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Hinduism Who are the American Hindus?

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by spnadmin, May 1, 2011.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 opens up Asian immigration. Transcendental Meditation takes off. Young people in shaved heads and saffron robes chant "Hare Krishna" at airports.

    In the 1960s and 1970s, Hinduism seemed on the path to spectacular growth in the United States as immigration laws eased and some Indian spiritual leaders were embraced by the counterculture of the l960s.

    The forecasts were half right.

    Transcendental Meditation and movements such as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness would face growing anti-cult opposition, among other obstacles. They would not be the path to lasting growth in Western converts to Hinduism.

    What is propelling Hinduism in the United States into a role as one of the nation's largest minority religions is a steady stream of Indian immigrants who have built hundreds of temples across the nation, according to a new study.

    In what it calls the first effort to conduct a Hindu census in the United States, the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Institute of American Religion discovered some 1,600 temples and centers with an estimated 600,000 practicing Hindus.

    That number could easily rise up to the estimated 1.2 million who self-identify as Hindus in national studies by adding in the mostly Indian Americans who limit their involvement to private spiritual practices or celebrations of semi-secularized holy days such as Diwali, said J. Gordon Melton, the institute executive director. Melton announced the results of the census at the recent annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture in Washington.

    For better and worse, however, the latest incarnation of Hinduism in the United States has gone largely unnoticed by most Americans.

    Immigration Gains

    Hinduism was introduced to the United States through the 19th century translation of texts such as the Bhagavad Gita. The first Indian teacher to visit the U.S., P.C. Mozoomdar, spoke in 1830 at the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Melton and Constance Jones of the California Institute for Integral Studies noted in a paper presented at the Washington conference.

    Other gurus followed, but the growth of the Hindu community was cut short by the Asian Exclusion Act in 1924, Melton and Jones said.

    The comeback began in 1965 with the new immigration law opening the U.S. to Indian immigrants. Among the prominent spiritual leaders to come over were Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement, and Swami Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada of the Krishna society.

    Many Americans welcomed the gurus, but interest among non-Indians faded in the 1970s amid lawsuits, scandals and an emerging anti-cult movement.

    At the same time, a growing Indian immigrant community began building temples and centers to meet its spiritual needs. In its census, the Institute of American Religion found 258 traditional Hindu temples with an estimated 268,000 adherents. The study estimated there are also 400 temples and centers from Hindu sub-traditions that have an estimated 282,000 participants and some 940 centers with an estimated 55,000 members associated with smaller movements across the country.

    Yet much of this growth, Melton and Jones said, has occurred "almost invisibly" on the edge of the larger American religious community.

    While there is at least one Hindu center in every state, they are largely concentrated in Indian American communities, Melton and Jones report. A third of all Hindus are found in clusters in California, New York and New Jersey. Hindu temples or centers can be found in only 13 percent of U.S. counties, according to the census.

    Hinduism does not enter the consciouness of most Americans in their daily lives. A 2001 Research Opinion Corp. survey found 95 percent of Americans have little or no knowledge of Hindu beliefs and practices.

    But that is about to change, scholars and observers say.

    Finding Its Voice

    The encouraging news for Hindus is they have avoided much of the hostility that has challeged other large groups of religious immigrants to America, including Catholics, Jews and, more recently, Muslims.

    Too small to be a threat to the status quo, and lacking some of the international baggage that followed other immigrants, Hindus have been largely left alone to meet the internal needs of finding and maintaining spiritual homes for a growing membership.

    Even the interfaith movement, which slowly built up to include Protestants, Catholics and Jews, and has more recently reached out to Muslims, is still largely associated with what are considered the "Abrahamic" faiths.

    Yet as it grows, Hinduism is not expected to remain under the radar too much longer.

    Hindus are gaining political sophistication through groups such as the Hindu American Foundation, and their geographical concentration holds the potential for building influential voting blocs in some regions, Melton said.

    Hindu leaders in the U.S. also realize there is a much greater need for outreach in a country where Hinduism is not ingrained in the culture, said Anant Rambachan, chair of the Religion Department at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.

    Hindu summer camps have become popular, and most large temples offer classes on a weekend to educate young people, many of whom were born in the United States, Rambachan said. More worship manuals and doctrinal materials are being printed in English.

    "My own sense of the future is we are going to see a certain flourishing of the Hindu tradition in the United States," Rambachan said.

    The days of the Beatles and pop stars like Donovan making highly publicized trips to India to study with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi are over.

    But it turns out Hinduism never needed the buzz to succeed here.

    "A much more substantial movement of highly committed people," Melton and Jones state, "has created a more permanent religious community that has taken its place as a primary American minority religious tradition."

    David Briggs writes the Ahead of the Trend column for the Association of Religion Data Archives.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-briggs/first-hindu-census-reveal_b_853758.html
     
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  3. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    The article is a synopsis that describes a new wave of immigrants in the US in a factual way.

    I need to remind posters that SPN has always had a rule that blanket animosity toward religions or ethnic groups is not permitted. Please address the issues of the article. If an article covers a topic about a group that worries you, nonetheless, you may not make blanket accusations, unrelated to article content.

