Wasted Punya

This past week I took time away from work for the purpose of going to my temple’s “Maha Kumbhabhishekam.” After talking with a friend, I’m wondering if there aren’t maybe a few different occasions for which this ritual is performed. To be clear, for the last many years my local temple ( Hindu Temple of Central Indiana ) has been in a mode of planning and organizing and fund raising for the construction of a “proper,” Indianized temple. When I first started walking the Hindu path, all our local community had was a community center that was basically one small room – although in a free-standing building. After some time we moved into another building on the opposite side of the city. I don’t recall whether the new building was built or whether it was purchased – I think it was built for us. But it was a beige box. It was more than one room, but not much more than that, although with more space for devotees. Then after more years the aforementioned planning and organizing and fund raising was started – all of which culminated in the big event which took place last week.

June second is the anniversary I share with my beloved. This year the date marked our eleventh year cycle of togetherness. The very next day was the beginning day of a five-day Maha Kumbhabhishekam held by our temple to inaugurate and consecrate the new construction and rehouse the gods (moving them from their old location in the beige box to their new homes in garbas within the new sanctum sanctorum.

As this is pretty much literally an once-in-a-lifetime event for Westerners (even for Indians, in many cases) I decided to take PTO so that I could attend each day. I awoke each morning quite early so that I could be there before most other people – and I was successful in that endeavor, most of the day I was beat to the temple by only the priests and a handful or two of volunteers. And there were some days when I even beat some of the priests. I stayed all day each day, no less than 8 or 10 hours except the last day. My longest day was 13.25 hours, and on each day I went home only after the rituals were done, missing only some dancing and singing (and other basic cultural performances) which was held at the end of each day except the last. I’ll be publishing a pretty massive post here as soon as I can get to it wherein I’ll explain what I saw and experienced on each day.

As I was living through these days I posted often to Facebook. In response to one of my posts, a Facebook friend who resides in India commented, advising me that even to attend such an event is said to benefit / bestow blessings that will endure for generations after. I don’t know how many generations, but the very first thought that came to my mind is that I have no uterus. Neither does my beloved. Adoption is increasingly unlikely for us, and the logistics of other means for creating or obtaining human children are also prohibitive.

This friend of mine specifically stated, “generations,” not subsequent births. So, I’m thinking that if I don’t benefit from this karmic merit in my current life and if I cannot somehow forward these benefits to my nephews, then perhaps when I leave my current existence this punya will simply dissipate into the ether? And if it does, will all beings everywhere be benefitted? My understanding, from a Sahaj Marg perspective, is that the here and now would be affected most directly. The atmospheric condition would certainly be altered and also the unique conditions of those present. In Sahaj Marg we place some emphasis on peeling away the layers we’ve built up over lifetimes and during this lifetime. Perhaps there’s something about attending these spiritual events that helps in that effort? (To be clear, while my understanding of Sahaj Marg is that these kind of ritualistic things aren’t to be clung to, they aren’t necessarily or expressly prohibited – just that they can be a trap for us, like most parts of religion.)

What if it’s all just jibber-jabber?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti


No Right

Image Taken from Google Image search

Image Taken from Google Image search

A month or two ago, at temple, a guest speaker mentioned during her talk that in many Indian languages there is no word for “right.” This isn’t “right,” as in the opposite of wrong but “right,” as in something one is entitled to.

Rights are a big thing here in the USA. As “the land of the free” I suppose it’s quite natural that someone’s rights are just about always being debated, contested, or voted for (or against). As a gay American my own rights are, and have been, the subject of a lot of heat recently and in recent decades my people have gone from being classified as mentally ill to now being able to marry in many places. A lot of progress has been made, and much more is needed. And, of course, for every step forward there are those who demand a step backward – locally and in a number of states there are efforts underway to legalize discrimination. Here in Indianapolis there was a bakery that made a lot of news because they refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. I usually try my best to adhere to the “live and let live” philosophy and so, while I thought it wrong as hell to refuse to do the job someone was willing to pay you quite well for just because they have matching genitalia, I have almost always been willing to leave room at the table for those haters. When I was a teen and being thrown out of my church for being gay, many people were furious on my behalf – but I never was. They believe what they want and I’ll do the same. Whatever. The flip side of that, I feel, is that karma is impartial. If you do something to harm others (or yourself) you should expect results that you will likely perceive as negative. In that light, it’s no surprise at all that the anti-gay bakery here in Indy has since gone bankrupt.

