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Faith and Divinity

By Neera Kuckreja Sohoni

 

On his New York visit in 1896, Swami Vivekananda while addressing an assembly candidly stated that “The most intense love that humanity has ever known has come from religion, and the most diabolical hatred that humanity has known has also come from religion…. nothing makes us so cruel as religion, and nothing makes us so tender as religion.” On a prophetic note he added, “This has been so in the past, and will also, in all probability, be so in the future”.

In her thoughtful book (Dangerous Religious Ideas’, 2020) Rachel Mikva speaks to the commonality of some pious notions in the world’s leading religions that have potential to become dangerous unless interpreted more sagaciously. Other thinkers recommend taking away ‘chosenness’ (God’s selection of a particular people as worthy of receiving His commands), and more importantly, the ‘script’ out of scripture.

Giving up chosenness implies humility resulting from considering one’s faith at par with others.  Extracting the script is like separating grain from chaff. It suggests dynamism in that reexamining the script of any religious scripture could afford different meanings and permit or even legitimize behavior more suited to humanity’s emerging needs.

Scripture and religions, as Mikva points out, are tools of moral development enabling us to follow ethical conduct. Currently, over 40 percent of Americans and considerably higher ratios elsewhere acknowledge that one must believe in God in order to be an ethical person. In contrast, Mahatma Gandhi reversed the equation when he simply but profoundly asserted, “As soon as we lose the moral basis, we cease to be religious; there is no such thing as religion overriding morality.”

Fired by similar notions, enlightened thinkers throughout history have sought to reimagine religion to enable it to build bridges between conflicting faiths and people. Arguing that ultimate truth is beyond the scope of human understanding, they emphasize how intellectual humility can help to disarm scriptural and religious intolerance.

Making religion less monopolistic of one kind of god and one kind of truth, but as the Hindu tradition suggests, accepting that the doors to God are many and each of us is free to enter any, could put us on the path to reconciliation.

The three principal “Religions of the Book” – i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam – have a common thread running through their narrative that (i) God spoke directly to them which made them God’s “chosen people”; (ii) Their Holy Book is divine; and (iii) Their faith stands above all others. This assumption of being God’s favorite whom God has specially trusted with his message and responsibility to faithfully follow, protect, spread, and perpetuate is a noble sentiment and an elevating narrative. But the exclusionary nature of the ‘divine origin’ doctrine, like the divine right of kings, makes religions autocratic and monopolistic.

For its survival, humanity has a stake in plural readings, as scholarship on religion today is increasingly proposing. Under the eclectic approach, walls and silos among faiths and faiths’ followers dissolve as claims to the selection or ‘chosenness’ of one people, one faith, and one holy book above all others are set aside.

Scriptural ultimacy if discarded permits us to respond with open minds to issues which in earlier centuries were condemned as sacrilege but now require acceptance and assimilation. Openness rather than rigidity in applying religion to current events is the best and perhaps the only way to enhance religion’s relevance and acceptance, and to defuse its ‘dangerous’ elements.

When we of any religion acknowledge the left-outs and the out-groups as claimants to inclusion and embrace in religion, and bring them into the sanctums of our secular and religious life, our faiths have a better chance to survive and grow.

Over 40 percent of Americans and considerably higher ratios elsewhere acknowledge that one must believe in God in order to be an ethical person. In contrast, Mahatma Gandhi reversed the equation when he simply but profoundly asserted, “As soon as we lose the moral basis, we cease to be religious; there is no such thing as religion overriding morality.” (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Considerable evidence exists of the benefits to humankind from a progressive, encompassing, and embracive approach to religion. It has enabled us to tackle burning secular issues such as ending slavery, and permitting divorce, abortion, women priests, and even marriage for priests. It has helped promote and to varying extent accomplish equality for the traditionally underprivileged including women, people of color, LGBTQ, slaves, serfs, low caste and all others traditionally discarded as deplorables and untouchables. They have already been, or are beginning now, to be embraced and permitted the same agency and standing in faith that others have enjoyed all through history.

When all are equally deemed as God’s elected people, and all nations as God’s chosen nations, then the binary of good and evil disappears.

Unfortunately, equivalence was not always the inspiration guiding or characterizing faiths. On the contrary, for its entire past existence, humanity has stood fractured by the divisive divinity claimed by religion. Fanning visions of glory based on expansionist empire-building, the restrictive view of religion has compelled religion’s followers to loot, convert, submerge and destroy all those of a different faith. Hence, the endless religious wars of prior centuries and the religio-political terrorism of our times.

