Reverential namaskaram to you. The students, teachers and management of Maruthi Vidyalaya convey their devotional thanks to you for the inspiring and enlightening HINDUISM TODAY. I am 82—a retired central government servant—now serving as honorary president of the school. After reading your April/May/June 2013 issue’s Publisher’s Desk article, we can see that Hinduism gloriously fulfills all the qualities of a sublime religion. It has the integration of a universal culture with perennial and enduring life values. The five religious dimensions, embracing the divine lineages and sampradayas, encompass all gurus and kulas, leading to the fulfillment of life and bliss—of dharma and moksha. I felt inspired to write in thanks for the gems of knowledge and wisdom you have placed in this magazine.
Your discourse—writing, interviews and articles on people, events, ideas and values in the magazine—is like an open university, where we get our distant education. I request you send us videos of Himalayan Academy, the temple complex and campus on Kauai as a visual education for us.
It is my regular practice, a religious ritual, to read and understand HINDUISM TODAY and to talk to our students and teachers about the treasure trove we get every quarter. For this distant education we get about Sanatana Dharma, all the way from Kauai, I am the extreme sevak.
We have learned well from you that devotional practice without philosophy is superstition, and that philosophy without devotion and selfless service, is sheer pedagogy—armchair dialogue—creating disharmony and conflict in the world. You have, through this special issue, dispelled false ideas and views of many intellectuals and religious creeds which state that religion and culture are different and distinct aspects. But it is religion that is the real source of culture, and it is religion which integrates society and nations. The all-embracing significance of Sanatana Dharma is as universal as the sky.
This recent issue has given a graphic account of the challenging and sublime trek to Amarnath. We enjoyed the illuminating and inspiring “In My Opinion” piece of Partha J. Miller, as well the passing on of the dharma through sacred dance by Mrs. Hema Rayagopalan. We loved the spirit and education of the sacred Siddaganga math in Karnataka, and the festival at the campus in Austin showed us that Hinduism shines universally and eternally, all across the Earth. With reverent pranams.
BANGALORE, KARNATAKA, INDIA
Guide Our Youth
Thank you for another excellent issue of HINDUISM TODAY (Oct/Nov/Dec 2013) with so many interesting articles. The article “Guide Our Youth” by Aneesh Bairavasundaram is especially important. He has brought to light the difficulties of growing up Hindu in the US. Interestingly, he has also offered a partial solution: Sunday youth classes, also known as Bal Vihars or Bala Mandirs. If Hindu parents of young children get together in every neighborhood, meet at a definite time on weekends and teach the basics of our dharma, then young children will feel proud about their heritage and do well in life There are many websites, books, DVDs and CDs to help parents and children. Some have developed detailed curricula and handbooks for teachers on how and what to teach. One such website is www.chinmayamission.com. Any parent wishing to start a Bal Vihar should visit this website. I hope parents all over the world take up this challenge and instruct young children about their glorious heritage.
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
I would like to respond to recent letters about why Westerners wish to convert to Hinduism, and whether they should be referred instead to Christianity (HINDUISM TODAY, Jan/Feb/Mar, 2014). Reincarnation is the easiest way to relocate to the US. When I was born—before immigration was opened to Hindus—it was the only way. There were no Hindu parents available here at that time, so we just had to do the best we could. Many of us, like myself, found parents who had themselves rejected the dogma of Christianity, while others did come through Christian or Jewish parents. But as we grew up, we all searched for the religion of our soul, finally finding it in Hinduism. Our own Gurudeva (founder of HINDUISM TODAY), having immigrated by the same means, willingly brought us fully into Hinduism. Despite physical appearance, we are Hindus. Many people continue to immigrate through reincarnation, even today—many more doing so than there are Hindu parents here to accommodate. Thus there are Hindu souls wearing Western bodies of all ages, searching for their true religion. This is not to say that every Westerner interested in Hinduism is a Hindu soul. But many are; and in my opinion it is unwise to indiscriminately attempt to send them all “back” to a religion that may never have been their own.
KAPAA, HAWAII, USA
The HINDU PRESS INTERNATIONAL article, Hinduism in America: A Call for Proposals, (November 14, 2013) has several interesting ideas. The most interesting to me and my friends, some of whom include senior swamis, is the call for input into “American Hindus of Non-Indian Extraction: Who are they?” This is a topic that is fuzzy, presumably because if non-Indian Hindus are deemed lower caste, then the massive interest in Hinduism and yoga in the West will suffer—to everyone’s detriment. Would it be possible for HPI or HINDUISM TODAY to write an article answering this question of the place of non-Indians within Hinduism? Additionally, such an article should include information on who makes such determinations, how authoritative and binding those determinations are and something about who listens to them.
OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA
Recently I was driving my close relative to the airport. He is well educated with double masters, and just for interest, I asked him, “How many second-generation Hindus marry Hindu spouses?” His answer shocked me. “About half,” he said. Though a rough estimate, it got me thinking. I realized my cousin had married a Christian. Second-generations Hindus know more about Christmas than Mahasivaratri, and some even celebrate Christmas by exchanging gifts and waiting for Santa Claus. This shows the openness of Hindus to all faiths, but it may very well be a weakness that is diluting Hinduism. There are over two billion Christians today. Compared this to Hinduism—the world’s oldest religion—which is practiced by about one billion people. I believe the main reason Christianity is so well structured towards growth is that it is easy to practice. Islam’s rising numbers are even more interesting, with 1.5 billion people, it is growing quickly. To help our children continue to be Hindus and to avoid significant decline in our religious population, we need to look at things creatively and keep the attention of the current generation of young adults. We could do this through social networks, camps and other methods available through Internet.
