Shravana 16 Vik Samvat 2067. Yugabda 5112: August 1, 2010

1. FESTIVALS: Karthigai festival in Tamil Nadu: Kacchiappa Sivachariyar, a Tamil and Sanskrit scholar, wrote the Tamil version of the Skanda Purana in AD 1350-1420. He called it the Kandha Puranam.
In the Kandha Puranam, Kartikeya or Karthigai is depicted as the destroyer of Taraka, the demon and the latter’s elder and more powerful brothers, called Soorapadman and Simhamukham. It is said that Lord Shiva let out a stream of fire from the third eye on his forehead and this split into six streams. Each stream landed as a child on a lotus in the lake known as Saravana Poigai.
It so happened that six women called Karthigai Pengal saw the six infants and took one each to bring up at their homes. On the day of Karthigai, Lord Shiva’s consort Parvati united the six children into a six-headed child. This led to the origin of the Tamil name of the deity - Arumugam or Shanmugam, which literally means ‘one who has six faces’.
On the day of Karthigai, a large festival is organised where most of the Tamilians participate with full vigour and zest.
2. WE WANT TEMPLE IN AYODHYA—The senior saints who have been leading the Ramjanmabhoomi agitation for about three decades have made it clear to the government that partition of the Ramajanmabhoomi would not be accepted at any cost. "We want only Sri Ram temple in Ayodhya. We can wait for the reconstruction but cannot accept any negotiation over the Ramjanma-bhoomi. There are more than sufficient mosques in Ayodhya as per the population of Muslims, but the Ramjanmabhoomi is one and only one in the world. The land that has been acquired basically belongs to Ramlala," said chairman of Shri Ramjanmabhoomi Trust, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das. He was speaking at the VHP’s Central Managing Committee meeting organised in Ayodhya from July 14 to 15. President of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, Mahant Gyandas said we are ready to sacrifice our lives but would not leave the claim over the temple in Ayodhya. He said all the saints across the country are ready to discharge their duty for the protection of dharma.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad president Ashok Singhal said Ramlala could not be seen under a tarpaulin for long, now each and every Hindu would have to engage himself in the task for reconstruction of the temple.
3. "HINDU TERROR" IS A CANARD, said RSS Sanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat on July 19, 2010, while inaugurating Sangha Karyalaya ‘Shakti Nivas’ and ‘Sabhagriham’ at a stone throw distance from the ‘Anantha Padmanabha Swamy’ temple in Thiruvananthapuram. Mohanji lit the traditional lamp and threw open the multi-storied building to the Hindu Samaj.
"For RSS happiness and sorrow, respect and insults, acceptability and rejection come intermittently. Without getting affected by both, we carry on our mission, cautiously. Just like cloth for man and not man for cloth, karyalayas are temples of Hindu Samaj and not office or place for karyakartas to live."
"The RSS aim is to develop positive Sanatan Shakti of Hindu Samaj through love, peace and unity. The target of certain media and quarters who spread canards against RSS is ‘Intense Hatred’. The crores of Hindus, all over the globe, know the true picture about RSS. We have offered total co-operation to the investigation agencies and for the past 85 years, RSS is working, subscribing to the laws of the land."
He concluded saying RSS is running 1.57 lakh service projects irrespective of religion, caste, province, and state etc., in addition to service during calamities and tragedies.
Sethumadhavan, Gopalakrishnan, AR Mohan, Gopalankutty, and Prof. CG Rajagopal participated in the functions along with several saints and sages of various mutts and ashrams.
4. COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY NEEDED TO FIGHT MAOIST TERROR-MADAN DAS – "There is a need to have a comprehensive, consistent, coordinated and Centre-led strategy to fight against Maoist violence in the country," said RSS Sahsarkaryavah Madan Das at a seminar on internal security at Ram Reddy Distance Education Auditorium of Osmania University campus in Hyderabad on July 15. The seminar was organised by Martyrs’ Memorial Research Institute, Hyderabad.
Madan Das said a kind of demoralisation has set in among the security agencies. Whenever they lose men, the politicians rarely realise their pain and sufferings. More detrimental is the fact that the politicians compromise with Naxals during the elections.
