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Houston's growing Hindu community
July 10th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

In Texas, young Hindus want to Americanize ancient faith

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Houston, Texas (CNN) - In many ways, 29-year-old Rishi Bhutada is a traditional Hindu, not so different from his Indian-born parents.

An officer at his dad’s pipefitting company, Texas-born Bhutada had an arranged marriage in India three years ago and then brought his wife back to his hometown, where they recently welcomed a son.

Bhutada is a strict vegetarian and avoids alcohol, as do many observant Hindus.

Complete coverage: Defining America

And the dashboard of his Toyota Prius is adorned with a small metal statue of Ganesh, an elephant-headed Hindu god known as the remover of obstacles. Bhutada prays to it each morning before leaving his driveway.

And yet Bhutada is a different kind of Hindu than his mom and dad.

His parents were part of a major wave of Indians who arrived in the U.S. in the 1960s and ’70s and focused their religious lives on building a community of believers and temples around Houston, which was then a Hindu wilderness.

Bhutada, by contrast, wants his religion to step out from that now-well-established Hindu hive to engage the broader culture.

Surprising origins of "Don't Mess with Texas"

Driving to lunch recently at a strip mall Indian buffet, he spoke of trying to forge a distinctly American Hindu identity that’s more tightly woven into the national fabric.

“The immigrant generation is focused on India, on the home country,” he said, noting that the TV in his parents’ house is often turned to a Hindi-language channel beamed in from the subcontinent. “I’m focused on the United States, which is my home country.”

That helps explain why a national group he’s involved with, the Hindu American Foundation, recently launched a Take Back Yoga campaign, aimed at raising awareness about the practice’s Hindu roots and values among non-Hindus.

And it's why Bhutada testified at the Capitol in Austin last year against a statewide school curriculum that calls Hinduism a polytheistic religion, a characterization many Hindus reject.

And it's why one area temple has begun placing copies of the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture, in thousands of Texas hotel rooms, right next to the Gideon Bible.

The developments speak to a new, publicly assertive stance that’s shared by many first-generation American Hindus across Houston, home to one of the country’s largest and fastest growing Indian enclaves, and by many young Hindus across the nation.

“Our parents had to build everything from scratch to make a united Hindu community in this country,” said Tejas N. Dave, 17, a high school junior who volunteers with a project bringing yoga to unprivileged Americans.

“Now we’re trying to reintegrate it back into society,” he said, “to make people realize that Hinduism is a religion and a way of life and a philosophy that’s not too different from what a lot of others believe. We’re all trying to make a better society.”

Some young Hindus are envious of the attention that American Muslims and Mormons have received in recent years – even if not all of the attention has been positive – and are trying to raise Hinduism’s national profile.

The impulse is not about winning converts. Hinduism, the world’s third-largest religion, doesn’t proselytize.

Rather, many young Hindus say, it’s about making their faith less exotic to others while making it more meaningful to their own modern American lives.

When their parents arrived from India a few decades ago, it was hard enough just being Hindu.

The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which overhauled the U.S. immigration system by eliminating biases toward European immigrants, among other things, opened American doors to millions of Asian immigrants, including Indians.

Those first arrivals struggled to recreate ethnic and religious networks from back home. When Bhutada’s father, Ramesh Bhutada, arrived in the U.S. in 1968, Houston played host to a single Hindu temple, which had opened earlier that year.

It was a stark change from India, where Hindus can stop into seemingly ubiquitous temples every day for brief visits, helping explain why so many Indians say “Hinduism is a way of life.”

There were more prosaic struggles, too. Many Hindus believe that vegetarianism denotes religious purity and a commitment to nonviolence, but they struggled to maintain that tradition in what was then a very meat-centric American diet.

“There was not even anything like a vegetable burger in those days,” Ramesh Bhutada said.

In those early years, new Hindu arrivals turned their homes into makeshift temples, holding religious education classes for their American-born children.

“There would be kids’ activities in one bedroom and adults in another,” said Dhruval Amin, 28, a Houston-based project manager at an international consulting firm, recalling childhood visits to such homes.

Today, Amin worships at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a sprawling, snow-white temple carved from Italian marble and Turkish limestone that sits on 22 manicured acres in Stafford, just south of Houston.

Opened in 2004, the temple is a proud symbol of the local Hindu community’s growth and prosperity, though it’s a story that’s hardly confined to Houston.

