In fact, Rammohan Roy, who would become the founder of the Brahmo Samaj in 1828, became the first Hindu whose monistic interpretations of Hinduism became popularized in the United States. Brahman, they claim, can be reached by multiple paths and known by multiple names. In the United States, Vivekananda’s legacy found a home in the Vedanta Societies that he established and that continue to flourish in the present day. Before that the presence of Hinduism in the USA was negligible. They are a part of a much broader movement from within the political mobilization of an aggressive Hindu nationalism within India that aims to silence any critique of the nation-state or its dominant religion of Hinduism. Instead, their movements and messages were relegated to the fringes of society, furthered by the countercultural critiques of American Christian nativism. These Hindus were not gurus or yogis who were interested in developing followings among white audiences. Hindus prefer to leave in peace with the native people in whichever country they go to. As more and more Hindus settled there, they started building new Hindu temples. The software boom further added to it and the number of Hindus getting green cards increased significantly. The hybrid or hyphenated identity that emerges (Indian American/Hindu American) from the adoption and valorization of native culture and religiosity confirms the appropriate ethnic status on immigrants now positioned in culturally recognizable intellectual spaces. 40. Outside traditional forms of home altars, temple worship, and festivals, there are many ways in which Hinduism has influenced American culture. While the British controlled the colonial agenda on the subcontinent, North Americans were also eager to reap the spoils of the British Empire and worked with the British to develop trade networks at the beginning of the 19th century. This philosophy … When these immigrants arrived, they found limited resources for the expression of traditional forms of Hinduism available in the United States. In addition to providing services to their local members, these organizations network on a national level through conferences, such as the Future of Hindu Dharma in North America conference for representatives from Hindu organizations held at the University of Central Florida in 2007. It was in his speeches after his return to India that he called for the development of a strong and healthy Hindu citizenry, a class of “warrior monks” who would cast off the shackles of British colonialism.20 It was at this point that Hindu nationalists adopted his message and personae as emblematic of their cause, as would later Hindu nationalist organizations. The new immigrants wanted to practice their faith cente… The famed American author Ralph Waldo Emerson was fascinated by Hindu texts such as the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Kaṭha Upaniṣad, and the Laws of Manu and took particular interest in the Bhagavad Gītā. After Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yogananda used neo-Vedantic reasoning to create a unique Christian-Hindu hybridized theology and drew followers by locating the similarities between the teachings of Jesus and his lineage of gurus. She quotes Ajah Shah, the convener of American Hindus Against Defamation, as saying, “In seeking the honor of Hindus and demanding they not be ridiculed … we are being good Americans. 10. Today, there are approximately 450 Hindu temples in the United States. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi developed Transcendental Meditation but also welcomed those of all faiths into his community. Fueled by immigration, America's Hindu population has reached 2.23 million, an increase of about one million or 85.8 percent since 2007, making Hinduism the fourth-largest faith, according to estimates based on wide-ranging study of religions in the nation. In 1875, they founded the Theosophical Society, an organization that combined spiritualism and Western occultism with a romantic orientalist understanding of the mysteries of the East, particularly focused on India and Tibet. In 1920, Paramahansa Yogananda arrived in the United States, propagating a unique hybridized theology that blended Hindu and Christian ideas and practices. 45. According to the Cremation Association of North America, about a third of Americans choose cremation. There is also a broad field of Asian American studies wherein the experiences of Indian Hindu Americans occupy chapters in larger volumes, such as Erika Lee’s The Making of Asian America.45, Though it has been attempted by many, Srinivas Aravamudan has compiled the most thorough historical account of the various roles of Hinduism and gurus in North American history in Guru English.46 With regard to the history of the 20th-century gurus, several studies have attempted a relative survey of the field. Katherine Mayo, Mother India (New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1927). In response, parents and community leaders began to organize to revise and reform the textbooks. Like the Hindus, the Mayas had knowledge of zero, they were the only ones besides the Indians, using