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Vedic wedding in city for US-born couples October 6, 2009

Posted by reader111 in Hinduism Thrives.
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Viju B, TNN 6 October 2009, 04:11am IST

MUMBAI: Amy Pearce blushed into her pallu as Rohini Kumar, parikarmi (master of ceremonies), chanted a Sanskrit mantra and then translated it into 
English: “This means you will have to take good care of all your cows.’’ He then added helpfully: “Hope you have many cows in your backyard.’’

Pearce sat cross-legged besides her 6-foot, 4-inch bridegroom, Mark Terza, a physiotherapist-turned-yoga fanatic, blinking as the thick havan smoke enveloped the hall. But they weren’t the only Americans getting hitched in desi style in Mumbai. Beside them sat yet another couple—New York-based builder T J Macchiaroli and Melinda Pizzano, who runs a flourishing upcountry spa in Putnam County in New York.

The couples garlanded each other amidst Vedic chants at the Radha Gopinath Temple at Chowpatty on Monday morning. The guests of honour were 14 other yoga enthusiasts, also from the US of A, brought to India on a whirlwind 13-day spiritual tour by group leader Reghunath. “This is a historic first for Mumbai. Although we’ve had many such Vedic weddings for Indian couples in the past, this is the first time two American couples have decided to take the plunge into Indian culture together. And it all began after they started doing yoga,’’ Radha Gopinath Temple founder Radhanath Swami said.

Pearce and Terza had decided to get married in India after they met two years ago. And, while doing that, they affirmed that yoga was the “organic thread’’ that united them. “She was my yoga guru and I fell in love with my guru. I hope that is okay,’’ Terza, now a partner in his wife’s yoga school in New York, said laughingly.

They aren’t the flower children of the 1970s or the 1980s. “We don’t do drugs, we don’t drink and we don’t touch alcohol. Neither are we into Floyd or Dylan. We, follow, instead, the scientific principle of living that is mentioned in Patanjali’s Yogasutra,’’ guru Pearce explained. Macchiaroli and Melinda, on the other hand, knew each other from school but “both of us went our separate ways till I came back to learn yoga from her’’ says the bridegroom.

Swami even made a small speech at the wedding, explaining that even Mahatma Gandhi had problems in his marriage. “But everything great does not come easy. You can easily have a one-night stand. But if a marriage has to survive, it needs to be based on a higher principle,’’ he said.

Yoga, according to him, unites people’s souls. “The Americans are now slowly moving towards the next step, that is understanding Indian spirituality and culture through yoga,’’ he said.

The group travelled to pilgrimage destinations like Haridwar, Devaprayag and Vrindavan, took a holy dip in the Ganga and even interacted with “spiritual masters’’ in the Himalayas for this initiation. “The greatest experience I had in my life was at Devaprayag, where we prayed into the twilight chanting Hare Krishna. I understood then what yoga really meant—the union of myself with the cosmic soul,’’ Ameliese Savchak, an HR manager with Pepsico and a yoga practitioner for the last three years, said.



Embrace Islam, say YouTube ‘Shankaracharyas’ October 5, 2009

Posted by reader111 in Hindu Rights Register.
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Anuraag Singh, Hindustan Times
Varanasi, September 23, 2009

The likely successor to the Shankaracharya of northern and western India is very angry at popular web portal YouTube showing video clips of two ‘fake’ Shankaracharyas, one of who exhorts viewers to embrace Islam and the other explains why he converted to Islam.

He is so enraged that he has decided to seek the intervention of President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “on this burning issue”.

“We’re also seeking the opinion of experts to proceed legally against the web portal for featuring these video clips which are bound to hurt Hindu sentiments across the world,” Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati of the Jyotishpeeth and Shardapeeth told HT here on Wednesday.

The clips show one of the men dressed in a red robe and the other clad in white pyjamas and sleeveless half-coat, sporting a skull cap and thin beard.

One clip (of 9.20 minutes) shows an old man holding the signature stick of the first Shankaracharya going by the name and title of ‘Devanand Saraswati, Jagatguru Shankaracharya’.

He tells a gathering in Hindi that Islam is the greatest religion in the world and that the first verse of the Quran should motivate Hindus to convert to Islam. The man calls upon the whole world to adopt Islam, adding that those against Islam are devils. “I don’t love those who don’t love Muslims,” he says in the clip.

The second clip of over four minutes shows a young man going by the name of ‘Acharya Sanjay Prasad Dwivedi-turned-Ahmed Pandit’ and bearing the title of the ‘Varanasi Shankar Acharya (sic)’.

This man says in Hindi that he was a Hindu priest in Varanasi who delved deep into the study of the Quran for three years and converted to Islam. Strangely, he is shown speaking at a gathering with a banner reading ‘Health Ministry’ behind him.

Swami Avimukteshwaranand said the two men are frauds as Hindus all over the world recognise only three Shankaracharyas who head the four peeths or religious centres established by the first or Adi Shankaracharya in 500 BC.

The four peeths were set up by him at Joshi Mutt in Uttarakhand, Puri in Orissa, Sringeri in Karnataka and Dwarka in Gujarat. The first Shankaracharya propounded the Advaita Vedanta philosophy of Sanatan Dharma, one of the main streams of Hinduism.

Swami Avimukteshwaranand is to likely to succeed Swami Swarupanand Saraswati as the the Shankaracharya of the religious centres called the Jyotishpeeth and Shardapeeth, which are located in Uttarakhand and Gujarat.