The U.S. Census does not track the number of Hindu Americans; the Census doesn’t ask about religion, period. But data from the 2010 Census show that Texas’ Asian Indian population nearly doubled in size in the past decade, to around 250,000.

Now, for the first time, Indians represent the largest Asian community in the state. Many were drawn by lucrative jobs in Texas’s booming oil, technology and medical sectors.

“A lot of the doctors in small metro markets across Texas are first- or second-generation Indians,” said Ray Perryman, who heads an economic research firm in Waco, Texas. “And the top two or three students in every high school tend to be from some part of Asia.”

Similar trends have emerged in other parts of the country. Nationally, Indian growth has surged by 60% in the past 10 years, according to the Census, with 2.8 million Asian Indians living in the U.S. today.

Indians now represent the country’s second-largest Asian group, after the Chinese.

They’re also among the nation’s most successful ethnic groups, with 71% of Asian Indians earning bachelor’s degrees or higher, compared with 28% of all Americans, according to data from the U.S. Census’s 2009 American Community Survey.

The survey reported that Asian Indians have median household incomes of more than $90,000, compared with $50,000 for all Americans.

Not everyone from that community is Hindu. India’s Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Jain minorities are also represented in the United States.

At a recent yoga class at Houston’s India House, a community center, the instructor was Hindu, and most participants were Indian, but half were Catholic, Methodist or another kind of Christian.

When the instructor, Sarika Phalak, leads open and closing prayers that reference God, she invites participants to speak the name of their own deity. Many say “Jesus.”

Still, Hindu growth around Houston has exploded in recent years, with 19 temples now scattered across the sprawling metropolitan area, most built just in the past decade.

Temple-based Hindu youth camps long ago replaced home-based classes. And several national Hindu organizations now call Houston home.

The city’s Hindu onslaught put Charu Krishna Thammavaram, 28, in closer touch with her religion when she relocated from Lafayette, Louisiana, three years ago.

“I feel like a born-again Hindu now,” said Thammavaram, who works for an India-focused humanitarian group called Ekal Vidyalaya, which is headquartered in Houston.

In Louisiana, the lone “nearby” temple was an hour’s drive from Thammavaram’s home. Here, she had her choice of temples and settled on a Hare Krishna temple after shopping around, just as many Americans of other faiths do.

For many young Hindus, tweaking their religious heritage to make it more relevant has become an important project.

“My parents were just immersed in Hinduism, starting every day with prayer and accepting it without question,” said Kavita Pallod, a native Houstonian and first-generation American who recently graduated college. “But I don’t start my days with prayer. And Hinduism is something I’ve questioned and debated with friends.”

Yet Pallod, 23, has spent a good deal of time thinking about how to apply her faith to her life. “I believe that karma is the principal that guides the universe,” she said, referring to the Hindu concept of cosmic justice. “It’s one of the reasons I joined Teach for America.”

Pallod, who’s training for the teaching program this summer, was speaking at Star Pipe Products, the pipefitting distributor where Rishi Bhutada works and that his father, Ramesh, founded in 1982.

Situated at the end of a bland industrial drive on the city’s west end, the company doubles as a meeting place for local Hindus.

Among its warren of warehouse and offices spaces is a community center where a mural of Swami Vivekananda, a famous 19th-century spiritual leader who introduced the faith to the United States, fills the back wall.

But like the younger Bhutada, Pallod is intent on taking her religion outside officially Hindu spaces. As the president of the Hindus Student Association at the University of Texas at Austin until her graduation in May, she focused on introducing Hinduism to non-Hindu students.

Last spring, her group went all out to get non-Hindus to participate in Holi, a Hindu festival that involves throwing colored powder and water – often at other people – in a playful, rainbow-like spectacle.

“We wanted them to actually experience it themselves as opposed to just sitting there passively,” Pallod said of the event. “We wanted to teach that the colors are all about eliminating differences by making everyone look the same.”

The festival drew about 2,000 people, with many enthusiastically throwing colored powder at one another in the shadow the state Capitol. It was the kind of scene that Indian immigrant parents could have never imagined.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Content Partner • Hinduism • Interfaith issues • Texas

soundoff (2,004 Responses)
  1. solid ground

    This is America not India. Go back home if you do not like our traditions. I would like to hear what they would say if we changed their landscape.

