As a Hindu living in and raising a child in the United States — and as a person with firm beliefs and the ability to express them — I’ve written passionately on, and been involved in activism that I believed had merit — on matters concerning my faith.
I’ve worked to counter offensive stereotypes and ignorance that is deep-rooted and widespread about my Dharma, its deeper symbolism and its practices. But I’ve generally held back from posting about religion on social media.
I’m making an exception today to talk about something that has been bothering me for a while. I invite responses from those who identify as Hindu, Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, or Humanist.
I understand that most of us have a strong sense of identity, and we react angrily when that identity is attacked or demeaned. That is perfectly natural, and as it should be.
But in a world of instant communication and therefore instant reaction, have we become so preoccupied in **defending** our beliefs that we have much too little time to think about how we **apply** them in engaging with our environment and the wider world ?
For instance, when I read the report below and viewed the pictures, I felt as if I had swallowed a glacier. The elephant is a keystone species, which means its extinction will irreversibly alter its environment and the fate of other species. Why is this not an issue that galvanizes more of us into taking a stand and more actively supporting conservation, anti-poaching efforts and consumer education worldwide?
As Hindus worldwide celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi on September 5 with all the observances, joy and devotion that honors one of their most beloved deities, the living embodiment of the qualities and ideals that this deity represents is being systematically decimated. Its matriarchs, repositories of knowledge and survival strategies who hold families together are being savagely slaughtered and disfigured leaving their orphaned babies deeply traumatized, terrified and weeping by their side. I support a charity that rescues these babies and chronicles their deep grief and recurrent nightmares for weeks before they are slowly rehabilitated with the support of fellow orphan elephants and nurturing Keepers.
Why does this reality not evoke collective, visible horror and outrage from more fellow Hindus worldwide?
Many years ago when I was with a theater group in Delhi, one of our rehearsals was held in the director’s home. We rehearsed on the terrace of his home, but to get there we had to walk through his living room which was quite literally a cathedral of carnage. Trophy heads of sambhur stags, deer and the like looked down glassily from the ceiling. I recall seeing at least one enormous curved tusk anchored by a filigreed band, and a tiger skin rug complete with snarling head. Numerous animal curios and trinkets were displayed in a cabinet with glass doors and shelves. What made me sick to the stomach was a pair of glass -topped tables made out of severed elephant legs. The director, who was Sikh, remarked perfunctorily that his grandfather had been an avid hunter during the time of the British Raj.
Even back then when I knew far less than I do now, I remember being amazed that he would not be ashamed of flaunting the relics of that mindlessly murderous age. I was struck by how sensitive religious and ethnic groups are to being slighted and disrespected, yet how insensitive to the suffering of other communities, other species.
Thirty years have gone by and technology marches on. Humans have not remained where they were either. We seem to have regressed.