BREAKING NEWS: Hindu Americans Financially Support Hindu American Politician - The Height of Hinduphobic Political Reporting - Hindu American Foundation
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BREAKING NEWS: Hindu Americans Financially Support Hindu American Politician – The Height of Hinduphobic Political Reporting

By December 27, 2018 September 21st, 2020 No Comments

Eoin Higgins sent a series of question regarding the Foundation’s relationship with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), the first Hindu American elected to the US Congress, for an article he was writing for readsludge.com.  The article is predicated on the Hinduphobic presumption that Hindu leaders donating to a Hindu American political leader is somehow suspect — that such support is fueled by ulterior, even unAmerican motivations.

We found the basis of this questioning repulsive, but engaged Higgins knowing that remaining silent would corroborate Higgins’ bias against HAF and Hindu Americans.

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) responded, in the interest of transparency and fairness, to each of Higgins’ questions, and a follow up question, with publicly available and verifiable information.  

In spite of Sludge’s policy vis a vis its parent company, Civil.co’s Civil Constitution, which requires “reasonable efforts by the author of the work or those who publish that work to verify the truthfulness of that fact,” Higgins opted to selectively omit responses and incorporated unsubstantiated and uncorroborated testimonials in order to malign and defame HAF. Moreover, by publishing this piece without requiring due diligence, Sludge editors have violated their own articulated ethical standards.

Below are his questions exactly as asked in in an email dated 12/23/2018, and answered on 12/25/2018 followed by an open letter to Higgins and staff of Sludge and Civil.co (emailed on 12/26).

At the time of this posting, Sludge and Civil.co had not responded and Higgins agreed only to correct a date and include HAF’s denial of any connections to groups in India.

EOIN HIGGIN’S QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES PROVIDED BY HAF

What is the nature of the Congresswoman’s connections to HAF?

Rep. Gabbard’s relationship to HAF is similar to that of other lawmakers who champion the causes HAF advocates for in the realms of civil and human rights. HAF has worked with Rep. Gabbard as well other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on issues such as separation of church and state, marriage equality, hate crimes prevention, fair immigration, women’s access to healthcare, gun safety reform, human rights throughout the world, and cultural proficiency about Hinduism in education and the media.

She is also one of dozens of lawmakers who have received awards from HAF for their demonstrated commitment to mutual respect, dignity, and pluralism.

Is the over $26,000 in donations from the board/officers of HAF unique to the Congresswoman, or are there other politicians in the US that receive this level of support? If so, who are they?

No, these donations are not unique, though we do not keep track of the political contributions made by our directors, staff, or donors. The political contribution history of our Board members and officers is publicly available, and you’ll find they’ve contributed to a variety of candidates over the years at similar levels.

Indeed as the first Hindu American elected to Congress, Rep. Gabbard naturally enjoys the support of many Hindu Americans. Now with several more Hindu and Indian Americans in national and state office, they too receive similar levels of support from HAF leaders and the wider community. The Hindu American community supports candidates from both major political parties, including candidates that represent this country’s diversity of race, religion, and political persuasion.

HAF has been criticized for its connections to the right wing elements in the Indian government, as has Congresswoman Gabbard. How do you answer those criticisms and what is the nature of the foundation’s connection to the Modi government and groups like the BJP?

HAF is a wholly independent, nonpartisan organization, and has absolutely no affiliation with or ties to any American or foreign political party. HAF was founded by second-generation Hindu Americans born and raised in the US.

In addition to the many causes mentioned earlier, HAF promotes a strong U.S-India bilateral relationship grounded in mutual respect, promoting shared values and has, at times, criticized government decisions regardless of which Indian political party was in power. HAF’s interest in India stems from its place as a sacred geography for the tradition, and because most of the world’s Hindus reside or originate from there.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and members of both the Trump and Obama Administrations have visited India to demonstrate their commitment to expanding the US-India strategic partnership. President Obama met with Prime Minister Modi eight times during his second term, described his relationship with PM Modi as one of his highest foreign policy priorities, and even called to say goodbye during the last days of his presidency. Countless lawmakers have also visited India and BJP’s elected leaders to demonstrate their commitment to expanding the US-India strategic partnership. Many, including Leader Pelosi, traveled to both New York City’s Madison Square Garden and California’s Silicon Valley, to attend massive Indian American community welcome gatherings for the popular leader.

Rep. Gabbard similarly met with India’s leaders, so judging Rep. Gabbard or any Hindu American by a measure different from that of others, or to impugn a different, or “special” relationship with a foreign government simply on the basis of a shared religion is Hinduphobic and xenophobic.