    July 10, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Murphy

      They fought it when they sent missionarys,jesuits,mormons, penticosals...etc

      July 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • flywithme

      lol...are you kidding me? How did Christianity spread? By forcing your idea on them. Forcing them to convert, and changing their landscape...

      July 10, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • flywithme

      Right go back home....I'm sure the native Americans will help you pack....;D

      July 10, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • DJ

      So, how's it working out for you, with the Native Americans?

      July 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • guest

      Christians have been converting native people in India for hundreds of years and have changed the landscape. They did it with threats, offering food and money for attending meetings, and generally making themselves look like superior beings so the locals would be honored to be seen with them. In addition they also punished people for withdrawing from Christianity – more or less like what the church of scientology does now.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Jacob

      Solid Ground? More like Slippery When Wet.

      You've displayed your Uneducated, Ignoramous, Low IQ to the World.

      Shamelessness is a quality Americans have embraced more than anything.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Guch

      America is what u see today is only because you have freedom to practice any religion along with other freedom. America would become like paki if you only allow your own religion and that is the reality without freedom about anything... In every corner you need freedom be it religion.. Like Swami Vivekananda said world must accept multiple religion to coexists.. it will never be one single religion... Even Hndu can not be only religion also...

      July 10, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • TimSTL

      Too late, European settlers have already changed the landscape. A dynamic, ever changing culture is what makes America great. If you don't like it, there are plenty of other countries around the world that don't embrace change, you can go check them out.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Katie

      Every immigrant brings something of their homeland with them. Your ancestors did too. I am white American, have been to India and would MUCH rather have America filled with a million peaceful Indian immigrants than 1 stupid rednick like you.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • PRA

      This country was built on bringing all landscapes together...or does that refer to only the Christian landscapes?

      July 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • solid ground

      Yes let me go turn that hamberger over in the grill. Jacob i hope you lathered in the cow pee.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Niles

      @Solid Ground – You mean you flipping burgers at a fast food joint? Sounds like it although I have met some smarter employees at those restaurants 🙂

      July 10, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • ReligiousGuy

      @solid ground: This is America...if you are not Native, you first get out ...back to your country.

      July 10, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  2. A-Jew

    I'd take this kind of religion popping up on every corner block vice Islam. At least these people know and understand co-existence and peace without domination and coercion.

    July 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  3. Murphy

    "Religion is the most seductive system that mankind has created. Death is our greatest fear, and religion offers us the illusion that we are immortal, that something about us will live on. The idea that we are an infinitesimal part of a vast and indifferent universe is terrifying; religion humanizes this universe, makes us feel important and loved"
    Robert Greene

    July 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • SoulKeeperX

      I'm not afraid of death because it is inevitable. Religion is illogical. I do believe there is a creator but as to his true motives and moral attributes, nobody knows for sure. People can only speculate with faith in the spiritual realm surrounding our existance and purpose (if any).

      July 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • someguy

      If you really feel that our bodies have no soul and no significance in the universe whatsoever, then when a loved one of yours dies you should not bury them or do anything ceremonial with their body after their death because that alone shows the core most foundation of spirituality in humans: the reverence for the deceased. The dogma of religion as a whole was something created over the years of our existence but our spirituality is not; we have been burying and showing respect to the dead since the beginning of our time on this earth.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  4. HN

    One mark of degree of civilization is in the best product it produces. Western civilization has produced Lincoln, Einstein, MLK and mother Teresa. Hinduism has produced Gandhi. Buddhism has produced DelaiLama. These people are the cream of the civilizations they represent. Of course there is also the other extreme in each of these. The problem with Islam is that it has not produced a modern day leader who could demonstrate how to excel in human spirit.

    July 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  5. gk

    Do you ever ask the Ocean when it is going to meet the River?
    This does not diminish the importance of River or the Ocean. Both have their own place and importance.

    We are talking about living, changing, evolving "idea" which is as old as evolution and trying to pin it down to Indians and Americans.
    Rather today the one country that needs it most may be India.

    This is much bigger. Much bigger than people and countries.
    This existed when countries and boundaries did not existed, when there was no such concept called Indian or American.
    And this will exist irrespective of what will happen to those borders.

