hinduism in america

22. It is fai… When Vivekananda took the stage, newspapers reported how he was “dashing” with the “superb carriage of the Hindustanis” and how the audience was filled with “ladies ladies everywhere.”14 Introducing Hinduism, he explained the singular, omnipotent, formless God who resided at the heart of the most ancient Vedic tradition. Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Religion. Thomas Blom Hansen, The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 156. The Hare Krishna Movement: The Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004). Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005). The gurus of the 1960s and 1970s often fell prey to sexual and financial scandals. As a result, much of the literature that addresses forms of Hindu-derived religiosity in the United States is located within studies that may include sections on the United States but are focused on India or globally. 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. 27. In fact, when Vivekananda returned home to India, he received an effulgent welcome, and his rhetoric became much more aggressively nationalist. Many of the current immigrants came following a new immigration law enacted in 1965that abolished a quota system. That's not to say that I do any Hindu practices or even hold any Hindu beliefs, per se, although In 1900, seven years after Vivekananda set foot in America, there were only about 1,700 Hindus. There Swami Vivekananda spoke on behalf of Hinduism, as did Pratap Mazumdar, the representative of the Brahmo Samaj. This sentiment was also inextricable from racist North American policies of the time that were threatened by nonwhite immigrants and concerned to retain white, European, Christian dominance in both the United States and Canada. Rheana Murray, “Hindus want to take back yoga, say American needs to recognize practice’s roots,” New York Daily News, Thursday, April 12, 2012, accessed November 1, 2016. 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. Account & Lists Account Returns & Orders. With regard to colonial and 19th-century American history, Michael Altman’s dissertation, “Imagining Hindus: India and Religion in Nineteenth Century America,” is the primary resource focusing on Hinduism in the context of 19th-century North America.37 There are a number of sources that engage Hindu influences on the American transcendentalists in the mid-19th century: Alan Hodder addresses Henry David Thoreau in his article “‘Ex Oriente Lux,’” Russell Goodman addresses Ralph Waldo Emerson in “East-West Philosophy in Nineteenth-Century America,” as does Arthur Versluis in American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions.38 There is a growing body of literature on the Hindu influences in the 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly on Vedanta and Theosophy, such as Carl T. Jackson’s Vedanta for the West, Gauri Viswanathan’s articles “Have Animals Souls? In the yogic field, non-Indians flourished. This theological reasoning is an adaptation of Upaniṣadic (Vedantic) ideas from centuries earlier. When these immigrants arrived, they found limited resources for the expression of traditional forms of Hinduism available in the United States. At this same time, the RSS and the VHP were implementing similar curricular modifications in Indian educational curricular materials. In 1902, Swami Ramtirtha and in 1920 Paramhansa Yogananda taught Hindu philosophy to citizens of the USA but still the presence of Hinduism was negligible until 1965 when Immigration and Nationality Services (INS) Act of 1965 was passed. With the massive influx of various types of Indian Hindus, the diversity of Hinduism radically increased. In a survey in 2010, 2 million people identified themselves as Hindus. Madame Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott had both traveled to the district to witness spiritualist phenomena and, after meeting there, formed a lasting and influential partnership. The software boom further added to it and the number of Hindus getting green cards increased significantly. 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. Brahman, they claim, can be reached by multiple paths and known by multiple names. The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) is hoping to educate the general American population about Hinduism. In Hindu scriptures, such as the Bhagavad Gītā, there are several paths to liberation. If the Indus valley civilization (3rd–2nd millennium BCE) was the earliest source of Hindu traditions, then Hinduism is … Often their membership networks overlap significantly. These movements are often ecumenical in their relations to other faiths and promote forms of Hindu inclusivism. 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. As in the broader field of orientalist discourse, American publications and popular opinions oscillated between disgust and fascination, condemnation and attraction, disavowal and allure. 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. The new immigrants wanted to practice their faith cente… The majority of accounts of Hinduism in North America begin with the cataclysmic events of the World’s Parliament of Religions at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. About astronomy, the old Maya Observatory is… Skip to main content.sg. For the first time in U.S. history, Indian Hindus arrived in significant numbers. Prominent transcendentalist writers and thinkers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, were also … 21. 