FOLLOW UP QUESTION FROM EOIN HIGGINS:

The only additional question I have relates to your last point: “judging Rep. Gabbard or any Hindu American by a measure different from that of others” in relation to her relationship with the Modi government/right wing elements in Indian politics is “Hinduphobic.” (am I reading that correctly)

But Rep. Gabbard does have a close relationship with those elements of Indian politics, as shown in her trip to India in 2014 at the invitation of Prime Minister Modi — just want to be sure we’re on the same page with that being different than someone making a blanket assumption based solely on religion.

My point is only that her meeting with Prime Minister Modi is no different or anymore noteworthy than other lawmakers meeting with the democratically elected members of the current or any ruling Indian party.

Consider April 2018 which saw a bipartisan Congressional delegation which included Rep. Pete Olson, Rep. Terry Sewell, Rep. Dina Titus, Rep. Brenda Lawrence, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Rep. Drew Ferguson and Rep. Tom Suozzi; or the bipartisan delegation in May 2017 — which included Leader Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Elliot Engel, Rep. Jim McGovern, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Rep. Betty McCollum, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Joyce Beatty, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and Rep. Judy Chu.

If questions were raised about only Reps. Gabbard, Krishnamoorthi, and Jayapal, then yes, I would argue that the line of questioning is Hinduphobic and xenophobic.

Open Letter to Eoin Higgins, Iles Matthews, Vivian Schiller, Donald Shaw

RE: Hinduphobic Op Ed on Sludge

Hi Eoin,

Well, I’ve now seen the article you published, so soon after I shared detailed responses to your questions. As you might imagine, I’m profoundly disappointed and shocked by how you have chosen to portray me, personally, and the Hindu American Foundation, where I work.

I made myself available to you in good faith, believing you would abide by the Civil Constitution set forth by Sludge. I provided detailed answers on very short notice (despite our closed office), which you appear to have intentionally omitted, amongst other editorial errors, in order to add to your collection of articles critical of Rep. Gabbard.

It is my abiding hope that you will consider my note below and update your article after exercising the due diligence that should have been prior to publication:

  • The headline makes a conclusive statement–”Tulsi Gabbard Took Thousands From Members of Right-Wing Hindu Group.” The sub-headline makes an equally damaging claim in quoting that HAF is a “pernicious organization.” Right from the start, you have completely misrepresented the record of HAF, my personal politics and ideology, and the very thrust of our 15 year record. Did you even for a moment examine HAF’s record of statements, affiliations, political positions, and more? Did you bother for a moment to peruse the website where you would find:
    • our work on religious freedom initiatives through the International Religious Freedom Roundtable in Washington, D.C;
    • our role as a leading voice on international and domestic civil rights issues, including advocating on behalf of minority women’s rights in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh;
    • our support of Muslim and Sikh employment rights in the U.S. through CA Assembly Bill 19649;
    • our speaking out against the unconstitutional surveillance of mosques in New York, pushing for immigration reform and gun safety reform;
    • our advocacy for the inclusion of hate crime reporting against Sikhs, Arabs, and Hindus by the FBI and much more;
    • our work in advocating for marriage equality and women’s access to healthcare;
    • our record on several church-state cases, including as an amici in the Supreme Court on the Ten Commandments in public places and much more;
    • our status as the only Hindu organization that sits on the National Leadership Council that includes the NAACP, ACLU, and many other giants in the field of civil rights advocacy?

And these are just a handful of examples. On what factual basis, then, do you nonchalantly declare HAF a Right-Wing group?

  • You quote a doctoral student who relentlessly attacks HAF and impugns all kinds of terrible motives to the organization I run and co-founded. But did you demand facts to support such breathtaking accusations? Did you ask me my view of these horrible pronouncements? Does journalistic ethics and Civil’s Constitution not enjoin journalists to make “reasonable efforts by the author of the work or those who publish that work to verify the truthfulness of that fact,” which could include giving me an opportunity to respond to allegations made against me or the organization I run or checking our website and countless testimonies and reports that are on the public record?
  • You quote Coalition Against Genocide (CAG), and in doing so, render credibility to a group masquerading as something that is far larger or real than it really is. Are you aware that this website (they have no legal status, no office, no board of directors, no employees) has a record of attacking Hindu organizations in the US?
    • The irascibility of these attacks led to our efforts to expose this coalition as nothing more than a variety of defunct website portals with various names, but all managed by the same four people, including the Dr. Shaik Ubaid whom you liberally quote.
    • The entire story is outlined here: as is a detailed flowchart tracking the lack of transparency and accountability of this “coalition.”

