East Meets West :)

Richard Feynman, the famous American physicist says in his remarkable book-"I don't know what's the matter with people: they don't learn by understanding, they learn by some other way—by rote or something. Their knowledge is so fragile!In current times, we absorb so much information from news, television, internet & books but do we really learn and more importantly apply that learning in real world?  Today's experience taught me that learning is indeed the outcome of in-depth understanding of a subject via experimentation, serious study & idea generation.

Speaking of idea generation, sometimes ideas emanate from entirely random stimuli. Few days ago, an animated discussion about "Hindu Scriptures" with a dear friend resulted in one such idea! I learned about two interesting mechanisms by which knowledge in ancient Indian scriptures was passed on from one generation to the next. These two classifications were "Shruti" or 'The heard' & "Smriti" or 'The recorded' respectively. Anyways, as my friend contemplated about dimishing cultural values in modern society   during this insightful conversation, my monkey mind had this epiphany-"Why not experiment with these ancient learning styles in current times?"

As I hung up the phone, I tried to recollect my best learning moments in the past six months. The results-95% @ "Danforth Museum" + "Ashland Temple" and  rest @ "Library" + "Books". Seems that this accelerated learning at museum was the result of enhanced observation & understanding of things in my immediate environment.  I said to myself "Let's bring Danforth & Ashland together & see what happens! After all people are both places are willing to learn, sincere volunteers and passionate about ART & aesthetics! It sure will be lot of fun!"

I voiced my idea to Julia, our museum's education coordinator, and as anticipated she agreed to coordinate the visit and gave a GREEN signal right away! This was the easy part. What was not so easy was the prepartions - study of temple's history, Indian worship rituals, temple architectural styles, connotation of sacred names, significance of weapons & vehicles of Indian deities - it almost felt like preparing for an exam but I did end up learning lots about Hindu religion, temple worship, significance of dieties etc in a very short time :)

Come April 24th (Yet another Sunny Saturday!), all Danforth docents assembled at Ashland temple in their trademark style - winsome smiles, sharp looks, open minds and dilated pupils! The tour began with discussion on history of Ashland Temple. Most of the docents were quite amazed to see sculpture carvings on temple's monumental Gopuram and I talked about about significance of carvings and their connotations w.r.t to Sri Lakshmi Temple. Next we discussed salient characteristics of dieties Ganesha, Lakshmi & Venkateshwara. The visitors were handed a hand out highlighting Ganesha Symbolism and it appeared that everyone found it quite informative & cool! As we walked inside the temple, all of us were thrilled to see so many cheerful people, highly disciplined temple priests and euphoric children racing on the temple's marble floor. The tour guide walked the group from one diety to the next giving related descriptions.

Snaps-Ashland Temple Visit

In the next hour-we learned about:

> Temple Regions: Mahamandapam, Garbha Graha & Hawan Place.
> Offering to Dieties - Flowers, Fruits, Food, Ornaments & Mudra.
> Significance of Directions - and science of Vaastu Shastra.
> Panchtatva Elements - Earth, Fire, Wind, Water & Space.
> Take Aways for visitors - Panchamitra (composed of Milk, Yoghurt, Sugar, Honey, Ghee), Prasadam, sacred water &Tilaka.
> Worship Rituals - Archana, Abhishekam & Aarthi.
> Vehicles of dieties - Mouse (Ganesha), Garuda (Vishnu) & Nandi (Shiva)

Throughout the tour, all docents stayed attentive, curious and seemed to admire temple's architecture, efforts of temple volunteers, worship rituals, devotion of visitors a lotl! As the tour ended, we stepped outside the temple and headed towards Dosa Temple (a pure Veg restaurant nearby) and relished plenty of Indian delicacies!

While I returned home with a boat load of fond memories today, the one that'll stay cached in my mind in the days to come is the overwhelming affection showered by members of Danforth community! EAST met WEST this Saturday and together they spent a remarkable afternoon indeed :D
The way to know life is to love many things.~Vincent Van Gogh
[Image Courtesy Verna]
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Trisha said...

Passion for everything you are amazing..and your right...our knowledge is "fragile" do indeed need to immerse yourself..and share that passion with others...
The Temple is must be a joy for the Danforth to have!!

pooja said...

Hey Chimnay, Looks like a lot of fun... :) Good job...

TJ said...

I'd call it East marries West :-) Ingenious idea. ART rocks & so does this blogger!

Abhishek said...

Wah dost wah!!!!

Tyler said...

Is Indian culture really so vibrant? Wicked Cool info!!