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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.

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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. dizzle d

    if people arent directly affecting your life in a negative way, let them be and mind your own business. maybe people should be more open minded & less arrogant. educate yourselves and stop judging others. not everyone is the same. this country isnt owned by any one type of person or religion.

    July 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  2. Shashi

    Hinduism – What The Worlds "Greatest Thinkers" Had To Say

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPL-3Ixtn50&w=640&h=360]

    July 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Desi

      🙂

      July 11, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  3. Allen N Wollscheidt

    ALL organized religions of every sort and kind are a scam. . Follow the money ! !

    July 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • waterman

      Your are totally correct. A small twist is that Hinduism is not that organized. Britishers need to label everything, so they gave the label Hinduism to the very large variety of beliefs and systems in India. There is no central Pope or church. What people follow can be very different, even in a region just 10 miles away.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • AnIndianChristian

      Yes, it is true. For Hindus money is a god too (called LAKSHMI) 🙂

      July 11, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  4. Biron

    When our country was founded above 90% were far stronger Protestants than today. The Christian principle of grace without religious works fostered the upward mobility of women and afro-american, creating unions, worker's right's and a host of other policies, including conservatism. Christianity has been central to the culture since day one . . . .

    Now look at India, after 1000's of years of Hinduism . . . . Strong cast systems, holding down the 300 million (the size of the U.S. population) of untouchables, until they get better Karma in future life . . .

    We were justified in not allowing this false confused religion in this country before the liberals of the sixties

    July 11, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • LA

      That's probably the stupidest thing I've heard, white Christians used the bible saying that God wanted white people to be the masters of blacks. "all men are created equal" didn't happen till 40 years ago. enlightenment, and open ideas lead to the growth of America in the 20th century. America had Independence for nearly 250 years, India barely had it for 60 years. Christians were very backwards in Europe, with burning witches, and their version of the caste system, with Kings, nobles, priests, serfs. Chrisitans have murdered millions, and destoryed ancient advanced civilization. Guess what? India is growing, and fast, you can call them backwards, and 3rd worlders, but sooner than you realize they will pass the US. Christian nations in Africa and S. america are much poorer than India, but have less people, at least India and China,as poor as you think they are, are slowly getting out of it. Hindus haven't done anything to America, let them worship what they want, as long as it doesn't infringe on your rights. If you believe America should be a Christian nation, and don't want people of other beliefs... then India has every right to call themselves a Hindu nation, and kick out all christian.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • NP

      just hope you are old enough to remember WHITE ONLY, BLACK ONLY stuff????????
      eventually things wrong with hindusim will go away. You got to believe that hinduism is still much more peaceful, positive and overall better for community, more than Christianity(just born christian but dont know a thing about bible) and Islam (only 5% true muslim, rest are too extremist to even argue with).

      July 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Alyssa

      All religions are false.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  5. MR

    The Hindu God Sathya Sai Baba passed away in April this year. He was expected to live till 96, but apparently took an early retirement.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Frankly Speaking..

      and he "apparently" doped people and racked up 96 Kgs of pure gold and a fortune amount of cash in his crib. So "96" did come up when he died 🙂

      July 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • AnIndianChristian

      May be he drank alot of Cow's Urine 🙂

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

      He was not God..Magicians cant be god..But he did manage to fool lot of people to beleive he was god. Just like Joseph Smith for Mormons and if said more radically – like Jime Jones to Peoples Temple

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

      @ANInidanChristian – Your name "AnIndianChrisitian" itself shows that you were accepted in India (A Hindu dominated country) as a christian. But you still wish to ridicule Hinduism, the religion of the people who accepted your religion. That shows your character..Enough said.

      PS: And drinking Cows urine is just a MYTH and not hinduism.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • ppt

      Satya sai baba was not hindu god. try to make diffeence between mother teresa and jesus christ.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • MR

      Hey karthik, you are mistaken about cow urine part, it apparently is very useful too. Have you read about ingredients of of Baba Ramdev's herbal medicines ? As a sample try this product – http://www.ramdevproducts.com/product-details/539/1/kaya-kalp-taila-100-ml.htm. Check out the ingredients. Nuff Said.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • NP

      @Gold, that Indian norm, shows respect. When you die, guess what you will get?????????