    This does not belong to one person or group. There is no one leader or can ever be.
    No one is a born Hindu and no one can be converted to it.
    It is a way of life, path of life or call it guidelines for living a righteous life.
    A path that if we choose will take us to a sustainable living, stable family and a cleaner environment.
    A path that will prevent history from branding humans as the scourge of earth.

    It is wisdom, it is peace, it is life, it is the truth.

    July 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  6. Beefy

    http://www.bing.com/search?q=kerala+beef+chilly+&qs=n&sk=&sc=1-19&form=QBRE
    Just saying...

    July 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  7. Darwin

    Hey! – Let's start a movement to put Darwin's "Origin of Species" in the motel rooms next to the Bible. Then maybe Americans could lose some of their reputation of being the most ignorant in the world (a recent poll showed that only 25% of Americans could correctly answer the question, "Why do we have winter and summer?"

    July 10, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Murphy

      Like

      July 10, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Ravi

      I like the idea. 'Origin of species' is not accessible for general reader though. I would recommend '1001 science facts every one should know.'

      July 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Question Darwin

      As an anti-evolutionists, I would LOVE all of Darwins works to be placed in the hotel rooms. That would finally remove this god-complex evolutionists have over Darwin. In fact, Let me go ahead and put some quotes in here to help start this movement of showing the primary source from Darwin.

      “Man is more courageous, pugnacious, and energetic than woman, and has more inventive genius.” From So Simple a Beginning, Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, Chapter 19, page 1198

      “It is generally admitted that with woman the powers of intuition, of rapid perception, and perhaps of imitation, are more strongly marked than in man; but some, at least, of these faculties are characteristic of the lower races, and therefore of a past and lower state of civilization.” From So Simple a Beginning, Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, Chapter 19, page 1204
      Darwin built a hierarchy of which races were more evolved than others, which led to aborigines being stuff from museum exhibits. Do your research, you'll find it.

      "...if men are capable of decided eminence over women in many subjects, that average standard of mental power in man must be above that of a woman” From So Simple a Beginning, Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, Chapter 19, page 1204

      Stop being uniformed about evolution and consider creation. If you do an informed study (I suggest going to http://www.creation.com), you will find that the sophistication of the creation model far exceeds the 'just-so' stories of the evolutionary tale. But do your own research, for we are all accountable for our own action. And frankly, if people continue to have faith in evolution (though no primary source of history can confirm it's claims), it's no skin off my hide.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Sunder

      25% of Americans ? Guess what will be the result if done in India ? These polls are not worth the time as they are grave assumptions done. If we are superior then we would learn to coexist.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @Question Darwin never had a god complex and his supporters don't treat him as a god. Once again, a Christian assumes his opponents wallow in the same mental mud that he wallows in.

      July 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  8. american

    american's have a lot to learn from Hinduism. We would be less hateful and fearful.

    July 10, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Ayurton

      As evidenced by the splitting of a country into two and forming Pakistan in 1947 because the less hateful and fearful Hindus couldn't cohabitate with non-Hindus (as believed by their respective leaders). We can all learn something from the peaceful tenets of all the world's major religions, but eventually the desire to stick to one theocracy as the righteous path moves us into an isolationist, fearful, and eventually hateful people.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • DJ

      Ayurton – You seem to know a lot. Now let's start reading some 1st grade books.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Niraj

      You i***, go read a book or get some education. Boy, your ignorance has galvanized me to attempt to write a big summary... hopefully it would cause folks to do their own research and in the process gain some knowledge of their world...

      Goldstein, not your fault btw for ignorance, you live in an euro-centric world, so everything in modern world is supposed to be done by the Europeans and their decedents in the new world!, right? Not quite right, in fact.

      For any higher level work to be done, a fundamental foundation level work needs to be first accomplished. Often this foundation work is the most difficult one. Europeans/Americans are strong today because of their scientific/strategic achievements of the past 200 years. But don't forget the scientific world done in the preceding 3000 years, mainly in east.

      contd...

      July 10, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  9. joe

    Why is it necessary to americanize the hindu religion?

    July 10, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • foxy_newsy

      We need more curry and falafel, less fries and apple pies

      July 10, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Chetan

      Falafal is from MiddleEast. India is in SouthEast Asia.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  10. Goldstein

    The answer is NO!!! All religions suck, including Hinduism and India with a enormous population of 1.2 billion has contributed very little to the world when it comes to pretty much everything.