The missionary zeal of religion’s followers to spread their God’s divinely conveyed message to all has found its active collaborator in the ideology of nationhood. America and many other nations as well as different racial groups at various points in history have claimed to be the chosen ones, with their spiritual and political leaders and monarchs using military and economic wars to achieve supremacy over the rest of the world. Capitalist, Communist, Socialist or Anarchist – each nation or bloc of nations currently is rushing to claim global dominance in the name of their superior ideology.

Since religious vocabulary and bigotry colors political actions of all nations, it is unfair to continue to malign White Westerners as colonizers. Clearly, both historically and currently, colonization has been co-opted by peoples of all ethnicities, faiths and nations.

Speaking subjectively, the contrasting example of Hinduism is worth noting. Its strength is that it has no prescribed single book or divinely conveyed message to a Moses or a Mohammad like godly person. That God is one, but its manifestations and incarnations many, is what makes Hinduism and its followers eclectic. Within the same family, spouses may follow different Hindu sects or worship different deities.

That diversity, and absent any claim to Hinduism’s exclusively divine and monolithic beginning, or to Hindus being the chosen people, is what possibly accounts for the absent or limited militant colonization in Hinduism’s history. Hindus often wonder if this intrinsically non-deterministic aspect of Hinduism is what has made Hindus resilient, and allowed them largely to remain Hindus through centuries of oppressive occupation of Hindustan by waves of invaders and alien regimes – all of opposing faiths.

Speaking subjectively, the contrasting example of Hinduism is worth noting. Its strength is that it has no prescribed single book or divinely conveyed message to a Moses or a Mohammad like godly person. That God is one, but its manifestations and incarnations many, is what makes Hinduism and its followers eclectic. Within the same family, spouses may follow different Hindu sects or worship different deities. thesatime | The Southasian times

That is not to deny the horrors of caste and intra-and cross-faith slaughters that Hindus in the name of Hinduism have engaged in and tolerated, and continue to do so. But its innate eclecticism provides sufficient reason for hope in the potential of the ‘Hindu way of religion’ to promote greater acceptance of other faiths and peoples.

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The California based writer frequently contributes opeds and essays to The South Asian Times. 

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Latest News USA

Rutgers University backs controversial historian Audrey Truschke

New Brunswick: Days after a group of students initiated a petition asking Rutgers University in Newark to take strong action against controversial historian and Professor Audrey Truschke for demonizing Hinduism, the institution has issued a statement expressing support for Audrey Trucshke, who teaches South Asian history there.

“Rutgers emphatically supports Professor Truschke’s academic freedom in pursuing her scholarship, abhors the vile messages and threats that are being directed at her, and calls for an immediate end to them. Scholarship is sometimes controversial, perhaps especially when it is at the interface of history and religion, but the freedom to pursue such scholarship, as Professor Truschke does rigorously, is at the heart of the academic enterprise,” the university said in a statement.

It said, “Just as strongly, Rutgers empathetically affirms its support for all member of the Hindu community to study and live in an environment in which they not only feel safe but also fully supported in their religious identity.” 

The university concluded, “Toward these ends, we are initiating dialogues to understand the sentiments of our Hindu community and create a context that honors our complexity, while allowing us to do the difficult work of constructive and healthy engagement among our diverse community.” Following the support from her own Institute, Audrey Truschke thanked the university administration for backing ‘academic freedom.’

The petition was shared on Twitter by the ‘Hindu on Campus’ group which was reportedly signed by more than 5000 people. The group had also written an open letter to the varsity expressing concerns over the views expressed by the professor on Twitter.  

The petition accuses Truschke of portraying all Hindus as “lustful and sex obsessed” and ‘cow piss drinkers.’ 

The group pointed out that Audrey Truschke tried to trivialize and downplay the Hindu genocide, committed by the Mughal king Aurangzeb. She had claimed that “such numbers are often exaggerated as there was really no way of knowing how many people existed in India at that time; and that people of that time made up numbers!”

The petition emphasized, “Prof. Truschke, who claims to be a responsible historian conveniently decided to whitewash such horrific statistics. In other instances, Prof. Truschke has defended the Mughal King by saying that he protected more Hindu temples than he destroyed and that he increased Hindu participation at the elite levels of the Mughal state.”