Presiding over the discussion Prof Manohar Rao, chairman of Martyr’s Memorial Research Institute, listed the sacrifices made by many to counter the menace of Maoism.
5. BHARATIYA-AMERICAN IS CHICAGO BUSINESS SCHOOL DEAN – Sunil Kumar, a Bharatiya-American management guru, has been named the new head of the University of Chicago's prestigious Booth School of Business.
Kumar, who was born in India, received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and has taught at Stanford since 1996. Currently the senior associate dean of academic affairs at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, Kumar, 42, succeeds Edward Snyder, who stepped down in June. Kumar will begin a five-year term as dean on Jan 1, the University of Chicago announced July 28.
6. DEEPANJALI GUPTA WINS THE ECO-AWARD IN SYDNEY: Deepanjali Gupta, a final year Bachelor of Business student at the University of Technology Sydney, was awarded the Eco-Champion Award for individuals at a formal Awards ceremony, celebrating World Environment Day on 5th June 2010. The event was organised by the multi-faith network, the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) and was held at the Anglican Church in South Hurstville Sydney.
7. 'BRANCHES OF INDOLOGY LIKE RELIGION FLOURISHING IN RUSSIA': Indologist Viktoria Lyssenko of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Philosophy recently lectured at Kashmir University. She spoke to Aditi Bhaduri on Indology in Russia currently:
What is the state of Indic studies in Russia today?
Currently certain branches of Indology, which were earlier under strict ideological control - like religion and philosophy - are flourishing. Thanks to the initiatives of Prof Marietta Stepanyants, the author of the first textbook on Eastern philosophies, and the Bharatiya embassy in Moscow, a unique chair of Bharatiya Philosophy named after Mahatma Gandhi has been established at the Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences. Sanskrit and courses on various branches of Bharatiya philosophical traditions are taught. Last year, the first specialised encyclopedia of Bharatiya philosophy, prepared by Russian Indologists, was published and the State Commission declared it the best book of the year 2009. We actively cooperate with colleagues from the Bharatiya Council for Philosophical Research.
Your recent lecture was in Kashmir University.
The lecture was organised by the Centre for Central Asian Studies. I was moved by the interest my lecture generated. I talked about faith and knowledge in early Buddhism, which generated fierce discussion, especially the premise that in Buddhism, as presented in the first two parts of the Tripitika, faith was not considered necessary for religious fulfilment. The Buddha said not to accept anything on simply faith, but on personal experience, of which he considered meditative experience the best.
8. AN IIT, IISC-DESIGNED LAPTOP FOR JUST RS 1500: More than five years after it was conceived by then education secretary Sudeep Banerjee to take on Nicholas Negroponte's $100 laptop and one-and-half years after his demise, Human Resource Development minister Kapil Sibal on July 22 unveiled access-cum-computing device priced at Rs 1500 or $35 for students.
The sleek-looking device -- a cross between I-Pad and tablet PC and charged by an equally sleeker solar panel -- is designed by experts at IIT, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The upper price limit for the device is pegged at $35.
9. BHARAT'S OWN ATLANTIS? 2000-YR-OLD UNDERSEA TOWN TO BE EXCAVATED: Encouraged by the zeal witnessed at the recent world classical Tamil conference, the Tamil Nadu government has decided to fund an undersea expedition to excavate remains of a 2,000-year-old town, Poompuhar or Kaveripoompattinam, submerged under the sea off the Nagapattinam coast in Tamil Nadu. Goa-based National Institute of Oceanography's (NIO's) marine archaeology wing will be assigned the task. The expertise of the underwater wing of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which was involved in past explorations of the ancient sunken towns of Dwaraka and Mamallapuram on the east and west coasts, will also be used. Reams of ancient Tamil literature and early geographers and historians like Ptolemy and Pliny have described the Chola town of Kaveripoompattinam as a vital maritime port that had trade links with the Roman empire and China before being washed away by tidal waves, now recogized as a tsunami.