    July 10, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • DJ

      Ignorance sucks too. Your ignorance.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Ney

      Haven't contributed anything? Are you sure about that? You wouldn't have a number system if it wasn't for India...0 came from there. You wouldn't have MLK if it wasn't for Gandhi...MLK has cited Gandhi as an inspiration. India was one of the first civilizations. And is now, not a third world country, but one of the top economic leaders of the world (Ranked 4th in terms of purchasing power parity and the 10th largest in terms of nominal GDP.). You are a prime example of why Americans are considered to be so ignorant..Seriously, use Google. It'll open your eyes to the world around you.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • sree

      are you talking about contribution in last 100 or 200 or 300 years or after the industrial revolution ? Yeah Then americans/europeans surely have upper hand. But if you take years of history into consideration , india was 'HUB'.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Niraj

      You i***, go read a book or get some education. Boy, your ignorance has galvanized me to attempt to write a big summary... hopefully it would cause folks to do their own research and in the process gain some knowledge of their world...

      Goldstein, not your fault btw for ignorance, you live in an euro-centric world, so everything in modern world is supposed to be done by the Europeans and their decedents in the new world!, right? Not quite right, in fact.

      For any higher level work to be done, a fundamental foundation level work needs to be first accomplished. Often this foundation work is the most difficult one. Europeans/Americans are strong today because of their scientific/strategic achievements of the past 200 years. But don't forget the scientific world done in the preceding 3000 years, mainly in east.

      contd...

      July 10, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Niraj

      First, lets not go in to the strategic achievements of Europeans as it was built on an early lead in world exploration/occupation/slavery/domination/pillaging/resource manipulation/re-writing history, etc. It's ugly, so lets not go there.

      But as far as scientific achievements are concerned, there is no doubt the early foundation work for many branches of science came from east. Mainly India. If it were not for India, you wouldn't have number system, zero, decimal, pythog* theorem, calculus, algebra, astronomy, etc. etc. There were many others, just google around.

      The funny thing is when many of there advance work were being done by the Hindus (and Buddhists) the Europeans were most likely fighting with animals in caves or having a nomadic existence. Not taking the credit away, of course there were leaned men in Europe, but history as written today, who knows how much of the achievements attributed to them are really theirs?

      contd...

      July 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Niraj

      The good news is that with the collapse of colonialism (but globalization is taking it's place) the erstwhile knowledge power house are resurrecting to their old glory (India, China, etc.).

      So my friend, read up a bit. Even if I am wrong on some of the items listed above, do your own research and learn a bit.

      And by the way, on the topic of religion, India has credit for developing 4 religions of the world (go figure)...

      July 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  11. yurbog

    United State of India...

    July 10, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Goldstein

      India is a 3rd world county and has nothing to do with the US and is success.

      July 10, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • DJ

      Goldstein – Better a third world country than a first world country with people with medieval prehistoric minds such as yours. You really need to read a book or two.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • yurbog

      What is forcing you to come to the US?

      July 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • PRA

      Nothing to do with success? Not getting a college degree is NOT an option for us.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • yurbog

      AGREE. Nothing with success.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • PRA

      The U.S. wanted highly educated people to come to this great land. That's what.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  12. ALBERT

    YOU are not AMERICA, AMERICA IS a continent first of all, and also, you dont have faith for who LADY GAGA, americans you think you are at the top, you think you are in heaven but you live in the HELL

    July 10, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • joe

      lol are u drunk??

      July 10, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • PRA

      Actually we reincarnate. See you in the next life!

      July 10, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  13. scallyWag

    God bless Darwin.

    July 10, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  14. wendy5

    i like the hindus; they are peacefull people think of gandi their leader; they are really smart they think outside the box; the excel in whatever they set their mind to; and they are very very kind; could be their diet the dont eat animals like vultures; they practice stress management breathing good in bad out ; do it long enough yourself it works; good luck to their community

    July 10, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Chetan

      Thanks Wendy5.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • guest

      eh.?? Who eats vultures??

      July 10, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  15. JimmyT

    No question about it....America is much richer from the immigration of Indians, culturally, commercially, and religiously. I only hope the Indian culture doesn't get diluted or drowned here, because it is a beautiful and rich culture from a fascinating and delightful country. Welcome, Welcome.

