Why Hinduism is so tolerant
Mr. Aurora, you are on the Council of Religions for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, what is that?
Vishwa Hindu Parishad means "International Association of Hindus", it was founded in 1964 in India. Here in Frankfurt we registered as an association in 1984. I am Vice President in Germany and I am there to provide answers when people have questions for us. I myself have lived in Germany for 56 years. I have been an honorary citizen of the city of Frankfurt for two years, which makes me very happy.
Your parents were probably Hindu too?
Yes, we have been Hindus for generations. I was born in Gujranwala, a city that is now in Pakistan. After the division of the country, we moved to India in 1947, when I was 18 years old.
What is the most important thing about your religion for you?
There is only one point: tolerance. Everything can coexist.
How many Hindus are there in Frankfurt?
Here in Frankfurt there are about 5000 families and in Germany 56,000, mostly from India. Most are well integrated. We believe that you have to accept the culture of the country you are emigrating to, no matter what you think personally.
Where is the Hindu temple in Frankfurt?
Our temple is in Morsestrasse in Bockenheim, it is the oldest in all of Germany. We are a registered association and are financed through membership fees and donations. In the meantime, however, there are Hindu temples in most of the big cities, and in Frankfurt, in addition to ours, there is an Afghan-Hindu cultural association and two South Indian temples.
Do you have any special days of the week that you meet?
We meet every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. First we pray in our prayer room. There are statues of gods that we imported from India. Then we eat together and talk to each other. The women cook the food on site.
Do you eat vegetarian?
Yes, only vegetarian food is cooked in the temple. My whole family has never eaten meat. But there are also Hindus who eat meat, but only a few. We eat vegetarian food for health reasons rather than religious ones, even if some people think so, because eating meat is forbidden in Buddhism. The topmost principle of Buddhism is: You must not kill, not even a small mosquito. Even if many people in Buddhism today eat meat, for example in China. But Hindus are usually vegetarians. You can live very well without meat.
The cows in particular are sacred animals, right?
Yes, but that too has no religious reasons, but practical reasons. In India the cow is held sacred because cows are so precious. Where would people get milk and butter from if they killed the cows? Health is important. I also practice yoga, I have a diploma. But the many yoga schools that exist here in Germany don't actually do yoga at all. These are just gymnastic exercises.
How is real yoga different?
Yoga is mostly about breathing, that is, pranayama. Yoga can be used to cure any disease. But if you eat meat or smoke or drink alcohol, you cannot do yoga. It's internal, not just a type of fitness. But I only got to know yoga as an adult, it is not that it is automatically practiced in Hindu families.
Approximately how many people come to your temple for the celebrations on Sundays?
Around fifty to a hundred people on normal Sundays, and on special festivals there are 800 to 1,000 people. We then rent a large hall for this.
Do you have a priest?
No, we do everything ourselves. At some point we decided not to get a permanent priest. For the practice of religion it is not necessary that a priest is present. At a high ceremony we often ask one of the priests from the other temples to come to us. Sometimes priests from India also come to Germany on lecture tours, and then we invite them to speak to us or to answer our religious questions.
What about the relationship between women and men in your religion, are there also priestesses?
Can you enter Hinduism? What do I have to do to become a Hindu?
You would have to discuss this with a priest, but there is no set ritual or formal procedure for it.
In your opinion, what distinguishes Hinduism in particular from other religions?
Above all, that we are free in what we believe. There are no fixed dogmas or rules. We also have many different deities, they are all different incarnations of God. Whether one prays to this or that is left to the freedom of the individual.
How many deities are there in total?
You cant say it like that. There are mostly three main gods worshiped: Brahma, the creator, Vishna, the preserver, and Shiva, the consuming god. And then there are many others, for example Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. She is one of those for whom we celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, always in October or November. Not only the temple, but also the houses and apartments are then decorated and lit, because we want Lakhsmi to come to our home, everyone needs money. We have a total of four big festivals a year.
So the individual deities have different tasks?
Yes. Another important goddess is Durga, to whom one turns with everyday problems. My wife, a German woman, who has since passed away, even saw Durga three times in dreams. Once a container with food that I wanted to import was held in the customs office. My wife asked Durga what we should do now. The next day at customs, it wasn't this first officer who was there, but someone else, a woman, a customs officer, and she immediately released the container. That was an incarnation of Durga. It comes in several forms to help. These can also be little things, for example if I can't find my key. But you can only do that if you have faith. If you believe God is there, He is there. If not, then not.
Do you believe that God can also come into the world in non-Hindu gods?
Yeah yeah God is only one, but people's beliefs are many. Gandhi taught this when he said that Allah and Krishna are equal. All religions deal with God.
How do you live the religion?
I pray for around twenty minutes every morning after showering and then breakfast is served. The same thing in the evening before bed. I have also set up a small temple at home, in a room with statues of deities. Especially from Durga, because that is the goddess who appeared to my wife.
Hinduism is often criticized for its caste system.
This has long been banned in India. Originally there was a distinction between four different classes: the teachers, the business people, then the lowest class, that might be the people who clean up, and then the warriors. In the past, the Hindus were divided in this way according to their fields of activity. For example, I am a business man. But that no longer applies today, at least in the cities. Sometimes this tradition still lingers in the villages.
Do you have scriptures?
The Bagavadgita. These are old texts in Sanskrit. Theological training consists mainly of studying Sanskrit. I know the entire Bagavadgita by heart, it was part of the exam. Of course, not all Hindus can do that, only about ten percent.
Do you have a favorite passage from the Bagavadgita?
Yes, the promise of God: “Whenever there are too many problems in the world, when too much nonsense happens, then I take a form, an incarnation, and help to solve the problems and make everything clear again . "
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