Hinduism Today Jan/Feb/Mar 2011

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In this issue we deliver two monumental Educational Insights, a major feature story on the famed Gold-Clad Temple of Vellore and a host of other captivating pieces you can’t miss.

Our first Insight Section tells the modern history of India from Independence to modern times. If you have found history to be a tough read, as most of us have, you will find this summary remarkably engrossing from start to finish. The expert critics who reviewed the text for us said they found it an “easy read” and were inspired to see how Dr. Shiva Bajpai and our editors had managed to accurately and endearingly summarize six decades of complexity. This is the fifth and final chapter in our series on Hindu history for use in US primary and secondary schools. In writing this lesson, we found that little appreciation has been given modern India’s founders for their genius, skill and courage in creating the world’s largest democracy out of the ruins of Colonial India. Between 1947 and today, India stayed united as astounding progress occurred: the life expectancy doubled; its share of world’s gross income doubled; the annual national rate of growth more than doubled; poverty was reduced by half; and literacy was increased six-fold. These figures resulted from successful nation-building. To a significant extent, India’s unity over these last sixty years has sustained Hinduism’s unity. It is also notable that modern India continues to be what India has always been: a deep source of wisdom and practical spirituality valued by societies around the world. Read all about it in this issue of Hinduism Today.

Our feature article takes us to Malaikodi, a once sleepy village outside Vellore in Tamil Nadu, where a new spiritual movement is emerging with dynamic social service programs and a powerful temple to the Goddess that is entirely gilded in gold. Until now, the press has been kept at bay by the Narayani Peedam, and cameras are not permitted on the grounds. When our intrepid reporter, Rajiv Malik, and professional photographer Dev Raj Agarwal stepped into the complex, that was the first time journalists had been given free reign to tell this amazing story in words and pictures. The Sri Mahalakshmi Narayani Golden Temple is the magnificent centerpiece of a sprawling 100-acre complex established by the Narayani Peedam, a grassroots organization led by a guru called Sakthi Amma, a young, self-proclaimed avatar of the Goddess.

Our second graphically rich Educational Insight brings you deep into sadhana, a Sanskrit word that names the broad range of spiritual disciplines that make Hinduism such a dynamic, progressive force of personal progress and experience. The heart of this piece is an inspired discourse by our founder, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, in which he outlines for seekers the importance of sadhana, especially in the form of a daily vigil. He discusses the misconceptions and benefits, arguing that the consistent performance of sadhana yields experience about the body, mind, emotions and the three worlds of existence that yields spiritual transformation. This Insight introduces several novel sadhanas that you can adopt in your own life, including “Being the Witness,” “Complete Surrender” and “Subconscious Journaling.”

If you are not already concerned with the direction that mainstream food has taken, you will be after you read our three-page story entitled “How Our Food Choices Affect the Entire Planet.” We present excerpts from eye-opening books by experts in the field. In “The Ethics of What We Eat, Why Our Food Choices Matter,” Professor Peter Singer and animal rights activist Jim Mason show how eating meat, poultry, fish and factory-farmed dairy products not only contributes to animal abuse, but also environmental degradation, social injustice and climate change. For further insights and earthy alternatives, we refer to Michael Pollan’s 2010 bestseller, “Food Rules.” Skipping his recommendations on eating flesh, you will, as we did, find his 64 rules for better eating remarkably sensible, and funny as well. Pollan’s impressive set of food books will make readers stop and think before buying factory raised flesh or processed foods.

In this issue’s Publisher’s Desk column, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami focuses on a question that Hindus everywhere ask him: “How can I be a good Hindu amidst our busy times?” In response, he lays out the basic practices of Hinduism and explains how they can enhance your life. His prescription, called “Practice makes perfect,” comes with an encouraging, compelling theme: “Our inner essence, our soul nature, is already perfect. Our practice, or self effort, is to bring that inner perfection into our outer intellectual, emotional and instinctive nature…. The most devout know that each life on Earth is an opportunity for advancement and therefore take advantage of the many tools their faith provides. Following these five traditional observances brings forth, day by day, the perfection that lies, waiting, within each of us.”

There is lots more, of course. A book review, our Quotes and Quips page, and some dynamite letters to the editor in which readers debate the merits and demerits of “Sita Sings the Blues,” the feature story in our last issue. Last but not least, we should mention Dr. Virender Sodhi’s column on ayurveda. It is a blockbuster. In this issue he dives into the malady of hypertension, describing the debilitating way this serious imbalance is approached by mainstream medicine, while offering solid, earthy advice from the perspective of India’s science of life.

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