Sadhana's 2018 Ganesh Chaturthi Message

eka-dantāya vidmahe vakra-tuṇḍāya dhīmahi

tanno dantiḥ pracodayāt

"Let us contemplate the one with a single tusk, and meditate on the one with a curved trunk.

May He awaken our consciousness and guide us on the right path."

 Artist: Poonam Mistry

Artist: Poonam Mistry

On the auspicious occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi  (also called Vinayaka Chaturthi, Vinayaka Chavithi, Pillaiyar Chaturthi, and Chavath), we at Sadhana offer our best wishes for a joyous and reflective celebration. Ganesh Chaturthi is the festival dedicated to Sri Ganesha, our Hindu god of beginnings and remover of obstacles. On this occasion, we pray to Him to remove all obstacles to justice and peace, in our own work and in the world.

Ganesha is often depicted alongside Lakshmi (goddess of prosperity) and Saraswati (goddess of knowledge). We pray to Ganesha that all people around the world, irrespective of religion, gender, caste, or nationality, are able to enjoy the blessings of artha (material comfort) along with vidya (wisdom). We pray for an end to poverty, bigotry, religious fundamentalism, and the exploitation of our Prithvi Maa (Mother Earth). We pray to Sri Vighneshwara (Lord of Obstacles) for the strength to tackle these challenges, motivated by love and compassion.

On Ganesh Chaturthi, many Hindu families perform a puja to a murti of Ganesha which is later immersed into a body of water; often a river, lake, or the ocean. We urge all Hindus who celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in this way to use an eco-friendly Ganesha murti -- one that does not contain toxic paints or other chemicals that may harm the environment. Here's an easy way you can make an eco-friendly Ganesha murti at home using clay:

Additionally, consider following these steps in Sadhana's "Performing Eco-Friendly Pujas" guide. You can download this guide here; please share it with your family, friends, and temple community!

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Best wishes for a joyful Ganesh Chaturthi and an obstacle-free year ahead.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. Om Peace, Peace, Peace.


namo vrāta-pataye namo gaṇa-pataye namaḥ pramatha-pataye

namaste-astu lambodarā-yaikadantāya vighnanāśine śivasutāya varadamūrtaye namaḥ 

"Salutations to the lord of all human beings, ganas and pramathas (celestial beings).

Salutations to You, Lord Ganesha, with a large belly and single tusk, You who are the remover of all obstacles, the son of Shiva, and the embodiment of generosity."

-- from the Ganapati Atharvashirsha (1500-1600 CE)

Sadhana’s Statement on Hindutva (Hindu nationalism)

On July 26, 2018, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) organized an event in Washington, DC to commemorate the release of its new report, “India: Democracy in Diversity.” HAF's alleged goal for this event was to provide the "full story" about India's religious freedom. The event consisted of a panel featuring representatives of various Indian religious minorities who shared their perspectives on religious pluralism. Sadhana initially published a statement on the evening of July 25. However, because the report was not yet available to the public, Sadhana decided to remove the statement to give HAF the benefit of the doubt. Some DC-based Sadhana members attended the panel, and shared Sadhana's perspective during the question-and-answer session. Unfortunately, the event and accompanying report confirmed our fears that they would not directly confront the problem of religious violence, particularly in today's India.

A notable exception was Harminder Kaur, the Sikh representative at the event and founder of a nonprofit organization called Sikh Kid to Kid (SK2K) . Harminder ji stated that she was speaking from a place of love for her homeland, but spoke fearlessly and honestly about the issues Sikhs have historically faced, and continue to combat, in India. Harminder ji insisted that we must not normalize the violence that is currently taking place in India, and that dialogue, not denial, is the only way to address religious violence. We are inspired by voices like Harminder ji's, and pledge to continue speaking out against the rising threat of Hindu nationalism to Indian democracy and religious freedom.

Below is our initial statement, edited to accurately reflect the content of the July 26 event.

Since the formation of a Hindu nationalist government in India in 2014, the condition of religious and social minorities has substantially deteriorated. Stories of Muslims and Dalits being lynched on the suspicion of eating beef and Christian churches being burned have regularly made international headlines. Today, right-wing Hindu politicians garland anti-Muslim vigilantes and actively obstruct the legal prosecution of religious fanatics. Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of India’s most populous state and head of a Hindu monastery, shares public stages with men who advocate digging up the graves of Muslim women and raping their corpses. Therefore, it is no surprise that India has been listed as the fourth most religiously intolerant country in the world by the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life.

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) decided to address the issue of religious freedom in India at an event it is hosted on July 26 in Washington D.C, where the organization released its latest publication, “India: Democracy in Diversity.” HAF aimed to introduce US lawmakers, government officials, NGOs, and the general public to what it describes as the "most religiously diverse democracy" in the world. The event celebrated the Indian subcontinent’s long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers from around the globe and promoted India’s "civilizational perspective" on pluralism. 

Sadhana agrees with HAF that a conversation about democracy, diversity, and religious freedom in India is urgent. However, this conversation cannot happen without representatives of those communities that have been the most targeted by religious violence and persecution.

The event featured speakers from communities that HAF described as "key religious minorities": a Tibetan Buddhist, Zoroastrian (Parsi), Indian Jew, Sikh, Christian-Muslim, and Kashmiri Pandit. However, there were no representatives of Muslim or Christian community organizations at the event, despite Muslims and Christians being the largest religious minorities in India. Additionally, there was no listed representative for Dalits or other caste-oppressed communities, who comprise at least 200 million people.

What kind of a message did HAF hope to send by holding a conference on democracy and religious freedom in India that does not prioritize India's largest marginalized communities? Discussing religious freedom in India without acknowledging the fact that members of India's ruling party want to turn India into a Hindu rashtra (Hindu nation) is nothing but disingenuous.

HAF’s event was timed to coincide with a conference organized by the U.S. State Department on religious freedom worldwide. HAF has been acutely critical of U.S. governmental reports on religious freedom in India. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has placed India on its Watch List since 2009, and listed Hindu nationalist organizations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal as "extremist" groups in past reports. What does HAF have to say to these groups that are actively destroying the democracy and religious pluralism that it celebrates? 

Hindu nationalism is destructive to Indian democracy and society. Not only does it endanger the lives of India's minorities, it also targets Hindus who resist the hijacking of their religion by a violent minority, and often results in violence committed against Hindus living in other South Asian countries. Sadhana means "faith in action", and we at Sadhana will not stand by while we watch our holy symbols, religious beliefs, and sacred spaces converted into tools of oppression. Sadhana is a coalition of progressive Hindus who strongly believe in the values that lie at the core of our faith: ekatva (oneness), ahimsa (nonviolence), and seva (selfless service).