10. STUDSTAT, NANO OF THE SKIES: In 2007, a group of students from the Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology, Bangalore participated in a seminar in Hyderabad. What they saw there changed their lives. Inspired by a presentation by American students on small satellites, these students wanted to build their own version of the nano-satellite. Despite an interaction with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and a concrete plan, the students were laughed at when they suggested the idea to their college. That is, until they met Jharna Majumdar, a retired scientist from Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) who’d just joined the college. At the end of their effort, Studsat, the nano satellite, was launched on July 12 aboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C15 at Sriharikota in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh, some 600 km north of Bangalore.
This was the first time ever that institutions other than IITs and IISc had succeeded at a project this large. It also signified the government’s change of heart.
Which is why ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishanan has now said that the next step was to extend the experiment and tap the country’s talented scientific brains. Studsat’s single largest accomplishment has been to show the government that a satellite can be built for less than Rs 1 crore.
11. COWS, TIGERS ARE EQUAL IN MP: Cows in Madhya Pradesh will now be on the same page as tigers as far as state protection is concerned. The assembly has passed the amendment to the MP Prevention of Cow Slaughter (Amendment) Act that provides for a maximum jail term of seven years for killing a cow or a bull, or being involved in such an act.
The same is the level of punishment one gets for killing a tiger under central legislation.
12. RUPEE BECOMES ONLY 5TH CURRENCY TO GET A SYMBOL: In keeping with Bharat’s growing economic might and its status as a major investment destination, the hitherto humble rupee is all set to get a distinct identity in the form of a new symbol. The Union Cabinet on July 14 gave its approval to the symbol which combines the Roman letter ‘R’ with the Devnagri ‘Ra’ .
The symbol will catapult the rupee into the company of four ‘elite’ currencies which have similarly distinct identities — the US dollar, euro, yen and British pound.
13. THE LARGEST OF ALL THE JANTAR MANTARS IS ALSO IN THE RACE: The other Bharatiya monument in the race for the UNESCO’s World Heritage status is the Jaipur’s celebrated astronomical observatory, Jantar Mantar. It is a collection of architectural astronomical observatories built by Maharajah Jai Singh II of Jaipur between 1727 and 1734. He had constructed five such facilities at different locations. It is modeled after the one that he had built at Delhi. However Jaipur observatory is the biggest of these.
14. BHARAT SUCCESSFULLY TESTS BALLISTIC MISSILE INTERCEPTOR: Bharat on July 26 successfully tested a ballistic missile interceptor from a defence base in Orissa as part of its endeavour to create a shield against incoming enemy missiles. The indigenous interceptor was fired from Wheeler Island off the Orissa coast near Dhamra in Bhadrak district, about 170 km from Bhuvaneswar. It successfully destroyed an incoming ballistic missile - a variant of the Prithvi II fired from Integrated Test Range at Chandipur on sea in Balasore district, about 70 km away from Wheeler Island across the sea.
15. OBITUARIES: SADANAND JI KAKADE & SHANKAR SHASTRY: Senior VHP karyakarta and former vice president Sadanand Kakde passed away at on July 12. He was 90. Born in 1920, Sadanand Kakde became a Sangh Sangh Pracharak and held many responsibilities as such as first organising secretary of VHP in Karnataka, Dakshin Kshetra organising secretary. Later, he became central secretary of VHP and then vice president. He played a key role during the second Ekatmata Yatra conducted in the nineties.
Senior RSS Pracharak Shankarrao Shastri passed away at the ripe age of 88 in Nagpur on July 13.
Shankarrao Shastri, who originally hailed from Kamptee near Nagpur, became a Sangh Pracharak at the age of 22. He was sent to South Bharat where he started his activities in the then Madras Province.
16. SANSKRIT DYING? THESE TECHIES SPEAK IT 30 MINUTES A DAY: Every working day, Hemant Gadgil (42)-an associate software consultant with the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)-eagerly awaits that half an hour before lunch time, when he and 18 of his colleagues come together to learn to converse in Sanskrit. Gadgil is part of the Sanskrit Sambhashan Shibir (Sanskrit conversation workshop), organised by Maitree-a TCS unit for cultural and social activities-and Sanskrit Bharati that works for promoting Sanskrit as a spoken language.
