Hinduism is an Indian religion encompassing diverse ritualistic Vedic traditions stressing the importance of karma and societal norms. The vast field of Hindu scriptures includes the Vedas, Brāhmanas, Āranyakas, Upanishads, Purānas, and the epics known as the Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata, the latter of which contains the important Bhagavad Gītā. Hinduism is roughly divided into four major sects: Vaishnavism (devotion to Vishnu), Shaivism (devotion of Shiva), Shaktism (devotion to Shakti), and Smartism (nonsectarian devotion to Brahman). As the world's third largest religion, Hinduism has almost one billion followers, 90 percent of whom live in India. Hinduism is deeply ingrained in Indian society. The religiously based caste system is illegal but remains widely socially enforced. Calls for the recognition of India as a specifically Hindu nation have increased, and Hindu groups often seek to maintain the tradition's cultural hegemony.
September 27, 2010
Delhi is buzzing these days about the construction delays and shoddy work that have put the Commonwealth Games at risk. The blame goes squarely to corruption and inefficiency. There are plenty of other sad sagas in India across many fields: the spectacular corruption of the flagship software firm Satyam and the fact that one in four public school teachers fails to show up every day, for example. What will it take to change direction, to restore a sense of decency, an ethical compass?
September 24, 2010
When British businessmen and civil servants arrived in India in the 19th Century, they were flummoxed by the extraordinary diversity of the religious landscape. It still exists today. Fakirs, swamis, mullahs, imams, monks, nuns, dadis, and brothers are everywhere. When new religious movements emerge in India, they mobilize millions, not thousands, of devoted followers. This rich mixture, one person suggested at a meeting in Delhi on religion and global civil society last weekend, is so...
March 8, 2010
A hundred years ago a feisty group of women met in Copenhagen and voted unanimously to launch an International Women's Day on March 8. The idea took. Today, some 15 countries celebrate it as a national holiday, and thousands of events worldwide put women's issues in the spotlight. Women are, after all, half the population, so the day has mutated into a month of events
December 7, 2009
May 18, 2009
Every five years a gathering known as the Parliament of the World's Religions draws people from all over the world. It's happening now, this time in Melbourne, Australia. For seven days, a jam-packed schedule of events ranges from the ultimate and urgent to the personal and pragmatic. There's culture, politics, meditation, exhibitions, bells and, yes, some whistles. Monks mingle with Catholic priests, Hindu swamis with Zoroastrians and Sikhs. Atheists and pagans have their place. Just walking...
September 2, 2008
One of the world's longest running and nastiest wars, in Sri Lanka, may be near an end. Sri Lankan government troops have cornered remnants of a force called terrorists by some, nationalist guerrillas by others: the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE. Over 70,000 people have died in a conflict that has raged, off and on, since 1983. Peace would indeed be a blessing.
Last week came the big test: our son entered school and promptly - even enthusiastically - put on his brightly colored Central Asian kippah. I was relieved, but also a little worried, since it seemed he was motivated by fact that all the other boys were doing the same thing. Is this the slippery slope to faith by osmosis? And if it is, so what? After all, what else can religion be for a four-year-old? We certainly don't expect him to pose critical questions at this stage - maybe soon, but not...
September 1, 2008
August 16, 2008
In the midst of the gripping political dramas dominating our news cycle, images of Bhutan (where I was earlier this month) color my processing of the news. Bhutan is about as far as you can get from contemporary American life - a small Himalayan kingdom where ferocious deities are part of daily life and serfdom is a living memory (it was abolished in 1956). Nevertheless, parallels there are.
Your work in the coming days to promote integrity, honesty, and efficiency in the public and private sectors is a critical part of the fight against poverty. This is very much a global effort and it involves all sectors of societies, all countries, and many different kinds of intellectual approaches. You will be touching on many different dimensions here. I am sorry that I cannot be with you in person to learn from you all, but am honored to share my reflections with you and I look forward to...
The scope and uses of secularity
November 19, 2007
September 21, 2007
John Bowen writes on the Immanent Frame: Charles Taylor’s remarkable account of developments within Latin Christendom situates contemporary religious or non-religious commitments within what he calls the “immanent frame,” the key to which is the secular condition (his third meaning of secularity), in which belief is an option, and religion a distinct domain. Early in his study, he remarks that such is not the case everywhere: in Muslim societies generally, and for people in...
Interreligious gatherings have very different flavors. I have been to many in recent years and each evokes vivid yet very different memories. But all have some special, common qualities. The united presence of people from all corners of the earth, many wearing visible symbols of their faith and cultures, makes a poignant tapestry of the diversity of humanity. It is history come alive, but also today's plural reality in living color. A side product is a sea of cameras seeking to capture the...