Re: Hindu sacred texts

dhillon@chaph.usc.edu (Harry Dhillon) writes:
> Hey, fellow Indians.  I recently had an urge to explore some of the 
> Hindu literature, and finished Ann Stanford's translation of the
> Bhagavad Gita which I thought was really good.  I recently am reading
> some of The Upanishads which, though less poetic, seem to relay the
> same teachings. 

I urge you to find a teacher who has practiced the
teachings of these texts in his or her life and
learn directly from him or her.  Vedanta is not meant
to be learnt through translations or through casual
reading.  Though the translators mean well, misleading
interpretations are bound to creep in which undoubtedly
will confuse the unsuspecting reader.

The Upanishads themselves relate how their highest
essence were to be transmitted through personal contact,
from teacher to student.  The Chandogya Upanishad 
tells the story of SatyakAma, who after having speculated 
on the nature of the Supreme Reality and learning
some basic truths from the animals he encountered,
seeks out his teacher to learn the deeper essence of
what he has discovered.  

> I was just curious as to what goes on in Hindu temples and what significance
> texts (like the Vedas) hold today for Hindus in daily life.  Are people of
> other faiths allowed in these temples, too? 

Some temples allow people of other faiths; the larger
ones do not, mostly out of fear that the visitors are merely 
unrespectful tourists seeking to see something strange.
This xenophobia is sometimes motivated by bigotry as

For most Hindus, the Vedas are a mass of unknown teachings
and have no relevance to daily life.  For those elites who
do know something about them, only a few actually have 
studied them in the traditional way, and even fewer have
studied their meaning.  These few, however, are some of
the best minds to be found in India.