I was so moved to read Shurjendu Dutt-Mazumdar’s essay ( “Finding Self Identity, ” Oct/Nov/Dec, 2004) prompted by your query about the challenges immigrants face of respecting their religious culture while living day to day in the Western world. Simply, his opening line brought tears to my eyes. What wisdom he shows for such a young person! The world is in a very dangerous phase right now. I know very little of the Hindu religion and the myriad cultural traditions in India, but I do know about humanity, and I don’t think that hate or intolerance is natural. I could insert any country and religion into his statements and know that it could ring true for them all. If we simply respected our past, our present and our future and the past, present and future of every individual and lived with tolerance, we would be a far more successful world society.
Boulder, Colorado, USA
I believe that the views presented by Dr. Morales in his article ( “All Religions Are Not the Same, The Problem with Hindu Universalism, ” Apr/May/June, 2005) are erroneous, and that the subject matter is of such critical importance that the views presented therein must not be left unanswered. Hindu Universalism is not borrowed from outside Hinduism as Dr. Morales claims, but derives from the richness of its own soil. Hinduism’s universal outlook is the prime reason for its remarkable syncretism, for the great hospitality of its people and the tremendous resilience of its civilization. To ask Hindus to abandon universalism is not only to reify Hinduism but to promote a kind of parochialism that Hinduism has never harbored in the course of its long history. I have written an article, “The Sword of Kali, ” available at http://www.boloji.com/hinduism/101.htm [http://www.boloji.com/hinduism/101.htm], in which I have taken pains to comprehensively examine, based on Hindu scriptures as well as the philosophical doctrines of Hinduism, all the arguments of Dr. Morales, and I find that the case he makes is erroneous and specious. I do believe that Dr. Morales is doing good work in the cause of Hinduism, but his philosophical critique of radical universalism presents a false view and should not go unanswered.
I think the article by Dr. Morales completely misses the point by suggesting that Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda promoted the idea that “all religions are the same.” Reading of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna or the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda will immediately enlighten the reader to the fallacy of such a suggestion. Sri Ramakrishna by his following different religions did demonstrate that all religions are like paths leading to the same goal. However, the religions or paths remained distinct. Not only are the individual religions different, but Sri Ramakrishna cautioned against following the less desirable paths, i.e., religions.
Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Dr. Morales may have a point about the misuse of the concept of the “harmony of religions “–so necessary in this day of clash of religions and civilizations. Despite his apparent knowledgeableness about India, it is incredible to discover that his knowledge of Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda is so rudimentary! The way he writes about both of them, and the other events in 19th-century India, seems similar to what Wilhelm Halbfass writes in his book, India and Europe. As we all know, the concept of the “harmony of religions ” can be interpreted narrowly, namely that “all are the same, ” and that we should be tolerant. However, acceptance of pluralism is the requirement. All the trouble springs from the Abrahamic religions proclaiming their superiority. Surely, the Vedic “Ekam sat, vipra bahudha vadanti, ” “Truth is one, sages describe it variously, ” can be interpreted as authority for pluralism. Taken as a revelatory statement (subject to verification in personal experience–not mere relative belief) it points to the One Reality to which all aspire and interpret differently. With the article as published, the impression is gained by the uninformed reader that Ramakrishna and Vivekananda are to be blamed.
Our feature on Radical Universalism struck a philosophical nerve. But our critics above are missing the point. Dr. Morales is not against Hinduism’s magnificent and precious universalism, which is integral to its philosophical outlook and a key to its exemplary tolerance. He does take issue with its too common “radical” counterpart, specifically “the idea that Hinduism somehow teaches that all religions are equal, that all religious are the same, with the same purpose, goal, experientially tangible salvific state and object of ultimate devotion.” This all-religions-are-one view, he asserts, has done much to weaken Hinduism. Also, it should be made clear that Hinduism Today has always honored Ramakrishna and Vivekananda for their remarkable lives and gifts to Hindu understanding and pride.
Hinduism Today Editorial Staff
Hinduism Today Is Beautiful
Thanks to Hinduism Today for the knowledge we enjoy by reading the beautiful magazine. Your team is doing such a great service by bringing Hinduism to our doorstep here in Australia. What a joy it is each time to pour over the glossy, colorful articles. It’s getting more and more attractive as the years go by, like a young maid. These articles capture the hearts of readers. Many of my friends here borrow it from me the minute they see it. I await each issue eagerly. It is the only Hindu magazine that caters to the older and younger generations alike. I know it will be popular eternally among generations to come.
