attention to powerful women from queens to courtesans – and yes, even a maharani.

0 Holi – Festival of Colors in New York

Some things never change. Lord Krishna played holi with Radha and her sakhis in the lush groves of Brindaban in timeless time – and now we are still playing it in the 21st century, not only in India but across the diaspora – even on board a ship anchored off New York city, no less!
Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, is here heralding spring, joy and togetherness. In India, the streets are turned multicolored with every hue imaginable. At private parties there are pichkari-fights as revelers get splashed with color, dunked in pools full of colored water, and splurge on sweets and gets intoxicated on thandai, often laced with bhang. We share a wonderful video of the late great showman Raj Kapoor whose Holi parties were legendary. Enjoy!

0 Hinduism 101: The Power of Seva in America

As we, the New Americans, mature and root ourselves further in the sacred and secular landscape of America, we see a need to build national and local organizations focusing on serving — with Seva Bhava — contemporary needs of our growing community and the community at large.
Seva or service is an integral part of our culture and traditions, an inside-out approach to life. Many individuals and organizations volunteer and serve in soup kitchens, shelters, health camps, and disaster relief. But few Dharmic – Hindu, Jain,Sikh, Buddhist – institutions have the capacity to provide sustained social services and do seva as is prevalent in other faith based institutions in America. GUEST BLOG

10 Devi Durga, Mahishasura & Cosmic Evil

(Photo: Amal Biswas)

Ever wondered why Hindu Gods and Goddesses have multiple heads, limbs and eyes?

Word as a vehicle of expression of thought is a powerful instrument – but its adequacy is limited to the phenomenal world. That is why an individual’s personal spiritual realization is inexpressible in its totality.

Mythology is an offshoot of this inefficacy of word while dealing with celestial events. The saintly scholar in Hinduism is seized with the problem of adequately narrating a superhuman extraordinary event, and tends to exaggerate. He needs to respond to his inner clamor to bestow the highest glory to the Lord with love, respect and adoration.

This has inevitably resulted in the Hindu pantheon having Gods and Goddesses with multiple heads and hands, but then so do cosmic evil forces too. There is a deep philosophical significance in this.
– Guest blogger Tapas Mukherjee

6 Spirituality 101 – The Journey of a Skeptic

“My blogs usually are about trips to exciting and exotic international destinations, and these trips typically last about two weeks or so. Today I’m writing about a very different journey – my journey on the path of meditation that I have been on for about three years. When I set off on that trip, I didn’t even know that I was embarking on a journey.

I started learning meditation out of exasperation. My sister had been insisting that I attend a course with Art of Living (AOL) because it would help me. I was quite sure I didn’t need help. My experience growing up in India and then living in the US for several years was that this stuff was either for the ultra-religious Indians or new age Americans. I was neither. But I took the course anyway – so I could turn around and let my sister know that it was no good and a waste of money!” Guest Blogger Jinny Uppal

0 I Meditate NY, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar & Social Media

I-Phone, I-Pad, I-Meditate?

It was bound to happen! The practice of meditation may be thousands of years old but it is perfectly suited to our very stressful modern times, when in order to go fast, you have to learn to slow down. And the buzz of the moment is that the power of social media is being harnessed by a group of high achieving young professionals to get the word out about the value of meditation, and the upcoming I Meditate NY event, one of the largest meditation gatherings ever to be held in the Big Apple.

Over 2700 New Yorkers, from all walks of life and all religions, will come together to listen to and meditate with the renowned spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who heads the Art of Living Foundation, with music by Grammy nominated Chandrika Tandon and world music band Bhakti. This unique event will be held at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall on April 10, and leading up to it are free meditation classes at the Art of Living Center in Manhattan, a chance to get a first-hand taste of meditation.

41 Karma 101

“If you punch a concrete wall with your fist, the wall hits you back with the same amount of force you had engaged in hitting it.

Your bad actions in this world will inevitably hit you back too; just as your good actions will ensure good consequences reflected either in ensuring unburdened living, or in ameliorating accumulated bad karma.” New guest blog on spirituality.

1 Chandrika Tandon’s Healing Mantra

Chandrika Krishnamurthy Tandon, the dynamic chairman of Tandon Capital Associates, who has done major restructuring surgeries in the global financial world, is executive-in-residence at New York University Stern, a member of the board of overseers of New York’s Stern School of Business, a member of the President’s Council of International Activities at Yale University, and an arts patron.
There’s more: she has the voice of an angel. ‘Om Namo Narayanaya’ is the chant that will calm and strengthen you. Newsbreak: Soul Call has just been nominated for a Grammy in the Best Contemporary World Music Album category

4 Heaven on Earth, Guruvayur Temple

“It is the devotees who humanize Guruvayurappan, investing Him with characteristics and traits that bring Him into their lives at a level where He ceases to be a distantly enshrined divinity. They display an intimacy with Him that in no way diminishes their reverence, expressing emotions that speak volumes about their sense of His accessibility and understanding.” – Pepita Seth