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Everything posted by MikeMalaysia

  1. I was looking at the book for the Vaibhava Lakshmi Puja the other day in a bookstore, and I was looking at the list of materials needed. I'd previously had this puja recommended to me as a way of obtaining money. I was daunted by the list of materials that were needed. However, I found an asana (seat) today in a Hindu shop in Rawang, so that's one of the items I could get. It also uses something called a "Mahalakshmi Coin", which the bookstore didn't have. You also need one of those metal pots with the string tied around them that you place the coconut on top of. I've never seen them for sale like that and I'm assuming that you have to tie the string yourself. Does anyone know what this pot is called or know how to tie it (and can explain it to me?) Also, I read that you have to clean the house. Since I live with my wife's family, I cannot go into their rooms and clean them. Would it be acceptable for the puja to clean my room and the public areas of the house? The thing that has daunted me the most is that the puja requires a kolam or rangoli to be drawn around the pot with the string (containing a coconut and leaves). I've never drawn a kolam before. I looked up several sites for doing it, and I got some designs, but they don't say anything about the actual technique. Do you place the powder in your hand and shake it out between your thumb and forefinger, or do you snip a corner off the bag and do it that way? Does anyone know if the Vaibhava Lakshmi Puja booklet is available online in PDF format (in English, I've seen a Tamil version)? Or would that call down bad karma on me?
  2. That seems like an excellent idea. Only thing is, the priests at the local temple (and most temples here) don't speak English. They only speak Tamil (and possibly Hindi). I can speak a little Tamil, enough to order food at restaurants and ask if it is vegetarian, but I don't know enough to either ask the questions I have or understand the answers. My wife can understand Tamil but she cannot speak it. Yes, I was surprised to read that. I'd heard that she was originally a South Indian smallpox Goddess. By the way, do you know the origins of the Goddess Santoshi Ma? Were there temples and devotions to Her before the release of the film "Jai Santoshi Ma"?
  3. Yes, I know about the practice. My wife's grandfather is vegetarian on Fridays. I would like to fast. Is the standard fast just no food from sunrise to sunset? What about water? I know this, but fasting gives us spiritual discipline as well. I know. If you follow the rules without having the devotion, it is worthless. I'd like to offer sincere prayers every Tuesday and Friday as well as fasting. Can you tell me which prayers I should offer? Are there any specific prayers to say? Most of the prayer books here are in Tamil, but there is one called Manonmoney something that I've seen.
  4. I read in the latest issue of Hinduism Today about a man who observes a weekly fast on Tuesday in honour of the Goddess Mariamman. I also knew a student at the language centre where I teach that did the same thing. Unfortunately, she's not studying there anymore so I can't ask her about the fast. Some specific questions about it. 1. When does the fast start? When does it end? I got the impression from the student that it ends at sunset, so does that make it a sunrise to sunset fast, like the Muslim fast during Ramadan? 2. Can you drink water during the fast? From what I read in Hinduism Today, it seems that water can be drunk. Anyone know about this? 3. Are there any specific prayers or devotions to Mariamman that are carried out along with the fast? 4. What should you eat to break the fast? I'm a vegetarian. 5. Are there any other regulations or restrictions on observing the fast? Thanks in advance, Mike.
  5. These Messianic Prophecies have all been debunked at various times by Atheists, Jews etc. Here is an example: Messianic Prophecies Refuted: Genesis-Deuteronomy (Introduction) The Jewish Messiah, according to the Jewish Scriptures, will not be "born of a virgin". He will be born of a normal birth. He will not be God incarnate or "God the Son", he will be a normal human being. He will establish an era of world peace and bring all the Jews back to Israel. He will rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus never did any of that. Many Christians tried to attach symbolic fulfilments to the rebuilding of the Temple, saying that it was the temple of his body that was being rebuilt, but that is not how the Jews intended it. Also, the Nicene Creed, which the majority of Christians would believe in, states "Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas" (And He rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures". There is no verse in the Old Testament which states anything like this!!! The first Gospels were not written until 30 or so years after Jesus had left this world. The Gospel of John, which affirms Jesus' divinity, was written around 90 A.D. - almost sixty years later. Could anyone here recall accurately something which happened even three years ago - accurately enough to write it all down verbatim? St. Paul states in his First Letter to the Corinthians "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles [non-Jews] sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils." (I Corinthians 10:20) Sounds pretty much like saying that other religions (particularly those that use images in worship, like Hinduism) are worshipping devils and not God. The teaching that Christ and his Church are the only way to God have been around for quite a while: "We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff (the Pope)." --Pope Boniface VIII, The Bull Unnam Sanctam 1302 A.D., Ex cathedra (believed by Catholics to be infallible and coming from God). "The most Holy Roman Catholic Church firmly believes, professes, and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church ... can have eternal life." --Pope Eugene IV, The Bull Cantate Domino 1441 A.D., Ex cathedra. So the teaching that Christianity is the only way to God is not new - it has a Biblical basis and it was formally defined as early as 1302 (that's what I've been able to find).
