The Story of Hinduism Today Continued

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(The Story of Hinduism Today Continued)

The Story of Hinduism Today ContinuedRole Models for Today's Hindus: Unlike most religious publications which focus narrowly on one sect or tradition, Hinduism Today uses the printed words as a magnetic net to draw in all types of readers. Its editors realize that Hindus-often stereotyped by the mass media as fundamentalists or swamis living in mountains-are ordinary, everyday people in the swim of life, and it is these millions that Hinduism Today tries to reach with stories of spirit and courage. Especially abroad, where there are so few markers for Hindus in mainstream life, the people profiles in Hinduism Today serve as encouraging role models: famous scientists, artists and doctors who contribute to the world around them and are proud Hindus. Hindus such as Kiran Bedi, Pundit Athavale, Madhu Kishwar, Ram Swarup, Lata Mangeshkar and Pankaj Udhas. The editorial team works closely with hundreds of swamis around the globe. This creative cooperation among leaders is one of HT's unique (and not easily achieved) contributions to the varied of streams of Indian spirituality.

To young people well-versed in computerese, Hinduism Today is especially attractive. It's on the Internet, and its colorful, exciting graphics and text provide many megabytes of hard-to-find information for seekers. In recent years the magazine team has developed a YouTube channel and produced dozens of information-rich films that anyone can access, for free. A whole generation of young people, so used to the computer, are able to read Hinduism Today on their own, even without parental encouragement. For children growing up abroad who have few role models and too many colorful distractions, HT shows the best of Hinduism in a subtle, one could say a sneaky, way. Before they know it, children and young adults are lured into the wonderful world of Sanatana Dharma through computer graphics and colorful websites. For those of them who don't know the Hinduism's classical languages of Sanskrit and Tamil, English translations of ancient Sanskrit classics and Tamil scriptures offered on the HT Web Site open up a whole new wonderful world for the younger generation. Hinduism Today succeeds in reaching a savvy young audience who may or may not visit the temple regularly or attend religious meetings.

Observes editor Palaniswami, "Bodhinatha and the editors get e-mail every day from Europe, India, America, Australia and Malaysia. Young Hindu kids who find us on the Internet write to us and say, 'You know I've been thinking about karma. My grandmother always talked about it but I never really understood it.' The modern kid is much smarter than most people think, asking all sorts of profound and personal questions. We answer them all." Yes, Western technology can be used to advance the course of the Eternal Truth. In My Opinion is a forum where young Indian Americans can vent their feelings. Wrote Smita Patil, an intern for the Oregonian newspaper, "If Indian women were truly treated in accordance with Hindu belief and teachings, India would be a heaven on Earth. Instead, many Hindus have formed a convenient duality where they worship women in temples but enslave them at home." The Letters page encourages lively debate, often by e-mail. One reader felt it was OK to eat meat as long as she lived the principles of the Vedas. Another expressed that being vegetarian is not just a random decision but a well-thought-out tradition, thousands of years old. "To give that up is like regressing thousands of years."

A Resource for Mainstream America: Hinduism Today has landed on several lists around America as a place where people can find authentic and reliable information on Sanatana Dharma, and its editorial team is often called upon for hard-to-find answers that few other institutions seem inclined to take the time to address. Houghton Mifflin, one of America's largest publishers for children's textbooks in middle and high schools, asked Hinduism Today to vet its chapters on Hinduism for a civilization series for American sixth graders destined for school rooms where half a million 13-year-olds will study it in the United States. Houghton Mifflin had called Harvard to vet the chapters, and Harvard defered to the editors of HT. Recalls Paramacharya Palaniswami, "The two chapters were awful, devastatingly bad, even wrong in places. We ended up rewriting the whole thing, and also provided graphics. All the chapters on other religions had really nice graphics, but for Hinduism they had found a horrible, monster-looking Siva for these young children to study. We sent them elegant, graceful images that Hindus would be proud to see." To the amazement of the HT team, the publishers adopted in its entirety the rewritten chapters, and as a result American kids will have a really authentic and compelling introduction to the world's oldest religion, not some rehashed, demeaning stereotype.

Harvard University is engaged in the production of a massive Pluralism Project by which high school children will be taught about other cultures and religions on CD-ROM. Prof. Diana Eck, head of the religion department at Harvard, invited HT to participate in the Hindu expressions. Elsewhere, the United Nations is developing the very strategic Earth Charter, a parallel to the Human Rights Declaration. This official UN declaration will define for the future how nations will look upon and treat the environment. Besides scientific input, religious contributions are being called for from five religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism), and the project is being guided by Steven Rockefeller, one of the famed family, who happens to teach comparative religions. The UN committee has approached HT to help help develop the Hindu representation for a panel of spiritual experts who can give voice to environmental ethics for the Earth Charter. There is more. In early 1997 the ex-editor of Christianity Today, Terry Muck, contacted Hinduism Today to have it collaborate on one chapter of his new Doubleday book, A Guide to Religions in America. And another scholar found their FAQs on the Web, and wrote to include it as one chapter in a book on the six major faiths in the US, and.....well, you get the idea.

Time Magazine Has a Question, Swami: HT has also been getting a lot of calls from religion editors in America, and was recently lauded as a solid source of Indian spirituality in a book published by John Dart of the Los Angeles Times called Deities and Deadlines. Time Magazine called once to verify a Hinduism-related story, an as yet unpublished feature on Deepak Chopra's phenomenal success. And the editors are frequently asked to give the Hindu view on news events that impact Hindus around the country. Indeed, Hinduism Today has gained a reputation for having credibility, access to authentic information and a commitment to objective, unexaggerated reporting.

Many religious journals walk a tightrope between propaganda and journalism, but HT has always chosen the harder path of honest reporting. Says Palaniswami: "Happily, we are not just another bhakti rag, as one reader observed. While remaining upbeat, we do try to tell readers even about the painful underbelly of one-sixth of the human race's religion, Hinduism, to make it real and not paint an unrealistic or Polyanna picture. It's important to express things in that way; otherwise people stop listening."

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