TOUCHED BY TRUTH: A Contemporary Hindu Anthology
(Personal stories of someone or something Hindu that has spiritually touched life of contributor and how with additional wisdom, poems, invocations from great Hindu saints and sages.)
Any profits from this book will go to relevant charities associated with contributors
and to The Loomba Trust, helping to educate the children of widows in India.
What moves and spiritually inspires people? Why do so many people feel drawn to India?
What can we learn from Hinduism?
This book offers a unique collection of personal reflections celebrating the ways Hindu wisdom has helped people. Through personal, often moving and enriching stories the 22 contributors share lessons about life and love with wider humanity.
Readers will also learn about Hinduism itself, its world-view,
its ways of coping with life, its moral and ethical drives.
Hinduism offers potent insights on religious pluralism, non-violence and peaceful living, panaceas for our troubled world. This book aims to contribute to the process of community bridge building and human understanding through these uplifting and illuminating reflections.
PAPERBACK. 176 PAGES. 23 X 15.3 cms. Illustrate. Price £6/€9/$12. ISBN 1-85072-355-9
FOREWORD: Lord Navnit Dholakia of Waltham Brookes OBE DL
Arun Gandhi: Director, M K Gandhi Institute of Non-Violence, USA: TRUTH NEVER LIES: The Meaning of God
Athipet Sudha Vepa: Dancer, Choreographer, Lecturer in Life Skills, UK: A GENTLE BUT LASTING TOUCH: Lord of the Dance
Atreyee Day: Artist, Teacher, Writer, India: MY BELOVED CHARIOTEER: The Royal Path
Bhavisha Tailor: Youth Leader, Anoopam Mission, UK: FINDING MY WAY: The Importance of a True Guru
Chintamani Yogi: Founder/Principal//Coordinator, Hindu Vidyapeeth-Nepal, Nepal: LIFE IS AN ENDLESS JOURNEY: A Selfless Service
Dayatamananda, Swami: Leader, Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre, UK: THE ETERNAL COMPANION: The Value of One
Deepak Naik: Director, Minorities of Europe, UK: SEARCHING FOR WISDOM: Invocations to Lord Ganesh
Dena Merriam: Founder/Convenor, Global Peace Initiative of Women, USA: A VISION OF UNITY: A United World
Jael Bharat: (Former) International Interfaith Centre, Oxford, UK: AS FAMILY NAME WE CHOSE BHARAT: God is Love.
Jay Lakhani: Director, Vivekananda Centre London, UK: PROPHET OF PLURALISM: Religious Plurality, Religious Unity
Karan Singh: Member of Rajya Sabha, India: TOWARDS THE LIGHT: Who?
Mathoor Krishnamurti: Exec Director, Bharatiya Viday Bhavan, Bangalore, India: THE WORLD IS ONE FAMILY: Wisdom of the Vedas
Mona Vijakar: Author; Founder, India in Classrooms, USA: PUNAHR-NIRMAAN: Messages of Shirdi Sai Baba
Navnit Dholakia: Peer, House of Lords, UK: A WAY OF LIFE: Seize the Day
Nirliptananda, Swami: Leader, London Sevashram Sangha, UK: SIMPLE AND PROFOUND: Message to Humanity
Ravi Ravindra: Academic and author, Canada: FATHER AND SON: Gitanjali
Sandy Bharat: (Former) International Interfaith Centre, Oxford, UK: COLONEL OF THE HIMALAYAS: Remembering God
Seshagiri Rao: Academic; Chief Editor, Encylopedia of Hinduism, USA: RELEVANCE OF ALL RELIGIONS: Reverence for All Religions
Sharada Sugirtharajah: Senior Lecturer, University of Birmingham, UK: MY MOTHER: Hymns to Divine Mother
Shaunaka Rishi Das: Director, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, UK: FROM KRISHNA WITH LOVE: The Bhagavad Gita
Sivakumar Saravan: Sishya, Saiva Siddhanta Church, Singapore: THE GIFT OF GIVING: At Thy Footsteps
Sumati Chaitanya: Acharya, Chinmaya Mission, UK: A DEEPER HEALING: A Web of Love
TEXT AND IMAGE ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The delight of this book is in the variety and breadth of the contributions. Here are very personal reflections on ways in which so many have found, within the Hindu umbrella, spiritual enlightenment, help on the journey and answers to questions and heart longings. Gurus, teachers and sacred books wthin Hinduism today still provide a rich fountain of wisdom on which to draw for those who yearn to be 'Touched by Truth.' Inspirational.
Gwyneth Little, Ed, Meeting Hindus.
