UC Irvine Rejects DCF Gifts
IN FEBRUARY, 2016, four gifts of $1.5 million to the University of California Irvine to endow four professorships were withdrawn by the Dharma Civilization Foundation. The chairs were in Indic Civilization and Religious Studies, Sikh Studies, Jain Studies and the “Swami Vivekananda-Dharma Civilization Foundation Presidential Chair in Modern India Studies.”
Shortly after the gifts were announced, the History Graduate Student Association at Irvine opposed the chairs. They charged that the donors sought influence in the process of selecting the individuals for the chairs in an effort to forward their own “social, religious and political agendas.”
The gift documents state that the holder of the Indic Civilization and Religious Studies chair “will have a high level of proficiency in innovative, interdisciplinary research on Indic Religious Studies, … the equivalent of native proficiency in Sanskrit and in at least one contemporary Indian language and deep familiarity with India and Indian tradition, …[and] the ability to forge meaningful and productive partnerships with the Vedic and India heritage community in the Western diaspora.” Contrary to the association’s claim, the actual authority to appoint the chair remained exclusively with the university, and—beyond making suggestions—the donors had no say. It’s not clear, then, how the association felt the donors could influence the selection process beyond the endowment’s stated list of qualifications.
Hindu Marriages Allowed
THE SINDH PROVINCE IN PAKISTAN has become the first in the largely Muslim country to give Hindus the right to register their marriage.
The bill was passed in February, 2016, by lawmakers in Sindh—home to many of the nations three million Hindus. Hindus in the nation have never had a legal framework to register their unions until now.
Many Hindu couples say that not having their marriage registered has given them logistical problems with basic activities such as opening bank accounts, applying for visas, acquiring national identity cards and getting shares of property because they lacked proof of marriage. It can also be applied retroactively to existing unions.
However, the legislation also contains a controversial clause that allows the marriage to be annulled if any spouse converts.
The National Assembly is considering a wider bill on recognizing Hindu marriage rights, including issues of inheritance, divorce and child maintenance.
Sydney Siddhanta Course
IN FEBRUARY, 2016, THE SIVAGNANA Bodha Course was conducted by Dr. S. P. Sabharathnam Sivacharyar for more than 50 Saiva devotees in Sydney, Australia. The course was highly successful, with 49 students graduating on March 13. Each participant was awarded the title “Sivagnanac Cudar” (The Light of Siva Knowledge).
The course director, Mr. M. Arjunamani, said, “Based on our experience in conducting two courses on Saiva Siddhanta, we understand there is an unquenched thirst among Saivite Hindus of Tamil origin to study and research the primary books through knowledgeable gurus like Dr. S. P. Sabharathnam Sivacharyar.”
Mr. Anbu Jaya, course student, reveals his experience: “I tried to read Saiva Siddhanta several times on my own, and every time I came across terminologies like pasu, pati, maya and pasa, it put me off. A few years back, a quote from a Thiruvasakam hymn, ‛Blessings of God needed to worship Him’ attracted my attention. Do I need God’s blessings to worship Him? When I completed this course, I realized the meaning of these words.”
AN AMERICAN COUPLE, MATTHEW and Jennifer Dickson, have filed a lawsuit against K.P. Yohannan in the district court of Arkansas in February, 2016, alleging that nearly 90% of all US citizens’ donations to his Christian organization’s missionary work in India and other Asian nations is being diverted to his multi-million-dollar personal businesses. Despite repeated and explicit promises made by Gospel for Asia for funds to spread Christianity in India through various charitable projects, such as health care, education and a water ministry called “Jesus wells and water filters,” only a small portion of the money was so used, they claim. A similar petition was filed in 2011 but later dismissed.
The Gospel for Asia website (www.gfa.com) is designed to lure in well-meaning donors to “reach the unreached and transform communities.” In a way, Hindus should be thankful the money isn’t being used for its stated purposes, which onlywould serve to disrupt families and cause community discord in the name of religion.