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Archive for the ‘yoga’ tag

Faith Inspires: Hindu American Seva Charities

Photo Credit to Myra Iqbal, AOL

Niki A. Shah teaches yoga to a group of kids as a part of the Hindu American Seva Charities.

by Jahnabi Barooah
from The Huffington Post

This week’s Faith Inspires highlights the work of Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC), an organization whose mission is to engage in “seva, interfaith collaboration, pluralism, social justice and sustainable civic engagement to ignite grassroots social change and build healthy communities.” Seva, which means “service” in Sanskrit, is an important aspect of the Dharmic traditions, which include Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

In 2009, when President Barack Obama issued a “call to serve,” Anju Bhargava, a Hindu American resident of Livingston, NJ, was appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. HASC is a result of that collaboration, and was designed to strengthen and put a spotlight on civic engagement and community service efforts in the Dharmic community.

Despite the White House’s support and guidance, HASC did not have the easiest start, and their success over the past two years can be attributed as much to creative theological thinking, as to the Dharmic community’s desire to be fully accepted in the American community.

“The Hindu community didn’t have a faith-based infrastructure [to perform community service],” Anju Bhargava, the founder of the HASC told The Huffington Post. Even though many Hindus were engaging in community service through informal means, Hindus did not have access to sustainable community service programs that were faith-based. If the goal was to bring seva to the forefront and make it relevant in the American context, the challenge was that the Hindu-American community was so fragmented because of its varied religious and philosophical beliefs, Bhargava told The Huffington Post.

Click here to read full article

 

The Surprising–and Continuing–Influence of Swami Vivekananda

The swami Vivekananda, the Bengali monk who brought yoga to the United States, meditating in London, in 1896. Courtesy of the Vedanta Society

by A. L. Bardach
from the Wall Street Journal

By the late 1960s, the most famous writer in America had become a recluse, having forsaken his dazzling career. Nevertheless, J.D. Salinger often came to Manhattan, staying at his parents’ sprawling apartment on Park Avenue and 91st Street. While he no longer visited with his editors at “The New Yorker,” he was keen to spend time with his spiritual teacher, Swami Nikhilananda, the founder of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, located, then as now, in a townhouse just three blocks away, at 17 East 94th Street.

Though the iconic author of “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Franny and Zooey” published his last story in 1965, he did not stop writing. From the early 1950s onward, he maintained a lively correspondence with several Vedanta monks and fellow devotees.

After all, the central, guiding light of Salinger’s spiritual quest was the teachings of Vivekananda, the Calcutta-born monk who popularized Vedanta and yoga in the West at the end of the 19th century.

These days yoga is offered up in classes and studios that have become as ubiquitous as Starbucks. Vivekananda would have been puzzled, if not somewhat alarmed. “As soon as I think of myself as a little body,” he warned, “I want to preserve it, protect it, to keep it nice, at the expense of other bodies. Then you and I become separate.” For Vivekananda, who established the first ever Vedanta Center, in Manhattan in 1896, yoga meant just one thing: “the realization of God.”

Click here to read the full article.

CPWR Trustee Featured on the Yoga Hour this Thursday

Dr. Anantanand Rambachan (a CPWR trustee) will speak with Rev. Ellen Grace O’Brian (also a CPWR trustee!) online this Thursday.

from the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment:

Awaken Love and Compassion through Discovering the Atman, the True Self
Dr. Anantanand Rambachan
on the Yoga Hour Online Broadcast,
Thursday, March 29 at 8 am PT 10am CT

Love and compassion are the natural endowments of the soul. When we are freed from the narrow confines of self-interest and discover our oneness with all that is, we find a source of happiness and satisfaction that previously escaped us. The Bhagavad Gita offers profound wisdom for living in love and infusing our action with compassion. Join Dr. Anantanand Rambachan, author of Gitamrtam: The Essential Teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, and Rev. Ellen Grace O’Brian from the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment on The Yoga Hour online broadcast for this insightful exploration of the true nature of the Self.

Dr. Anantanand Rambachan, is Chair and Professor or Religion, Philosophy and Asian Studies at Saint Olaf College, Minnesota, USA, where he has been teaching since 1985. Prof. Rambachan has been involved in the field of interreligious relations and dialogue for over twenty-five years, as a Hindu participant and analyst. He is currently an advisor to the Pluralism Project (Harvard University), a member of the International Advisory Council for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, and a member of the Theological Education Committee of the American Academy of Religion. Prof. Rambachan delivered the invocation address at the historic White House Celebration of the Hindu festival of Diwali in 2003 and also in 2004.

 

Religion Stories Of 2011: The Top 11

by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
from Huffington Post

In the final days of 2011 we pause to reflect on the year that has past — the good, the bad and the ugly. Here are the HuffPost Religion Top Stories of 2011.

The Muslim Spring
It started with a simple vegetable seller in Tunisia who, humiliated by the police and autocracy, set himself on fire at the end of 2010. One year later, the seemingly eternal regimes of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have fallen to popular uprisings and several others, including Syria, appear to be teetering. Once called the Arab Spring, Islam is increasingly being recognized as the fuel that fed the fire of these revolutions — a fire that that may both warm and burn in 2012.