  6. Hinduism has no "official stance" on Jesus, so we see various viewpoints such as Mr. Goel's, who states in the conclusion to the book quoted above that "Jesus is junk", as well as those of individuals like Srila Prabhupada, who stated that Jesus Christ was a guru and that "if one loves Krishna, one must love the Lord Jesus Christ". I have personally seen pictures of Jesus and Mary for sale alongside Hindu pictures.
  7. I have seen this happen before. Once was in the temple which is near where I live. There was a special Abishegam being performed, and some woman started screaming. Her tongue was sticking out like Kali's, she had her arms outstretched and she was she was moving slowly, unnaturally, not like the way a person normally does. I also saw the same thing happen to a woman at the Batu Caves on Thaipusam 2008. Same shrieking, slow, methodical movements. My wife told me that she was scared by the people in trances. The phenomena has occured in Christianity as well. Pentecostals and Charismatics speak "in tongues" where they babble a whole lot of gibberish. I have heard my godmother speak in a strange language on two occaisions. I thought that it may have been Maori, which she speaks, but it contained the "sh" sound, which doesn't exist in Maori. I also went to a Charismatic Mass, where two men prayed over me, saying things in strange languages. One of them started saying "Allahu Akbar" over and over again at one point. I could have faked something like this and pretended to "speak in tongues" as well. I don't know if the people who do it are really in trance or if they are just making it up (although that would seem out of character for Christians).
  8. By eating meat, one is taking part in a conspiracy of violence against helpless animals. We can choose not to eat meat. A chicken cannot choose not to become a burger or 2 KFC drumsticks. She is born a prisoner, born for the sole reason of being fattened up and murdered so people can gratify their senses by eating her dead flesh. Lord Krishna states in the Gita: "The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste]." (Bhagavad-Gita 5:18) The wise understand that the soul is the same no matter whether it is in a human body, a cow's body or a dog's body. Only the body is different. Animals have a soul just like ours, so they are our brothers and sisters. Would you kill your brother and eat him? No. So why should you kill animals, who are also your brothers, and eat their flesh which is brutally cut from their slaughtered bodies?
  9. Dear HariKrishnang, First I want to warn you about the Muslim position on converting to other religions. The Qur'an states: "And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers ." (3.85) So the Qur'an makes it pretty clear that no other religions are acceptable to "Allah". The Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) state that anyone who leaves Islam is to be killed. In a Muslim country like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, anyone who leaves Islam is imprisoned, given three days to return to Islam, and if, at the end of the three days they have not re-accepted Islam, they are beheaded. This is in accordance with the Hadith and is taught by all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence. While this does not apply in India, I would still be wary of stating that your fiancee is a Muslim. I'm sure there are militant Muslim groups in India who may very well kidnap and murder an "apostate from Islam", even though this is against Indian law. So just be careful. Moving on, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami explains the conversion process in his book "How to Become a Hindu". The process involves a ritual called a namakarana samskara or name-giving ceremony, the same ritual performed to newly born children. The prospective convert must first enact formal severance from their former religion (although I don't think that this would be necessary for Islam, given the dangers) and choose a new name. Subramuniyaswami recommends that the name change must be legal and that the convert must use their new name in all walks of life, obtaining new passports, drivers' licences etc. Then a fire sacrifice is performed by a pujari (Hindu priest) and the devotee writes his new name in a tray of uncooked rice.
  10. A Vaishnava is a person who believes that Lord Vishnu is the Supreme Lord. Simple as that.
  11. This sounds like a good idea. I'll certainly have a look at silk Kurta Shalwar suits. What about underwear? They don't make silk underwear. I have a condition where urine leaks out. Would this make me unclean and stop me from entering the temple? So why are they followed then? Where do such rules come from? I had a look in some Indian shops today in Leboh Ampang. One had some soap which said that it was made from vegetable oils. Does that mean that there is no animal fat at all? What about the glycerin? There was Malay writing on the packet so I'm assuming that it is made in Malaysia, not India.