this mathematical concept. Brian Pennington argues convincingly that “the historical role of the colonizer was not to invent Hinduism either by blunder or design, but to introduce an economy of concepts and power relations that dramatically enhanced the value of such identity markers.”3 While the provenance of Hinduism is still a contested issue among scholars, there is no question that Hindus (and their practices and beliefs) have thrived on the subcontinent since the Vedic period. For example, the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago hosts Shivaite, Vaishnavite, and Devi images and figurines, as does the Hindu Temple of Oklahoma and the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana. The scholarly voices were joined by Indian Dalit groups, such as the Dalit Freedom Network, the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Dalit Shakti Kendra, and the Dalit Solidarity Forum; other Dalit groups from within the Buddhist community also testified and objected to the edits that eliminated references to caste in Hinduism. Thomas Layton, The Voyage of the ‘Frolic’: New England Merchants and the Opium Trade (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), 24; Michael Altman, “Imagining Hindus: India and Religion in Nineteenth Century America” (PhD diss., Emory University, 2013), 57–58, 90–99; Amanda Huffer [Lucia], “Darshan in a Hotel Ballroom: Amritanandamayi Ma’s (Amma’s) Communities of Devotees in the United States” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2010), 106; and Sachindra N. Pradan, India in the United States: Contributions of India and Indians in the United States of America (Bethesda, MD: SP Press International, 1996), 57. Skip to main content.sg. One of the most important additions to the temple architecture of Hinduism in the United States has been the rapid expansion of BAPS Swaminarayan Hinduism. The development of temple infrastructure recalibrated the neo-Vedantic emphasis that had until now been the dominant expression of Hindu religiosity in the United States. In 1981, the Hindu Temple Society of Southern California established the Malibu Hindu Temple. See Sikata Banerjee, Make Me a Man! Today, there are about 2.4 million Hindus who have made America their home today. He validated the fundamentality of the Vedas and, drawing from them, explained that “the Hindu believes that he is a spirit” and that his “soul” is not “bound by the conditions of matter” but instead is “free, unbounded, holy and pure and perfect.” He told his American audiences that the doctrine of love in the Vedas teaches us to worship “the pure and formless one,” “the All-mighty and the All-merciful,” through love. In 1917, the U.S. government expanded the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 by passing the Asian Exclusion Act, which effectively barred all immigration from Asian countries. 21. Read the story of two worlds that converge: one of Hindu immigrants to America who want to preserve their traditions and pass them on to their children in a new and foreign land, and one of American spiritual seekers who find that the … The outward conviction that all gods are one provides an ecumenical veneer that enables the veneration of multiple sectarian and regional forms of the divine. While the majority of Hindus were willing to ascribe to the neo-Vedantic monistic mantra of “all gods are one,” still they brought with them their favored deities (iṣṭadev) and family deities (kuladev), and these deities needed to be revered. Their emphasis on the glories of Vedic culture, traditional gender roles, and conservative (and sometimes political) Hinduism has also influenced Hindu thought in the United States considerably. People of African descent also saw the yogi as a means of escape from antiblack racism; for example, Hazrat Ismet Ali, a black man from the British Caribbean, became famous in the guise of an Indian yogi.24 In 1947, just as India achieved its independence from the British, without the help of the U.S. government, Indra Devi, a white Russian woman who had trained with the esteemed postural yogi Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, opened her yoga studio in Hollywood and began to teach postural yoga to the stars.25. They have become epicenters for the Hindu community and cultural and religious ambassadors of Hinduism for the general public. After the World’s Parliament of Religions, Vivekananda embarked on an approximately three-year-long lecture tour during which he was invited to speak by various liberal Protestant organizations. Many devotees had detached from their families and communities to follow their gurus, and the gurus operated with ultimate power over their followers. Hinduism in the United States contains both universal ecumenism and the particular veneration of personal deities. Founded in 2003, HAF's work impacts a range of issues — from the portrayal of Hinduism in K-12 textbooks to civil and human rights to addressing contemporary problems, such as environmental protection and inter-religious conflict, by applying Hindu philosophy. The Spirituality of the American Transcendentalists (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1988), 93. In Hindu scriptures, such as the Bhagavad Gītā, there are several paths to liberation. Rammohan Roy understood that Hindu customs were viewed alternately with abhorrence and fascination by the British colonial government and American onlookers. Adrienne Moore, Rammohun Roy and America (Calcutta: Brahmo Mission Press, 1942), 155. The influx of temples in the United States provided expressions for the devotional and ritualistic aspects of Hinduism that had been largely ignored in the U.S. context in institutional arenas. In the United States, many Indian Hindus continue to be dismayed and offended at the manner in which their religion and culture have been presented in elementary, secondary, and university publications in the United States. The gurus of the 1960s and 1970s were forced to define their methods and practices as distinct, in order to succeed in the growing religious field, but still many drew in their followers with ecumenical language, freedom of belief, and evidence for the efficacy of their particular forms of spiritual practice. Yoga is an Indic cultural product that draws its roots from Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Tantra. Like many other “ethnic church” spaces, they largely conform to American Protestant norms, such as hosting congregational gatherings on Sundays that involve preaching and hymns. Despite their educational status, they often found themselves bounded by stereotypes of their ethnic and religious heritage and sometimes persecuted by expressions of individual and institutionalized racisms. Yoga Journal admitted that it avoids the term Hinduism because it distracts readers and has “too much baggage.”35 In response, the HAF initiated a widespread campaign to highlight the Hindu roots of modern postural yoga, which climaxed in a 2010 article in the New York Times.36 This controversy also emerged as a legal case in 2013, wherein the HAF found itself in unlikely agreement with Christian parents in Encinitas, California, who argued that yoga is Hindu and therefore should not be taught in the physical education curricula in a public school. In 1940, he published his most famous writing, Autobiography of a Yogi, which combined the personal account of his own yogic path blended with an account of the most extraordinary and miraculous yogis of India. Commentdocument.getElementById("comment").setAttribute( "id", "abf3e7c64b9b1f95ccf34f465a65762d" );document.getElementById("h13867c571").setAttribute( "id", "comment" ); If You Like This Article, Then Please Share It, Hinduism in the United States of America (USA). The result is that many ideas derived from Hinduism are not attributed to Hinduism, and this continues to foster debates about religious misrepresentation and erasure in the public sphere. BAPS Swaminarayan Hinduism began as a guru devotional movement, but it soon became articulated as a branch of traditional Hinduism. They also became congregational centers for community networking and development. 44. As in the broader field of orientalist discourse, American publications and popular opinions oscillated between disgust and fascination, condemnation and attraction, disavowal and allure. The Hindu leaders who did enter the United States during this period and the singular institution of the Vedanta Society struggled to extract followers from mainline American religions. Temples often host priests (pūjārī) from India to live in residence, which fosters transnational relationships between Hindu communities in India and in the United States. If the Indus valley civilization (3rd–2nd millennium BCE) was the earliest source of Hindu traditions, then Hinduism is … Through these connections, he was invited to become the chair of a position in metaphysics at Harvard University, which he declined, and he established himself among the elites and literati of New England society. Each of them attracted both Indian Hindus and non-Indian Hindus to their followings. In 1817, excerpts of Roy’s Translation of an Abridgment of the Vedant were reprinted in the United States in both the Trinitarian Boston Recorder and the Unitarian Christian Disciple. Britons, Indians, and the Colonial Construction of Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 172. 51. Religion is a complex component of our lives and it encompasses much more than our own particular traditions or personal experiences. Contemporary gurus have multifaceted and varied relationships to their parent tradition of Hinduism. Srinivas Aravamudan, Guru English: South Asian Religion in a Cosmopolitan Language (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 40. They argued that the representation of Hinduism is a caricature comprising no more than “caste, cows, and curry.” The multiplicity of Hindu deities has been presented as polytheism and the worship of Hanuman derided as animism. The nativism of the period culminated in the 1927 publication of Katherine Mayo’s book Mother India, which offered a scathing indictment of Indian culture.22 Mayo argued that the problems of India stemmed from the unbridled sexuality of the Indian male; as a result of this and