As Hindus who are horrified at the brutal violence being perpetrated in the name of Hinduism we believe a discussion of democracy, diversity, and religious freedom in India does not make sense without discussing the challenges faced by the most vulnerable communities today. HAF represents itself as a nonpartisan organization that is committed to combating bigotry and seeking greater inclusion of Hindus in mainstream American society. This September, the American affiliate of the VHP is organizing a "World Hindu Congress" in Chicago, featuring Hindu nationalist leaders including Yogi Adityanath and Mohan Bhagwat (head of the RSS). If HAF is serious about combating bigotry and celebrating India's religious pluralism, will they take a public stand against Hindu nationalist organizations such as the VHP that are directly responsible for creating a hostile climate for Indian Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other minorities?

As Hindus, it is our dharma (duty) to speak up and oppose fundamentalism and violence committed in the name of our religion. Hindus must not be resistant to self-criticism; instead, we are called to embody para-dukha-dukhi -- feeling the pain of fellow living beings as our own. Will HAF find the courage to unequivocally denounce rising Hindu nationalism in India as well as the United States? How many more Indians will be lynched by Hindu fundamentalist mobs before HAF finds it important to discuss the threats to religious freedom in India?

Sadhana Condemns Atrocities Against Hindus in Myanmar

Recent reporting by Amnesty International in Myanmar has drawn attention to the massacre of nearly a hundred Hindu villagers; men, women, and children. Several other villagers have reportedly been abducted, and some women were forcibly converted to Islam. The attacks have been attributed to a Rohingya Muslim armed group, the so called "Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)." Sadhana is horrified at these reports and demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice. The government of Myanmar has in turn used attacks such as these to justify its continued crackdown on members of the Muslim Rohingya community and over 700,000 have been catastrophically displaced.

We condemn the sickness of violence in all its forms, we affirm our commitment to the rights and welfare of our Hindu sisters and brothers, and we also affirm our equal commitment to the rights and welfare of our Muslim sisters and brothers -- in Myanmar and across the world. 

Some might use this atrocity to stoke our hearts with resentment. At Sadhana, we opt in favor of a renewed commitment to righteousness instead. We firmly condemn these wanton acts of cruelty, just as we unequivocally condemn the idea that standing up for Hindus means condemning all Muslims. Nothing could be farther from the truth of our faith. 

The Sadhaka (progressive Hindu) is para-dukha-dukhi; she feels the pain and pleasure of her fellow jivas (living beings) as her very own. Her dharma is justice. Her Sadhana is fierce resistance against all adharma (evil), manifesting in personal relations and in systems and structures.

Building Hindu-Muslim Unity During Ramadan

by Sunita Viswanath

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I have been privileged to work for the last 17 years for Women for Afghan Women (WAW). When Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus was being birthed in 2011, I remember expressing my admiration for the staff of WAW -- some more observant and devout, some more secular, but all of whom considered their work for human rights a part of their religious obligation as Muslims.

Yesterday was the beginning of Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims. Sadhana has worked tirelessly these seven years to advocate against all forms of bigotry and violence in the name of religion, and against any religion. In particular, we have spoken out forcefully against Islamophobia. For me personally, it was seeing a Hindu saffron-clad man share a prayer at an anti-Muslim rally that made me take a pledge that I would never remain silent and allow my Hindu faith be a platform for bigotry and hate.

This Ramadan, my WAW colleagues are heartsick because of the endless terrorist attacks by Taliban and ISIS across Afghanistan. WAW's 800 staff members operate lifesaving shelters and programs in 14 provinces. Our staff and the families we serve are all embarking on a month of deep prayer for peace and justice in the world. 

This past Monday saw the launch of the New Poor People's Campaign's 40 Days of Direct Action. This work is the continuation of the legacy of the Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.  If Dr. King had not been killed, the Poor People's Campaign would have been the next priority of his life. This week, I was able to represent Sadhana at a rally outside the State Capitol in Albany. Speaker after speaker spoke about the 140 million Americans living in poverty in the United States today, and how that number has grown by 60 percent since Dr. King's death. Sadhana will work alongside faith leaders in this movement to make sure that Dr. King's legacy will not be extinguished along with his life. 

On the drive home from Albany, I heard news of violence in the Middle East. At the beginning of the holiest time of the year for Muslims, the United States was moving its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a highly controversial decision which is certain to make the possibility of peace more difficult. As the Embassy was opened, 40 miles away thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in peaceful protest, and over 60 protesters were gunned down by Israeli police. These killings were barely mentioned during the ceremonies to open the new Embassy, and Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli defense minister said “there are no innocent people in Gaza,” using this as a pretext to shoot, not only unarmed protesters, but also journalists.

And just a month ago, Sadhana organized a rally in response to the rapes of three little girls in India, one of whom was eight-year-old Asifa. Asifa was a girl from a nomadic Muslim tribe in Kashmir. A group of Hindu men targeted her because of the community she was from, held her captive for ten days within a Hindu temple, repeatedly gang-raped her there, and ultimately strangled her. The Hindu Ekta Manch (Hindu Unity Platform) that formed after this rape and murder was a march of thousands of Hindus defending not Asifa, but the Hindu rapists. As a Hindu woman, I hang my head in shame and horror.

It is difficult to understand how our Muslim brethren can find peace in their hearts as they pray and meditate during this holy month, knowing the extent of violent atrocities and injustices taking place against Muslims by both bigots who hate Muslims and Muslim extremists who hate progressive values.

And yet, the Muslims I am lucky to know and work with are fasting and praying. My sister Najia, country director of WAW and one of the most courageous woman I know, tells me, "Ramadan is a blessing in my life."

Naheed, who empowers the Afghan community in New York, and took 55 Afghan women to D.C. for the Women's March after the presidential election, told me, "Ramadan is a time to reflect to yourself and acknowledge your blessings and think of those in need. It is a time that I feel closer to the almighty."

And longtime WAW board member Masuda said, "Ramadan is a time of restraint from food and water in order to learn self control and focus on spiritual reflection. It is useful in understanding the challenges of those in need, particularly the hungry and a reminder to help them."

Sadhana will keep these women in our hearts and add our prayers to theirs. We will observe Ramadan by devoting ourselves to the Poor People's Campaign. 

This Sunday, to commemorate the occasion of Ramadan, Sadhana's Chicago chapter will explore the verses of Kabir, the iconoclastic bhakti poet of 15th-century north India who blurred the lines between "Hindu" and "Muslim", and spoke out against hypocrisy and injustice. And on June 12th, our Sadhana Satsangh in New York City will be devoted to Hindu-Muslim unity. Some of us will fast in solidarity and have Iftar at the same time as our Muslim friends; some of us will cover our heads; we will learn about the shared history of Hindus and Muslims and invite Muslim friends who are not attending mosque that night; we will chant Sufi songs and prayers; and we will conduct our prayers around a flame and to the God within our heart. All are welcome to our Satsangh.

