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Rishikesh's Kailash Ashram

I have been a regular reader of Hinduism Today for years. The group behind the magazine works hard and does an excellent job. I appreciate you all for your sincere approach, keeping the spirit high in your effort to educate a new generation of Hindus. I suggest doing a feature on Kailash Ashram in Rishikesh. Considered to hold the last word on Vedanta studies, the ashram claims among its students many masters, including Swami Vivekananda, Swami Ram Theerth, Swami Thapovan, Swami Dayananda Saraswathi and more. Such an article would help all Hindus and others seeking to study Vedanta.

Swami Madhavanand
Thrissur, Kerala, India
madhavwarrier _@_ gmail.com

Rejoice in Deities' Diversity

Hats off to Ramdas Lamb for his article "Rejoice in Deities Diversity" (Jan/Feb/Mar 2012). This is one of the most common questions, or shall I say misconceptions, that I come across in my many college and interfaith lectures. So, it was refreshing to read this simple, clear explanation about how monotheism (one single all-powerful Divinity) and polytheism (multiple Divinities) coexist and are uniquely merged in Hinduism. The analogy to the functioning of a democratic society was a master stroke. I thank you for publishing this educational article and your continued service to Hindus in all corners of the world.

Acharya Bharat Naik
Aloha, Oregon, USA
bharatji108 _@_ gmail.com

Thanks for What Is Hinduism?

Many blessings to you for spreading good values and virtues through the wonderful book What Is Hinduism? I was so engrossed in it that I completely forgot about my physics masters exam after two days! I will definitely gift this book to my non-Hindu friends. I would also like to know if this book is available in PDF.

Shivangi Srivastava
Nancy, Lorraine, France
shivangi.shrivast _@_ gmail.com

The book is available for free in PDF at www.hinduismtoday.com/wih.

Cleanliness of Temples

As a practicing Hindu, I have had the good fortune to visit many temples in India. My concern is the lack of hygiene in most of them; used incense packs, leaves and flowers are just piled in a corner, and prasadam dirties the floors True, most of these structures are ancient, but shouldn't priests and devotees be concerned about proper upkeep? How can we educate and encourage temple authorities and devotees to keep the temples clean? I would gladly be a part of any such initiative across the country.

Sreelekha Premjit
Bangalore, Karnataka, India
sreelekha.premjit _@_ gmail.com

Chidambaram Temple

The Natarajar Temple in Chidambaram is a temple of great historical importance. It has antiquity, mythological significance and has been a source of inspiration behind volumes of literary works by Saiva saints. Thus, it qualifies to be declared as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

N.V.K. Ashraf
New Delhi, India
nvkashraf _@_ gmail.com

Gay Hindus in Hiding

Although I am a married heterosexual, I attend my local LGBT community's pride festival every year--not only in a kurta and dhoti, but with tilaka as well. I do this for the young Indian people who are forced to conceal their true selves from their parents. I have had young Indian Hindus tell me that they know at some point they will have to come out to their parents because they have no intention of going through with an arranged marriage. We all know just how much family is a part of Indian culture. I explain to them that they should not go through with an arranged marriage if they do not wish to and that, furthermore, in my opinion, Hindu parents should not try to force their child to do so against his or her will. Each of our souls is a part of God, and it is high time that we learn the difference between culture and religion, as sometimes one's cultural beliefs actually go against the very teachings of the path one claims to follow. Homosexuality is a topic that should be openly discussed in these modern times.

Shakti Ganapati Subramanian
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
guru_shakti _@_ yahoo.com

Animal Sacrifices

In response to Kishen Raval's letter (Oct/Nov/Dec 2011), I had the opportunity to hear first hand a detailed explanation of the "Purusha Suktam" that put my similar question to rest. Hinduism is full of symbolism, and the significance of these rituals is often lost in translation when they are passed down through the generations. The idea was to sacrifice, or give up, one's animalistic tendencies on the path to spiritual enlightenment. In fact, the sacrificial animal (usually a goat) usually only had water sprinkled on it to symbolize the sacrifice, after which it was set free. The Vedas did not actually prescribe the literal killing of animals as a part of yajnas; it was meant to have metaphorical significance.

Rupa Raman
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
raman.rupa _@_ gmail.com

An article on this subject in the context of Bali appears on p. 62-63 of this edition.

Eggs in Flu Vaccines

Last year my employer sponsored a flu vaccination for all employees. During the vaccination process I learned from the nurse that the viruses in the vaccine are grown in eggs and the vaccine may contain some egg proteins. I was confused for a moment whether to take it or not, but went ahead. My dilemma was whether or not we should consider this a regrettable exception to ahimsa. Obviously the flu vaccine was not something lifesaving or critical for my health, but may be protect me from the flu for a season.

