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State of the Church

Bodhinatha delivers the annual "State of the Church" message to begin 2006 including information on the future of Hinduism Today and digital enhancements, upcoming travel and Iraivan Temple. Bodhinatha also gives a synopsis of his seminars for 2006 "Spiritualizing Daily Life" to show how the idea of making spiritual progress every day of one's life can be imparted even to young children and then carried over into adult life.

Unedited Transcript:

I'm ready to depart for Australia and New Zealand for our Innersearch Program. Palaniswami, Sadhaka Dandapani and I are leaving tomorrow. Saravananathaswami, Natyam Jivananda and Sadaka Nilakantha are leaving the next day. So we won't be here on January 5th for Gurudeva's Jayanti Guru Puja. So as some of you will recall, every year on Gurudeva's Jayanti Guru Puja, I give what's called the "State of the Church" talk, a short talk, which just mentions a few of our goals for the coming year. So I thought I'd give that this morning so we don't miss it.

Here we go!

In the membership area we will be finishing up the special study course of preparation for vishesha diksha which we started last year. We will then be able to give vishesha diksha to members who complete the course, starting either later this year or early next.

In the publication area for the Saivite Hindu religion course, Book Four is done, except for the French translation, which we will be receiving soon and then sending Book Four off to the printers. It is the first Saivite Hindu religion course to include color paintings and photographs and is quite impressive. The revised artwork for Books One and Two, from Manivel in Chennai. will be completed soon and then we can print new editions of those as well. Book Five of the Children's' Course is already underway in English, so we're making good progress in that area.

Our Malaysian printer is about to begin printing a "Lemurian Scrolls" color edition which utilizes the new color paintings of our Balinese artist, I Wayan, and will provide a major upgrade to this text. By the way never say I Wayan in a crowd. Cause it just means the first son, so about one third of the men will turn around if you say I Wayan. First son.

"Hinduism Today" magazine will be formally launching a digital edition by April 1st 2006. Though we have had an HTML version of the magazine on the web for many years, it lacks the color photos and attractive layouts of the print edition. The new digital edition will provide all of that, plus additional features not contained in the print edition such as: rich media, audio and video files. Articles and adds will also contain links to web sites which can be conveniently accessed if you are connected to the internet when reading the digital edition. There's no charge for the Digital edition and our hope is that it'll become quite popular among Hindu youth and children.

In the realm of Innersearch and retreat programs, we depart tomorrow for our two week Australia and New Zealand Innersearch Program with some forty-six participants. It is followed by eleven additional days of temple talks, half day seminars and attending the tenth World Saiva Conference, where we will be giving the keynote address.

Additional seminars for later in the year are: a one day program in Malaysia, two day program in Singapore and a two or three day program in Mauritius. An important aspect of our seminar presentations are the digital keynote presentations which we have found to be quite effective in helping the participants stay concentrated on the topics and therefore absorb more of the material.

As to travel: we have a September trip to Malaysia and Singapore and a December trip to Mauritius already scheduled; we tentatively have a trip to Toronto scheduled in April, for the celebration of Yogaswami's Mahasamadhi Day. The date for our journey to California is the weekend of October 14th and 15th, which will repeat last year's pattern of the fourteenth being a donor reception in San Diego and the 15th a donor reception in Sausalito.

Invitations for 2006 kumbhabishekams are already starting to arrive. Montreal Murugan Temple has rescheduled their kumbhabishekam for the weekend of May 28th and the San Antonio Ardhanarishvara Temple is scheduled for May 6th and 7th.

Additionally, we are planning to attend the annual festival of the Mahaganapati Temple in Edmonton Canada the first weekend of July and the Maryland Murugan Temple's Nallur Kataragama festival on May 12th and 13th. That enough? Don't need any more invitations.

On the aadheenam property the main activity continues to be the Iraivan Temple jointing. The west Chinna Gopuram will be completed and then work will shift to fitting the pillars, beams and ceiling stones. A capital and endowment fund raising campaign which has the goal of raising 13.6 million in 6 years will be continued. This is being coordinated by Deva Rajan with the help of Easan Katir, Dr. Shan Sundar and K. Suriyakumar.

We will also continue to develop our four hundred acre parcel across the river, Himalayan Acres, mainly by planting additional trees for fences, windbreaks and fruit production. Our plans for 2006 include additional ironwoods for windbreaks, noni trees which have shown themselves to grow quite well and trial plantings of broadleaf mahogany trees, for those who are agriculturally oriented.

So those are just some of our plans for the coming year, you get a sense. This can be a very dynamic year. We are particularly focused on digital, the digital world. You know for many years we've used our computers which are digital, to produce printed publications, in which we've reached a very high standard for our books as well as our magazine. You know around the world we always get praise for the quality of our publications and of course, what is it called, plagiarism is the greatest form of flattery, something like that. Anyway our material gets used quite a bit around the world and those who are knowledgeable in Hindu publications really respect it.

