While all of these elements point to the Hindu religious tradition, we were not Hindus. There is a qualitative difference between people who have been raised in a tradition in which the rituals, the foods, the prayers, and the ethics are second nature, and people who have incorporated only parts of a tradition into their religious style. This is why I use the term “Hindu inspired” rather than “Hindu” to describe Transcendental Meditation and similar movements.
I think I will channel my inner Russell T. McCutcheon when I say “show me a category and I will show you someone making the category.” The block quote above comes from the book Transcendental in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements in America by Lola Williamson. This book is great for laying out the evolution and belief systems of these things called HIMMs that Lola names–the evolution of differences in groups, ethic systems, focuses on the experiential, focus on the guru figures, etc. My critique of the book comes from the underlying tone behind her categories. There seems to be an assumption of an authentic Hindu religion that Americans have access and appropriated to make a less authentic American version and within those American versions there are some that are more authentic than others.
I think we can also learn a lot about Lola Williamson from this book. For instance from page 11 I learned that Lola believes that Americans are “culturally indoctrinate into the Judeo Christian worldview.” Without getting into how problematic a term like “Judeo-Christian worldview” is, does this mean that Jews and Christians have been indoctrinating innocent HIMM children in America?
I found it particularly interesting that I learn on page 179 that Lola uses William James as her theoretical framework for experience with experience being a large focus of her data. That was rather disappointing since it was right after a discussion that experience is shaped by the language that is taught–that is to say belief leads to experience rather than the other way around.
Murali Balaji wrote this article that highlight the misconceptions between Hindu Americans and their teachers and classmates. Balaji grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and was often confronted with inappropriate questions from “misinformed” classmates and teachers. His parents would feel frustrated and powerless about their child’s unfortunate circumstances. He gives two extremes that could arise between Hindu parents and their children’s teachers. This first approach is the “in-your-face” and the second is the “non-confrontational”. Often Hindu parents take the latter approach.
Balaji is the Hindu American Foundation’s Director of Education and curriculum Reform where he has talked with many parents frustrated by what their children are learning about Hinduism. He points out two truths in education: 1) teachers don’t intentionally teach wrong information and are almost always willing to learn and 2) parents can work with schools, school boards, and individual teachers to help fight stereotypes and wrong information. Harsh confrontation rarely yields results, as with Passivity. He encourages parents to meet with their child’s teachers to calmly discuss cultural or religious meanings.
Recently there has been a pictorial campaign launched in India depicting various Hindu goddesses as victims of abuse- it presents a jarring contrast between the serene, traditional poses and depictions of powerful goddess by showing them with bruised faces, as seen in the image above. This is intended to play on the shock value of the idea of these powerful, benevolent figures being so disrespected, in order to shed light on the awful issue of domestic violence and violence against women in India. However, this blogger argues that it is emblematic of a problematic change in representations of Hinduism. According to Vamsee Juluri, a professor at USF, Hindu deities are increasingly being presented in ways that do not highlight their virtues of compassion, kindness, and so on. Instead, modern Hindu representations reflect only the violent, action driven motifs present in their mythos, and Juluri believes this campaign to be similarly problematic. The underlying problem, he says, is that children being raised by Hindu parents today see more compassion and kindness from the Wiggles and Cailou than they do from representations of Hindu deities, and as such are missing out on the messages of compassion in favor of an increasingly violent idea of Hindu deities and as such extending into Hinduism itself. Given the discussed propensity for Americans to assume that Hinduism and Buddhism are purveyors of some ancient and mystical, peaceful vision of wisdom, I found his concerns to be quite fascinating, and something I would not previously have ever considered, and I wonder how American converts to Hinduism would address his worries.
While I was searching what to write about this week I came across this site. The creators define Hindupedia as “the Hindu Encyclopedia”. This site is meant to educate the public about all aspects of Hinduism. The main page notes that this site is the only online Hindu encyclopedia that provides the public with a traditional perspective on the Hindu way of life. There are 14 categories ranging from General information to Philosophy and art. Personally, I enjoyed reading about the preparation and celebration of Hindu Festivals. There are many different kinds of festivals. During one festival colored water or powder is thrown on people. This is the festival of colors, Holi. This festival reflects the changing color of nature.
It is not hard to see how Kali can be viewed in a pretty negative manner. I mean, she’s got heads all over the place. I don’t know why, but I just recently remembered a Christian evangelical tract that I found somewhere more than ten years ago that portrays a pretty extreme view of the goddess Kali. I found a link to it here. Now most people would see this and see the very, very obvious (and frankly ridiculous) biases that are both explicitly stated and inferred. I was curious as to what would make someone think about Kali like this, apart from Indiana Jones, so I did some research (Googling…). It turns out that there are actually human sacrifices to Kali still occurring, albeit rarely. Here is an instance of a murder I found that is relatively recent. As a father of a young child this is horrifying. Now as a rational human being I am completely aware that most of those who claim to be devotees of Kali are not murderers, but a very few are.
A few classes ago we looked over the results of a Pew Forum survey that covered a general overview of religion in America. Of course we focused a lot of our attention on various Asian Religions and their comparisons with responses from various protestant communities. As I was passing my weekend holed up in bed and sick as a dog, I found myself searching around the internet in search of something to keep me at least mildly entertained, stumbling back onto Pew Forum, specifically to this overview that was a rundown of a lot of what we’d discussed in class. So here it is for those who may not have seen it yet, and would like a little sample of the sort of things we discuss off the blog, so to speak ! Its a really interesting overview and analysis, showing overall differences between Asian American responses to questions of religion, and the differences between various subsets of the ambiguous and large ‘Asian American’ heading. I found in particular the comparisons between subsets of Asian American Buddhists interesting- a majority of 60% stated they never meditate, for example. On top of that, Buddhists of Vietnamese descent make up a third of all Asian American Buddhists, and are markedly more likely to state that religion is important to them, answering on the whole more positively in regards to the likelihood of having a shrine, praying, and so forth.
Overall it was largely a fascinating read, and I would certainly recommend taking a look- its chock-full of information that helps construct an idea of the “whole picture” so to speak.
This article is analogous to what I am currently investigating for my research project. I am attempting to find as much information as I can on why some people who identify as Hindus exclude from their religious group others who also identify themselves as Hindus. In this article, there are a myriad of reasons why a person who considers themselves to be Jewish person considers themselves or others as Jewish, and why they do not. For me, there are some obvious parallels between Hinduism and Judaism. For instance, some individuals consider Jewishness to be an ethnic trait, and the same can be said for Hindus. Also interesting is that there is a significant Hindu population that identify themselves as Hindu, but yet have no religious affiliation other than their ancestral ties. The same is true of Judaism (These are the much discussed Nones, who are of special relevance to this blog site). There is at least one key idea that I hope to take away from this article, though. And that is the distinction between religions and culture is largely from Protestant influence, and neither of the two groups mentioned fall into either category exclusively, which can be problematic if you can’t think of religion other than in the traditional manner.