  12. Are you a follower of ISKCON? If you are, then no, sex for any reason other than procreation is forbidden, even within marriage. Before you have sex, in ISKCON, both you and your spouse have to chant at least fifty rounds of the Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra. I don't know what Narayana Maharaj of the Gaudiya Math teaches exactly, but he said to me in an email that "I am not responsible for your behaviour in Grihasta ashram". However, most other Hindus do not view sex so negatively. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami states in Dancing with Siva: "The purpose of sexual union is to express and foster love's beautiful intimacy and to draw husband and wife together for procreation. While offering community guidance, Hinduism does not legislate sexual matters. Aum."
  13. I used to follow that when I was a Vaishnava - anything you touch in the morning becomes unclean like your body. I still do not prepare my clothes in the morning before I have a shower. Does this mean that His temples are completely pure as well and cannot be defiled or desecrated? I try to pray to Lord Ganesha every night before I go to bed (although I usually just ask Him to protect me from bad dreams). I do pray at times when I'm doing other things, though. I understand. Ganga water does not remove dirt. I'm talking about spiritual purity here. For example, if my wife touched something when she had her period, would the Ganga water purify it if it wasn't dirty in other ways? That sounds like a good idea. Can the same dhoti also be worn to the temple? Yes, I use a solid bar of soap. Can you tell me some Indian brands of dhobi soap that don't have animal fat (100% vegetarian)? Jahnava Nitai Das, are you a Vaishnava? It seems so from your name and the links that you post in your signature. While I do value your input, I'd also like to hear from some Saivites regarding this matter, since I am an a Saivite and not a Vaishnava. Pranams, Michael.
  14. In order to avoid offending any members of this forum, I will use the terminology that Catholics use to describe such acts: "self-abuse" or "sins of impurity with oneself". Hopefully you get the picture. I seem to have some obsession that the bodily fluid resulting from such an act is impure and contaminating, and I also feel that it sort of contaminates the room. When I followed Gaudiya Vaishnavism, I was told that the Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra purified anything. After that, if I thought that anything was impure, I would chant the Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra over it. Now that I am a Saivite, I don't have recourse to such a practice anymore. Do Saivites believe that Om Namah Sivaya has the same properties (i.e. it purifies anything)? What about the Gayatri Mantra? The main reason that I haven't been going to the temple or entering the puja room is that I work six days a week. I used to light the lamp in the puja room in the evening, and now I don't finish work until 10pm most nights. The one day I have off (Friday), I usually spend with my wife doing things together since I don't see a lot of her during the week. First of all, this is dhobi soap we're referring to, which is used for handwashing clothes. I don't want to contaminate my dhoti and kurta that I wear to the temple by putting them in with ordinary clothes in the wash. Most soap in the West (and Malaysia) is made with animal fat. I was under the impression that tamasic substances are to be kept out of a temple. Since I wasn't sure that the soap didn't have animal fat, I didn't use the dhoti or kurta since it was washed with that soap. I recently bought some other soap, and a Malaysian Indian man at the shop said that it was vegetarian (it was from India). Are most dhobi soaps from India made with animal fat or are they vegetarian? Would taking soap made with animal fat into a temple desecrate it? I remember on New Year's Day I had helped out at a temple in KL, serving food. I spilled some of the dhal on my dhoti, so I went to the nearby supermarket, bought some dhobi soap (Fab brand) and went upstairs in the neighbouring mini shopping complex to the bathroom. I washed the dhoti and went back to the temple with it still wet (but I didn't take the soap with me). Will the temple be desecrated? I really don't want to be responsible for the desecration of a temple. I'm probably being silly asking these questions, but I have heard of temples being re-consecrated for the sole reason that a non-Hindu Westerner entered them. Thanks for all your help, guys.