    July 10, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • IcanCu

      Apu is is the nicest Indi...n i ve ever come across. Apu is cool.

      July 10, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Praneeth

      Indians are very good at adaptation. hehehe
      so dilution is already happening.
      Our native language is Telugu. We mix 30 to 40% english words while speaking telugu. We call it "Telgish'.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Ney

      Thanks bud! And don't worry..There's a generation of us Indian-American kids who are deeply tied to our heritage culture. We may have grown up here, but know our Indian roots well and love them just as much as we love our American traditions. We perform cultural dances at our colleges and universities, speak our language at home, celebrate both Hindu, Sikh, Jain, etc. and Christian holidays, and we're not planning on losing any of that.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  16. DKM

    hey murphy ....u dont even know how ancient the sceince of yoga is ....ur ignorance is so visible from ur comments of buddhism being killed on indian soil......buddhism was originated from india and spreaded to world ...buddhists took refugee in india when dalai lama was exiled.
    Hinduism is the oldest and ancient reigions and ever reilgion learned from hindus how to live a civilzed life.
    So pls do some research and than comment for god sake.I pity ur ignorance.

    July 10, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • foxy_newsy

      It is strange, the author writes the christian God with a capital G and the Hindu god with small capital?
      talk about Christian feeling of superiority!

      July 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • PRA

      Oh foxy_newsy. That's the difference between you and I. Religion isn't about who's superior. It's about who you are and how you use it do to good.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  17. Anne

    Hinduism and Buddhism are beliefs that Christians and non believers could learn much from. Their beliefs are sophisticated and fascinating.
    As someone who grew up a Christian I have problems identifying with the way Christianity has become in America. Christianity is much more intolerant than Hinduism.

    July 10, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • IcanCu

      @Anne
      are you out of your frig..in mind Tolerant these hindu men are just like Muslim men they are tolerant they are tyrants
      ask their children.

      July 10, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Jhn H

      You are right. America has much to learn from Hinduism and from Indians in general.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Praneeth

      lol. As a matter of fact Tolerance has nothing to do with religion, its a individual trait.
      All religions teach 'non voilence, peace, tolerance, respect..blablablah'. Hinduism is as good as Christianity/Islam. And we do have a bloody history(Ashamed & embarrassed), same as u guys do.
      At least now we have to understand, its not the religion we have to think about/change, its "ME" that should change.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Niraj

      Hey Praneeth,

      What's the bloody history of Hindus? Just curious?
      You sound apologetic, for what?

      July 10, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  18. Meghna

    Capturing Hinduism in a single article will never do it justice. In my opinion the temples are ostentatious and unnecessary. The Bhagavad Gita in hotels is just competing with the Bible! But, Hinduism is inclusive, inclusive and tolerant of atheists like me!!

    July 10, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • IcanCu

      Hey APU is that you?

      July 10, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Jim

      The temples may be ostentatious but that's what gives them their own unique flavor that is different from anything else you'll find in the western world. I hope American Hindus don't Americanize. How bland would the world be if everything was all the same?

      July 10, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  19. Rod C. Venger

    No truthful Hindu could possibly claim that their religion is not polytheistic.

    July 10, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • flywithme

      You just don't understand it. Hindus scriptures sat there is ONE GOD, but he comes in different forms, to represent many forms of nature, and desires. But throughout history Hindus focused on these different forms than the one GOD Brahman. So it's all up to interpretation.

      July 10, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Rubin Safaya

      Hinduism is the oldest major monotheistic system in the world. To say it is polytheistic is like saying that Christianity is polytheistic because there's a trinity. All the demigods of Hinduism are merely manifestations of the same one god, and that there is one god, Brahman, is repeated throughout Hindu scripture as often as it is repeated throughout the Bible. So if Hinduism is not monotheistic, then neither is Christianity.

      July 10, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • DJ

      Rod C. Venger – It is monotheistic. Your mother also happens to be a daughter. She can be both mother and daughter, at the same time. Does that mean you have 2 mothers?........Get it?