The Dalai Lama Steps Down
The Dalai Lama made history when he relieved himself from his responsibility as political head of the Tibetan people to concentrate solely on his role as spiritual leader; ending one of the most enduring, if benevolent, theocracies in the world. Lobsang Sangay, the Harvard-trained legal scholar, is the the new Tibetan Prime Minister in a time when frustrations with Chinese policy is leading to a fiery form of radical protests by nuns and monks.

Mormons in Politics
The potential success of the Romney presidential campaign has fed a frenzy of discussion of what it means that a Mormon is in politics. The fact that Romney is not the only Mormon candidate (Huntsman) and that the Senate Majority Leader (Reid) is also Mormon doesn’t seem to stop the endless punditry and speculation. Will religious suspicion on the part of evangelicals in the primary and secularists in the general election doom this Mormon moment?

The Muslims Are Coming, The Muslims Are Coming
Fear of the “Muslim menace,” fueled by cynical politicians and well funded think tanks, has led to anti-sharia laws proposed and passed in states around the country. The fact that these states hadno pending pro-sharia laws is apparently beside the point. Creating bulwarks instead of bridges, the anti-sharia (read Muslim) movements seem to ebb and flow according to the political tides (think Park 51 in 2010). Get ready for a flood in 2012.

The End of the World
In order to give people time to repent, people with May 21 Judgment Day signs started popping up well before the announced date of the end of the world. The “prophet” of this apocalypse was Harold Camping, an elderly man with a drawling voice heard most prominently on his Family Radio empire. People left jobs, families prepared to be raptured and as the clock ticked down, the entire world held its collective unbelieving breath. And then time went on, and oddly a little disappointed, so did we.

Presbyterians Acknowledge Gays and Lesbians Can Be Ministers
Ho hum, gays can be ministers, too. Yet, for the Presbyterian Church, one of America’s most famously and proudly plodding religious traditions, to change its laws to allow openly gay men and women in same-sex relationships to be ordained as clergy was a major step forward for LGBT rights and for the Church as a whole.

Click here to read the full article

Sitting in the Heart of the World

by Ellen Grace O’Brian
Vice-Chair, CPWR Board of Trustees

As a practitioner of yoga, I was aware of the Parliament of the World’s Religions as the watershed interreligious event that opened the door to yoga in the West through Swami Vivekananda’s dynamic presence at the first convening in 1893. What I didn’t know was that beginning in 1993, this powerful global event was now occurring approximately every five years and was open to everyone with an interest in the interreligious movement. Although I had heard about the Parliaments in Chicago (1993) and South Africa (1999), it wasn’t clear to me how to participate and that it was something that could so profoundly affect my life and my community.

Curiosity has a way of helping us discover doorways that we didn’t know existed. In 2002, I learned about a local group of people meeting in someone’s home to talk about the next Parliament event slated to convene in Barcelona in 2004. Between homemade soup, networking, and sharing about why we thought it could make a difference to bring people together, I found myself on the path to the fourth global parliament event. This local connection with people who had been to other parliaments, and those who, like me, were just learning about it, was invaluable. It provided inspiration as well as information. Little did I know I was already engaged in one of the hallmarks of the Parliament: bringing people together in ways that empower and equip them to solve the problems we face in our world today.

When I checked in at my first Parliament in Barcelona, I was overwhelmed by the abundance of programs and events, the sight of so many people from different religious traditions and far reaches of the globe engaging in dialog, and the inspiration that pervaded everything from the meeting place to the program book. After a time of prayerful consideration about what I should chose amidst such rich opportunity, I dove in. One of the things I decided to participate in was a dialog with others who were concerned about the rise of religiously motivated violence in our world.

The dialog group I was assigned to included a Hindu man from India; a Muslim woman from Egypt, a Christian seminary student from the US, a Catholic woman from Rome, and a Lutheran man from Switzerland. We were provided with some questions to reflect upon and discuss. Why was this issue important to us? What in our own experience had contributed to why we cared about violence in our world? What could we see ourselves doing we returned home to our own communities that would make a difference?

As I sat with this group of people from religions, countries, and viewpoints different from mine, something became apparent that changed everything for me: we all shared a deep concern about this issue and a belief, grounded in our diverse traditions, that peaceful change was possible. The experience of connection across differences was profound, I felt like I was sitting in the heart of the world. We were inspired to return home and engage in action. Then it came to me. I live in a large, diverse, metropolitan area. I realized that if people who were concerned about the rise of violence in our own community gathered together, that group would look very much like the one I was with in distant Barcelona. And, with a similar rich diversity, we could find ways together to begin to solve this problem.

When I returned home with this inspiration from the Parliament, I reached out and was joined by leaders from different faith communities, educational institutions, government and nonprofit organizations, students and community members who met to convene a community nonviolence conference. Inspired by the Parliament model, hundreds of people have attended these conferences over the years and brought forth their own commitments to action.