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). 26. In the United States, despite their regional differences, Hindus soon found that they needed to band together in expressions of communal solidarity. The Hinduism that flourished in the North American context drew heavily from the neo-Vedantic theology of monism, which was propagated by Hindu reform movements in the 19th century. These written works and American Transcendentalism shaped American knowledge and opinion about Hinduism for much of the 19th century. Nevertheless, despite restrictive immigration policy and nativist public sentiments, several Hindu emissaries from India entered the North American scene to build on Vivekananda’s legacy. They argue that all forms of divinity are ultimately one and that there are many paths to the same goal. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Over-Soul,” referenced in Catherine Albanese, ed. This is the whole of religion. He instructed his followers in the mystical practices of the yogic path and included postural exercises in his teachings. In fact, four years after its appearance, the publisher returned more than seven hundred copies of the text to the author. It allowed for an annual quota of twenty thousand immigrants from all nations of the world to apply to enter the United States. In these cases, the paths themselves are referred to as yoga: bhakti yoga is the path of devotion, karma yoga is the path of action, and jñāna yoga is the path of knowledge. The judge ultimately ruled against the parents’ and the HAF’s position, supporting the argument that postural yoga draws from multiple Indic religious traditions, not only Hinduism, and that the yoga curricula implemented in the Encinitas public schools were largely secularized and not Hindu in content. Missionary accounts of foreign converts would be circulated and celebrated in Christian periodicals, but the egalitarian valuation of foreign peoples and their faiths was still far away on the horizon. In the latter decades of the century, this same geographic location gave birth to the Spiritualism movement, which was fueled by the mysterious rappings of the Fox sisters who claimed to be receiving messages from spirits and mediums who conjured spiritual manifestations at the Eddy farm. 3. Each of these gurus brought particular theologies and methods to bear on Hindu traditions. Are Hindu’s allowed to divorce? Studies focused on 20th-century and contemporary Indian Hindu communities in the United States have contributed broadly to the sociological understanding of Hinduism within the analytical frame of immigration and religion. 7. These attacks on scholarship are not limited to the U.S. context but instead are global in scope, as the more militant and conservative factions of Hindus attempt to control representations of Hinduism and confine them within the boundaries of their political agendas. Today, there are about 2.4 million Hindus who have made America their home today. At this time, the majority of North Americans accessed information about Hinduism through books and publications, rather than contact with Hindus. In the 1980s, the VHPA was involved in two major knowledge-production projects: the establishment of a Hindu University in Florida and the Encyclopedia of Hinduism project.28 These Hindu organizations support the widespread establishment of educational resources on Hinduism, youth religious education groups (bāla vihār), and Hindu student associations at the university level, such as the Hindu Student Council, founded in 1990. Despite a failed alliance with Dayananda Saraswati of the Arya Samaj after traveling to India in 1880, the organization proceeded to establish one of the most prolific publishing houses emphasizing the spiritual intersections between East and West. In 1981, the Hindu Temple Society of Southern California established the Malibu Hindu Temple. E. Burke Rochford, Hare Krishna in America (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1985); Larry Shinn, The Dark Lord: Cult Images and the Hare Krishna’s in America (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1987); Edwin E. Bryant and Maria L. Ekstrand, eds. These organizations are an integral branch of the nationalist Hindutva ideological project; they also claim to unite, represent, and advocate for all American Hindus. 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. Even as an educated scholar delving deeply into the study of Hinduism, Emerson wrote a letter to his sister in 1845 in which he praised the famous Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gītā as “that much renowned book of Buddhism.”9 Still, Hindu thought emerged in Emerson’s work unambiguously as he contemplated “illusion,” a veiled reference to māyā (illusion) and constructed his notion of the “Over soul” as directly correlated to the Upaniṣadic idea of Ātman (the essence of self) and Brahman (the essence of the universe)10. Hinduism, major world religion originating on the Indian subcontinent and comprising several and varied systems of philosophy, belief, and ritual. Your email address will not be published. But in reality, many people have not formally converted to Hinduism but practice it religiously. These contemporary yogis drew on ancient Indic systems of philosophy and meditation that also included some minor references to physical postures. He declared that there was no polytheism in India, only the misunderstandings of uneducated people. Significant populations of immigrant Indian Hindus in the United States are from the Indian state of Gujarat, the birthplace of the modern guru Swaminarayan (1781–1830 ce). Hinduism has had an influence in America since being introduced by Swami Vivekananda in 1893, at the World's Parliament of Religions. The New Age movement of the 1990s also brought rekindled interest in Hinduism, often recoded as Indian spirituality, and this has sponsored a new wave of gurus and their teachings and the rampant expansion of postural yoga practice in the United States. 