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Understanding, Living & Preserving Hinduism – Speech by Mrs Bhavna Shinde Hurley
On 5th November 2010, a novel educational program, ‘Spotlight on Hinduism’ concluded successfully at the Drake Tech Centre in Fort Collins. On the occasion of the widely celebrated Hindu ‘festival of lights’, Diwali, many from Fort Collins and surrounding areas thronged to attend the ‘Spotlight on Hinduism’, a public event held to create awareness about Hinduism. The program received honorable attendance by the Fort Collins Mayor, Doug Hutchinson, who inaugurated the program in the tradition of Hinduism, with the lighting of the auspicious oil lamp. Hutchinson shared the importance of not just tolerance, but of ‘proactive inclusion’ of the myriad cultures like Hinduism in Fort Collins, to enrich the City’s diversity.
The Spotlight on Hinduism, compered by Ms. Kate Anderson, a World Literature Professor at Colorado State University, included a presentation by a local Hindu, Ms. Maya Jairam on ‘Growing up in America and embracing Hindu Spirituality’ and a presentation by Forum for Hindu Awakening’s Mrs. Bhavna Shinde Hurley on ‘Understanding, living and preserving Hinduism’. The presentations, in a light and engaging manner, highlighted the challenges faced by Hindus growing up in America, what it means to be a Hindu, the unique spiritual science underlying Hinduism concepts and the answers Hinduism holds out for problems at individual and society level.
Mrs. Bhavna Shinde Hurley is a spokesperson for Forum for Hindu Awakening. She has been studying and practicing the principles of Spirituality and Hinduism for the past 10 years. By formal education, Bhavna is a computer engineer from the University of Mumbai with an MBA from the University of Miami in Florida. Bhavna has been working in the IT industry as a software developer/analyst for over a decade. The spiritual principles that Bhavna has learnt under the guidance of her Guru over the years have helped her in all dimensions of her life. She now devotes all her free time in helping others understand and practice the principles of Spirituality and Hinduism.
While doing spiritual practice as per the principles of Hinduism, Bhavna came to realize that it is important to do spiritual practice not only for her own progress towards God-realization, but also for the progress of society in Dharma, which alone can ensure society’s all-round progress. Spiritual practice has brought Bhavna many spiritual experiences of God’s grace, while she experiences divine support in any venture undertaken for promoting Dharma in society. In this presentation, Bhavna sheds light on some basics of understanding, living and preserving Hinduism.
2. Understanding, Living & Preserving Hinduism
Namaste. I begin this speech by paying obeisance to Sree Gurudev His Holiness Dr. Jayant Athavale and His Guru Bhaktaraj Maharaj.
I began with a Namaste; it is a way that Hindus greet others. It means ‘I bow to the divinity in you’. That is the essence of Hinduism – that there is divinity in everyone and everything. There is no question of whether there is one God, whose god is superior, but that there is nothing, but God.
Hinduism tells us that the journey to experience this is the invaluable opportunity that life provides us. Reaching this destination may be called self-realization, God-realization, liberation, Nirvana, Mukti, Moksha. Hinduism recognizes that each individual is at a different stage in this journey, respects every individual’s different constitution, and accordingly provides different steps or pathways that lead to this ultimate experience that everything is divine.
In fact, the definition of ‘Hindu’ is ‘Hinani Gunani Dushayati iti Hindu’ – the one who destroys inferior components or traits borne of them is Hindu. That is, the one who strives towards the superior component or traits borne of it is Hindu. In her speech, Maya explained that the inferior or impure component is tama and the superior or pure component is sattva. So, to be Hindu is not necessarily to be from India, or to be born to Hindu parents; it is to progress from darkness to light, from tama to sattva, from inferior traits like selfishness, anger, lust, laziness, wastefulness, pride, to superior traits like selflessness, love, courage, promptness, prudence, generosity, etc. Thus, to be a Hindu is essentially an attitude to strive for spiritual purity in and around us.
If we consider reaching the ultimate truth as getting a medical doctor’s degree, then just as there are grades from 1 through 7, high school and university level education, so also in Hinduism, there are steps to going towards sattva and experiencing the ultimate truth. Maya’s journey from non-vegetarianism to vegetarianism is an example of one such step. Similarly, there are some other simple steps like wearing the red dot or mark, called kumkum, following a spiritually pure dress code, following a spiritually pure life style, etc.
An interesting fact here is the spiritual scientific basis underlying every Hinduism concept and practice. Let us look at why a red mark of vermillion powder or kumkum is worn, why the Namaste greeting or the Hindu prayer posture uses folding both hands in a certain way.
