Letter 36

Murali Balaji

Director of Education and Curriculum Reform
Hindu American Foundation

February 24, 2017

Dear President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members of the Trump Administration and 115th Congress,

Over the last few months, I have wondered what it means to have a divided country in which people are no longer willing to see themselves in others. We seem to be in a dark period where polarization, distrust, and animosity prevent us from progress towards a more perfect union.

We continue to fight poverty, economic and social inequality, xenophobia, climate change, and a growing absence of empathy. All of these are daunting challenges at this particular moment in our history.

The question I ask is: “What can we do to create light together?”

Hindu scriptures are replete with stories and prayers that affirm that good and light always prevail, even if it takes more than one lifetime (or many). That is why Hindu philosophy is predicated upon the idea that our universe exists in cycles. That is why we must never fall into the complacency of believing that our job in striving for good is complete.

For many Hindus, the Ramayana is the ultimate allegory of going through darkness to return to the light. In this ancient Sanskrit epic, Lord Rama returns from exile after defeating King Ravana (the metaphorical triumph of good over evil), with villagers celebrating his victory by lighting lamps.

As we navigate through turbulence, we must remember that our society can emerge stronger out of the darkness. We must recognize that we are in this together, and that the betterment of all requires more than safeguarding our own self-interests. I am strengthened by my faith’s eternal optimism that our spiritual journey is ongoing, as is our work bettering American democracy together.

I conclude this letter with the Pavamana Mantra, which embodies our desire for truth and light.

asato mā sad gamaya,
tamaso mā jyotir gamaya,
mṛtyor māmṛtaṃ gamaya

Lead me from falsehood to truth,
Lead me from darkness to light,
Lead me from death to immortality.

Yours in faith,

Murali Balaji

Murali Balaji, Ph.D.
Director of Education and Curriculum Reform
Hindu American Foundation


About the author

Murali Balaji, Director of Education and Curriculum Reform at the Hindu American Foundation in Washington, DC, is a former journalist and professor who has advocated for pluralism and diversity for nearly 20 years. He has authored, edited, and co-edited several books, including The Professor and The Pupil, a political biography of WEB Du Bois and Paul Robeson.