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HVK Archives: Uniting Hindus across the globe

Uniting Hindus across the globe - The Observer

Ram Swarup ()
October 24, 1998

Title: Uniting Hindus across the globe
Author: Ram Swarup
Publication: The Observer
Date: October 24, 1998

Hinduism Today has now been in existence for quite some time and it is
possible to assess it on the basis of what it has been and what it has
done. No need to make subjective claims or to go by them.

Hindu communities are now found in many countries, but with the
exception of Hinduism Today, there is no Journal dealing with their
problems and opportunities. In this respect, this journal is unique. It
reveals to us an important face of Hinduism, its international face.
Every time one picks
up its copy, one become aware of Hindus not only in India but also in
Fiji, Mauritius, Trinidad, South East Asia and now also increasingly in
Europe and North America. Its pages bring them together so often under
the same roof that they begin to feel and live together.

This face tended to be neglected by Hindus in India in the past. For
centuries, they were under great pressure and could not spare much
thought for anything beyond the problem of survival. But things are
changing now and there is awareness of a larger Hindu world, Hindu
Vishva. However, the old resistances are still at work and there is a
strong tendency to make Hindus into purely an Indian phenomenon.
Definitions of Hinduism are proposed which make Hindu and bharatiya
co-terminus, though we know that not all Indians are Hindus - some in
fact take pride in the fact that India has the largest Muslim population
in the world. The latest definition highly esteem in the Hindutva
circles is that Hinduism is "geo-cultural", in which "geo" is frankly
territorial and "cultural" is really "composite-cultural"; it is really
the current definition of the secularists and Marxists reworded and made
to look academic and intellectual.

But Hinduism Today makes us aware of Hindu beyond India and does it in
its own way, not as NRIs - the way successive Governments in India have
learnt to take notice of them after they began to do well economically -
but as part of a family, as brothers and sisters united in a common
spiritual perception and feeling.

Hinduism Today takes us on a journey and extends our horizon both In
space and in time. It tells us of Hindus and Hinduism abroad not only at
present but also in the past.

It finds Hinduism an old phenomenon, and not a 17th-century construct as
some would-be orientalists would have it, but an ancient and great
civilization whose influence had travelled far and wide. But in the
succeeding centuries, India fell on evil days and the Hindu mind and
psyche began to shrink and Hindu tended to forget this side of their
history. Hinduism Today is helping them in reviving those lost memories.
As it travels back in time, it finds no Aryan invasion of India, but
reports of Hindu presence in Europe and even Americas. From its
scholarly special articles on Plotinus and Druids, we learn of intimate
spiritual contact between India and Europe at an early date.

Its recent article on old Inca and Mayan buildings reveals remarkable
similarities with old Indian architecture which points to an early
pre-Columbus contact between the Hindu and the peoples of South and
Central America.

The journal avoids politics and politicians, in itself quite a relief.
On the other hand, it reports what is happening m the Hindu religious
world; it tells us of, Hindu philosophy, doctrines, modes of worship,
rites; it tens us of Hindu festivals, calendar, places of pilgrimage; it
tells us of temple and educational centres that are being built by Hindu
communities in different corners of the world - it is itself in the
midst of building a grant or granite stone Shiva temple in Hawaii with
4000 stones weighing four million pounds, all hand carved in South India
and shipped to the site of the construction. It tells us about the great
Hindu personalities and about non-Hindu friends of Hinduism; it tells us
of Hindus who are distinguishing themselves in different fields all over
the world; it gives prominence to Hindu sannyasins and though the class
has undoubtedly its black sheet and chardatans, the change in
orientation is itself Important. Some sannyasins have done great work in
projecting Hindu India to which official India has been allergic. A few
persons like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Swami Prabhupada have done more
in putting India on the map of the world than all our embassies put

Teachers like Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda thought that revival
of Hindu people could come only through the revival of their religion.
Hinduism Today seems to share this view and emphasizes religious

It presents the Hinduism of the Vedas, the Agamas, the Puranas, the
Yogas as well as the Hinduism of temple worship and rituals; it also
takes into account many popular expressions of Hinduism like the
kewarha; in fact, it did not neglect even the milk-miracles of the last
year and reported it amply. Anything that interests Hindus also
interests it.