Epping, NSW, Australia
The article by Dr. Amrit Pal Bindra ( “The Importance of Hindu Names, ” July/August/September, 2005) was beautiful, but there was an oversight. Respectfully, African/Black Americans did not “adopt ” Christian names and faith. Christianity was forced on Blacks during the slave trade.
Oakland, California, USA
Hindu Names Mispronounced
This is in reference to the article about naming children ( “The Importance of Hindu Names, ” July/Aug/Sep, 2005). I have a son whom I chose to give a Western name. Here is why: My name is Vidya, and in the sixteen years I have been in America I have yet to meet one American who can pronounce my name the way Indians know how. It is either pronounced “Vidia ” (sounds like “video “), “Witchya ” or “Wide-ya.” Many comment negatively about my name, and as a sensitive person I have been offended by their comments. The latest incident occurred in a doctor’s office where the nurse told me that my name was the strangest name she had ever heard. When I objected vehemently, she only offered me a superficial apology. I didn’t want my son to go through all this negativity by only giving him a meaningful, beautiful Hindu name. So, I compromised by giving him a Western name and then performing a namakarana vidhi and giving him a Hindu name as well. I struggled with my decision, and I was criticized by my Hindu family and friends. But my son now understands, and he likes his Hindu name, which I use often. As the author states, most Americans relate better to a Western-sounding name, and in my opinion it does lead to greater acceptance. We in India and America do not dress like our ancestors did. We have accepted Western-style clothing, speak a Western language, so what’s wrong with a Western name? My son does not have to pronounce it ten times for his doctor, teachers and playmates, and I save myself a lot of headaches when filling out forms and making appointments, to name a few obvious benefits.
Ledgewood, New Jersey, USA
I wish to state my appreciation for the article by Satguru regarding mixed-religion marriages ( “Mom, Dad, Meet Elaine, ” July/Aug/Sep, 2005) and relate my own experience. In March 2001, I began dating a man who immigrated to the US from southern India. Eventually our relationship became exclusive, and I encouraged his plans to open his own retail business since he would be staying in the US permanently while his family continued living in India. I dreamt how wonderful our life would be together. How could it possibly be otherwise? All we needed was love, sensible goals, well laid plans and perhaps eventually I could quit my job and work with him when it made sense financially. I had had some interest in the culture for several years before and, while it was coincidental that he was Indian, our relationship deepened my curiosity. Thus, I began to learn Hindi and study Hinduism. I had spent time with my boyfriend’s cousin and her husband on many occasions and believed they knew me to be of excellent and likable character, so I felt assured that all things would work in my favor. Quite frankly, if I had any glimmer in the beginning of what was to befall me at the end, I would have run quickly in the opposite direction. He had always promised he would tell his mother about us, and I took this to be truth. Evidently before this actually occurred, his cousin figured out how serious our relationship had become, alerted the family in India in August 2002 and marriage arrangements to a woman of their choosing began in earnest. The realization of how influential my boyfriend’s family was finally made itself abundantly clear to me. I couldn’t just let him go! I had to stand up and do something to save our relationship! I enlisted a trusted friend of his family to intervene, to tell them of all my good qualities, what a wonderful family I come from, that I would willingly convert to Hinduism so much did I love their son and brother. But that, it turned out, was all for naught. He took time to think things over, made his decision and by October the dream was ended without my having any say in the matter at all. It cut me to the core losing the man I loved so deeply, knowing that he had turned away from me and learning that what I am mattered more than who I am. It has taken many months to heal and move forward, though admittedly sometimes I miss him still. While I don’t agree with Satguru on every point, the predominant role of culture and religion in a Hindu/non-Hindu relationship lends prudence to giving his words very serious consideration indeed.
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Please Send Books to Prisons
I would like to thank you for the one-year subscription, but I would like to give up my subscription to the prison itself. I think it could do a lot more good if it was in open circulation, which only happens if it is sent to the prison and not to an individual. A lot more inmates would have access to the magazine and be able to learn about Hinduism. There are literally thousands of people in here who don’t practice any faith, and every time I speak about the ideals of Hinduism, they seem to be interested. I would like to encourage temples, monks and priests to send books to prison libraries, as these libraries do not have very many Hindu books. It will be good for the growth of Hinduism and humanity.
Boscobel, Wisconsin, USA
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