Zoila Espinoza:

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Today the CCSU group visited a Hindu temple that has many statues of deities in both human and animal form. The relationship between these forms, I assumed, was sensuous. The people in the temple worshipped with great intensity and devotion. They seemed to concentrate their mental and physical forces on proper thoughts to help improve the circumstances of their lives. In the temple there are a number of statues of women devotees who hold plates of vegetables in their open hands. Perhaps these symbols are based on common human beliefs that restrict the eating of certain sacred plants and animals. Such symbols possibly convey the essential identities of particular human groups, so as to facilitate their survival. They do this by decreasing the autonomy of the individual in favor of that of the group, by encouraging certain kinds of daily interactions based on voluntary commitments instead of force. In the temple we heard occasional loud explosions. These were charges of gunpowder for which people paid to have set off.  We believed this was either to ward off evil spirits or celebrate good luck. Perhaps this practice is analogous in meaning to certain rituals in Latin American cultures. For example, when I was ill as a child, my mother used to rub an egg together with a yellow spice over my body so that the egg would absorb all the evil. I was also impressed at the contrast of the wealth of some temples and the widespread poverty we saw. For example, a few days earlier we visited Trivandrum’s main temple, Sri Padmanabhaswamy, in which was recently discovered an estimated fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold (BBC July, 2011). Why can’t some of this money be used to help the poor inhabitants?

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