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By Nithin Sridhar
Hinduism in US: Present and Future (Concluding part)
In May 2015, the PEW Research Center released the results of its survey for assessing “America’s Changing Religious Landscape” wherein it concluded that “The Christian share of the US population is declining, while the number of US adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing.”
The survey showed that the US Christian population declined from 78.4% to 70.6% between 2007 and 2014. During the same period, the survey revealed, the share of those who do not identify with any religion – atheists, agnostics, or those to whom religion does not matter, increased from 16.1% to 22.8%. The Hindu population in the US also flourished with an increase in their population share from 0.4% in 2007 to 0.7% in 2014.
Therefore, on the one hand, adherents of Christianity declined by 7.8 percentage points and on the other hand, the share of non-religious people increased by 6.7 percentage points. The Hindu population also increased by 0.3 percentage points.
NewsGram decided to assess the impact of this changing American religious demography on the Hindu American community and the future of Hinduism in the US. As part of this assessment, NewsGram, over the passage of a month, spoke to various important people associated with the Hindu American community and published their views as interviews in this “Hinduism in US: Present and Future” series.
Now, in this last installment of the series, we present a summary of the observations formed on the basis of those interviews.
Is the Hindu population in the US more than what is estimated?
According to the PEW survey, the US Hindu population in absolute numbers stood at 2.23 million in 2014. But, an estimate done by Hinduism Today magazine stated that at least 2.3 million Hindus were present in the US in 2008 itself.
If we accept the Hinduism Today figures as being more reflective of the ground situation, then there is a clear undercounting of US Hindus in the PEW survey. Another aspect that points towards the undercounting is that most of the American surveys take into account only the Indian-origin Hindus when they make the survey.
Hence, Dr. David Frawley (renowned American author on Hinduism and a Vedacharya) concludes: “PEW figures only address immigrant or Indian-origin Hindus but has no real way of counting those Americans who have converted to or actually follow Sanatana Dharma in their life-style in terms of various yoga gurus and spiritual movements. The figure then would actually be much higher, perhaps more than double.”
What is the role of Hinduism in the lives of Hindu Americans?
Hinduism plays a vital role in the lives of Hindu Americans, but the extent of its influence is highly depends on various factors like generation, age, family upbringing, etc.
Dr. Jyotsna Kalavar says: “From what I have seen, most Hindu children in the United States, take immense pride in their heritage, go through some period of soul searching and questioning, and pursue their personal definition of what it means to be a Hindu. Some take up the study of Sanskrit, literature, art, Vedic chanting, Vedanta, dance, music, Yoga – whatever aspect of Hinduism that appeals to them.”
Dr. Jyotsna Kalavar is a Professor of Human Development & Family Studies at Pennsylvania State University, USA and is an instructor at Samskrita Bharati, USA.
She adds that many Hindu American children are more Hindu than children in India, but at the same time, some children are totally disconnected with their cultural roots. There is a continuous tug of war between the “culture of parental origin and the culture of the land of their birth.”
Elaborating on this tug of war, Dr. Frawley opines that Hindu children brought up in America find themselves in a non-Hindu culture while growing up and in the education system. In many cases, they encounter scenarios that are completely hostile to Hindu culture. As it is a general behavioral pattern among children to revolt against parents and parental views, some may revolt against Hinduism as well, so that they could be different or be more like other American youth.
Acharya Arumuganatha Swami, the Managing Editor at Hinduism Today magazine, opined that every Hindu American does not identify himself strongly with Hinduism. Some hold strongly to Hindu principles, whereas some keep only an ethnic identity as Indians without much thought about religion.
When asked about the tenets of Hinduism, to which the practicing Hindu Americans adhere to, Acharya Arumuganatha Swami listed these tenets: “Existence of God everywhere and in all things, a belief in the law of karma (actions) and the principles of dharma (duty and righteousness), and a respectful attitude toward all religions.”
Hence, Hinduism definitely plays a vital role in the life of Hindu Americans, though the extent of this role may vary from family to family, location to location, and from generation to generation.
Does the increasing irreligiousness in American society affect Hindu American community as well?
The increase of people rejecting religion especially Christianity was one of the main highlights of the PEW survey. So, naturally the question arises about how this irreligiousness affects Hinduism and US Hindu community.
When asked if this rising irreligiousness be interpreted as a rejection of organized religions like Christianity or as a rejection of religion and spirituality as whole, Dr. Richard Benkin, who is an American Jewish human rights activist closely associated with Hindu American community, opined that the phenomenon represents neither.
