At a nondescript ranch house in upstate New York, devotees gather for a practice both incalculably ancient and radically fresh — and in the process, connect with a larger story of the way things have always been: needs and hopes, dangers and joys, smoke and fire. A vivid, rich portrait of Hindu ritual in modern times.
Wandering about offers signs about honor and honesty, sunset yoga on the Ganges, ways to live and uncover an undivided life, and behind-the-scenes looks of our work. Our look into this week's gems and delights.
“The more important thing which spoke to me — above love and all that — was that I had to live for my own identity. I wanted to stand on my own two feet and do what was right, regardless of any social pressure.”
Thirty-four years after he first defied India's caste system to "marry up," a Jain man talks about the perseverance and difficulties of marrying outside his caste in India.
A profile from Delhi, India of a young Hindu woman who becomes an Evangelical Christian in secret. She shares how she struggles to adhere to her family's expectations to conform to local traditions, caste, and culture -- and remain devout to Jesus.
In preparation for the Maha Shivratri festival, an Indian girl touches up these in-demand statuettes of Lord Shiva at a roadside stall on the outskirts of Amritsar. (photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images)
Lord Shiva, one of the Trimurti in the Hindu trinity, is recognized today during the festival of Maha Shivratri. At this time, Hindus offer special prayers and fast to worship Lord Shiva, the Lord of Destruction. Lord Shiva’s devotees consider him to be the destroyer of the world, ego, and attachments. At temples devoted to Shiva, the devout pray and burn incense as offerings during a night-long vigil.
Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902) is known for being one of the first people to bring the message of Hinduism to the West. He was a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, and a follower of Vedanta. I recently picked up Vedanta: Voice of Freedom, a compilation of Swami Vivekananda’s speeches, that I had read when I was a teenager.
The book touches on many aspects of Vedanta. For example, he explains that there are three variations among Vedantists: dualists, qualified nondualists, and Advaitists. He explains that Advaitists believe God is “both the material and the efficient cause of the universe”:
“…there are some scientists who say ‘I don’t think electrons really exist.’ It’s useful to think of them as existing. It’s useful to build computers with that image in mind of an electron, but I don’t think they really exist… when other people think of God as a personal thing, that’s as close as you can get given the constraints on human cognition and maybe it’s not something you should apologize for…”
Transcribing Krista’s interview with Robert Wright for next week’s show, I came across this passage, which reminded me of a conversation I had with a Hindu Sanyasi when I was 16. In Hinduism, “God” has different definitions depending on what appeals to you. For example, in my family, I grew up understanding that all the different deities were forms of one personal being. But working in India, I met people who literally believed every deity existed as a separate identity — true polytheism. And this Sanyasi was my first exposure to the idea of God not as a personal being.