This spring, the Hindu Temple of San Antonio opened its doors to Trinity students. As a part of a mid-term project, groups of students enrolled in Dr. Randall Nadeau’s or Dr. Mackenzie Brown’s Asian Religions classes visited the beautiful hill-top temple for a Sunday morning worship service. The students then documented their experiences in a descriptive and analytical term paper.
|The Hindu Temple of San Antonio|
Maddie Kennedy ‘19 comments on the impact the temple visit had on shaping her understanding of the Hindu religion. Through the visit, she saw that “it’s very different to read about what Hinduism means to an entire religious group of people than it is to talk to an individual person and get their perspective… They taught us a lot about the many experiences that Hinduism has brought to their lives.”
At the temple, the students witnessed a puja ceremony, which they had learned about previously through their readings and lectures. For reference, the class’ textbook, Asian Religions: A Cultural Perspective, written by professor Dr. Nadeau, reads, “Offerings to the Hindu gods are made in a worship service (puja) conducted in a temple and presided over by trained priests. Devotees participate in these offerings with single-minded devotion.” Students were able to watch this service first-hand at the Hindu Temple of San Antonio. This experience provided them with more insight to the practices and meaning behind the Hindu worship services.
|Students witnessed a puja ceremony on their visit|
After the puja, the students had the opportunity to speak to the other attendees and leaders at the temple, and ask them any questions they may have had following the service.
Kennedy appreciated how welcoming and open the worshippers she spoke to at the temple were. She mentioned that “they were very appreciative of us coming, although we didn’t really do anything for them.” In fact, rather, Kennedy felt that the laypeople did much for the Trinity students. The leaders of the service offered the group a free lunch after the ceremony, in addition to conversing with them. Through her conversations with these worshippers, Kennedy learned “what morals were important to them, and what Hinduism meant to them”.
“It’s useful because there aren’t that many Hindus in the United States, so we may not have otherwise gotten the experience to meet people who could teach us about their perspective without this assignment.”
Kennedy is a first-year student studying Psychology and Spanish. She intends to continue her education after her undergraduate studies at Trinity, with goals of becoming an Occupational Therapist.
|Kennedy comments on her experience at the temple|
Although a deep understanding of the Hindu religion will not necessarily directly play into her future education and career, Kennedy feels that it will contribute to her appreciation of perspectives and cultures different from her own. She notes, “Because of classes like Asian Religions and other classes that I will take at Trinity, I will be able to experience the world in a different way, meet people, and allow my perspective to change. Although this may not help me in occupational therapy, it will help me in life.”
Kennedy feels that this project has challenged her previous view of Hinduism. She mentions that “Hinduism is misconstrued by a lot of people who haven’t been exposed to it much, and this is true for many other Eastern religions as well.” Projects such as this temple project are valuable as a tool for breaking down the stigmas that may be clouding our understanding of other cultures and beliefs.
The project also served to expand Kennedy’s horizons in her social and personal life. She stated, “I feel that I will enter new situations and experiences with less apprehension than before. I went into the temple visit worrying that I would be seen as an intruder, but that fear was appeased by how welcoming everyone was. This project helped me to take part in more new experiences in the future, even those that I at first would have been hesitant to involve myself in.”
“In classes, we get to learn things theoretically, but experiences like this, that Trinity encourages, allow you to put your learning into practice and see other people living an experience that you are learning about.”