Joan Wilkinson, National Unitarian Fellowship Newsletter and Online Forum
Royalties from this beautifully produced book will go to relevant charities associated with the contributors, including The Loomba Trust: www.theloombatrust.org, which aims to educate the children of poor widows throughout India.
I was delighted to be asked to review this book by Sandy Bharat as otherwise I would not have been prompted to go out and buy it which would have meant missing what is a truly spiritual gift of a book.
The main part of the book consists of twenty-two ‘reflections’ of just four to five pages long followed by an appropriate verse or contemplation taken from the Hindu Scriptures or from a spiritual teacher, leader or writer. The contributors are drawn from a wide spectrum of Hindus - politicians, scientists, dancers, teachers, writers, women and men, young and old, drawn from different countries around the world. What will appeal to Unitarians is the respect and reverence for others which the contributors demonstrate in their writing and in their lives. This is what gives power to the book; an openness, acceptance, faith beyond creeds and a way of relating, which in seeing divinity in others, goes beyond tolerance. This is not a hierarchical respect but one that honours parents and spiritual teachers irrespective of position of power or intellect. Through individual stories we learn why Hindus have much to offer, not only in inter-faith dialogue but in living out their faith in positions of influence. There is no missionary zeal to ‘convert’ readers but rather an emphasis on each of us to find the truth in our own tradition. There is one truth but many paths to that truth.
At the same time as contributors draw on their Scriptures, they also hold high more recent spiritual gurus and spiritual leaders, their writing and their lives: Sri Ramakrishna 1833-1886 and his disciple Swami Vivekananda, 1863-1902, Mohandas K Gandhi 1869-1948 and others. No generation and no peoples will be left without a spiritual guide and this book in its simplicity demonstrates how through ‘Vedanta, ‘ultimate wisdom’, a system of thought that encapsulates the meaning of the Upanishads (circa 1500-600BCE)’ present day Hindus continue to revere their Gurus and their tradition. This is a tradition of ‘ahimsa, non-injury, harmlessness; abstaining from evil towards others in deed, word and thought’. Just such a message which we need to hear in today’s world of wars and violence.
Each reflection is well illustrated, which adds to the sense of being in the presence of an actual person, showing what and who has influenced them in their lives. The opening contribution, by Arun Gandhi, reflects on the influence made on him by his grandfather, Mohandas. Beyond the pure joy of reading each reflection is the value of having information presented in a clear way, printed on environmentally friendly glossy paper with sharp print and sharp photographs and illustrations. The Glossary is worth reading on its own and will prove useful to readers who might wish to refer to it later. Both terms and names of important people in the Hindu tradition are included. It seems that the presentation of the book continues giving respect and reverence to all who have helped in the compiling of it with a section acknowledging both pictures and texts used. Most useful of all is the final section, ‘Resources’ which gives religious/spiritual organizations, websites, books and journals linked to Contributors.
This is a book both for those well versed in the literature of other faith traditions and those who might wish to be introduced to the Hindu tradition through personal reflection rather than through a teaching manual or heavier theological tome.
Peggy Morgan, De Numine
Stories of individuals' spiritual experiences and a sense of meeting people through reading or listening to their accounts are at the heart of the work of the Religious Experience Research Centre and the Alister Hardy Society. This book, with its range of black and white photographs of its named contributors enables us to meet and hear the stories of twenty two peole who feel that their encounters and life-experiences with Hindu teachers, Hindu worldviews and Hindu spiritualities have brought them into contact with Truth. Their backgrounds are varied and geographically widespread even within the lifetime of a single person, as is not uncommon in these days of diasporas and globalisation. Some were 'born Hindu' and come from India, but others have discovered the tradition from quite different backgrounds worldwide. Their contemporary accounts are interspersed with some classic illustrations and pieces by famous individuals and texts such as M K Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, Kabir, Sri Ramakrishna, Paramahansa Yogananda, Shri Shirdi Sai Baba, R Tagore, the Bhagavad Gita and so on to show continuities and add historical perspectives.
From the twenty two accounts of women and men of all ages and backgrounds it is difficult to select just some for particular comment. In terms of interest of AHS members and RERC research there is much that will stand out. An educated young woman with a Hindu background describes her journey from 'I never felt, saw or experienced God's presence and because of this I questioned his existence' to 'I joined the morning puja....and when the prayers began I wept uncontrollably. I could not stop the wave that washed over me and I felt ecstatic.The bottomless void I had been feeling was filled and I was completely satiated.' An older man and scientist by education affirms religion as 'experience not book-learning.' Another woman writes not about herself but in memory of her mother's life of serenity and non-attachment, someone 'who lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way.' Many of the contributors talk about unity. For example, 'we have to move beyond our own tribe and family into a human unity, a human spirituality. Later that evening, sitting alone by the sea, I clearly "saw" the unity of all the religions and had a strong feeling that only realising this unity can save us.'