Before I get too sidetracked, lemme get back to my focus: Rights. Entitlement. The speaker at my temple that day mentioned the lack of this word in many Indian languages and she briefly discussed this. I can’t regurgitate everything she spoke of, but I recall that she related it directly to karmaphala – the fruit of one’s actions.

Let me relate this to another side story: I was recently on a video chat with two people who are likely some of the best human creatures I’ve experienced in this life so far. We chattered about many things, some dark-n-wondrous and some not. One thing we touched on briefly was my pal and the Gita study group he attends. He mentioned that he sometimes doesn’t say a whole lot in the study group and connected that silence to timidity in regard to what others might think of what he might say.

This bothered me a bit. Anyone who’s met me in person, can confirm that I say anything I think needs to be said. I’m often correct in what I say, but not always, and I’m always honest. I almost never concern myself with whether or not someone will think I know as much as I should or whether they will agree with me. I don’t have a right to that. I do my part, as best as I know how to do my part – and that’s the end of it. I’m not entitled to what comes next. The fruits of my actions / words absolutely will be connected to me in whatever way they will manifest in my karmas, but even that is none of my business. You do what you should – when you should do it. I tried to explain to my friend that he’s short-changing others by holding back. He’s potentially robbing them of an experience that could be significant. There are times, especially in that setting, when he’ll be the teacher -regardless of whether or not what he mutters is intelligent – and because of that it’s his dharma to say what should be said when it should be said.

Holding back because of what he thinks might happen from the side of the listeners is him being concerned with the karmaphala of his effort to share with the group – and he has no right to that. None of us do. We should do what we should do, whenever we should do it – and that’s the end of it. Think of the freedom afforded to the karma yogi who is able to separate himself from the karmaphala most others get muddied in! Krishna says much the same thing in the Bhagavad Gita – act, because you must and for that reason only. Never act (or not act) because of the karmaphala. Certainly, in today’s culture where everyone is busied with other’s perceptions, it can be challenging to simply let go of the “phala” mentioned by Shri Krishna. I hope we can all, at our own pace according to our personal evolution, learn to loosen our grip on the rights we think we have.


Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

2013 Board Chairman Report


Dear Friends and Devotees of HTCI,

I’m sure that you all are enjoying great summer weather. It is time for me to give you a brief update of our Temple construction project. As I mentioned in our last news letter, we have been trying hard through various avenues to obtain visas for Shilpies (Temple Artisans) to Indianize the Temple both inside and out. At last ten of them will be getting visas at the Chennai Consulate on August 26th and will be here by September 10, 2013. The Shilpies will immediately start working outside until the weather changes. Meanwhile, we are hoping to obtain visas for twelve more Shilpies in a month or two. These Shilpies may join us by the end of this year. All the Shilpies together are expected to complete the work both inside and outside of three major Shrines by June 2014 for us to celebrate partial Kumbhabhisekum in July of 2014. The team of 22 Shilpies will stay with us to finish the work on the remaining Shrines and Rajagopuram in the year 2015 for final Kumbhabhisekum. Afterwards we all can enjoy the full potential of our Temple.

The cost of the final phase of the Temple Project including materials and labor is estimated to be two million dollars. This means that we must raise the amount over the next 20 months but immediately we need one-half million dollars to get started. On behalf of the Temple, I wholeheartedly thank you all for having helped the Temple project so far. We have invested so much money and energy on this project that we cannot go back or take a pause, this is a very crucial time so please come forward and help us out. We request all of our community members to donate liberally. If you redeem past pledges immediately that will take care of our immediate needs. You all are very busy people with various life demands, so before you forget while this topic is fresh on your minds, please write a check for our Temple so that we may continue making progress with our project.

