Being Hindu is much different in the US
Mike Ghouse, June 9, 2007
Mike Ghouse, June 9, 2007
Religion in India is a subconscious activity, while it is a conscious, planned effort here in the US . "To be Hindu in America is much more an intentional choice than it is in India ." Diana Eck of the Pluralism center in Harvard states.
I am trained to think if the same responses were applicable to others. They seem to hold true for Indian Muslims, Indian Christians or Indian Sikhs as they hold true for Indian Hindus. Indeed, the parents in every heritage feel the same that they are going to loose their children. It is indeed an intentional choice.
Dr. Uma Mysorekar adds,” We just observed and followed and never questioned,” Most certainly it was the practice for immigrants in their home country. Welcome to America , the land of the free and the brave. The kids want to know why they cannot do certain things, and the teens want to know why they cannot go out on a date? The girls want to know why they cannot have their friends and their brothers sleep over in their homes?
We are learning and working on differentiating between culture and religion. The more people we interact with, from the same religion but from different cultures, we start seeing two different values. Religion is internal and invisible devotion you have between you and the creator, whereas the culture is exhibitive in nature. It is equally true for people of all faiths that they show off their religiosity more than they would back home. Perhaps not being with the dear ones, particularly for the first generation immigrants, there is a spiritual vacuum compensated by showing up at the place of worship, not necessarily for worship but to seek homeness.
Is it our insecurity? Are we driven to raise our kids as our copies? Are we afraid to raise our kids to be independent and free? Is our joy dependent on our kids obeying and doing things we want? Do we feel a sense of fulfillment if they emulate us? Or should we let them be themselves?
There is a major paradigm shift in the making.
I believe the next generation will learn to accept that their fulfillment comes from their kids being independent, happy and creating a life style of their own. Our bonding would be based on our relationship with them as independent individuals rather on significant cultural alignment. The family culture would cling on, but the society culture would tend to be more like the main stream. We need to be ready and seek our joy in their freedom and independence.
Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is president of the Foundation for Pluralism and is a frequent guest on talk radio, discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. He founded the World Muslim Congress with a simple theme: "good for Muslims and good for the world." His personal Website is www.MikeGhouse.net and his articles can be found on the Websites mentioned above and in his blogs: http://MikeGhouseforAmerica.Blogspot.com and http://MikeGhouse.Sulekha.com . He can be reached at MikeGhouse@gmail.com . Mike is a Dallasite for nearly three decades and Carrollton is his home town.
Being Hindu is much different in the US
Hindustan Times - New Delhi , Delhi , India
"There was a lot of foundation we had to lay even to exist as Hindus among non-Hindus," she said. "Now it is for us to do the job within our own community. ...
It took coming to America for 13-year-old Samyuktha Shivraj to understand what it really meant to her to be Hindu.
Since she and her family came here five years ago, they have been more observant about practicing their faith then they were in India . They go to their temple in Queens more often, she is a member of the youth club there, and there are more conversations about what the prayers she's reciting really are saying. "When I say those prayers now, I actually know what it means," Shivraj said. "It's not just a mundane ritual routine that I'm doing."
It is a common refrain for Indians around the United States . The cultures in India and the US are so vastly different that practising Hinduism in America sometimes doesn't resemble practising Hinduism back home. Temples act as a community hub and religious education centres here. They offer language classes and tutoring. Young Hindus like Shivraj are attending Indian heritage camps.
Back in India , Hindus are so immersed in the religion and surrounded by fellow Hindus that there is no need for such services. Hindus pick things up and learn simply by taking part in all the rituals and traditions. "To be Hindu in America is much more an intentional choice than it is in India ," said Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion and Indian studies and director of The Pluralism Project at Harvard University . "Even if you're first generation, you have to decide if you perpetuate it or if you just kind of let it go.
That reality has created a challenge for Hindus here - and for their temples and cultural organisations - as they try to pass the faith on to a younger generation.
At the Ganesh Temple in Queens , founded in 1977 and one of the oldest temples in the country, there's a community centre that people can use for weddings, performances and other events; education activities from religious instruction to language lessons and academic tutoring; and the youth club that Shivraj is part of.
Those are not elements commonly found at temples in India , said Dr Uma Mysorekar, one of the temple trustees. But in India , she pointed out, they don't need to be - because Hindus are surrounded by their religion.
"We just observed and followed and never questioned," she said.
When Indian immigrants started coming to the United States in larger numbers, in the years after the 1965 revamping of immigration laws, they carried their religious traditions on as best they could, meeting for prayers and worship at one another's homes, or renting public spaces, said Anantanand Rambachan, professor of religion at St Olaf College in Minnesota.
That realisation came from seeing how religion is done in the United States . Here, Christian tradition relies heavily on doctrine, on what people believe, Rambachan said, rather than what they do. In India , the emphasis goes the opposite way, since Hinduism covers a wide spectrum of gods and beliefs, and ritual is very important.
In America , Hindus "are increasingly being challenged to articulate the Hindu tradition in a manner that places more emphasis on doctrine," Rambachan said. "People will ask, 'What do you believe?'" Rambachan said.
Faced with that, temples and cultural organisations that had been working to make outsiders understand more about the faith realised they needed to help young Indian Americans know what they believed, if the religion was going to be passed on.
"If we don't do our part, we will lose these youngsters,' Mysorekar said.
"There was a lot of foundation we had to lay even to exist as Hindus among non-Hindus," she said. "Now it is for us to do the job within our own community."
In addition, some organisations around the country have decided to use the method of that most American of summer pastimes - camp.
Shivraj spent a couple of weeks this summer helping her mother, a classical Indian singer, run a weeklong camp on Indian heritage, which included sessions on religion.