its subsequent detrimental effects on Indian women, Indians were not suitable subjects to govern themselves. While Emerson and Thoreau were turning to the East, the burned-over district of upstate New York was erupting in the ecstatic, hell-fire sermons of the Methodists and Baptists. The second, the Maha Vallabha Ganapathi Devasthanam in Flushing, New York, was established in 1977 and is owned by the Hindu Temple Society of North America. Our historical context is also unique for another important reason. Most particularly, some Hindus have objected to what they view as the sexualization of Hinduism but also the application of Western theoretical models to Hindu materials (particularly psychological ones) and the emphasis on caste and gender inequities and exoticism. Similarly, Swami Kripalu (Amrit Desai) also founded an ashram community wherein devotees were encouraged to adopt yogic and meditative practices, but they were not expected to undergo a formal conversion. There, the ornate Shree Raseshwari Radha Rani Temple is one of the largest Hindu temples in the United States. Hinduism first arrived in North America through missionary and travel accounts in the late 18th century, which were shortly followed by European Orientalist translations of Sanskrit texts. Amanda Huffer [Lucia], “Hinduism without Religion: Amma’s Movement in America,” CrossCurrents, Special issue, Religion in Asia Today 61.3 (2011): 374–398; and Lola Williamson, Transcendent in America: Hindu Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion (New York: New York University Press, 2010). Most of the Hindus cremate the dead bodies. The guru movements that flourished in the countercultural spiritual experimentation of the long decade of the 1960s continue to draw followers today. Even gurus who never set foot on American soil, like Shirdi Sai Baba, Sathya Sai Baba, and Anandamayi Ma, have drawn in sizable populations of North American followers. The gurus of the 1960s and 1970s often fell prey to sexual and financial scandals. In the United States, there are BAPS Swaminarayan temples in Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. According to Hinduism Today, this number can be up to 2.4 million. There were about 1700 Hindus in the USA in the year 1900. Despite this unconditional acceptance of a plurality of methods to reach the divine, the Vedanta Society theology emphasizes the three paths highlighted in the Bhagavad Gītā: jñāna yoga, the path of knowledge; karma yoga, the path of action; and bhakti yoga, the path of devotion, as well as rājā yoga, the path of concentration. Your email address will not be published. In our fight for Hindu dignity, we are championing American pluralism.”31 American multiculturalism demands that Hindu Americans represent their religion and cultural heritage in the public sphere in order to be considered fully American, to occupy legible, hyphenated identities. Joseph Wood Krutch, 324–325 (New York: Bantam Books, 1989). Vivekananda, Raja Yoga, commentary on Yoga Sutras II.25: 201. The anti-Asian sentiment of the period drew heavily on commonplace economic arguments against cheap and exploitable immigrant labor in favor of domestic workers. Particularly bhakti yoga, the path of devotion, has considerable salience among the Indian Hindu population, as Krishna in the Bhagavad Gītā explains that this path is the best path for our age. The structure in San Francisco that is frequently identified as the first Hindu temple in the United States, established in 1906, was in fact the first permanent home of the Vedanta Society. 38. Bhagvan Rajneesh (Osho) developed Dynamic Meditation as a productive method of self-cultivation, but he also fostered ecumenism and developed his own theology imbued with a rich eclecticism of multiple religious and psychoanalytic sources. The Encyclopedia of Hinduism was sponsored by the India Heritage Research Foundation (based in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania), referenced in Prema Kurien, A Place at the Multicultural Table: The Development of an American Hinduism (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007), 51. Besides that, there are a few converts also. The grandfather of proselytizing gurus who espoused neo-Vedantic theology was Swami Vivekananda, who first introduced it to North American audiences at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. He systematized his thought and built a religious organization, the Self-Realization Fellowship, which has since become one of the most institutionalized forms of guru-led Hinduism in the United States. This theological reasoning is an adaptation of Upaniṣadic (Vedantic) ideas from centuries earlier. From the outset, ISKCON was an actively proselytizing organization. 77 percent of Hindus in the U.S. are college graduates. Once there, many of them allied with Mexican farmers and married into Mexican families, creating entire generations of Punjabi-Mexicans in a fascinating moment of American ethnic history.21 In 1923, Bhagat Singh Thind’s appeal to be considered as a U.S. citizen was denied on the basis of his race. 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