Aum Namo Narayanaya. We are very grateful to you for the nice write-up about the ashrams of Rishikesh in HINDUISM TODAY’S Jul/Aug/Sep 2014 issue. The report is very balanced and informative, and one could see that great pain has been taken to present Rishikesh in a way that is accurate. The article is also a good guide for people who want to know more about Rishikesh and its ashrams. Our special regards to Mr. Rajiv Malik for his contribution and Dev Raj Agarwal who is an excellent photographer. Congratulations!
MUNI-KI-RETI, RISHIKESH, INDIA
I happen to have a hardcover copy of Himalayan Academy’s trilogy of books on Siva. I enjoy them immensely. Every morning after my shower, I spend a few minutes reading these books and I am about to finish the first one, Dancing with Siva. After reading, I meditate on Lord Siva and Murugan who happens to be our family Deity. As a descendent of Sri Appayya Dikshitar about whom your books say so much, I am naturally attracted to the form and substance of Siva. HINDUISM TODAY’S is a delightful magazine and I am a lifetime subscriber to this wonderful publication.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN, USA
Your article “Hinduism: Religion or Way of Life” (Apr/May/Jun, 2013) is superb. Many times we heard this erroneous statement, “Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life,” and we had questions in our minds about it. Your article has squarely answered this issue very well, removing the delusions in the minds of millions. It is better to say that Hinduism is definitely a religion, with a highly recommended way of life as described in the Hindu restraints and observances—the yamas and niyamas. If all the religious element were removed from Hinduism—which cannot be done—millions of people all over the world would suffer for obvious reasons.
LIBERTYVILLE, IL, USA
Namaskar, I have received the recent issue of HINDUISM TODAY’S. I am so appreciative of your magazine and would like to thank you so much. Here in Bangladesh, over 25 million people are Hindu. I do not know how many read the magazine or know about it in Bangladesh, but I have benefited from the web issues regularly. Thank you again.
I got a chance to read HINDUISM TODAY magazine (Apr/May/Jun, 2014) last night and really loved so many of the articles and the care with which they were presented—“Anger Management” was very inspiring. The inside cover painting of the realization of the Absolute was brilliant. I loved that triptych so much that I had to cut it out.
Namaste. Can you please explain the following symbol used by HINDUISM TODAY?
LANSING, MI, USA
It is symbolically rich. First, it is a set of quotation marks, to imply the writings, the articles and the opinion pieces in the magazine. Secondly, it is a cross-section of printing rollers, to represent the process of the press. And thirdly, it contains a reverse swastika to represent the auspiciousness of Hindu Dharma that is the essence of what we publish.
Just as a temple, sacred place of worship or a prayer is vital for all religious people, so also are religious markings important—especially for Hindus. Almost all Hindu traditions have their independent, separate tilakas. They have interesting histories. There are about 80 types of tilakas, the most diverse are found in Vaishnava Sampradayas. These tilakas are important because they establish the identity of the followers.
Apart from their religious identifications, tilakas are the symbols of holy and sacred occasions, events and announcements. Hindu women put a red dot on their forehead to declare their marital status. In ancient India, after the demise of the ruling king, the new ruler was announced with a Raj-Tilaka. The coronation ceremony was incomplete without putting this special mark upon the new ruler. Before going to war, soldiers were given send-offs by their wives or mothers by putting Vijay-Tilakas to wish them success. The same type of ceremony was performed when they returned home. Thus, tilaka was and still is a very important symbol in India.
DR. J.M. DAVE
NEW DELHI, INDIA
In regards to the recent Publisher’s Desk article, humanism has been very effective in popularizing the Socratic role of reason and the scientific method to understanding life, but it is incorrect in its assertion that man is the measure of all things. Man is, of course, not the measure, but necessarily must be the measurer since it is he who asks! Unable to step outside his consciousness, he cannot escape the subjectivism and become an unbiased scientific observer of himself or of life.
By deifying human reason, humanism merely substitutes one epistemology and subsequent search for Truth for another. It fails to impose its theistic skepticism on its own premises of reason and the certainty of truth. In that sense it is bad metaphysics—presupposing that there is Truth and that Reason is the path to the discovery of such Truth. The result is a dogma of anti-theism.
The philosopher Heidegger in his “Letter on Humanism” criticized humanism as claiming to reject the “superstitions of metaphysics,” yet failing to acknowledge that position is in itself a metaphysical proposition. Nietzsche also criticized humanism as merely a popular secular theism, that responded to man’s increasing skepticism of the need for God, substituting a new belief system for an older now much criticized one.