IRON MOUNTAIN, MICHIGAN, USA
Hinduism Outside India
The reason I’m a great fan of HINDUISM TODAY is that it is the only magazine known to me that thinks of Hindus and Hinduism beyond the borders of modern India. If I’m concerned about the Hindus outside of India and would like to know more about the activities of the Cham Hindus of Vietnam [See p. 34], the Indonesian Hindus of Bali and other islands, the plight of Afghan Hindus and their happy lives in Europe, or the Hindu royal priests of Thailand and their activities, the only solution is HINDUISM TODAY.
Unfortunately, all Hindu magazines in India seem to be limited to ideas related to Hinduism as practiced and lived within the modern political borders of India. They see Hindutva as more-or-less synonymous with-Indian nationalism, neglecting the need to view Hinduism in the light of what has been termed by many historians as the Greater India (Brihattara Bharata or Mahabharata), which today, in my view, doesn’t only comprise certain countries of the Indian subcontinent or South East Asia, but also the Indian diaspora and the Hindus of all lands.
I have developed a deep interest in Hindu religious scriptures found in Java and Bali. I look forward to study Kavi (Old Javanese), the sacred language of the Indonesian Hindu scriptures, which is suffering terrible neglect after Java was converted to Islam. I realized the depth of Hindu influence on modern Java after exploring what is termed today as Kejawen or Javanese beliefs, which are still very prominent and influential among the Muslims of Java (even some of the Indonesian presidents have been followers of these beliefs) and are nothing but yoga and Vedanta in a disguise to suit the Islamic culture. Recently, scholars from the Netherlands have discovered some extremely rare ancient Javanese scriptures on yoga, such as Dharma Patanjala, a Saiva text presenting the philosophy of Patanjali in a Javanese version. (The original Sanskrit version is said to have been lost in India.) This has further fueled my interest in the Indonesian form of Hinduism.
It is believed in Indonesian Hindu traditions that Sage Patanjali visited Indonesia and is highly revered there as the foremost of the Pancha Kushikas and Pancha Rishis (Five Rishis) who introduced Hindu thoughts to Indonesia around 2,000 years ago.
At present I’m working on writing a Hindi translation of Sara Samuccaya, a scripture that commands the same amount of respect among the Balinese Hindus as the Bhagavad Gita does in India. Sara Samuccaya, a text composed by Sage Vararuchi (who flourished prior to 300 BCE), is an anthology of shlokas from the Mahabharata, but completely unknown in India.
My dream is to forge a stronger relationship between the Indian Hindu religious leaders and these non-Indian Hindu traditions. Having been developed over millennia independently from India, these are are somewhat different from the forms of Hinduism that we practice in India today, but they are no less relevant and connected to the wider picture of Hinduism, due to their pledge of allegiance to the Vedas, the ultimate source of all mystical knowledge and wisdom in Hinduism.
In “Quotes and Quips” (Jan/Feb/Mar 2014), the quote, “Take up one idea. make that one idea your life...” is incorrectly credited to Pramukh Swami Maharaj. It is actually a quote from Swami Vivekananda.
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Tuning into the Blessed Vision
How to help disseminate life’s most vital knowledge
NO ONE WAS THERE TO EXPLAIN,” DR. HEMALATHA SOTHYNATHAN says of her days growing up as a Hindu in Malaysia. “I understood neither the teachings, the scriptures nor the practice—why we go to the temple, why we prostrate, why there are so many Gods. None of it was relevant to my life.”
Hemalatha became a dentist and developed a passion for teaching. Today she is a lecturer in Dental Hygiene and Therapy at Nanyang Polytechnic in Singapore. Her life has been one of intense challenges, At times she even looked into other faiths, hoping to find direction and meaning.
One day she heard the founder of HINDUISM TODAY, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, speaking at a temple. For the first time, Hemalatha experienced clear, relevant answers to her most pressing questions. “I began reading his magazine, and it gradually brought me understanding and perspective. I realized that life has a magnificent purpose and experiences come to teach us and move us ahead. Most convincing of all was the spirit that runs through the magazine, the spirit of oneness, of the primacy of the inner life over the outer, which brings everything together into a one blessed vision. I repeat tat tvam asi as often as I can.
“Challenges are still there to be faced, but they no longer confuse or discourage, for one sees them for what they are. In the context of the greater picture, they are not that important. Just do your best, move on and don’t worry. I feel blessed to have been touched by these teachings.”
Hemalatha regularly donates generously to the Hinduism Today Production Fund, which is a part of Hindu Heritage Endowment. “I know that many who are overwhelmed by their lives would respond as I have if they were to come in contact with the magazine, and so I have to do what I can to help spread the blessings.”
If you feel as Hemalatha does, please donate to the Production Fund at hheonline.org/donate_pf. Do it soon, while you are thinking about it. You’ll be doing a great deal of good.
Hemalatha with daughter Kalpana: “After reading Hinduism Today a long time, I am free from worry, anxiety and scattered energies. I am more peaceful; my path is smoother.”
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