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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.

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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. Bruce

    I'm interested in any Hindu who would like to explain their objection to being viewed as a "polytheist." It's not that I disagree with your objection, just wondering why you think it is inaccurate, and if you consider Hinduism as "monotheism" or as something that doesn't fit into a polytheism/monotheism description.

    July 11, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • VK

      I am a Hindu and yes it is "Polytheism". Why would you think any Hindu object to being viewed as "polythiest"?

      July 11, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Bruce

      VK, the article above says "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." That is why I am asking the question. 🙂

      July 11, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Nonimus

      @VK,
      That's what the article said, "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."
      Do you disagree and why?

      July 11, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Ram

      I can tell you to the best of my ability as a Hindu American... our scriptures say that there is ONE almighty God. But we also believe that God comes in many different forms in this world. We have different gods for different things and desires, we have a god of water, god for air, god of wealth, you can look at this and say, that sounds like polytheist, but at the end of the day all those gods describe one quality of the one true god Brahman. Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Sita, all the same all the one. That also means, Hindus don't believe that their way is the only way. We look at Jesus, Christ, Allah as the same thing, all point to the same god. We believe in many paths to the same God. God is God no matter what religion you believe in. It all comes into interpretation, Hinduism survives today not because we went around conquering and spreading, but instead we were open to ideas, which let people attach their beliefs to ours. As Hinduism spread from village to village in ancient India, each village had different Gods, because that god is important to them, if they live near a river, they believe in the river god, and stuff like that. But gurus went and said "Hey your god is the same god as mine and everyone else, you worship ONE quality of God, but understand it all leads to one." So at the end of the day, the scriptures say one god in different forms, but people chose to focus on one quality and we represent that quality as a god. And since God has millions of qualities, we have millions of Gods. That is what I got from learning the scriptures....

      July 11, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Ram
      If Christians can worship three gods in one and still call itself monotheistic, then I don't see why the same rationalizations cannot apply to your religion.

      July 11, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Bruce

      Thank you, Ram. One ocean, many waves. 🙂 That's what I'd hoped someone would say, but I wasn't sure how you understood the one/many distinction.

      I think the parable of the three blind men describing an elephant to someone who has to rely on their testimony, all three of them "correct" inasmuch as they remember their experience, but all three with very different stories and sharp "disagreements" as to what an elephant must be, comes from Hindu culture, no?

      July 11, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • A Hindu

      What Ram said.

      Plus, traditionally the idea of converting anyone to Hinduism has been non-existent. Since, it is a way of life and philosophy of life, basically it can apply to any and all human beings. It is also open to adaptations... there is no one strict set of rules that applies to all Hindus... I mean there are Hindus who eat meat as well (along coastal communities in particular).

      If anyone is wondering – 'Why Idol worship?'..
      The answer is simiar to why would people go to a gym/fitness center to workout, when they could just as easily work out by themselves at home/outside... some can do it themselves and some need a little help/aid... so the idols are there to help bring attention to God by means of focusing on the idol.

      Overall one could say, Hinduism is like Linux :))

      July 11, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • pal Singh-Kahlon

      I share your comments. Indeed, the definition of 'monotheism' shall need changing to accomodate hinduism. That is not to say that the truly polytheistic Hinduism is perhaps one of the better religions from different perspectives. So the campaign to refurbish it as monotheistic is unnatural, uncalled for by the US born Hindus.

      One other comment I wish to make that all religions in India, whether imported (Islam & Christianity), or India-born (Budhism, Jainism & SIKHISM) haveall been 'contaminated' by the Hindu evil of casteism.

      July 11, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Raju

      @Bruce. The word Hindu was coined by the British and there is no reference to the word in any scriptures. However, the term that does describe the collective belief of the people from that region is Sanātana Dharma (google it). It was a complex society with some worshiping one god, some another, and some both. The British with the limited understanding of the society classified all of them under one common umbrella and name it Hinduism. So yes... to a lot the "Hindus", their religion is monotheistic but unlike the religion of the west, polytheism is no taboo.

      July 11, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Karthik

      I second Ram! Perfectly said "Sabka Malik Ek"

      July 11, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • A. Patel

      @PAL-Singh... Sat Sri Akal... i agree the "caste system" is contaminated and is horrible... nonetheless, it is also INVENTED and not a part of sanatam dharam... It was invented by people in power as a means to sustain power. The vedic teachings offer a CLASS system. It is discussed that society will offer teachers (brahmins), those who serve others (schedule), those who defend the rights of society (sustriya), etc... Nowhere does it say one may not obtain a different CLASS. Either way you interpret it, you are correct. The CASTE system has become the disease of india.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • RamSekhar

      @Ram, @ A Hindu

      Very well put guys.

