It was a delight to read the article “Emerson and the Transcendentalists” in the July/Aug/Sep, 2015, issue. Many of my Indian expat friends are unaware of his role in the spiritual legacy of America. Emerson did indeed seem to have lived the life of an “American brahmin” in the wider sense.
He came from a family of ministers, teachers and mystics. He began lessons at age three and became a bramachari as a student of Harvard Divinity School at age 15. As a householder, he married, had children and was a benefactor of a large clan of relatives and fellow transcendentalists. His benevolent nature is evident from a study of his horoscope.
There is one factual error near the end of the article. Ram Mohan Roy had hoped to travel to America but died in 1833 in England. Emerson did read Roy’s writings, at least those in English, beginning in his college days in the early decades of the 19th century. He traveled to Europe the summer that Roy died, and would no doubt have met him, except for Roy’s sudden death. Emerson had expressed the hope of bringing him to America.
It would be another 60 years before a Hindu scholar would appear in America: Swami Vivekenanda. Perhaps it was just as well in the long run, as Vivekenanda was better prepared as a spokesperson of the broader Hindu awareness, whereas Roy was a virulent critic of many aspects of Hindu practice.
TULSA, OKLAHOMA, US
Reactions to Ramanuja
I am more than casually disappointed with Lakshmi and Tim Sridharan’s article in the Jul/Aug/Sep, 2015, issue of HINDUISM TODAY on Ramanuja, titled “Love of God Is Vedanta.” It represents the prototype of the long-known Vaishnavite intellectual arrogance which has resulted in the progressive decay, not revival, of the Sri Vaishnava movement in Tamil Nadu.
The article is replete with high-handed comments about the superiority of Ramanuja over the Advaitins of his day. This includes conceited phrases such as the “arrogant Advaitin” and the usual victim mentality that somehow every Saivite was out to hurt or maim Ramanuja. They also point out Ramanuja criticisms of Adi Shankaracharya, including the apparent lack of credible answers to the locus of ignorance in the Viveka Chudamani.
The article undermines nondualism as a prima facie reality. It is the authors who fail to understand the reality that the locus of ignorance within nondualism is embodied in ignorance of the Self. It’s the dvaita argument that falls short, not the advaitin one.
SETAUKET, NEW YORK
In the article on Sri Ramanuja in the recent edition of HINDUISM TODAY, you mentioned that he lived from 1017 to 1137. That is a rich 120 years of saintly life that reformed and enriched our Sanatana Dharma at a critical time of its existential crisis.
BOISE, IDAHO, US
The July/Aug/Sep, 2015, article “Singapore’s Sri Thendayuthapani Temple” was a wonderful piece, written with such warmth, portraying the Chettiar community in a positive light for their role in building many wonderful Murugan temples all over Southeast Asia. Congratulations and keep it up. Our salutations go to HINDUISM TODAY for such a remarkable publication that every Hindu the world over should read.
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
I wish to send my appreciation on the accurate facts you have shared on Singapore’s Sri Thendayuthapani Temple. I am also a Nattukottai Chettiar and the owner of a community Facebook page. It has 5,000 Nagarathars as friends from 82 countries: bit.ly/NattukottaiChettiar
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
Every third month I wait in great anticipation as to what HINDUISM TODAY will feature; each magazine always has something special, different, spiritual and thought provoking. HINDUISM TODAY reminds me what a great religion Hinduism really is.
Your April/May/June, 2015, issue featuring cows is outstanding. I never knew that so many swamis are in service of cows. The whole article, “Bharat’s Blessed Bovine,” was so touching, so spiritual. It is disturbing to note that India is the number one beef-exporting country in the world.
One Step at a Time
There has been considerable angst about the nonreligious ways in which meditation is frequently taught in the West. Many are concerned that the goal, God Realization, is being obscured by the mental, physical and emotional benefits of the practice. But is it wrong to allow beginners to focus on the immediate, tangible results of their efforts? Such a focus provides the incentive to continue and deepen their practice, since they will quickly perceive the benefits in this life.
Similarly, when climbing a ladder, it is better (and much safer!) to keep one’s attention on the step one is presently standing on—and the next, when ready to proceed—rather than on the very top step. Proceeding up the ladder one step at a time will eventually bring the individual to the top.
KAPAA, HAWAII, US
Youth on the Right Path?
Hinduism in a nutshell is: dharma (universal code of conduct and righteousness), karma (law of cause and effect) and punarjanma (cycle of births and deaths called samsara). It’s a pity young Indians, especially first- and second-generation youth in India and across the globe, know nothing of their vast and rich intellectual heritage.