So what is different now is, we're going to turn the same tools, our computers, toward the area of producing digital publications. In other words it never gets printed, it always stays in digital form. So we had good success last year with our keynote presentations, these are the, similar to power point, but it has a little more bells and whistles as they say, a little more abilities. And so we use it during seminars, a projection goes up on the screen and then I read along with it other material and we found it quite effective in holding the attention of the group, as I said. And in fact in Singapore I was very impressed, this was I think, the second of two days and we were running late, you know we were supposed to stop around five and we were, everyone agreed to stay till six. So here it was five-thirty at night, you know on the second day of a seminar and you'd expect everyone to be yawning and you know, not very attentive, but everyone was focused right on the screen and was watching you know, very carefully, they were totally alert. And it showed to me the, how easy it is for people to keep their attention high, when there is something on the screen to watch and they're just not listening to a speaker talk and talk and talk, but you actually see things and see the points on the screen. It really is an effective way of conveying information in seminar format.

So we're developing lots of material in that regard. We're working on a series which is coming out of the next "Publishers Desk" which is, you you've heard the talk, "Spiritualizing Daily Life" which goes through six chal... six common challenges we face in life; such as being mistreated and how we respond to that, or getting emotionally upset and it goes through six opportunities to serve, to help others, such as volunteering and starts off with striving to see God in everyone we meet and you know, praising people and expressing appreciation. So its, develops twelve points all together and it's in response to the constant theme you know. Sadhaka Dandapani and I sometimes almost laugh sometimes when someone says that we have to be careful because you know it, like about every third person I meet in Gurupeedam says the same thing, you know and it's amazing. So, but it goes something like this you know: Oh we're so busy, you know some professional jobs and raising our children and all, we don't have any time for our spiritual life. You know and we're just so sorry we don't have more time. So, every third person I meet you know, says that and so of course we wrote an editorial on it "Work is Worship" and it's trying to address that problem, but if I can tell tell that it you know it addresses the problem, everyone says yes, but it doesn't change what anyone is doing, you know. I get a nice big yes. Oh yes, work is worship. But nothing happens beyond that.

So of course we need more beyond that, so this is trying to bridge the gap by making it very specific and giving twelve specific items you can check off on a check off list. You know, when I was at work today, when I was at school today, did I do these twelve things or not? Very practical and so it, the idea is -- and some people are surprised to hear it that -- no matter where we are, no matter what we're doing, if we do it in the right spirit we make spiritual progress from it. If we do it in the wrong spirit, we don't make any progress or we set ourselves back, depending on exactly what we do. But spiritual progress can happen twenty-four hours a day. Even in our dreams we can make spiritual progress if we know how to do it. We won't go into that one this morning. [laughs] That's a little esoteric. But let's just take our waking hours, you know all sixteen of our waking hours, whatever it is. All sixteen hours during the day we can make spiritual progress, during all sixteen of them if we simply think about it.

So, this starts out as the Pub Desk in the April issue, you'll see it then, and of course you've heard it most of you. We're taking it on the Innersearch to further develop it, to get more real life examples from those of you that actually live in the world, not just from monks. Get real live examples of these situations and other situations that might even be added to the list, be discussed and we have a grading sheet, maximum possible points is a hundred. So it's a way of, you take these twelve questions and if you do them all the time, you get eight. So you 8 X 12 is 96. And then if you do one of them all the time or most of the time you get four extra points. Cause, to bring it up to a hundred. So, if you strive to see God in everyone you meet, always or usually, you get the four bonus points, cause that's the most important practice.

So you can actually grade yourself, if you want to. The idea is once a month you grade yourself and see how well you're doing, and if, like over a years time you compare the grade now with the year in the future, you should see some progress. That's the idea. And it's particularly useful for parents to train their children, you know cause it's just not thought about, you know. That when the child comes home you never ask the child you know: How much spiritual progress did you make at school today? You, that question's not asked right? But it should be, you know cause you want to train the child to think that way, even you know in the first grade, can do simple things, you know. Volunteer, be kind to new people in the class, you know. Simple things that you can do at any age which train you so when you're older you're constantly thinking in this regard of you know, taking advantage of all the opportunities to help other people that come your way. And reacting to life in a disciplined way so we make progress.

I think we've got it down to earth here, we've got it grounded in something that parents can even teach young children which is the real test you know. Can it be taught at that level and actually accomplish something? So that's the idea and then we want to turn it into a seminar with keynote for later in the year, it'll be our, probably our two day seminar in Singapore and our two or three day seminar in Mauritius will be on this material. And I think you know could have broad appeal when it's understood, the whole idea of "Spiritualizing Daily Life," making the maximum spiritual progress you can every day of your life. Starting out with 16 hours a day, all your waking hours. You know it's a very simple concept and it gets around this problem that we have no time for our spiritual life, by pointing out that spiritual life is how you react to wherever you are, whatever you're doing. That's spiritual life, if you react the right way, you know. It's opportunities all day long to make spiritual progress no matter if we're at work, or at school, or at home, or volunteering somewhere, we're shopping. Makes no difference. We can make spiritual progress in all of those environments if we give it some thought.