He said: “The phenomena PEW identified tends to be cyclical and often secondary to other social trends… Cheaper mass transportation and communication, information technologies and social media, the breakdown of inter-faith barriers, and consequent inter-faith relationships are among the social trends that challenge traditional religious identification.”
He further pointed out that the new religions in the US form only four percent of the total American population and it is not likely to change especially considering the fact that there is a large scale influx of Latin American into US who are mostly Christians.
He also added that: “The US remains essentially a religious country with Christianity as its dominant faith, and its history has seen periods of lower religious identification and those of religious revivals.”
Therefore, according to Dr. Benkin, the rise of irreligiousness is not a rejection of Christianity and instead it has more to do with various social trends.
On the other hand, Dr. Frawley believes that: “Those who identify themselves as non-religious are often rejecting only the biblical traditions, particularly Christianity, with its emphasis on blind belief and dogma. They may be willing to recognize a higher consciousness behind the universe, such as many modern physicists are proposing. Many of these so-called non-religious people are interested in meditation, spirituality, and natural healing, and are not necessarily averse to Yoga, Hinduism and Vedanta, which they may not know much about.”
He adds that Hindu Americans should consider this as a great opportunity to explain and share the tenets of Dharma. They should prepare themselves to explain to people how Hinduism is different from Christianity and how it is not a dogma, but a spiritual path rooted in Dharma.
When asked, whether this irreligious trend will affect Hindu Americans or not, Dr. Frawley said: “It is true that some of the Hindu youth may become non-religious as well. The best way to deal with them is to acquaint them with the philosophical and scientific aspects of Hinduism such as Yoga and Vedanta.”
What challenges do the Hindu Americans face in US?
One of the biggest challenges that Hindu Americans face in the US is that very few Americans know anything about Hinduism. Dr. Benkin says: “It is embarrassing to admit that a small number of Americans know anything of substance about Hinduism.”
He further says that, when Hindu children interact with non-Hindu American children, there is a mutual exchange of culture and identities. Hence, “the challenge is to figure out as a community what is essential to Hinduism that is compatible with a more general US culture.” He cautions that insisting on a way of life that is in conflict with what youngsters know may further alienate them from Hinduism. Hence, the only way out is to find a symbiosis between the two.
Expressing a similar opinion, Dr. Frawley says: “The youth should be allowed to question, but there should be answers for their questions from a level of deeper insight.”
Speaking about the negative portrayal of Hinduism in certain sections of US academics and media, Dr. Benkin said: “The essential reason is ignorance, not mal-intent. Where there is ignorance, people without knowledge (and even those with a political agenda) can fill in the blanks.” But, he adds that: “Americans who have contact with Hindus and Hinduism tend to be very positive about it, and most of the others have no opinion.”
When asked about how to counter these negative portrayals, Dr. Benkin gave a four-point strategy that Hindu Americans should implement in their interactions with the rest of the Americans. The four points are: General Outreach, Interfaith Outreach, Political Activism, and Strong Public Outrage.
He further said: “For US Hindus, re-constructing the attitude and the role of the Mandir will be critical. I have seen how Hindu temples are centers of community activity that inculcate pride in being Hindu.” He gave examples from his own Jewish community and how they use Synagogues to connect with each other and pass on their culture and values to the younger generation.
Regarding the role of temples and other spiritual organizations, Acharya Arumuganatha Swami said that: “the temples serve for the ritual worship, for cultural events such as music and dance, for celebrating festivals, and for the sense of community. Spiritual organizations and the larger temples provide teaching centers for the youth.” He further added that for imparting dharmic values, “Most important is that parents themselves start living a dharmic life and thus start modeling the Hindu lifestyle and values for their children to follow. Further, a better systematic presentation of Hindu practices and beliefs should be adopted.”
Therefore, through a temple and community centered movement, personal practice, proper presentation of Hindu tenets, and through outreach to other communities, the Hindu Americans can tackle various challenges that are being faced by them.
What is the future of Hinduism in US?
Dr. Frawley says: “Hinduism as a whole now has strong roots in the American culture, both owing to the immigrant community and over a hundred years of influence of Hindu ideas and gurus. Hinduism will continue as a force of higher knowledge, healing, and consciousness in many forms. It is important that more bridges are made between those following Hindu-based teachings in the West and the world Hindu community, which is primarily in India.”
