26 July 2011

Carbon Canyon's Newest Religious Facility: Bharat Sevashram Sangha

Last Sunday, 24 July, the former Carbon Canyon Christian Church and Samsung Presbyterian Church property was the site of a dedication for the newest religious group to occupy the site: Bharat Sevashram Sangha, a Hindu organization that was founded in Kolkatta (Calcutta), India in 1917.  The local BSS chapter Web site (see here and here for some pages) identifies its core beliefs or mission as:
  • Service of humanity, irrespective of caste, creed, or national origin
  • Moral & spiritual regeneration
  • Spread of moral, spiritual and physical education
  • Study of Hinduism, Hindu culture & heritage
  • Teaching of yoga and health science subjects
  • Education through moral and spiritual publications
The swami at the ashram is Purnatmanandaji Maharaj, who is also described as Chairman, Director & Principal Coordinator & Chief Official Representative of the Overseas Branches and Chairman of BSSW-California, the local organizational chapter.

The BSS West--California chapter opened in 2004 at a Riverside location, but found that site to be too limited for its needs and the 50-acre Olinda Village site, adjacent to Hollydale Mobile Home Estates was purchased.  The chapter Web site describes the location:

Tranquility, beautiful, scenic and unique—can hardly describe the magnificence of our Brea Bharat Sevashram Temple.  It is here that one seems separated from the rest of the world similar like “Rishikesh” in India.  Apparently this temple location is one of the most beautiful place in Southern California.  Please come, join and take a tour to experience the solitary beauty, exotic landscape, spectacular and beautiful sites.  Natural beauty, mountains and forests makes it one of the most stunning place.

It’s a quiet place with abundant parking available even on the weekends. The neighborhood is welcoming and safe. The Temple is now a place of great divine beauty and peace. It is breathtakingly beautiful. It is a great place for people looking for a powerful escape from everyday demanding life and divulge it’s panoramic beauty.  To summarize in short, our Brea BSSW Ashram is a swell destination.

Rishikesh might be best known, if at all, to most of us as the place where The Beatles spent some months at an ashram back in the late 1960s.

As described in the local India Journal newspaper (see here)  in its coverage of the grand opening:

the monastic order is a socio-religious, philanthropic organization dedicated to the service of humanity, propagating the great human values of fraternity, tolerance and inclusiveness with non-sectarian, non-communal and nonpolitical outlook.  Ever since its inception BSS, with its goals of Universal Emancipation, has been tirelessly working for the upliftment of the downtrodden and the neglected section of society.

As for its programming, the BSS West--California chapter identifies daily offerings as including early morning prayer, yoga and meditation; noontime puja and bhog.  A puja is a ritual offering usually made several times daily to deities, as well as distinguished persons and special guests.  A bhog entails a ritual sacrifice to deities.  Devotional music and scriptural readings and an offering of lamps (arati) are also part of daily rites.  A limited schedule on Fridays through Sundays involves mid-morning yoga and meditation.  Weddings and spiritual lectures and classes will also be held at the temple.

The BSS West--California chapter identified the Olinda Village neighborhood as "welcoming and safe," although a recent Hindu temple project in Chino Hills has been involved in some controversy in the decade or so since it was proposed at a location on undeveloped land east of the Chino Valley Freeway (SR-71) between Chino Hills Parkway and Soquel Canyon Parkway.  A good summary of that project's history from the Pluralism Project at Harvard University can be found here and a certain blogger can well recall e-mail and phone correspondence with persons who expressed broadly-stated concerns about non-Western architecture and cultural practices not "fitting in" with the community majority, even though the ethnic, racial and religious diversity of our area has been, as in many places, shifting and evolving (and not always in very predictable ways.)  Nearly a quarter century ago, the establishment of the Tsi Lai Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights (see here) generated somewhat similar issues and a certain blogger who began working nearby in 1988 when the temple was finished can vividly remember those contested days, as well.

It will be interesting to see what reactions, if any, will arise with the establishment of the Bharat Sevashram Sangha here in Carbon Canyon.


Jack Schreyer said...

This is a very enlightening article as usual. Very interesting.


prs said...

Hello Jack, thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoyed the post.

JD40 said...

Thank you for your blogs of the area, very enlightening topics, having just moved to Hollydale MHP. Today I heard an event taking place over a loud speaker drawing my attention to the BSS facility. My wife and I walked over there to say hi and spoke to an individual who said they were celebrating a "festival of color" where they wore various colors painted on their faces. Your article helped me get an understanding of their beliefs and practices where I can (as a Christian) share the love of the "One" true God (monotheistic) and "sacrifice" offered once for all provided by Jesus Christ. Keep up the good blogging!

prs said...

Hello JD40, welcome to the canyon and am glad you found the blog. Hope you find more to explore and learn about here.