When you open the newest issue of Hinduism Today, get ready for some seriously good reading. Those editors in Hawaii have teamed up to create yet another how-do-they-keep-this-up magazine, full of savvy reporting, lucid writing and wowy photographs.
Two features provide the main course: The first is our Hindu history lesson. Our academic associates tell us that this is tough stuff to research and write, and tougher still to get right. In 16 pages the lesson explores India’s history between 1100 and 1850, a time of vicious Muslim attacks and greed-driven British conquest. In response, Hindus embraced heart-transforming bhakti. Talk about reacting to tragedy in the highest possible way. Most historians gloss over the massive slaughters, the brutal reign of outsiders who had no love of Hinduism. Our lesson does the impossible: tells the true story fairly, without demeaning the aggressors. Plus, it focuses on the armed resistance and spiritual resolve that made it possible for India to survive such dark days into modern times, while virtually every other ancient society succumbed to similar forces and disappeared.
The second is the Insight Section, where you’ll discover the masterful work and personal account of Dr. Stephen Huyler who visited countless villages to bring us an insider’s tale of rural life, religious practice and family in his “Honoring the Spirit of Community.” Ever seen the giant guardians outside of Indian villages or the popular tree shrines and wondered just what they represent? It’s all here: how villagers live in communion with the spiritual world, how their gramadevatas protect them (and, in fact, are thought to be the very spirit of the village), complete with Stephen’s real-life stories that take you there. This is storytelling at its best. And, yes, Stephen’s stunning photography brings this earthy village mysticism all to life.
Oh, right! We haven’t even talked about the main article yet! Meet Sri Swami Gopal Sharan Devacharya, our 2009 Hindu of the Year. Raised in an ashram from childhood, Swamiji has grown to become a global leader of the Nimbarka Sampradaya, inspirer of over 70 temples and builder of an ashram outside of Delhi that is a dharmic oasis and citadel. How well known is he? At the opening of one of his temples in the UK in 2007, the Queen of England dropped by (the monarch’s first ever visit to the opening of a Hindu holy place) and was given a shawl by Swamiji. Reading his story can’t help but charm us and give hope that the future of Hinduism is in good hands.
You’d think that would be enough for one issue, but you’d be wrong! Publisher Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami takes us on a flight of faith, forcing us to rethink our simplistic take on the concept, guiding us from blind faith, to informed conviction to the pinnacle of personal realization. A young Malaysian Hindu tells of his encounters with the cunning tactic called friendship evangelism which, like friendly fire, isn’t very friendly after all, followed by our in-house sleuth’s unveiling of the twisted politics behind a government takeover of the great Saivite temple in Chidambaram. Both sides of that conflict are voiced. In an opinion piece, a mother talks about how to get Hindu children through the traumas and temptations of the Christmas season.