  15. For months I haven't been to the temple or set foot in the puja room at home. Yes, I'm very busy but I'm also worried about purity issues. I have performed some impure actions in my room, and I'm worried that my clothes and stuff aren't pure so I don't go to the temple. But I want to be more religious and start going to the temple regularly again. Please help me out with these issues. 1. What causes an object to become defiled in Hinduism? Are there any specific substances or things which make something defiled? 2. If something does become defiled, what can purify it? I bought some Ganga water from an Indian shop in KL - will this purify everything it touches? What if it isn't really Ganga water but just a ripoff? 3. You're supposed to wear "clean clothes" before entering a temple or prayer room. Can you be more specific about what "clean" means? Does it mean that your clothes have be freshly washed or what? 4. If you commit certain sins, does this make everything you're wearing impure? 5. I washed my dhoti and kurta with soap which may have animal fat. My wife's grandparents had the same kind of soap, and they are religious Hindus (but not vegetarians). Does this mean that the kurta and dhoti can never be worn into a temple again, or will a simple wash with vegetarian soap fix it? Would most dhobi (laundry) soap from India contain animal fat? Please help me out with this. I have obsessive tendencies and I don't want to defile the local temple.
  16. The term "demigod" is wrong here. Srila Prabhupada selectively translated the word "deva" (root of the English word "divine") as "demigod" when it referred to anyone except Krishna. However, there are three places at least in the Bhagavad-Gita (11:38, 11:44 and 11:45) where the word "deva" (or Adideva in 11:38) is used to address Lord Krishna. Srila Prabhupada doesn't translate "deva" as "demigod" here, as it doesn't fit his theology. He instead translates it as "Lord". A demigod is the offspring of a human and a God. Greek heroes Perseus and Hercules were demigods, as while they both had mortal mothers, their father was the God Zeus. Lord Shiva and none of the Hindu devas fall into this category. The only real "demigods" mentioned in the Hindu scriptures are the five Pandava brothers, who were born from relationships between gods (Indra, Yama, Vayu and the Aswins) and Kunti and Madri (humans). Please do not call Lord Shiva a "demigod". It is very insulting.
  17. I recently "left" Krishna Consciousness too. I had attended their temple and programmes many years ago in New Zealand, but last June my wife and I went to their temple, and I absolutely loved it. We went to Gita classes held at a devotee's apartment and I started chanting one and then two rounds a day (after a Gaudiya Math devotee told me that you shouldn't chant an odd number of rounds). However, I was more attracted to the Gaudiya Math, as the devotee I talked to said that Narayana Maharaja looks at your sincerity, not at the "technicalities" (chanting 16 rounds a day etc). Since starting work, I hadn't been very religious, but I did do my two rounds most days (usually on the bus). I used to think that those who say that all the gods are part of one God (which is most Malaysian Hindus) were "Mayavadis" and that they were wrong. However, a while ago I looked at the Himalayan Academy site, and I read some of "Loving Ganesha: Hinduism's Endearing Elephant-Faced God". I especially liked the section "Prayers to Lord Ganesha". It had prayers for the morning, afternoon, evening, before eating, etc. I'd never seen anything like that for Krishna. I'd never seen any "Morning Prayer to Lord Krishna" from ISKCON. I bet if you asked them for a morning prayer they would just say "Chant Hare Krishna" (which seems to be their answer to a lot of things). I started feeling more and more attracted to Lord Ganesha, and I started praying to Him. Now I direct most of my prayers to Him. These are the main things that I have problems with in ISKCON: 1. Bashing other philosophies (Shaiva, Advaita etc) and saying that Lord Shiva is a demigod. Lord Krishna Himself prayed to Lord Shiva, as did Lord Rama. Lord Krishna stood on one leg for ages to gain the favour of Lord Shiva, and ISKCON devotees say that "Krishna pays respect to Lord Shiva". The Vishnu Purana states (5.33.46): yo harih sa sivah saksad yah sivah sa svayam harih ye tayor bhedamati sthan narakaya bhave nnarah "Whoever is Lord Hari, He Himself is Lord Shiva indeed.Whoever is Lord Shiva, He Himself manifests as Lord Hari. Anyhuman being who mistakes both the Lords to be different, he or she surely goes to Naraka (hell)." This is from one of the Puranas that ISKCON holds to be "in the mode of goodness". 2. Saying that you should not extensively associate with non-devotees, read non-devotional books etc. One devotee told me that I shouldn't waste time watching TV programmes. I think that this is going too far. How can you avoid associating with non-devotees if you work? 3. Their teaching on gambling - yes, it can be harmful if done to excess, but I don't see the harm in buying a 1 ringgit lottery ticket. When I asked a devotee on LiveHelp, she said that gambling destroys truthfulness because you cheat and you want to get more through dishonest means. As if anyone could cheat on the lottery! 