Lastly, I have a clarification for everyone’s information. Our Temple’s mission is to strive to meet all religious, cultural, educational, and social needs of our community members in Central Indiana as much as possible. With this in mind, our Temple also has some policies in which we must adhere to. At this time our Temple cannot afford to let any community member or a group of members to organize any fund raising activity in the Temple for an outside organization since our Temple is in the middle of a construction phase and is in need of monetary support. On special situations we will still consider negotiating mutually beneficial and acceptable agreements. I sincerely request and hope that you all understand the Temple’s position on this matter.

God Bless You All,
Satyanarayana R. Marri, MD
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Hindu Temple of Central Indiana

HTCI, or the best I have for now

For just about ever the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana has existed as a beige box with a long hanging banner stating, “Hindu Temple,” and most folks here don’t even know about it. When I first began attending, there didn’t exist an actual, identifiable Hindu temple in Indiana. At that time, there was only the India Community Center, which is smaller than most homes here. Some time ago, land was bought and a box-shaped building was built to be the temple. The goal has always been to build a “real” temple, and a little over a year ago the reality of this dream began to manifest. What’s happening, is that the beige box is turning into a stone temple…and as far as I’m able to tell, it’s looking remarkably like the Sri Ganesha Temple in Nashville, TN. For me, it’s still hard to tell how the exterior of the temple will end up, although there are already many big and obviously changes. But on the inside, things are turning out incredibly and I’m excited for its completion.

I was at our temple just yesterday with my husband to catch the very end of the annual Temple Fest, but mostly to have a hand in the Ganesha Visarjan, which concludes a ten-day holiday of Ganesha Chaturthi. While we were there, I snapped a few pics of the temple’s developing interior with my phone. I’ve decided to post them here to share. I’ll see if I can’t provide periodic updates whenever there’ve been big changes.

This is the beginning of the actual temple, prior to the congregation moving from the India Community Center. This is what would eventually become the beige box I’ve referred to. I think this construction began in 2005.

The two photos immediately above, are of the beige box after construction was completed. One floor, you walk in and store your footwear, and aside from an open-sided kitchen, gender-specific restrooms, and two small classrooms, the whole place is one open space.

The two photos above show, somewhat, the newest construction from the exterior. You can plainly see the beige box that existed before. On the ground level, the new construction houses the main worship hall. There are photos of that following. Along with this new construction, below the worship hall are subterranean classrooms and rooms for other purposes.

The above photo is take from the middle area of the worship hall, looking back through the entry that leads from the beige box into the hall. As you enter the worship call, as the father and his daughter are here, to your right is a sealed room where the havan/homa/yagna pujas will take place. The room is austere and has a huge ventilation system immediately over the havan-kund.

In the above photo, you see my husband, thrilled as ever to be dragged to these places by me. This photo is taken from about the same place within the worship hall as the last photo, with a 90-degree turn to my right. Here you can see most of four minor garbhas that will eventually house murtis, although I’m not yet sure which ones. You can also see the marble floor is interrupted by large areas of carpet. I can verify that this carpet is quite comfy!

The above photo is a partial view of the 5-part skylight that makes up the worship hall’s ceiling. Here you can see the center aisle, the immediate left aisle, and part of the far left aisle. There are two other aisles on the right side of the center.

Coming directly down from taking the picture of the skylight, 180-degrees from the direction the first photo of the new construction was taken, is the head of the worship hall and where the three main garbhas are located. You can see the pillars of the center garbh aren’t yet complete. You can also see here, more of the carpet seating on the floor and also mini-garbhas behind the main ones.

The last two photos here are of the planned appearance of the temple after construction is complete. The first photo is the side elevation and the bottom photo, the front elevation. To me, in both photos it’s easy enough to determine where things started with the beige box, which highlights how far things will have come when these phases are finished. The recent Temple Fest is the first time since the new construction began that so many people were able to see how things have progressed, and I’m hoping this will have a positive effect on devotee attendance going forward.

So there you have it! Hindu Temple of Central Indiana (HTCI) in the making!