A Wonderful Issue
Thank you very much for the recent issue (Jan/Feb/Mar 2013) which featured the Chitrapur Math article and also a page distilling Sri Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji’s message. The invaluable cover story on Swami Vivekananda and the vast informative content of this particular issue truly makes it a collector’s item. I am extremely grateful that you chose to include the Math in this edition of your priceless journal. I saw the hand of the Divine at play when I first glimpsed Swami Vivekananda on the cover, because he was the idol our Swamiji had when at age 20 he decided to take sannyas. The layout of the feature and the pages of Swamiji’s teachings are also truly wonderful.
To find a story on Parvathy Baul along with the gatefold picture of her was another blessing. Singing bhakti music, chants and bhajans has always given me tremendous joy. I have often felt no other sadhana yields as much ecstasy. Please convey my heartfelt gratitude to all those who helped create this perfect synchronization of matter and manner.
NEWARK, DELAWARE, USA
The salvation of the current lot of the Hindu people in India depends upon on the attainment of ideals of cooperation, discovery of fundamental truths of this universe and their application to further the well-being of body, mind and soul. I believe the Hindu people need to organize a scientific think-tank to move them in this direction. This association must be free from the bias found in Western knowledge. Only new, freethinking cooperation at this level will break in the next illuminating dawn, not just for Hindus, but for all mankind.
MUMBAI, MAHARASHTRA, INDIA
Tagore and Einstein
I was in a different world while reading the dialogue between these two great minds (Oct/Nov/Dec 2012). They differed greatly on their views relating to the superior force guiding our destinies. Gurudev Tagore completely surrendered to God. He states “We are living in God.” He touched God in all his songs. To Einstein, the word God is, “a product of human weakness,” as he said in his famous God Letter. The two were poles apart, but their 1930 dialogue provides a fascinating philosophical read.
C.P. CHANDRA DAS
CLARKSBURG, MARYLAND, USA
An Exquisite Publication
Namaste and congratulations! Your Hinduism Today magazine is a high-quality publication with excellent articles and exquisite art work. Focusing on Vivekananda in your latest issue is most timely and welcome. I’d very much like to subscribe, but am still in my “wandering stage” and would first have to settle down. I hope that my wanderings will take me your way someday so that I can spend some time in close proximity to the monastery. Thankfully, with best wishes
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA
Pride in Our Culture
Today as I write, it is Karthigai, a day sacred to Siva and to Murugan, His beloved Son. It deeply saddens me to see that my home’s front yard is the only one in sight with lit oil lamps. In previous years every yard was lit. This shows how fast my beloved Hindu culture and traditions are fading. I don’t understand why Hindus can possess a religion of such antiquity, incomparable richness and grandeur, only to discard it, embracing anything and everything other than the Hindu way. It’s as if they are ashamed of it. It’s a great irony to see religious groups in the Western world putting such great efforts in reviving ancient traditions while we Hindus are letting go of a great religion which is still rather complete. It would be truly sad to lose it. Once lost, we may never get it back intact. I strongly urge all Hindus to have pride in our culture and to learn our ways, and most importantly, to practice them.
I’m a follower of HINDUISM TODAY. I recently read the January 2013 edition. While I really admire and value the cutting-edge and contemporary nature of the material in every edition, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the article on ashrama dharma. Whilst the writer interprets the four ashramas and their implications for modern Hindus, I feel that as a gay man, the article had no relevance for me. For most gay Hindus, life’s options are few. One can marry and live dishonestly, become a life-long celibate (suitable for only a few advanced souls) or join the modern gay scene, which offers nothing more than sex, drugs and promiscuity. Now in my late 20s, with very little family support for my sexuality, I envy my heterosexual Hindu peers who are supported by an entire community, finding meaningful soulmates. I, too, want a soulmate and companion, but do not have the resources to move forward. I feel very little guidance is offered to people like me who are lost and struggling to find meaning in lives full of guilt, ambiguity and longing. Spiritual leaders remain relatively silent on the matter. Our communities and families make us feel ashamed. So where do we turn? What we need is clear and unambiguous guidance from our swamijis, elders and leaders. If we are living dishonest and unfulfilled lives, we are drifting into immorality, self-destruction and loneliness. We must be offered a practical model for a dignified life. Has Hindu dharma been written only for heterosexuals and those with the spiritual maturity to renounce?
My humble vanakkam to the monastery. Thank you for your informative article on Keerimalai (Oct/Nov/Dec, 2012). When I looked at the pictures, warm memories surfaced to my mind. Several times I bathed in the tank during my childhood days, unaware of the healing properties of that spring water. An elderly man once told me both the rising and setting of the sun can be viewed from Keerimalai seaside.