An internal battle wages in the Church January 24, 2009

Posted by reader111 in Religious Conversions, Uncategorized.
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In Orissa, new converts quickly realize that religious change does not mean equality

Priyanka P. Narain

Mumbai: When Father William Premdas Chaudhary, the only Dalit priest in the Delhi archdiocese, began highlighting the plight of his community three years ago, his parish was taken away from him.
“I became a nuisance to the archbishop by raising issues faced by lower castes in churches. So they sidelined me,” he claims.

They converted to Christianity to escape the caste system of Hinduism, but even in the church, Dalits (or lower caste) remain at the bottom of the hierarchy, facing discrimination, unequal access to education, even the persistence of preface: “Dalit Christians”. But hope has stirred, ironically, out of attacks on their own. In an unprecedented move last week, the pope of the Roman Catholic Church issued a statement condemning the Orissa violence that killed dozens in the wake of the unsolved murder of a vocal anti-missionary Hindu leader. Since the Vatican has rarely addressed Indian Christians before, Dalit Christians hope the pope will now look deeper inside the practice of the religion in India—perhaps condemn caste, enforce equality, make conversions more honest and renew their flagging faith.

As churchgoers dwindle in Europe—according to pollster Gallup International, attendance declined from 60-65% in 1980 to 20% in 2000—countries such as India with its enormous potential for conversion have become more important for the Vatican. But an old hierarchical civilization such as India poses unique challenges, explains R.L. Francis, president of the Poor Christian Liberation Movement. Here, “the higher castes of Christianity, Syrians, Mangloreans and Goans from south India dominate churches in the country and treat Dalit converts like second-class citizens,” he says.

Some Dalit Christians also say that the violence in Orissa offers lessons for the church to proceed with caution in its approach to conversions—and first fix relations among existing followers. Pro-Hindu organizations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad say, for example, that conversion should not be linked to basic needs, such as access to health care or school.

The meek shall inherit

“We have known injustice for generations. It’s wonderful when someone tells you, ‘All human beings are the children of god,’” says Francis, whose grandfather had converted from Hinduism to Christianity.

In Orissa, new converts quickly realize that religious change does not mean equality. For instance, among the Panos, who were originally animists, those who converted came to dominate the social order of the state. They own businesses, hold positions of power and also dominate the clergy, while the condition of tribals remains unchanged.

The strange hierarchy enters economics and politics in other ways; tribal Christians can avail of Scheduled Tribe status, while Dalit Christians cannot of Scheduled Caste status, although certainly there have been efforts to expand quotas to them. In the district of Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, P.B Lomiyo, editor of the magazine, Christian Restoration, says Dalits face similar challenges nationwide. Lomiyo says, “The clergy raise funds for schools for Dalits, but don’t give admission to them. When Dalits demand their rights, they react and encourage the parish to boycott the Dalits.”

One area of great contention has been schools. Father Benjamin Chinnappa, a priest who works in Chicago, runs a school for Dalit children near Puducherry with his US salary.

Even though Dalits need the education and upliftment most, he says, “the school administrators want to keep performance high. They want to compete with other schools and want people who can pay tuition.”

The issue is not entirely new, though. Father Anthony Kurusinkal, editor of The Examiner archdiocesean newspaper for Mumbai, says he had studied the issue of Dalit Christians in 1984 at the request of the Vatican and had made a presentation in the city-state, advocating greater representation from the Dalit community in church leadership. “They wanted to know what the situation is,” he said. “And they decided that no appointments to the post of bishop or archbishop will be made on the basis of caste in India.”

But that was 24 years ago.

Since then, inequality has deepened and become entrenched in the church, says Chinnappa. “The bishops and archbishops will not accept it. But this discrimination against the Dalits is the bitter reality of the Christian church in India.”

The silent church

So far, the Vatican has not addressed the divide, saying it must be resolved by Indian church officials. The pope’s representative in India, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, declined to comment.

However, the website of Catholic Bishops Conference of India discusses how the government and the Constitution of India have failed Dalits. But it does not list any programmes or policies specifically for them run by the church.
And the Vatican’s directive that bishops should not be chosen on the basis of caste has made no impact on the ground, Kurusinkal says. “There is constant in-fighting going on when a leader is chosen. If it is an area with high caste majority, they will insist that one among them becomes the bishop or priest. If it is a lower caste majority, they want a leader from among them,” he said. Francis alleges that there is no interest in fixing the problem and insists that like all other Dalit Christians, “I am subtly reminded to remember who I am—an untouchable.”

He says letters sent to the Vatican demanding help have met silence. “But we will not be silent. The church leaders in India should stop asking the government to give us the status of the Scheduled Caste. When we embraced Christianity, we came to the Church for a better life,” he says. “Now they cannot go back on it.”

In some cases, the Church’s willingness to look the other way has been in some Indians’ favour, on issues such as birth control and abortion, for example.

Francis says that is because the Vatican has one lone interest in India: conversion. “They have only set up a business enterprise here,” he said, “… solely for promoting conversions, none for Dalit upliftment. We are asking the Vatican to stop all conversion in India for the next 100 years and spend the money on healing those who have already come to the faith.”

Rajdeep Datta Ray contributed to this story from Orissa.

Next: In Orissa, Hindus and Christians alike say some missionaries have used deceitful means to convert villagers.

Ref: www.livemint.com/2008/09/03001625/An-internal-battle-wages-in-th.html