So we're interested in that, I think it fills a good need of trying to make it practical because it's not happening, you know, in Hindu temples in the United States. Most of the teachings that are given are not practical as far as we know, they don't apply outside of the temple. The children-youth don't know what to do to make spiritual progress if they're not at the temple, or in the shrine room or meditating. Nothing's been explained outside of those situations. They have no clue at school what they can do to make spiritual progress which is where most of their time is and their homework. How to do homework to make spiritual progress, you know. The basic idea is, you know Gurudeva says you know: Try and do your best on everything, which means homework You know if you try and do your best on every piece of homework; use your concentration, use your willpower, do the best you can. That's strengthening concentration and willpower. And those same abilities are there when we sit to meditate. It's not a different set of concentration and willpower that applies. If we can't concentrate when we meditate, it means we haven't learned to concentrate when we work. It means we didn't learn to concentrate that well in school. But it all ties together, it's only one power of concentration, one willpower. No matter if it's applied to an external task or an internal task. It's the same ability. So it's easier to apply it to an external task cause we can see the results. It's pretty hard to see what's going on inside of us. But we can see, you know, we did our best, we got a good grade on our project and we really strove as hard as we could. That's what we want to see.

And then otherwise in the digital realm as we mentioned, "Hinduism Today" is being developed. Of course we have what we call a beta version, a preliminary version, it's already available from the URL; but we're going to further refine it and release it on or before April 1st is our goal and we're hoping it'll be popular. That particularly, you know, youth, college youth in U.S.A. will tell one another like there's a Hindu students council for example, thousands of very bright young Hindus in the Hindus students council and work has spread through this group and they could all take a look you know and be inspired by it. Cause it'll have all the graphic beauty of the printed edition right on the screen, looks just like the printed magazine and plus, we're going to add rich media, audio and video files. So, fairly unambiguous projects to start with like we want to put my "Publisher's Desk" in audio video format; so you can watch it as well as just read it and we want to try and get some video like from we had a, we recently gathered the material for an article on Tiruvannamalai for Krittika Dipa with the bonfire on top of the hill; the major festival there, so want to get some of the video from that in the magazine as well and give it extra life and appeal. So, some simple things to start but later on it could be quite sophisticated. Has lots of potential and so we're, and it's free, so people can access it for free though they can leave a donation if they want to after reading it, help us out with expenses but it's not required. So we're hoping it'll really distribute "Hinduism Today" in a very free flowing way around the world, places where the printed publication couldn't reach or would be exorbitantly expensive in the locally economic terms, so and you know in the future could even go into foreign languages, the digital version because there's no print run. All you need is the funds available to translate it. Could be translated into the various Indian languages if there was enough interest in the whole project and then increase the distribution in a serious way there.

Right now, just a simple example, is our Hindu Press International news releases which are just text, know sent out are ending up on Ashta TV in India and the English goes up on the screen and then they, they read it in Hindi, translated into Hindi, so that's just printed text, so imagine when you get something digital and what could happen to it. Could end up on Hindu TV programs once it gets up to a certain standard and a certain length, you know, see part of "Hinduism Today" on TV every quarter. A very wonderful way to distribute it.

So, we're very enthusiastic about those two areas and feel it's timely and the simple vision is that the, what we used to call television, has changed and it's going to change even more, what I call it: the home entertainment center. That's a big screen. You know and we don't even have a television anymore, we project on a screen from cable, from dvd's and you know at some point you know the internet will be coming in as well, and we'll be projecting up on the screen right from the internet. So I call that the home entertainment center of the future and our goal is for "Hinduism Today" to be on that screen, like little fifteen minute segments of things could be right up on the screen, you know downloaded from the internet and before you turn on the favorite TV program for the evening you watch fifteen minutes of "Hinduism Today." You know it's feasible in a few years. Technology is there and the streaming, streaming from the web, I think you know it's something that started out as a pie in the sky idea, but it's come down to being realistic and give it a few more years and it'll probably be commonplace, where on the home entertainment center certain things are coming straight off the web. Movies and other material, they're not coming from disk, they're coming straight from the web.

So that's where we want our material is on the web and being able to be watched on the home screen like that. So we're taking the first steps with our keynote seminars and our digital HT and we'll see how it goes.

Well have a wonderful phase, we'll be off tomorrow.

Aum Namah Sivaya Aum

[End of Transcript]

Photo of  Gurudeva
Every form of life, every group of men, has its dharma, the law of its being. When we follow dharma, we are in conformity with the Truth that inheres and instructs the universe, and we naturally abide in closeness to God.