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AIDS - A Hindu View

Today the topic is AIDS as related by Acharya Palaniswami who just returned from an Aids and Religion conference put on by the Ford Foundation. Gurudeva speaks about softening of the Abrahamic religion's stance on people who are infected with AIDS. A sad story of rejection from the convention is related from a person with AIDS as he was treated by a town and church. Some religions consider AIDS to be God's punishment. Gurudeva compares this to the Salem witch hunt.Gurudeva asks us to turn this around and speaks of compassion for those who face their 'grand departure' and the Hindu view is presented in contrast to the abrahamic. Renewal wedding vows are presented by a couple from Princeville on Kauai. Gurudeva tells about a TV interview just completed and tells about Mauritius being garlanded with life by the two resident swamis.

Unedited Transcript:

Today at Kauai Aadheenam, November 20th. This begins a new phase on our vedic calendar, Sun 1. It is a six-day phase as the moon shifts around in orbit. Beautiful ceremony today. A fire ceremony where wedding vows and garlands were exchanged by Arthurji and his lovely wife Nutan from Mumbai, India. Arthurji has a medical practice in Princeville, on the beautiful garden island of Kauai. Well, today we are asking Arthurji and Nutan to recite their wedding vows to each other on their sixth wedding anniversary, to get off to a new start.

Arthur: Arthur and Nutan Brownstein, November 18, 1998, Kauai. Our marriage vows on our sixth anniversary: As we reflect upon our six years of marriage we are grateful that it is God who has brought us together as husband and wife for the purpose of sharing in his joy and love.

Nutan: As we contemplate our future life together, we want to encourage each other to become more God-conscious and loving each and every day.

Arthur: We vow to think more noble thoughts and speak more sweet words in remembrance of our spiritual unity and of God who has created us.

Nutan: We vow to keep an open mind to learn from each other, to cooperate with each other, and to support each other while striving to realize and share in His love and peace. We vow to work together towards our higher purpose of serving God and all of humanity while at the same time maintaining a spirit of peace and harmony in our home.

Arthur: We vow as parents of Shantanu Brownstein to remember that he is a wonderful gift from God and to accept our sincere responsibility to raise him as a God-conscious soul with spiritual aspirations and noble values in his life.

Gurudeva: Yesterday and the day before, we were on retreat. But not much of a retreat because I had a TV interview and we are going to have eight more, explaining everything we do within the monastery, on TV, for our garden island of Kauai.

Renovations of our beautiful Guru Temple still continues. It is expected to be done really, really soon.

Oh, yes! In Mauritius for Deepavali, beautiful ceremony of lights, the entire, mostly-Hindu country is garlanded with lights. In our Dharmasala there, we took many, many devotees out on big boats to listen to religious topics by our two Swamis there, Sannyasin Murugaswami and Sannyasin Sivadevanathaswami.

One other thing too. Acharya Palaniswami and Yogi Yuganatha arrived back at Kauai Aadheenam from Atlanta, Georgia, where the Ford foundation at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center, held a meeting of not only ministers of various denominations, but of editors of religious magazines. When he came back I asked, "What was this gathering really about?. The title was 'AIDS and Religion'." Well, he said that the main thrust that the Ford foundation had in bringing all these people together was to soften the press and to soften the Abrahamic religions - which are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - in their attitudes against people who are infected in the fatal disease called AIDS or HIV. I said, "Well, what's going on?" He said, "I will tell you a story about a man who was at the convention; who testified that he contracted AIDS from infected blood given to him in a hospital." This is his story. Acharya Palaniswami is right here with us and he is going to tell you the story and it is going to really surprise some of you out there in the many countries of our cyberspace congregation.

Acharya Palaniswami: Aum Namah Sivaya, Gurudeva. Yes, the conference in Atlanta, Georgia was very unique, according to those who were there and who have attended hundreds and hundreds of AIDS conferences. It seems that religion has really never been a part of the discussion in the AIDS epidemic. Religions have tended to stay away from the issue, to boycott it even. This was an effort by the Ford Foundation to engage religious leaders of all faiths, including Hinduism and Buddhism and the Abrahamic faiths you just mentioned, in a discussion about how the spiritual institutions of America, specifically, could participate more compassionately in dealing with the AIDS problem. It seems that in many of the congregations in America, AIDS is completely feared. And even more tragically, AIDS is looked at as God's punishment against those who have contracted the disease. It is a disease that carries with it this enormous moral burden, much like how syphilis did in previous epics. Many of the faiths do hold that the drug users and the gay and lesbian community, that was initially the victims of it in America, are being punished for their sins, so to speak. Of course in Hinduism we do not believe that way. One of the joys was to bring that back to the four or five hundred people who had gathered in Atlanta for four days.

The story you mentioned was told by a member of a religion. He was a Christian man who had contracted aids and like all people, when death is looking us in the face, we often look first to our spiritual leaders, to our spiritual path for help to get through such a tragedy, a personal tragedy. So he went to his minister and the minister of his church basically told him that there wasn't anything that he could do personally as a minister, and sent him away and asked him not to come to any more of services. So the man continued to go through his trials and tribulations, came back to the minister and appealed to him for help. So the minister said that all that he could do was to bring the plight of this dying parishoner to the other leaders of his church, which he said that he would do. He invited the man back in a week. When the man came back, he heard from the pastor that there had been a meeting and that they would like to help him. The man was filled with just so much joy. Finally his church was listening, hearing his problems and willing to confront his mortality with him, basically. But that soon disappeared because the pastor reached into a drawer, pulled out a one-way ticket out of town and told the dying member of the congregation that they had all gotten together, raised all of this money for this ticket. They were giving him this ticket so that he could leave town and never come back. What a great story. What a tragic story.

Gurudeva: Well, I am sure his heart must have been broken. He must have been devastated. As cycles repeat themselves, this reminds me, Acharya Palaniswami, of the Salem witch-hunts. Did it remind you something of that, when you were listening to all these tragedies against people that have it? Bad enough to have a disease, but to have your church, your synagogue, or your Imam turn against you?. Wow! Where are we going?! Where are we going?!

Well, we are thankful to the Ford Foundation for flying our Acharya there and getting him back safely.

Think about it when you attend your church, or your synagogue, or your mosque. Let us have compassion for those who are facing their grand departure. Let us turn this around.

Well, I will being seeing you tomorrow, taking up a lot of questions on various subjects that have come in. Remember, if you have a question; right there on your screen, there is a little sentence to click. Bring up a little message box, send it to me and we will take it into consideration. A question came in from Singapore that we are going to answer tomorrow that is; the karmic repercussions of lending money. As you know, karma means cause and effect, what goes around comes around. We will discuss that tomorrow.

I love each and everyone in cyberspace. We have become accustomed to one another. The numbers are growing and growing and growing and growing!

Be strong. Face the external world as a leader. Look in the mirror before you go out the door and tell your self, "I am a leader. I am going to make a difference. I can do it. Yes I can."