He further adds: “The Hindu American community has become the role model for Hindus in India and what they wish to achieve in years to come. This is owing to their affluence and high education in the Western world. The Hindu-American community shows how by following a Hindu way of life, Hindus can be successful in the modern world, without having to give up their religion or culture. In fact, Hindu values can be used to promote achievement in the modern world.”
When asked about the popularity of Yoga in the US, Dr. Frawley said: “While the physical aspect of Yoga is popular, all Yoga groups promote something of a spiritual aura. Even kirtans (singing devotional songs) are becoming popular in America…. most Yoga practitioners will eventually bring in some aspects of Hindu spirituality, such as a picture of guru or deity, use of Om, some mantra or meditation, kirtans, rituals or travel to India. Some even will do pujas (worship) and havans (fire worship), use some Ayurveda, Jyotishya (astrology) or Vastu.”
He further adds that, many such Yoga practitioners are willing to formally adopt Hinduism, but Hinduism does not have easily accessible means for those who want to convert.
Acharya Arumuganatha Swami says that his organization allows non-Hindus to formally adopt Hinduism and many people who have adopted Hinduism have come through Yoga and meditation.
When asked what role will Sanskrit likely to play in the future growth of Hinduism, she said: “Sanskrit is inextricably linked to Hinduism but not limited to Hinduism alone. Sanskrit texts are found in Jainism and Buddhism also. Sanskrit provides the key to our culture and heritage. It is the basis of Vedic thought, and also provides a treasure trove of information on various secular subjects such as astronomy, mathematics, engineering, medicine, etc. The language need not be cast in a religious mold alone. Knowing Sanskrit is empowering as it enables us to understand Hinduism without relying on translations.”
At a social level, Hindu American community will undergo a lot of changes as its integration with the mainstream American community grows. Dr. Benkin says: “Hindu Americans will witness a lot of social changes and adaptation as they become part of the US landscape, and non-Hindus will come to know more about them as they change that landscape.”
He adds that: “It is not an exaggeration to say that we are witnessing the birth of new forms of Hinduism, different from what we have known, yet born of social adaptations not changes to the essence of the faith and the core values of its adherents.”
Therefore, Hindu American community is likely to flourish further in the USA. The Yoga, Vedanta, Sanskrit etc. will further influence the culture of America.
Though, the influence of Yoga is huge in popular culture, there is ignorance about Hinduism as a religion. With more interaction of Hindu community and Hindu thought-leaders with the rest of the society, these ignorance and negative portrayals would slowly pave a way for positive understanding of Hinduism as a Dharmic religion and tradition.
Most Hindu American children face a tug of war between their ancestral identity and an American identity. Many may choose to alienate themselves from Indian roots and many may choose to discard the American way. But, this tug of war may slowly pave a way for the evolving of newer forms of Hinduism which would be Hindu at its core, but would be American in its external adaptation. Such, American Hinduism would still be very much connected to the Indian roots, but would be American in everyday interactions. And Sanskrit is likely to play a very significant role in this.
The increased interactions between Hindu Americans and the rest of the society will also have positive influence on American society, which may undergo transformations that would make it more open to Hindu principles and may adopt more principles of Hinduism into mainstream American culture.
More in this segment:
London (CNN)- At five o'clock in the morning, the esteemed 86-year-old astrophysicist Jim Peebles was woken suddenly by the telephone ringing."In previous experience, the only phone calls at that time of night are bad news," he said. This one was great news. "The opening sentence from the caller was: 'The Nobel committee has voted to award you the Nobel Prize in Physics. Do you accept?'" Peebles recalled. The wording threw him. Who wouldn't accept a Nobel Prize? "You know the Bob Dylan fiasco?" he said during a phone interview with CNN. "That might have put the wind up them."The "fiasco" Peebles mentions refers to the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, which was controversially given to an utterly unimpressed Dylan.Aside from being ever-presents on college campuses in the 1960s, little connects Peebles, an expert in theoretical cosmology, with Dylan. But one of the starkest contrasts might lie in their reactions to winning a Nobel -- and the songwriter is far from the only laureate whose crowning turned out to be an awkward affair.
The five committees are notoriously secretive, fiercely shielding their choices from the outside world -- including the laureates themselves, who are told of their victories just minutes before they are announced to the public.
Jim Peebles speaking at the Nobel Prize banquet in 2019 Image credit: CNN
That tight-lipped mantra can lead to some heartening surprises, as it did for Benjamin List -- the co-winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry -- who was having coffee with his wife when he received the news.
