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HINDU TEMPLE OF FLORIDA: 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; 5509 Lynn Road, Tampa, FL 33624; (813) 962-6890.

SHIV MANDIR: 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday; officiating priests are Pandit Balraj Maharaj and Ram Maharaj; 2001 N. Howard Ave., Tampa, FL 33607; (813) 907-6311.

DADA BHAGWAN’S GROUP OF TAMPA BAY: Satsang every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.; everyone is invited; call Ramesh Patel at (813) 926-1143 or Mukesh Patel at (813) 969-1740.

JAIN SOCIETY OF TAMPA BAY: Monthly bhavna from 3 to 5 p.m. every fourth Sunday; also, non-Jains can take Dev Darshan of statues made of marbles by sculpture-artist from Rajasthan; 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.; both events at Days Inn hotel at Fletcher Avenue and Interstate 75; call Kini Shah at (813) 503-0715 or Pradeep Bavishi at (727) 525-5400.

VISHNU MANDIR: 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday only, discourse by Pandit Vishnu Sharma; 5303 Lynn Road, Tampa, FL 33624; (813) 654-2551.

SANATAN MANDIR: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday; 311 East Palm Ave., Tampa, FL 33602; (813) 221-4482.

SHRI SARASWATI DEVI MANDIR: 9:30 a.m. to noon Sunday only; officiating priest is Pandit Purnanan Sharma; 16220 Livingston Avenue, Lutz, FL 33559; (813) 264-1539.

SHRI RADHA-KRISHNA MANDIR: daily morning arotik at 7 followed by Srimad-Bhavatavam class; 6 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday Bhagavad-Gita class followed by prasadam; 14610 N. 17th St., Tampa; (813) 971-6474 or click on

BAPS SHRI SWAMINARAYAN MANDIR: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily; darshan is closed between noon and 4 p.m. but reopens at 4 p.m.; 9226 E. Fowler Ave. (between Interstate 75 and U.S. 301); (813) 986-5473.

MANAV DHARMA ASHRAM: sumiran is from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. first Thursday of every month; satsang is 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, followed by dinner; yoga classes begin at 7:30 a.m. Saturday; bhajans are 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every third Sunday; 7520 Caron Road, Tampa, FL 33615; call the ashram at (813) 889-7155, Himatlal Parekh at (813) 969-1661 or Ashok Modh at (813) 935-3439.

SHREE YAMUNA PREETI SEVA SAMAJ: Pushtimargiya Satsang Mandal invites Vaishnavs of Tampa Bay area to weekend Satsang sabhas and kirtans; 1340 Robin Road S., St. Petersburg, FL 33707; call Smitabein Patel at (813) 961-3816 or Himatlal Parekh at (813) 969-1661.

ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF TAMPA BAY AREA MOSQUE: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; 7326 E. Sligh Ave., Tampa, FL 33601; Tel: (813) 628-0007.

GURDWARA: 8 a.m. till 8 p.m. daily; 15302 Morris Bridge Road, Thonotosassa, FL 33592; (813) 986-6205.


HINDU SOCIETY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA: 8:30 a.m. to noon and 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry, FL 32707; (407) 699-5277.

GURDWARA, SIKH SOCIETY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA: 11:30 A.M. to 1 p.m. Sunday; 2527 W. Aloma Ave. (west State Road 426), Oviedo; (407) 805-0404.

MASJID AL-RAHIM, ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA, WEST ORLANDO: five times daily prayers and pray on Friday; 4962 Old Winter Garden Road, Orlando, FL 32811; (407) 523-7882.

SARASWATI DEVI MANDIR/INDO CARIBBEAN CENTER: Sunday service is from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; all special days observed with worship; 1453 N. Pine Hills Road, Orlando, FL 32808; for information, call (407) 522-1988 or click on

SHRI SHIVDHAM HINDU TEMPLE AND BRAHMRISHI YOGASHRAM: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily; 460 O’Berry Hoover Road, Orlando, FL 32825; (407) 380-2661 or e-mail

SANTOSHI MA TEMPLE: bhajan and aarti first Friday of every month; 10900 Park Ridge Gotha Road, Windermere, FL 34786; (407) 996-2830.