17. HINDU SAMRAJYA DINOTSAV AT 95 CENTRES ACROSS BENGALURU: On Jyestha Shuddha Trayodashi, 1674, Shivaji was crowned as Chatrapati Maharaj. On June 24, 2010 Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh organised ‘Hindu Samrajya Dinotsav’at 95 centres across Bengaluru to celebrate and remember the great fighter who saved Hindu culture with valour and vigour.
One such Hindu Samrajya Dinotsav event took place at Rajajinagar Parents Association first grade college where swayamsevaks, senior citizens, women and children participated enthusiastically in the evening. Boudhik by a swayamsevak Pramod was the major attraction as he narrated the history of Moghul empire’s invasion and successful war against them by Shivaji Maharaj. Shivaji is more popular outside India, he said, while citing a remarks of Home Minister of Vietnam who visited Bharat after Vietnam won the battle against America. Babu Jagjivan Ram, the then Home Minister of Bharat received her and suggested her to visit the Samadhi of Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru to pay tribute. But the Home Minister of Vietnam insisted to visit Samadhi of Shivaji Maharaj and praised Shivaji’s guerrilla warfare and voluntarily admitted that Shivaji is the role model for Vietnamese to win a war against mighty America.
Guerrilla warfare is irregular warfare, conflicts in which a small group of combatants uses military tactics, like ambushes and raids, to harass a larger and less-mobile traditional army. Vietnam war was the longest war in American history and the most unpopular American war of the twentieth century. It resulted in nearly 60,000 American deaths and an estimated two million Vietnamese deaths.
18. MADISON WI GURUVANDANA: Madison East WI shakha celebrated the Guruvandana Program on Jul 11th, 2010 at the Community center Sun Prairie WI.
A total of 6 teachers from local school districts attended the function. The students ranged from kindergarteners to eighth graders. The program started at 4.00pm with a welcome note by Naveen Aditya. Anu Sundram ji who works in American Family Insurance, performed Deep Prajwalan with talks on guru and guru vandana by Digant ji and Anu Sundaram ji, and guru stotram by all the participants were highlights of the celebrations.
19. HINDU COUNCIL AND INTER-FAITH DIALOGUE with Professor Raja Jayaraman, Vice-Chair: Hindu Council of Australia organised an Inter-faith Forum on May 8 on the theme of “the relevance of core values of one’s faith for today’s multi-faith Australia”. The major aim of the Forum was to provide a platform and an occasion to engage in a dialogue between leaders of various religious and spiritual traditions on the nature of their core values of their traditions. Its specific objectives were first, to highlight similarities between various traditions and second, where differences exist, to bring about a better understanding and appreciation of these differences in the context of creating harmony and peace in the society as a whole.
In conformity with the aim and the objectives as stated above, there were seven speakers at the Forum, each representing seven faith traditions which included Aboriginal spirituality, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and Baha’i faith.
Based on the presentation of different speakers at the Forum, it was clear that while each faith tradition may have a set of beliefs and practices exclusive to itself, there are many other common fundamental values which they all share on issues such as the spiritual connectedness that exist between not only humans but also between humans and other things in the universe.
20. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Pravas: Dr.Shankar Tatwawadi, samyojak Vishwa Vibhag reached U.K. on July 24. Shri Ravikumar, sah samyojak will return Bharat from HongKong by Aug 15. Visitors: S.Taniga from Paris, Gopi Prasad – Hamburg Germany & Ma.Bajranglal Sharma Singapore.
21. THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Have you got the will to surmount mountain-high obstructions? If the whole world stands against you sword in hand, would you still dare to do what you think is right? – Swami Vivekanand
Lal Krishna Advani
Some years back, a friend who had gone to Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, on his return met me at Adipur in Kutch (Gujarat) and showed me a high-denomination (20,000 rupiah) currency note of that country with Lord Ganesh imprinted on it. I was as surprised, as I was impressed.
When last month a group of eminent Sindhi gentlemen came to Delhi from Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia and invited me for a World Sindhi Conference scheduled to be held at Jakarta on July 9, 10 and 11, 2010, I readily agreed. One reason was that I had never before been to that country, though I had often heard reports about the impact of Bharatiya civilization and more particularly, the impact of epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata on that country. The Ganesh inscribed currency note was only an example.