By the way, you link to the press release where Samir Kalra is quoted, but stated the date of the release as 2003, when this was written in 2013. HAF wasn’t established until September 2003.

  • You linked a piece by Zahir Janmohamed from which you make the claim that: “Observers on Capitol Hill say the Foundation has recently become more vocal in their support for India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.” Did you not see the piece I wrote in the same Outlook magazine detailing his biases and setting the record straight? https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/the-masters-voice/290204
  • Your research, I hope, demonstrated that my husband and I almost exclusively supported Democratic candidates, as do many HAF leaders, and that I and HAF publicly and unequivocally oppose many Trump positions. Vis a vis India, HAF has spoken out against cow-related vigilantism, killings/lynchings, and has led on the issue of Dalit rights and recognition by the greater Hindu community. Our report against caste-based discrimination was groundbreaking and started an international conversation on how to end the horrible practice.
  • What is horrifying to me is that because my husband and I chose to support the first Hindu woman to be elected to the US Congress — as Hindu Americans ourselves — you make the incredible claim that HAF maintains “ties” with right-wing organizations in India. Could you detail those “ties?” I already wrote to you that my husband, Aseem, and colleagues, Mihir, and most board members were born in the US, are US citizens and never will or can vote in India, and are proud Americans. I am shocked at the alacrity with which you slander us with false ties that do not exist. I’d like to know the factual basis for your characterization. And please don’t point out any meeting with or writings about the prime minister of India because we are amongst a long line of CEOs, lawmakers, think tanks, and NGOs that have done the same without censure. As it stands, I can only assume that you are insinuating something different is at play on the basis of our religious and ethnic identities.

I strongly appeal to you that the many factual errors and omissions be rectified in the interest of journalism based on “transparency and trust.” Adjust the headline and remove our names, or at the very least, include facts about HAF’s work in the realm of civil and human rights listed above, and our denial of association with any organization based in India.

This is the very least that I hope you will consider.

Best,
Suhag

10/30/22Sanatana Dharma in the Movies

Hinduism is often referred to as Sanatana Dharma (the ‘eternal way’), indicating the religion’s emphasis on eternal truths that are applicable to all of humanity. Thus, it makes sense that a medley of mainstream movies could convey Hindu ideals that resonate strongly with audiences, while not actually talking directly about anything understood by the public as Hindu.

In Groundhog Day, for example, when cynical TV weatherman Phil Collins discovers he is trapped in a time loop, living the same day over and over, only to be released after transforming his character from an egocentric narcissist to a thoughtful and kindhearted philanthropist, it’s hard not to be reminded of the Hindu notion of samsara, a cycle of reincarnation from which a soul attains liberation by realizing its divine nature after lifetimes of spiritual practice. 

Or in The Matrix when Neo chooses the red pill of knowledge over the blue pill of ignorance, and is subsequently unplugged from an illusory world and cast into the truth of reality, the film seems to be conveying a foundational Vedic teaching: that we must transcend our own ignorance — a product of maya, literally meaning “illusion” in Sanskrit — to uncover our true nature. Hindu concepts appear to be further exhibited in Neo’s relationship with Morpheus, which starkly reflects that of a disciple and guru, as the latter reveals to the former the knowledge he needs in order to understand this “true nature.” As Neo’s faith in Morpheus’ words develops, so does his capacity to see past the illusion of the matrix, garnering him the ability to manipulate the laws of this false reality, similar to the Jedi and yogis described earlier.

What do the Matrix, Avatar, Groundhog Day, and Star Wars have to do with Hinduism?

10/29/22Hinduism and American Thought

Hindu Americans and the Vedanta philosophy have significantly influenced notable intellectuals such as Henry  David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, J.D. Salinger, Christopher Isherwood, Aldous Huxley, Huston Smith, and Joseph Campbell just to name a few. Some feel that it started back In 1812, when Thomas Jefferson recommended to John Adams the writings of Joseph Priestley, a Unitarian minister who had published works that compared Christianity to other religions — Hinduism in particular — Adam’s interest was piqued.

Going through Priestley’s writings, Adams became riveted by Hindu thought, as he launched into a five-year exploration of Eastern philosophy. As his knowledge of Hinduism and ancient Indian civilization grew, so did his respect for it. This legacy took shape in the 1830s as Transcendentalism, a philosophical, social, and literary movement that emphasized the spiritual goodness inherent in all people despite the corruption imposed on an individual by society and its institutions. Espousing that divinity pervades all of nature and humanity, Transcendentalists believed divine experience existed in the everyday, and held progressive views on women’s rights, abolition, and education. At the heart of this movement were three of America’s most influential authors: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau.

