Thursday, June 13, 2013

About Calling A Spade A Spade

By Maria Wirth
Observations by someone who grew up in the stifling atmosphere of dogmatic Christianity and appreciates the freshness and freedom of undogmatic Hinduism– and wonders why Hindus are so apologetic about their religion when it actually is the best bet for a fulfilling life.
Hindus used to say, “All religions are equal”. They did not want to see that the two biggies, Christianity and Islam, did not agree. Each of those religions claimed for itself, “We alone are the only true religion. Our God is the only true God.” They pitied Hindus that they might actually believe that by stating that all religions are equal, Hinduism would be elevated to their level. Of course, the ‘true religions’ will never allow this.
Now Hindus say, “We respect all religions. We teach it to our children. Our children hear a lot about Christianity and Islam and how good these religions are. We don’t want to offend anyone, so we teach very little about Hinduism and what we teach is only about superficial things, like festival and customs and not about the deep philosophy and scientific insights which would portray Hinduism in a good light and might irritate other religions.”
Again, Hindus don’t want to see that Christianity and Islam do not respect Hinduism. The clergy of those religions don’t say it into their face, but to their own flock: “Hindus go to hell, if they don’t convert to the true religion. It is their own fault. We have told them about Jesus and his Father or the Prophet and Allah respectively. Still, they are so arrogant and foolish and hold on to their false gods. But God/Allah is great. He will punish them with eternal hellfire.”
In a variation of “We respect all religions” Hindus also say, “All religions teach the human being to be virtuous and good and lead him to God, the creator. Hindus attend Inter Faith Dialogues and try to find the communalities. Of course these are there. Hindus try to build on them. “Yes, all religions have good points. Yes, all religions have good people.” They keep repeating that all religions teach goodness, as if to convince themselves. However, deep down, Hindus know that this is not honest and lacks intellectual integrity. They know that Christianity and Islam have gone off track by preaching exclusiveness and hate to their flock. Those religions have encouraged persecution of others and brainwashed otherwise kind human beings into fighting for an imaginary god who supposedly hates all those ‘others’ who don’t believe, what they are told to believe. They have left a trail of bloodshed in history. But Hindus choose to ignore it. ‘Why provoke unnecessarily?’ they might feel, still betraying a psyche wounded by thousand years of oppression.
Is it not time that Hindus call a spade a spade? Swami Vivekananda has said that every Hindu who leaves his faith is not one Hindu less but one enemy more. He said this while India was ruled by the British, and Christians and Muslims were encouraged to feel superior to the “idol worshipping Hindu”. Hindus were not in a position to put the record straight, as their own elite put Hinduism down due to a malicious British education policy. Yet today, 66 years after independence, it is about time to tell the world loudly and boldly what Hinduism is about.
 It is not about ruling the world. It is not about believing in unverifiable dogmas. It is not about being nice to those of one’s own faith and not nice to those of other faiths. But it is about discovering what we really are, apart from the ever-changing body and mind. The ancient rishis have discovered the oneness underlying the apparent multiplicity, long before western scientists did. This conscious, blissful oneness is not somewhere out there. It is permeating everyone (and everything) and can be felt as one’s own essence. This essence can be called God or Allah or Brahman, but the main thing is, that it is within everyone and within everyone’s reach. So, we truly are all children of the same God. We all belong to one big family. Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam. This truth provides the basis for a harmonious world and it makes sense, or does it not?

The Challenge of Mobilizing the Next Generation of Young Hindus in UK

As a young, modern British Hindu, I'm one of a confused bunch of people. Our Sanatan Dharma represents the oldest religion in the world. Our Vedic texts introduced philosophy to the world. That's our heritage. But almost every young Hindu I know plans to marry in lavish multi-day long ceremonies not because it's so Hindu, but because it's so Bollywood. And most of us won't know the meanings of any of those ceremonial wedding rituals. So most of us will be Hindu in name only, at major festivals and weddings.

