Thank you for this beautiful issue of HINDUISM TODAY, with its startling and stunning cover page bringing consciousness to the frontiers of “Samadhi in Deep Space.” Sheela Venkatakrishnans article left me in deep thought, after reading of the experience of Swami and Yogi from Kauai Aadheenam at a Siva temple in Chennai. I could not stop thinking about it all day long, and it was bringing back some memories.
In regards to L. Valentino’s article in the Jul/Aug/Sep, 2017 issue, yes, we notice there is a great interest in many non-Hindu communities to know about Hindu religious practices.
During the last eight years, more than 40 groups came to the Hindu Mandir of Lake County, Grayslake, Illinois. Classes were given for the groups, explaining the basics and visiting the shrines, where we mentioned the specialty of each. The groups were happy, and some even donated.
I was amazed to read the Jan/Feb/March, 2018, story on the Narmada River—the pictures are impressive. I lived in Maharashtra, India, for 32 years but never noticed the importance of offerings to the Narmada. Now, due to age and health, I will never have this opportunity, which I regret. However, I learned about the greatness of this river and will tell others about it.
The first two pages (40-41) of “My Mirabai Expedition” by Mariellen Ward, in the Oct/Nov/Dec, 2017 issue, are full of nothing but complaints about her travel in India! The English translation of the Hindi poem (p. 42) sounds crude. In Hindi the same poem carries different, positive feelings.
LIBERTYVILLE, ILLINOIS, US
My hearty congratulations to you and your team for the knowledgeable, informative and flowing article on Hinduism in Sikkim, Oct/Nov/Dec, 2017.
DR. V. SINGHI
Regarding the Jan/Feb/Mar, 2018, review of Hari Mahidhar’s photo-biography, Benevolent Narmada. This coffee-table pictorial book on the holy river Narmada is indeed a very impressive effort in self-publishing. The photographs are heartwarming, and the accompanying text by Vithal Nadkarni enlightening. In London, this book found a place in the Westminster Palace through a member of the House of Lords. I am sure that anyone, especially expatriates hailing from the central and western states of India, will be proud to see this inspiring book placed in their drawing room.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ellen Mahoney’s article, “Edgar Mitchell’s Samadhi in Deep Space” (HINDUISM TODAY, Jan/Feb/Mar, 2018). Several thoughts crossed my mind.
First, it is commendable that what Mr. Mitchell experienced, as a result of his space travel in terms of global consciousness, our sages in India experienced thousands of years ago simply through intuition that transcends, but does not contradict logic and rationality. Those sages must have been divinely inspired. Secondly, consciousness transcends mind. Therefore, mind is incapable of studying consciousness, just as the source of the voice coming from a radio cannot be traced by tinkering with the radio. Thirdly, I was saddened to learn that Mr. Mitchell ended up getting a divorce because of his interests in spirituality. Maybe he did not realize at the time that if he had truly gone from “outer space to inner space,” he would have cognized that there is only one space, just as the space inside an earthen pot is same as the space outside the pot. Once the wall separating the two is broken, the limited inner space merges with the limitless outer space.
ALBANY, CALIFORNIA, Us
This magazine is very informative and has lots of wonderful articles about all kinds of Hindu matters—everything from religious practices, to beliefs, social etiquette and more.
My heartful namaskarams to HINDUISM TODAY. By going through the pages of your magazine, I felt, “This is Hinduism.” Even though the editors are Saivite Hindus, how beautifully and accurately the various aspects and sects of Hinduism are being represented. I think of HINDUISM TODAY as mother, and Saivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Smartism as her children.
A. VIKRAM REDDY
CHITTOOR, ANDHRA PRADESH, INDIA
HINDUISM TODAY is the best magazine online—and off—on Hindu dharma on the planet! I have been handing my copies of the magazine to friends and family all the time since I love it so much. Bravo for a work only few can attempt.
NEW DELHI, INDIA
I often visit the website of HINDUISM TODAY and am amazed by reading the wonderfully presented Hindu topics. The most fascinating part of HINDUISM TODAY is that the editors are not Indian Hindus, but American. They accepted Hinduism after enquiring and getting full knowledge of it, thus they are very special. There is hue and cry among the Hindus even in India, thus your experience and knowledge can educate them.
A large percentage of Hindus use cremation for taking care of the dead. A relatively small fraction of Hindus also use burials. But for Hindus today, cremation on the same day of the death is simply not feasible because of medico-legal requirements of hospitals, autopsy, death certificates, funeral home requirements, etc. Typically it takes two to three days to organize cremation in North America after one leaves their body. If long weekends intervene, cremation takes place after four to five days. This is the reality.
A further complication with Hindu cremation is that we need a pandit/purohit to perform rituals for several days after cremation. Traditionally, on the day after the cremation the ashes were sprinkled into a river, ocean or lake. And afterwards there were daily rituals for the departed for the next ten days, at the end of which the departed jiva was ritually merged with the already departed ancestors. All these are called antyeshti karmas, not to be confused with pujas.
On the 13th day there is a formal puja invoking the blessings of Nature to help people to come to terms with the final exit of the departed so they can get on with their lives. This puja goes by various names in different parts of India.
The 13-day death rites and celebrations, which were okay during our rural/pastoral life, are simply not sustainable today, even in India, not to speak of the Diaspora. There are several practical reasons today. For starters, the members of the extended family are scattered globally. Further, people have only two weeks of paid vacation, and they have busy work routines. Children need to go to schools and colleges. And people running small shops cannot afford to be away for long durations.
Today, relatives and sometimes even siblings rarely participate in all the key events, such as the cremation itself, immersion of the ashes and the 10th- and 13th-day events. This is not possible in contemporary lifestyle.
The saddest part of the current system is that sometimes the husband and wife do the 9th-, 10th- and 13th-day rites all by themselves, or with very few people to give emotional support. A great opportunity is thus lost for the extended family members and friends to commiserate among themselves in such a somber and evocative occasion. Remember, with the flow of time, after the death of parents, the siblings slowly drift apart naturally. Even though the death rites for observant Hindus are already modified to varying degrees to suit local conditions, the 13-day protocol is still the norm. And for people who die after a long life, siblings and cousins, sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, grand-kids and also close friends assemble for the 13th-day pujas to joyfully reminisce the life of the departed.
Given our changed lifestyle today, it is time that we discuss this honestly in the open and come up with a set of shortened and reformed death rites that will be the standard for all Hindus who cremate the mortal remains of the departed jiva. Those who want to and can do the traditional 13-day event can do it that way. However, for those who have other constraints, as listed earlier, we can arrive at death rites that can be completed, say, within five days after the cremation, while still retaining the key elements of the 13-day events. The five-day process is more manageable.
Shortened death rites will greatly help people to gather for all of the events, participate in the observances and celebrate the life of the departed. We, the Hindu faithful, need to make an acceptable compromise on the core steps involved in death rites. We need to meld these rites into our contemporary lifestyle and fit them into three, four or five days after the day of cremation. Are we ready to discuss this in the open?
KOLLENGODE S. VENKATARAMAN
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