The collection has a usefull glossary explaining many technical terms that are used and lists of organisations, websites, books, journals and newsletters for people to continue their explorations. It is also one of a series of volumes compiled by Sandy and Jael Bharat since they retired from their work with the International Interfaith Centre i n Oxford. A full list is available at www.spiritualityfordailylife.com and it is a matter of 'watch this space' for details of further riches.
Elsie Mack, Vedanta
As indicated by the title, this soft-back book contains a collection of thoughts - reflections - from some current practitioners of Hindu spirituality.
It is a 'coffee table' book in that one is inclined to pick it up out of curiosity drawn by the attractive cover, and leaf through, enjoying its wealth of pictures and photographs. Then the eye is caught by some specific topic and one reads on in greater depth to find some congenial thoughts and aspirations.
Although some articles have been submitted by various contributors, others have been compiled by the book's authors based on personal interviews and relevant literary works, etc. Each contribution is followed by a brief note about its author and his place in the religious jigsaw. All the articles are reminiscences of illustrious ancestors or exemplars, ranging from Mahatma Gandhi to Paramahansa Yogananda.
It is pleasant to read about the thoughts of today's people who one may well have met in England, though some contributors are from the US or India, for example. One article is a biography of Mathur Krishnamurti who for many years was in charge of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Kensington; another is from Swami Nirliptananda who, after a long life-time, is still working for the Bharat Sevashrma Sangha in Shepherds Bush (both in London), and of course there is our own Swami Dayatmananda who is currently in charge of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire. Personally, I felt very gratiified to read about Jay Lakhani as I have been involved in observing his progress in spreading the knowledge of Hinduism from starting a small Sunday School for juniors, to his teaching groups of all ages all over England, and his publishing books on Hinduism for general use in schools.
Another contributor is Sumati Chaitanya who reflects on her association with the Chinmaya Mission. Thanks to the prolific photographs in the book, she is shown with her guru, Swami Tejomayananda, whom I would otherwise probably not have noticed. So, again to add a rather personal note to what Sumati has said aboiut her guru, I recognised him as one who has taken more than one series of Gita talks in Kensington Town Hall. He is an excellent speaker, an original thinker and a great expounder of Sri Krishna's teachings. He seems to come to England about every second year. If there is a chance of hearing him, don't lose the opportunity!
All the contributions are listed on the Contents page in strictly alphabetical order, so no precedence is given in the way of superiority or inferiority - equality and acceptance of all are the keynotes.
A note about the compilers is covered in an essay by Jael Bharat, which tells of his birth in Holland and his journey to India, in a search for Self-realisation. It also mentions his change of name to Bharat.
This is a book I would recommend to practicing Hindus for sheer enjoyment, and would recommend especially to those of other faiths or none, in order to give them a general idea of Hinduism as it is lived today.
Elizabeth Harris, Interreligious Insight
This is a deeply personal and moving book. The compilers, Sandy and Jael, asked their contributors to reflect on the influences that had inspired them in their spiritual journey. So this is not a book about an ‘ism’, Hinduism, but about people. The result, though, is that the reader gains a remarkable insight into that ‘ism’, in all its variety.
There are twenty two contributors, including the compilers. The gender and age balance is good, and they speak from all over the world. For instance, Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Dena Merriam speak from the US, Atreyee Day and Mathoor Krishnamurty from India, Dr Chintamini Yogi from Nepal, and Jay Lakhani, Sharada Sugirtharajah and Lord Navnit Dholakia, from England. Some names are well-known, others not.
Each ‘reflection’ has a similar pattern. The personal testimony comes first, beautifully illustrated with photographs. This is followed by brief biographical information about the writer. There is then a one-page extract from the writings of one of the influences mentioned by the writer. So Dr Karan Singh’s contribution, which pays tribute to Sri Aurobindo, is followed by Sri Aurobindo’s poem, ‘Who’, Mona Vijaykar’s contribution, by messages of Sri Shirdi Sai Baba and Sheshagiri Rao’s contribution, by some of Gandhi’s words on reverence for all religions.
In almost every reflection, there is a message about inter faith relations. Arun Gandhi sets the tone by stressing that his grandfather respected all people and all religions as though they were his own (p. 3). Swami Dayatmananda speaks of Sri Ramakrishna as someone who believed harmony between religions was ‘a vital need of the soul’ (p. 35). Deepak Naik pays tribute to his mother, who welcomed two young Swedish missionaries to their home in Kenya, even putting a cross for them in the family shrine on one occasion (p. 39). Dr Karan Singh appeals to Swami Vivekananda’s words at the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions against ‘sectarianism, bigotry and its horrible decendant, fanaticism’ (p. 65). And Seshagiri Rao pleads for each religion to be understood on its own terms and for them to co-operate in ‘arresting the tides of violence, materialism, scepticism and scientism that are challenging all religions’ (p. 108). There is a message here that people of all religions can learn from.
