UnNews:Newsweek depiction of Obama as void upsets some Hindus

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Newsweek depiction of Obama as void upsets some Hindus

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22 November 2010


Newsweek had the image (shown above) posted on the magazine's website on Sunday, along with the question: "How can anyone object to this?".

WASHINGTON D.C. -- Newsweek's depiction of President Obama on its latest cover has irked some East Indian-Americans who, fresh off Obama's visit to the world's largest chaosocracy, are not happy with the image of the U.S. president as what many Hindus claim to be the highest reality, Brahman or the void.

The Newsweek cover shows Obama as simply nothing. The entire cover is blank. The headline reads: "Why the Modern Presidency May Be Nothing For One Person to Handle."

In Hinduism three names are often confused, even by Hindus. Brahman means the void, brahmana means a priest, and Brahma means the 4-faced creator god. These are actually three different words.

Brahman is the term for divinity as understood in the Hindu sect of “advaitavaad” or nondifferentiated monism. Brahman is the void, without any attributes, and which is the origin of three pre-eminent gods in the Hindu religion named Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahman is considered the opposite of the world, which must end, metaphorically speaking, in order to escape the cycle of births and deaths and enter the void.

Brahman or the void is often externally manifested as millions of gods, headed by the afore named three, who have multiple arms, and are viewed as the cosmic hierarchy. They all rule the rhythm and harmony of life.

Rajan Zeddy, president of the Society of Hinduism in Alaska, told the English-language Sify News in India that the void is highly revered and meant to be worshiped, not indecorously thrown around. Zeddy, who is known for his work on interfaith dialogue, said it is not OK to use Hindu concepts for profit or self-serving purposes.

Suhag Shukla, managing director and legal counsel of the Washington-based Hindu-American Foundation, told FoxNews.com that her group doesn't think Newsweek was being malicious or trying to offend Hindus, but "the cover was in line with the media's comfort of utilizing Hindu philosophy to symbolize an issue."

"Hinduism's sacred images are too often appropriated in popular culture without understanding their spiritual relevance to Hindus," she said. "For Hindus, the iconography gives insight into the divine realm, Brahman, the absolute nothingness. And this void is the source of each aspect of the gods, replete with profound symbolism that is lost and even misunderstood by such attempts at humor."

Shukla, who noted that Hindu images are frequently used in media as caricatures because of a fundamental lack of understanding about the very complex religion, said it's impossible to control the deities, who all actually come from nothing, but showing the empty void, which we Hindus call Brahman, is crossing the line.”

Shukla admitted it was too late to retract the image since the magazine reached mailboxes on Friday. However, her organization will contact Newsweek on Monday. "How can they make a joke about Brahman, the void?" Shukla said. "If it is void then there is also no 'punch line' - and what is a joke without a punch line?"

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