My Experience at a Hindu Ceremony

My Experience at a Hindu Ceremony

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I grew up in a Christian household and attended Catholic school most of my life. I do not consider myself to be a religious person; although I was confirmed as a Catholic. I still find myself interested and in tune with different beliefs. I was always curious about other religions. I decided to attend a Hindu ceremony for this assignment because I find this particular religion to be very interesting. I attended a ceremony at the temple of ISKCON, which stands for “The International Society for Krishna Consciousness”. ISKCON is a worldwide movement started by “His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupād”, and it is dedicated to the values and practice of Bhakti Yoga (also known as the path of dedication and love) in this case to their Lord “Krishna”.
The temple is located in Potomac, Maryland and lies on twelve acres of beautiful forest land. When I first arrived I couldn’t help but notice all the wild life around me. The deer were walking in harmony with the people and they didn’t seem to be scared of our human presence. I noticed homes within the temple grounds, which I later found out served as boarding homes for their followers. The temple was very simple; it wasn’t ornate like I had pictured it.
The particular ceremony I attended is called “Sayana Arati” and it took place inside the temple. When I walked into the temple I was asked to take my shoes off and place them in the wooden cubbies before stepping foot into the main room. The ceremony was not very full, perhaps because it was especially cold that night. Some of the women were dressed in a traditional “Sari” while others wore a more modern themed “Sari”. Most of the people including myself were dressed in casual clothing, which helped me feel more at ease because of the way I was dressed.
Everyone was seated on the floor as the ceremony commenced with the blowing of a conch shell, then the curtains were drawn back and the statues of the deity’s appeared. One of the statues was of “Vishnu” and another of his avatar “Rama” and his wife “Sita”, the last one was of “Krishna”. The ceremony was led by a Hindu priest, wearing a white cloth robe and to my surprise was of Caucasian decent. He held an oil lamp in front of the statues of the deity’s, which he moved in a circular motion while chanting the “Hare Krishna Mantra”.

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In his other hand he held a small bell, which he repeatedly rang. The priest also presented other offerings to the deities during the ceremony including, incense and flowers. Towards the end of the ceremony he waved a white fan in front of the deity statues. The priest offered the people blessed flowers and ended the ceremony with the blowing of a conch shell.
After the ceremony I took a moment to observe my surroundings and noticed how simple the temple was decorated, there were images of the deity “Krishna” on the walls and to the front of the room a life size statue of “His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupād.” There was also a little bookstore in the corner of the temple; most of books were copies of “The Bhagavad Gita”. The book store only accepted donations which could be transacted through a touch screen computer, which led me to believe that the members of temple must be trustworthy.
The people were dressed simple yet some in vividly colorful attire. Everyone seemed humble and respectful of others and their surroundings. The people naturally participated in chanting the “Hare Krishna Mantra”. Everyone seemed to be very dedicated to their deity “Krishna” they spoke of him as if they knew him. It was a very warm positive energy that flowed through this temple, the people were very friendly.

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