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Inspired Temple Building

Bodhinatha describes the forthcoming book "What is Hinduism?" Bodhinatha then reviews his recent travels and provides history for some North American temples the building of which was encouraged and inspired by Gurudeva and His tradition of gifting Ganesha Murthis to commence worship.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone. Good to be back. Set a personal record, thirteen flights in sixteen days. That's a lot. Fortunately most of the grief in air travel was from London so would have been very awkward if they suspended carry-ons in the U.S. You know, what would you do with your computer? Can't really check it. But they didn't so that was good.

Well we visited four temples on the trip: Sri Ganesha Temple of Utah, Hindu Temple of Colorado, Sri Ganesha Temple of Nashville and Murugan Temple in Maryland. So to keep it easy I gave the same talk in all four places. Only Shanmuganathaswami heard it more than once, but I had three variations. The talk was on two questions on the minds of our youth which of course I've shared that material here. And so I created a Ganesha version, a Muruga version and a Siva version because, I think it was in Denver, they wanted me to talk about Siva. So the part that differs talks about Gurudeva's visions of the Deities. That's a very important part of Gurudeva's particular mystical insights into the temple is that, you know, he had visions of the Deities. So, I've never heard another swami talk about their visions of the Deities, you know, have you? So, it's definitely something quite unique to Gurudeva, to talk about it and share it and bring the temple to life in that way. And so, there's one for Ganesha which just talks about what's in the Ganesha book primarily. And one for Murugan; talks about the founding of Kadavul, you know where Muruga came in the vision and hit the steps three times behind me here and ever since, we had to go into the aadheenam through the side and the back door cause Siva claimed the front door. This used to be the front door in case anyone doesn't know. So, Siva claimed the front door, so we said fine we went in the side and in the back. And of course for talking about Siva I use Gurudeva's vision of Siva on San Marga since that's the experience of Siva that's the most written about.

So I had three versions and worked out well and then I put an introduction on it which had two benefits: one is that kind of led into it in a logical way and promoted our magazine, and the other is it promoted the book that's coming out the end of the year called "What is Hinduism?" which combines together many of our best educational insight sections into one book. Four hundred and sixteen page book will be printed in January. So we started our prepublication offer, promoted it in the various temples, and the general introduction goes through the idea that one of the challenges that Hindu families face are very challenging questions from their children about Hinduism. And it explains why and explains that many parents don't know the answers; either because they never asked these questions of their parents, or they asked the questions of their parents and parents didn't answer. It was the culture of the family that you didn't answer your children's questions. So subsequently many families today give the default answer: "Well that's the way we've always done it." And when I say that I get a lot of recognition, because obviously, they've either heard or given that answer themselves in many of these gatherings. And then I go on to explain you know, that's not a good enough answer. That won't satisfy any inquiring modern Hindu youth. That's the way we've always done it. So we need authoritative answers and one of the goals of our publishing "Hinduism Today" is to provide authoritative answers to these important questions that Hindu children and youth are asking. Then it goes on to promote the book, "What is Hinduism?"

So, I gave the talk in four places and it was well received and the largest crowd was, you know by far, in Maryland. Two of the others were on weekdays which of course, it's hard to draw a good crowd. But the Maryland crowd was a, it's one of their major festival days. It's a festival they call Nallur Kathirgama Festival because the timing of it is in the middle of the festival which has the same dates both at Nallur Temple in Northern Sri Lanka and in Kathirgama in the south. They follow the same days, twenty-one day festival. So Murugan Temple in Maryland is, fixed it on the second Saturday of August. So they had about four hundred people we think, it's hard to keep track of how many cause they were coming and going inside and outside. And so that was a good crowd for the talk and definitely was well received. Lots of people came up afterwards and thanked me for the talk and what struck me was someone in all the age groups came up. In other words, usually the teenagers don't come up. Thank you for a talk. That's rare. Well we got quite a few of them. Quite a few older teenagers, maybe some had hit twenty, twenty-one. But Hindu youth in that age group came up, thanked me for the talk and as well as middle age people and older people also came up of course, which is customary.

