(Condensed version of this message was presented at Bala Datta Annual Function held on May 8, 2011 at Karya Siddhi Hanuman Temple, Frisco, TX)
"If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India." And if I were to ask myself from what literature we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of the Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw the corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human a life...again I should point to India….
I maintain that for everybody who cares for himself, for his ancestors, for his history, for his intellectual development, a study of Vedic literature is indispensable."
It is indeed a pleasure to see so many parents and children attend the annual Bala Datta Function to celebrate the glory and grandeur of our ancient yet modern religion, traditional yet scientific, and customary yet meaningful.
At the outset let me say that Hinduism is not a ‘religion,’ It is a way of life. The word Hinduism has only few hundred years of history. We should identify Hinduism in terms of ‘Dharma,’ ‘Vedanta Philosophy,’ Vedic culture, or ‘Sanatana Dharma, (the Perennial Philosophy’ as termed by Aldous Huxley) that has thousands of history. According to Whitman, “Hindu traditions promote living with integrity, causing no harm, and progressing further on a spiritual path by living according to dharma, stage of life appropriate guidelines” (Whitman, 2007, p. 608)
Do we need to identify with our faith (Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma)
We all identify with some thing. We have our own identification. By mentioning your name, we come to know about your identity with respect to your name, your status, your family heritage, your family, your history, your job, and your affiliations with your friends etc.
Similarly our identification with our religion is equally important. You have been born into it, you have been raised in that atmosphere, you have been shaped by it, you have been molded by it, and you have developed a set of values, ethics, and moral compass. Many people who grew up in this country identify themselves as Irish Americans, Jewish Americans, Polish Americans, Arab Americans, Greek Americans, Mexican Americans, African Americans, etc.
There is nothing wrong in identifying yourself as Hindu Americans. We should be proud of being a Hindu whether you live in USA, India or some other country. Why do we say that we have to be proud of being a Hindu? Because we never conquered a country, we never caused untold misery to any body, we never massacred any nation in the name of religion, we never looted the treasury of other country, we never plundered the religious institutions of the other faiths, we never wanted to plant the cross on another’s soil with deception and destruction, we never build our temples on the ruins of other religious institutions following the demolition of other institutions, and we never depleted the natural resources of other nations. In fact, we openly welcomed them with open arms never realizing that they will stab you in open daylight. We always respected others to practice their religion without realizing that their only and sole mission is to convert us into their religion, dominate us with deception and terror, conspire to destroy and root out our Hindu way of life from the face of this earth.
But Hinduism represents different kinds of values, beliefs, attitudes, mores, rituals, traditions, and practices which are different from other religions. These are the values that promote harmony, universal brotherhood, peaceful coexistence and the philosophy of ‘live let live.’ We believe that ahimsa, inclusiveness, and sanctity of life, are an integral part of our religion. We are pluralistic, non-interfering, contemplative and spark of the divine.
In order to feel proud of being a Hindu, first we should know our hoary history of our way of life, the past glory of Vedic and Puranic culture and also the gloominess of the past 10 centuries of foreign rule that defaced our pride, robbed our confidence and stripped our knowledge from our scriptures and succeeded in doubting our own dharmic values. Now it is time to reckon with the history. If we fail to learn the lessons of the past atrocities inflicted on our forefathers, and us we will make the same mistake our ancestors made. Read about Goa Inquisition, Hindu Kush Mountains, Destruction of 2000 Hindu Temples, killing of millions of people etc to find out what happened to us. Never again we should make similar mistakes.
Many of us are not knowledgeable about our religion –scriptures, our worship services, our mantras etc. That should not be an excuse for all of us to criticize, bash and trash our religion. We as parents should never say that I do not know to our children. Our ignorance or lack knowledge should not push our children to look for alternatives outside. There is not a single thing under the sun that has not been explained, explored, discussed, dissected, analyzed and scrutinized by our rishis in our scriptures. Let our ignorance be target for exploitation by other religions. Let us not sacrifice our children for exploitation by others. Let us take a firm stand to learn and impart our faith to our children.
Let us also advocate that freedom of religion and expression is not freedom to convert people to other faiths based on incentives, allurements, bribes, exploitation, ignorance and manipulation.
Hinduism is known for accommodation of different views – in fact in our own family we see one member worshipping Lord Hanuman, another Shiva, another Devi, and yet another Ayyappa Swami.
How do we develop Hindu Identity?
We have to be cognizant of the pressure other religions exert on our children and ourselves. We can only withstand that pressure with adequate knowledge about our religion. Let us all commit ourselves to learn some fundamentals of our faith and be refused to be exploited by other religions. Our strength is our knowledge in our scriptures. Let us remember the words of Bhartihari written in Neeti Shatakam: “Knowledge is a special beauty of man. It is a hidden treasure. It gives one happiness, enjoyment and fame. It is the teacher of great teachers. It is one’s relative when he is in a strange place. It is the God divine. It is knowledge that is to be worshipped not money. One who is bereft of knowledge is a beast.”
1) Learn about three pillars of Hindu religion that set us apart from the other religions – karma philosophy, reincarnation and concept of gurutattva. These pillars were established more than several thousand years ago. They are as relevant today as they were millenniums ago.