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Latest News USA

Lawmakers educated and pressed to drop Swastika from NY hate bill

New York: A zoom call on the true spiritual meaning of the Swastika was organized by Nilima Madan, a community leader who invited over a hundred heads of various organizations and elected officials from New York on May 5 to discuss and educate those who are less informed about the NY Senate Bill S2727, which is currently in the Senate Education Committee and will be considered in the Assembly.

Madan shared a power point distinguishing the Swastika from Hakenkreutz (hooked cross) used by Nazis and Hitler. And that the Swastika is revered and worshipped by Hindu, Buddhist and Jains the world over.  So, remove the word Swastika from the draft of the said bill which can keep Hakenkreutz as a symbol of hate.

Several community leaders spoke of the disrespect, emotional hurt and misrepresentation the bill would cause if passed to multitudes and then kids will learn about the Holocaust and think about Swastika only as a hate symbol. The webinar made a call for all organizations to stand united to ensure that either the bill does not pass or is amended appropriately.

The sentiment was that if Hitler distorted and appropriated an ancient symbol in wars against the British or Russia, it doesn’t change the value of Swastik as a religious symbol for many, and to fight any misconceptions of present-day politicians in USA is imperative.

NY Senator John Liu acknowledged that the issue needed to be further discussed with other leaders, especially the Jewish community and relevance of the bill revisited in a manner as to not hurt any ethnic group and yet pass the right educational material and information for further consideration.

Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar said, “I support you and am in your corner.” Nathaniel Hezekiah III, Deputy Chief of Staff for Congressman Gregory W. Meeks commented that meeting was helpful to get educated on this issue. Assemblyman David Weprin, Manhattan Borough President Eric Adams, Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino were represented by their staff.

Community leaders in attendance included: Dr Dattatreyadu Nori, Nikunj Trivedi, Animesh Goenka, Vimal Goyal, Dr Raj Modi, Dr Bindu Babu, Dr Anila Midha, Uma Sengupta, Vibhuti Jha, Dr Narinder Kukar, Sunil Modi, Balaji Nagraj, Radho Bathija, Narinder Kapoor, Mukesh Modi, Dr Raj Bhayani, Pradeep Tandon, Dr Jay Sarkar, Sadhvi Chandra Bharti, Venus Bhasin, Dr Urmilesh Arya, Gobind Munjal, Gunjan Rastogi, Dr Dheeraj Kaul, Veena Lamba, Dr Rakesh Sharma, Anju Sharma, Dr Shashi Shah, Jasbir Singh, Sunil Hali, Dr Hari Shukla, Thomas Abraham, Dr Bhavani Srinivasan, Gayatri Murli, Dr Indranil Basure, Dr Neeru Bhambri, Koshy O. Thomas, and Krish Rudra. Beena Kothari and Jyoti Gupta helped organize the meeting.

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Latest News USA

Under guise of protecting workers, California defines (and demonizes) Hinduism

In defining caste as we know it as a Hindu concept, the state paints a major world faith as inherently discriminatory. 

By Kavita Pallod Sekhsaria
Hindu American Foundation

In a discrimination case involving a Cisco Systems employee, the state of California has taken the bold and alarming step of defining Hinduism while simultaneously demonizing it. 

In a case that has bounced from federal court to local court, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s lawsuit has alleged that Cisco and two of its employees discriminated against a computer engineer who worked on their team in their Silicon Valley office, denying him a raise and a promotion because he was a Dalit, one of the lowest castes in Indian social hierarchy. The two supervisors are presumably from higher castes, according to the state’s complaint.

So far, so good. Nobody wants to see discrimination in the workplace in any form. 

But on closer inspection, the state’s filing reveals an unconstitutional, untenable and Hinduphobic definition of caste. California’s rhetoric goes far beyond justice to target the Hindu community on the basis of religion. 

The state asserts that Hinduism is inherently hierarchical and discriminatory: “As a strict Hindu social and religious hierarchy, India’s caste system defines a person’s status based on their religion, ancestry, national origin/ethnicity, and race/color — or the caste into which they are born — and will remain until death.” 

This approach is unconstitutional. The First Amendment prohibits the state from using its power to define religious doctrine. 

It is also wrong. Across the diversity of Hinduism, the idea of the equal presence of the divine in all beings is fundamental to living the faith. Our shared divinity brings about a responsibility to treat others with respect, compassion and dignity. An unchanging, oppressive and hereditary hierarchy that’s enforced by religious mandate doesn’t fit with any genuine understanding of Hinduism. 

