Greetings of the day! I hope you are doing well. I was so excited when I saw our school news in the Jan/Feb/Mar 2021 edition of Hinduism Today—Global Dharma: “School’s Tree Project Honored.” I am short of words to express my gratitude. On behalf of the Ooty Gurukulam family, I convey my hearty thanks for this recognition. And I am glad to inform you that the gurukulam has got another feather on its crown. The Green Earth Appeal Organization has conferred our school and our School Correspondent with the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Excellence Award 2020. It is a proud movement for all of us. The District Collector of the Nilgiris attended and presented the certificate to us. 

Balram Suriya
Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India

A Debate on Faith and Reason

I was disappointed to learn that my letter on “Spirituality’s Wise Faith,” published in Hinduism Today, Oct/Nov/Dec 2020, was so grossly misunderstood by Mr. W. Kennedy (“Faith and Reason,” HT, April/May/June, 2021). How can he argue with “intuition and direct experience” in the context of belief in God as emphasized in Hinduism? There is an old axiom, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” If we cannot even find out how a pudding tastes without eating it, how can we expect that mere “reason and science” can provide “proofs for God’s existence and goodness,” as claimed by Mr. Kennedy? Laws of science, reason and logic rely only on mind and senses, which are finite, limited and, therefore, incapable of proving the existence of God, who transcends mind and senses. According to Katha Upanishad, “Spiritual understanding cannot be attained by tarka (logic).” Swami Vivekananda, while commenting on this verse, states, “Logical reason has been judged to be inconclusive by every religious system; but what these systems offer as a substitute is revelation as contained in their respective scriptures. Other philosophical thinkers offer intuition as such a substitute. Vedanta, including Buddha, accepts the position that the highest spiritual experience is beyond the reach of logical reason; but it adds the proviso that neither revelation nor intuition should contradict logical reason.” Mr. Kennedy has a faulty understanding of our Upanishads

Pradeep Srivastava
Albany, California, USA

Skanda Shashti

Suran Poor (Conquest of Demons) aka Skan­da Shashthi is a six-day religious festival for Lord Murugan, second son of God Siva. Many devotees of Lord Murugan fast for six days, depending on their physical health. On the sixth day there is great excitement as the war between Lord Murugan and the demons is enacted. Before going to battle, Lord Murugan receives the Vel (a lance) from his mother, empowering him with strength and courage. The demon appears with different faces and disguises to challenge Murugan: first in his natural demonic form, then hidden within clouds, within fire and in a mango tree. Lord Murugan’s powers enable him to see through the demon’s disguises.

Eventually, the foe is defeated and transformed into a peacock and a cockerel by Lord Murugan. After the defeat there is great rejoicing. 

While living in Amsterdam, I witnessed this drama many times at our small Ganesha temple. Now, visiting from our UK home, I am seeing it from a different angle. These demons abide within us if we give them a safe space to occupy.  I say occupy, because they infiltrate and occupy this space by using their power and strength.
When this happens, the faces of anger, resentment, jealousy, selfishness, greed, desire and pride manifest and cause disturbance. 

Dramas, shlokas and poetic verses are metaphorically used to help explain the complexity of the human mind, intellect and consciousness. These plays and stories offer simple ways to live our daily lives away from the fearful, painful dreams of the mind. They illustrate an enlightened, conscious method of freeing ourself from the grip of torment and merging into the greatness that surrounds us, to accept joyfully what is in the moment.

Mrs. Puvaneswary Roberts
Lisburn, Northern Ireland

Two Clarifications on Yoga 

I enjoyed the article “Today’s Yoga Evolves Beyond the Body” (January/February/March 2021), especially the discussion on the inner (antara) limbs of yoga. Unfortunately, the author states that the word yoga means “to join.” The author also references the Patanjali Sutras in the article. I need to make it clear that the meaning of yoga in Patanjali’s work has nothing to do with joining.

There are 32 definitions for the word yoga in Apte’s unabridged The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, one of which is “joining.” Another is “application or concentration of the thoughts, abstract contemplation, meditation, (esp.) self-concentration, abstract meditation and mental abstraction practiced as a system (as taught by Patanjali and called the Yoga Philosophy).” The second meaning is correct here.

In sutra 1.2, Patanjali says, “yogash chitta vritti nirodha,” which means “yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the chitta (mind-stuff).” This is the state of yoga. When your mind is stilled, you are meditating; you aren’t joining anything. This is also emphasized by Vyasa’s commentary on this sutra in which he states that “yoga is samadhi.” This is unequivocal. 

The article also says that “yoga enables a process of self-discovery, of joining with one’s true self.” While this sounds nice, how can you ever not be joined with your true self? You are yourself and always will be. I would prefer to say that yoga allows you to understand that your true self is different from the body, mind and all matter. It is simply pure consciousness. 

I maintain that the goal of yoga, according to Patanjali, is moksha, or complete separation of purusha from prakriti. It should be noted that Patanjali never uses the word moksha. Instead, he uses the word kaivalya, “absolute aloneness, absolute independence, liberation.” However, Vyasa uses both kaivalya and moksha in his commentary, indicating that the terms are synonymous. In sutra 1.3, Patanjali states the goal of yoga: “tada drashthuh svarupe ’vasthanam,” or “Then the seer abides in its own form forever.” He talks about this in several sutras (e.g., 1.51, and 2.26), and Vyasa’s commentary supports this idea. This means that moksha is when the purusha disconnects completely from prakriti and is in a state of kaivalya, or absolute aloneness, forever.

