On Saturday the Classical Ideas and World Religions students took their lessons out of the classroom and into the real world. Accompanied by Hickman students, a few devoted participants spent their morning at Shanthi Mandir, our local Hindu center, which translates to, “peace temple.” This community building was a real labor of love, put together by local Hindu families in 2005 as a place for many sects of Hinduism to come together. One of the original founders, Dr. Gopal, had visited the Classical ideas students a few weeks prior, sparking the interest on the logistics of a practicing Hindu in western society.
One might live right next to Shanthi Mandir and have no idea it was a place of worship, being in a residential neighborhood, the outer appearance isn’t anything grand. Once you enter the building you are immediately transported with the sound of traditional Indian ragas, and the smell of burning incents. There are racks for shoe removal, an act of respect for God, not to dirty the place of worship. Walking in a bit further there hangs a bell, present in all Hindu temples, big or small, the significance is to “shatter any distractions to show undivided attention to god.” said Mrs. Gopal. The chairs that line the open room are reserved for the elderly or disabled, and any able bodied person should sit in a, “lotus position,” on the floor, never to have feet facing up to god, as this is seen as disrespectful.
Many students, and the few facility that were present, participated in the floor sitting after a little persuading. Dr. Gopal then went into detail on the founding of the center and how it’s a place of worship but community involvement is equally important. They have times dedicated to many sects of Hinduism and other south eastern religions, language classes and celebrations. Some meet daily, and some only meet once a month. The daily rituals can include the “waking up and putting to sleep of god.” Everything is done purely on a volunteer basis, there are membership dues because it’s a nonprofit organization, and the money goes to keeping up the building and funding for any festivals held. Approaching the 10 year anniversary, the temple is a valued asset to Columbia, catering to over 200 local residents. Its existence brings a group of people together and enhances the culture and involvement in Columbian society.
The tradition of the Classical Ideas class visiting Shanthi Mandir gained new faces with the accompaniment of Battles students, which is something that will hopefully continue. The legacy of the class has always been with the teachings of Mr. Frissel at Hickman High school, but the torch has been passed to Mr. Soden at Battle, being the first to teach it at the building. I foresee the two classes spending many Saturday mornings together at temples and lessons of vast assortment. The experience heightened my learning from a 2D understanding into a 3D one. Things weren’t just words on paper or song lyrics on a screen, it was tangible and created depth to my pre-existing knowledge.