      I would like to add that most Hindus don't have a problem co-existing with other religions simply because, they are aware that there are multiple paths to attaining the same salvation/moksha.

      Sarve Janah Sukhino Bhavantu (May all human beings live in peace).

      July 11, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  2. Sybaris

    "a statewide school curriculum that calls Hinduism a polytheistic religion, a characterization many Hindus reject."

    Good luck with that. We have a hard enough time trying to keep the poison of christianity and the teaching of creationism out of the curriculum.

    July 11, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • Colin

      I don't know:

      (i) why being polytheistic is any sillier than being monotheistic. Once you make the quantum leap into Wonderland by believing in sky-fairies, what difference does if make if you believe in one or many?; nor

      (ii) why Christians believe they are monotheistic, given that they believe in god, the devil, guardian angels, the holy spirit, Jesus, many demons in hell, the Virgin Mary, the angel Gabriel, and thousands of saints, all who apparently make Earthly appearances periodically, all of whom inhabit their life-after-death lands and all of whom have magic sacred powers of some kind.

      July 11, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Bruce

      @Colin: You are absolutely correct–Jesus himself names another god as "Mammon," and the first commandment that Moses brought down forbids us from having other gods before God, but doesn't forbid us from believing other gods exist, or even having other gods "after" God when you get down to it.

      Most people don't understand what a god is, nor do they understand how it is that–by and large–the American typically worships Mammon in ways that are much more consistent and meaningful than their worship of Jesus and/or God and/or the Holy Spirit or whatnot, even though they may not name Mammon by name, even though they don't connect intellectually to the fact that Mammon exists as a god.

      When it comes down to it, most people are simply clueless as to what "god" means (atheists are the worst at this) and how much different "God" is from that.

      July 11, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Colin

      Bruce – Often when an atheist is described at being "bad" at understanding god, it often means that the theist has so redefined god to avoid the obvious logical flaws such a concept invokes, as to render the term meaningless. In this vein, I have often heard god as "all things good" or " infinite love" or (slightly more concrete) "the first cause".

      Well, I can readilly believe that god is my my wallet, if I define him as a credit card.

      July 11, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Bruce

      Colin, I'm more of a Jungian "Collective Unconscious" guy myself. Gods are made manifest in the actions of people, so they are more like social and/or psychological causes in a human sense than they are material causes in a physical sense.

      Mammon is undeniably king of all gods in America today–even moreso than he used to be. The multiple credit cards in your wallet attest to that fact.

      July 11, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  3. Parkerman

    I am glad that he looks at America as being his home country and turning his focus to his home, not India. My grandparents immigatrated here as young children and they were told that they were Americans now, not Dutch. My great grandparents would not speak Dutch in front of them so that they would learn English. Too many immigrants come here, but do not leave their allegiances and focus back in their old country. Come here, than be American and share our culture (yes we have one).

    July 11, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  4. Jack

    It must be tough being a Texas redneck and seeing the cultural banshee on the horizon growing larger and larger and larger . . . . America could in time, actually lose a cultural disease.

    July 11, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  5. KN

    What does the author mean by "Americanizing"?. Hinduism is hinduism. Christianity is christianity. Islam is islam. Anything beyond that is just interpretations to fit in and promote whatever belief that one may have. All religions in the end is a means to understand ones purpose in life.

    July 11, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Wangchuk

      I think the author means adapting an ancient religion from India to modern American culture. Young Indian-American Hindus born or raised in the USA have a different culture than their parents who were born or raised in India. The same happened to many European Christian denominations when they came to America. The Anglican Church became Presbyterian, for example. The basic beliefs still exist but there are adaptations made to the local American culture.

      July 11, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  6. Kishan

    Why do people have to abuse and vilify each others' heritages? Why cannot people have a rational discussion and be open minded about each others' points of views?

    Hindus are here in America because they found something here that is better for them than what they have right now back in India, be it economic opportunities, liberty, environment, standard of living etc. So what if the Hindus want the economic, freedom and standard of living benefits, and at the same time want to retain their own heritage and culture? What is wrong with that? So what if they assert that Yoga came from Hinduism? What is the harm in that?

    Likewise, non-Hindu Americans have taken up yoga because of the benefits it gives them with respect to physical, psychological and spiritual well being. So what, if some of them only want the physical or psychological benefits and do not care about the spiritual aspects? So what, if others want the spiritual aspects also, but do not want the religious connotations of Hinduism? Let each choose what they want and get the benefits they want from it. What is wrong with that?