With love and a deep desire for peace and unity, Sadhana wishes Ramadan Mubarak to our Muslim brothers and sisters. We Are One.

This piece also appeared on Auburn Seminary's blog, Voices.

 

Sadhana Stands in Solidarity with Nepali TPS Holders and Their Families

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We at Sadhana: a Coalition of Progressive Hindus are dismayed by news that the Department of Homeland Security is preparing to discontinue Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for over 9,000 migrants from Nepal. They are integral members of the they are integral members of Hindu and South Asian American communities and the US economy.

Three years ago, on this date, Nepal was devastated by a terrible earthquake. Many thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands more were displaced and made homeless. Nepal continues to recover from the devastating effects of this natural disaster. Thousands of people continue live in temporary shelters and lack access to vital necessities.

Sadhana believes the termination of TPS status for Nepali victims of the earthquake is a short-sighted, immoral, and unconscionable decision. Nepali TPS recipients provide vital economic support for friends and family back home. The resources they send provide stable and reliable income and have tremendously helped to rebuild Nepali communities. We urge the Department of Homeland Security to consider the conditions in Nepal and extend TPS status to the Nepali recipients.

Sadhana condemns the racist climate of fear and hate that has driven immigration policy in recent times. In our ancient scriptures, it is written—Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. The world is one family.  We advocate for the passage of inclusive legislation that benefits the broader immigrant community. We insist that the Trump administration restore TPS status to the Salvadoran and Haitian communities who were targeted earlier this year. Sadhana condemns the repeal of DACA and attempts to pass a “Muslim Ban.” We urge the immediate introduction of more humanitarian pathways to permanent residency and citizenship.

 

 

Hindus and the Poor People’s Campaign: A Religious and Moral Obligation

 On April 19, 2018, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive is proud to officially endorse the  Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival . We pledge to mobilize Hindu Americans to be a part of this movement which continue the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr, and which "challenges systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality."

On April 19, 2018, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive is proud to officially endorse the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. We pledge to mobilize Hindu Americans to be a part of this movement which continue the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr, and which "challenges systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality."

by Anantanand Rambachan, Advisory Committee Member, Sadhana

Hinduism has never given its blessings to involuntary poverty. It recognizes poverty to be a great cause of suffering. By including wealth (artha) as one of life’s four goals – along with pleasure, virtue and liberation – Hinduism recognizes the need of every human being for access to those material necessities, such as food, healthcare, shelter and clothing, that make life possible and that enable human beings to flourish and live with dignity.

It is important, therefore, that, as Hindus, we be concerned about those structures, social, political and economic, that impede and deny persons the opportunities to attain life’s necessities. These structures need to be identified and measures implemented to make these goals accessible and attainable by all.

We live in a world in which there are great disparities between the rich nations of the north and the poor of the south and between the rich and poor within nations, and in which too many children die each week from malnutrition and infection. We have a moral responsibility to call attention to these disparities and to the culture of greed that contributes to the perpetuation of such disparities. When considering greed, it is very important that we do not see it only as an individual human issue. Greed finds expression also in political, institutional and corporate structures that contribute to poverty and human suffering.

Any religious tradition which is today concerned about justice, peace, prosperity and freedom from poverty, violence, exploitation and fear is challenged to reach across boundaries and find common ground and values with people of other religions, and those without religious commitment. Together we must strive to confront and overcome the causes of human suffering. Our hopes for just and peaceful communities will only be realized together or not at all. The Bhagavad Gītā urges us work for the universal common good in everything we do. Today, the overcoming of poverty and the pursuit of the common good common cannot be addressed effectively without partnerships with people of other religions, secular organizations and state agencies.

The Hindu tradition calls us to see the joy and suffering of others as our own. Our identification with others in suffering requires that we properly inquire into the causes of their suffering with the aim of overcoming these. We cannot ignore the suffering of human beings when they lack opportunities to attain the necessities for dignified and decent living or when suffering is inflicted through oppression and injustice based on gender, birth or race. It is not acceptable to affirm the ideal of prosperity for all (artha) and life’s unity while being indifferent to inequality and oppression. Working to overcome suffering means identifying those political, social and economic structures that cause and perpetuate suffering. The unmistakable call to be one with the suffering other demands nothing less.

We affirm the fundamental principles of the Poor Peoples Campaign and especially its call for moral revival, non-violence and its commitment “to lifting up and deepening the leadership of those most affected by systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation and to building unity across lines of division.”

We believe that the fundamental theological teachings of our Hindu tradition demand that we support and join this Campaign.

A well-known Hindu prayer, often used to conclude temple and home worship, expresses the desirability and hope of freedom from suffering for all beings.

Sarve bhavantu sukhinah. Sarve santu nirāmayah.
Sarve bhadrāni paśyantu Mā kaścit duhkha bhāgbhavet

May all be happy. May all be free from disease.
May all know that which is good. May no-one suffer.

Let us commit to making the hope of this beautiful prayer a reality in our nation and world.

 

United for Justice: In Solidarity With the Rape Victims in Kathua and Unnao, India

by Sakshi Shrivastava, Member, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus

Sadhana is raising funds for the victims of the gruesome rapes in Kathua and Unnao in India. We have partnered with CrowdNewsing, the community that is officially fundraising in India. The money will go towards the legal fees for the court cases and to the families of the victims. We can not undo the horror, but we can help ease their pain. Please consider donating here.

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We are devastated. We are ashamed. We are outraged.

Last week, two news stories of gruesome rapes broke over the media and shook us to our core. The first one came to light on April 8th, when a minor girl tried to commit suicide in front of the home of the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, India. On June 4th, 2017, she was raped in Unnao, UP, by Kuldeep Sengar, a lawmaker belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and his brothers. The second case was reported by the mainstream media on April 12th. An eight year-old girl, Asifa, was raped in Kathua, Kashmir, by six men. They kept her in captivity in a Hindu temple, sedated her, tied her up, and raped her repeatedly for five days. Then they bludgeoned the little child to death.

Violence against women is a global problem, but the perpetrators in both these cases were agents of Hindutva--divisive, patriarchal, extreme right-wing Hindu nationalism. In the first instance, the accused, Kuldeep Singh, belonged to the BJP, the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hindutva chief minister "Yogi" Adityanath. After the minor girl was raped, the local police repeatedly refused to file the complaint. When her family filed a case in the court, the authorities worked in league with the ministers and erased all medical reports and evidence. The family’s pleas for justice were ignored. These rapists had the entire government and law enforcement working to protect them. The victim’s father was arrested under false pretenses and beaten mercilessly, leading to his death. Imagine how far one has to be driven to be willing to set fire to oneself in order to be heard. Is this what it takes for a woman to be heard in India?