2) Learn about our scriptures – Vedas, Upanishad, Puranas, Dharma Sastras, Itihasas (Ramayana and Mahabharata), Tantras etc. Start with reading the Puranas and slowly move to Upanishads and Vedas. The more you read, the more you want to read. Appreciation of the richness of our culture and depth of knowledge will overwhelm you.
3) Learn about the scientific nature of our religion. Every thing that is written and every thing that is practiced has scientific explanation. There is never conflict between our religion and science. In fact we welcome scientific research about our beliefs and practices.
4) Let us learn about the width and depth of the subject matters that were described in our scriptures – mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, medicine, dentistry, music, metallurgy, philosophy, human anatomy, etc.
5) Mantras are the cornerstones of our worship both at home and in the temples. Mere chanting or listening will pierce through your body and heart. They give peace of mind and happiness. Hundreds of universities in USA and other countries have done research on the efficacy of these mantras. Sanskrit is deva bhasha and let us learn to communicate in that language to yield better and faster results.
6) Many of us keep saying that we do not know what they are chanting. Of course if we know the meaning we will appreciate more and our experiences will be different. Please know that even without knowing the meaning these Mantras, chanting and listening of Mantras will affect every part and particle of our body, and our chakras. Their effect on the mind and body are well documented. Research is well documented on this topic.
7) Let us all learn to visit the Temples as often as possible. This is a Gods abode. You feel the vibrations and you feel the energy. The atmosphere is different. Let us maintain silence when we enter the Temple, meditate few minutes closing our eyes, and experience the connectivity between you and the divine. Only in silence, you receive something in.
8) Let us all learn about the significance of the temple and shodashopachara puja. All sixteen steps are meaningful and significant to approach the Divine. Let us use all our god given angas (parts of our body) to serve God in the Temple. They are all His? What better way to use them?
9) Let us take pride in our religion. Pride comes with knowledge. The more we know about our faith, the more we relish, the more we cherish, the more we admire, the more we appreciate and the more willing to share the glory.
10) Let us not let other faiths define who we are and what our religion is all about. Let us not allow any one to falsify our religion, hijack our faith, distort our worship practices, and misrepresent out scriptures.
11) Let us engage in practicing yoga and mediation – they are the stress busters, peace promoters, mind stabilizers, health boosters, body builders and energy stimulators. Let us build Peace Palaces, not Terror cells, quota quarters and exploitative citadels.
12) Let us make sure that we all stand for mutual respect from all other faiths. Let us not keep saying that Hinduism is tolerant. When we say that we are tolerant, we are telling other religions that we will tolerate all your atrocities, all your exploitations, all your deceptions, all your distortions of our scriptures, all your brutal attacks on our places of worship, all your mass killing of our brothers, sisters and forefathers. Let us STOP saying that we are TOLERANT.
13) Let us be assertive, confident and forward looking Hindus to make an imprint on the shores of each and every country we live in. We need to be the ambassadors of our faith. Never miss an opportunity to talk about our depth, richness, glory, grandeur, genius, beauty, and brilliance of our rishis, who have written all these scripture with unmatched intelligence and foresight. Let us go to different schools, different associations and different people with curiosity to talk about it.
14) Let us also be reminded that all religions are NOT the same. Even a cursory reading of the scriptures of other religions would tell you that they want to dominate the world and destroy any thing that would not fit their goal. We, Hindus, are all inclusive, while others are exclusive. They say if you do not believe in what I believe in, you are doomed. The do not subscribe to our philosophy of “Live, Let Live.”
15) Finally, let us all resolve ourselves that we will learn about our religion, we will take pride in our scriptures, we will impart our knowledge to our children, we will practice it, we will preserve it and finally PROTECT our way of living that is freedom. Make sure that the extremists and jealous gods do not blow our house away.
If we want to save the world from self-destruction and human annihilation, Hindus have a monumental task ahead of them. Once you know what Hinduism stands for, you can be a harbinger of peace on earth.
Remember the assessment of the impending human predicament and the possible solution by Arnold J Toynbee:
It is already becoming clear that a chapter, which had a Western beginning, will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in self-destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation is the ancient Hindu way …. So now we turn to India. This spiritual gift, that makes a man human, is still alive in Indian souls. Go on giving the world Indian examples of it. Nothing else can do so much to help mankind to save itself from destruction.
Be a Proud Hindu, be a practicing Hindu, be a disciplined Hindu, be a protector of Hindus edifice, and be a promoter of Hindu way of Life.
Prakasarao V Velagapudi, PhD
Karya Siddhi Hanuman Temple
Global Hindu Heritage Foundation
Global Hindu Heritage Foundation.
Our mission is to preserve, practice, propagate and protect our heritage and abolish Endowment Act and free Temples from the government control. If we have to make an impact on our movement to bring changes to preserve our culture, we need you financial support. Your generous donations to continue our efforts to free Hindu Temples from government control, awaken the Hindus about the plight of Hindu Temples and the impending danger of illegal conversion techniques are essential. We are requesting all the individuals and organizations to support financially to continue our movement to free Hindu Temples from the government control and stop these conversions.
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