Sudarshan Kapoor spends a lot of time thinking about world peace.
The 81-year-old, a professor at Fresno State for nearly half a century, still teaches one class at the university: “peace building.” And for the past 18 years, the northeast Fresno home he shares with his wife, Veena, has doubled as a meditation center — a central San Joaquin Valley satellite for the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization.
The latest in peace building for this peaceful couple is promoting a day that celebrates brotherhood and sisterhood, “Raksha Bandhan.”
If we were to focus on what is the inner love and peace within us, that’s universal. So that’s really brotherhood and sisterhood.
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The Kapoors say while this ancient, annual celebration will be observed by many Hindu and Sikh people on Aug. 29, they hope people of all cultures and faiths will partake in the tradition.
“Just like we have a Father’s Day and a Mother’s Day, why don’t we have a brother and sister day in this country, also?” Sudarshan Kapoor asks.
He says such a day is badly needed.
“People are so alienated, people are so isolated, people are so insulated. We need to break those barriers. How to do that? I think this is one of the vehicles to promote that brotherhood and sisterhood — real love and harmony amongst us as brothers and sisters. That’s my dream.”
I consider it a very powerful vehicle to promote peace — real divine love that we all need, the real divine protection that we all need, regardless of whatever faith traditions or cultures or ethnic backgrounds that we come from.
There are a number of historic and mythological stories linked to the origins of Raksha Bandhan, the Kapoors say, where once a year, a sister ties a “rakhi” — a kind of bracelet — around her brother’s wrist, meant to represent a “bond of love and protection.” She also gives him a dessert, meant to “promote sweetness in the relationship,” Veena Kapoor says, and the brother presents his sister with a small gift.
“The traditional thinking was the brothers are supposed to protect the sisters, the sisters give them love and blessing, but, you know, who can live up to that?” Veena Kapoor says with a laugh. “It was the 18th century. Not now.”
These days, she says, both brothers and sisters can share in the protecting and blessing.
Traditionally, Raksha Bandhan is only observed by siblings, but the Kapoors want to see the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood extended to all.
Sudarshan Kapoor, who doesn’t have a biological sister, receives rakhis from friends, and each August, Veena Kapoor also ties a rakhi for friend Imam Seyed Ali Ghazvini, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno.
The Kapoors are inviting the public to celebrate Raksha Bandhan at their home center on Sunday, Aug. 9, with meditation, a talk and rakhi-tying ceremony by Sister Gita Patel, coordinator of the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center in Los Angeles who has taught meditation for more than 35 years. Like all meditation, talks and classes at the Kapoors’ northeast Fresno home, the event is free.
The Kapoors say they find more meaning in Raksha Bandhan than its original cultural significance.
“The deeper meaning that we understand is that the real protection and love is between a human being and God,” Veena Kapoor says. “We really tie the bond of protection and love with the Supreme Being.”
The love and protection of the divine is for everyone.
While Raksha Bandhan is traditionally a Hindu observance, the Kapoor’s Fresno center is not affiliated with any religion.
“Spirituality comes first, organized religion comes later,” Veena Kapoor says. “Neither Buddha nor Christ started out forming an organized religion. They just spoke from their heart, from their understanding, so that’s spirituality.”
Before rakhis are tied during Sunday’s gathering, there will be meditation to promote connection with the self.
“We get so caught up with our own imperfections and putting ourselves down for what we are not doing right, but we are not really looking at the goodness that is underneath, so the attempt is to enable each one to look at the goodness inside,” Veena Kapoor says of meditation.
“The peace and love that we want is inside us, and the ritual enables people to really feel and experience that for themselves first. So that then, when they connect with others, that will radiate. They will be able to give naturally.”
Celebrate brotherhood and sisterhood in Fresno
- The Kapoors will host a free Raksha Bandhan event at their northeast Fresno home, 7319 N. Fourth St., a satellite meditation center for the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 9. The gathering will include meditation, a talk, refreshments and rakhi-tying ceremony by Sister Gita Patel, coordinator of the organization’s meditation center in Los Angeles. An RSVP is not required, but a phone call to (559) 435-2212 is appreciated so the Kapoors know how many people to expect.