The incident in Kathua was a vulgar and blatant conspiracy led by a retired revenue official, Sanji Ram, and seven other men to instill fear in the hearts of the Muslim Bakherwal community living in the village. The rape was not just about their disgusting lust, it was about asserting power over a minority community by turning the body a Muslim girl child into a war-zone. They invited a friend over from another city to come and “satisfy” himself, and they postponed that poor child’s death so that one of the rapists could rape her one last time. As soon as the accused were identified, a local BJP leader formed an organization called Hindu Ekta Manch: "Hindu Unity Platform." Around 4,000 people marched under their banner -- in defense of the rapists. As Hindus, it is a matter of utter shame and disgust to us that rather than jumping to the defense of these victims, they marched in solidarity with the rapists.

Prime Minister Modi only spoke after pressure started building from the opposition and the media, both national and international. Ever so conscious of this image, Modi gave a noncommittal assurance that the accused will be punished and unintelligently addressed India’s rape crisis by asking parents to be aware of their son’s whereabouts.

When the Hindu nationalist government of India uses the word ekta (oneness or unity) to create a platform to defend rapists, it becomes imperative to assert the progressiveness, beauty, and humanity of true ekta and Hinduism. What is currently happening in India in the name of Hinduism is inhumane and shameful. Sadhana, our coalition of progressive (religious, cultural, secular, atheist and various other kinds of) Hindus is coming together to take action against injustice and serve our fellow beings. We at Sadhana celebrate a Hinduism that transcends and celebrates differences as a force of love and justice. We consider ourselves responsible citizens of the world, and so we must call attention to the saffronization of India, forced upon by the ruling party. We must come forward and reject this terror that is Hindutva. We must demolish patriarchy in all the ways it manifests in our societies. Enough has been done in our name, and enough violence has been done to our girls.

Join us in our rally, “United for Justice” on Monday, April 16 at 6 P.M at the Gandhi Statue in Union Square. We’re taking concrete action in support of the victims of these two horrific rape cases by raising funds for their cause and building a united movement towards justice. Let’s use our grief and anger and channel it towards actionable solutions. Fundraising is just the beginning.

Sadhana Adds Our Voice to “Don’t Erase Caste” Petition

Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus has, to date, refrained from weighing in on the debate surrounding the representation of Hinduism in California textbooks. We have not had enough information to make substantial recommendations. However, as a progressive Hindu organization active in the United States, we feel it is important to comment on this matter in light of the "Don't Erase Caste" petition produced by the South Asian Histories for All Coalition. Sadhana rejects attempts to erase or minimize caste in accounts of Hinduism. Caste is an ongoing controversy in Hindu and South Asian religious and social life today.

Part of our work as progressive Hindus is to dismantle caste discrimination within Hindu and South Asian communities. A first step toward this is publicly acknowledging the historical realities and social legacies of caste today. We have taken a firm stand on this issue with our caste statement and apology. As with many other faith-based organizations, Sadhana supports textbook narratives of religious traditions that are historically grounded in empirical research but remain sensitive to practitioner perspectives. This is especially important for followers of minority religions in the US context of emboldened white and Christian supremacy. We will comment more thoroughly once we have acquired and studied copies of the actual textbooks and can make comparisons on how Hinduism is represented in comparison to other faith traditions. We call for parity in addressing patriarchal practices and other social injustices and conditions of inequality in all the religions included in the California school curriculum.

Hindu fundamentalist histories do not represent Hindu histories. Sadhana is signing the "Don't Erase Caste" petition because we fully reject revisionist histories that seek to produce a sanitized vision of Hinduism’s past. The brutality of caste and its historical relationship to Hinduism cannot be avoided in honest discussions of South Asian history and religion. We recommend the inclusion of egalitarian Hindu movements that historically struggled against caste, such as Bhakti and woman-centered forms of Hinduism.

As progressive Hindus, we believe students should be trained to critically reflect on the complexities that have shaped religious and social life in South Asia, the US, and the world at large. Sadhana endorses this petition and dreams of a caste-free egalitarian future.

A Progressive Hindu Statement on National Coming Out Day

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October 11 is celebrated as National Coming Out Day; an annual commemoration and celebration of all those in our communities who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and/or intersex. Sadhana Coalition of Progressive Hindus stands firmly against homophobia, transphobia, and bigotry of all kinds, and today we want to reiterate our commitment to fighting for LGBTQI Hindus, LGBTQI people of faith, and all the diverse individuals who are part of LGBTQI communities worldwide.

Broad, capacious, and ever-changing, the wide-ranging beliefs and practices we call Hinduism have long honored various perspectives on gender and sexuality. Although homophobia was never completely absent from South Asia, Hindu traditions have acknowledged and celebrated gender and sexual diversity through sacred narratives, iconography, and theology. However, Dr. Ruth Vanita writes that “under colonial rule, what was a minor strain of homophobia in Indian traditions became the dominant ideology,” and today, many conservative Hindu and Hindu nationalist groups portray gender diversity and sexual diversity as foreign and un-Hindu.

Sadhana advisory board member Dr. Anantanand Rambachan writes that the Hindu idea of tritiya-prakriti, the “third nature” or “third sex,” “helps us to … accept such sexual diversity as a natural part of the diversity of the tree of life.” Hindu traditions teach us that irrespective of our gender identity and sexual orientation, the supreme divine reality brahman exists equally in all beings. The Shvetashvatara Upanishad (5:11) tells us that our soul (atman), which is identical to brahman, is beyond distinctions of “woman, man, and third-sex person.” Dr. Rambachan writes that “Homophobia, characterized as it is by fear, hate, and denigration of third sex persons, finds no justification in Hinduism and betrays its most fundamental vision and values.”

Advocacy for LGBTQI rights has been a significant aspect of Sadhana’s own work. Through our Healthy Relationships workshops in partnership with the Caribbean Equality Project and the NYC Commission on Human Rights, we have tackled issues of LGBTQI acceptance and healthy relationships. In recent years, we have come together with a number of other Hindu groups and individuals in Princeton and Washington DC to brainstorm how to build LGBTQI inclusion in Hindu communities.