I have no hesitation in recommending this beautifully produced, thought-provoking book.
‘Touched by Truth: A Contemporary Hindu Anthology’ is one of the many books that Hindu Voice UK is sent every month from publishers or authors hoping to promote their work. Due to time and space constraints, many of these books are unfortunately not reviewed. But ‘Touched by Truth’ had something which made it stand out from the pack.
The concept of the book is quite interesting and relevant. It consists of 22 personal accounts by practicing Hindus of today; about what Hinduism means to them and how it affects the way they live their lives. Interspersed between these accounts are quotations from Hindu shastras and gurus. The idea is to provide a vibrant and diverse account of Hinduism as it is practiced and lived today, thus celebrating Sanatana Dharma in the modern age. So the concept of the book is quite different and refreshing. But how does it pull off in practice?
Unfortunately, it gets off to a bad start with the first account, which was by Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. Unfortunately, Arun Gandhi spent more time promoting the greatness of his grandfather than in discussing Hinduism. He pretty much said that Gandhiji was greater and more important than Hinduism, and that it was not Hinduism that made Gandhiji great. He even made some negative remarks about Hinduism. All this in a book which is supposed to be celebrating Hinduism! Arun Gandhi displayed the unfortunate tendency of Hindus in the modern era of venerating their own Gurus or spiritual heroes to the expense of the wider spiritual traditions which nourished, taught and produced these undoubtedly great figures.
I can understand why the compilers of ‘Touchedby Truth’ thought it to be a good idea to put Arun Gandhi’s account first out of all the others. It was in the hope that peoplewho opened the first few pages of the book would be excited to see a living descendent of the Mahatma as a contributor. But it turnedout to be somewhat of a blotch on an otherwise excellent book.
The authors of the other chapters provide a somewhat more personal perspective about how Hindu wisdom has helped people face the ups and downs of life with dignity and purpose. Amongst the authors are two individuals who Hindu Voice UK has interviewed in the past, namely Dilip Lakhani and Mona Vijaykar . On the whole the book reads very well, with the variety of authors keeping it refreshing. One suggestion is that it would have been nice to be able to get some younger writers into this book. Also the book suffers from the fact that it is all black and white except for the front and back pages, because the large number of pictures in the book would have really looked great in full colour.
On the whole, ‘Touched by Truth’ is a worthwhile effort to present Hinduism in a dynamic contemporary way. Despite the shortcomings which I have mentioned, I still recommend it as an interesting, and sometimes even inspiring read. We hope the compilers Sandy and Jael continue their efforts.
NB. Author's note: we started with Arun as the articles run alphabetically by first name + there are several wonderful young contributors.
Lat Blaylock, RE Today
One thing that’s deadly for RE is the move away from texts to textbooks. Instead of drinking from the living spiritual springs of different religions, pupils get a liquid diet of stale and stagnant double page spreads. I have rarely found it easy to identify the ‘living springs’ in the Hindu traditions, because they are so diverse and ever changing. But Sandy and Jael Bharat’s book is a superb resource for the teacher of Hindu dharma in the classroom. The collection includes materials from over 20 different writers. Interviews, poems, reflections, extracts from the scriptures and comments upon them and good referencing materials for further reading add up to make this a book I will treasure.
Much of the material is specially created for this book, but there are also collected treasures of the recent spirituality of Hindus. I found my engagement with the work of Sri Aurobindo and Vivekananda (to mention just two) refreshed by the readings presented, and began to think about how I can add authentic materials like these to classroom learning. I liked the fact that the anthology draws on some of the breadth of Hindu traditions (though it would be impossible to be fully comprehensive). This is no narrow tract.
I really enjoyed as well the contemporary and ‘British Hindu’ flavour of much of the material. An interview with Deepak Niak, a piece by Shaunaka Rishi Das and a reflection on motherhood by Sharada Sugirtharajah set the scene of British Hindu identities very helpfully. RE teachers often struggle to connect text book learning to the local and contemporary. This collection helps. There is also a very good glossary.
No RE teacher will find here ready made lesson plans, or ‘run to the photocopier’ material. Still, if you are wanting to make your teaching authentic, and to take account of the diversity of Hindu spirituality in your planning, you could not fail to find in these pages many things to get your professional springs splashing. RE teachers ought to care about introducing young people to texts from the faiths. This book could enable an RE teacher to approach Hindu traditions with fresh creativity and vision.