How Hinduism Influenced Some of Americans Greatest Thinkers

10/27/22The Hindu Diaspora in Afghanistan

Before becoming an Islamic state, Afghanistan was once home to a medley of religious practices, the oldest being Hinduism. A long time ago, much of Afghanistan was part of an ancient kingdom known as Gandhara, which also covered parts of northern Pakistan.Today, many of Afghanistan’s province names, though slightly altered, are clearly Sanskrit in origin, hinting at the region’s ancient past. To cite a few examples, Balkh comes from the Sanskrit Bhalika, Nangarhar from Nagarahara, and Kabul from Kubha. Though Gandhara’s earliest mention can be found in the Vedas, it is better known for its connections to the Hindu epics the Mahabharata and Ramayana. There is also the historic Asamai temple in Kabul located on a hill named after the Hindu Goddess of hope, Asha. The temple has survived numerous conflicts and attacks but it still stands. The temple is a remnant from Hindu Shahi Kings, who ruled from the Kabul Valley as far back as 850 CE. However, Hindus are indigenous but endangered minorities in Afghanistan, numbering approximately 700 out of a community that recently included over 8,000 members. Many have left for new homes, include in New York which is home to a large Afghani Hindu population.

5 Things to Know about Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan 

Hinduism Beyond India: Afghanistan

10/26/22Dogs and Diwali

According to the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey, 70% of U.S. households (90.5 million homes) owned a pet as of 2022, with 69 million U.S. households having a pet dog. Recognized for their loyalty, service, companionship, and the special relationship they have with humans, Hinduism’s reverence for dogs is expansive, as they are worshiped in festivals and appreciated in connection to a number of Hindu gods and stories. Observed in Nepal, Bhutan, and the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal, Kukar Tihar (the 2nd day of Tihar) honors dogs as messengers that help guide spirits of the deceased across the River of Death. In the Mahabharata, Yudhisthira, his brothers, and the queen Draupadi renounced their kingdom to ascend to the heavens. However, Yudhisthira was the only one that survived along with a dog that had joined them. Yudhisthira refused to go to heaven without the dog, who turned out to be Yamaraj, the God of Death. Sarama, the “female dog of the gods,” was famously asked by Indra to retrieve a herd of cows that were stolen. When the thieves were caught, they tried to bribe Sarama but she refused and now represents those who do not wish to possess but instead find what has been lost. The symbolic import of dogs is further driven in connection with Dattatreya, as he is commonly depicted with four of them to represent the Vedas, the Yugas, the stages of sound, and the inner forces of a human being (will, faculty, hope, and desire).

Dogs and Diwali? 5 Things to Know about Hinduism and hu(man)’s Best Friend

10/25/22Black Panther

In 2018, the long-running Marvel comic series Black Panther, was brought to the big screen. A more prominent scene is when M’baku, a character vying for the throne of the fictional country of Wakanda, challenges T’Challa/Black Panther, and yells, “Glory to Hanuman.” However, despite dharma as an unsaid aspect of the characters’ interactions, Black Panther relies slightly more on Hindu symbolism than philosophy. But the significance of Hanuman as a transcendent deity cannot be overlooked, especially at a time when dialogues about global migration, the right to worship, and access to natural resources are becoming more overtly racialized. The film provides more than just an entertainment escape: it reimagines a world in which the current racial and theological paradigms are challenged forcefully. With the film expected to have at least several sequels, there will be more opportunities to reference Hinduism and Hindu iconography.

Why Black Panther’s References to Hinduism are Significant in Hollywood

10/24/22Diwali

One of the most celebrated Hindu festivals, Diwali (dee-VAH-lee) or Deepavali (dee-PAH-va-lee) commemorates the victory of good over evil during the course of five days. The word refers to rows of diyas — or clay lamps — which are put all around homes and places of worship. The light from these lamps symbolizes the illumination within all of us, which can overcome ignorance, represented by darkness. Devotees gather in local temples, homes, or community centers, to spend time with loved ones, make positive goals, and appreciate life.

Hindu Holidays & Dharmic Days Calendar 

Diwali Toolkit

10/23/22Dhanteras

On this day, because Diwali is a time for dana (charitable giving) and seva (selfless service), Hindus traditionally perform a deep cleaning of their homes and surroundings, as cleanliness is believed to invoke the presence and blessings of Goddess Lakshmi who, as mentioned earlier, is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Many will also make rangoli or kolum (colored patterns of flowers, powder, rice, or sand made on the floor), which are also said to invite auspiciousness. Observers thus begin Diwali by cultivating a spirit of generosity, doing things like giving money to charities, feeding the hungry, and endeavoring to help those in need.