    Hinduism has survived through ages, through many invasions and onslaughts, through many protestant movements within it, because of its openness and acceptance of the good in everybody else. Much like America today, ancient India is comprised of people migrating from all parts of the known world at that time into India. What will keep it strong is the tolerance, respect and acceptance that most Hindus show towards others' religions and cultures.

    America likewise has been a beacon of hope, liberty and opportunity in the modern world. It has welcomed and provide a platform for immigrants from other countries to do the best they can and succeed. This is America's strength. Being open to ideas and individuals from other cultures is what makes America strong.

    There is so much in common between Americans and Indians, and yet we fight over something silly as 'taking back Yoga', or 'whether or not Yoga originated from Hinduism'. You cannot take back knowledge once it is imparted. And you cannot even realistically prevent knowledge from being gained by others.

    Indians and Hindus should be proud and pleased to have the opportunity to 'give Yoga and any other knowledge of universal value' to other cultures, rather than 'taking it back'. And Americans in the true spirit of honesty and generosity should give due credit to Hinduism for originating this science. It does not make then any less accomplished by giving this credit.

    July 11, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • blackfire

      Brilliant.. Thank you.

      July 11, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • KN

      Couldnt have said it any better.

      July 11, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  7. Carlton

    I'm not Hindu, but this is a huge problem here in America, an expection for something to be Americanized. This is actually a major problem with many Churches who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, they've become Americanized instead of being the Kindom Embassy that the Lord created His Church to be. Most American Churches are irreliveant and disrespected, again because they've been Americanized, watered down, righteous standards lowered. Rise up Churches in America a take your rightful place and operate in your Kindom Dominion. America has no answers for anything, Jesus Christ is the answer, not America.

    July 11, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  8. Rajesh

    Every "fact" here is debatable. It is sad to see India to be painted to be a Hindu nation. As true as the facts can be, the version of Hinduism portrayed in this piece of news seems skewed.

    July 11, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  9. Anthony Weiner

    Why would need to Americanise Hinduism? American's need to leave their false gods in their Abrahamic faiths and come to the one true path of enlightenment, Hinduism. Now where is my iPhone?

    July 11, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  10. kumar

    This article gives good prospective how American Hindu youth thinks about Hinduism which is different from Hindus who have immigrated . Contibutions Hindus made Yoga , meditation , Aurveda and Vegeterian food going to make America a better nation

    July 11, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • John Richardson

      India and other South and Southeast Asian Countries have also greatly improved the culinary options for those who like to eat out now and then. And I love the Hindu sense of color!

      July 11, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  11. W.C.

    Being from Texas and an atheist I don't believe this is actually a good thing. The redneck bible thumpers are to going to whine and whine that Hindus need to convert to Jesus and when they don't it might lead to more intolerance.

    July 11, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @ W.C. – Actually, you'll probably hear far more whining about the Hindu temples from Atheist groups like the ACLU who want to remove any religious reference, such as the statue mentioned in the article.

      July 11, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  12. CW

    Good luck...hindu's,

    Okay..the guy in the story prays to some carved statue...sounds to me like the old testament "baal's".....As far as I'm concerned I will do my best to convince those that think that "many gods" are the way...I will try to introduce them to the "only God needed...Jesus Christ". Believe me....These people need compasion as they have been led astray...for centuries.

    July 11, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • Man, you so dumb

      lol. I'm an atheist, and I know many Hindus, take your bible ans stuff it up you're a*s.

      July 11, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Okay..the guy in the story prays to some carved statue'
      whereas you pray to a carved statue of a guy on a cross. difference?

      July 11, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Diwakar

      We maintain albums of our adored people. We remember our parent and grand pa, moms. We keep their photos, videos and cherish old memories. Even if I am an atheist in my thoughts, I do not feel myself as a perfect Atheist. I try to understand the reasoning behind the beliefs of others. In that process, I accept the report for my reasoning.

      July 11, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Diwakar – I applaud your open-mindedness, something most Atheists utterly lack. As a Christian, I have studied many other religions, including Atheism, Agnosticism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Humanism, Mormonism, Jehovahs Witnesses, Christian Science (which, by the way, has nothing to to with Christ or Christianity), and Sikhism. I always remained open-minded, but I believe everyone should choose for themself. I have chosen, and will never stray from my choice.