New Civil Rights Class
The US Supreme Court has recently ruled that same-sex marriages are legal in all 50 states. If it hasn’t done so already, I urge the Hindu community throughout the US to open its hearts and minds to same-sex families and to offer the vivaha samskara to same-sex couples who wish to share in sacred marriage. After all, we are all God loving God.
WHITTIER, CALIFORNIA, US
I was explaining to one of my Jewish doctor friends about the richness of Sanatana Dharma and how Lord Rudra is considered the oldest Deity. He immediately pointed out that Hinduism practices the caste system, which he considered bad. I wondered how he got this bad impression about my rich religion. After reading the California Textbook Corrections PDF—bit.ly/textbook-corrections—I understood how school kids are being brainwashed to have a negative impression of Hinduism. I thank you all for your efforts to correct the mischievous information in the schoolbooks of California.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CALIFORNIA, US
I write in reference to the Jan/Feb/March, 2013, letter from Mikael Aktor titled “Why No Temple Access?” In the 21st century, where more and more Westerners are looking towards Hinduism for their spirituality, the barring of a white Hindu from a Hindu temple in India is sad. I wonder if temple managers in India are aware that Hinduism is not for Indians alone. Whites, blacks, browns and others are connecting to Hinduism and accept it. Temple managers in India must realize this and welcome new converts into their temples and feel proud.
In Malaysia we do not refuse entry to converted Hindus. Even non-Hindus are welcome in our temples. Quite recently an American Muslim wanted to enter our temple in Seremban. We welcomed him and he even partook of a sumptuous vegetarian meal with other devotees. As for Mikael Aktor’s case, he could have been mistaken for a tourist—perhaps he was not appropriately dressed. He could have informed the temple manager that he was a Hindu and shown proof, if he had any. I am sure that all Hindus are very sorry that Mikael Aktor was treated the way he was and we apologize profusely for the ugly incident.
People have developed misconceptions about India’s unity on account of its diversity. One might ask: “Why does India survive as a united and democratic country with all of its differences?” One of the reasons is that Hindu culture teaches us vasudhaiva kutumbakam: the world is family. The statement is not just about peace and harmony among societies in the world, but also the saying is about a truth that somehow the whole world has to live together, like a family. This is the reason why we Hindus think that any power in the world, big or small, cannot have its own way and disregard the ways of society.
Another uniting feature is our epics and scriptures. Ethical and moral values that we get from our epics—Ramayana and Mahabharata—have provided us with an inexhaustible stock of stories, symbols, families, metaphors, all to understand and pass down wisdom for any social and personal relationship of the day.
The challenge for Indian leaders is to keep the current state of unity despite all of our differences. The dynamic and living reality that is Vedic culture is deteriorating. It’s time now to rejuvenate it or else India will be in danger. By keeping its Vedic customs, culture and thinking, India will continue to be incredible.
SANJAY KUMAR BISSOYI
NEW DELHI, INDIA
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Our Publisher’s Vision for HINDUISM TODAY Magazine
As interest in Hinduism grows, so does the need for a clear, objective and authoritative voice
WE THANK OUR GENEROUS READERS for having helped the HINDUISM TODAYProduction Fund increase its principal by $100,000 over the past few years. “This has been a great step forward,” shared publisher Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami. “The increase in grants is making it possible for the editors to produce fine articles more regularly, such as the ones on Nepal and Varanasi in this and previous issues.”
As a next increment in developing the fund, he and the staff have now set a hefty new goal—to build up the principal so that grants can one day cover all of the magazine’s production costs.
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“To sustain this level of performance, the fund’s principal needs to grow to five million dollars, and the plan is to raise that amount through estate gifts. And, being future gifts, it will be a long time, of course, before they all actually come into the fund. That is ok. Our goal is simply to establish that, according to our donors’ pledges, the day is definitely coming when HINDUISM TODAY is finally financially secure.
“This is an important project, a serious project,” Satguru stresses. “Today, we see more and more Hindus searching for clear, unambiguous knowledge about their faith and looking to Hinduism Today for answers. This is natural, for the magazine is unique, as far as we know, in that it gives friendly coverage to the immense variety of Hindu ways and traditions with objectivity and clarity, distinguishing each one from the others, so that there is no confusion. This makes a vast Hinduism approachable, understandable and, especially, usable to great advantage. It is vital to keep this information flowing. Over the next 50 years, I see that trend toward more interest in Hinduism continuing to grow, among Hindus everywhere and non-Hindus as well. I see a groundswell of enthusiasm that will parallel the growth of yoga over the past 50 years. Hinduism Today needs to be there, fully endowed, fully functional and able to continue its important work.”
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Publisher Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami at Hinduism Today headquarters in Hawaii: “The growing interest in Hinduism started among the youth and now permeates all age groups; it is also spreading to many countries”