Huge Attendance At Sai Baba Temple Guru Purnima Celebrations

Sai Baba

Sai Baba

Huge Attendance At Sai Baba Temple Guru Purnima Celebrations
Thu Jul 24, 2008

MONTEBELLO,CA – An unprecedented flow of hundreds of devotees to receive the blessings of their guru Sai Baba marked the celebration of Guru Purnima at the Shri Shirdi Sai Baba Sansthan LA, here in an event spread over three days, July 17 – 20. With almost double the number of expected people showing up, volunteers were hard pressed to produce the Mahaprasad to feed all arrivals. However the army of volunteers responded to the challenge by setting up a kitchen on site for cooking and made sure that not a single visitor left hungry.

The event paying respect to the guru saw several aaratis, poojas and hawans performed during its duration which were all well attended and supported by eager followers of the Baba. The Lalitha and Vishnu Sahasranamams were also recited on different days, On Saturday, after the daily morning kakad aarati the final ceremonies commenced with the Samoohika Kserabhishekam. This service comprised the bathing of the sacred idol of Sai Baba with water and milk in which almost a hundred people participated.

Following this ritual the curtains were drawn and the idol was kept away from the sight of the public while it was draped for ‘alankara’ in fresh new apparel and the alter decked with flowers and food . There was much joy and excitement among the gathering when the drapes were drawn to a darshan revealing the Guru in splendid attire placed in beautifully decorated surroundings.

After the pooja of the Sadguru the priest had the growing congregation squat on the floor and immerse itself in the combined chanting of “Om” for a quarter of an hour which added a whole new spiritual ambience to the religious experience.

Addressing the devotees on the occasion , the founder of the temple, Dr Prabhakar Tummala reminded devotees how the temple when it was inaugurated last year, started with just the basics. He thanked Baba’s staunch devotees which has grown to over 4,000 strong and the volunteer ‘soldiers’ of Baba in converting it to a full fledged temple in a matter of months. He continued to say that this sanctuary is a “Shirdi away from Shirdi.”

Tummala announced upcoming events and said a neem tree would also be planted behind the structure to replicate the setting in Shirdi in India.

The morning rituals concluded with the ceremonial planting of the Udumbara tree when a puja was conducted in the courtyard of the temple with devotees doing three pradarshans around it while chanting “Om Sai Namo Namaha” and each one throwing a handful of rice into the receptacle holding the plant. This again was to duplicate the presence of a similar tree in Shirdi under which the Sai Baba spent several happy and peaceful hours.

In the afternoon there were bhajan sessions led by Suresh and a presentation of episodes from the Ramayana by children of “Bala Gokulam” which meets at the temple every Saturday.


Americans Believe In Miracles, Heaven, Power Of Prayer

Faith & Belief

Faith & Belief

Americans Believe In Miracles, Heaven, Power Of Prayer
Jun 23, 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Around three-quarters of Americans believe in miracles, more Americans believe in heaven than in hell, and nearly six in 10 pray every day, a report based on a survey of 35,000 US adults showed Monday.

Of those who pray regularly, around a third — 31 percent — say God answers their prayers at least once a month, and one in five Americans said they receive direct answers to prayer requests at least once a week, the report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said.

Seventy-four percent of those surveyed for the report, called the US Religious Landscape Survey, said they believed in heaven as a place where people who have led good lives are rewarded, while only around six in 10 believed in hell, where unrepentant evil-doers languish in eternal punishment.

The report reflected the changing face of the US religious landscape and also the diversity of belief among Americans, Pew researchers said.

“Once upon a time, belief in heaven and hell were very closely related and in many people’s views were two sides of the same coin,” John Greene, a senior research fellow at Pew, told a telephone news conference.

“That does not seem to be the case any more. Many more people believe in heaven than believe in hell,” he said, surmising that Americans today view God as “someone who is merciful, generous and forgiving” rather than as “a judge who punishes people.”

Nearly eight in 10 American adults (79 percent) believe that miracles occur, the survey, conducted between May and August last year, showed.

But perhaps most striking in the report was the near unanimous belief in God, held by more than nine out of 10 Americans.

“While this survey finds that more than nine in 10 Americans believe in the existence of God or a universal spirit, it also shows that there are considerable differences in the nature of this belief,” Pew research fellow Greg Smith said.

“Six in 10 adults believe God is a person with whom people can have a relationship, but one in four, including about half of Jews and Hindus, see God as an impersonal force,” he said.

Oddly, one in five of those who identified themselves as atheists in the survey said they believe in God.