SHRI DEVI BHAVAN: 9 A.M. TO 11:30 a.m. every Sunday; Pandit is Eshwar Persaud; 6206 W. Amelia St., Orlando, FL 32835; (407) 822-8057.

SHRI LAXMINARAYAN MANDIR: 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday; 269 N. Klondike Ave., Pine Hills, FL 32811; (407) 877-7916.

SHRI SWAMINARAYAN MANDIR (BAPS): 1325 W. Oak Ridge Road, Orlando, FL 32809; (407) 857-0091.

POINCIANA HINDU MANDIR INC.: 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. each Sunday and on special festivals; 3999 Monterey Road, Kissimmee, FL 34758; (407) 873-2679.


SHRI SWAMINARAYAN TEMPLE: 2793 New Tampa Highway, Lakeland, FL 33815; (863) 682-8260.


ISKCON OF ALACHUA (International Society for Krishna Consciousness): founder is A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, P.O. Box 819, Alachua, FL 32616; (386) 462-2017.


SHIRDI SAI CENTER: 4707 Pleasant Grove Road, Inverness, FL 34452; for timings of the center and any other information, call (352) 860-2181 or e-mail


HINDU SOCIETY OF NORTHEAST FLORIDA (HSNEF): 714 Park Ave., Orange Park; for information, call (904) 269-1155 or click on


SOUTH FLORIDA HINDU TEMPLE: 13010 W. Griffin Road, Southwest Ranches, FL 33330; for timings and classes at the temple, call (954) 438-3675 or e-mail

SHIVA VISHNU TEMPLE OF SOUTH FLORIDA: 5661 Dykes Road, Southwest Ranches, FL 33331; 9 a.m. to noon and 6 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and holidays; call (954) 689-0471 or click on

SHIVA MANDIR: 3000 N.W. 29TH Ave., Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309; for information, call (954) 735-3560 or click on

ISLAMIC CENTER OF BOCA RATON: 3100 N.W. FIFTH AVE., Boca Raton, FL 33431; for information, call (561) 395-7221 or click on

SIKH GURUDWARA: 1600 S.W. 60th St., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33331; for information, call (954) 680-0221.

Send information on upcoming events to Nitish S. Rele, Khaas Baat, 18313 Cypress Stand Circle, Tampa, FL 33647
or e-mail
Deadline for submissions is the 18th of each month to be included in the next issue.

Pandit Vishnu Sharma

Deepavali is celebrated in honor of three things. The first being the passing of the old and heralding the New Year based on lunar time measurements preceding the Vikram era. This day is identified as Amavasya (the 15th dark night of the month of Kaartick), which will be on Oct. 21, 2006. The second reason is in honor for bountiful crops at the beginning of the fall harvest. The third reason is the anticipatory longing for Hari-Prabodhini (i.e., end of chatur-maas).

Firstly, the New Year is a time when we reflect on the past. We analyze our accomplishments and learn from those experiences. We wish for betterment and more success in the coming year. Secondly, the bountiful crops are a representation of our blessings and prosperity. It symbolizes all of our wealth. It provides for our nourishment and good health, from which we get Shakti (energy) to perform our duties and uphold responsibilities. These two situations are synonymous with all things that are happy, pleasant and prosperous. It is also a joyous time in which we gave charity, thanks to God in prayer and strengthen family bonds.

