Vamsee Juluri’s article on Hinduism (Who Is a Hindu?, India Currents, September 2014) is an honest view of the status of the religion today, as seen in print and broadcast media, and in the American education system. As a Hindu parent of a 6th grader in a California public school, I recently became aware of the misleading information about India and Hinduism depicted in 6th grade history textbooks, which leaves our children and their peers with a low opinion of Hinduism. The word “belief,” for example, appears 37 times in the Hinduism chapter of a history textbook followed in many SF Bay Area schools, as opposed to sections on Judaism or Christianity where God speaks and it is depicted as the truth, not a belief.
Many details such as the Aryan invasion (which has been disproved by historians), explanations of rituals and artifacts found in archeological excavations have been clearly written without actual facts and with an intent to show Hinduism in a poor light.
I think that the article did not touch upon two key points:
i) Hinduism is deeply rooted in study of the self (adhyatma) and liberation (moksha) as a way to unite with God, which has led many sincere seekers of God from the west to look towards India. Spiritual leaders such as Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Sri Sri Ravishankar, just to name a few, are influencing western thought today though it may not be apparent in the mainstream media.
ii) Why have a majority of Indian Hindus not converted to Islam or Christianity after 1,000 years of Muslim and British rule and in spite of all the power and money poured into that effort? I feel that the answer lies in the deep rooted spirituality (I am not calling it a religion because Hinduism is not an institutionalized religion in the traditional sense of the word) based on the freedom to choose your deity or no deity, easy going rules, a sense of love and devotion created via stories, and through Indian art, music, dance, architecture, food and virtually every aspect of life. Like the author mentioned, what he learned at home could not be erased by history books.
So, I feel that Hinduism is here to stay. The need of the hour though is for Hindus to take interest in their own religion and learn the truth about it.
Manisha Verma, website
Several thousand years of assimilating faiths from different parts of the world is what appears as Hinduism today—therefore occasionally it is hard to find a single answer to some basic questions. However, at the root of Hinduism are the Vedas which were intended to guide the faith (and life). Forms of Hinduism, such as Buddhism which exist outside India give a vivid snapshot of the process of evolution of Hinduism.
Historically extremism has never existed in Hinduism until very recently. What appears to be extremism is probably a mix of reaction, provocation and political selfishness!
The author, Vamsee Juluri, never answered the question, Who IS a Hindu? I call myself one, but my beliefs are not the same as what Juluri espouses. I practiceadvaitha and Rama and Krishna are irrelevant to my spiritual journey, or they are equal in my worship of Devi, Jesus, Buddha and Allah. I also reject that Hindus have not written about Hinduism. There are plenty in all languages available in any bookstore in India and also in the United States. One may have to put some effort into finding them, but it is not hard to find. Many books talk about the spiritual aspect and not the politicizing of Hinduism which is perhaps what the author seems to be interested in.
I disagree with Vamsee Juluri in the September cover story. He asks why “movies depict Hindus as turbanned snake-charmers, beggars, or snake-eaters?” I challenge him to come up with three movies in the last 25 years with such a depiction.
Hinduism doesn’t need a revival. It is too vibrant to require a revival. But I agree that it does need better representation in the west; its current representation indeed continues to suffer from the vestiges of colonization. But not with counter myths.
I believe Hindus dislike the Doniger book The Hindus because it has an a-religious (vs. anti-religious) treatment and they feel a book on Hinduism should be religious. The book is a socio-anthropological history of Hinduism. Is such a perspective of a religion anti-that religion? It is not. Doniger actually likes Hinduism—just not the way a Hindu likes Hinduism.
I was intrigued by Gopi Kallayil’s article (The Practical Vegetarian, India Currents, September 2014,. He appears to be a well-traveled person considering the number of places in the world he has visited.
Why are vegetarians so passionate about vegetarianism? It may be the upbringing by vegetarian parents, Or it may be disgust with the killing of animals and the sight of raw flesh.
Bottom line: One is either a vegetarian or one is not. There is no mid-way.
Vengrai Parthasarathy, San Diego, CA
A Historic Meeting
The United States President, the White House announcement stated, “looks forward to working with the Prime Minister to fulfill the promise of the US-India strategic partnership for the benefit of both our citizens and the world.” Dr. A.P.J. Kalam has said in his book that the real and fastest progress takes place when technology joins spirituality. By the time you read this letter the great joining would have happened. United State’s technology and India’s spirituality can make wonders in the world, and can make this world a much better, safer and peaceful place. The challenges are tough but the commitment of both the leaders can overcome all problems. I wish both the leaders all success.
A. Bhatia, India
Taking Pot Shots
I am disappointed to read the article by Shashi Tharoor (Not Enough to Like Facebook, India Currents, August 2014). Where is the evidence for Tharoor’s claim that Prime Minister Modi asked Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook for advice on public sanitation? Shashi Tharoor is an old Congress party supporter and is not pleased that Narendra Modi has won the election fair and square and hence resorts to taking pot shots at him.
Most justifiably, Prime Minister Modi has placed public sanitation and hygiene at a priority level and his activity regarding that subject on his Facebook page has been welcome to most of us who care about a clean and tourist friendly India. His concerns and the power of his Facebook appeals has already produced results worth a two crore contribution of funds by the likes of Tatas and Bharti Industries for school toilets.
Doesn’t Shashi Tharoor know of this or does he see only what he wants to see?
Byravan Viswanathan, Gettysburg, PA