I commend the editors at India Currents in their choice of letters responding to the article by Vamsee Juluri (Who is a Hindu? India Currents, September 2014)—the more one contemplates this issue and hears others, the more the question becomes further answered. Although Sanatana Dharma externally has its four castes and stages of life (how every natural human society organizes), an intrinsic identity is left up to the individual.
The vapid ignorance of violent sectarianism is certainly not in the teachings of any of the major religious traditions—and most certainly not espoused by their founders. That is why anyone and all actual religions —even atheists—can thrive in India. Yet the Vedic version does open up a cosmology where things can be better understood, just as an unabridged edition of a dictionary sheds more light on a subject. I write as a Western practitioner of over fifty years in the lifestyle and study of bhakti-yoga culture. Am I a Hindu? Having the final read of the multi-tome, Indian-English edition of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism as its final copy editor, I just hope to have the humility to laugh and fall more deeply in love with its personalities and perspectives.
Roy Richard, Culver City, CA
Mohammed Shoaib (Voices column, India Currents, November 2014) suggests banning all Blind Faith (religions) to build a better world and says that no religion can withstand scientific scrutiny or rational judgement. I agree with his opposition to blind faith, because if the religious leader is not interpreting the original teachings of religion correctly, he or she can mislead the followers to lead an evil life, harming themselves and others, like what ISIS is doing today and what Arab Muslim armies who invaded the Persian empire did in the seventh century, committing genocide, kidnapping women, forcing people of Iran to convert from their Zarathushti (Zoroastrian) religion to the religion of Islam, and looting the conquered country.
Religions or interpretations of religions do not demand blind faith. In the religion founded by His Holiness Prophet Zarathushtra (known as Zoroaster), the Prophet asks his followers to listen to him carefully, meditate on his teachings in order to understand them, and then exercise their free choice based on their understanding because each person has to be accountable for his/her own rational choice with the possibility of bad consequences for the wrong choices and vice versa.
Religion, being more about the spiritual dimension, cannot be proven or disproven by our current level of science, which is limited to the material dimension. When we follow the religious path with proper understanding of its teachings it gives us a sense of peace and lasting happiness in our heart and mind. So, it does involve some faith (not blind faith) in the spiritual experience of the founder and qualified follower-teachers to at least listen or read what they say, but after that it is up to us to try to think about them and understand them properly (with the help of qualified teachers) and make our own choices.
Religious teachings can, like any tool, help us if used correctly, and hurt us if not.
Maneck Bhujwala, Huntington Beach, CA
Mastering the Master’s Language
K. Shankar Pillai, the cartoonist, once wrote that all that the government of India does is put up white papers to describe the black deeds committed by yellow men who have gone red. Both Shashi Tharoor and Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan have fallen into this trap, lock, stock and barrel. They have mastered the Master’s language, and score cheap debating points instead of addressing real issues. There were no substantive ideas about brain drain in Ragini’s latest article (The Fourth India, India Currents, November 2014). And as Nirmala Seetharaman reminded Shashi Tharoor in a live debate on Indian television, he should convince his own party about his ideas. I admire both Shashi and his niece, Ragini, for their elegant syntax, but this time their articles lacked analysis.
Krishnamachar Sreenivasan, California
A Clarion Call
Jaya Padmanabhan has commented on India’s newest Nobelist, Kailash Sathyarti, as the silent striver who has, for over thirty years, pursued his passion for protecting children from forced slave labor in her editorial (Little Known Laureate, India Currents, November 2014). As we know his award comes jointly with Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai.
In my opinion, Yousafzai was the catalyst for the award to Sathyarthi. When Malala was called out from her high school class room in Birmingham, England (in self exile from her mother country, Pakistan) to inform her of the Nobel award, with incredible presence of mind, she publicly invited the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India, to “join me” at the award ceremony at Oslo later in the year. Those two words reverberated through Pakistan, India and the rest of the world, like a clarion call. Malala has effectively demonstrated the power of words over swords and guns. She has emasculated and checkmated every adult in her country. Malala is for real. I expect to hear a lot more from her over the years ahead.
P. Mahadevan, Fullerton, CA
Dark Colonial Legacy
Boris Johnson, in his latest book, The Churchill Factor, claims that Winston Churchill was the greatest statesman Britain had ever produced. Perhaps Johnson is unaware of Churchill’s dark colonial legacy. In his article, (Debating the Indian-British Past, India Currents, October 2014) and in his recent book, Pax Indica, Shashi Tharoor, a high ranking Indian diplomat, rightly accuses Churchill’s conservative government of ruthlessly exploiting India. Between 15 and 29 million perished tragically from starvation and approximately four million died in the Great Bengal famine as a direct result of Churchill’s decision to divert critical food supplies to British soldiers and buttress European stockpiles. As mentioned in the article, Churchill arrogantly asserted that “starvation of underfed Bengalis is less serious than that of sturdy Greeks.” Contrary to Johnson’s assertions, history will expose Churchill as the last of a long line of ruthless and inhumane Prime Minister’s ruling over the last embers of the British Empire.
Jagjit Singh, Los Altos, California
Count My Bangles
It was a wonderful surprise to find an article on bangles (So Naked Without Bangles, India Currents, November 2014)! If I ever leave my home without at least one bangle, I do indeed feel naked. When I saw the title of the article, I jumped up to count my bangles stacked up on my bath countertop. I counted 32 and this number may increase if my youngest son (51) finds some bangles in a thrift shop during the holidays. I subscribe to India Currents because I find myself curious about other cultures. Both my parents were born in Ireland, and I was raised in Boston, and I recently asked my dentist, Vikram Rajan, what the word “desi” means!
Dee Lindner, Culver City, CA