Sunday February 18, 2018
Home Indian Diaspora Sanskrit rena...

Sanskrit renaissance has begun and is here to stay: Dr. Jyotsna Kalavar

3
//
410
Picture credit: huffpost.com
Republish
Reprint

By Nithin Sridhar

Hinduism in US: Present and Future: Part 1

Hindu community is a rattling and flourishing community in United States. According to recent PEW survey, Hindus form around 0.7% of total US population, a rise from 0.4% in 2007. That is, at least 2.23 million Americans are currently Hindus. But, these figures may well be much more in reality. A 2008 estimate given by Hinduism Today magazine, had given a figure of around 2.3 million Hindus in 2008 itself.

Picture credit: wsj.net
Picture credit: wsj.net

In any case, Hindu American community is well thriving and developing in US. Further, various Hindu practices like Yoga and Ayurveda have become very popular among non-Hindu Americans as well. Hence, there is a definite growth in Hinduism as a religion and community.

At the same time, there is a growing trend of irreverence among Americans, as more number of Americans are rejecting religion and a negative portrayal of Hinduism in certain sections of US academia and media that can have huge impact on young Hindu Americans and the practice of Hinduism in US.

NewsGram decided to speak to various people from diverse background who are associated with Hinduism and Hindu American community and get their views regarding the present condition of Hinduism in American society and the future of Hinduism in United States.

In the first installment of this “Hinduism in US: Present and Future” series, NewsGram spoke to Dr. Jyotsna Kalavar, who is a Professor of Human Development & Family Studies at Pennsylvania State University, USA and is an instructor at Samskrita Bharati, USA.

Dr.Jyotsna.Kalavar
Dr. Jyotsna Kalavar

Nithin Sridhar: Yoga, Vedanta and Ayurveda are very popular in the US today. But do they enjoy same popularity among Hindu Americans as well? How widespread is the practice of Yoga, Vedanta and Ayurveda among Hindus in US?

Jyotsna Kalavar: Indeed, these three have been packaged beautifully in the United States. In mainstream America, Yoga is widely popular, Ayurveda is rapidly gaining momentum, and Vedanta has not been left far behind. Among Hindu Americans, my personal observation is that of the three, the study of Vedanta is most frequently seen in the Hindu community, followed closely by Yoga, and then Ayurveda.

The study of Vedanta has been popularized by a number of institutions such as Chinmaya Mission, Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, etc. These days, they also offer online courses on these subject matters, and many Hindus participate in webinars and other such offerings.

In health clubs, it’s non-Hindus primarily practicing yoga though temples and other centers of learning (Vedanta or Sanskrit) offer yoga lessons as well. Most Hindus here appear to rely on allopathic medicine, and infrequently, I have come across those who exclusively follow Ayurvedic medicine as well.

Nithin Sridhar: What does it mean to be a Hindu for the younger generation of Hindu Americans?

Jyotsna Kalavar: The question depends on the generation (first or second generation immigrant status), age, area of residence (urban/suburban), state of residence (number of Hindus in their community), family orientation towards assimilation of American culture and desire to retain the identity of culture of origin.

Compared to a couple of decades ago, Indian culture and exposure to Hinduism is fairly widespread now. We have multiple temples in nearly every state and in some cases, multiple temples in metropolitan areas.

Fostering Hindu identity and efforts to pass on our rich cultural and religious heritage is undertaken through weekly classes held in temples, libraries, community centers, and even family basements.

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.

On the one hand, I have seen Hindu children in the United States being more Hindu than children in India. They have learned sections of the Vedas, speak Sanskrit fluently, and take great pride in their Hindu beliefs. Recently, I was at an event in Stroudsburg, PA where more than a dozen children had memorized the entire Bhagavad Gita, and were participating in a competition. I was simply bowled over by these children.

On the other hand, I have also seen Hindu American children totally disconnected from their roots. Thankfully, the latter are few and far in between. So, it’s really a continuum with both extremes included.

Nithin Sridhar: Are young Hindu Americans enthusiastic to adopt Hindu identity and practice Hindu tenets? Or is there an increase in disillusionment towards Hinduism among young Hindus?

Jyotsna Kalavar: It really depends on how the family has laid the foundation, and what they seek to practice and preserve in their offspring. The children are enthusiastic about our festivals, dance, music, folklore, Puranas, epics, prayers, rituals, etc. Through adolescence, there is some questioning which is not unusual but fairly typical of this developmental period.

But Hindu children have the additional cultural tug of war between the culture of parental origin and the culture of the land of their birth. They are in a minority here, and seek to fit in with everyone else.

In their quest for approbation, it becomes a period of testing for the entire family. But, I have seen that if the family earnestly sows the seeds of Hindu heritage in childhood, as young adults, they inevitably return back to their roots.

Nithin Sridhar: What is the response of Hindu Americans to Sanskrit learning?

Jyotsna Kalavar: I have been amazed at the interest in learning Sanskrit among Hindu Americans. My first Samskrita Bharati family camp was in 2006, and the camp was attended by approximately 75 people. Today, Samskrita Bharati has five family camps (attendance of 200+ in some camps), three youth camps, and summer week long camps for children.

All this within a decade, so it reflects phenomenal growth and astounding interest in learning Sanskrit. Of course, the interest is more among the first generation immigrants than their offspring.

But the growth in youth camp attendance and increased enrollment in Samskrita Bharati’s Sanskrit as a Foreign Language (SAFL) program, is evidence enough that Sanskrit has a strong and promising future in the United States.

Of course, this is not uniformly seen throughout the country but mostly in the states of California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. But, the number of centers in other states is rapidly increasing.