India’s caste system is not a Hindu idea, any more than slavery or white supremacy is inherent to Christianity, or terrorism is to Islam, to use popular stereotypes. While caste as a means of social division is quite old, the practice as we know it today is more the product of colonialist conceptions, shaped by British and European notions of racial and religious superiority. 

Should California prevail in this case, its grossly inaccurate characterization of the place of caste in the Hindu faith could be used to paint every Hindu of Indian descent in this country as bigoted by definition.

The Cisco case is not the first time California has painted Hindus as implicitly discriminatory. For decades, California’s school textbooks have defined Hinduism this way. In spite of our religion’s teachings, our most important sacred texts and the beliefs of an overwhelming number of Hindus, we have suffered the consequences of unintended ill will and harmful stereotypes.

Not only is California’s embrace of stereotypes rooted in racism and colonialism misplaced, it is also unnecessary. The state could rely on existing law to prosecute caste discrimination. By developing legal precedent aimed directly at the foreign concept of caste, California would force companies to work out criteria to ascertain the caste of each employee of Indian descent, and monitor and manage alleged discrimination along these lines. 

Since caste is an administrative designation in India, not a religious one, companies would in effect have to apply Indian law on caste, which is incredibly complex and fluid, not to mention the differing designations of India’s individual states, on people living and working in the U.S.

Or worse, they could avail themselves of the offered help of some scholar-activists, who themselves have a documented history of bigoted Hinduphobic statements, to assign Hindus a caste status based on analysis of a list of last names alone. 

The state’s definition would also make Hindus of non-Indian descent and non-Hindus, for whom subcontinental social markers have zero relevance, hyper aware of caste. What’s next, making Hindus wear something that clearly identifies them in public — maybe a saffron armband?

The Cisco case is hardly the first-time allegations of discrimination in the workplace have surfaced and is unlikely to be the last. Demanding that companies ensure work environments that promote diversity and mutual respect is vital to our capitalist democracy; whether the differences are real or perceived, disrespect, discrimination and mistreatment of subordinates from positions of power are wrong. 

The state’s role in pushing for more inclusive and just workplaces is key in this effort. But by defining caste entirely as a Hindu religious principle, California has put itself in a position only to target Hindus without even clarifying how it will be able to prosecute actual discrimination. 

This gross overstep will go even further in targeting us for abuse, without coming near the purported goal of pushing employers to be more fair and just. 

(The writer is a clinical psychologist and national leadership team member for the Hindu American Foundation. The article courtesy Religion News Service.)

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Latest News USA

Upset Hindus urge Louis Vuitton to apologize & withdraw yoga mat made of cow leather

Upset Hindus have urged luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton to immediately withdraw its recently launched yoga mat made from cowhide leather, calling it highly inappropriate.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada, said that this Louis Vuitton yoga mat seemed ridiculing and offending two serious concepts of Hinduism—cow and yoga—and was hugely insensitive to Hindu feelings.

Scenario of yoga (profound, sacred and ancient discipline; introduced and nourished by Hinduism) being performed on a mat made from a killed cow (the seat of many deities, which was sacred and had long been venerated in Hinduism) was painful to Hindu sentiments; Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, said.

Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), whose “Code of Conduct” included “Acting Responsibly and with Social Awareness” should not be in the business of religious appropriation, sacrilege, mocking serious spiritual practices and ridiculing entire communities Rajan Zed noted.

Zed also urged LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault; Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke and Louis Vuitton Executive Vice President Delphine Arnault to offer a formal apology and be serious about the LVMH vision of “ethical responsibility.”

Yoga, which found reference in the world’s oldest extant scripture Rig-Veda and other early Hindu texts, is considered union with God, one of the six systems of Hindu philosophy, and meant for transforming consciousness and purification of the Self and attaining liberation. It involved withdrawal and its objective was the state of blissful liberation, Zed pointed out.

Description of this beige mat (priced at $2,390 and made with cowhide leather) at the company website claimed: “Meditative stretching takes on a sleek bent with the Louis Vuitton yoga mat.”

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Latest News USA

Writing about sacred food helped her figure out her faith

By Vishnu Makhijani

Award-winning author and columnist Shoba Narayan is a graduate from the Columbia Journalism School with a Pulitzer Travelling Fellowship and writes on food, travel, fashion, and art and culture for a slew of International and Indian publications like the Conde Nast Traveller, NYT and HT Brunch. All her four books are firmly rooted in Indian culture, as is her latest offering, “Food & Faith – A Pilgrim’s Journey Through India” (HarperCollins) that she says actually helped her figure out her faith.