HARROW WEALD, LONDON, UK
I read with interest Arvind Sharma’s article, “Time: Our Hindu View” (Jan/Feb/Mar 2013). It is indeed true that while the scientific view of time is linear, the Hindu view of time is cyclical. According to Hinduism, Brahma is the totality of the universe in which we live. The life of Brahma is 100 universal years of Brahma, after which the universe is reabsorbed and then begins again. A new Brahma is born. If you do the math, the current age of the universe, that is, of Brahma, would be about 155,522 billion years. Modern science has predicted the age of our universe to be only about 15-20 billion years! So either science still has a way to go, or it is judging the age of the universe based on the fraction of it that is known, which may function in shorter cycles than the totality of the universe that is mentioned in Hindu scripture. If we assume life on Earth to be the number of years already spent in the current day of Brahma, then life on Earth is about 2 billion years old. This is close to what current theories purpose. Carl Sagan, the famous astrophysicist, said it well, “The Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the Cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite, number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond to those of modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma, 8.64 billion years long—longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half the proposed time since the Big Bang. And there are much longer time scales still”
DETROIT, MICHIGAN, USA
OK to Celebrate the New Year
The Hindu Press International report of December 31, 2012, quotes an article that appeared in the Daily Pioneer datelined Chennai, regarding midnight worship in temples on December 31st. The views expressed in that article by Unnikrishna Panicker and the leader of the Hindu People’s Party that “it is a sin to perform midnight pujas in temples,” are baseless, beyond doubt.
To celebrate the commencement of a New Year, which occurs in various systems of time cycles, in Hindu temples is not at all wrong. It is not violating the Agamic rules. Such celebration comes under the naimittika type of worship. There are three types of worship—nitya (daily), naimittika (occasional) and kamya (optional). Worship being done on important occasions falls under naimittika.
Since temple worship is meant for the welfare of the whole world, there is nothing wrong in considering the beginning of the Julian year as important. Even the midnight puja is not prohibited in the Agamas. In fact, it is well and good to perform the worship at midnight. What about Maha Sivaratri? Midnight worship is happily done on that occasion. It is included among the worship-system of six, seven and eight sessions. In fact, this puja at the midnight of December 31st enables the people to direct their attention and works towards Divine aspects and Divinities, instead of wasting their time in clubs and parties drinking. Instead of finding fault with such worship, they should advise people not to indulge in such activities, which truly reflect the Western culture.
It was in the year 1917 that Sri Vallimalai Swami, a great Siddha, started the Pati Utsava (Steps Festival) at Tiruttani, one of the six sacred places of Lord Skanda. In his time, people used to go to the residence of the British masters on the eve of every New Year, bow down before them, offer gifts then return home. This great Siddha advised the devotees: “See, our Supreme Lord is Skanda only. Why are you going to these earthly masters on the midnight of December 31st? Turn your attention and go to the shrine of our Supreme Lord at Tiruttani on the eve of every Julian New Year. Let us join together, climb the steps one by one, singing one Tiruppugal song at each step. Reach the shrine at midnight and perform abhisheka and aradhana to Lord Skanda for the benefit of the world, be blessed by Him and distribute His blessings to all the people.”
Taking his advice, about 1,000 devotees assembled to climb the steps. Led by Vallimalai Swami, they climbed the hill, singing a Tiruppugal song at each step and then performed worship at midnight. The following year, the number of devotees increased dramatically, to one hundred thousand! This Step Festival still continues. Now, about five hundred thousand devotees take part! The mission of the great Siddha is being fulfilled perfectly. Such should be the views today’s leaders. They should think in and hold wider perspectives.
CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, INDIA
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Indescribable Joy that No Money Can Give
How to help parents give precious life tools to their children
I HAVE PLENTY OF SPARE TIME,” DECLARES Dr. Shridhar Kotta, a physician with 18 years of practice, “and I use it well.” He, his wife and two boys have minimized TV, internet, emails, etc., in favor of “something better in life.”
“We have fun,” he explains, “We go for walks, we play tennis, sit together and talk, often about our beliefs. It’s peaceful. It’s wonderful.” In today’s busy world, how is this possible?
They have one advantage: they live in a quiet, easy-going border town, Harlington, Texas. And, because there are few Hindus and no temples nearby, the Kottas have had to hunker down and depend on themselves for their inner life—a challenge that has proved strengthening.
Then in 2000, HINDUISM TODAY came in a magical way to fill the gap. “The magazine reconnected us, and inspired in us a greater love of God and the Gods. It’s brought us indescribable joy that no money can give.”
“Our boys, Hari, 15, and Neil, 12, have been doing their home puja daily for four years, now, and doing extremely well in school—all without any prodding from us. This is the power of mantra, I am sure. Each Saturday they memorize slokas from Gurudeva [founder of HINDUISM TODAY]. On Sundays we chat about the teachings; I want to be sure they understand. This will sustain them their whole life.” From the time Neil was in first grade, their teachers ask them to tell the class about Hinduism and Hindu practices. “The boys are happy, self-confident and proud of their culture.”
Every year, Jothi and Shridhar make a most generous donation to the Hinduism Today Production Fund, which is a part of Hindu Heritage Endowment. “We are grateful and pray the magazine will grow and grow so that more parents will be inspired to share what children need to live a good life.”
The Kotta family: “We read about the people who support the fund and feel they live next door, so close are they to us.”
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