Understanding another religion
By Venessa Santos-Garza Caller-Times
It was a little awkward at first, but one-by-one people of many faiths, from all corners of the city, removed their shoes and walked a path toward understanding.
Almost 200 people participated Sunday afternoon in Hindu 101 at the BAPS Swami Narayan Sanstha Hindu temple on Paul Jones Avenue as part of the National Conference for Community and Justice's "Experiencing Our Neighbors' Faith" program. Before entering the temple, visitors had to remove their shoes at the front door.
"We remove our shoes as a mark of humility," Sri Jnanpurushdas Santh, or priest, told the crowd. "And also because it is our goal to come into the temple as natural as possible and leave the things we carry with us outside. The temple is the place for the mind."
Sunday's seminar was the kickoff to the monthly program that promotes cultural and religious understanding. Faith leaders from the Hindu, Muslim, Judaism, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bahai, Metropolitan Church, Catholic and Unitarian-Universalist communities will take part in the program. All sessions are free and open to the public.
Organizer Prarbha Mulukutla said she was pleasantly surprised by the turnout, noting that when a similar program in Memphis, Tenn., kicked off for the first time that the first session only had 35 attendees and grew to more than 200 near the end. What a great start, she said. Christine Kutnick, director of the Corpus Christi region National Conference for Community and Justice, said she didn't expect such a large crowd either.
"Its just so exciting to see all of these people who are willing to come out and learn," Kutnick said.
Attendees were ushered into the temple and split off into sections by gender. Seated cross-legged on the floor, they all listened to traditional prayer songs and explanations of the three bodies that exist in the Hindu religion, including the physical body, the mind and the spirit, and the five basic elements of earth, water, fire, air and space. After a detailed explanation of the opening prayers, Jnanpurushdas welcomed his Sunday students to the temple.
"It is not important what religion you follow or if you follow one at all," he said. "What is important is that you understand other people and their beliefs."
Tammy Wong of San Antonio said she hopes to come back next month to visit a Muslim mosque. She was in town for the weekend and attended the session with a friend from the Unitarian-Universalist church. She said she had done some research on the Hindu faith but had not had the opportunity to sit through a service before.
"It is beautiful," she said.
Pinkie Ratliff, public affairs director for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said her church brought 30 members to learn about the Hindu religion, and she hopes to see just as large a crowd when it is their turn to be host.
"I think we are all here to do the same thing," she said. "Promote goodwill."
Contact Venessa Santos-Garza at 886-3752 or email@example.com
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