Wednesday reads: Congressman Moonbeam and Ganesha Chaturthi

Kind of a busy day here, so just a matter of a couple of quick links for you.

First up, if you aren’t paying attention, this weekend is Ganesha Chaturthi. Are you in or around New York? Well, you’re very much in luck. The Broome St. Temple is running a weekend-long celebration, ending with a cart festival on Monday. We’ve helped sponsor on of the pujas. Details are available here.

And that’s not the only celebration happening in New York. The New York Times has a nice piece on the Ganesha temple in Flushing, Queens:

At the Hindu Temple Society of North America, in Flushing, Queens, this week is time to worship Ganesh, the elephant-headed, many-armed deity who is believed to remove obstacles. Here, as at temples in over a dozen countries, Hindus are celebrating Ganesha Chaturthi, which marks the god’s birth (and rebirth).

“The coconut shell is like the human ego,” said Mohan Ramaswamy, who teaches at the temple on Bowne Street. “You have to crack it open before you can let in the lord.”

In Queens, which has perhaps the largest Hindu population in New York, more than 10,000 people will pay homage during the jubilee, which started on Friday and ends on Sunday. More than 400 gallons of milk, 100 boxes of apples, 50 crates of bananas and five kilograms of sandalwood paste will be used. And each day, dozens of liters of ghee, clarified butter, will be ladled into the fire pit for the homam, or fire ritual, which is believed to carry offerings to the lord. Visitors will consume some 50,000 prepared meals, according to the organizers.

At the Ganesh Temple, ancient traditions are carried out with a relentless, New York-style efficiency. On Saturday, volunteers and staff members wearing laminated “May I help you” name tags and white T-shirts bearing the temple’s logo used iPads to check the schedule, which was detailed on the temple’s website. In the courtyard, rows of devotees repeated hypnotic hymns asking the lord for his protection as they faced a large fire pit. A bare-chested man with a clipboard and a counter was on hand to ensure that the requisite 400,000 mantras were offered.

Last piece is at The Atlantic; it’s about Rep. Tim Ryan, the Mindful Congressman (we’ve run a few mentions of him). Link and tease:

Ryan, who is now 41 and in his sixth term representing northeastern Ohio, is that guy you know who’s just started meditating and can’t stop talking about it, only with the ability to propose legislation. “I came out of it”—the 2008 retreat—“with a whole new way of relating with what was going on in the world,” Ryan tells me. “And like any good thing that a congressman finds—a new technology, a new policy idea—immediately I said, ‘How do we get this out?’ ”

Ever since, he has busily worked to make himself meditation’s man in Washington. He has appeared with Deepak Chopra and Goldie Hawn. He has sponsored a bill to increase the holistic-medicine offerings of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has secured a $1 million earmark for relaxation training for elementary-schoolers in his district. He has written a book, A Mindful Nation, that—according to its foreword, by Bill Clinton—purports to “explain how the simple act of self-reflection can help us build a better America.”

The piece does note the inevitable: He’s earned the nickname “Congressman Moonbeam” from his opponents.

Posted by Steve