To Love or to Loathe Life
Death. That subject of your recent in-depth article, “10 Reasons Not to Fear Death,” July/Aug/Sept, 2018, fascinates all. However, I reacted with concern to some sections. Please indulge my response:
The article’s fourth reason, titled “Death Is Liberation,” is a standard Indian philosophical belief. Yet, my objection is the inclusion of Socrates here. Plato, in his Phaedo, describes Socrates’ final moments, after having chosen to drink poisonous hemlock rather than live in prison. It is debatable whether his instruction to Crito to give Asclepios a rooster was, really a denouncement of Life as a disease, and an endorsement of Death as its cure! Some argue that Socrates mourned not the loss of his life, but the end of the dialectic process (the Socratic method of debate). He chastises his supporters for mourning his approaching death, urging them instead to mourn the loss of the dialectic—the debate—the ongoing philosophical conversation.
If we interpret Socrates’ statement as meaning living is a sickness, then we should certainly judge him a buffoon! Do we Hindus really view life as a terminal disease?
I found the article “In Defense of the Full-Time Homemaker,” Jul/Aug/Sept, 2018, problematic and full of contradictions. I absolutely agree that homemaking and raising children is under-appreciated and undervalued in today’s society. But the article couches this argument in gender stereotypes and Hindu conservatism, while ignoring the fact that due to harsh economic realities, many low-income and poor families cannot “choose” homemaking. The perspective of the author—as someone who gave up a corporate career to be a homemaker—is not the reality for most struggling families around the globe. In most modern economies, the sheer economics of having a family means that this “ideal” is out of reach for low-income or single-parent families.
As a feminist Hindu, its important to me that we question Hinduism’s underlying patriarchy and the presence of misogyny in smriti and, yes, even in shruti. This article was the first time I have ever encountered the idea of fundamentally different dharma for men and women. On reflection, it is not surprising that we can find ancient texts that codify and lay out these gendered ideas that are built on patriarchy and on codified cultural practices at the time. But sthri dharma goes against everything I have been taught as a Hindu in my family and by my guru.
So, no, I will not be passing that on to my two sons. They will be raised knowing that boys and girls have the same duties: to do right action with right intention, to live by ahimsa, to see God in all, to pursue the four purusarthas: dharma, artha, kama, and moksha. We don’t need to rely on gender roles and differences to talk about dharma.
It’s such a privilege to go through this amazing article that brings up a relevant scenario of our society. Somehow, the world is sidelining the idea of nurturing the smallest unit of any society, that is, home. So I agree with the author that taking care of a family is not about reproduction only, it demands so much courage to give up your ambitions and dreams in order to nurture a few lives and to create rock-solid foundations for a more promising future. In a nutshell, it is my conviction that morally and mentally strong people make a happy and contented society, and this begins at a grassroots level, with the HOME-MAKER!
QUATRE BORNES, MAURITIUS
After having read the article “In Defense of the Full-Time Homemaker,” I feel that the author has really emphasized the fact that the job of a full-time homemaker is not at all inferior to the careers of other women, but that it is equally as challenging. Without demeaning career-oriented women in any way, this article generally outlines the significance and importance of a homemaker.
I can easily relate to every bit of this article, having been a homemaker myself for the past eight years. The thought of being a homemaker was triggered by the fact that both my husband and I were working long hours, spending hardly any time with our children and, therefore, missing out on their early childhood days. Seeing them grow into fine young teenagers today, I can proudly say that I made the right choice to become a full-time homemaker.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
The decision to pause my career for my boys and my husband was not only fulfilling, but reassuring and satisfying. Though I’m very eager to climb that corporate ladder again, I know that until my children are grown up, being there for them, giving them homemade food, teaching them our family cultures, traditions and values, loving them and spending that precious time with my boys counts the most. Well done to the author, who has managed to reinforce the importance of the homemaker—the Shakti of the home.
I am delighted to see my article on Ramana Maharshi, extracted from my book Hail Arunachala, in the Special Feature story in the July/August/September, 2018, issue of HINDUISM TODAY. I hope the readers find it interesting.