It's not that we're not interested in our rich heritage in more than just name. It's just that, well, it seems too hard. We don't have a Hindu Barack Obama or Nelson Mandela to look up to in Britain. We'd probably like to be led, I suspect, but we don't have anyone that can show us the way. We're likely to learn about Hinduism's most popular export, yoga, from a Californian; and its most recognizable deity, Krishna, from a movement that proliferated in Britain thanks to The Beatles.
But to "lead" Hindus, one most first "represent" Hindus. One of Hinduism's key strengths is that it is such a broad church. It's simply not possible to for one person to "represent all Hindus."
So when a Hindu priest claims to do just that, I get confused. When Selena Gomez wore a bindi at a succession of TV appearances to promote her new song recently, a Hindu priest from Nevada promptly issued a statement saying she had offended all Hindus because a bindi wasn't "meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effective or as a fashion accessory." Clearly he had never heard arguably one of the biggest Bollywood songs of all time, the 1969 classic "Bindiyaa chamkegi" ("My bindi will dazzle"), with lyrics such as "I will be playful and tease you."
The same Hindu preacher accused an independent theater production, from a town near Melbourne of making Hindus and Lord Ganesh "a laughing stock" -- without having seen the show (I saw the show and, to put it lightly, this was an unrepresentative view). The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) protestedlast year at Oscar-winner Kathyn Bigelow filming Zero Dark Thirty because her team was trying to film Pakistani scenes in the Indian city of Chandigarh. Many years ago, I remember acclaimed Indian director, Ismail Merchant, generating controversy because he cast Tina Turner to play the part of the Goddess Shakti, in a movie. Apparently she wasn't chaste enough, but a Bollywood actress would presumably have been fine.
A research report by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a cross-partisan British think-tank, said earlier this year that Hindus were under-represented in the media in Britain. Out of 3,945 articles they surveyed over 10 years, the HJS found almost all of the Hindu representation in mainstream media were to do with three issues: opposition to the slaughter of a cow in Wales in 2007; asking Royal Mail to remove Christmas stamps featuring Hindu deities in 2005; and finally a case against Newcastle City Council asking for land to be dedicated for open air pyres.
While these may have been important issues, there were almost no Hindu opinions expressed in the media with relation to foreign policy, international aid, community cohesion, discrimination, defense, environment, justice, anti-terrorism, economic policy, employment, family, immigration and abortion. According to report author Hannah Stuart, "Hindu claims were often more specific, and not about wider society and contributions to public policy."
So on the one hand, there are global organizations such as the VHP, which claim to represent Hindus, but have some views most young British Hindus would consider outdated. On the other hand, there are national organizations elected to represent British Hindus, who don't comment on issues that matter.
Hindu community leadership in Britain is at a crossroads. Young British Hindus care about many of the same issues as other young Britons -- pop music, the credit crunch, Bollywood, the environment, inflation, cultural identity and football. When community leaders do not speak the same language as the next generation, they begin to lose relevance. Many second and third generation Hindus, whose parents are from East Africa or India, have already begun to see their linguistic and cultural heritage dilute over time.
This month gave a sneak peek into what the future may hold. The British government passed legislation to specifically ban "caste" discrimination as part of the Equalities Act 2010, something that was likely to happen since the Act originally came into force on 1 October 2010. Hindus condemned any discrimination based on caste (obviously), but many had serious concerns about the consequences and practicality of such legislation, and the impact it may have on entrenching the outdated notion of caste-based discrimination in Britain.
In saying the notion was outdated, community leaders were likely in sync with what most, especially young, Hindus thought. MPs and community leaders alike, speaking in hushed tones, said it was the first time they could ever remember the Hindu community coming together in such a united voice.
And therein lies the rub. When I heard people say this to me, the statement always conveyed genuine surprise that the community had for once come together. And that too, for a issue unrelated to stamps, shoes or songs. There was also bemusement as to why, if the community felt so strongly, it chose to act only in the last few weeks rather than in October 2010.
What it means to be a young Hindu in modern Britain has changed over the last 30 years. The Hindu community faces the challenge of spending less time being issue-driven, and more time developing an ecosystem that young Hindus consider as relevant for the future.
by P Dattani Chair  City Hindu Network