    This is even more of a mandate now. India has passed new guidelines for ISP's and intermediaries by which sites are required to pull down offensive content or be blocked. We don't want our Indian readers penalized.
     
  4. Kookar Guru da

    Kookar Guru da
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    Vahiguru Jee Ka Khalsa
    Vahiguru Jee Kee Fateh!

    Dear spnadmin Jee

    I see you have removed my post. I prefaced the bit you deem a "blanket accusation" with "In my experience", so I suppose you disagree that this is my experience, which is rather odd. As administrator it is your prerogative to remove posts - I ask you to use wisdom and balance before removing posts. As for India's ISP guidelines, it will be a sad day when the Indian government starts to dictate the content of a Sikh discussion forum. I ask you to consider your logic in this regard and I'd be grateful if you would confirm whether SPN is now subject to Indian government guidelines.

    I will try to get past the censor again...

    The article specifically states "Hindus are gaining political sophistication". In my experience, this invariably translates into a promotion of India and Indian interests in the host country. I have been to events attended by prominent Hindu organisations in the UK - these have ranged from local inter-faith events to national events in the Houses of Parliament. Whatever the occasion, whatever the event, I have seen Hindus:

    - actively pushing the Indian government's agenda;
    - perniciously either down-playing other faiths whose roots are in the place called India or, when that doesn't work, casting these faiths as part of the greater Hindu "brotherhood";
    - distributing RSS/VHP leaflets

    This is my experience. Maybe it will be different in the USA, but I don't think it will be. Why? Because Hinduism is simply a collective term referring to various cultural groups in a geographic territory that happens today to be called India. In different parts of India they worship(ped) different gods with different rituals in different ways. The term Hindu is an umbrella term for all of them. I maintain that Hinduism is a caste-ridden, idol-worshipping, superstition-blighted system that the Sikh Gurus utterly rejected.

    The article also states "In its census, the Institute of American Religion found 258 traditional Hindu temples with an estimated 268,000 adherents. The study estimated there are also 400 temples and centers from Hindu sub-traditions that have an estimated 282,000 participants and some 940 centers with an estimated 55,000 members associated with smaller movements across the country."

    What are these "Hindu sub-traditions", and who defined them? If the Hindus were themselves defining them in this study, I am sure they will have included Sikhs as a sub-tradition. Why am I sure? Because I have seen the same thing done by them before. Maybe it will be completely different in the USA, but I doubt it because it's the same Hinduism.

    The article also makes reference to little involvement in the inter-faith arena by Hindus so far. It infers that this is going to change. In my experience, Hindus say the most outlandish things in inter-faith meetings with a completely straight face. Hindus make various claims about their religion being many thousands of years old. I have even been to conferences where they claim Hinduism is "hundreds of thousands of years old". Notwithstanding the fact that the homo sapiens species has only been around for approx. 200,000 years, all the archeological evidence shows that Hindu gods and mythologies originate from around 2,200 years ago, with many deities borrowed from the Greek tradition. The oldest evidence is to be found in the border regions of Northwest Frontier Province in Pakistan and neighbouring Central Asian states. Extremist Hindus don't like to hear this, but that is what independent archeologists have proven - although educated Indian professors do agree that this is the case.

    As Hindus become politically prominent in the USA, I hope that the atrocities committed by its adherents in their name will also receive scrutiny. The track record, however, suggests that Hindus will fool the USA and the world before realisation dawns.

    - Kookar Guru da

    Vahiguru Jee Ka Khalsa
    Vahiguru Jee Kee Fateh!
     
  5. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    .Dear forum member, Kookar Guru da ji

    I was completely aware and ready for this retort

    Here is my point. And I will only say it one time. No one is disagreeing with your personal description of experiences. But it is all subjective and there is no way to prove anything.

    What you wrote has no bearing on the issues in the article. It is imho Hindu bashing. We have never permitted this under existing TOS. Under the current circumstances we are going to monitor this forum so that we are in control and not the Indian government. That means we make sure that issues are debated, and we pick our battles. No Christian, Muslim, or Hindu is permitted to use SPN as a free stage to undermine Sikhism and Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Likewise, no Sikh may use SPN as a free platform to engage in unprovoked animosity toward other groups. That is where the balance is.

    That is all I have to say on that point.

    To move on: as for the rest of your comment. This is guesswork about what might happen in the US because you saw it happen somewhere else. There are other problems with your comment. What is incorrect about this statement?
    ..when you yourself say
    If some extremists up the number to hundreds of thousands, you are free to challenge that mistake. But it is not related to the starter article, not even remotely.


    Now what is the connection between this article and this also your statement?
    No connection at all!

    Are you not trying to express what you express earlier that Hindu immigrants to the US and elsewhere will lie and cannot be trusted?

    This is the Interfaith Dialogs section. The place where we are supposed to be learning about other faiths so that we can build bridges and improve dialog. How have you contributed in that regard in your previous statement and the one you just made?

    If you don't want to build bridges with Hindus, then don't comment. For I have no intention of getting into an argument every time I post an article about another faith, and an SPN member of any faith feels the need to express free wheeling hostility.
     
  6. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Reason for deletions are written in the little pane at the bottom of the post that was deleted. :) If constant quibbling continues, I will physically remove the deleted posts and so the thread can have a fresh start
     

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