5 Things to Know About Diwali

10/22/22The Hindu Diaspora in Bali

The spread of Hinduism to Southeast Asia established powerful Hindu kingdoms in the region, most notably the Khmer Empire that encompassed modern Cambodia and Thailand, and influential kingdoms in the Indonesia archipelago. Though Buddhism and Hinduism co-existed in the region for several centuries, Buddhism (and Islam in Indonesia) eventually replaced Hinduism as a primary religion. Today, there are approximately five million Hindus in Indonesia, primarily in Bali. As Bali is roughly 90 percent Hindu, this makes it a religious enclave in a country that contains the world’s largest Muslim population. There are also roughly 60,000 Cham Hindus in Vietnam, and smaller numbers in Thailand. Hinduism in Fiji, Malaysia, and Singapore is a much more recent phenomenon, with Hindus arriving in the 19th and early 20th centuries as indentured laborers. Today, Hindus are prominent in politics and business in all three countries, though they continue to experience discrimination as religious minorities.

Hinduism Beyond India: Bali

Hinduism Around the World

10/21/22Smithsonian/American History Exhibit - American Indian experience

In 2014, the first Smithsonian exhibition chronicling the experiences of Indian Americans, many of whom are Hindus,  in the US was unveiled at their National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. This exhibit was one of the largest ever produced by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, occupying 5,000 square feet and reaching millions of visitors. The message behind “Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation,” aimed to dispel stereotypes and myths that have followed Indian immigrants since they first arrived in the U.S. in 1790. The exhibit explored the heritage, daily experiences, and the many diverse contributions that immigrants and Indian Americans have made to the United States. The exhibition at the Museum of Natural History includes historical and contemporary images and artifacts, including those that document histories of discrimination and resistance, convey daily experiences, and symbolize achievements across the professions. Music and visual artworks provide commentary on the Indian American experience and form an important component of the exhibition. In 2017, this exhibit went on the road, traveling from city to city so that all could see the impact of Indians on American culture.

All About Hindu Heritage Month

10/20/22Swami Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda was a Hindu monk and yogi who came to the United States in 1920 and lived here for the last 32 years of his life. He is considered to be the first major Hindu Guru to settle in the United States. When Swami Yogananda arrived in the US, he made his first speech, made to the International Congress of Religious Liberals, on “The Science of Religion,” and was enthusiastically received. It was soon after that he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship (also known as Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) of India) and introduced millions of Americans to the ancient science and philosophy of meditation and Kriya yoga (path of attainment). In 1927, he was invited to the White House by President Calvin Coolidge, making Swami Yogananda the first prominent Indian and Hindu to be hosted in the White House.

Hinduism: Short Answers to Real Questions

Countless Americans Have Been Influenced by Swami Viveknanda

10/19/22Avatar

For those of us who are Hindu, we have noticed that some of the biggest Hollywood films produced in the last several decades have mirrored many of Hinduism's most fundamental philosophical ideas. One example is Avatar, a film named for the Sanskrit word avatāra (‘descent’), in which the protagonist, Jake Sully, enters and explores an alien world called Pandora by inhabiting the body of an indigenous 10-foot, blue-skinned being, an idea taken from Hinduism’s depictions of the various avatars of the blue god Vishnu, who are said to descend into our world for upholding dharma. Instead of aligning with the interests of the humans, who merely want to mine Pandora for the valuable mineral unobtanium, Sully fights alongside the alien humanoids native to the world, called Na’vi, who live in harmony with nature, believe all life is sacred, and that all life is connected by a divine force — teachings synonymous with Hinduism. Thus, similar to the avatars of Vishnu, Sully defends and preserves a spiritual culture by defeating those who would destroy it for materialistic pursuit. While this film doesn’t indicate in any direct way that they have anything to do with Hinduism, it’s clear they are communicating Hindu ideas that everyone relates to and understands on a profound level.

What do the Matrix, Avatar, Groundhog Day, and Star Wars have to do with Hinduism?

10/18/22Swami Prabhupada

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna movement, was founded in 1966 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a highly respected Vaishnava  (devotion to the god Vishnu and his incarnations avatars) scholar and monk. At the age of 70, Swami Prabhupada traveled from India to New York City to bring the Bhakti tradition, or Krishna Consciousness, to the west. In the 11 years before his passing in 1977, Srila Prabhupada translated, with elaborate commentaries, 60 volumes of Vaishnava literature; established more than 100 temples on six continents; and initiated 5,000 disciples. Today, his writings are studied in universities around the globe and are translated into nearly 100 languages. To date, ISKCON has over 400 temples,  dozens of rural communities and eco-sustainable projects, and nearly 100 vegetarian restaurants world-wide with 56 of them in the US. 