Arunasalam Vathavooran
Swindon, Wiltshire, United Kingdom
vathavoor_@_ gmail.com

Pro-Brahmin Attitude

I am a regular reader of your magazine and appreciate the efforts you are taking to protect and propagate the Hindu faith in the western world. But I am sorely disappointed that your magazine, otherwise a pleasure to read, comes across as pro-Brahmin, to the detriment of other castes. The arrogance of Brahmins and their vanity led them to suppose that the Hindu religion was synonymous with them and would not exist but for them. However (thankfully), those beliefs crumbled long ago and good sense now prevails. In this enlightened atmosphere, your attitude in equating Hinduism with Brahmin culture is a step backward.

You have been vehemently opposed to the takeover of the Chidambaram temple by the Tamil Nadu government. Your primary reason, evident in your articles, is that the hereditary Brahmin priests who have been lording over it for so long will be displaced by the much-needed takeover. Why don't you at least mention the fact that they refused Saint Nandanar entry into the temple because he was an Untouchable and later burnt him alive when he entered the temple without their permission?

Sai Ravikumar
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
saipadmavathy _@_ yahoo.com

On the story of Saint Nandanar, Dr. S.P. Sabharathnam Sivachariyar responds, "To say that the Chidambaram Dikshitars refused Nandanar entry into the temple and burnt him is not only baseless but also highly venomous. The author of Periya Puranam gives a clear and true picture of Nandanar: Lord Nataraja appears in the dream of the Dikshitars, ordering them to arrange a fire ritual for the sake of Nandanar (who is an outcast by birth) and to invite him with due honors inside the temple. The Dikshitars do so, and Nandanar gets into the fire pit, then assuming a luminous form looking like another Brahma. With his newly acquired divine body, Nandanar walks into the main shrine and merges with Lord Nataraja."

Duplicitous Catholic Greetings

I have been concerned for a while with the occasional disparaging comments on Christianity and the Catholic Church in particular. The most recent appeared in "Vatican Sends Diwali Greetings to Hindus," (Hindu Press International, Oct. 29, 2011). Your characterization of this as "unfortunately, representative of the Catholic Holy See's attitude toward other religions" is another negative example. Frankly, I found this and the commentary that followed offensive, especially since it misrepresents the actual statement that can be viewed in its entirety at bit.ly/vatican-diwali. I might also add that at bit.ly/assisi-oct11 you can see the efforts that the Vatican has made as far as other religions in the Assisi gathering that took place recently. While it may not be exactly as everyone wanted it to be, it is an enormous step in the direction of interfaith/intercultural dialog and mutual respect between religious leaders of good will, including representatives of the Hindu tradition. It might be to everyone's advantage if you demonstrated similar effort to reach out as opposed to adding to the unfortunate divisiveness that exists!

Francis X. Charet
Plainfield, Vermont, USA
francis.charet _@_ goddard.edu

Thank you for your letter of concern over our reposting of an article from the Independent Catholic News. The 2003 Message of the Pontifical Council on Diwali by Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald and the 2011 message by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran continue in a line of aggressive and antagonistic statements by the Catholic Church on the occasion of Diwali, the largest and most universal of all Hindu festivals. These date back at least to the statement of John Paul II on Diwali itself, November 7, 1999, in New Delhi: "Just as the first millennium saw the Cross firmly planted in the soil of Europe, and the second in that of America and Africa, so may the Third Christian Millennium witness a great harvest of faith on this vast and vital continent." This paragraph is prefaced, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5). We assume Hinduism is the "darkness" in which the "light" of Christianity is shining, and that it is Hindus who are to be "harvested" like so many stalks of grain ripe for the taking.

The 2003 statement reads, "Neither the Hindu dharma nor the Christian faith teaches hate, contempt or disrespect for others." However, as you must be aware, the 2011 Assisi gathering (to which you refer), for the first time in the gathering's history, did not include a common prayer, because of the Catholic position that such common prayer might imply other faiths' equality with the Catholic faith. From the Hindu point of view, an unwillingness to pray together for such reasons is a show of disrespect and brings into question the Vatican's willingness to make toward peace with other religions. But the 2011 event is cited in Cardinal Tauran's statement as "promoting religious freedom."

We are sorry you were offended by our editorial comments, but we cannot let such statements pass without informing Hindus of the duplicity involved.


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