More news from India!

Posted on December 2nd, 2009 by

Hello friends, family, and faithful SJPD blog followers! Katie Everett speaking (well,
typing). We have started our LAST course, Religion, Society and Culture. India is a
country of many religions, and there?s only enough time to tickle the surface, but we?re
doing what we can. Our main focus areas are creed, cult, and culture. We started in Delhi
learning about Islam. We have met with the Islamic Studies Department at Jamia Hamdard
University and some friends of Visthar while staying at India Social Institute in Delhi.
We?ve learned some basics about Islam, including its history in India and the
fundamentals of the religion. Islam was largely brought to India by traders, something
Americans can relate to pretty easily I think. We?ve also learned a bit about the
interplay between Islam and society ? how it determines people?s, especially women?s,
roles and its commitment to nonviolence. Twelve to fourteen percent of India?s population
is Muslim, not a small chunk of people when you consider the gigantic population of the
country. We only had a couple of days to study Islam with the experts, so there?s a lot
left to learn on our own, but we definitely feel like we have a little bit of an
understanding of their basic belief system and a microscopic understanding of how they
interact in the Indian and global societies.
Then it was time to say goodbye to Delhi. We took an overnight train (12 hours that
actually turned into 14) to Varanasi. Varanasi, also known as Benaras, is on the Ganges
and is a very popular pilgrimage point for Hindus and is one of four pilgrim sites for
Buddhists. Our next focus for the course was Buddhism. We got to visit many temples
during our days in the city. We noticed that the architecture varied greatly depending on
who built the temple, we saw examples from Thailand, Japan, and other countries which
were all very different and very beautiful.  We were also able to see the place were
Buddha gave his first sermon to his five disciples after his enlightenment.  We got to
meet with a really awesome monk who very patiently taught us the basics and answered our
questions. He introduced us to the idea of impermanence and detachment from the world.
Nothing is a whole on its own, and its parts are also made up of more parts. There?s a
lot to try to understand in Buddhism, but luckily our monk friend and Father Emmanuel who
traveled with from as our Visthar leader are remarkable and answered lots of questions
until we felt like we at least kind of understood.
While in Varanasi, we also got introduced to Jainism. We will be studying it more in the
next couple of days, but it was a good place to get a start. Most of us were pretty
clueless about Jainism, so our session at a Jain temple was very informative.
Non-violence is a major tenant of the religion and is extended to all things; there are
different levels of violence and they depend on the number of senses a being has. Jainism
and Buddhism are both reactions to Hinduism, and therefore they all share some common
philosophies. In the course we?re starting to discover the commonalities and the
We will keep you posted on our progress and we look forward to sharing what we?re
learning with you all!



  1. Carolyn O'Grady says:

    Hi all. Looking forward to seeing you soon and hearing more about your courses and other experiences. It looks like I’ll be able to sit in on your last course meeting on Monday. Wahoo!

  2. Mona Ibrahim says:

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful, enjoyable post Katie. I am in awe of how much you all are learning. You are so fortunate to be privileged with these rich experiences at this point in your lives. Keep posting!