Statement Against Caste Based Discrimination: ISKCON

Who was that Hare Krishna at the start of “Get Back”?

10/17/22The Hindu Diaspora in Africa

Hinduism came in waves to Africa, with Southern Africa getting Hindu workers during the early years of British colonization, while East and West Africa experienced Hindu migration during the 20th century. Hinduism’s roughly 0.2% presence in Africa is seen as so inconsequential, most data organizations don’t even bother explicitly mentioning it in their census reports. But Hinduism is Ghana's fastest growing religion and one in which there are steady populations in both Northern and Southern African states. Durban is now home to most of South Africa’s 1.3 million Indians, making it, according to some sources, the largest Indian city outside of India, and thus a most powerful hub of Hindu practice. In the US, there are both communities of African Hindus who have migrated, as well as Black Hindus, who according to the 2019 Pew Survey, make up 2% of the Hindu population in the US.

Hinduism Beyond Africa

Hinduism Around the World

10/16/22Star Wars

George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, drew much of the inspiration for this major cultural phenomenon from the teachings of his mentor who was a lifelong student of Vedanta. In these films, many aspects of Hinduism are interwoven with the story. Some include Hanuman (Chewbaca and Ewoks), Shakti (force,energy), Yodha (Yoda), Brahman (infinite being). Besides the many philosophical parallels that can be highlighted between Star Wars and Hinduism, Star Wars also exhibits similarities in story structure and character roles to one of India’s famous epics, the Ramayana. Never seen the movie? Now might be the time to see how universally relatable Hindu thought can truly be.

What do the Matrix, Avatar, Groundhog Day, and Star Wars have to do with Hinduism?

10/15/22Ayurveda

The term Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge), translation to the knowledge of life. Ayurveda is considered to be the oldest healing science, originating in 1000 BCE. Based on the five elements that comprise the universe (space, air, fire, water, and earth), they combine and permutate to create three health principles  that govern the functioning and interplay of a person’s body, mind, and consciousness. These energies are referred to as doshas in Sanskrit. Ayurveda can be used in conjunction with Western medicine and Ayurvedic schools have gained approval as educational institutions in several states.

5 Things to Know About Ayurveda

In Hinduism, What is the Relationship Between Spirituality and Health?

10/14/22OM

While it’s synonymous to meditation, and seen simply as a doorway to tranquility for yogic practitioners, the true meaning of Om is deeply embedded in Hindu philosophy.

The word Om is defined by Hindu scripture as being the original vibration of the universe, which all other vibrations are able to manifest. Within Hinduism, the meaning and connotations of Om is perceived in a variety of ways. Though heard and often written as “om,” due to the way it sounds when it is repeatedly chanted, the sacred syllable is originally and more accurately spelled as “aum.” Broken down, the three letters of A – U – M represent a number of sacred trinities such as different conditions of consciousness (waking state, dreaming state, and deep sleep state), the deities in charge of the creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe ( Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva), aspects of time (past, present, and future), among many others. 

5 Things to Know About Om

Religious Symbols

10/28/22Dr. Anandibai Joshi

Dr. Anandi Gopal Joshi is credited with being the first woman from India to study medicine in the United States. Born in Bombay in 1865, she was married at the age of ten to an older man who had been her teacher. Dr. Joshi had a child at the age of 13, but the child died when only 10 days old. She believed that with better medical care, the child would have lived, and she frequently cited this as motivation for her desire to attend medical school. Her husband encouraged her in her academic pursuits and in 1883, Joshee joined the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, now known as the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. She graduated in 1886 with her degree in medicine; her M.D. thesis focused on Hindu obstetrics. Unfortunately,  Dr. Joshi was only able to practice medicine for a few months before passing away from tuberculosis.

Science in Hinduism

10/13/22The Hindu Diaspora in Guyana

Hinduism is the religion of almost 25% of Guyana’s population, making it the country with the highest percentage of Hindus in the Western Hemisphere. But from British professional recruiting agents targeting rural and uneducated Indians, to the aggressiveness of Christian proselytization of Hindus with a promise of a better life, Hinduism has been in a steady decline for many decades with many escaping to the United States for better opportunities and to practice their religion freely. Today, over 80% of Guyanese Americans live in the Northeastern United States with heavy concentrations in New Jersey and in New York, where a “Little Guyana”  helps these immigrants stay connected to their Guyanese roots.