Our LGBTQI Committee has been brainstorming how Sadhana can be a resource and support to LGBTQI Hindus in the United States. We have begun building a database of Hindu mythic stories, sacred scriptures, traditional practices, and academic texts that portray same sex desire as natural and joyful, and that foreground the lives of tritiya prakriti individuals. We are also working on expanding our service to LGBTQI communities by creating a database of queer-friendly Hindu temples and spaces, priests eager to perform same-sex marriages, and queer community centers for people of South Asian and Indo-Caribbean descent.

Many LGBTQI voices, especially those of people of color, have critiqued the emphasis on “coming out” as a prerequisite to being part of the LGBTQI community. We want to highlight a few Hindu voices who offer a more nuanced perspective on coming out, aimed specifically at LGBTQI Hindu youth:

Raja Gopal Bhattar is the director of the LGBT Campus Resource Center at UCLA, and a PhD candidate in Higher Education. Raja is genderqueer, and they say, “There’s this white American notion that if you’re not out to everyone, you’re not queer enough. You don’t have to come out to your family ‘till you feel safe—your safety is most important. Part of our authenticity is living in that complexity.”

Dr. Pemmaraju Rao, a Texas-based physician and psychiatrist, urges parents of LGBTQI children to let go of their fears and traditional paradigms, and listen to their own children above anyone else. To LGBTQI Hindu youth, Dr. Rao says, “Look to Hinduism. See how it embraces both the masculine and the feminine. Your karma and your past lives have led you to this point. It is a proactive choice by your soul. Your uniqueness gives you an extraordinary power to offer to the world, as a gift.”

To any young LGBTQI Hindu who feels confused, anxious, questioning, frustrated, in need of a community: we at Sadhana are here for you, today and every other day. You are valid, and you are loved. You are always welcome to reach out to us through Facebook or at info@sadhana.org.

Om Shanti.

Additional resources:

  • Comprehensive article co-authored by Sadhana member Hari Venkatachalam, “Same-Sex Marriage and Hinduism
  • The Desi LGBTQ Hotline, offering 100% confidential support for South Asian LGBTQ and questioning individuals, families, and friends
  • Sadhana advisory board member Dr. Anantanand Rambachan’s book A Hindu Theology of Liberation, particularly the chapter “Liberation from Homophobia”
  • Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History, edited by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai
  • Love’s Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West by Ruth Vanita
  • Shikhandi And Other Tales They Don’t Tell You, by Devdutt Pattanaik
  • Interview with Sapna Pandya, a Washington DC-based queer activist and Hindu pandit

Sadhana Condemns the White Supremacist March in Charlottesville, VA

Sadhana condemns the atrocious behavior and stance of the white supremacists marching in Charlottesville (For context, see here). Sadhana's solidarity is with the clergy and community members who have dedicated their time and demonstrated courage to show that the light of diversity and plurality in our nation will never be extinguished. And we offer our deepest condolences to the family of Heather Heyer, the anti-fascist protester that was killed by a white supremacist during the conflagration.

Whenever adharma, or injustice, works to marginalize and oppress all those who seek justice and peace in the world, the Almighty appears in various forms to save us.

Bhagavad Gita, chapter 4, verses 7-8:

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati bharata Abhythanam-adharmasya tad-atmanam srijamyaham

Paritranaya sadhunam vinashaya cha dushkritam Dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge

Whenever there is decay of dharma (righteousness), O Bharata, And there is exaltation of adharma (injustice), then I Myself come forth.

For the protection of the good, for the destruction of evil-doers, For the sake of firmly establishing dharma, I am born from age to age.

We recognize the various forms that God manifests to enter the world and slay the demons, literal or figurative, whose aim is the destruction of all creation. But this time, the avatar (incarnation) of the Divine is found in our individual and collective dharma. As the Light of the Supreme shines in all of us, let us connect with it and be a force of love and goodness in the world.

We do not claim a supremacy of any race, culture, or worldview in our fight for equity. We fight for the safety, sustainability, and progress of our world.

If we see the Divine Spark present even in those who stand against us, our courage will push us to engage those we disagree with, and perhaps find compassion and understanding. This is the only hope for our nation and the world -- that we come together in love, and stand up to hate.

Om Shanti Shanti Shantih. Peace, Peace, Peace.

 

Sadhana Prays for Peace in Bangladesh and Remembers the Genocide of 1971

On March 25, the day before Bangladesh’s 46th Independence Day, the country commemorated Genocide Day, to remember the genocide that occurred during the 1971 Liberation War. While the figures remain uncertain, what is known is that massive brutalities were committed by the West Pakistani military against the Bengali population in East Pakistan. There were an estimated 3,000,000 deaths and 200,000 women raped, and Bengali Hindus were disproportionately targeted; in some cases, military officers were given explicit instructions to "eliminate Hindus". Reports indicate that 10 million Hindus fled to India as refugees after the genocide. 

Over the past four decades, the atrocities committed during the 1971 Liberation War have been downplayed and sometimes even outrightly denied. For the first time, on March 11, 2017, the Jatiyo Sangsad, Bangladesh’s Parliament, unanimously adopted a resolution that would observe March 25 as Genocide Day, formally bringing to light the atrocity and honoring those lives impacted.

Today, Bangladeshi Hindus continue to face persecution and harassment. Last year, a Hindu priest was stabbed to death during an attack on a Bangladeshi Hindu temple. ISIS claimed responsibility. Bangladesh has seen other attacks in recent years, including those on houses of worship, namely, Hindu temples and Shiite mosques as well as upon other religious leaders including a Christian pastor and a Catholic priest. According to Amnesty International, in 2013, Bangladesh’s Hindu minority was subjected to a wave of attacks including the vandalization of 40 temples as well as the burning down of scores of businesses and homes. 

In the past several years there have been numerous attacks perpetrated by violent groups claiming to act in the name of Islam. In 2016, among those killed were LGBT rights advocate Xulhaz Mannan, university professor AFM Rezaul Karim Siddique accused of promoting atheism, Hindu tailor Nikhil Joarder who was accused of insulting Islam, and Sufi Muslim leader Farhad Hossain Chowdhury. Outspokenly secular bloggers and social media activists were also targeted - many were brutally murdered.

As a justice-oriented and peace-loving organization founded on the principles of ekatva (oneness of all) and ahimsa (non-violence), we at Sadhana condemn the persecution of all minority groups in Bangladesh including our fellow Hindus. We also stand in solidarity with the government of Bangladesh honoring those whose lives were impacted by the genocide of 1971. 

We underscore that, just as Hindutva fundamentalists do not represent and speak for all Hindus or the Hindu religion, those perpetrating violence and persecution in Bangladesh and around the world do not represent and speak for all Muslims or Islam. We cannot allow the vilification of entire faith groups. Doing so plants seeds of intolerance and violence rather than fostering the solidarity and love this world so desperately needs.