Kurt Matthys
West Chester, Ohio, USA

The Sacredness of Kashi 

Editors’ Note: In our April/May/June issue we featured the remarkable spiritual publications giant, Gita Press. Here are excerpts from an interview with Radhey Shyam Khemka (1933–2021), who served as a trustee and editor of the Gita press journal Kalyan. Rajiv Malik conducted the interview for Hinduism Today in 2015.

Gita Press has over two thousand publications. Our aim is to spread and propagate the traditions of Sanatana Dharma, Hinduism, through our work. According to Sanatana Dharma, the ultimate aim of the soul is to seek liberation from the cycle of life and death. When a soul is born as a human being, God bestows the intellect and the capacity to think. The aim of Gita Press is to help human beings on the path of liberation. 

Kashi (or Varanasi) is known for its masti (spirit of fun, blissfulness). In fact, a popular saying here is that the joy of Kashi is available at a very low price. The city is said to be more fascinating than all the three lokas (worlds). It is said this most ancient place has existed since creation came into being. Due to its special location and geography, it rarely faces natural calamities, such as earthquake tremors. Everything here is so sacred that, as per tradition, even particles of earth are not taken outside, lest any small beings or insects that go with the soil would be denied the liberation to which they would be otherwise entitled just by passing away in Kashi. Holy water from the Ganga is also not taken outside.

When I was a student, I observed that even the not-so-well-off people of Kashi used to work just a few hours each day and spend the rest of their time enjoying life with their friends. After working half the day, a barber or a rickshaw puller would take a boat across river Ganga for a bath and then have some bhang with friends. During this trip they wore just their undergarments and a simple wrap-around cotton cloth known as safa, which they also used as a towel for bathing. This custom was followed even by the rich. Meanwhile, they would do their chanting and worship of God. This joyful routine is known as safi pani. After that, they might play cards for entertainment and then take a boat back to their homes. People performed safi pani either in the morning or in the evening, depending on their work schedule.

Making Mandirs Cool for Kids

In the article on raising Hindu youth (“Raising Children as Good Hindus,” April/May/June, 2021), Swamiji comments that Hindu mandirs aren’t cool anymore, given the amount of substitutes for people’s attention today. Instead of adjusting to this reality, why not try to find a way to make the mandirs cool again? Some of my best memories when I was younger, for example, included running through the mandir halls playing tag. As we ran through the various rooms, sometimes we caught a glimpse of a play or utsav that piqued our curiosity. If it was really interesting, many times we would join in, and perhaps ask the pujaris for more information. In this way I learned about many aspects of Hindu history, such as the stories of Prahlad, and Durga and Mahishasura. If we could look for similar (perhaps more digital for this generation) activities to promote in mandirs, we may encourage more youth to come to the mandir, where they could get indirectly exposed to our activities, and slowly learn more about Hinduism in the process.

Rutvij Holay
Irvine, California

Finding and Bringing Out the Poet Within

How a Malaysian supports our magazine in the way that means most to him

 Dr. arjunan subramaniam is re-puted as Malaysia’s top revenue lawyer. At age 80, he is still the star advocate sought out by countless eminent personalities. “But that is not who I am!” he protests. “What matters to me, what I live for, is God—God and poetry. ” 

Only those Hinduism Today readers who live in Malaysia know the barrister, but all will recognize the poet whom they meet in every issue, on the inside back cover (including this one).

“Since I was a child, I’ve always enjoyed silence, solitude, reflection. I see poetry as that which allows us to live. I believe there is a poet living in everyone. He may be deep or well hidden, but he’s there. Poetry is the soul’s expression, the soul’s longing to know God. I write poems whenever I feel the need, whenever, for a moment, I cannot contain my feelings, my appreciation. It’s a work that never ends. When I’ve written my last poem, I think I’ll just fade off and wake up in the inner worlds. 

“I discovered Hinduism Today in the mid 90s, just in time to help me navigate a turning point in my life. I wanted to help the magazine in return, but do more than just donate, I wanted to give back some of the intangible wealth the magazine had given me. One day, a dear friend of mine passed away and in my mourning, I conceived to weave God, poetry and Hinduism Today into a garland of love and sweet remembrance. I submitted the poem as an advertisement and, when I saw it in print, it came to me what to do: I would offer tangible support at the same time as my soul’s best expression. I trust that once in a while a poem may grab the attention of an inner poet somewhere out there, but it is not my main purpose. I am graced to participate thus in this divine journal, which is itself a poem, and find it fitting that the poems come on its last page, as a goodbye affirmation: ‘Yes, when all is said and done, we put God first. All else is second.’”

Dr. Arjunan has submitted perhaps 100 poems to Hinduism Today advertising over nearly 30 years. Further, he has booked all the inside covers through the year 2030, paid for it all in advance, and refused the customary repeat-ad discount. “It is up to each soul to support the magazine in his own way,” he urges readers, “in the way he or she loves most.” Yes, generosity in any form is always an expression of the inner poet. Help Hinduism Today continue to be Hindu dharma’s eloquent voice at: Contact us:

1-888-464-1008 •