Entering an unusual world the first time
In march 2014 I visited the Ganapathi temple in Stuttgart- Bad Cannstatt (Waiblinger Strasse) for the first time.
One year before I had passed sucessfully the exams of the Institute of Vedic Astrology in India and established the practice for Jyotish/vedic astrology in Stuttgart. Also in 2013 I attended classes in Jyotish on the „continent of astrology“ and learned that it is more useful to celebrate the lunar birthday instead of what Westerners do- to concentrate only on the sun sign of the tropical zodiac. So on a certain day I found myself in a temple.
…. why some Westerners change the system
For the period of a decade before I used to work as a Western astrologer, but I was looking for a more elaborated, more efficient and more practical astrological system. So I chose the most ancient style-Jyotish- and ended up in India of course.
As western astrology was adopted through some thousands of years coming from India to the west, the remaining astrological system had lost some very helpful techniques, specialized on predictions and ways of useful quick and substantiel ways of interpreting a chart. Let it be a Muhurtha, a Prashna or a Varga chart.
It is impossible to understand “Hindu traditions” without deep insights in vedic astrology. Otherwise one would never get the Panchanga and temple rituals and ceremonies would seem obscure and arbitrary.
… why a young astrologer starts researching „comparative religions“ in a temple
The differences between Christian traditions and the Hindu rituals and their practical handlings could hardly be more different. I attended a number of Pujas and Homas in India in the meantime, but it takes a while to get reliable insights of what is happening at which point and up to its significance. It would be foolish to try to understand one religion in terms of the other. Hence to understand Hindu mythology and mythosphere a paradigm shift was required. Devdutt Pattaniak wrote: „ European scholars who were deeply influenced by biblical thought defined the hinduistic world view as a religion. For the native practioners it was simply a way of life into which one was born. Obviously „hinduism“ is an artificial word because there was no clear difference between the sacred and the secular, no consitancy between philosophie and practice.“
Hinduism is neighter a religion nor a philosophy per definition. It is a mix-up of both with various elements influencing each other. Actually it is nothing short of solving a conundrum.
… about the architecture and the structure of a temple and a Puja
For sociocultural reason only, visiting a temple was highly interesting. After all not only a Hindu temple is located in this building but also two Islamic mosques and they share neighbourhood peacefully and friendly.
I was interested in what was meant by „Pakriti“, what a „Murthi“ is and what a „Pratishtha“ and how the „Sankalpa” would be prepared and to watch the priest using specific Mudras. I was interested what a „ Mandir“ is, how it would be arranged, what a „ Nandi“ and „Vahana“ was and how the proportions between those sculptures and the Murthi had to be to fulfil the standards of the specific vedic scriptures. In addition I wanted to know how to perform a Mantra Japa in the correct way and what does really matter during that time. It was tons of questions I had and I wanted to observe practically, like:
Which significance has the „Prasad“ and how to handle it?
In those days I did not even know about the difference between Puja and darshan. It is the very same moment of time looked at from different point of view. It was interesting to get explained all those things from learned priests away from the point of view of Ayurveda and Jyotish. Why would „Hinduism“ make a difference within the mythosphere and establish certain hierarchies of gods, semi-gods, incarnations, demi-gods and grahas (celestial planets)?
…. indications for philosophie or religion?
There is no common „Hinduism“. Western „theology” covers every single stream or movement of human believings that is not covered scientifically by neighter Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism nor Islam as „hinduistic“. Although- as far as I learned and experienced in India- there are thousands of different Hindu movements practiced and present. Traditions vary. So far the western “Indologies“ seem to have a very simplified and superficial idea of what is going on behind the curtains and how deep rooted and time- connected the rituals and their siginficance for and to the living being is necessary to understand their religious (or rather: philosophical) contexts. Where else than in a Hindu temple could I experience all these things personally and do all my researches on live and ritualized ( lets say: „organic“) astrology-performed by a priest?
… the main difference is one of respect for knowledge
All the Arabic, Greek and Roman roots that built Europe are eighter lost in time, sunk in history or hidden from society, locked from research for a intrested astrologer in museums or destroyed with the coming up of Christianity more than 2000 years ago. Nobody knows about the significance of astrology in social contexts, how astrology was practised in former days and which importance it was given from both sides: The astrologer AND the client. So there is no better guidline than observing Indian culture of the past which is mirrowed to the present during a Puja.
In a temple one can experience this „ceremony world” at very first hand. You can see with your own eyes, how an „Archenai“ for a person, a group of persons, an item or an object of life is professionally performed and support all kinds of undertakings in life of a human beeing.
… ignorance in the West, alive rituals and ceremony in India
Over the years I had been learning more than I had ever dreamt of. In the meantime I went to India several times and even made friendship to a member of an Indian architect´s organisation, living in Germany. He introduced me to a number of different styles of temples in South India. Apart from the difference in size one can find the repetetive elements, structures and archetectures. Some years before I unsigned the affiliation to any church. It was not to save taxes but in first sight because our established churches have superceded astrology and methaphysics and do not accept them.
… my experiences in the Hindu temple in a nutshell
From the beginning I felt very welcome and in good company in the Ganapathi temple apart from very interesting informations and explainations that were given to me. The first words of the priest in those days were: „ Ask me anything you want to know, it´s all about science“. I was even allowed to take photos and to inscribe all my questions and notes.
Practising and living „science“ sounds adventurous for us Westerners. Because what is accepted as science and what is recognized in the teaching canon and universities is very young in time compared to ancient vedic knowledge like Vastu, Ayurveda, Yoga or especially Jyotish. In first sight western science is knowledge from books and laboratories. It is wooden science on its compounds to human lifes and needs.
All the more because „science“ in our secularized society is looked at without any connections to religion or philosophy. So for me it is always fascinating to look upon issues of life through different eyes, handling the same daily questions of mankind. I am thankful for the opportunity and hospitality, to experience this “antipodean world“ of Hindu devouties in my hometown and to “change a continent“ each time by entering the temple.