Reaching Out in Covid Times

I have subscribed to HINDUISM TODAY magazine for two years now and find it inspiring and vivifying to my faith, although I am living in a nursing home at age 79 and am limited therefore in my ability to practice. However, my inner life is rich with devotion to Shiva, and I find japa-mala meditation to be a source of loving peace. My life has been fulfilled and transformed by my relationship of devotion to Shiva. In the overflowing of love for Him, I felt compelled by the nature of these pandemic times to express my devotion and to share a blog expressing my somewhat nontraditional, yet sincere, approach, thinking that it could be helpful to Westerners:


The Fetish Over Fair Skin

I want to expression my appreciation for your recent publication of Anu Kumar’s excellent piece on discriminatory attitudes towards darker skin. Looking forward to more articles from this astute, affirming and globally aware young writer.


2020 Hindus of the Year

At the onset I would like to congratulate Ms. Choodie Shivaram for her article “Our 2020 Hindus of the Year” in the October/November/December 2020 issue. Ms. Shivaram has done an extensive research work and data collection on the Dikshitar community, the priests of Chidambaram Temple. The quest to know who are these Dikshitars, their mythological background, historical background and touching base with the continuity of the age-old traditions in today’s world is outstanding. This article makes us realize how enriched our Hinduism is. On the other hand, it makes us sad that we are leaving our traditions, surrendering ourselves to the negative onslaught of pseudo globalization and modernization. I took special note of the author’s description of the temple management, with nine administrators and their democratic system of election. This, as an archaeologist, reminds me of the well-known Uttarameruru Inscription of Parantaka I of the Chola dynasty, which specifies the local government and its democratic way of electing council members. The same thousand-year-old democratic system is still being practiced in this South Indian hamlet.

This article in particular, and the journal H INDUISM T ODAY in general, has been a great reflection of our Hindu tradition and culture. It has reminded me to be grounded to our ancient roots and helped me to spiritually elate my thoughts while practicing Bharatanatyam, the classical dance of India, as well as in my Indological research.


Our Rivers Are Suffering

I read with interest Tulasi Srinivas’ article, “Bathing the Gods in Bottled Water?” (H INDUISM T ODAY , Oct/Nov/Dec, 2020). It is indeed sad and disappointing to learn about the pollution of our sacred rivers, and I sincerely hope that a concerted effort is being made to address the pollution issues. According to Chandogya Upanishad , “All this is Brahman” (“Sarvam Khalvidam Brahman”), which includes our sacred rivers as well. Mountains, trees, rivers, animals and humans have in them a common, yet multiple, life and are guided by conscious beings who are the attendants of the Earth Goddess, which again is a manifestation of Brahman. According to Kalika Purana , “We cannot know when looking at a lifeless shell that it contains a living being. Similarly, within the apparently inanimate rivers and mountains there dwells hidden a genie. Rivers and mountains take the forms they wish.


Shri Tulsidas

The article on Sree Tulsidas, as published in the HINDUISM TODAY April/May/June 2020 edition, narrates: “Rambola (Tulsidas) utterly adored Ratnavali (his wife). Once, upon returning from a trip and realizing that she had gone to her parents’ home (a common custom for young brides), he rushed to be with her. Amar Chitra Katha comics portray him using a corpse as a raft to cross a river, and mistaking a snake for a rope while climbing up to her window. Once he and his wife were face to face, she was so stunned by his intense dedication to her that Ratnavali reminds him of the impermanence of earthly love. She explains that while the body is a temporary reality of bones covered with skin, the love of Rama lives on forever. Shocked to the core upon hearing such wisdom from his wife, Rambola sets out on the path to Truth.”

There is a similar account in the life of Saint Bilvamangala. As per the Encyclopedia of Gaudiya History , “Although born in a South Indian brahmana family, Sri Bilvamangala Thakura fell down with a prostitute named Cintamani, who ultimately satisfied his deepest desire. He became attached and rabid with lust. Even immediately after performing the sraddha rituals for his deceased father he ran to enjoy her. A raging storm and tossing waves could not deter him. In lustful delusion, he held a corpse to cross a turbulent river. Finding the gate locked, he scaled the wall by grabbing a cobra, which he foolishly saw as a rope. Seeing Bilvamangala soaking wet, burning with desire, totally exhausted, Chintamani advised him, ‘You’re so much attached to this lowly bag of flesh and bones. Better you become attached to serving the blissful Lord Govinda. Go to Vrindavana, and there you will find complete satisfaction and eternal happiness.’”

You will note that the two stories describe almost identical situations. I used to think these saints were one and the same because of the stories. Can you confirm that they are indeed two different devotees born in different times and places?


Tulsidas and Bilvamangal are indeed two different saints. Tulsi was a Rama bhakta, while Bilvamangal was a devotee of Krishna. There are many common motifs in the stories of Hindu saints, and I believe this is a case of that. As these stories get passed down orally through the centuries, key incidents sometimes get “recycled” over time, simply to show the greatness of the saint and evoke bhakti in the hearts of the listeners. To ensure that our portrayal of a saint is as accurate as can be, we reference and quote widely accepted sources such as Bhaktirasabodhini and Amar Chitra Katha. Hope this helps!