Accompanied by my wife Kamla, daughter Pratibha, my associate for decades, Deepak Chopra and his wife Veena, I left for Indonesia on July 8 and returned on July 13 with very fond memories of the trip. Indonesia comprises 13,677 islands of which over 6000 are inhabited. Of its total population of 20.28 crores, more than 88 per cent are Muslims, and 10 per cent Christians. Its 2 per cent Hindu population is concentrated mainly in the island of Bali, the famous tourist paradise.
The recently adopted new brand logo for the Island of Bali is a manifestation of country’s Hindu traditions. An Indonesian Ministry of tourism publication explains the logo as: The triangle (shape of logo) is a symbol of stability and balance. It is formed out of three straight lines in which both ends meet, taking the symbols of a blazing fire (Brahma – the creator), lingga or phallus. The triangle also represents the three Gods of the universe (Trimurti – Brahma, Wisnu, and Siwa), three stages of nature (Bhur, Bwah and Swah Loka), and three stages of Life (Born, Live, and Die). The tagline ‘Shanti, Shanti, Shanti’ represents peace upon Bhuwana alit dan agung (yourself and the world) that will deliver a sacred and holy vibe that awakens a deep aura that balances and makes peace to all living creatures.
Now let us anallyse the Ganesh-inscribed 20,000 rupiah currency note of Bank Indonesia. As I have mentioned in this piece earlier, I had seen this some years back and had resolved then itself to procure a specimen of the note to show it to others if I happen to visit that country.
The Sindhi Conference was a great success. More than a thousand delegates drawn from 32 different countries of all five continents – America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia - attended the conclave. Most of the delegates were youngsters or middle aged whose families had gone through the sufferings of mass migration which happened in 1947.
Partition of Bharat had dealt a terrible blow to millions on both sides of the Radcliffe Line. Hindus from Sind had not only been uprooted from their hearths and homes, but unlike Hindus of Punjab and Bengal, who had the satisfaction of saving something like half of their home states, had also been despoiled off their entire province, and forced to adopt different states of divided Bharat as their totally new homes.
Speaking to these Sindhi delegates I felt proud that they had not only gone through the traumatic experience of partition with confidence and fortitude, but, generally speaking, they had actually prospered immensely. They had succeeded in converting a calamity into an opportunity.
Of course, there were, in this gathering, delegates whose forefathers had gone to the countries they represented in this conclave, long before Bharat became independent and suffered this trauma of partition. The main organizer of this Jakarta Conference for instance, Suresh Vaswani was one whose grandfather had come to Jakarta some time around 1914, that is, nearly one century back! This family had since settled down here and made this island of Java their home. When we were in Sind, this class of traders who went overseas and earned wealth for their families was colloquially known as ‘Sindhworkies’.
For a visitor to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, situated on the north-west coast of Java, the most striking landmark right in the centre of the city is the magnificently-constructed Shri Krishna-Arjuna pair mounted on a multiple -horse-drawn chariot.
In Indonesia, the names of places, of people, and the nomenclature of institutions also give one a clear impression of a benign Sanskrit influence.
It certainly pleased me to gather that the official mascot of Military Intelligence in Indonesia is Hanuman. The rationale offered by a local was that it was Hanuman who had been able to trace that Sita, kidnapped by Ravana, had been kept in confinement at the Ashok Vatika.
Our family spent four days in Indonesia – two days in Jakarta and two days in Bali.
Bali is one of the bigger islands of the country. Its industries include gold and silver work, woodcarving, weaving, copra, salt and coffee. But the moment you touch the place you can see clearly that the place is swarming with tourists. With a population of around three million, Bali has a tourist traffic of around one million every year. The capital of this island is Denpasar. Our place of stay was the picturesque Four Seasons Resort, a seaside resort not very far from the airport. On way to the Resort I saw a gigantic stone construction not very dissimilar to the Krishna-Arjuna one I had seen in Jakarta, except that this one was bigger.
Pointing to a statue near the Ngurah Rai International Airport, I asked the driver of my car: Whose statue is this? And you can imagine my surprise when he replied: “This is a depiction of Ghatotkachof the Mahabharata.” He added; “And the statue in the city itself showing Ghatotkach’s father Bheema waging battle with a demon is even more massive!”