34. 39. 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. These religious spaces provided the infrastructure to maintain and further ethnic identities as well. In terms of marriage, 79 percent of Hindus are married, which is highest for any community in the United States. Karen Pechilis, ed., The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); and Thomas Forsthoefel and Cynthia Ann Humes, eds., Gurus in America (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005). Many of the early Hindu emissaries to the United States drew on ideological confluences between Christian and Hindu universalism. However, public opinion on this question, as well as the role of God, prayer and religion varies by country, region and economic development. In the World’s Parliament of Religions, in Chicago, in 1893 He was the first and only person at the conference who addressed the audience as ‘My Brothers and Sisters’ instead of ‘Ladies and Gentlemen.’  He won this conference by his rhetoric and stayed in the USA for about two years and taught the basic principles of Hinduism to many American Citizens. Some of them were open and welcoming toward the general public, while others were protectionist and exclusive to devotees only. The goal is to manifest this divinity within, by controlling nature, external and internal. View Hinduism in America Research Papers on Academia.edu for free. 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. Mata Amritanandamayi also has a large ashram in the exurbs of San Francisco, as well as dozens of others across the country. Unlike the external critiques against guru movements of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, many of these cases stemmed from internal accusations. Besides that, there are a few converts also. The large majority of gurus who have proselytized and become popular in the United States have espoused a form of neo-Vedantic theology, which arose in popularity in the Hindu reform movements of the 19th century. They also became congregational centers for community networking and development. Vijay Prashad, The Karma of Brown Folk (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001); and Vijay Prashad, Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today (New York: New Press, 2012). Hinduism is often labelled as a religion, but it is actually more than that: it is a vast and complex socio-religious body which, in a way, reflects the complexity of Indian society. It continues to espouse a theology that resembles Vivekananda’s teachings, namely, the neo-Vedantic teachings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, drawing on Upaniṣadic theological premises. Devotees adopted devotional attitudes toward both Prabhupada and the Hindu god Krishna, and they were encouraged to express that devotion through the study of Gaudiya Vaishnava scriptures and the recitation of mantras, particularly the māhāmantra (Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare). You could not be signed in, please check and try again. The separation of religion and culture in America. The term itself has been the subject of considerable scholarly debate. Reincarnation is a major belief 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. 1. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi developed Transcendental Meditation but also welcomed those of all faiths into his community. That is to say that in high-density Hindu states, one is much more likely to find a temple dedicated to Krishna, another to Durga, and another to Shiva, rather than all of the Hindu deities worshipped together in one temple. The Hindu influence clearly seen in Central America. Brahman also takes on various forms, both impersonal and personal, transcendent and immanent. 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. According to the 2001 census, about 1.1 million Hindus are residing in America. By the 1980s, there was Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living Foundation, Mata Amritanandamayi, Swami Nithyananda, Karunamayi Ma, Mother Meera, and many others. Instead, in efforts to attract non-Hindu followers, many have chosen to identify their movements as spiritual, or even as secular and scientific. Antiestablishment religious fervor distinguished this historical moment, which is often termed the Second Great Awakening. It has also strategically focused on building elaborate and ornate temple complexes in major urban centers. See David Gordon White, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014), 103–115. In 1987, there were about 387,000 Hindus in the USA. Many guru movements, however, have experienced rampant attrition in the wake of scandal, with their numbers either dwindling or buoyed by new recruitment and expansion efforts. A rich geography, many languages and dialects, lots of different creeds, racial diversity, all these elements have shaped Hinduism and made it so heterogenic. They looked to the diaspora Hindu community, in particular, because it was dislocated