Positively, humanism does challenge individuals to examine ideologies rather than merely accept doctrines due to faith or culture or tradition. This healthy skepticism can lead to a more liberal interpretation, even humanistic or existential interpretation of events, but it can also result in discarding outdated and unhealthy ideas. One example is that few Hindus today subscribe to Manava Dharma Shastra (Laws of Manu) and its strict caste system. An example from Chapter 12: “If a wife, proud of the greatness of her relatives or her own excellence, violates the duty which she owes to her lord, the king shall cause her to be devoured by dogs in a place frequented by many.” Or from Chapter 3: “Let him not marry a maiden with reddish hair.” Our skepticism and willingness to challenge these ideas—framing them as cultural traditions of specific times—allows us now to permit a man to marry a red-headed woman and inhibits our having wives devoured by dogs! Progress! Yet these specific changes in ideologies are admittedly an epistemic rejection of scriptural authority. Hence, the dilemma and great challenge—for not only students, but all of humanity—is to discriminate which authorities and traditions are to be challenged and which are to be sustained and accepted. Except for the strictest ideologues, few would argue that thoughtful skepticism is unhealthy for the individual and for society.
If we reject the notion of man as capable of pure rationality, then humanism fails in its acclamation that the application of reason and the scientific method of positivism can lead mankind to the attainment of unfettered knowledge. Establishing a system of ethics based solely upon “rationality,” as Kant so valiantly tried with his categorical imperative, ultimately fails. It falters because such efforts are biased in their premise that man is a rational being, and thus fail to account for man’s psychology—the emotions, instincts, impulses, needs, environmental conditioning, etc.—in sum, man’s irrationalism. Relying totally on rationalism, as the humanist tries, will always fail to account for, or to comprehend, mysticism, spirituality and non-rational philosophical schools.
BRIMFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS, USA
I just wanted to say its an extremely laudable effort on your part, with relation to the magazine. I believe a greater circulation and greater awareness would be ideal in the spread of contemporary Hindu thought and tradition, in a world plagued by ignorance and intolerance. Do let me know in what way I may contribute intellectually in the Hindu Renaissance. I am an emergency physician in India who is also an aspiring writer. I believe firmly in the spread of our thought process. It would be wonderful if I may be able to contribute articles or my thoughts in this regard.
PUNE, MAHARASHTRA, INDIA
Peter Beecham’s letter in Hinduism Today (Apr/May/June, 2014) has raised some very important issues about Non-Indian Hindus. Can anyone declare that they are a Hindu? Does any one person or group have the authority to deny or accept this person? What are the criteria to say that one is a Hindu and another is not?
Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism is not an organized religion. There is no single authority to decide on these questions. I am not a scholar or an authority but I would rely on following shlokas from ancient scriptures to guide us. I am sure some may not agree with what I have to say. But difference of opinion and debate are acceptable in Hinduism.
One shloka in Ishopanishada says that God resides in all—everyone and everything—in this universe. The energy that we call God is the common denominator in all. If all Hindus believe in this teaching, then anyone and everyone who wants to can become a Hindu. Another shloka from Mahopanishada states: “A less-evolved person says, ‘This is a friend. That one is not.’ Whereas, to a spiritually evolved person, the whole world is a family.”
When we are born, we cry when we are hungry or wet. We do not care if our mother had any sleep or food. As we grow up and evolve, we start thinking of our family, friends, community, etc. When we evolve spiritually, we find that we all have the same God within us and learn to love and care for everyone. Our views are always changing and hopefully evolving in the right direction. Those who discriminate against people of different races are young in their evolution.
A 2009 issue of Newsweek, published an article titled “US views on God and life are turning Hindu.” The author says that more and more people are accepting the views of Hinduism in the US. There are millions of people all over the world who are practicing yoga. This is one of the steps for achieving the ultimate “yoga” or union with God. Even an atheist who does not believe in God can be accepted as a Hindu if so desired.
VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA
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WHY IS THE WORLD IN SUCH A MESS?” a Mauritian devotee asked Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (Gurudeva), founder of Hinduism Today, in 1983. The guru answered with a trenchant “Because people don’t live dharma.”
For those present, the moment was electric. The world’s most vexing, heavy-to-bear, perennial question had just been reduced to its simplest expression. Nothing is wrong with the world or with human nature, these simple words told us. It’s not the fault of these people or those people. Rather, what is needed is for dharmic living to increase, wherein all of us can participate. Those beautiful souls who do their best to lead honest, selfless, sincere, worthy lives are already contributing much. And for those among them who yearn to have even more impact, they can do it to their heart’s content by supporting the world’s dharmic movements and institutions.
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A global force for dharma: Gurudeva at the United Nations on August 25, 2000, holds the U Thant Peace Award he had just received “for his contribution toward world peace in founding and developing Hinduism Today as a global force upholding Hindu dharma, to the benefit of Hindus and non-Hindus worldwide.”