In Bharat itself, of the two epics Ramayana and Mahabharat the average citizen is familiar with most characters of the Ramayana. But the characters of Mahabharata are little known. Indeed, even in Bharat very few would be able to identify who Ghatotkach is. And here was the driver of our car knowing full well both Ghatotkach as well as his relationship with Bheema!
Both at the Sindhi Convention in Jakarta as well as in Bali we were able to witness glimpses of scenes from the Ramayana enacted with slight variations from the traditional form as known to us in Bahrat. The performance, the presentation as also the general climate at the sites where the shows were held, were all marked by befitting piety and reverence.
Indonesia, I must say, seemed to know and cherish Ramayana and Mahabharata better than we do. --
By KS Iyer
The main aim of Samskrit Bharati is to spread Sanskrit by making it a spoken language of the masses, as the language of everyday dealings, as it was in the days of yore. According to their booklet Samskritam Vadatu (Speak Sanskrit) Sanskrit cannot be promoted by mere appreciation or by speaking about Sanskrit. It will be possible for us to learn Sanskrit by oral practice alone-that is by speaking in Sanskrit in the school (in class), at home, at office, in factory, on road, in market, or playground, at dining table, in transit, on phone-rather by trying to express our feelings, emotions, instincts and sentiments in Sanskrit, wherever and whenever an opportunity presents itself to open our mouth. The key to unlock our mouth is in our hands and not with others! You need not be surprised if a Sanskrit missionary emphasises that while the first method to learn Sanskrit is by speaking the language of Sanskrit and declares at the same time that the secrets to the second and the third methods also lie in speaking the soft spoken and magical language of Sanskrit. In the words of the publisher of Samskritam Vadatu, "The best method to learn Sanskrit is to speak in Sanskrit-correct or grammatically faulty, speak Sanskrit with patience and pride."
The golden rule of Samskrit Bharati is Sambhashnena bhashabhyasaha sheeghram bhavati-that is, "The study of a language becomes rapid by conversation." Samskrit Bharati is particularly noted for conducting classes for conversational Sanskrit, for ten continuous days, each lasting for two hours a day. While they are handling their classes, using Sanskrit as the medium of instruction, their instructors use simple Sanskrit vocabulary that is readily evident in many Bharatiya languages. Their method of teaching is mostly impressive because of gestures employed, supplemented with hand drawn and printed charts, as well as gorgeous display of articles of daily use and toys in the form of birds, animals and common articles like clock, engine, computer, kitchen utensils, electric bulb and many other articles of daily use. Learners are also helped to identify the Sanskrit names/nomenclatures of the various articles that are displayed.
The unique and unprecedented method evolved by them, (born out of decades of teaching experience) to teach conversational Sanskrit with the simplest approach will enable a learner to converse in Sanskrit within two or three months.
Conducting Sanskrit classes in slums and correspondence courses in Sanskrit for the benefit of aspirants adds one more dimension to their achievements. A home page in the internet and commencement of the activities of Samskrit Bharati abroad in countries like USA, England, in European countries, as well as in many other countries have already heightened the image of Samskrit Bharati. No Wonder! Samskrit Bharati is marching from success to success!!
Francis X. Clooney, S.J.
I recently came across a column in the On Faith section of the Washington Post by Loriliai Biernacki. A friend of mine, she is a professor of Indian religions at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a specialist in the study of Hinduism. Her piece is entitled, "A rich and strange metamorphosis: Glocal Hinduism." She suggests that Hinduism today is becoming much more widely established in different parts of the world, and it is flourishing in many parts of the United States, both among Americans of Indian ancestry, but also among many converts to Hinduism.
In her piece, Bernacki recollects Lisa Miller's essay in Newsweek a few months ago, on how Americans are becoming Hindus ideologically:
"[Lisa Miller] tells us that an astounding number of Americans now believe in reincarnation. This conceptual, indeed cosmological, importation from Hinduism is seeping indelibly into the American psyche.
Even a percentage of self-identified Christians have little difficulty incorporating this Hindu notion. Similarly, the word and concept of 'karma' is so commonly parlayed in everyday conversation that its Hindu origins no longer even register, as the concept finds its way across wide ranges of socio-economic circles and in all sorts of milieus."