Lakshmi Chandrashekar Subramanian

Pashupata Saivism

Jay Shivling! This is a letter about an article from quite a while back (“Pashupata Saivism,” March 1994). According to the Shiva Purana , Lakulish was born around the times of Krishna, i.e., nearly 4,500 years ago, and not, as the author states, around 200 ce. This latter dating is a serious mistake, repeated after Indologists, that goes both against the scripture and tradition. Further, there is no connection between Pashupata yog and Gorakhnath as some scholars believe. The founder of the Nath school, to which that Mahayogi belonged, was Adinath, or Lord Shiv Himself. Similarily, the Virashaiv school has developed independently. It was reformed into the Agamic tradition by Panchacharya Jagadgurus, beginning with Renukacharya, who lived during the times of Ramayan (end of Treta Yug). Before that, a succession of its teachers goes back to the Upanishadic period (end of Sat Yug) and belongs to the Vedic Puranic tradition. Otherwise, the article provides interesting information on pre- and post-Lakulish Pashupata yog.


Who Is a Brahmin?

In regard to the article “Who Is a Brahmin” (H INDUISM T ODAY October/November/December 2020), while the page is profound, the subtitle is both misleading and counter to what the Upanishad says. The subtitle is “What is it that truly distinguishes someone as being of the priestly caste.” As we well know, the priestly class specializes in and performs religious rituals. Such rituals are neither necessary nor sufficient to realize the Self, as Shankara would attest; although they probably are an anvil to discipline the mind and focus it. The main message of this Upanishad has been stated elsewhere as brahman charati iti brahmana: “The one who pursues Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, is Brahmin”—is belied by reducing the Brahmin to a mere member of the priestly class.


The Right to Work from Home

The stress of living a dharmic life is immense. It took Covid-19, in my opinion, to force top corporate leadership to surrender their negative opinions of work-from-home employees. Technology was available to allow this option, but changing the minds of bosses required dire and drastic events. I also believe that Gurudeva’s teachings about harmony within a family being the source for greater harmony within the world will be supported by employees working from home rather than being stuck in commuter traffic. The Golden Age required an end to old ways of business. Who could have imagined it would take a pandemic to bring worldwide business to a screeching halt.

I was employed for 25 years by Fortune 100 pharmaceutical and chemical companies that had their HQs in northern New Jersey. Until Covid-19, top leadership refused to embrace working from home even though it was very popular with employees. If an employee asked to work from home, either randomly or on a routine schedule, that employee was somewhat “blacklisted.” The corporation’s leadership was unwilling to accept and embrace work-from-home options even though the HR and PR departments needed these benefits to recruit and retain employees. This created a toxic environment of mistrust.

In northern New Jersey a 20-mile commute one way to work was extremely stressful and normally took about one hour. The roads were an obstacle course of repairs, construction and frequent fender-bender accidents. This resulted in both the morning and evening commutes being highly unpredictable. A mother or father with children waiting at home for dinner must have had an extremely stressful daily situation. Corporate six-figure jobs paid the bills, but the stress just from the commute was increasing year after year. I am excited for office workers that now can work from home. Covid-19 is a blessing in so many ways.


In This Topsy-Turvy Time, Two Things That Will Not Change

Help HINDUISM TODAY remind the world of Hinduism’s salutary teachings & practices

We asked our publisher, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, how our current turbulent times compare with other difficult periods of the past. “This time is uniquely intense,” he answered. “Virtually everyone everywhere is facing an unprecedented number of challenges, all at the same time. An unrelenting pandemic has impacted millions directly and disrupted the lives of countless more. People are having to adapt to loss of income or livelihood, staying home and reorganizing their lives in a multitude of ways. Powerful social movements and political polarities are growing around the world. Natural disasters are proliferating: super storms, wildfires, floods, sea-level rise and general environmental degradation. Changes are coming faster and faster, and it is difficult to imagine what next year, or tomorrow, will bring, or when things could return to normal. Having to deal with all of that, all at once, is unprecedented in recent times, and it certainly can be overwhelming.

“The idea is to not be overwhelmed. It is at challenging times that religion is most helpful, your best resource to find contentment, security and peace within. These qualities are a part of our immortal and enduring soul nature, always at our disposal. To help us bring these through, Hinduism offers myriad marvelously effective practices: raja yoga, bhakti yoga, seva, japa and many more. One selects the practice that best suits him.

“Hinduism Today has been reporting on ways people can cope, or are coping, positively. Some have seized the moment to become more spiritual, doing seva, for example, getting the whole family joyously involved, or sharing Hindu teachings to uplift the spirits of family members, friends and neighbors, or turning to online worship, attending pujas to their heart’s content at temples around the world. Others prefer hatha yoga or meditation and tap their soul nature in that way.

“So, amid frenzied changes, there are two solid rocks of stability that will never change and always be there for you. One is Hinduism’s unchanging eternal truths. The other is Hinduism Today, which for 41 years has disseminated the most valuable and salutary of Hindu teachings as widely as it could.”

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