4. Their teaching on sex. I don't believe that sex is for procreation only. Yes, procreation is the end of sex, but that doesn't mean that sex for pleasure or bringing the husband and wife closer together is wrong. The Catholic Church says that procreation is the end of sex as well, but they don't condenm sex for pleasure as long as the couple are open to children (i.e. no contraception is used). 5. Some of their dietary requirements. First of all, I am a vegetarian and I believe that eating meat is engaging in a disgusting conspiracy of violence against helpless animals. However, I see no harm in onions and garlic, and also caffeine. I don't smoke or drink alcohol (or take drugs, because drugs are bad, m'kay), but I do drink Pepsi. I would also not be able to live up to their standard of eating only food cooked by devotees and offered to Lord Krishna. Because I work until around 9:30-10pm, I have to eat two meals away from home. None of my workplaces have microwaves, so I am forced to rely on food from restaurants (or instant noodles). Most Indian restaurants in Malaysia have vegetarian options, and there are vegetarian restaurants and stalls as well. 6. Not allowing a devotee to take a Hindu name until initiation. Other sects of Hinduism allow a person to enter Hinduism by a Namakarana Samskara, where they choose a Hindu name. Initiation is different - even born Hindus with Hindu names get new names on initiation. Most people won't have heard of Narendranath Datta, but when he was initiated by his guru, he was given the name Vivekananda, by which he is much more widely known. 5. Chanting Hare Krishna as a "panacea" for every problem. The same devotee who I talked to about the gambling told me the Ten Offenses Against the Holy Name (which I already knew). I told her that I still had material attachments (the Tenth Offense), and she said "Keep chanting". What is the point of chanting when you are committing offenses and creating more bad karma for yourself? The cure for committing offenses against the Holy Name is to just keep chanting the Holy Name with offenses? I noticed that my life didn't get any better when I started chanting Hare Krishna. 6. Claiming that the Srimad-Bhagavatam is better than the Vedas as it is meant for this age. The Vedas, they say, were meant for previous ages, and the Scriptures for this age are Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. Where in the Vedas is that stated? It isn't. It might be stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, but then that's not any authority. If a person states that he is the Prime Minister of Malaysia solely on his own authority, then that doesn't make it true. Only if the proper authority (the King) acknowledges such a person as the Prime Minister does that make him the Prime Minister. Likewise, the Srimad-Bhagavatam would only be recognized as greater than the Vedas for this age if one of the four Vedas stated it.
  18. Who is this thread addressed to? Just pray to Lord Ganesha, he will remove all obstacles in your life.
  19. Don't even talk about demolishing or transforming Hindu temples. It is absolutely disgusting. In Malaysia, many Hindu temples have been destroyed by the Muslim government. Their excuse is that they are "squatting on government land". Some of them are over 100 years old, and date back to the time when the British ruled Malaysia. So the temples were registered under the British government, but when Malaysia became independent in 1957, they weren't re-registered with the new government, and so the fanatical Muslims are allowed to run rampant destroying Hindu temples and smashing Deities.
  20. I can't think of anything like that at all. I know that the name refers to Lord Murugan, who is a popular god here in Malaysia (we have a HUGE festival here for Thaipusam, bigger even than India).
  21. Have any of the Hindu converts here had a Namakarana Samskara to formalize their conversion? I would like to have such a cremony to make my conversion to Hinduism formal. I'm not sure about the procedure in Malaysia - I don't speak Tamil very well and I don't know if there are any temple pujaris here who can speak English. I'm not even sure if they've heard of such a procedure for a convert to enter Hinduism. Maybe I could ask someone who speaks Tamil to help me out. My full name is Scott Michael Inglis. My wife and family call me Scott, but my work colleagues and students all call me Michael. I thought that I would choose a name that sounds similar to the name that I already have, so this is the name that I have thought of: மயில்வாகனம் சிவாதாசன் Mayilvahanam Sivadasan (I originally thought of it as Mayilvahanam Shivadas, but then I looked up the Tamil for "servant" and it was "daasan", not "das", which is the Hindi. But then Tamil often does an an -n to the end of names, for example "Krishnan", "Ganesan", "RamanSivan" etc.) Would it be okay for people to call me "Mayil" for short? It sounds like "Michael" but Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami's book How to Become a (Better) Hindu lists "Mayil" as female. That's why I chose "Mayilvahanam". However, the book does list "Suguna" as a male name, yet one of my students was called Suguna and she was female. Mayil is the Tamil word for 'peacock' and 'Mayilvahanam' means 'The one whose vehicle (vahanam) is a peacock, i.e. Lord Murugan, a.k.a Skanda, Subramanya, Kartikeya, Kumara and other names. Sivadasan means "servant of Shiva". I know that it doesn't correspond to my Nakshatra, but it sounds similar to my given name. My wife's name doesn't correspond to her nakshatra, either - I don't know if any Hindus here follow such a procedure.