Biernacki speculates that Hinduism - Hinduisms - is uniquely able to be "glocal" - present across the globe, but yet still local in a multitude of particular identities. Alas: before our present era of over-centralization, the Catholic Church too excelled at being glocal!
This Hinduism meets our needs, Biernacki goes on to say, offering "a kind of proliferation of particularities, particular Gods, particular practices among communities that might have not ever had any access to these new, imported Hindu perceptions -- and at least for the West, beckoning a rich and strange metamorphosis." She concludes by suggesting that Hinduism may help us by showing us where we are going: "Our own increasingly plural world might take some solace, find a steady ease in the Hindu comfort with the multiple -- multiple Gods, multiple practices, and simultaneous multiple ontological structures of monotheisms, monisms, polytheisms, and panentheisms. In this sense, the future of Hinduism suggests a kind of opening to a global world in a way that sidesteps the vision of a one-world government or one-world ideology. It proposes instead a world model without hegemonic center, linked by a thread of cosmology, multiplicity instanced as network, a seamless interconnectivity that echoes a conceptual cosmology from Hinduism's past into our own global and glocal future."
It is an interesting essay that deepens Lisa Miller's Newsweek piece, and I recommend reading all of it. I am tempted to confirm her insights out of my own experiences - including my recent brief encounter with Amritanandamayi Amma. But my thought now goes in a different direction: If there is truth in Biernacki's insights, and there is, then what does this say about Christian identity in the United States now?
Catholic identity?
It is probably right that we are most concerned most of the time about issues in the Church, ranging from social ministries to ongoing debates about the ordination of women, and are rightly horrified by the individual and systemic aspects of the clergy sex abuse crisis - but we can overdo it, suffering too much introspection with our good and our bad, when the culture around us is going through deep changes. (One could add many others to Biernacki's particular focus, since Buddhism is influential, Pentecostal Christian Churches are multiplying, and of course Islam will become more and not less an important presence in this country; but Hinduism is enough for this blog.) Just think of the example she and Miller dwell on, the growing comfort of a wide range of
Americans - surely including Church-going Catholics - who accept reincarnation as a good spiritual possibility. This is no small change in the way people think - and it challenges us to speak more powerfully, more simply, about Jesus as one who dies and rises, even today.
The danger then is that we Catholics - to stick with us for a moment - will endlessly build and rebuild our Church in order to improve it and correct its failings, while yet forgetting that many, many people are no longer interested, are not waiting for us to discover spiritual depths, and care so little about us that even being "anti-Catholic" is no longer all that important. If our neighbors are practicing yoga (even Christian yoga), meditating, visiting gurus, and enjoying the prospect of multiple deities and multiple births - then we have to bear down, and think more deeply about who we are and how we speak, act, live.
Yes, we need ever to return to the message of Jesus, as given in the Bible and as celebrated in the liturgical life of the Church; yes, we need really to believe that "loving our neighbor" is indeed what Jesus would do, does do. But no, it is not enough to broadcast our faith without listening, or to insist with open mouths and closed ears that Jesus is the way and that Christian faith is superior to religions such as Hinduism, when we - the Church - seems not understand Hinduism except in a most superficial way, and have no clue why Americans might embrace reincarnation. (Education is lacking: as far as I can see, neither CCD programs nor major seminaries spend much time exploring the religions of India, and few deacons, priests, and bishops have done a single yogic stretch or quiet breathing exercise.) If we commend ourselves for proclaiming the Gospel while not getting Professor Biernacki's point, we may rather ironically find that for many, the Jesus of the Church will remain a distant and institutional figure, while Jesus seen through Hindu eyes may be the more powerful spiritual figure.
So - to turn on its head the old notion that yoga is navel-gazing - we would do well to be more yogic, more Hindu - less into Catholic-navel-gazing, and more attentive to the very interesting spiritual cultures flourishing around us, and unafraid at a diversity that we cannot control yet that does nothing to harm the uniqueness of Jesus. Attentiveness will help us to see better what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the world we actually have, in the one life given to us. Source: Catholic Weekly, Cambridge, MA.