On this occasion, we personify and appreciate God in the form of the Goddess Laksmi. Why? Because She is the embodiment of beauty, wealth, good health and prosperity. She is called Shobha (spiritual wealth) and Sampati (material wealth). She is the source of Nau-Nidhi or the nine accomplishments of life. Narad Muni once described this as the night of Kowmdi (light of the moon) and Suk-Sukta (people sleep with happiness). This is a special night for the Goddess. On this night, all the Devatas, led by Lord Bramha, pray to Her to come out of the Kamal (the 56-petal lotus flower) giving Her praise and recognition as Deep-Jyoti and Pati-Vrata. She had taken shelter in the Kamal while Her husband, Lord Vishnu, was in mahasamadhi for the preceding four months, known as Chatur-Maas.

As Deep-Jyoti, she would give light and happiness to the world. As Pati-Vrata (loyal wife), she would make preparation in anticipation of Lord Vishnu’s awakening from His mahasamadhi on Ekadasi (11 days later). In a dialogue between Narad Muni and Shounak Rishi, we learned that when she came out of the Kamal, She went on a journey to seek the home of any devotee(s) for the next 11 days. Narad said that She found the home of Satyasharma because it had the only lighted diya in the totally darkened city of Mathura. This was a blessing that Satyasharma received from Lord Shiva.

After this visit to the home of Satyasharma, everyone now became cognizant to the fact, that they must light up their homes and surroundings on this night, in anticipation of being visited by Mata Laksmi. In their belief to make sure that they get the attention of the Mother on this night, the people would place many many lit diyas around their homes. Hence, the word deep-avali, which means rows and rows of lighted earthen lamps.

There are four other celebrations, two preceding and two following the actual night of Deepavali. On triodashi krishnapaksh (the 13th dark night), prayers are given to the Yam-Devata in an act called Yam-Deep-Danam.This is done in honor of our departed ancestry. Also, on this night, prayers are done unto Maharaj Kubera (custodian of the treasury) by recitation of the Svasti-Vachan. This day also is known as Dhan-Teras.

On chaturdashi krishnapaksh (the 14th dark night), we celebrate the victory of good over evil by praying to Lord Krishna for his destruction of Narak. This day also is called Narakasur.

On Amavasya (the 15th dark night), we celebrate the occasion of Deepavali by praying to Mata Laksmi.

On pratipada suklapaksh (the first bright night), five sets of activities are performed.

They are (1) Gokriyan – worshipping the cow; (2) Margapahli Bandhan – a tug of war game between the royals and the locals; (3) Vaman Puja – Lord Vishnu’s vistory over King Bali; (4) Goverdhan Puja – Lord Krishna’s victory over the egotistic behavior of Lord Indra; (5) Ann-Koot – Bountiful preparation of prasaad and food for the Goverdhan puja.

On dvitiya suklapaksh (the second bright night), we celebrate the occasion of Bhratri Dwitiya or Bhaiya-Dwij. This is more commonly known as Raksha Bandhan, which represents an exemplary exhibition of a sister’s love for her brother.

Deepavali is celebrated with much pomp and pageantry. With the Swastika sign (for good luck) and Rangoli (attractive designs of decoration), every home is decorated with rows and rows of some form of lighted configurations. Businessmen pray to Laksmi for financial gains.

Youngsters indulge in dazzling pyrotechnics and we all exchange the “nutan-varsah-bhi-nandan” (happy new-year) greeting. Among all the religious celebrations, Deepavali is the only one that is universally celebrated by all Hindus. It has broken the barriers of caste, linguistic differences, geographic cultures and ritualistic dogmas.

Contrary to some popular opinions, Deepavali is not a celebration of Lord Rama’s return from his 14-year absence from Ayodhya. Common to both occasions were the lighting of many many diyas. Other than that, there is no relationship or correlation of one with the other. For further clarity, Lord Rama’s return was on Saptami Tithi, Vaishaka Krishnapaksh. Deepavali is on Amavasya Tithi, Kaartick Krishnapaksh. The difference between these two dates is six months and eight days.

Pandit Vishnu Sharma is a priest at Vishnu Mandir, 5303 Lynn Road, Tampa, and can be reached at (813) 654-2551.