      July 10, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • PRA

      If you did your homework instead of having your head in the sand, you'd know there is only one God in Hinduism who takes many forms. But of course as with every religion there will always be extremist who live in their own little world.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Jack Brady

      @Rod....the concept is hard to understand for us Americans. One God that takes many different forms. Just like a woman can be a mother, sister, aunt, teacher and grandmother at the same time! It's monthiestic religion with one god taking on different forms depending on the purpose / time / era.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  20. Beth

    I would like to know more about the idea that Hinduisn't *isn't* polytheistic. Are there any Hindu's here who can speak to this idea? Would you say that the various gods in Hinduism are just representations of the one god? (I do not have a stake in this or any desire to debate. I truly would like to understand what the Hindu idea of god is.) Thanks!

    July 10, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • flywithme

      These texts, most notably the Upanishads, explain that there exists a single Supreme Reality, called Brahman. Brahman is often personified and presented as the One that must be sought, and can begin to sound like monotheism. Yet the ultimate revelation of the Upanishads is that the self (atman) is identical with Brahman. Life is therefore best spent not in rituals and offerings to the gods, but in deep meditation on the self until this truth is experienced firsthand.--Hinduism has given much freedom to people in worship. Hinduism says God has as many forms as there are trees, animals, etc.
      In fact, all of creation and everything in it is a part of God, so it seems to be polytheistic. As the Gita says "The one who seems me everywhere and everything in me is wise."
      But in reality Hinduism is monotheistic. As it says, it is only one god who has manifested and taken many forms like one body with many different parts. Each part plays its own role though it is part of one supreme being. All the little Gods in Hinduism are representations of one Supreme God.
      In short, Hinduism is monotheistic, with one supreme being. One cannot really describe this supreme being because as it has no form, it is beyond time, space, and causation and cannot be speech. God is neither male of female, or is both and beyond.
      Man has to see one in many and many in one, i.e. many forms supported by one who has taken many forms. All the waters come from one ocean, whether it is river, pond, or lake. Similarly God is like an ocean and the outlets are small manifestations
      - Swami Radhanandaji (BTW, I'm not Hindu)

      July 10, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • NG

      Beth – Hinduism is monotheistic. Most don't seem to know this. See Rig Veda 10:129. There is a single "Brahman" (not to be confused with Brahmin or Bramha). The many "gods" represent the many "facets" of Brahman – The One. For example, your mother is a single human being. But she's also a daughter. She is also a wife. She is a friend. She might also be a sister. She might be an aunt. She might be a teacher. And so on. How could she be so many different people? She isn't. She is just one human with different "roles" or "facets". The role depends on her relationship with you. Each calls her by a different name. Yet, in the end, she is just one. So also Brahman.

      July 10, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Pankaj

      @Beth, The Hindu idea of God is a little different. God is one but can take many forms. Hindus believe that inner self (aatma) is an extension of God and thus God exists in everyone and everything. It's all about belief. Believe that God is in stone and you can pray to a stone – does not mean that you are praying that 'stone'. That's why Hinduism is more of a way of life than a religion – one can be a hindu with unique ways of worship if he/she just believes in a supreme being that can take any form, shape. When Hindus greet each other they say 'Namaste' meaning 'I bow to the Good (God) in you'.

      July 10, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Rubin Safaya

      There are repeated references in various Hindu scriptures that Brahman is the one Supreme Being. All other "demigods" are various manifestations of Brahman... just as Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are manifestations of the God in the Bible... but we don't say that Christianity has three gods.

      July 10, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • SB

      Beth,
      I am a born hindu married to a Christian and living together for over 10 years. We have a daughter that we do not associate with any religion My wife does not go to Sunday church and I go to temple like once a year. I always give my wife a choice if she wants to accompany me, sometimes she does and sometimes she does not. I am always happy with her decision.
      I was raised that all gods are the same, whether you name him Jesus, or Allah or Shiva, you are referring to the same, one and only Supreme Soul or Spirit. Just different ways of calling him. I was taught in school that instead of going to temple to worship the god, go and help people that are poor or are in need.
      I am not from India, but from a neighboring country to India, Nepal.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • RF

      Beth, in simple words, the core of Hindu philosophy is the existence of one supreme being/God. But Hinduism allows you to imagine that God in any form you please, or even formless if you choose. Hence the origin of the various deities Hindus worship – they are all different forms of God just as you an me are, and ultimately belong to the supreme source.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • PRA

      Thank you Beth. That's all Hindus as for, is just to understand, to educate themselves. I know a good bit about Christianity, I choose to learn about it. Kudos to you.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.