Hinduism beyond India: Guyana

Hinduism Around the World

10/12/22Karwa Chauth

Karwa Chauth or Karva Chauth (kuhr-vah-CHOATH) is a North Indian holiday in which wives fast for the longevity and health of their husbands, however, many unmarried women celebrate in hopes of meeting their ideal life partner. Typically, wives spend the day preparing gifts to exchange, and fasting until the moon is visible. It is believed that its light symbolizes love and blessings of a happy life. While there are varying legends behind this holiday’s traditions and meaning, the message of honoring the relationships women form with their family and community prevails.

Karwa Chauth

Hindu Holidays & Dharmic Days Calendar

10/11/22Hinduism and Music

As sound vibration can affect the most subtle element of creation, it is interpreted in Hindu scriptures that spiritual sound vibrations can affect the atman (soul) in a particularly potent way. Such spiritual sound vibrations are said to have the ability to awaken our original spiritual consciousness and help us remember that we are beyond the ambivalence of life, and actually originate from the Divine. As such, the main goal of many types of Hindu musical expression is to help stir us out of our spiritual slumber by evoking feelings of love and connection that help us to better perceive the presence of the Divine within all. Some of the more popular examples of musical expressions within Hinduism include shlokas (verse, or poem), mantras (sacred syllables repeated in prayer), kirtans (congregational singing of mantras), and bhajans (devotional songs). You can find musical spiritual expressions through the US in temples,  Mandirs, and community centers.

The Power of Music According to Hinduism

What is Kirtan?

10/10/22Yoga

Yoga is considered Hinduism’s gift to humanity. At its broadest, yoga, from the root word “yuj” in Sanskrit, means to unite. Most Hindu texts discuss yoga as a practice to control the senses and ultimately, the mind. The most famous is the Bhagavad Gita (dating back to 6th-3rd Century BCE), in which Krishna speaks of four types of yoga – bhakti, or devotion; jnana, or knowledge; karma, or action; and dhyana, or concentration (often referred to as raja yoga, though not all sources agree on the term) – as paths to achieve moksha (enlightenment), the ultimate goal according to Hindu understanding. According to a 2016 study,  in the United States there are an estimated 36.7 million people currently practicing yoga in the United States.

Yoga.Day

The Hindu Roots of Yoga

10/9/22Swami Vivekananda

According to Vedic cosmology, 108 is the basis of creation, representing the universe and all our existence. As the soul is encased in two types of bodies: the physical body (made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether) and the subtle body (composed of intelligence, mind and ego), Swami Viveknanda is often attributed with bringing Hindu teachings and practices — such as yoga and transcendental meditation — to Western audiences. In 1893, he was officially introduced to the United States at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, where in his speech he called for religious tolerance and described Hinduism as “a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance.” The day that Swami Vivekananda delivered his speech at the Parliament of Religions is now known as ‘World Brotherhood Day.’ And his birthday, known as Swami Vivekananda Jayanti, is honored on January 12th each year. On this day he is commemorated and recognized for his contributions as a modern Hindu monk and respected guru of the Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism. In 1900, Swami Viveknanda founded the Vedanta Society in California and to date there are 36 Vedanta Society Centers in the United States.

Swami Vivekananda Influenced Countless Americans

Hindu Holidays & Dharmic Days Calendar

10/8/22108

According to Vedic cosmology, 108 is the basis of creation, representing the universe and all our existence. As the soul is encased in two types of bodies: the physical body (made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether) and the subtle body (composed of intelligence, mind and ego), 108 plays a significant role in keeping these two bodies healthily connected. Hindus believe the body holds seven chakras, or pools of energy, which begin at the bottom of the spine and go all the way down to the top of the head and it is believed there are 108 energy lines that converge to form the heart chakra. Ayurveda says there are 108 hidden spots in the body called marma points, where various tissues like muscles, veins, and ligaments meet. These are vital points of life force, and when they are out of balance, energy cannot properly flow throughout the body. Sun salutations, yogic asanas that honor the sun god Surya, are generally completed in nine rounds of 12 postures, totaling 108. Mantra meditation is usually chanted on a set of 108 beads.   In Hinduism there are 108 Upanishads, the sacred texts of wisdom from ancient sages. Additionally, in the Sanskrit alphabet, there are 54 letters. Each letter has a feminine, or Shakti, and masculine, or Shiva, quality. 54 multiplied by 2 equals 108. Ultimately, breathwork, chanting, studying scripture, and asana’s help harmonize one’s energy with the energy of the supreme spiritual source. These processes become especially effective when they are performed in connection with the number 108. Hindu scriptures strive to remind people of this divine commonality by continuously highlighting the innumerable threads connecting everything in existence. One of these threads is the number 108.

