Almost Like Being There!
In his carefully documented article on a pilgrimage to the temples of Char Dham, (HINDUISM TODAY, APR/MAY/JUN 2019, Char Dham: The Holy Himalayan Pilgrimage to Four Temples is Both Grueling and Grace-Giving) author Devraj Agarwal, quotes a devotee who goes to the closing ceremony of the annual events: “It overwhelms me each time I watch it… that is why we pilgrimage, to have the experiences one cannot have at home.”
As an inspired reader, I pause to reflect and deny. Though even a trek to the grocery store can sometimes be fatiguing, the journey for spiritual soul searching is a far greater task. Yet, through the pages of HINDUISM TODAY, a stable of talented writers and beautifully reproduced imagery of Deities, temples and pilgrims, I can truly imagine myself there.
As with many elders on the spiritual path, with various and sundry physical challenges, the body tires of waiting for renewal. There are times that I feel impatient. Like the uncensored grandchildren of mine, I want it now—the high speed internet connection, a megabyte-fueled magic carpet to a spiritual destination without too much wait time or digital effort.
Albeit at a physical distance, sometimes there is that Divine travel—these fine stories bring intimacy to the reader, and thanks to the talent and insight of thoughtful writers, photographers and exemplary editors, I can still travel to these wonderfully inspiring destinations. Thank you.
HONOLULU, HI, USA
The Practice Must End
As a white, European-origin Hindu, it was interesting to discover, through the words of your article on Pashupatinath temple, that “those [Western] Hindus so excluded [from entering the temple] understand the need to control tourists and are content to worship outside the main temple.” The article is thoroughly mistaken when it comes to Hindus being excluded from entering one of the most famous Siva temples in the entire world. I would not in any way be content to worship outside the main temple, at Pashupatinath or any temple. Such exclusionary practices—whether explained in logistical terms, or in quasi-spiritual terms, or using tradition as justification, as is the case in some other temples—in no way live up to the lofty spiritual vision that is the core of Hinduism. This practice must end.
NEW YORK, NY, USA
Shocked by Excusing Racism
HINDUISM TODAY is such a fine magazine that I was shocked to read in the article about Pashupatinath Temple that “White” people are categorically not allowed, even though some may be in fact Hindus,” followed by the writer’s justification of the discrimination by saying it would be too challenging for officials to sort out actual Hindus. The discrimination by the temple officials is bad enough; the article’s minimizing and excusing it is deeply offensive.
ELK RIVER, MN, USA
Image The point about the reaction of Western Hindus was inserted in the article by the editors of HINDUISM TODAY, not the article’s main author. Many “white” bhaktas feel legitimately offended when this happens. Every religion works to protect the sanctity of worship. Still, virtually all Hindu temples allow free access to worshipers. A small percentage of large, traditional temples seek to control access, which can appear hypocritical when they allow a dark-skinned Christian access and then turn away a white-skinned devotee who has sincerely adopted Sanatana Dharma. There is certainly a legitimate issue here: how can managers of a Hindu temple maintain the sanctity of worship and prevent it from becoming a menagerie for tourists and onlookers oblivious of Hindu rites? We would welcome letters with positive solutions. Our founder, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, had a strict one. He required his Western devotees to formally convert to Hinduism and change their legal name. A Hindu name, usually with the attributes of the Divine, says volumes about sincerity and commitment. In many cases, if you are well-dressed and show your passport or your namakarana certificate with a name like “Lakshmi Tandavan,” access is granted. Read more about that in the story on the back cover of this issue, “How to Become a Hindu.”
God Exists as the “X” Factor?
The argument that “God Exists as the X Factor” (Letters, Apr/May/Jun 2020) grabbed my attention, but I don’t think the argument is sound. Nature may have no known or human origin, but that does not validate the conclusion that “God made it”, or that any ‘X’ (unknown) created nature. The teleological argument (“argument by design” or “intelligent design” theory) is William Paley’s famous watch argument (“Natural Theology”) which was widely discredited by a range of philosophers, primarily the empiricist philosopher David Hume (“Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion”) but also by Immanuel Kant, and even by Epicurus during the Hellenistic age.