"Sweden appears on my phone, and I look at her, she looks at me and I run out of the coffee shop to the street ... you know, that was amazing. It was very special. I will never forget," he told reporters on Wednesday after his victory was announced.It can also be far less celebratory. "I was lying in bed, and my wife woke up and heard my phone buzzing. And she yelled at me because my phone was waking her up," David MacMillan, who shared the prize with List, told BBC Radio 4 on Thursday."100% [I] missed the call. Classic Scottish person. I [didn't] believe this is happening, so I went back to bed," he added -- likely the most relatable sentence ever uttered by an expert in chiral imidazolidinone catalysts.
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And for some, the sudden ascension to Nobel laureate is an unwanted intrusion altogether. "Oh Christ," British-Zimbabwean author Doris Lessing said when reporters arrived outside her house to inform her she had won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007. "I'm sure you'd like some uplifting remarks of some kind. "It's a wonderful thing," Reinhard Genzel, an astrophysicist who won last year's Nobel Prize in Physics, told CNN of his win and the months since. "But it's a chore as well."
What it's like to win a Nobel PrizeFew Nobel winners can honestly say their lives weren't changed when they received the phone call.As long as they believe it, that is. "These days you get these cold calls, and I thought this is another one of them," Abdulrazak Gurnah, the winner of this year's literature prize, told the BBC on Thursday."This guy said, 'Hello, you have won the Nobel Prize for Literature,' And I said, 'come on, get out of here. Leave me alone,'" Gurnah said. "He talked me out of that, and gradually persuaded me."Winners often can't be contacted at all, leaving them to find out about their wins from the news, their family, or even their next-door neighbors.
Nobel Peace Prize winners Ressa and Muratov Image source: CNNEconomist Paul Milgrom was woken in the middle of the night in California by his colleague Robert Wilson banging on his front door. "Paul, it's Bob Wilson. You've won the Nobel Prize," he shouted into the intercom. "Yeah, I have? Wow," an utterly confused Milgrom responded, in an exchange captured by a doorbell camera.
Genzel's phone call came while he was in a Zoom meeting with colleagues last October. "I had absolutely no inkling," he said. "I thought, my God ... obviously this is a fantasy."
The committee's secretary told him he "couldn't say anything for 15 or 20 minutes," so Genzel tried his best to keep the news to himself. "I walked over to our meeting room ... (my colleagues) told me afterwards I was stumbling in there, slightly gazed, telling them to switch on the TV," he said.Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel winner at 17, was midway through a chemistry lesson at a school in Birmingham, England, when a teacher interrupted to tell her she had won, she told Reuters.She later told Vogue that she modestly left the achievement off her university applications, because she "felt a bit embarrassed." But there are occasions, too, where the winner isn't quite as thrilled as the Nobel committee might imagine.
Dylan and Ernest Hemingway both skipped the Nobels' annual banquet; the latter made a point of telling the Swedish Academy that he had "no facility for speech making and no command of oratory." But arguably it was Lessing who had the most memorable reaction. She learned of her win as she stepped out of a taxi on the way back from the grocery store. "Have you heard the news? You've won the Nobel Prize for Literature!" an enthusiastic reporter told her. Her eyes rolled back in her head before the journalist had even finished his sentence. Lessing -- accompanied by a male acquaintance who stood next to her, bemused, his arm in a sling and a single artichoke in his hand -- was clearly more interested in collecting her shopping than talking to the world's media.
Also read: Abdulrazak Gurnah- The New Nobel Laureate
Asked how she felt, she expressed little enthusiasm: "Look, I've won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one."
"Am I supposed to get excited, or elated, or what?" she remarked. "One can't get more excited than one gets, you know?"
'I was treated like a rock star'
As soon as Genzel's win was announced last year, his face was on televisions around the world. The announcement of a Nobel Prize winner makes the front pages of newspapers and websites almost everywhere, throwing a sudden spotlight on little-known scientists and their complex research. "Once the announcement is made, you lose your identity within half an hour," Genzel said. "The telephone rings all the time. "Peebles had a similar experience just minutes after his early morning phone call. "When I returned to bed my wife said, 'What was that about?' I said 'Nobel Prize,' and she said: Oh God." Within minutes, the couple had a photographer outside their door. Genzel suddenly found himself answering questions about politics on late-night German TV, angering some of his friends with his responses. Peebles, meanwhile, spent much of the day looking through emails from every corner of the world: "Please come visit us, please read my manuscript..."