Similarly, to one who is devotionally inclined, Hinduism provides various methods of devotional worship, beginning with ritualistic worship. Each step of the ritualistic worship, such as which Deity or Divine Principle to worship when, which color and how many flowers to offer to a certain Divine Principle, why natural and not artificial ingredients are to be used in worship, is also based on this spiritual science, to ensure that the worshipper can experience the subtle presence of that particular Divine Principle.
The code of conduct beneficial to the individual and the world at large, based on this subtle science has been laid down by ancient Hindu Sages. With their advanced sixth sense and study, the Sages provided experiments of the highest order in the form of the various rituals to experience the divine.
Thus, there is no dogma, but scientific evidence, verifiable with an activated sixth sense. To verify it, one can either take the word or Scriptures of the Sages and simply put it into practice, or activate the sixth sense through regular spiritual practice. J
Just as in an organization, there are various positions, to fulfill various functions, Hinduism explains the divine hierarchy originating from the Supreme Unmanifest God Principle or Absolute Truth, traversing God, Incarnations, Deities, Gurus/Saints, all the way to human beings, animals, birds and inanimate objects, that exist and perform different intangible and tangible functions for the smooth running of the universe. Thus, there is no question of Hindus worship many gods, but different Deities are worshipped by different individuals, depending on their material or spiritual needs and inclination.
There are further steps, such as mental devotional worship, in the path of devotion, as well there are other paths, such as the path of knowledge, path of action without expectation of results, path of meditation, and so on, to reach the ultimate reality. Hinduism, being in existence from time immemorial, also recommends a particular path for each different era, based on its advanced time calculation system. In the current era of strife the path of continual remembrance of God by chanting God’s Name is recommended, since it can be performed at all times in our busy stressful routines, mentally or aloud, with other activities like driving, eating, taking a shower, and in conjunction with other spiritual practices like meditation, performing actions without expectation, etc. For the sustained experience of divinity in and around us, it is important that the efforts towards the divine are continual or at least for several hours a day. Chanting makes that possible.
There is the spiritual class or Varnaashram system given in Hindu Scriptures that helps hone each individual’s potential towards God-realization, based on their qualities and deeds. For example, a person who may not have a spiritually sharp intellect or wealth or courage, but if that person is able bodied, they can serve and experience God and others as God through bodily labor. Similarly, a person with a spiritually sharp intellect is expected to learn, practice and impart Scriptural teachings, besides performing all other types of service possible. This spiritual class system is often misunderstood for the social ill of caste system that is based on one’s birth. Like other social ills, the caste system or discrimination based on such things as one’s family background or financial standing, is not limited to the Hindu society.
Besides the widespread misconceptions about Hinduism, there is also a lot of trivialization and at times, downright denigration of Hindu symbols and concepts. For example, the Sony company, in an effort to attract the Hindu Indian market, brought out a game with Hindus’ revered Deity as a superhero, whose actions could be manipulated with a console.
After the peaceful and educational protests by Hindus, the Converse shoe company recently recalled its shoes with Hindu Deities’ images.
Just as the divine energy of a Divine Principle accompanies its accurate depiction, so also random, distressing vibrations accompany its trivialized depiction. Thus, depicting a divine symbol or Principle in a form thoughtlessly or willfully deviating from its Scriptural description amounts to spiritual pollution. To experience the truth of this, I urge you to focus on your breath for the next 1-2 minutes before I show you two pictures, and you can note down how your thoughts or general experience from looking at each of the pictures I will show you.
Later in our programme, we could discuss your experiences from this, besides your questions.
Our actions are rooted in our thoughts, and thoughts are influenced by spiritual vibrations. Just as the vibrations from the accurate depiction of a Divine Principle bring peace and noble thoughts, so also the vibrations from a perverted form of a Divine Principle bring unrest and ill thoughts. The law does not condone noise or other type of pollution under the excuse of freedom of expression, we too, can avoid spiritual pollution through trivialization of the divine and create awareness about it.
Hinduism, while comprehensive and fascinating, can be really vast if explored on one’s own. Hence, the Forum for Hindu Awakening focuses on Hinduism education and providing guidance in Hindu spiritual practices as per the need of each individual. One way to contact us is through our website, www.ForumforHinduAwakening.org or HinduAwakening.org.
I hope this presentation has helped shed some light on Hinduism and challenges it faces today and conclude with a prayer for a Blissful Diwali for us all to progress towards the light of knowledge about the ultimate truth.