      July 11, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Rakesh

      We Hindus believe in many gods so we have no problem accepting the existence of other religions, we have no problem saying that Jesus is also God and so is Allah and so are the rest of Gods from any other religion. Can the people of two major religion boasts of such magnanimity?. If Christians say that Christianity is the only religion and Jesus is the only god and if Muslims say that Islam is the only religion and Allah is the only god then there is no common ground and there lies the root cause of all friction. If they keep their religion to themselves it is fine, but both want to spread their religion causing so much of hatred, animosity, violence and deaths in peaceful communities, tribes and settlements around the world.

      July 11, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • Bates

      Only God needed for you. You should practice the unwritten "George Carlin" Commandment:

      KEEP THY RELIGION TO THY SELF!

      July 11, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Rakesh

      and pray tell me how you can make people appreciate other religions and accept the existence of other gods without being polytheist?. If polytheism makes the world a better place without forcing people to fight, kill and maim one another, then being a hindu, I am proud to say that I am a polytheist.

      July 11, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Bruce

      CW–you probably say the same thing about those Roman Catholics and their rosaries, right?

      July 11, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Bates – You and other Atheists certainly aren't keeping your Atheism to yourself, so why should the Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others? What makes you so high and might? Why should you receive special freedom of speech and deny it to others?

      July 11, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  13. El Kababa

    A 21st century religion would be one that has no gods. We all know by now that there are no gods. But we have inherited a few religions whose teachings are worth preserving. Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism are profound philosophies of life if you cut out the theology part – the fantasy part.

    There is nothing that I can see in Islam, Judaism, or Mormonism that are worth preserving.

    July 11, 2011 at 7:07 am |
  14. Ashutosh

    lol religious fight. I never saw so much of comments even in my whole life (for one single article).

    I the writer gets paid by per comment. He will be millionaire by now. 😀

    (PS: I am a Hindu) 🙂

    July 11, 2011 at 3:11 am |
    • Ashutosh

      BTW guys, today I had a horrible day......had on accident on freeway, car is total....Now I am sitting in front of my computer, watching people fight, argue over religion!

      Take it easy guys, life is long and not worth enough to argue about such things. Have fun, respect all and be thankful that you are health and prosperous.

      July 11, 2011 at 3:39 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Dude... Glad that you are ok but this thread has not even broken 2000 comments. We have been touching over 4k for articles. This is actually pretty mundane.

      July 11, 2011 at 4:22 am |
    • Ashutosh

      @Mark....Really!! I had no idea.

      Mostly I don't cost comments because everyone has his/ her point of view and I just respect that. 🙂

      July 11, 2011 at 4:34 am |
  15. WHOISME

    BEWARE BEWARE, ANY Developed Nation eyes on Hindu Temples now because of Treasure found in Sri Padmanabha Temple. Hope EU and USA money greeds dont desteblize our culture lifesyles and heritage due to this treasue rush. protect Hindu Culture anywhere around the world.

    July 11, 2011 at 2:46 am |
  16. bpadraig

    To saturndisc–What? or maybe you snort much meth and ramble ridiculous on religious article.

    July 11, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • saturndisc

      Do you mean all BCC, CNN, NYT reporters were on meth when they wrote those stories mentioned at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Superpower-News/249697628377697

      July 11, 2011 at 2:07 am |
  17. Hemant

    It is true that caste system is a part of the established Hindu religion.But what most people do not understand is that one's caste is decided not by birth by one's actions or professions. The warriors or administrative class were called Kshatriyas, the persons involved in religious studies and educations were called brahmins, the traders and farmers were called Vaishyas and those who were performing other professions like cobbler, sweeper, Blacksmith, labourer were called Sudras as they were servimg the other classes. This was not supposed to be a rigid system and as per ones ability one could take up a suitable occupation and be a part of that caste. This kind of system based on profession exists in every cilvilized society. Unfortunately the caste system became rigid over time and based on hereditary considerations. This is a social problem and not a problem of the religion.

    July 11, 2011 at 1:50 am |
    • xmxm

      Where is the evidence for your claim that caste system was not rigid before? Hindu fundamentalists like to say that but they never have any concrete evidence for this. There are clear examples in Ramayan and Mahabharat of the rigid caste system. Remember the young boy who had to cut his thumb off because he was not supposed to listen to religious/war lectures? I can give you many more examples if you like. No don't call me Christian. I'm not, and I'm from Hindu background myself.

      July 11, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  18. aaaaa

    As an anti-theist, I have to say I see this as a good thing!

