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Community Voices: Visit to Hindu temple ‘must-do’ for Gwinnettians

Unable to attend recent talks at the Sanatan Mandir in Norcross about happiness and inspired-living, I had a chat with speaker Jaya Row before she returned to Mumbai. “Every living being is in the pursuit of happiness, yet very few of us achieve it,” Row suggests.

Her talks based on the Vedas, ancient Indian scriptures, and the concept of “Give to Gain” outline techniques anyone can use to have a more fulfilling life.

The conversation led me to visit the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir on Rockbridge Road in Lilburn to learn more about my Asian-Indian neighbors. Mitesh Patel, who provided the tour, said the latest numbers estimate 70,000 Asian-Indians in metro-Atlanta, with the vast majority in Gwinnett.

My visit to the Mandir, a Hindu place of worship, which means “mind still, or at peace” was just that – peaceful. I won’t pretend to have a good understanding of the Hindu faith from two conversations, but I did gather key facts that are often misconceptions.

According to Patel, despite what many think, Hindus believe in one God. Like the Christian faith there are other avatars or deities Hindus’ pray to who may intervene on their behalf to God. (Think Catholicism and prayers to various saints.)

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Hindu temples vary as well. Row was speaking at the Sanatan Mandir. (Think Methodist versus Baptist as one example.)

Hindus also believe many of the tenants of their faith can and do work for people of all faiths, but they are not here to convert you. The reason for building a Mandir in Gwinnett was to provide a place of worship for the growing Asian-Indian population, provide opportunities to share native food, music and languages and to bring the craftsmanship and culture of ancient Mandir construction to the community.

“Hindus believe in respect for all faiths and are open to learn from each other,” said Patel. “They won’t try to force their beliefs on you or put your beliefs down.”

A visit to the BAPS Mandir in Lilburn is an opportunity to respectfully learn from each other, to find a quiet and calm place for meditation or prayer, or just to view the awe inspiring temple built by 1.3 million volunteer hours. Tours are free every day.

The Mandir will celebrate 10 years in the community June 21 through July 7. Many events, including a fireworks display, will be open to the public: www.baps.org/Global-Network/North-America/Atlanta.aspx.

As for that pursuit of happiness, Jaya Row tells me, “To achieve happiness, we must act with an attitude of giving instead of taking.” Numerous corporations have invited her to speak on how these principles can increase business success and she is the author of several books. www.vedantavision.org.

Put a visit to the BAPS Mandir on your to-do list and experience this extraordinary gift to Gwinnett and surrounding metro Atlanta.

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