Monday, April 7, 2014

[Indian Culture Workshop 2013-2014] Session 2: An experience in Hinduism, Indian food and dress

Session 2: An experience in Hinduism, Indian food and dress
Speakers: Mr. Steven Matthew, Ms. Lillian Tsang from ISKCON Temple

Have you ever wonder why all the Gods in Hinduism are in blue? Why they have so many Gods? Are they worshipping idols? What does yoga mean in Indian culture? Why usually all yoga sessions end with a word “Namaste,” what does it mean?

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), known colloquially as the Hare Krishna movement or Hare Krishnas, is a Hindu Gaudiya Vaishnava religious organization. It centers its beliefs around the sacred text Bhagavad Gita in Hinduism. The ISKCON Hong Kong works hard to promote understanding and experiences to the majority Chinese.

In this session, the participants of the workshop together with Prof. Tam went to the ISKCON Temple in Tsim Sha Tsui to try to gain some insights in Hinduism—the dominant religion in India, as well as learn about Indian food and dress culture—precisely how the religion has influenced both, and simultaneously how both Indian food and dress culture affect outsiders’ interpretation of the religion.
The Hindu god Krishna worshipped in ISKCON

Mr. Steven Matthew, a priest of the temple, presented an overview of Hinduism in general and the ISKCON movement in particular. According to Mr. Matthew, Hinduism is the world’s oldest organized religion, and it is still the most popular religion in India—encompassing about 80% of the population. ISKCON, commonly known as the Hare Krishna Movement, is a branch of the Hindu tradition founded by Srila Prabhupada in New York city in 1965. The ISKCON temple in Hong Kong is a place where many Indians celebrate their tradition away from home.

Mr. Steven Matthew lecturing on religious traditions in India

Steven starts the presentation by explaining the meaning of Namaste—a common phrase Hong Kong people usually hear when they finish any yoga class. It is, according to Steven, a traditional Hindu way of greeting each other. In Hindu doctrines, they believe that bringing the hands together in front of the heart can increase the flow of Divine love. Doing a legit greeting with Namaste, one should close the eyes and bow the head. This allows the individual to surrender to the Divine in the heart, and free from ego-connection. Put differently, Namaste allows a person greeting another spiritual person from the inner self.

Musical chanting plays an important role in Hindu rituals and traditions. Especially, music and dance are the preferred worship vehicles for Krishna devotees. After Steven’s presentation, Miss Lillian Tsang led the participants to sing a spiritual hymn that is dedicated to Krishna. A traditional Indian musical instrument is used to accompany the hymn.

Ms. Lillian Tsang leading a Hindu hymn
The participants had a chance to try on the Indian style dress and visit the designated kitchen where offering to the god is prepared. The visit ended with a light vegetarian meal prepared by the temple’s devotees, which include a delicious almond cake made without using eggs (egg is considered as a taboo for Krishna devotees).
Participants trying on Indian style dress

Participants visiting the designated kitchen in ISKCON where the offering to the god is prepared

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