    The coexistence of multiple unique and contradicting religions helps make it easier for people to understand that their religion isn't held by everyone with a religion. Cornerstones of one's faith may be nonexistent in other faiths, especially if the other faith in question doesn't even have similar origins. The elements of religion that aren't universal (even ones as basic as monotheism vs polytheism) will be called into question more often.

    In simple terms, it will encourage people to think! Hoorah!

    July 11, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  19. hari

    I am a Hindu who like most Hindu's believe in tolerance and well being of everybody. In Hinduism there is something called "Vasudaiva Kutambikam" meaning the entire world is one family in other world tolerance and non-violance.

    Like all religions it's got its downside and 'course few nut cases but the fact that its very liberal, progressive with tolerance and non-violence as its basic tenets it has adapted well to modern times. Many people quote class based system etc to say how screwed up it is, here are few facts ( and these are facts not made up), India after recent election has a population of more than 50% ruled by women. Its President is a woman and speaker of the parliament is a woman. The most powerful politcal person in India and one of Times most powerful person in the world is a lady ( not even born in India and a Christian) . The Prime Minister is from a minority community. Many of the women I mentioned are from so called lower caste. All these are testament to the fact that Hinduism despite being the most ancient religion is very liberal and progressive.

    In many Hindu temple you will actually find photos of Jesus or pics of Mecca.

    'course all these are because India is still a Hindu majority country, can't say if this will be true if that changes...

    July 11, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • Rahul Doshi

      I have to laud you for so concisely putting a cogent argument.

      The very depth of the Hindu religion and philisophy prevents a uniform explanation by scholars. I am sure the multiple explanations by various Hindus on the board are leaving most of the non-Indian/non-Hindu readers on this board not entirely satisfied. Well, the freedom in the religion allows for multiple perspectives to happily co-exist.

      'Sarve Janah Sukhino Bhavantu' (Peace to all human beings)

      July 11, 2011 at 1:31 am |
    • BG

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8617576.stm

      @ Hari, Rahul Doshi, and all "Americanized" Hindus

      I am not an atheist, and I'll respect your religion as long as your religion respects humanity. Problem is, you have your extremists just as the Muslims have theirs. Dogma, interpretation and perversion of the Hindu faith oppress a great many people in Eastern countries, so if by "Americanized" you mean to eliminate the caste system established by Hinduism, great. If not, I'll offer you this:

      If you start (or allow) this crap over here you'll poison any chance you may have to be viewed as citizens of a modern Western society, regardless of your income. Regardless of your citizenship you will be viewed as foreigners, toxic to the safety and security of a free America.

      July 11, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  20. Subhajit

    If you are wondering (after seeing some of the videos posted here, now removed) why such an advanced ancient religion imposed restrictions on food, such as non-vegeterian, let me tell you search gogle for beef+Hindu. You will find reference that ancient hinduism did not restrict a person from any practice, including eating beef. In fact beef was one of the most devour meat eaten by privileged in the ancient Hindu society. The restriction was introduced as a malformation of the Vedas later on, when cows became part of the agricultural development, so they had to preserve them.

    On the other hand, Veda only 'suggests' (does not restrict) the Rishis (sages) to refrain from eating meat. The logic was since sages were involved in spiritual practices, they had to control their mind more than any other people to concentrate on singular thing (form of extreme yoga). For such practices, high energy food were not recommended.

    Point is, most Indian Hindus today haven't read Veda or any Hinduism scripts. They just follow the religion as their parents did and believe that by practicing the restrictions and chanting matra (puja) in the morning they are practicing Hinduism. There is absolutely no constraint, restriction in real Hinduism. It's just an explanation of spiritualism by some wise men.

    July 11, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • JF

      "Point is, most Indian Hindus today haven't read Veda or any Hinduism scripts. They just follow the religion as their parents did."

      Insert the word Bible and you just described that average American Christian.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • Rev. Rick

      Dang CNN Filter!!! Again!

      Subhajit and JF – You both make and excellent point that whether Christian, Muslim or Hindu, we all typically follow the religion that was handed to us by our family, culture or society. Because I was raised as a conservative Christian, I followed that path without question for more than 25 years. Now, I embrace a faith that is more open and tolerant of many other faiths and I am turned off by the dogma of most Abrahamic religions. God speaks to us in many ways and we must be open to His voice regardless of which "denomination" we happen to embrace. Otherwise we only get a small glimpse of His message that has been filtered by the arrogant dogma we have accepted as "true" by default. God is actually much closer to us than we have been led to believe. Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is within you", but Hindus are one of the few faiths that actually teach us how to recognize that.

      July 11, 2011 at 9:42 am |
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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.