It is promoting vegetarianism, a great value taught by Hinduism. Some
Vedic sciences like Ayurveda and Astronomy are honoured.

It serves Indian Hindu by informing them about themselves. It reports
about men and institutions we neglect or do not take particular notice
of. For example, it wrote about Motilal Benarsidas whom most of us knew
only as commercial publishers probably specializing in oriental
literature, but knew nothing about the original inspiration of its
founders. Similarly, it wrote on Hindujas who we knew mostly from the
negative reports of the press. But from Hinduism Today, we came to know
about their Hindu commitment. It seems it does not suffer from the
current socialists suspicion of the vaishyas.

The journal has probably yet to pay tribute on behalf of us all to the
Birlas, the great builders and renovators of temples. The late Jugal
Kishore Birla built the well-known Lakshminarayana Temple in Delhi in
the late 1930s, probably the first presentable structure after more than
700 years -tokens of infidelity were not allowed to be built during the
long Muslim rule. JK was more than a man with money; he had a vision of
a greater Hinduism, and freely helped all members belonging to the
larger Hindu family; Buddhists, Jainas, Sikhs, Arya Samajists, etc. He
built Buddhist temple and supported their institutions in India in a big
way. Luckily, the younger members of his family shared his views and.
continued his work. Any faithful account of Hindu renaissance would
include not only its great visionaries and intellectuals but also its
great vaishyas though the current fashion is not to take them into
account. But they deserve our full honour.

Hindus in India continue to be overwhelmed by their own problems and
have little energy and time to spare for their brethren abroad, but
Hinduism Today keeps serving them as best as it can. For example, in
their hour of distress the Fiji Hindus found in this journal a
dependable friend.

In the US an Canada, the journal helps Hindus to retain their identity
which could be easily lost in a very different cultural environment. But
a family which receives a copy of Hinduism Today would find in it a
great protective shield.

The journal helps them in many different ways. It brings their problems
into the open and discuses them frankly and tries to find Hindu-cultural
answers to them. It shows Hindu men and women at work. facing new
challenges; the problems of Hindu boys and girls at schools learning and
coping with peer pressures, trying to look and be like others; the
problems of dating and new sexual mores, the problem of aged parents
briefly visiting them or living with them.

Any answer to these and similar problems which Hinduism has to offer is
important not only to the Hindu repatriates, but also to their other
American neighbours too. For they all face similar problems: Problems of
an individualistic, competitive permissive and consumer society,
over-emphasis on success and acquisitions, disintegrating family life,
loneliness of the old and the neglect of children, inner sickness in the
midst of a developed health care system, and emptiness in the midst of
increasing sensations and images. Any solution that Hinduism offers
should help all.

Mention should also be made of the journal's excellent production. It is
soothing to the eyes and maintains a high standard of workmanship and
skill. It is sattvika in appeal and maintains this quality even in its
advertisement columns.

>From Hinduism Today, let us turn to those who run it. They are not NRIs.
They are mainly white Americans - converts, Hindus by choice, and
sannyasins at that.

Those of us Hindu by birth tend to take Hinduism for granted and neglect
its deeper, spiritual categories. But it is different with those who
embrace it after much reflections and self searching. They are seekers
and sadhakas; they are interested in the problems of God, of Self, of
inner life, of dharma and mukti. These concerns find ample expression in
Hinduism Today and other publications at Hawaii, and this fact has given
them a special quality and flavour.

