After worshipping with the parishioners at St James Church in our Kolkata neighborhood this morning, we traveled to Vivekenanda University in nearby Dakshineswar to meet with renowned Swami Atmapriyananda, Vice-Chancellor of this famous university, who spoke to us about Hinduism and the ultimate unity of all religions.
As stated on the university’s website, the school “is intended to actualize Swami Vivekananda’s [1863-1902] fundamental educational ideas of imparting life-building, man-making and character building education by combining the best elements of the East and the West. The aim of the institute is to provide opportunities for education and research in the disciplines of arts, sciences and spiritual studies.”
Our class with Swami Atmapriyananda was fascinating for many reasons. A superb teacher who utilizes parables to teach, he discussed Hindu theology by emphasizing that our true human nature consists of existence, knowledge, and joy. The challenge of life is to uncover these internal aspects of who we are and to understand that happiness comes from within us and not from external sources. All great prophets, teachers, and gurus, therefore, point the way for others to realize that such happiness comes only from within us.
The swami spoke with humility, humor, and a deep understanding of our shared humanity. Possessing a deep knowledge of Christian beliefs, he was eager to field our questions as we were served a delightful fuel for conversation: cashews, biscuits, and, of course, chai tea.
Following our 3-hour class and discussion with Swami Atmapriyananda, we traveled through the dusty and packed streets of Dakshineswar to Kali Temple, devoted to the goddess Kali. There we joined thousands of other pilgrims who formed lines to enter the temple sanctuary and catch a glimpse of the goddess’ statue. Most people brought with them flowers and incense that temple assistants touched to the statue and then returned to the worshippers.
From church to university to temple: another full day on our Indian pilgrimage.
Sunday, 19 January 2014