For the last 40 years, a small group of monks living in a monastery in Hawaii have been diligently preserving, upholding and promoting Hinduism through their publication, “Hinduism Today.”
The quarterly magazine is read by Hindus and non-Hindus who are spiritually or otherwise curious to explore the world’s oldest tradition. It is delivered around the world as well as carried in libraries, universities and temples.
Hinduism Today’s impact has been life changing for many of its readers. For Thom Drinkwater from UK who was “living with unanswered questions” it helped clear his spiritual confusion and encouraged him to meditate every day. Likewise Ganga Sivanathan, from Adelaide in Australia, found her body and soul nurtured by the magazine’s content. Vijay Pallod, a subscriber for 25 years, found it “invaluable in spirited discussions about Hindu dharma with his three children.”
These are far from the only testimonials Hinduism Today receives from its readers, and yet chances are you may not have heard of the magazine. For all its qualities and its long run, it remains relatively little known. It also presents a challenge that is being taken up by readers like Vijay because he would like to see “more people benefit from the magazine.”
The origins of the magazine are interesting. It was founded in 1979 by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, also known as Gurudeva. Born in California, Gurudeva was introduced to mysticism early in life. At the age of 20, he travelled to Sri Lanka by ship where he met his guru Yogaswami and was initiated into Hinduism and renunciation. On returning, he began teaching Hinduism, founded the first Hindu temple in North America and launched Hinduism Today to be the voice of Hinduism and “strengthen, uplift and inform all Hindus and like-minded souls of the glories of this most ancient religion”
The quarterly magazine, published by the Himalayan Academy in Hawaii, is a non-profit venture. The heart and soul of the magazine is a core group of 20 monks who write, edit, illustrate and work with writers, photographers, artists and volunteers from a dozen countries. The current publisher is Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, spiritual head of the Hindu Monastery on the island of Kauai, in Hawaii. The magazine has, over four decades, published thousands of articles on Sanatan dharma or Hinduism. Still, according to its editor “the subject is so rich and vast that it feels like we’ve only scratched the surface.”
The magazine’s authenticity stems from the monks who study Hinduism and its traditions in depth and practice it diligently. Yoga, japa (chanting), puja (prayer) and meditation is a daily ritual. They grow their own vegetables, keep their own cows, wear simple robes, maintain their property and “express the very spirit of the religion through the magazine.”
With over one billion people identifying as Hindus, Hinduism Today is a lifeline for many who struggle to sustain their faith in remote areas or are surrounded by dissimilar cultures. Its mix of articles on traditions of worship, meditation, yoga, mantras, scriptures, vegetarianism and Ayurveda helps keep their beliefs and traditions alive and strong.
In a nod to the magazine’s reputation for credibility and authenticity, Houghton Mifflin, one of America’s largest publishers for children’s textbooks requested Hinduism Today to vet its chapters on Hinduism. The magazine’s team rewrote the chapters and, to their amazement, the publishers adopted the rewritten chapters in their entirety. The White House has also tapped the monks for their views on the controversial subject of cloning.
The articles, as Yoga Guru Swami Ramdev puts it are a “blend of spirituality, religion and science.” Both mystical and practical, they cover ways to bring peace and contentment in one’s life, techniques to progress on the spiritual path, different paths to the divine, karma, dharma and reincarnation. Two subjects are off limits – politics and economics.
Some of the magazine’s most popular pages are the armchair pilgrimages to India’s ancient temples where it uncovers their history complete with temple lore and significance because to quote Gurudeva “Temples provide food for the soul.” It is a rare resource that explains the temple function and the benefits to a devotee in clear and modern terms. Another regular feature is its inspirational spotlight on successful Hindus who stick to their core values even in times of adversity.
A recent trend of younger Hindus leaning towards Hinduism and exploring its philosophy is taken very seriously. Hinduism Today receives countless emails from teenagers wrestling with the religion of their parents or young adults questioning the existence of God. The staff reply to each and every letter. In addition, the magazine’s style is clear, contemporary, crisp, and articles keep its young readers in mind “because they are the future of Hinduism.” It also features a guest editorial space where young people can question, debate and share their thoughts.
In 1980, when Hinduism Today’s founder Gurudeva received a letter from a Hindu businessman in Mauritius about the unethical conversions taking place in the country, he visited Mauritius and inspired the Hindu community to stand strong in their faith. The effort proved transformative with many Hindus gaining a deeper understanding of their tradition and re-embracing many of their customs from wearing Indian attire to performing pujas at home. Gurudeva and the magazine itself are recognized as one of the major forces that stemmed the tide of conversions and restored peace and mutual respect among Mauritius’s many ethnic groups.
Hinduism Today recently launched a website www.himalayanacademy.com/hamsa/ where one can find images of rare masterpieces, sacred religious symbols, illustrated alphabets, depictions of Hindu deities and more – a valuable resource for historians, academicians, curators and cultural anthropologists. The magazine is available in Kindle, EBook, PDF, an App, and on its website www.hinduismtoday.com.
As with most publishing houses struggling to cover costs, Hinduism Today too works on a tight budget. It welcomes donations to the Hinduism Today Production Fund which is a part of Hindu Heritage Endowment. Placing advertisements can help support the magazine’s publication. Another way is to subscribe with rates going from a yearly $35 to a current offer of a lifetime subscription rate for $299. As Dr. Chawla, Professor at the University of Alabama, a regular reader and donor reminds people “the world needs Hinduism and it needs you to keep it strong.”