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Discovering common ground with Jews

Even though India had issues recognizing Israel, there were
no
second thoughts about asking Israel for help
during the wars with China
and Pakistan. Even when the
Palestinians
had no issues with India recognizing Israel
, we chose to be more catholic
than the pope. Fortunately people outside the country are establishing close
relationship with the Jews and learning quite a bit from them.

Much of that synergy is happening in the Bay Area, where Hindus and Jews
have been coming together to network, talk politics, share dance steps and,
yes, get married. Hindu and Jewish groups estimate there are about 300,000
Jews and upward of 200,000 Hindus living in the Bay Area. Community leaders
acknowledge the two groups have a lot in common: a shared emphasis on
family, faith and education; homelands that are young democracies with a
history of foreign occupations; and, especially in the Bay Area, high
visibility in the tech industry.

But by far, they said, the strongest force behind the friendship has been
the growing ties between India and Israel — two countries with a history of
hostile relations with their Muslim neighbors.

They’ve also been willing to rally to one another’s side. When protesters
disrupted the first-ever Hindu prayer to open the Senate’s daily session in
July, Jews stood alongside Indians in decrying the incident. And when Bay
Area Jews face off against protesters in San Francisco calling for people
and businesses to dump their Israeli assets, they’re not alone.

“When we stand out there counter-protesting, we found that members of the
Hindu-American community always stand shoulder to shoulder with us,” said
Lisa Cohen, who has taken part in a number of rallies and protests. That
friendship, she added, is just going to get stronger. “They have been there
with us through thick and thin,” she said, “and the more I’m around them,
the more I find that we have so much in common.”
[Jews,
Hindus in Bay Area discover common ground
]

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Understanding anti-Hindusim

When Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple in Reno, Nev., gave the brief prayer that opens each day’s Senate session last month,  his prayer was disrupted by some anti-abortion activists who shouted “No Lord but Jesus Christ“, “There’s only one true God,” and ”this is an abomination”. To understand the hatred of the hecklers, Rajiv Malhotra writes that one should understand that there is a systematic creation and distribution of misinformation by an army of “scholars”.

The denigration of Hinduism influences the way Americans relate to Indians. Andrew Rotter, an American historian, in his book on the US foreign policy’s tilt against India and towards Pakistan during the Nehru era, cites declassified documents revealing US presidents’ and diplomats’ suspicions of Hinduism. They regarded “Hindu India” as lacking morality and integrity, and its “grotesque images” reminded them of previous pagan faiths conquered by Christians, such as Native Americans. American ideas about India are intertwined with stereotypes about Hinduism.

There are domestic implications concerning the diaspora as well. The great American meritocracy has enabled us to succeed as individuals, and many Indians see American Jews as a role model. But it took the Jews over half a century of organized lobbying and litigation by organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, to establish their religious identity in public life. The lesson Jews had learnt in the European Holocaust was that their individual success could easily be used against them if their civilizational identity was defamed. Indians also faced hate crimes in New Jersey when the Dotbusters targeted Hindus. Recent rants by Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs generate xenophobia against Indians for “stealing” jobs from “real” (i.e. white Judeo-Christian) Americans.

As Indian-Americans stand out for their individual success, while US economic standards deteriorate, we may one day regret having neglected the projection of a positive civilizational image. Unlike many other ethnic and religious groups, we have not adequately engaged US universities, schools, media and think-tanks deeper than the pop culture layer of cuisine, Bollywood and fashions. On the contrary, many Indian writers have fed the “caste, cows, curry” images of India. [Was the US Senate Attack on Hinduism an isolated Instance?]

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Intolerant Leader and Followers

In 1864, a group of sailors were castaway in Auckland Islands, some 300 miles
south of New Zealand. Very few had survived shipwrecks in that area and one such
group was led by
Capt.
Thomas Musgrave of Britain
. Eight days after surviving the wreck  the
sailors came out of the tent on seeing the sun and when the captain read a
passage from the Bible in which Christ asks his disciples to love one another,
the group consisting of a French gold miner, a leprosy-deformed Portuguese cook,
a  Norwegian and an Englishman burst into tears. Some modern days followers
of Jesus have forgotten or have chosen to ignore this message.

All you need is ask Rajan Zed,
director of interfaith relations at
a Hindu temple in Reno, Nev., who recently gave the brief prayer that opens each
day’s Senate session. His prayer
was
disrupted
by some anti-abortion activists
who shouted
No
Lord but Jesus Christ
“, “There’s only one true God,” and
this
is an abomination
”. While the Indian Parliament does not open with a
prayer, legislative assemblies in United States have opened with prayers since
the early sessions of Congress, but so far the prayers had been only of the
monotheistic religions.