We must recognize the humanity within each other. In the United States that means rallying and speaking out when President Trump introduces a ban that specifically targets members of the Muslim faith. In India, that means speaking out when members of the Muslim minority and Dalits are targeted. In Bangladesh, it means speaking out when our own Hindu brothers and sisters come under attack. Being true leaders means continually speaking out courageously for the most vulnerable and continually calling for justice.

For as many religious leaders promoting hatred, division and violence, it is our prayer at Sadhana that many more religious leaders will step up and speak for peace, unity and love:

Shanti Mantra

Om Saha Naavavatu

Saha Nau Bhunaktu

Saha Veeryam Karavaavahai

Tejasvi Aavadheetamastu Maa Vidvishaavahai

 

English Translation:

May the Lord protect and bless us. May he nourish us, giving us strength to work together for the good of humanity. May our learning be brilliant and purposeful. May we never turn against one another.

Sadhana Condemns the Attacks by an Islamist in London and a White Supremacist in NYC: Invoking Shiva's Prayer to End the Hatred and Ward Off the Untimely Deaths

We members of Sadhana are yet again, heartbroken about the hatred and violence that  continues to sweep through our world. 

ISIS has taken responsibility for the attack yesterday on the Westminster Bridge and Houses of Parliament in London in which five people lost their lives including the perpetrator and a policeman.   And right here in NYC, a white supremacist man traveled from Maryland to NYC with the explicit goal of killing black men -- and he did indeed shoot and kill 66 year old Timothy Caughman. Of course, we condemn both heinous acts and we grieve.

In recent weeks we have grieved for the hate crimes and killings in which 4 Hindu and Sikh men were shot and two killed -- Srinivas Kuchibotla and Harnish Patel.  
 
And even as we express our pain at all of this violence, some of which targets us, we remember that in India a Yogi who has said that “If one Hindu girl marries a Muslim man, then we will take 100 Muslim girls in return” and, “if they [Muslims] kill one Hindu man, then we will kill 100 Muslim men,” was recently appointed to lead Uttar Pradesh, India's biggest state. This same Yogi has publicly praised Donald Trump for his travel ban.

Just as Yogi Adityanath does not represent all Hindus or the Hindu religion, and just as the shooters of Srinivas Kuchibotla, Harnish Patel and Timothy Caughman, do not represent all white Americans, we must remember that the perpetrator of the London attack, identified as Khalid Masood, does not represent all Muslims or Islam itself.

We stand with the British Muslims who have created a fund for all the London attack victims and their families, and invite you all to donate. We stand with all the New Yorkers who will gather tomorrow at Union Square to honor Timothy Caughman at the NYC Resists Hate Crimes" rally, and invite you all to join us. And we stand as Hindus who will say again and again and again that the Hinduism we belong to, that we embrace, that we adore has no room for hatred, only love of one and all. 

The only way to fight hatred is to unite with all who stand against hate.  Let us all -- justice-oriented people of every religion, race, caste, gender -- unite in a love so powerful and revolutionary that it will conquer the hatred that is tearing apart our communities.

At this time of so much hatred, death and carnage all around, we invoke the powerful Shiva prayer that Hindus chant to ward off untimely death:

The Mahamrityunjaya Mantra

tryambakaṃ yajāmahe sugandhiṃ puṣṭivardhanam
urvārukamiva bandhanān mṛtyormukṣīya mā'mṛtāt

Om. We worship and adore you, O three-eyed one, O Shiva. You are sweet gladness, the fragrance of life, who nourishes us, restores our health, and causes us to thrive. As, in due time, the stem of the cucumber weakens, and the gourd is freed from the vine, so free us from attachment and death, and do not withhold immortality.

Sadhana Condemns Appointment of Adityanath as UP Chief Minister

Sadhana Coalition of Progressive Hindus is deeply concerned about the recent swearing-in of Adityanath to the position of Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state with a population exceeding 200 million. Adityanath, who uses the title 'Yogi" to denote his role as a priest, was appointed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which swept the most recent state elections, claiming 312 of 403 legislative seats.

Adityanath’s self-declared and openly stated Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) positions clearly indicate an administration that will place the vilification of Muslims as central to their policy-making. He has advocated for shutting all slaughterhouses in the state and placing statues of Hindu deities in every mosque. Adityanath also praised the Trump administration's Muslim ban, and called upon the Indian government to take similar actions. At one speech of his, he said, “When I speak, thousands listen ... When I ask them to rise and protect our Hindu culture, they obey. If I ask for blood, they will give me blood... I will not stop till I turn UP and India into a Hindu rashtra [state]."

Despite describing himself simply as a “religious missionary” and “social worker", Adityanath owns a rifle, revolver, and assets worth over $100,000 -- odd for someone who wears saffron robes and claims to be a sannyasi. According to one count, he has at least 18 criminal charges registered against him, including attempted murder, criminal intimidation, rioting, defiling places of worship, and promoting enmity between different groups.

In an article on Scroll.in, journalist Ajaz Ashraf writes that now,

“Hindus have been offered a choice: Do they accept the instrumental use of their religion to capture [political] power?”

As progressive Hindus who hold ahimsa (non-violence), ekatva (oneness of all), and seva (selfless service) as our core values, Sadhana vehemently denounces the selection of this particular individual to the position of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister. This creates and promotes an agenda that scapegoats a vulnerable minority community and legitimizes violence against them. He does not represent the Hinduism we believe in, and we call on all progressive Hindus to stand up against him and all other advocates of violence and intolerance.

Sources:

Sadhana Commits to Lokasamgraha In This Time of Social Crisis

Lokasamgraha means welfare of and justice for all people and the world.

Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus is saddened to see and hear that in his first few days as President, Donald Trump has signed executive orders that would slash the rights of immigrants and women, have deleterious effects on our climate, and take away healthcare from those who need it.

On Monday, Trump reinstated the global gag rule also known as the “Mexico City Policy,” which means that millions of women across the world will lose access to safe abortion and birth control; thousands could die as a result. The rule has gotten in the way of HIV prevention efforts, contributed to the closing of health clinics, obstructed rural communities from accessing healthcare, and has the potential to hinder the speed and effectiveness of humanitarian aid.  In a further act against women, Trump is calling for the elimination of 25 of the grant programs managed by the Office of Violence Against Women housed at the Department of Justice. These grants go to organizations working to prevent domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, and elder abuse, including many organizations that Sadhana has collaborated with to promote gender equity and prevent domestic violence in our community. Without this funding, groups like ours could be less equipped to help survivors of domestic violence and abuse to begin the healing process and rebuild their lives.