So the event went very well and one of the points I hadn't really thought about before the trip, which became apparent on the trip, was how in so many of the temples in the U.S., Gurudeva was the force which got them started. And three out of the four temples we visited, Gurudeva was very involved in their initial efforts. So for example in Utah Temple, Aditya Vinadhara was there. And Gurudeva shipped a medium sized Ganesha, probably that big, (shipped it from India to Oakland) and Aditya went down in his pickup truck many years ago, picked it up and brought it back and it ended up in the house of Neela Mahen for many years where it was. Aditya did the pujas, he was the initial pujari and it eventually culminated in the Sri Ganesha Temple of Utah, and Aditya was even, took a leadership position in building it you know. Not just theoretical but hands on you know. He's very skilled in construction so, he did lots of the work himself. And you know, I really hadn't cognized how much he did personally and we encouraged him to write up his story. In fact we thought it would be great to collect all these stories up you know and the one we're most used to is Edmonton, because it's right on their website. You know we sent a Ganesha and for many many years it was our church members took turns, meaning not every week but for a few years, one did the puja and then another and then another. Because of the gift of the Ganesha and the pujas done by our members, eventually it manifested the temple in Edmonton. Well that story is right on their website and is well known. This one I had forgotten how much Aditya was involved and certainly without his dedication there wouldn't be a temple in Utah today.

Then we went on to Denver and we saw the Ganesha, it's a smaller one about this big which Gurudeva gifted originally. And Alahan reminded us that he used to come down, drive down from Vail, which is two to three hour drive one way, every Sunday, bring the Ganesha, do a puja and drive back with the Ganesha. Because no one felt their house was pure enough to house the Ganesha. So only Vail's house. So he did that for many years and eventually he left the Ganesha at one person's house who was ready for it and the temple came out of that. And the temple kind of shifted into North Indian style, so the South Indian Deities including Ganesha are in a separate room and the main sanctum is North Indian -- marble. But it was because of the Ganesha that it all came together, certainly.

Went to Nashville and Nashville, as far as I know we didn't do anything there, but I may be wrong you never know. At least on the trip nobody said anything. For the Maryland Murugan Temple Gurudeva gifted the Ganesha to the Saravanabhavan family and it stayed in their home for many years and puja was done there. And that Ganesha has ended up in the Ganesha Shrine in the temple, medium sized Ganesha, not too big. And definitely pujas that came out of that eventually resulted in the temple. And Gurudeva also went there for the kumbhabhishekam which they remember very clearly and really appreciate.

Anyway, that's what we experienced and as I say, I was you know, impressed shall we say, with how the initial efforts of these temples were encouraged by Gurudeva, both through giving the murthi which caused the worship to start and eventually caused the funds to come in, as well as many instances, his shishya were doing the initial pujas. And so without all of that, a number of temples wouldn't exist today.

So, Sadhaka Jothinatha shared an interesting story recently. Anshula had some literature on display at, I think it was Krishna's birthday, recently at the Lemont Temple. You know there's a separate smaller Siva Temple and a larger temple to Rama. And so some of the original members came over and talked to him and were looking at the literature and reminiscing about how Gurudeva's gift of the Ganesha, which was a pretty big one, got it all started. And resulted in this huge temple and they were even thinking of inviting us, you know in reminiscing saying: Oh we should invite swamis from Hawaii to come and you know they played, Gurudeva played such and important role in the founding of the temple. And that's one of the biggest temples in the U.S. and Gurudeva just sent them, I guess was it: Deva was it your Ganesha that got sent there, to Chicago? Yeah, how big was it, it was fairly huge right? Yes, so Deva Seyon you know, Gurudeva's request, sent them a five-hundred pound Ganesha from New York to Chicago, and they went down and picked it up, and were totally surprised you know. It came in record time like a week or something after Gurudeva promised it. And there they were and discussing what to do and who could do it. And Gurudeva said: "Start to worship. Anybody can do it. It's Ganesha Puja you know, anybody can do Ganesha puja." So all these doctors, who some of them were brahmins, remembered their Sanskrit and pulled out their puja books and that's how the Lemont Temple in Chicago got started.