Nithin Sridhar: What role do you see for Sanskrit, in the survival and future growth of Hinduism in US?

Jyotsna Kalavar: 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 (sometimes misguided) made by others.

As a liturgical language, Sanskrit will continue to play an important role among Hindus worldwide. As a trans-sectional language, I am very optimistic that it will pick up steam both in India and outside.

It seems like the Sanskrit renaissance has begun and is here to stay!

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 NewsGram

  • Madhu K Agnihotri

    SanatanDharma Yoga Vedic way of Life is only way to Stop Arms Race of Evolution..Yes it’s dictat. Hari Om…No more Ignorance.

  • HmmmIzitso

    Academic Prof. Wendy Doniger of University of Chicago is the mother-pimp that leads the slander, pervert-sexualization and vilification of anything and everything that is Hindu. There are many many academics in the US, England and Europe that lead the assault for the Christian Evangelical Machinery. It is good that Hindus have woken up to the subtle and potent abuse.

  • V.Pant

    Satyameva Jayate!
    Bharat and her Samkrithi – the culture of this great nation are intrinsically interwoven with the Devabhasha Samskritham.
    It is indeed reassuring and extremely heartening to observe that there is a grand resurgence and revival of this most perfect and refined language (Samskrit means ‘that which is refined’) !

  • Madhu K Agnihotri

    SanatanDharma Yoga Vedic way of Life is only way to Stop Arms Race of Evolution..Yes it’s dictat. Hari Om…No more Ignorance.

  • HmmmIzitso

    Academic Prof. Wendy Doniger of University of Chicago is the mother-pimp that leads the slander, pervert-sexualization and vilification of anything and everything that is Hindu. There are many many academics in the US, England and Europe that lead the assault for the Christian Evangelical Machinery. It is good that Hindus have woken up to the subtle and potent abuse.

  • V.Pant

    Satyameva Jayate!
    Bharat and her Samkrithi – the culture of this great nation are intrinsically interwoven with the Devabhasha Samskritham.
    It is indeed reassuring and extremely heartening to observe that there is a grand resurgence and revival of this most perfect and refined language (Samskrit means ‘that which is refined’) !

Next Story

Life Lessons We All Should Learn From Lord Shiva

There are lot's if life lessons that one can learn from this Hindu deity

0
//
19
There are many life lessons that one can learn from the philosophies of Lord Shiva. Wikimedia Commons
There are many life lessons that one can learn from the philosophies of Lord Shiva. Wikimedia Commons

By Ruchika Verma

  • Lord Shiva is the supreme Hindu Deity
  • He is a symbol of peace and tranquillity
  • There are lot’s if life lessons that one can learn from this Hindu deity

Lord Shiva as everyone knows is a Hindu God. He is one of the Trinity and is the principal deity of Hinduism.  God Shiva is considered the “destroyer of evil and the transformer” of the world. The Birth and history of Lord Shiva are topics of great discussions and confusions.

Lord Shiva is one of the principle deity of hinduism. Wikimedia Commons
Lord Shiva is one of the principle deity of Hinduism. Wikimedia Commons

Lord Shiva is known to have no end and no beginning, yet, the origin of his birth is a much sought-after topic for several generations. Many ‘Puranas’ claims Shiva to be ‘aja’ meaning the one who has no birth. Some other scriptures claim that Lord Shiva was born out of Lod Narayana or Lord Vishnu. However, the authenticity of all the claims remain unclear, and there is still a solid mystery which surrounds the origin and birth of Shiva.

Shiva is also known Mahadev, i.e., the gods of all gods and rightly so. Throughout the Hindu mythology, Shiva has been portrayed as a tranquil and peaceful figure who grants all prayers of his followers and devotees. His another name is ‘Bhole Bhandari’ because of his innocent nature.

Lord Shiva is known for his peace and tranquillity. Pixabay
Lord Shiva is known for his peace and tranquillity. Pixabay

However, other than his peaceful nature, the other thing Lord Shiva is famous for is his flaring temper. Indian mythology is full of stories about Lord Shiva causing mass destruction due to his anger. The opening of his third eye is said to cause mass destruction.

Also Read: Enigmatic Mount Kailash: The abode of Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva’s appearance is a beautiful shade of blue because of him consuming the poison from the sea to save the world. However, just like his body is shades of blue there are many shades to his personality as well. Here are few life lessons of Lord Shiva that we all need to take a note of.

  • Come what may never tolerate the evil. Being destroyer of the evil himself, Shiva teaches us to never tolerate or bow down in front of the evil.
  • Self-control is the key to living a fulfilled life. Excess is of everything is bad and losing control ourselves is worse. One should always have a control over themselves to live a successful and fulfilled life.
  • Materialistic happiness is temporary. To be happy, be adjustable like water. Shiva says that attaching our happiness to earthy, material things won’t give us long-lasting happiness.
  • Keeping calm is very important. Lord Shiva used to meditate for hours and is easily the epitome of calmness and that’s what he advocates too.
  • Desires lead to destruction. Shiva believes that desires lead to obsessions which in turn leads to destruction. Never desire more than what you deserve. Be happy with what you have and work hard for what you want to achieve.
  • Respect your family. Lord Shiva is husband to Goddess Parvati and father to Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya. He respected his children and especially wife a lot. Respecting one’s  family is very important for living a successful life.
  • Control your ego and let go of pride. Ego prevents us from achieving greatness. Let go of your pride and control your ego to live a fulfilled life.
  • Everything is temporary. Everything in this world is temporary. Time changes as do we and our choices and desires. It is better to let go of all the ‘moh maya’ and live in the moment happily with what we already have.