Truth Is One
I always enjoy the Quotes & Quips section of your magazine. However, I was really inspired by the quote of Dnyaneshwar, “The enjoyer and the enjoyed, the seer and the seen, are merged in the non-dual, which is indivisible,” July/August/September, 2018.
Immediately came to mind the non-dual aspect of Brahman, as explained in the following verse of Bhagavad Gita: “The oblation is Brahman, the clarified butter is Brahman, offered by Brahman in the fire of Brahman; unto Brahman verily he goes who cognizes Brahman alone in his action” (Verse 4.24). This Nonduality is also in line with an Upanishadic verse, “All this is Brahman” (“Sarvam Khalvidam Brahman”).
What I found most intriguing, however, was that the numbers in the verse 4.24, if reduced according to the rules of numerology, namely, 4+2+4=10=1, would indicate to us that there is only one Brahman (Truth), reinforcing what Rig Veda teaches us: that “Truth is One; the sages have described It in numerous ways” (“Ekam Sat; Vipra Bahudha Vadanti”).
ALBANY, CALIFORNIA, US
It’s great that you are doing a piece on Dharma Speaks. The initial reason for starting the channel was to rebut the outrageous claims of Dr. Zakir Naik. As time went on, I was urged to put out more videos, and gradually the channel grew. Initially I was hesitant to put myself forward due to potential controversy over some of the topics covered (the interfaith comparisons).
Over the last month or two, I have had a change of opinion on this. As a result, in the next month I will be filming a short introduction to who I am, my motivation for doing this, etc. This should be released before July.
My inspiration for this channel (and everything else I do) is my master, Paramahamsa Vishwananda. I am a practising Vaishnava (a branch of the Sri Sampradaya). I regularly give talks and do an element of teaching in the main ashram near Frankfurt. I have recently just released a book, Avatars of the Master, with Hay House publishers. This opens up the wisdom of the avatar stories of Lord Vishnu. It’s out in India and Europe, and will soon be out in North America.
My aim for the channel is to present Sanatana Dharma in a way that is novel and fresh. My wish is to empower Hindus, so they are able to dialogue confidently with members of other faiths or, indeed, no faith. I am also keen that Hindus do not shy away from ritual and ancient tradition, and to do this I feel we need to reframe the whole debate of how we see life and approach Truth. Once this is done, I am confident Hindus and others will be able to recognize a powerful and intensely rational thread to everything we do. The ancient truths of the masters and shastras are eternal, but I can sense a need to update the narrative around them to appeal to the cultural conditioning of people.
Gratitude from the Mainland
Namaste, I have been gratefully receiving HINDUISM TODAY since it was a newspaper. I love this magazine and have been a subscriber for others, and contribute yearly. It has been delivered beautifully for many years. Your articles these last few years are just magnificent, too many to list here—you all are top-notch! Thank you every month for years of great articles.
NANCY WALDER, CALIFORNIA, US
I have been enjoying for some time your Hindu Press International (HPI). Thank you for your good service! Today, I was really appreciating the quote by Satchidananda Swami. This is good inspiration.
DR. SAMEER ANJALI, NEW YORK, US
This is an excellent way of keeping up the national integrity of Hinduism and disseminating the immensely valuable treasure of spiritual tradition and heritage of India.
✓ In the July/August/September, 2018, issue of HINDUISM TODAY, the editors misquoted a video from the YouTube channel of Dharma Speaks, specifically the narrative about caste. To quote Mayuran of Dharma Speaks, “The statement (in the article) that says ‘the British introduced caste’ is not entirely accurate. The video I made makes it clear that varna existed since the very beginning, but what the British did was fix and align the jati groups. In doing so, they exacerbated caste differences and hierarchies.”
Quoting from the video:
“The word caste is a foreign imposition, and is a blanket term that is used to describe two distinct ideas: that of varna and jati…. The British colonial rule, however, further cemented and exacerbated the now caste system. The census that was carried out by them forcibly fixed the different groups in line with the varna system. Despite many jatis no longer fitting into the ancient varna setup, individuals and groups were labelled and allocated a specific status by their rulers. The hierarchical constraints became set in stone, which further divided a nation and helped the British control the masses.”
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