Trump also signed executive orders to revive and encourage the development of the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Over the past few years, numerous diverse climate justice warriors, particularly indigenous and native peoples who have often faced broken promises from the US government, have, in full consciousness of protection for the most vulnerable lands and peoples of Bhumi-devi, or Mother Earth, have their put their bodies on the line to prevent these projects from moving forward. The Obama Administration responded to the climate justice movement by calling off key components of these projects, agreeing that the concerns of our planetary community must come first and foremost. The Trump Administration, to no surprise, has decided in the negative against the protection and flourishing of our planetary community. 

Anantanand Rambachan, esteemed Hindu scholar/practitioner, author of A Hindu Theology of Liberation, and advisory board member of Sadhana, tells us that "wealth, however, must always be pursued with attentiveness to dharma, which is, in its broadest sense, the regard for the well-being of the total community of living beings and the world of nature. Economic growth is desirable but cannot be measured only by profit. Its wider impact on human beings and on the environment must be taken into account. By the centrality given to dharma, the Hindu tradition obviously holds that wealth (artha) and dharma (virtue) can happily exist together. Fidelity to dharma requires the use of land, water, air, and other natural resources in ways that promote the well-being of all.

Sometime this week, Trump is expected to sign executive orders that would prevent Syrian and Muslim immigrants from entering the United States. The policy would halt admissions from Syria and suspend admission from other Muslim-majority nations until the Trump administration can study how to vet these countries. This means there will be many displaced people who can no longer take refuge on American soil. While the consequences of the executive orders remain to be seen, what they will do is convey to an entire faith community that they simply do not belong in the United States. These orders could contribute to further attacks and hate towards our Muslim brothers and sisters. Since Trump’s inauguration, we have already seen this hate manifest towards our dear sister Linda Sarsour, a co-organizer of the Women’s March on Washington D.C., who is the subject of Islamophobic attacks all over social media and in the press. Sadhana will not stand for this, or any type of hate, especially based on faith.

Last Saturday, the White House website eliminated pages devoted to the climate, to the LGBT community, to indigenous people, to healthcare, and also removed the Spanish language version – this all signifies the lack of importance being placed on these critical issue areas and vulnerable communities. Sadhana fully condemns these rash decisions by Trump which do nothing in the short-term or long-term for the social, economic, and ecologic well-being of anyone affected. Hindus worldwide follow the principle of vasudhaiva-kutumbakam, in which all living beings on this planet, beyond any oppressive designations concerning race, caste, or species, are seen as one beloved family, one beloved community. The actions of the Trump administration bely and defy this understanding of our Earthly unity, and we join with the worldwide justice movement in resisting these actions in seva of Mother Earth and her most vulnerable inhabitants. Taken together, the executive orders and budget cuts that Trump has proposed send a clear message: America’s most vulnerable come last. We loudly reject this message and commit to speaking out against it. Sadhana marched in solidarity with women and men around the world last Saturday and each step fueled our continued commitment to fighting tooth and nail for our democracy.

To this end, Sadhana encourages you to get involved in any efforts to speak up for justice and democracy. Here are some immediate ways to do so:

Attend the Emergency Rally for Muslims and Immigrants being held tonight, January 25th, at Washington Square Park (5 Avenue, Waverly Place, West 4th and MacDougal Streets) from 5pm to 8pm, or Hate Free Zone: Love and Protect Each Other rally being held in Brooklyn tonight from 5pm-7pm (Avenue C Plaza, between McDonald Avenue and Avenue C, Brooklyn, NY 11218).

Attend the Emergency Action #NODAPL #NO KWL: Sign of Resistance event at Grand Central Terminal  (87 East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017) tonight, January 25th, at 5pm.

Sign the #IMarchWithLinda Petition

Sign the Do Not Stop Refugee Resettlement Petition.

 

 

Sadhana Participating in Women's Marches

Some of us in Sadhana will be in both Washington DC and New York City this Saturday for the Women’s March. We will be marching to assert our collective voice for justice as immigrant Americans, Hindu Americans, and just plain Americans.

Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington have described the march as a “women-led movement bringing together people of all genders, ages, races, cultures, political affiliations and backgrounds to affirm our shared humanity and pronounce our bold message of resistance and self-determination.”

We support this march because it epitomizes values which are so central to our mission and our grassroots advocacy. 

 

Sadhana is grounded in ekatva - oneness of all humanity. It is this principle which propels us to fight for equality. All of us are equal and deserve equal access to justice, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, caste, or any other identity. To that end, we will march because women must get the same wage as men for the same work – Sadhana supports equal pay for equal work. We will march because we must all get a living wage – Sadhana supports the fight for a $15 minimum wage across the country.

Much of our work is also steeped in ahimsa (non-violence). We will march because there can be zero tolerance for violence against women and sexual harassment. We will march because the Earth also deserves to be treated with peace – climate action now! We will march because Muslims, immigrants and the LGBTQ community should not be targeted and discriminated against. By marching on Washington, we see ourselves as part of a huge force in America of men and women, individuals and communities, insisting on justice for ALL.

Vasudeva Kutumbakam 

#WeAreOne

Sadhana Stands with Planned Parenthood

In Hinduism, the word “Shakti” is the only word that truly exemplifies “strength” and “power;” “Shakti” has always been perceived as female.  Among the major world religions, Hindus subscribing to Sanatana Dharma perform worship to various goddesses, including Durga (goddess of power), Kali (goddess of creation and destruction), Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) and Saraswati (goddess of wisdom). Moreover, Hindu scriptures, namely those categorized as “sruti” (that which is heard and of divine origin) like the Upanishads see all human beings as equal, irrespective of gender. We could argue that Hindu theology reveres women, while cultural norms have tended to discriminate against women.

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 6 Verse 32 indicates that an individual who “regards with equanimity the happiness and distress of all others, as if it were their own, is considered the best of yogis.” Surely, if a person were to put them self in the position of a woman who was not equipped to bear a child, s/he would want the ability to choose. Surely, a woman should have control over her own body in the same way a man has control over his. Anything else would be denying the equality that the Bhagavad Gita calls upon us to carry out. This is our position as Hindus at Sadhana, though we do not claim to speak for all Hindus.

Dharma (Hindu duty/moral order) is fluid; it is not absolute or rigid. Dharma is contextual and flexible; it is understood based on the time and space in which it exists. It has taken our country so long to get as close as we have to gender equity and the equilibrium that the Gita so often references. Protecting women’s reproductive rights is supremely important during this uncertain time. Any attack against women’s rights would be an attack against dharma. Our dharma would therefore beckon us to stand with Planned Parenthood, as it is a primary provider of women's health services.