from local religious complexities and politics in India. The 1980s and 1990s signified a major milestone in the “institutionalization of Hinduism” in the United States.27 Hindu immigrant communities in the United States became particularly motivated to establish Hindu resources, such as educational materials, student networks, and defense organizations in response to their children’s exposure to negative stereotyping. The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) is a non-profit advocacy organization for the Hindu American community. Fueled with neo-Vedantic ideals, this version represented Hinduism (and the VHP) as “a great tradition clustered around an essential religious core, consisting of peaceful contemplation, tolerance, and spiritual development of the self.”29 Currently there is no diasporic counter-voice as strong as these heavily funded religio-political umbrella organizations. Hindus prefer to leave in peace with the native people in whichever country they go to. Americans still know very little about Hinduism and many of the predominant images are negative. According to the Cremation Association of North America, about a third of Americans choose cremation. These umbrella Hindu organizations are one of the most vital arenas for the construction of Hinduism in North America, because they are explicitly engaged in knowledge-building projects, from elementary curricula to monitoring the production of Hinduism through academic publications and university-level instruction. 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. The CSBE issued revisions that attempted to assuage all parties but satisfied few. Joseph Wood Krutch, 324–325 (New York: Bantam Books, 1989). Can they marry again after divorce? Instead, Americans continued to be informed by the sensationalist interpretations of Christian missionary accounts. Latest and strongest evidence of the Vedic connection and influence in the Maya culture of Mexico and Central America. The spread of Yoga and meditation further helped to spread Hinduism. These accusations emerged from inside the devotional communities, and they were only buttressed and fueled by external critiques. 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. 30. 42. This era also encouraged non-Indian Americans to don the religious and cultural apparatus of yoga and Indian mysticism, in efforts to draw power from the prevalent orientalist tropes of the day. 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. Mrinalini Sinha, “Introduction,” in Mother India: Selections from the Controversial 1927 Text, 2d ed. Still, he was lauded in the United States for his reformist theology and championed at home for his ability to confront the West with an anticolonial message that bolstered the Indian nationalist cause. Yoga is a multifaceted term that is used in many different contexts and draws on Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. (II.25 is section II verse 25 of the Yoga Sutras). In the 1980s the VHP specifically targeted the middle classes in India and Hindu populations living in diaspora as receptive audiences and generous sources of funding through a series of Hindu world conferences. In fact, it was likely in correspondence between British Protestant missionaries in the late 18th century that the term Hinduism was first used. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), 4. He also hybridized Christian and Hindu worship practices, founding churches with pews, Sunday congregational gatherings, hymns and hymnals, and rich garden spaces for meditation and yoga practice, prayer, and contemplation. 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 traditions of India fulfil their most deeply held aspirations. As in India, the majority of Hindu devotional worship occurs at home altars, with temples providing spaces for congregational worship on special occasions. In response, he formulated a new Hinduism heavily influenced by monotheism and a focus on scriptures, with which he aimed to rebut the scathing critiques of the missionaries. The California State Board of Education (CSBE) received petitions and protests from multiple groups of scholars and a significant mobilization campaign led by lay Hindus (the CSBE received the highest number of e-mails in a single week in CSBE history). Still, it was often positioned in early-20th-century American circulation as a Hindu practice, but often iterated with the language of spirituality because of the negative connotations that white Americans associated with the term Hinduism. ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temples are the only Hindu temples in the United States that sometimes have proportionate numbers of Indians and non-Indians worshipping together. 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. In 1920, Paramahansa Yogananda arrived in the United States, propagating a unique hybridized theology that blended Hindu and Christian ideas and practices. 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. Critics chastised Thoreau for his “pantheism” and balked at the juxtaposition of Christian religious ideals with their Buddhist and Hindu counterparts, seemingly portrayed as equals.12 Thoreau quickly learned that while his American audiences may have shared his romantic dabbling in the literatures of the Orient, they were not yet ready to accept wholesale its people or customs and certainly not its deities. 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.

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