Beyond the Classroom: Freshmen Experience World Religions

Freshman Joseph Coselli explores the Mandir, a towering structure with 12 domes and 136 marble pillars. (Christian Maines)

Within the span of six hours, freshmen experienced the traditions of five different faiths: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Freshmen visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a Hindu temple; Chung Mei Temple, a Buddhist temple; and the Houston Museum of Natural Science IMAX Theater Oct. 8 as part of their studies in World History I.

“It was very interesting to learn about the history of Hinduism and Buddhism as well as how and when their North American temples were built,” freshman Jayan Hanson said.

Buses departed for Shir Swaminarayan Mandir at 8:30 a.m. Students learned of common misconceptions about Hindusim as well as its core tenets before walking through the Mandir, a temple made of over 33,000 pieces of Italian marble and Turkish limestone.

“The architecture was extremely fascinating,” freshman Alex Osypov said. “I have never seen anything so detailed and magnificent.”

“I feel that you could’ve spent hours and hours staring at the intricately carved pillars,” freshman Annie Ren said. “They were so delicate that they practically looked like marbled lace.”

After walking through the Mandir, students boarded the bus to visit Chung Mei Temple.  Buddhist nuns demonstrated gongs and instruments used for ceremonies and led the class in a tour of the temple.  Freshmen ended their visit to the temple with a five-minute meditation session.

“I’ve been to a lot of temples in China, and the Buddhist temple we visited today was extremely authentic,” Ren said. “The aroma of spices that hung in the air was exactly like the smell of those in China, and it was very helpful and calming. The sutra chanting that followed right after the meditation period, however, was my favorite part.”

Students ate lunch in Herman Park before watching “Jerusalem” at the IMAX theater.  Produced by National Geographic and narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch,  “Jerusalem” explores the cultural history of the city through the perspectives of three teenage girls, one Christian, one Muslim and one Jewish. The film also includes images of Jerusalem taken from the airspace above, usually a no-fly zone.

“I thought the film was really eye opening,” freshman Frances Hellums said. “Just being able to see how close the different religions live and how little they know about each other intrigued me.”

World History teacher Barbra DiPaolo said, “The religions field trip is a chance for students to visit places where they would never have a chance to go on their own.”

Christian Maines

Staff Writer

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