  22. This is what my mother-in-law told me - that you don't have statues in the house. She said that you have to be very devout and never miss a prayer to have statues. Her in-laws have a statue of Lord Krishna on their altar, but it is a painted one and not one that abhisheka is performed to and dressed. While that may be true, I've never seen any Hindus do that. I know that the ISKCON devotees who run the local Gita classes offer the food, but it is offered before the class starts and we never get to see it. Kali, according to non-ISKCON Hindu rules, can any vegetarian food be offered or are onions, garlic, mushrooms etc still forbidden? And what is the procedure for offering the food to Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, Lord Murugan, Goddess Amman etc? I've only ever seen non-Gaudiya temples give out food on special festive occaisions. Yes, it may be done in India, but I've never seen it done on a weekly or daily basis here in Malaysia except by the ISKCON (and I presume) Gaudiya Math temples.
  23. I would not advise getting a murti (a 3D representation of Lord Krishna or any of the Gods). If you have a 3D murti you have to be very strict, perform the rituals right and not miss any prayers or pujas. Pictures are definitely the way to go. A shrine can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. Start with a picture of Sri Sri Radha Krishna. Put it on a table, cabinet or shelf that you are going to use as your altar. Here in Malaysia, custom-built altars are available.......for a handsome sum of money, though. Include a picture of Lord Ganesha - Hindus pray to Him first to remove all obstacles in our lives. Next you should get an oil lamp. The proper Hindu ones look like this: If you can't find one like that, then don't despair. Buy a new drinking glass (don't use it for drinking) made of glass. Fill the glass half way up with water and fill the rest up with oil. Take some metal wires and twist them aroumd until there is just a small hole in the middle. Bend the two ends over so it can sit on top of the glass. Then put a wick there (you can make them from cotton wool if you can't buy the proper ones). Yes, it generally is. However, outside of ISKCON, prasadam is generally only one or two specific food items specially for praying. South Indian temples may give you pongalsoru, sweet boiled rice. ISKCON devotees are supposed to offer everythig they eat to Lord Krishna. They are only supposed to eat Krishna prasadam, cooked by Krishna devotees for the express purpose of offering it to the Lord, rather than eating it themselves.
  24. Don't be afraid. Just go! Why should it matter how people there might perceive you? You are going there to worship God, so why should it matter how the other people see you? I've had friendly people approach me in temples before and explain things to me. This was especially helpful as in the temple near where I am staying, the pujaris (priests) don't speak English and other devotees who speak both Tamil and English have translated for me. This may be a problem with going to a temple - the services may not be in English! I'm certain that the bhajans (hymns) will be in Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil or another Indian language (the language of the Hindu community who founded the temple). If the temple is a North Indian style temple and has a satsangh (Hindu service with a sermon), then the the sermon may very well be in Hindi or another Indian language. These temples often cater for expatriate Indians and they may be the only place where these people can speak their mother tongue in a community. If you go to a South Indian temple, the worship will be very individual. The Deities will generally be made of black granite and housed in separate shrines, and the pujaris will go round each shrine performing puja (which involves offering incense, flowers, lamps etc to the Deity). At the end of the session, he will distribute a lamp, and everyone touches the flame to receive the blessings from the gods. If it is a North Indian temple, the worship may be much more congregational. The Deities will often be made of white marble. Bhajans are generally sung, usually accompanied by a harmonium and possibly tabla drums. These are generally sung in Hindi. The worship will probably consist of an Arati, where the congregation takes turns offering a plate with lamps on it to the Deities, while an Arati bhajan (often Om Jai Jagdish Hare) is sung. If you go to a Hare Krishna (Gaudiya Vaishnava) temple, it will be closer to a North Indian temple. However, Arati consists of various articles as well as the lamp (incense, cloth, water in a conch, flowers, yak-tail whisk and possibly peacock fan), and it is only offered by pujaris. The main feature of their worship is the chanting of Hare Krishna (often accompanied by devotees leaping in the air and shouting "Haribol!") Hare Krishna temples will always provide prasadam (free vegetarian food which has been offered to the Lord).
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