Part of our Year 3 undergraduate course is a module looking at two of the less popular Dharmic religions, Sikhism and Jainism. as part of this we spent a day with the two communities in Manchester.
Our first visit was to the Jain Samaj Temple. Here we were able to see the community hall with its most impressive shrine. Dominating the shrine was a beautiful rupa of Mahavira and the first and 23rd tirthinkaras, Rsabha and Parsanatha.
Our guide, Suresh Mehta spoke at great length, explaining Jain beliefs and practices, including ahimsa, the three paths and the four destinations.
We then continued across Manchester to meet our old friends at the Guru Harkrishan Sahib Gurdwara.
Our guide, Gurvinder Singh, expained the central beliefs of Sikhism and read from the Guru Granth Sahib – a wonderful experience. We then had a little tour of the gurdwara, seeing the Guru’s bedroom, before finishing by eating some lovely langar in the langar hall.
Year 1 undergraduates visited the Gujerati Hindu community in Preston as part of their module studying Hindu Dharma. This visit gave the group opportunity to ask a practising Hindu about the philosophical aspects of Hindu Dharma, to have a tour around the temple and to practice meditation.
Francesca blogged about the visit:
In our small discussion session we were given an overview of the core principles of Hindu Dharma. One of the most interesting points that was made was the belief that Hinduism is not religion. Thifs is because the term “religion” is westernised terminology used to fulfil the governments need for categorisation. He stressed that the best way to describe Hinduism is dharma which means the path to self discovery and to find Brahman- their one and only god. However in order for Hindus to be able to comprehend their divinity they have created different avatars/forms of their god otherwise known as the “spirits of god” and this explains why on the surface Hinduism looks like a polytheistic religion.
Additionally he went into detail about the scriptures in Hinduism (known as the Vedas) and the concept of Karma. I found the teaching of karma especially interesting as it sparked areas of controversy. He stated that suffering itself is not intrinsically bad and it simply reflects the karmic energy built up throughout your previous lives. For example, if a person has a good education, employment and healthy family they have “punya” which is good karmic energy but if a person suffers then they have “pap” bad karmic energy. However it leads to me to question whether this religious belief is genuine or simply justifies and acts as a coping mechanism for those that genuinely do suffer. As this teaching affects so many individuals lifestyle I believe it would make a good project title for my assignment.
To conclude this visit has widened my understanding of the core Hindu beliefs and I have even began questioning them. I hope to use the topic of karma for my assignment and therefore I will need to research more into the principle and the issues surrounding it.