Whenever I think about what the Parliament does, or what it means to attend such a global gathering, I remember my experience of sitting in the heart of the world. And I think about what happens when people come together and share their deepest concerns and aspirations for a peaceful world.

Rev. Ellen Grace O’Brian is the Spiritual Director of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, a ministry in the tradition of Kriya Yoga. She was ordained to teach in 1982 by Roy Eugene Davis, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda. She is the author of several books on spiritual practice and is the editor of the quarterly magazine, Enlightenment Journal.

Rev. O’Brian is the Founder of Meru Seminary, training leaders in the Kriya Yoga tradition, as well as Founder and Chair of the community nonprofit educational organization, Carry the Vision, which provides educational programs in nonviolence. She received the 2008 Human Relations Award from the Santa Clara County Office of Human Relations recognizing her contribution to positive human relations and peace in Santa Clara County. She serves as a member of the Advisory Council of the Association for Global New Thought; on the Executive Board of the International New Thought Alliance; and as Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

How Yoga Won the West

Vivekananda in Chicago, 1893. (Vedanta Society of Southern California)

by Ann Louise Bardach
from New York Times

Ann Louise Bardach is a writer at large for Newsweek. She is working on a biography of Vivekananda.

The party planning is in full swing throughout India. Never mind that the big day, Jan. 12, 2013, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vivekananda, is more than 15 months away. Not too long ago, Vivekananda, a household name in his homeland, was famous here as well, as the first missionary from the East to the West.

If you’re annoyed that your local gas station is now a yoga studio, you might blame Vivekananda for having introduced “yoga” into the national conversation — though an exercise cult with expensive accessories was hardly what he had in mind.

The Indian monk, born Narendranath Datta to an aristocratic Calcutta family, alighted in Chicago in 1893 in ochre robes and turban, with little money after a daunting two-month trek from Bombay. Notwithstanding the fact that he had spent the previous night sleeping in a boxcar, the young mystic made an electrifying appearance at the opening of the august Parliament of Religions that Sept. 11.

For most of the rest of the month, Vivekananda held the conference’s 4,000 attendees spellbound in a series of showstopping improvised talks. He had simplified Vedanta thought to a few teachings that were accessible and irresistible to Westerners, foremost being that “all souls are potentially divine.” His prescription for life was simple, and perfectly American: “work and worship.” By the end of his last Chicago lecture on Sept. 27, Vivekananda was a star. And like the enterprising Americans he so admired, he went on the road to pitch his message — dazzling some of the great minds of his time.

Yet precious few of the estimated 16 million supple, spandex-clad yoginis in the United States, who sustain an annual $6 billion industry, seem to have a clue that they owe their yoga mats to Vivekananda. Enriching this irony was Vivekananda’s utter lack of interest in physical exertions beyond marathon sitting meditations and pilgrimages to holy sites.

“You are not your body,” he often reminded Americans, who tend to prefer “doing” over “being.” More distressing, for some, was his other message: “You are not your mind.”

Click here to read the full article

October 15th, 2011 at 10:04 am

Shashwat yogic farming

by Priti Agrawal from the Times of India

The Rajyoga Education and Research Foundation together with the Prajapita Brahma Kumaris Ishwariya Vidyalaya recently organised a conference in the capital to focus on how to restore harmony between man and nature for better farming. The conference concluded with the recommendation that a spiritual and meditative approach to farming can have a positive impact on farm output.

BK Sarla, national coordinator, Rural Development Wing of the Rajyoga Education and Research Foundation in Mehsana, Gujarat, asked the delegates what was so special about the food made by our mothers. He went on to give the answer: “It’s the love that a mother adds to the food while cooking!” The feelings and emotions with which food is prepared affects its taste. It is the same with agriculture, he added. If farmers think positively, are peaceful, and nurture their produce in an eco-friendly way, then the foodgrains and vegetables they grow would be enriched and taste much better, he concluded.

Today, farmers use chemicals to kill pests and increase production, but this suffuses the crop with negativity as well as retains remnants of the pesticide, making the food unhealthy and in some cases, even toxic. Shashwat or perpetual yogic farming is the  need of the hour. Yogic farming techniques can then help farmers grow healthier, sattvic and non-toxic food far less expensively…

Click here to read the full article

June 20th, 2011 at 11:20 am

Two views of Yoga discipleship

Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian

Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian

Council Trustee Rev. Ellen Grace O’Brian hosts fellow trustee Dr. Kusumita Pedersen on her radio show, The Yoga Hour.  The episode, entitled “21st Century Discipleship: Dedication to Self- and God-Realization,” offers a profound conversation about the way of discipleship—the universal path of radical freedom walked by devotees, saints and mystics through the ages.

The episode is available by mp3.

Click here to visit The Yoga Hour

Yoga: Covert Conversion to Hinduism or Universal Good?

In this Parliament of the World’s Religions session, this panel of yogis and yoga experts considers whether the practice of yoga is necessarily linked to Hinduism, and whether it is possible to practice yoga fully without taking on the beliefs of Hinduism.

May 23rd, 2010 at 6:00 am