So the tradition is still going on. Recently a temple in (don't tell me) Vancouver, there we go. Fiji cultural society in Vancouver asked for help. And so we said we'd send them a Ganesha, and they said fine. And so when we were in San Antonio not too long ago one of the leaders of the group, Dr. Rama Krishna Rao, said he had a number of Ganeshas ready to gift to temples and if we knew of any temples who needed please let him know. So we've let him know and we'll see if he ships it off. We need to confirm it, but we thought we'd use up his first before we bring in new ones. Where was it? Someplace in Texas, what city that we sent one to when you did that? Remember? Someplace in Texas anyway, outside of Houston, right? Some suburb of Houston was recently starting a temple and we sent them a Ganesha, maybe about a year ago at this point. We had one here. Big Lingam that was on the East Coast right?

So we're still continuing Gurudeva's tradition of sending murthis when requested and we need to reorder some so we have a stock here, once Dr. Rao starts to run low. He had six or something somehow. I don't know why he ended up with six Ganeshas ready to give to temples but we thought we'd use them. So that's what I bring back, kind of struck with how much Gurudeva and under his direction Gurudeva's shishya helped him founding so many temples in North America. And that they wouldn't be here today without that effort. And one of the reasons is there weren't any priests, really then, just a couple of priests, there was a shortage of priests. And so there was a sense that no one was qualified to do a puja. And so Gurudeva was looked at as authoritative and Gurudeva said: "That's not correct, anyone can do a Ganesha Puja and start the puja. " So cause Gurudeva said it, they started and because they started, it eventually created a temple through worship of Ganesha.

Well nice to be back in Hawaii. We took the rainy weather that was with us when we left all throughout. And everywhere we went they say the temperature dropped. Just before we got there the temperature dropped at least ten degrees. You know we read the, all the temperatures before we left and 90, 90, 100 you know, we said boy, it's going to be hot. And we got to where it was supposed to be 100 which was Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas. And the night before they had a thunderstorm and heavy rain and the temperature dropped from 100 the day before to 70. Thirty degrees it dropped. That was very considerate of the weather devas. That was the most dramatic drop, 30 degrees, from the day we went to the day we got there. So but it, everywhere we went, it dropped at least ten degrees from where it had been a day or two before. Started to rain in most places.

So I told my rain story, was cause we got, we had a major rain problem in (don't tell me) Nashville. It was major downpour, you know. Couldn't even see on the road and thunder and everything and about an hour and a half before the event is starting you know on a Thursday or some day of the week which is hard to get attendance anyway. And so this huge downpour occurred and so it definitely cut back on the attendance. But I told them my Swami Narayan story, which was of course the one that really impressed me, when in the month of November in Delhi, when it never rains, we got a thunderstorm. And there we were you know. Fifteen thousand people in these flimsy tents and the blowing back and forth and the rain is coming in on the sides, you know. And the swamis are with me, are starting to get wet you know, everybody's starting to worry and so there I am up on stage and I'd walked out and you know, fifteen thousand people. I'm not used to fifteen thousand people. The previous group was five thousand which they had in Houston. So they're my experience for large groups. So I said: "Jai Swami Narayan" when I walked out and fifteen thousand people roared back: "Jai Swami Narayan." Well very powerful, so I start the talk and just get a few lines into it and then the thunder and rain starts you know, very distracting. So I said: "Well you know we tend to bring our Kauai weather with us and one thing you can be sure about in Kauai, within a few minutes the weather will change. So, and it stopped within a couple of minutes, fortunately.

So that was my biggest weather story. But definitely they said: "It never rains. How could it rain?" India's very predictable you know because it has monsoons. So they come on certain months, they don't come, you don't get a heavy rain off season in India but here it was in November in Delhi. Thunderstorms.

[End of Transcript]

Photo of  Gurudeva
We have one duty to perform, which is to pass our religion on to the next generation, the next and the next. And how do we do this? How is this done? It is done by causing the children to memorize the precepts of our scriptures.