“After being an atheist as a teenager, agnostic in my twenties and thirties, I turned to religion late in life. As the mother of two young daughters, the daughter of fairly religious, traditional, South Indian parents and in-laws, I had to come to terms with my religion, and indeed, all religions. Instead of avoiding and disdaining faith, I had to find a way to include it in my life. For my children’s sake. For my parents’ sake,” the Bengaluru-based Narayan told IANS in an interview.

“Around the time I began visiting temples to write about their sacred food (prasadam and its different connotations), I decided to figure out my faith. I wanted to figure out how I felt about the Hindu rituals and practices that I had dismissed as being patriarchal. I re-read the marvelous and imaginative Hindu myths that I had heard from my grandmother as a child. And I talked to many experts about my religion.

“Food seemed like an innocuous way to do this. Sacred food as a way of fusing a secular identity with spirituality in some form: that was my plan. What I didn’t anticipate is that once you step into the realm of faith, your heart and emotions open in ways that you cannot predict or control,” Narayan explained.

It’s a book largely – but not only – about Hinduism “written by a (skeptical) Hindu who seeks to answer larger questions about faith. Like the following: What is the role of religion in your life today? Do you pray?  Do you commune with the divine through rituals? Is it through chanting verses in Aramaic, Arabic or Sanskrit?

“Or is it a comforting routine – going to the mosque, church or temple? Is religion part of your identity?  Is it an occasional activity that you do out of habit or because your parents ask you to? Or is it simply a connection with your heritage, home and ancestors?

“Do you think religion is a private act or can it be part of the public discourse? Are these questions making you uncomfortable? These are the questions that came up during the many pilgrimages that I undertook. These are the questions that I sought to answer in my writing,” Narayan elaborated.

And what a sweep it covers! Embracing shrines in Amritsar, Ajmer, Mumbai (the Bene Israelis), and Goa, besides the prominent Hindu temples, the book explores the powerful and intimate intertwining of food with faith, history, myth and identity.

“I started with a simple calculation. I would visit those temples that had good prasadam or sacred food offerings. These are, literally, foods for the gods, which belong to a time, place and a specific deity. After offering it to God, the devotees partake of this ‘gracious gift of God’,” Narayan said.

“Using food as an anchor and guide seemed like a good way to parse the hundreds of thousands of Hindu temples in India, each with specific creation-myths, rituals and, yes, recipes. If nothing else, I would eat well,” the author added.

An interesting thing happened as she traversed the world of Hindu temple prasadams.

“I discovered that while the food was interesting, my journey also prompted larger questions about faith and its place in our lives and society. And that is what this book eventually became: a pilgrim’s quest into the world of faith told through food,” Narayan said.

Quite naturally, the writing of the book had a profound impact on her.

“I am a Hindu. It defines who I am, perhaps not as much as feminism, and certainly not as much as being a writer or a mother. But if I had to list out the top five things that are part of my identity, it would be part of the list,” Narayan said.

At the same time, there was the reaffirmation that “all religions share broad strokes. They talk about developing courage, character and tenacity to cope with the ups and downs of life. Faith, at its best, is about giving strength and succor. As it turns out, the religion that I was born into, Hinduism, has answers for many of the above questions. It is also an imaginative faith, full of myth and folklore, rituals that incorporate lights, lamps, flowers, music, dance and sacred food.”

We may pray to Jesus, Ram or Allah, “but at the end of the day, we are all children of God. We each have many identities. Religion is one, but there are others. We are each of us: son/daughter, spouse, sibling, friend and professional. I tend to identify myself through my work, and I would suspect that most of my readers are the same way”.

“I am attracted to the beauty of Hindu rituals, to its pujas, pomp and circumstance. At the same time, I like Christian gospel music, Buddhist philosophy, Sufi poetry, Jewish literature, Sikh generosity, Parsi identity. In India, we are lucky enough to be able to experience them all.

“So yes, I am Hindu. I like my faith, but please, that’s not all I am.

“And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a fridge-full of prasadams (sacred food) that I need to eat,” Narayan concludes.

-IANS

Interview with Shoba Narayan, a graduate from the Columbia Journalism School with a Pulitzer Travelling Fellowship, about her new book, “Food & Faith – A Pilgrim’s Journey Through India”. .
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Latest News USA

VHPA to hold ‘Reflections@50: Walking in Dharma’ – a virtual conference

Boston A unique, two-day online community event ‘Reflections@50: Walking in Dharma’ will be held on September 19 and 20, 2020. Organized by the World Hindu Council of America (VHPA), this virtual conference marks VHPA’s 50 years of continuous service to the Hindu community, and will serve as a curtain raiser for a major in-person event to be held in New Jersey in 2021.