Hitherto, Hindus knew only two categories: Hindus born in India and
Hindu emigrants who went overseas during the last few centuries often
under very adverse conditions. But now we have also a new, fast-growing
third category of those who adopt, Hinduism by free choice. This is an
important category and traditional Hinduism should become aware of them.
Their contribution to Hinduism is notable. Who could, for example,
forget the name of the Hare Krishna Movement in this connection?

Hindu influence however goes far beyond this category. Hindu thought is
changing the intellectual-religious contour of Europe and America and
attracting their best minds. In this thought, they also find the
principle of their own self-discovery and recovery. The new religion of
these countries is now really the "New Age" which is greatly worrying
the Christian establishment.

The Pope sees "eastern influences" in this new development. Pat
Robertson, an influential American evangelist, finds that "the New Age
and Hinduism - it is the same thing". He complains, "We are importing
Hinduism into America."

I have often found that those who public Hinduism Today show better
awareness of some very important problems Hinduism faces than most of us
do here. For example, I have felt that one great problem of Hinduism is
the poverty and illiteracy of its priests. But have you ever heard a
party of Hinduism m India discussing it? On the other hand, those around
Hinduism Today are concerned with the problem, and as early as 1984,
held an "international conference of Saivite Priesthood" to deliberate
over it.

For obvious reasons, Hindu in India are occupied - some say
"over-occupied" - with Christianity and Islam. When they speak of
"harmony of all religious", they mean them though the doctrine
ill-applies to them for they speak not harmony but hegemony. On purely
spiritual grounds, Hindus should learn to take more notice of other
religious traditions closer to their own, for example, like those of
China and Japan, of old Egypt and Iran, of Pre-Christian pagan Europe,
and of indigenous Americans.

The journal rightly stands for peace among the followers of all
religious persuasions without being called upon to preach an artificial
and indiscriminate ideology of "harmony of all religions." Nor do the
monks of the Journal feel and pressing need to prove their universality
by disowning their Hindu identity. In an editorial, the journal chides
monks visiting the West who are Hindu hi everything - dress, teaching,
lineage - but when asked about their Hindu identity deny it and become
non-Hindu universals. Its own monks take pride in being Hindus and teach
us to do the same.

I believe that America is waiting to be rediscovered - not as in the
past by outside adventures who came and occupied the "promised land" and
enslaved its people, who were arrogant and thought they had nothing to
learn but only to teach. The new discovery would require a different
spirit, a reverent and compassionate spirit, the Vedantic spirit, which
sees goodness and godliness around, which sees one's own self in all.
This spirit would reveal another America, another people whose way of
intuiting man, nature and deity is still valid and could help the other
America to renew itself at a deeper level. Should the "Great Spirit" of
these people return, America's rivers, forests, mountains would recover
their sacredness and be the abodes of Gods again; nature would cease to
be a mindless mechanism, the earth a mere resource for man to use; they
would become "living" and "soulful" again.

I believe that the establishment of an alert Hindu Ashrama at Hawaii
would help this process; it would help the indigenous people in their
religious and cultural revival; which in turn would help the revival of
America itself .

Hinduism Today represents a new force. While consolidating Hindus, it
also projects the great ideas and ideals of Sanatana dharma. I believe
that Satguru Sivaya Subrrmunyam, who has inspired and who presides over
this movement will have a honoured place in the history of Hindu revival
and would be remembered for extending the frontiers of the Vedic dharma;
and Hawaii itself, his field of activity (karmabhoomi) is likely to
become a significant religious site, a place of special manifestation of
Siva in this part of the world. I welcome the journal and the people
around it; I welcome their work and their role. Hinduism needs their
service, dedication, sadhana, their skill (kaushala), talent and
intelligence, their leadership. My mind appreciates their work and my
heart blesses them.

(Hinduism Today is a monthly journal, published from 107, Kaholele Road,
Kapaa, Hawaii, USA. Indian distributor: Central News Agency.
Subscription: Rs 565 for one year; available at 4E/4, Jhandewalan Ext.
New Delhi)

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