Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Three Ancient Religions of India with Jainism as the Focus

These photographs were taken at a Jainism Temple in Gujarat. Not only was this temple breathtaking, but the experience touched me deeply and profoundly. I would like to share this experience with all of you. We were unable to take photographs inside the temple, so some things I speak of, you will not have visuals for.

Miss Bailin’s Reflection of the Jainism Temple
Miss Reynolds and I walked up and we were giggling with excitement. The mere sight of it stopped us dead in our tracks and silenced our giddiness. I don’t think we breathed for a good minute because it took our breath away. The magnificence of this place of worship radiated from all around us. As we gazed at the beauty of this masterpiece, we had no idea the experience we would share once we entered its doors.

We treaded lightly up to the doorway, removed our shoes, and shared a quick smile and Namaste with the gentleman that watch the shoes. The men’s clothes were threadbare and their posture hunched. Beads of sweat dripped down their tired faces as the rays from the sun beat on us, but their welcoming smiles and kind eyes washed away any nerves I might have had. All I felt was trust and genuine respect for these two men.

As we entered the temple, we observed how every inch of it was etched with beauty. There were carvings of religious deities and sculptures of various religious characters all over the building. It had gorgeously detailed designs all over it. As we walked through the doorway, people were exiting because a ceremony of some sorts had just finished. The whole temple smelled of fresh flowers that were all around the ground and hanging from the archways, which gave it a bright contrast. We were greeted just the same as the worshippers of this temple and escorted into the main chamber. This surprised and pleased me because I was nervous about how we would be received because we were obviously different from the rest of the people worshipping. I am so amazed at home kind and accepting Indian people are. That is one of the things I will remember most about India.

While we were in the main chamber, we honored the gods that were being worshipped that day. There were three exquisite marble statues that were highly decorated in three doorways. There were candles and flowers all around them. It was quite a sight.

The room commanded total focus and in doing so, released the mind of all stress. I was instantly calm while we were honoring the gods and goddesses. We sat down on the stone floor and observed a man meditating. We crossed our legs, closed our eyes, and breathed slowly. It was very relaxing. While we were participating in the yoga, a tall thin man entered the room. He touched his head to the floor, knelt down, and repeated this procedure several times. Then he began to sing. Although I had no idea what he was saying, it did not matter, what mattered was that he was expressing something meaningful and beautiful to himself. It brought tears to my eyes.

As we left the temple, a Jainism Indian, who was wearing all white approached us. He held out his hand to me and said, “Sister. I honored and respect you.” He then began to tell us about himself and his family and beliefs. Two things that he shared with us that struck us both as powerful were, “Live and let live,” and, “Simple living. High thinking.” He then blessed both of us and retreated off towards the distance.

We looked at each other and didn’t have the words to express this experience. It was unforgettable.

Miss Reynolds, Miss Bailin, and PVUSD are in no way expressing that students or other blog followers should agree or change their religious beliefs based on this posting. We are also not stating our personal beliefs or making judgments on religious views. This posting is merely to educate students on life in India and so much of India is based around its religious followings, so this is a necessary posting to help students understand the daily lives of the people of India and our experiences in their communities of practice. We were able to experience some aspects of these religions and we would like to share our findings.

We will not be divulging into in-depth analysis of these religions, but we encourage students to research various religions if it is something that interests them. Also note that when researching topics, use reliable sources. Simply reading anything that is posted on Google searches is not necessarily accurate. Although there are so many religions in India, we would like to start our research on religions in India with the Three Ancient Religions that are still practiced today: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

*Reponses should be respectful and insightful.
Difficulty Level Low - List two facts for each of the religions. You may not use the same fact as other students.
Difficulty Level Medium – Find three comparisons between the three ancient religions OR your religion. Be specific because not everyone who reads this has the knowledge you may about your religion.
Difficulty Level Medium - Find three contrasts between the three ancient religions OR your religion. Be specific because not everyone who reads this has the knowledge you may about your religion.

Difficulty Level Medium – What does the quote, “Simple living. High thinking,” mean to you?
Difficulty Level High – What aspects of these religions could you find useful in your daily life? Why did you select these aspects?
Difficulty Level High – What value do you see in studying other religions?

Mumbai - Thanksgiving

I know you have all heard about the tragedy in Mumbai. We are in Gujarat at the Fulbright conference. We are deeply affected by these events. We are with many scholars and teachers that are living in Mumbai as teachers and researchers. I wanted to post to let you know that we are safe. Mr. Larry Schwartz, from the U.S. Embassy, opened our conference today and has been keeping us informed about the situation in Mumbai. We wish all victims our blessings and would like to encourage the world not to judge these events at face value, but to look at larger global issues and try to make peaceful and positive changes to benefit mankind. Namaste.

Happy Thanksgiving! We are thankful for our families, friends, students, co-workers, and to be safe and representing America.