RE at Edge Hill

Tag: Dharma

Dharma in Manchester

We were welcomed at the Jain Samaj Manchester by Suresh Mehta, the Chair of Trustees at the temple. They are just building a large new annexe which has cost £1M. The centre was opened 18 years ago by Gerald Kaufman MP

Suresh showed us a picture of the huge temple complex at Palitana.  Jains have 24 tirthinkaras in each time cycle, who have each reached nirvana. The first reached nirvana there 

We moved into the temple room and rang the bell, as saw the statues of the three tirthinkaras that they have there: Mahavir , the 24th tirthanka 599 BC – 527 BC, Parshvanat  the 23rd, born 877BC and Shantinath the 16th Tirthinkara.

Suresh spoke to us about the temple, the life of Mahavir and Jainism. He pointed out that he was talking about Mahavir’s version of Jainism as that is written down. Both Mahavir and Buddha came from Bihar and lived at more or less the same time, teaching very similar things.  They walked everywhere, and many Jain priests and devotees will do the same today.  140 people took tiksha in 2016. They give up everything and live without possessions in the Ashram. 

He explained that Jainism is built on three pillars:

  • Ahimsa – non violence but taken to the extreme meaning not even thinking bad thoughts and including being able to forgive.
  • Aparigrah – trying to live at a level of comfort, but not of excess. This leads to Jains being very generous.
  • Anekantvad – there is no absolute truth, everyone is (potentially) right 

Jainism follows a lunar calendar but add an extra month every fourth year.   We are in the fifth of six segments of the current time cycle. During this period things will get worse. Suresh talked to us about how Jain beliefs and practices influenced the Hindu Mohatma Gandhi.  Mahavir gave 5 rules for lay people to live by: ahimsa, truthfulness, not stealing, none aquisitionness, control over sexual desires.  

Suresh talked a little bit about the Jain Community- they try to help the local community, and are open and pluralistic in their outlook. They started holding meetings in a hired school hall.  Now they have 125 families. During the recent Paryushan celebrations ( a period of personal reflection), four people fasted for 8 days, no food and drinking only water during daylight. Suresh came from Kenya, where he lived next to the temple until he was 12. 

On a Sunday evening, before a shared dinner, Gujarati hymns are sung. In July he flag on top of the shrine is changed in a special ceremony.  Diwali is celebrated , as well as a Christmas party!  The temple is like one you would have in a house, so this doesn’t need a priest to wash the idols each day and carry out other duties.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays the temple is open and people can come and pray in a personal way.

We then moved on to the Sri Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara where we were met by Sukhbir Singh.

Having removed our shoes, covered our heads and washed our hands we went into the Diwan Hall. Sukhbir demonstrated how he would enter the prayer hall. 

He gave us a quick overview of the history of Guru Nani Dev Ji and the founding of Sikhism, leading on to key beliefs and practices, including the five virtues, the Gurus and the Harminder Sahib. He talked about what happens at the gurdwara, both religious and cultural/community practices.

He explained that there are three pillars of Sikhism: 

  • Nama Jappo, praying to God.
  • Vand Chako, share everything you have
  • Kirat Karo, get what you can honestly through hard work.

A family who had just had a baby arrived straight from the hospital and we were able to listen as the granthi read a prayer from the Guru Granth Sahib. The first letter of the reading gave the family the start of the name, and they chose the name Ishtar. The granthi then prayed, for the baby and the family, including the blessing “bole so nihal”, “sat sari Amal” and we were blessed as the father offered us chocolates to show their thanks.

We finished off in the Langar Hall where we were served some delicious vegetarian pilau.

Dharma Day

Our latest cohort of Year 3 Undergraduates spent a day in Manchester as part of their Sikhism and Jainism Module.

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At the Jain Samaj Manchester, our host Suresh explained about the beliefs, history and practices of the faith, and allowed us to explore their fantastic temple, handmade in Indian Marble.

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We then journeyed across the City to the Guru Harkrishan Sahib Gurdwara. As it was Guru Nanak’s Birthday it was a very busy Temple.  We were treated to a fantastic langar, before entering the diwan hall where the female granthi was singing beautifully.

Our host CJ talked us through the basics of Sikhism, but really the best part was being able to experience the community worshipping at first hand. CJ accompanied us on the accordian and help us to joyfully recite the name of Waheguru!  Happ Birthday Guru Nanak Ji!

 

Year One Undergraduate experience of Hindu Dharma

At Edge Hill University we believe that to really begin to understand a Religion it is vital that we visit  religious communities and meet with devotees. In this academic year for the Hindu Dharma module this began on Monday 4th of November when the Year One Undergraduate RE group attended Diwali celebrations at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Preston.

The Mandir was beautifully decorated and the offerings pictured below were truly remarkable. Once seated no one could tell that the Mandir was in fact an old factory !IMG_2307

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The hospitality and welcome we were given was also tremendous and very humbling, especially for me as I was treated like a VIP and included in the Garlanding ceremony .   For all of us it was great to join in the Festival of Lights and to feel part of a living, vibrant Hindu Community.

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In December we visited the Gujarati Hindu Mandir in Preston which is the second largest purpose built Mandir in the UK.  Once again we were made very welcome and we were able to ask the ever patient Mr Patel questions about the practicalities of following Hindu Dharma in Britain.

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To round off the module, we invited my neighbours Karmesh and Saguntha Pulya to share their beliefs and understanding of Sanata Dharma. Karmesh and Saguntha have become regulars at Edge Hill over the last four years and once again help in our understanding of Hindu Dharma as a living faith.  Saguntha sets up a shrine and  sings to Ganesh as she performs Puja, I for one always find this very moving is very moving.

Another regular feature of their visit is that Saguntha  draws Rangoli patterns  using rice flour. Previous attempts by yours truly have always proved disastrous but this year one of the trainees, Sarah managed to impress Saguntha with her artistic abilities!

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