The initial part of the watch argument is: 1) a watch is a product of intelligent and purposeful design, and 2) the universe resembles human creations e.g., watches, 3) therefore it is probable that the universe was intelligently and purposefully designed.
Hume argues that we have observed man-made objects (e.g., a watch) being designed, but we have not witnessed the design of a universe to complete the analogy. Also, we observe a watch in its entirety, but we cannot observe the universe in its entirety, due to its size. So, although we observe order in parts of the universe, this doesn’t rule out disorder in other parts. We cannot argue from parts to a whole. Also, any analogy depends on two things being similar, and human and universal design are too dissimilar for analogy (comparing apples to oranges). The knowledge we have of how a watch is built cannot lead us to how a universe would be built since we have knowledge only of the former, and we have no other universes to test the analogy.
Hume continues that there simply is no inference of Designer from observation of the complexities of nature, and even if one accepted the conclusion of Necessary Designer, there is no reason to necessarily conclude a benevolent omnipotent Being. For example, applying only inductive reasoning, we may just as well interpret creation of viruses like Covid-19 to be of non-benevolent design (“evil”). Logic simply won’t bridge the gap between observations and purposeful design. We just don’t know, so cannot correctly make the watch analogy stick.
‘X’ is an unknown factor, but not necessarily attributable to God or Intelligent Creation. I think we are left with the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s conclusion that all rational arguments for the existence of God fail and a Leap of Faith (not Kierkegaard’s words) is the alternative. This doesn’t necessarily lead to atheism, but simply the recognition that Faith and Will, not Reason must be the basis of religious convictions. If we emphasize our beliefs, traditions, and faith—even if not supported by logic and reason—we avoid the pitfall of needing to explain and theorize to justify God’s cosmic necessity. We don’t need to rationally affirm God through inference, but to love God. Reason and logic will not help towards that goal.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN, USA
Image Letters in response from a Hindu philosophical position, with references to the Upanishads and Agamas, would help to round out this very interesting on-going discussion.
Letters with writer’s name, address and daytime phone number should be sent to:
Letters, Hinduism Today
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Kapaa, Hawaii, 96746-9304 USA
or faxed to: (808) 822-4351
or visit: www.hinduismtoday.com/letters
Letters may be edited for space and clarity and may appear in electronic versions of HINDUISM TODAY.
Financial Challenges in Changing Times
HINDUISM TODAY’S great success in digital realms has caused a dip in income
LIKE THE WORLD AT LARGE, HINDUISM TODAY is feeling the effect of the great changes happening at this time. And, like nearly everyone, we are striving to meet the collateral challenges. We asked our publisher, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, how our magazine is navigating through these changing winds and what plans might be afoot.
“Two worldwide changes have affected the magazine in recent years,” Satguru explained. “They offered us rich opportunities. We seized them, and they have turned out well. But at the same time, they have created some new financial challenges.
“Over the decades, we have been able to meet our current, ongoing expenses rather easily. But then, along came the digital age and turned everything upside down—a tornado that we, and the whole publishing world, are still adjusting to.
“We put a great deal of thought and resources to expand HINDUISM TODAY into the digital realms, and the results have been gratifying. Thanks to our several apps, digital versions and strong presence on the web, our readership has soared. We couldn’t be happier. But there is a side effect. All of our digital offerings, being free, do not compensate for the ensuing loss of revenue from dwindled print subscriptions and copy sales.
“There is another trend challenging us further. It has always been a part of our mission to provide free copies to worthy recipients, such as swamis, leaders, students, ashrams, temples and cultural societies. The good news is: their number is increasing rapidly. We are discovering more and more such great souls and institutions out there. It is a wonderful sign for Hinduism and a marvelous fulfillment for our magazine, an ever-wider opening for disseminating a treasury of Hinduism to those who will make the most of it.
“But this propitious trend also has its repercussions. As it grows, costs increase without an offsetting income.”
Until now, we have asked for support for the magazine’s two endowments, the Production Fund and the Complimentary Subscription Fund. We certainly want to maintain that support, as it guarantees the future. But henceforth, we suggest that support be best done through one’s estate plan; see hheonline.org
And to meet today’s needs, we would suggest directing yearly, monthly or occasional gifts to HINDUISM TODAY’s current expenses fund at bit.ly/help-ht, or by contacting us:
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