May 02, 2006

Swadharma: Harvard's Hinduism Journal

Swadharma is a semi-annual publication dedicated to the presentation of Hinduism and Indian philosophy. Swadharma seeks to broaden the knowledge and understanding of Hinduism by serving as a medium of intellectual exchange between scholars, academics, and the global community. Blending scholarly articles, interviews, academic research, and editorials, the journal broadly examines views and perspectives on modern Hinduism with the goal to create better awareness and understanding of the tradition by Hindus and non-Hindus alike.
The Inaugural Issue Swadharma was conceived with the following paradox in mind: Hinduism, the world’s third most practiced religion, is one of the world’s oldest continuous traditions, yet it is perhaps the least understood, especially in the Western world. Swadharma seeks to improve the knowledge and understanding of Hinduism among Hindus and non-Hindus, foster dialogue between scholars, academics, and students, and most importantly, raise awareness of a religion whose followers comprise more than 15% of the modern world population.
We begin this issue with Swami Vivekananda’s address to the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1893. As the representative of Hinduism at the world parliament, Vivekananda became the first Hindu teacher to come to the West and share the wisdom and philosophy of the religion. He is thus the forbearer of our own cause and represents our purpose in publishing Swadharma.
Our theme for this inaugural issue is “Defining Dharma.” Traditionally defined as duty or purpose, the concept of dharma is central to Hinduism and indeed, many followers refer to the faith as sanatana dharma (eternal dharma). The articles featured in this issue attempt to refine and extend this definition to a broad range of issues as the term’s complexities merit greater examination.Our first article examines in detail the varying interpretations of dharma and traces the evolution of dharma into the modern world.
Later articles extend these varying interpretations to such topics as gender equality, religious tolerance, economic theory, and the evolution of the Hindu Diaspora, among others. We also explore recent events, such as the ongoing debate on the portrayal of Hinduism in elementary school history textbooks in California, in which Hindus around the United States rallied in support of the textbook edits. As Hindu diasporas around the world begin to question their identity and the image of Hinduism they wish to present to the general public, we at Swadharma hope to provide an opportunity for Hindus and non-Hindus alike to contribute to this discussion.
This publication would not have been possible without the hard work of a very dedicated staff and the support of many faculty and community members. We would especially like to thank Dr. Rabi N. Mishra, Visiting Fellow, Economics Department, Harvard University, whose guidance is heartily and respectfully acknowledged. Professors Michael J. Witzel, Harvard University Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies and Francis X. Clooney, Harvard Divinity School also provided invaluable advice and assistance, as did Dr. Kumar Nochur, Chairman of the New England Hindu Temple Association. Additionally, we thank Swati Yanamadala for her tremendous editorial assistance. We would also like to thank our generous contributors for having faith in us and helping us launch this debut issue.

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