Swami Suryadevananda

Seeing things as they are

Rama asks the Sage Vasistha where God is, and how He can be reached. The great Sage Vasistha replies that God is not at any distance from us at all. His presence can be felt within as ‘pure intelligence’ and, externally speaking, as the world, or creation. The world, or creation, is the ‘Presence of God’ as pure intelligence that somehow appears fragmented as external objects and persons because of an error in perception.

We have come to give names for appearances that are perceived, but this does not alter the oneness of substance, which is the reality rising as forms. The activity in forms strengthens the perception of spatial separation to which we attach names and qualities for reference. But the power with which the differences are presented vehemently to the senses and mind insist on them being accepted as realities, and not as the processes that they are. They are processes because they have a beginning and an end, having arisen for a specific purpose. This purpose, when fulfilled, will cause the form to subside in their previous form, or to evolve into another form for another purpose, which seeks _expression through the play of forms.

This play of the waves on the ocean becomes the focus of our attention, and we see only the waves — completely forgetting that they are ocean only. The ocean does not change in form or substance of being just ‘water’ with the rise and subsidence of waves which are nothing but the movement of energy through the substance of water. If this is broken down further, it is atoms of hydrogen and oxygen that unite to present the substance we call water, and then the same energy or intelligence that brings about this substance of water moves through its own self and presents myriads of forms within its own being. Cosmic intelligence pervades all of what is seen as matter as the bonding force and still presents diversity in appearance by localized points of vision as perception.

The Supreme Soul

Rama raises a question about the form of the Supreme Soul, the knowing of which one attains to liberation. The Sage Vasistha replies that this Supreme Soul is not an object of perception as we perceive external objects, and he gives an analogy of how we can be conscious of our mind, even while moving about. This analogy, and others used throughout the scripture, are not to be taken literally but as examples that point to something subtle — a subtlety that cannot be expressed through verbal _expression. The truth, pointed to, is to be realized — each for one’s self — in one’s meditation.

Rama asks how the Absolute and Infinite Reality also can be present in everything and still remain Absolute. The Supreme Soul is devoid of any visible form, says the Sage Vasistha, and the best course is to know the Supreme Being as Truth who is the only Being, and in whom all this seems to take place as a real experience. God is, at the same time, transcendent and immanent, and this the mind cannot accept because of its limitations. Here comes the need for empowering the higher mind with conviction, which arises through logic and inference; a conviction arrived at that can stand over the doubts and limitations of the lower mind!

Tremendous self-effort is called for in this lofty attainment of abidance in the Truth of All, as externality consciousness is vehemently presented externally through perception and erupts internally through the grooves formed in the mind by our own likes and dislikes. The battle seems to be external and internal but what is calling our attention is the recognition and acceptance of God as the multiplicity which our senses and mind insist is diversity only. We see the world and have dealings in the world; how can this not be real? This is what we are faced with but just as when we are driving a car on a rainy day, we have to be extra careful even with the wind-shield wipers working as we just do not get the clarity and we somehow compensate for this in many ways. We slow down, keep a bigger distance between cars and have all the lights on; in the same way we will need ‘all-round protection’ of great love for the ideal, unflinching adherence to truth and relentless self-effort in our journey.

This is the reason sincerity in approach and great ardor is called for in spiritual life. It is like shifting the capital of a country; great turmoil is created. There is resentment felt at all levels as some feel that they have something to loose and the benefits of the new location are not felt for a while. There is much opposition, even within the ranks of the party that felt it was a good idea initially. It is not till the implementation gains momentum that the murmur and grumbling of the disgruntled turns into dissatisfaction and even resentment. One has to be prepared for this right in the beginning itself, and to enter into the life spiritual thinking it is an activity like many that we are engaged in, it is not like this. Spiritual life is the harmonizing of all aspects of our existence; seen and unseen; known and unknown and living in the principle of the spirit that pervades all of these.

Swami Suryadevananda is with The Divine Life Society, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, India. He can be reached at by email.

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