Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hinduism: Meaningless Rituals?

Most religions (and maybe all religions) have some degree of ritualistic behavior. But many people of faith love to point to people of other religions and mock the rituals that they follow. Human nature I guess...

If you ever go to a Hindu temple, one of the rituals you might notice is people circling the inner sanctum of the temple. This is one that I myself have always wondered about. Most religious rituals have (or had) some meaning or significance. Some rituals have lost that relevance and some others have been mindlessly practiced for so long that people have forgotten their meaning. So one time I asked our priest about this one...

So said the learned priest: When you visit the temple, you come with a lot of baggage. Your day to day life, your stresses, your hopes and desires, your anger and frustrations. In this state of mind it is very difficult to really feel the presence of God or to make a connection to your own spiritual self. Circling the inner sanctum of the temple, or doing pradakshina, is a method to unwind yourself from it all before trying to reach out, or in.

Typically you do three pradakshinas before praying. During the first one you should attempt to unwind and disconnect your mind from your worldly possessions. During the second you should attempt to unwind and disconnect from all your relations and relationships. Finally, during the third you should attempt to unwind and disconnect from your own ego and sense of self. When you have successfully disconnected from all this can you really connect with God.

Does this mean that if you cannot manage to disconnect some day then prayer is futile? I asked. Not so, said the priest, your prayer is still heard, you just may not be able to hear the response due to the noise.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Time Lapse Video of Grand Prix Board Game

Halfway through the game I decided to start taking a picture every so often and create a time lapse video. This is the result! If I had planned it up front my images would have been from a fixed POV etc. etc. But it turned out to be fun anyway and I might do more in the future.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Hinduism: Idol Worshippers?

So said the learned priest: People of other faiths always point to Hinduism and say that it is a religion that promotes idol worship. They scoff and say that Hindus worship stone idols and not a true God. Well, they are wrong.

Here's how he explained the deeper philosophy...
When you talk to your friend on a cell phone, you appear to people around you as talking to a phone. But are you really talking to a phone? Indeed you are not. Even though you cannot see them, you know that on the other side of the phone and phone connection is your friend. Similarly, an idol is just a medium, a symbolism for the one God, the Para-Bramha, which allows you to feel a connection with God when you pray. 

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hinduism: Polytheistic?

So said the learned priest: A common misconception about Hinduism is that the religion is polytheistic, meaning one that prays to many gods. Although on the surface it may seem that Hindus pray to hundreds of gods, that is not true. But here we are in the temple, and all around us we see idols of different gods; Ganesha - the remover of obstacles, Lakshmi - the goddess of wealth, Saraswati - the goddess of learning and arts, Vishnu - the creator and protector, and Shiva - the destroyer of evil, and on and on. Does that not make Hinduism a polytheistic religion?

Here's how he explained the deeper philosophy...
When you look around your home there are many appliances, a refrigerator for keeping things cold, a furnace to keep us warm, a computer to keep us connected, an oven and stove to cook our food, and on and on. Each has its purpose and we go to each one based on our needs. But inside, they all work on the same power, electricity. We can't see the electricity, but based on our knowledge we know that it is in there and powering the device that we are interacting with.

Similarly, there is a single power inside the various forms of god, the single God, the Para-Bramha. That is the only God in Hinduism, the various forms are just to simplify the process of prayer for the different things that we  interact with God for. And even though we cannot see God (like we can't see electricity) we know that God is there and always present.

Prologue to a Series on Hinduism

The priest at our local Hindu temple is a very learned man. He is younger than me, but has dedicated his life to God and has studied the Vedas for many years. However, in spite of being steeped in very deep religious philosophy, he has the knack for explaining complex religious concepts simply enough for our ABCD children to understand. This is very useful for parents like us who feel that having a connection to their roots is very important for kids to understand their identity and to be grounded in their adult life.

Last time we were at the temple he explained a couple of things about Hinduism to our kids and promised to explain more next time. I plan to blog about these in a series here for others that may be looking for similar information for their kids.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christopher Hitchens Died and Went to Heaven

Christopher Hitchens a die hard atheist, died last week. Much to his surprise (and of others, detail follow) he found himself, of all places, in Heaven! In fact, he was welcomed with a red carpet and a heavenly ticker tape parade.

Also surprised were all of the die hard right wing religious types who had been predicting for years, maybe even decades, that as soon as Mr. Hitchens dies he is going to find himself burning in the eternal fires of Hell. What was especially disconcerting to this group of people was that some of their own holiest of holy were not admitted; having forgotten the "Thou shalt not Judge" and "Love thy Neighbor", etc. commandments and being in denial about it.

The explanation provided to Mr. Hitchens for his admission on the other hand was his impressive use of the higher intelligence so graciously granted to him by the Almighty. Even though he had been wrong for many years, the fact that he had made such good use of critical thinking and reason, faculties only granted to humans, had been very fulfilling for the Almighty.

In other news, the die hard left wing atheist types are in shock that the pillar of their own philosophy was proved wrong, by none other than God.

DISCLAIMER: This is all 'jest' my personal opinion, I make no claims about hearing this from God or anything like that. I'm just opinionated, not crazy!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Can't Dream for Others

Although I've suspected this, maybe even known this, it has been reaffirmed for me multiple times in the recent past. Even though the dream you have imagined for someone else may be perfect for them. It may be something that they really want but just are not ready for, or have not realized yet. Dreaming for someone else is a fool's errand; dreams by nature are a personal thing and unless the dreamer and dream are one, it cannot be fulfilled.

So how does this work when related to parenting? Don't all parents have dreams for their children? I believe that they do, but really what  parent can do is to help the child construct and clarify their own dream. From that point on, unless the child adopts the dream and makes it their own, it remains a dream that the parent has for their child as opposed to the child's dream that they will take to fruition.

Different scenarios, but same principle. So if you are involved in a dream for someone else, beware, all you can do is help articulate the dream. At that point you need to let go or you will be left with a sense of failure for something you never had any control over in the first place.

Monday, December 05, 2011

I Want To Read That...

So what do you do when your kid's friend recommends a book, but you are not sure that it is age appropriate?

"Her parents let her read it", she says. But what if their standards are more liberal than yours?

Movies have ratings, video games have ratings, even music has content warnings, then why not books?

Maybe I can crowd source this info. Let's see what twitter, facebook, and goodreads can get me some info.

The book is Fallen by Lauren Kate