Reinhard Genzel posing with his medal Image source: CNN
"It's one thing to say that the Nobel Prizes attract attention. It's another to experience it," he said. Sometimes, personal relationships change. "There is of course a lot of envy, from some colleagues -- many people who are close to me in the same field might very well say, 'Why did he get it?'" said Genzel. But before the Covid-19 pandemic scuppered plans for two years in a row, winners were also treated to a gala in Stockholm. "I was treated like a rock star ... I experienced what I expect rock stars to experience," Peebles said of his banquet in 2019. "It's a wonderful honor." "My attache had an almost endless list of things to do," he added. "'Now you must meet these influential people. Now you must go to a news conference. Now we will have dinner with some important people. And on and on.' "Genzel missed out on the festivities last year, but he enjoyed a low-key affair in Germany. "The governor of Bavaria offered us his residence, (and) we had a fairly nice event with the Swedish ambassador," he said. Two years on, CNN asked Peebles whether his email inbox has finally receded to pre-Nobel volumes. "I'd have to look at the data on that," he responded, ever the empiricist. But for both men and many other laureates, the most exciting part of the Nobel experience is simply that it gets people talking about science and culture.
"I find it almost a necessity to tell the public at large that there is truth, there is absolute truth," Genzel said. "What I hope is understood is the importance of the Nobel Prize in making people aware of the importance of curiosity-driven science or arts," he said. "I think it must be unique."
(This article is originally written by Bob Picheta)
Keywords: Nobel Prize, Reactions, Laureates
Married Hindu women are recognised by a red streak of vermillion in the middle of their foreheads. This is traditionally called 'sindoor', which is derived from the Sanskrit word sindura, meaning 'red lead.'. Sindoor is traditionally powdered turmeric and lime, sometimes red saffron, or red sandalwood. It is also called vermilion, or Kumkum.
Sindoor is traditionally powdered turmeric and lime, sometimes red saffron, or red sandalwood. It is also called vermilion, or Kumkum. Image source: Photo by Gayathri Malhotra on Unsplash
The origin of the practise of wearing sindoor is ambiguous, but historical records from the Harappan civilisation show that women wore sindoor as a sign of being married. Today's generation considers the wearing of sindoor an outdated and patriarchal ritual. However, there is still a large population of women who uphold the ritual of adorning their foreheads with vermilion every day.
Sindoor implies the longevity of a woman's marriage to her husband in the Hindu tradition. The longer the streak, the longer her husband's life is believed to be. Women wear it for the first time on their wedding day, when the husband applies it during the ceremony. As long as he remains alive, the red streak that fills the woman's maang, or hair partition, symbolises her fruitful married life.
When the finger used to apply the sindoor touches the pituitary gland every time, it arouses affection in a woman for her husband. Image credit: Photo by Amish Thakkar on Unsplash
The components of the red powder are believed to improve the sexual energy of the woman. When the finger used to apply the sindoor touches the pituitary gland every time, it arouses affection in a woman for her husband. The mixture that she wears on her head controls her blood pressure and activates her sexual drive.
These days, feminists do not take very lightly to the practice of wearing sindoor, as they view it as a sign of patriarchal dominance. They do not like being branded as 'belonging to a man'. They prefer to wear it as a style statement because it enhances beauty. Fashion designers have recently commissioned models to sport sindoor on the runway. New age feminists are making bids to allow widows and single women to adorn their foreheads with the vermilion streak.
Keywords: Sindoor, Marriage, Symbol, Women, Patriarchy
Actress Urvashi Rautela has recently announced the name of her next film which is titled 'Dil Hai Gray'. It's a Hindi remake of Tamil film 'Thiruttu Payale 2'. Urvashi Rautela will be seen alongside Vineet Kumar Singh and Akshay Oberoi.
Urvashi shares: "I am excited to announce the title of my next film 'Dil Hai Gray' on the auspicious day of Vijaya Dashami. The film is very close to my heart and it was lovely working with director Susi Ganeshan sir, producer M Ramesh Reddy sir, and my co-stars Vineet Kumar Singh and Akshay Oberoi. "
"The film has created a massive response in the south industry and I am very positive about the story that it will be also be loved by the audience here. I hope my fans would bless us with their love and support. Super excited to watch my film on the big screen after a long time," she concludes. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: urvashi rautela, movies, bollywood, south, remake, film