We take you back to the days (not so long ago) in Australia when Bodhinatha and his team joined Hindus from around the globe in what was touted as "the world's largest interfaith gathering."
Among the noble lights there was Dr. Arvind Sharma, the Birks Professor of Comparative Religion at McGill University in Montreal and certainly one of the most respected voices of Hindu dharma in the world today. He helped our little team with the drafting of the Hindu Declaration on Climate Change and introduced the document that Palaniswami read to the Convocation on December 8th. But our story today is more microcosmic, a little and totally informal meeting over tea with Dr. Sharma, Palaniswami and Senthilnathaswami. He asked if he could write more columns for the magazine, which we said we would love, as his voice on issues is so clear, so dharmic, so well-articulated. Then he told us a story. Below is a shortened version of it.
"Just like to share with you something which brings to light the very significant roll Hinduism Today has played and is playing in forging Hindu identity. This was brought home to me in a casual conversation with Ram Swarup. Years ago, in the early 80s, I was in India dining with my intellectual guru. I had run across your magazine and wondered about it, its source and such. You know, there were rumors in those days that it was supported by the CIA, how else could anyone afford such a fine publication. So I asked.
To my amazement, Ram Swarup boldly shared, 'Arvind, the founding of Hinduism Today may be the single most important development for Hindu dharma in recent times. It is dealing with Hindu issues in modern times.' I was taken aback by this response from a man I so highly respected, and all said without contrition in an informal conversation much like the one we are having now. I never looked at the magazine the same since. I always wanted to tell you that story." That was a theme in Australia, the presence of the magazine, how it is loved and respected. You know these things, but it's still startling to hear it in person.
Each morning in Melbourne, before the intra and interfaith sessions begin, each faith has a worshipful sharing. A simple yoga class, a Koranic reading, a Christian prayer, to which anyone who wants to experience that dimension of a path can come. We attended the Ahimsa meditation held by Swami Mayatitananda.
After a lovely upadesha on nonhurting and its centrality in the life of those who wish to live well on the Earth, she asked those present to take the Ahimsa Vrata, an informal vow. Most present did, who would not want to live more soulfully, less hurtfully? Then she invited Bodhinatha to be the first to place grains and legumes on a white sheet.
One by one each came forward to add to the mandala of peace, a shared creation that manifested in radiant lines and swirls, colorful mounds and scatterings, while two of Mother Maya's devotees quietly spoke out the vow.
Bravely, and importantly, Swami Mayatitananda is beginning a three-year "Living Ahimsa World Tour," traveling the globe to bring as many as she can into a consciousness of noninjury, empowering those who commit to such a life, and being blessed by the Mother in their determination to do so.
Here is the vow that nearly 200,000 have taken:
I take the Vow of Ahimsa.
I make inner harmony my first priority.
I take the Vow of Ahimsa
In my thoughts, speech and actions.
Hindus believe in each individual as a soul, a divine being who is inherently good. We all have a threefold nature: instinctive, intellectual, intuitive. Develop the intuitive/spiritual/soul nature with compassion, devotion, penance. Use the intellect to help subdue the instinctive mind. Guilt is not a part of Hinduism. There is no eternal hell. You have a continuity of consciousness when you transition to the inner worlds. There is no devil, but there are mischievous "asuras."