“It may very well be that they don’t really know what atheist means. It sounds good so they answered it; we call that measurement error,” Greene said.

“But this also shows us the complicated way that people think about their faith. Many people who identify as atheists may not be telling us they don’t believe in God, but that they don’t like organized religion,” he said.

“In addition to having atheists who say they believe in God, we have people who say they are very committed to a religious tradition but don’t believe in God,” he added.

“There is a lot of complexity in American religion,” Greene summarized.

The survey also showed that religious affiliation tends to translate into social and political leanings.

“Mormons and members of evangelical churches tend to be more conservative in their political ideology, while Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and atheists tend to be more politically liberal than the population overall,” the report says.

As the United States gears up to elect a new president in November, that translates to the simple fact that “there are votes to be had by the Democratic and Republican candidates by making appeals to religious groups,” said Greene.

Pew issued a first report, based on information gathered in the survey, in February this year.

That report, which focussed on the impact of immigrant flows on the religious landscape of the United States, predicted that Protestants would no longer be in the majority in the United States by the middle of this century.

“While native-born Protestants outnumber Catholics by two to one, among immigrants, Catholics outnumber Protestants by the same ratio,” Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said when the first report was released.

“So even though immigration is by and large confirming the Christian social nature of the American people, it is helping to tilt the balance towards Catholicism,” he said.


Scholars Plan To Reunite Ancient Bible Online



Scholars Plan To Reunite Ancient Bible Online
By RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Writer
Mon Jul 21, 7:16 PM ET

LONDON – The oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, a 4th century version that had its Gospels and epistles spread across the world, is being made whole again — online.

The British Library says the full text of the Codex Sinaiticus will be available to Web users by next July, digitally reconnecting parts that are held in Britain, Russia, Germany and a monastery in Egypt’s Sinai Desert.

A preview of the Codex, which also has some parts of the Old Testament, will hit the Web on Thursday — the Book of Psalms and the Gospel of Mark.

“Only a few people have ever had the opportunity to see more than a couple of pages of the (Codex),” said Scot McKendrick, the British Library’s head of Western manuscripts. The Web site will give everyone access to a “unique treasure,” he said.

Discovered at the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai by German Bible scholar Constantine Tischendorf in the mid-19th century, much of the Codex eventually wound up in Russia — just how exactly the British Library won’t say, citing lingering sensitivity over the circumstances surrounding its removal from the monastery.

The British Library bought 347 pages from Soviet authorities in 1933. Forty-three pages are at the University Library in Leipzig, Germany, and six fragments are at the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg. And in 1975, monks stumbled on 12 more pages and 40 fragments stashed in a hidden room at the monastery.

Biblical scholars are thrilled at the news that the Codex Sinaiticus — divided since Tischendorf’s trip to the monastery in 1844 — is finally being put back together, albeit virtually.

In the past, anyone wishing to examine the document first hand would have had to approach the British Library “on bended knee,” said Christopher Tuckett, a professor of New Testament studies at Oxford University.

“To have it available just at the click of a button is fantastic,” he said. “You could do in two seconds what would take hours and hours of flicking through the leaves.”

Handwritten in Greek more than 1,600 years ago — it isn’t exactly clear where — the surviving 400 or so pages carry a version of the New Testament that has a few interesting differences from the Bible used by Christians today.

The Gospel of Mark ends abruptly after Jesus’ disciples discover his empty tomb, for example. Mark’s last line has them leaving in fear.

“It cuts out the post-resurrection stories,” said Juan Garces, curator of the Codex Sinaiticus Project. “That’s a very odd way of ending a Gospel.”

James Davila, a professor of early Jewish studies at St. Andrews University in Scotland, said the Codex also includes religious works foreign to the Roman Catholic and Protestant canons — such as the “Epistle of Barnabas” and the “Shepherd of Hermas,” a book packed with visions and parables.

Davila stressed that did not mean the works were necessarily considered Scripture by early Christians: They could have been bound with the Bible to save money.

The Codex itself is a fascinating artifact, representing the best of Western bookmaking, Garces said. The parchment was arranged in little multipage booklets called quires, which were then numbered in sequence.

“It was the cutting edge of technology in the 4th century,” he said.

The British Library bound its quires into two volumes after their purchase from the Soviets, one of which is kept on show in a climate-controlled, bulletproof display case. Visitors can peer at the ancient book, but only see two pages at a time.

By next July, the entire Codex will be available for free — along with transcription, translation and search functions — on the Internet.

On the Net:
Codex Sinaiticus site:


Codex Sinaiticus

Codex Sinaiticus