Temple Youth Center – Beyond the Building

     Human Life, conceivably, is the loftiest of endowments, barring perhaps our Hindu belief that the ‘ultimate salvation’ is freedom from the cycle of life and death. The dignity of human life rests on the assumption that unlike other living organisms driven by the impulses of nature, humans have the discretionary ability to differentiate right from wrong and that we are empowered with a soul, which enables us to choose a path for spiritual progress.
     The divine gift of life nevertheless comes with variable choices of responsibilities and accountability. We are routinely challenged with options and are often compelled to choose a path that may have an enormous impact on our future. Religion provides us the confidence to follow the right path, courage to uphold the proper values and wisdom to differentiate between good and evil. It guides us to lead a life of honesty, generosity, compassion, and respect and serves to inculcate in us a sense of righteousness, dutifulness and our obligations as a human being.
     Unique attributes of Hinduism include freedom to question, analyze or discuss a certain message before one can attempt to rationalize, consume and accept it. The student of the religion has the liberty to reject a certain philosophical dogma if one is not able to come to terms with it. Hinduism allows one to choose the means and direction to attain self-realization, without imposing any stringent restrictions on the individual. Thus, the tolerance of other religious beliefs is a rare, distinctive characteristic of Hinduism.
     Hindu temples have been the havens for all our religious needs. Primarily being the abode of gods, we congregate in temples for pujas, prayers, and different religious celebrations. They provide the stage for religious education through discourses, explanation of scriptures, mythological storytelling, and other religious classes. Our epics contain narratives that elaborate and convey moral lessons to instill values in the listeners and enlighten their outlook about life. Our Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas provide profound, rational, logical explanations that can be pragmatically applied to everyday life. The symbolic explanations imbued in 202 many of our simple tales impart practical, useful guidance for daily life situations.
     Sri Meenakshi Temple, having qualified as a primary sanctuary for religious rituals, is now entering into an even greater arena of responsibility, to nourish our young souls with the elementary needs of understanding Hindu Dharma. As we, the first-generation Hindus have chosen to move out and settle in an alien society, the onus of passing on the mantle to our posterity rests entirely on our shoulders. We should establish measures that our younger generation takes over the guardianship of our heritage and uphold our rich traditions. They will also require that understanding to feel proud of their distinct identity.
     No one escapes the tenure of being a youth, along with the agony and ecstasy that are inherent to that tenure; yet no one remains to be a youth forever. As the youth mature into adults, they should become ambassadors of our traditions, proudly absorbing our exalted, cultural principles and disseminating them to interested listeners. It may be prudent to hope that during these troubled times, the legendary wisdom of our time-honored scriptures may come in as the panacea for all the ills of the world. Let our enlightened youth succeed in making an impact with a renewed awareness.
     Our newly completed Youth Center is an establishment shouldering an enormous task. Under its roof and within its four walls, beyond its classrooms and surrounding its numerous paraphernalia, immersed within the very essence of its purpose, lies the paragon of teaching and learning, to support, sustain and spread the sagacious wisdom of our forefathers, passed on to us through millennia of monumental traditions. Each and every one of us, even remotely involved with its creation and its operation should feel immensely content to be part of the historic responsibility that we have been fortunate to be associated with.
     We are blessed with just one life. Let us make an earnest attempt to make the noblest use of it. (September 10, 2003)

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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