‘Reflections@50: Walking in Dharma comes in the wake of VHPA’s ‘Threads 2019’ meet which last year effectively captured the multifaceted contributions of the community in the US in the present and projection on the future. Now, VHPA seeks through this conference, to gaze back to the pioneering spirit of first-generation Hindu Americans, who took the bold step of leaving the comfort of their motherland to come to the US in search of better opportunities.

Reflections@50 will reprise this amazing journey of 50 years, to learn how Hindus have enriched and strengthened the strands of culture, knowledge, community engagement through their dharmic values and enterprise.

The conference will have four keynote speakers: Vyomesh Joshi, CEO,3D Systems; Vandana Tilak, CEO; Director, Akshaya Patra USA; Dr. Raj Vedam, Scholar, Indian History and Benny Tillman, President, Vedic Friends Association.

They will speak from experience on leadership, service, identity and melding of tradition in modern society.

Eight panels featuring academicians, religious heads, charity organizations, elected officials, youth leaders and business people will hold discussions on a broad range of topics including on women, seniors, dharmic institutions, advocacy, youth and community service.

The conference is open to all who seek a deeper understanding of the contribution of Hindus in America. To register visit www.reflections-50.org.

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International

Concerted efforts of Hindus of Greater Houston for COVID-19 relief

By Manu Shah

Houston: Since the early days of the pandemic, Hindus of Greater Houston (HGH) have been routing their combined resources into multiple food drives, distribution of PPE’s and actively fundraising to help Houstonians impacted by the financial fallout.   About $100,000 has been raised by HGH to date for Sewa International and other organizations for their relief efforts.

In a meeting organized on May 23 and moderated by Secretary of Meenakshi Temple Parthasarthy Krishnaswamy, HGH board of trustees, advisors and other community leaders once again got together virtually to share updates and the way forward.

HGH Chairman Dev Mahajan apprised the gathering about the commendable work done by the Hindu Worship Society, Arya Samaj and VPSS with respect to food drives and the blood donation camp. VPSS was going to “targeted communities” to distribute food instead of requiring them to come to the temple. Sanjay Jain from the Arya Samaj and Rajinder Soni from the Hindu Worship Society filled in more details about the events. 

On May 31th, a blood donation drive will be held at the Arya Samaj School building from 9:00 am to 1.30 pm in collaboration with the Gulf Coast Blood Center. Sanjay Jain, who is spearheading this drive, appealed to all Indo Americans to register and donate blood. COVID testing is not required. However, donors should not have travelled to India in last one year. Those who come in between 9-10:30 am will receive a free pack of 5 cloth masks. Groceries will be distributed between 12-1:00 pm

Patanjali Yogpeeth President Shekhar Agrawal stated that preparations for Yoga Guru Swami Ramdev’s visit to Houston for the International Day of Yoga on June 21 has been shelved. A virtual two-hour program has been planned instead.

Member of the Hindu Heritage Youth Camp Committee Bharat Pallod regretfully reported that for the first time in 35 years, HGH may not be hosting its annual camp for children.

Kantibhai Patel and HGH President Thara Narasimhan from Voice of Sanatan Hinduism are offering free airtime for food and blood drive announcements. Tune into their program on Masala Radio from 12-2 pm every Sunday.

Houston’s top cardiologist Dr. Randeep Suneja offered a much-needed dose of optimism on the medical strides for COVID-19 treatments.
India is at the forefront of yet another successful endeavor. Durga Bari’s past President Parthasarathi Chatterjee highlighted the creation of the National Digital Library that is being put together by the IITs and will be the biggest data base of information on COVID-19 from testing to research.

A virtual online concert featuring singers like Kailash Kher, Shreya Ghoshal and Usha Uthap is also being organized to raise funds for the recent cyclone that has devastated Kolkata.

A few temples have cautiously opened their doors to devotees such as the Meenakshi Temple, VPSS and the Hindu Worship Society. Parathasarathy Krishnaswamy from MTS drew attention to some of the best practices that have been implemented to minimize the risk of infections.

Earlier in the teleconference, Pujya Bhaktivardhandas Swami, from the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Houston, appreciated the good work being done by volunteer leaders of HGH to support and counsel their members in these challenging times.

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