A Hindu Reflection for MLK Day

Sadhana's Sunita Viswanath presented a Hindu reflection at the Mayor's interfaith breakfast gathering this morning, in honor of Martin Luther King Day:

 Sadhana's Sunita Viswanath delivering a reflection for NYC Mayor De Blasio's Interfaith Breakfast

Sadhana's Sunita Viswanath delivering a reflection for NYC Mayor De Blasio's Interfaith Breakfast

The Bhagavad Gita gives me clarity whenever I am fearful or unsure. This beloved text teaches me time and time again the path of karma yoga, the path of righteous action: that there is no option but to act, and the best action is selfless service and devotion to dharma which is nothing other than justice.

The true karma yogi is like Arjuna in the Mahabharata when his teacher asks him to show him his skill as an archer. Arjuna doesn't see the sky, or the forest, or the tree, or the trunk, or the leaves or the branches. Not even the win gs or the body of the bird in the tree. All he sees is the eye of the bird. And he shoots it.

When we act this way, wholeheartedly, with focus and conviction, devoted to God or dharma or justice, the "I" disappears, the "you" disappears, even the action disappears. All we see is the eye of the bird - truth, dharma, justice, God.

In the words of the Bhagavad Gita, 

"When a man lets go of his attachments
when his mind is rooted in wisdom
everything he does is worship
and his actions melt away

God is the offering, God
is the offered, poured out by God
God is attained by all those
who see God in every action."

In this moment of uncertainly and turmoil, let us honor that great karma yogi Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in the most fitting way -- by acting wholeheartedly, by serving selflessly, and by leading in a way that is devoted to dharma or justice. 

NOW IS THE TIME

Progressive Hindu Response to HAF Statement Against Keith Ellison

Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus is disturbed by the Hindu American Foundation’s (HAF) statement yesterday expressing concerns about Congressman Keith Ellison’s (D-MN) bid to head the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The basis for HAF‘s concerns is their contention that Rep. Ellison has been vocal on the oppression and discrimination faced by Muslims and other minorities in India, but not against the oppression faced by Hindus in Muslim-majority regions like Kashmir, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Sadhana refrains from taking a specific position on Ellison’s bid for the head of the DNC. However, Ellison has a been a leader for progressive politics and policies that make the lives of all Americans—including Hindu Americans—better. Among these are his voting record against escalation of the Iraq War, raising minimum wage, LGBTQ rights and abortion rights. It is certainly true that Ellison stands for many of the same progressive and inclusive values that we in Sadhana embrace.

Thus, as a progressive Hindu organization, we feel it is imperative to state unequivocally that HAF does not speak for all Hindus, and they certainly do not speak for us.

The tone of HAF's statement is extremely dangerous. In the accusation that Ellison is indifferent to the plight of Hindus in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other regions, HAF reveals a stunning indifference to the clearly documented oppression of Muslims and other minorities in India. It is HAF’s prerogative to insist that elected officials give attention to any violence perpetrated against Hindus; but to say that an elected official should not bring attention to violence perpetrated against Muslims betrays an Islamophobia and a sympathy with Hindutva ideology which we cannot condone.

Sadhana believes fervently that injustice against ANY community of people is wrong and against the Divine will and presence of Divine love in the world. Our core principles of ekatva, or oneness with all beings, and ahimsa, or peaceful, non-violent relations with all beings, are not sectarian values. We offer the righteous seva, or service, of co-creating justice with all peoples deserving of such justice.

We at Sadhana defend and express our Hinduism as a vessel of justice for ALL marginalized peoples; never one at the expense of another. In addition, we commit to engaging Rep. Ellison and his office on Hindu American issues, including religious discrimination/bias, racial justice, and environmental justice.

#WeAreOne

Sadhana Denounces Condemnable Words & Actions of Donald Trump

 Sunita Viswanath denouncing Trump and indicates that Trump's words and actions do not represent Hindu values. Note: Sadhana has not endorsed any presidential candidate in the current U.S election.

Sunita Viswanath denouncing Trump and indicates that Trump's words and actions do not represent Hindu values. Note: Sadhana has not endorsed any presidential candidate in the current U.S election.

My name is Sunita Viswanath and today I speak as a Hindu and as board member of Sadhana, a Coalition for Progressive Hindus.  Sadhana advocates for the principles of social justice which are at the heart of Hinduism - ekatva (oneness of all), ahimsa (peace and nonviolence), seva (a commitment to speaking, acting, doing, serving to advance the struggles for justice for all, everywhere).  

Although Sadhana does not affiliate or associate itself with any political party, we speak out to denounce condemnable words or actions of any individual or group regardless of political alignments.  

Today the Republican Hindu Coalition has invited Donald Trump to be a chief guest at their "Humanity United Against Terror" event.  But we see no connection whatsoever between the teachings of Hinduism and Donald Trump -- the man, the values he stands for, and his continuously degrading remarks against nearly everyone: African Americans, immigrants, religious minorities, women.  What do the Hindus who are celebrating Trump have to say about the terror that has been unleashed in this country as a result of Donald Trump’s hate speech and incitement to violence? Hate crimes against and even killings of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and other minorities are taking place in unprecedented numbers. This is indeed a time of terror — and Muslims are the the vast majority of its victims, not its perpetrators.   

Donald Trump and his supporters are "small men" according to the Maha Upanishad which states, "Only small men discriminate saying: One is a relative; the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously the entire world constitutes but a family." Hinduism teaches us that the whole world is one family, "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam." Why is this most basic of Hindu teachings lost on these so-called Hindus who support Donald Trump?  

To the “Republican Hindu Coalition” we say, “not in our name!”

These are extremely holy and festive days for Hindus - the nine days and nights of Navratri leading to Dussehra and soon Diwali -- these are days when we worship the Mother Goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswathi and Durga. Hindus spend these days praying and reflecting on our inner failings and the evil around us in the world, and striving to conquer these demons and devote ourself to dharma -- the path of right action; the path of truth and justice.  

How can we as worshippers of Maa Durga, the epitome of victory of justice over evil tolerate, let alone celebrate, a man who assaults women and girls, and brags about it using the basest language?

Were we not taught, "Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti?”

(Truth is one; though it is called by various names.)

This mantra from the 4000 year old Rig Veda teaches pluralism, which is the heart of Hinduism. One who believes “ekam sat" does not  -- cannot -- accept the hatred and bigotry, not to mention violence, that Donald Trump and his supporters have shown to African Americans, Mexicans and other immigrants, and Muslims.

Those Hindus who support Donald Trump are actually a tiny percentage of all Hindus, but they have a loud and despicable message.

We implore Hindus who stand for pluralism and justice for all -- progressive, peace-loving, tolerant and inclusive Hindus -- to rise up in one voice for peace and justice for all and say: 

Ekam Sat. #WeAreOne