5 Things to know about 108

Here's How the Number 108 Binds Us to the Universe

10/7/22The Hindu Diaspora in Trinidad/Tobago

A decade after slavery was abolished in 1834, the British government began importing indentured labor from India to work on their estates in other countries such as Trinidad and Tobago.  From 1845 to 1917, the ships would continue to arrive, carrying over 140,000 Indians to the island, facilitating Trinidad's population growth from Indian laborers. Today, there are roughly 240,000 declared Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago, comprising about 18% of the island’s population. There are a total of about 300 temples on the island, welcoming all who wish to enter and where many beloved Hindu festivals take place. But for some, the migration journey doesn’t end as New York and Florida have seen the development of large Indo-Caribbean communities.

Hinduism beyond India: Trinidad and Tobago

10/6/22Tattoos

From ancient tribes to present-day devotees, tattoos have held a special place in Hinduism for centuries. In the Indian states of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, the Ramnaami community invoked Rama’s protection with tattoos of the name “Rama” in Sanskrit on every inch of their skin, including the tongue and inside the lips.The Mahabharata tells the story of the Pandavas that were exiled to the Kutch district of Gujarat. Today, their descendants - members of the Ribari tribe - live as their ancestors did, with women covered in tattoos that symbolize their people’s strong spirit for survival. Some Hindus consider tattoos as protective emblems,such as tattoos of Hanuman are often used to relieve physical or mental pain. People will often get tattoos of other deities to invoke their blessings. Mehndi, a plant-based temporary tattoo, is commonly done at weddings and religious ceremonies as a form of celebration of love and spirituality. While tattoos have been in Hindu communities for centuries, tattoos as symbols of honor, devotion, and even fashion are incredibly popular today. Hindus and non Hindus alike adorn themselves with Hindu emblems and tattoos that reflect Hindu teachings.

Guidelines for Commercial Use of Hindu Images

10/5/22Navaratri

Navaratri (nuhv-uh-RA-three) is a nine night celebration of the feminine divine that occurs four times a year — the spring and fall celebrations being amongst the more widely celebrated. Some traditions honor the nine manifestations of Goddess Durga, while others celebrate the three goddesses (Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati) with three days dedicated to each. This is a time to recognize the role in which the loving, compassionate, and gentle — yet sometimes powerful and fierce — feminine energy plays in our lives.

Nine Things to Know About Navratri

Hindu Holidays & Dharmic Days Calendar

10/3/22Ahimsa + Cow sanctuaries

Many Hindus hold reverence for the cow as a representation of mother earth, fertility, and Hindu values of selfless service, strength, dignity, and non-harming. Though not all Hindus are vegetarian, for this reason many traditionally abstain from eating beef. This is often linked with the concept of ahimsa (non-violence), which can be applied to diet choices and our interactions with the environment, and potentially determine our next birth, according to the doctrine of karma. This is part of the reason that some Hindus may choose a vegetarian lifestyle as an expression of ahimsa as well as explains the growing number of cow protection projects that are led by individuals who have felt compelled to put their Hindu values into practice. The US is home to several cow protection projects and sanctuaries

Dairy Is Traditionally Sattvic Food, but the Way We Treat Cows Today Can Be Tamasic

Cultured Meat and Animal-Free Dairy Upends the Plant-Based Food Discussion

10/2/2022Gandhi Jayanti

Gandhi Jayanti marks the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, the ‘Father of the Nation’ for India and the Indian Diaspora. To honor Gandhi’s message of ahimsa (non-violence), volunteer events and commemorative ceremonies are conducted and statues of Gandhi are also decorated with flower garlands. Gandhi and the satyagraha (truth force) has inspired many of America’s most prominent civil rights and social impact movements and leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., and Cesar Chavez. The United Nations declared October 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence in honor of Gandhi, whose work continues to inspire civil rights movements across the world.

Examining the Impact of Mahatma Gandhi on Social Change Movements

Why we should not tear down statues of Gandhi

10/1/2022First Hindu temple in US

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 facilitated the journey of many Indian immigrants to the United States. In this new land, many created home shrines and community temples to practice and hold pujas (services). As Hindu American populations grew in metropolitan and rural areas, so did the need to find a permanent temple site for worship. In 1906, the Vedanta Society built the Old Temple in San Francisco, California but as this was not considered a formal temple, many don’t credit this with being the first. Others believe it is the Shiva Murugan Temple built in 1957 in Concord, California, whereas others believe it is the Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devanstanam in New York that should be considered the first. Today, there are nearly 1,000 temples in the United States . Regardless of where you live, you have the right to practice your faith.

A Guide To Temple Safety and Security

5 Things to Know About Visiting a Hindu Temple