Christian historian David Barton said that the prayer was unconstitutional since
Hindus worship multiple Gods and it violates the motto, One Nation under God.
Mr. Barton would have to spend a lifetime to understand the concept of
Brahman to realize the shallowness of his
statement, but much simpler for him would be to read
Ann
Althouse’s explanation
that the motto isn’t in the constitution and by
protesting Mr. Barton is foolishly asking the motto to be declared
unconstitutional.



While  intolerance for other faiths has been accepted without any
introspection by some of the foot soldiers, it is also worth looking at the
leadership of some of these sects as well. A 16-page document prepared by the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Pope Benedict XVI headed when
he was a cardinal has declared that Christian denominations outside the Roman
Catholic Church are not full churches of Jesus Christ. The document also claims
that Roman Catholic Church
alone
is the mediator of salvation
while other defective Christian faiths, like
the Protestants, can be just instruments.



The Pope is also planning to
issue
a decree allowing wider use of the Tridentine Mass
, the Latin rite which was
codified in 1570 and and used till the 1960s when the  second Vatican
council reformed it. The Tridentine mass is supposed to be more beautiful with
Gregorian chants and a much dignified service than the present day mass.
The
Jews are not very happy
about it since there are prayers in the Mass which
calls for their conversion and the
Pope’s
explanation
is that whatever was held sacred by ancient generations remain
sacred to us too and cannot be forbidden. Imagine for a moment what would have
happened in India if such argument was used for reviving the caste system.



When the leadership lacks sensitivity to other monotheistic religions and even
members praying to the same God, it is too much to ask for some of their brain
washed followers to respect a religion which they don’t even understand.
Fortunately a vast majority of the people think the ant-abortion protesters are
idiots
and stupid
jerks

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Sacred Chants by Stephen Devassy

stephen2 stephen3

Stephen Devassy, the 24 year old keyboard player from Palakkad was unknown to me, till I head his version of Mahishasuramardini Stotram (link has a sample) at the Melody Corner Music Store in Trichur last month. He was the music director of the album which  mixed traditional devotional songs with non-traditional music along and vocals from Saindhavi, Uma Mohan and Ghayatri Devi. A student of Chetana Music Academy, he has played along with Hariharan and L. Subramaniyam as well as composed music for a bad Mohanlal movie called Hariharan Pilla Happy Aanu.

His music which has elements of gospel music  is not intrusive, but gives importance to the vocals. While the music is soothing and uplifting, the vocals too are clear and perfect with their pronunciation. The store had only the above two CDs, but like others I too would buy any of his Sacred/Holy Chants series in a heartbeat.

See Also: Video Interview with Stephen (Malayalam/English),  stage performance, The right keys to successVillage boy from Palakkad climbs the music ladder

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Sanskrit Revival

When Israel became a nation, they chose Hebrew as their official language, while we in India ditched Sanskrit to chose Hindi as the national language. We now stand low, at the eminent historian level, having to depend on English translations of our scriptures to understand their meaning.

Due to work of an organization called Samskrita Bharati, Sanskrit is experiencing a revival and people around the world are getting a quick introduction to the language. The idea behind these classes are to get people comfortable talking in Sanskrit as soon as possible and the teacher does that by conversing only in Sanskrit for the entire 10 day duration.

Today, spoken Sanskrit is enjoying a revival – both in India and among Indian expatriates in the United States. There is even evidence of Sanskrit emerging in American popular culture as more and more people roll out yoga mats at the local gym and greet one another with “Namaste.”

Harvard, Yale, and the University of Chicago, among others, have long offered Sanskrit courses to undergrads. But the demand for these classes is growing beyond academic settings. A decade-long economic boom has brought Indians some measure of prosperity, and with it a sense of pride in the nation’s past. In large part, however, the revival is the result of the efforts of a private group, Samskrita Bharati, headquartered in New Delhi. The volunteer-based group’s mission: Bring the pan-Indian language back to the mainstream and lay the groundwork for a cultural renaissance.

Yoga practitioners in the US are seeking out the authentic Sanskrit names of various poses such as “downward dog” or “spinal twist” and the philosophy behind the practice as spelled out in the Yoga Sutras – the original treatise on the subject written in Sanskrit thousands of years ago.

Science-history buffs see old works in Sanskrit as treasure troves of ancient knowledge of astronomy, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, and metallurgy. When Copernicus announced that the sun was the center of the universe in 1543, it was a defining moment for Western science. In Samskrita Bharati’s recently released “Pride of India” – a compilation that offers a glimpse into India’s scientific heritage – Sanskrit scholars point to calculations from AD 499 that indicate astronomer Aryabhatta’s underlying concept of a sun-centered planetary model.

“This knowledge tradition is what we hope to revive through the spread of Sanskrit,” says Shastry.[Sanskrit echoes around the world]

Check the site for courses in your area.

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