Hindus under attack in India

The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act of 1951 allows State Governments and politicians to take over thousands of Hindu Temples and maintain complete control over them and their properties. It is claimed that they can sell the temple assets and properties and use the money in any way they choose.
A charge has been made not by any Temple authority, but by a foreign writer, Stephen Knapp in a book (Crimes Against India and the Need to Protect Ancient Vedic Tradition) published in the United States that makes shocking reading.
Hundreds of temples in centuries past have been built in India by  evout rulers and the donations given to them by devotees have been used for the benefit of the (other) people. If, presently, money collected has ever been misused (and that word needs to be defined), it is for the devotees to protest and not for any government to interfere. This letter is what has been happening currently under an intrusive law.
It would seem, for instance, that under a Temple Empowerment Act, about 43,000 temples in Andhra Pradesh have come under government control and only 18 per cent of the revenue of these temples have been returned for temple purposes, the remaining 82 per cent being used for purposes unstated.
Apparently even the world famous Tirumala Tirupati Temple has not been spared. According to Knapp, the temple collects over Rs 3,100 crores every year and the State Government has not denied the charge that as much as 85 per cent of this is transferred to the State Exchequer, much of which goes to causes that are not connected with the Hindu community. Was it for that reason that devotees make their offering to the temples? Another charge that has been made is that the Andhra Government has also allowed the demolition of at least ten temples for the construction of a golf course. Imagine the outcry writes Knapp, if ten mosques had been demolished.
It would seem that in Karanataka, Rs. 79 crores were collected from about two lakh temples and from that, temples received Rs seven crores for their maintenance, Muslim madrassahs and Haj subsidy were given Rs. 59 crore and churches about Rs 13 crore. Very generous of the government.
Because of this, Knapp writes, 25 per cent of the two lakh temples or about 50,000 temples in Karnataka will be closed down for lack of resources, and he adds: The only way the government can continue to do this is because people have not stood up enough to stop it.
Knapp then refers to Kerala where, he says, funds from the Guruvayur Temple are diverted to other government projects denying improvement to 45 Hindu temples. Land belonging to the Ayyappa Temple, apparently has been grabbed and Church encroaches are occupying huge areas of forest land, running into thousands of acres, near Sabarimala.
A charge is made that the Communist state government of Kerala wants to pass an Ordinance to disband the Travancore & Cochin Autonomous Devaswom Boards (TCDBs) and take over their limited independent authority of 1,800 Hindu temples. If what the author says is true, even the Maharashtra Government wants to take over some 450,000 temples in the state which would supply a huge amount of revenue to correct the states bankrupt conditions
And to top it all, Knapp says that in Orissa, the state government intends to sell over 70,000 acres of endowment lands from the Jagannath Temple, the proceeds of which would solve a huge financial crunch brought about by its own mismanagement of temple assets.
Says Knapp: Why such occurrences are so often not known is that the Indian media, especially the English television and press, are often anti-Hindu in their approach, and thus not inclined to give much coverage, and certainly no sympathy, for anything that may affect the Hindu community. Therefore, such government action that play against the Hindu community go on without much or any attention attracted to them.
Says Knapp: Nowhere in the free, democratic world are the religious institutions managed, maligned and controlled by the government, thus denying the religious freedom of the people of the country. But it is happening in India. Government officials have taken control of Hindu temples because they smell money in them, they recognise the indifference of Hindus, they are aware of the unlimited patience and tolerance of Hindus, they also know that it is not in the blood of Hindus to go to the streets to demonstrate, destroy property,threaten, loot, harm and kill.
But it is time some one asked the Government to lay down all the facts on the table so that the public would know what is happening behind its back. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not secularism. And temples are not for looting, under any name. One thought that Mohammad of Ghazni has long been dead.
Hinduism remains the most attacked and under siege of all the major world religions. This is in spite of the fact that Hinduism is the most tolerant, pluralistic and synthetic of the world's major religions