Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christian Mystic-Hindu saint passes away

Wisdom Quarterly (REPORTING)
Sanskrit chanting in honor of Daya Mata, Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 12-12-10 (WQ).

PASADENA, California - Nearly two weeks ago, 97 year-old Hindu/Christian saint* Sri Daya Mata (Rachel Faye Wright), president of Paramahansa Yogananda's Self Realization Fellowship and Yagoda Satsangha Society (India), passed away after serving for 55 years. She was a devotee of Yogananda for 80 years. The first step in her spiritual education was her new Hindu guru giving her a series of books to read -- beginning with the life of the Buddha.

This weekend saw open casket viewing services at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, followed by a large memorial service at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, where Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai often hold lectures, in the very Buddhist city of Pasadena. (Pasadena is possibly the most Buddhist city in America, although one would think San Francisco, Santa Monica, Boston, Boulder, and New York might disagree).

The ceremony was solemn, in a full yet silent auditorium and an adjacent building to accomodate the overflow, for 2.5 hours of eulogy, hagiography, and Sanskrit chanting -- with very warm tales by SRF/YSS monastic disciples. The longest speech was delivered by what seemed like a well-seasoned Christian minister who told the story of how a Mormon teenager from Utah came to Los Angeles to follow Yogananda (famous for his Autobiography of a Yogi).

What's a "Saint"?
*What qualifies one as a "saint" in Buddhism differs from other religions. Most religions focus on samadhi, the fruits of concentration. They neglect, or are unaware of, the more important fruits of insight (vipassana). Insight together with samadhi leads to enlightenment. Samadhi by itself leads to "sainthood" in other religions.

Most of us misuse "saint" and other terms (like moksha and nirvana). We fail to define them and instead take for granted that they must somehow mean the same thing, that all paths somehow lead to the same goal.

But different religions lead to different goals, different methods to different results, even if they call them the same thing. Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism all say moksha, "liberation," but mean completely different things by it. (Photo: St. Ned Flanders, "The Simpsons").
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