      @96, we always wish good people live longer to treat FOOLS like you

      @IndianChristian a Convert, slept with priest, came to US?

      July 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Desi

      @MR, "expected" by us people. A great human saint, worshiped by millions, considered as God. Nothing wrong. Even your kids dont even listen to you.....

      July 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • AnIndianChristian

      @Karthik: I don't know who you are trying to fool (yourself may be) when you say drinking cows urine by hindus is a MYTH
      check out this article "India to launch cow urine as soft drink": http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/article5707554.ece
      🙂

      July 11, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Rahul Doshi

      @AnIndianChristian

      Notwithstanding anything else. you are ridiculing people based on religion. Nuff said about YOU.

      July 11, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • AnIndianChristian

      @Rahul
      So, you don't think it is funny!

      July 11, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Karthik

      @AnIndianChristian – it is an Ayurvedic MYTH and nothing to do with Hinduism. Hinduism is a Religion and Ayurveda is an Indian Medical Science based on nature. Two different things. I called it a MYTH (Ayurvedic MYTH) as it is not yet proved to be correct per modern science. One day it may be proved; who knows!!

      July 11, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • KS

      @AnIndianChristian: For the kind of people we put up with (read YOU), we are a pretty much tolerant bunch!!! I am Hindu, studied in a convent, I know the ins and outs of Christianity practiced in India, so you better stay out of all the mud slinging!!! Coz, if you throw mud, expect Cow Dung in return!!!

      @To the rest: IGNORE An Indian Christian, every country has its Sarah Palins, consider him as the Indian Version!!!

      July 11, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Frankly Speaking..

      @NP

      Thanks to amazingly stupid people like you who still defend him the baba got his share of luxuries in this world. Your wishful thinking that you will take gold with you when you die only reflects your intellect.

      Keep backing up your fake baba's for stupidity should exist so the smart people can appreciate intellect

      have a nice day

      July 11, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  6. roy

    Why do people feel the need to lie about the statistics to prove there point? It only hurts your credibility. Indian Americans are estamated to be 2.8 milllion. Filipino Americans at 4 million. They are not the second largest Asian population in the United States.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • NP

      Right...I guess America considers Philippine are US territory! ooops

      July 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  7. waterman

    While the cast system is a big black mark on Indian history, note that it is not very different from what existed and exists in the US and every other country. Every country has casts disguised as classes. Here we have blacks, hispanics, white trash, blue collar workers, high rollers, and so on. These are basically casts. And you also have religious casts, like Lutherans, Methodists, Evangelicals, and many many more. Each one considers themselves 'high' and others 'low. A conservative Lutheran wants to marry only with Lutherans (with a particular sub-sect), just like a conservative Patel wants to marry a Patel. And the mobility between these classes or casts is possible but very little in reality.

    Secondly, even with the cast system, India never had the concept of owning other humans, or slavery. Even the lowest cast members were always free to go anywhere they want, they were not anyone's property. They could stop working for in one person's field and go to another's. While poor people were definitely exploited (e.g., by high interest loans) by the rich, it was not to the extent that slaves in US and Europe were exploited.

    So, people who had slavery being outraged at people who had cast system is a bit funny.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Laughing

      You mentioned it but I don't think you understand why you're analogy doesn't really hold water. Sure you could look at the class system in America (and other democracies) as a caste system with a different name, but you named what makes them completely different – The mobility between classes is FAR easier than the caste system. You can't stop being an untouchable by working hard, or inheritance or any other way that you can move between classes in America and that makes all the difference. You think that it's oppression of the rich on the poor, but that's capitalism bud, The rich are rich because they worked hard to get there (or inherited money from mommy and daddy, but if they're stupid they stand to lose it all). So in reality, the caste system is way more sinister than anything that's being implemented in todays American society, end of story

      July 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Hemant Rana

      Rightly said. I have never seen any reference to caste system in any Hindu temple here or those in India that are built in Independent India.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  8. PA

    "GOD" encompasses many names for all religions. Don't be so engrossed by the name, but rather by the true message of all religion.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  9. Scott

    Yes, returning to roots is applicable to all cultures and their requisite religions of their land. Even physics strives to grasp the roots of the universe. In the complementary cross fertilization of eastern and western values all stand to gain much. One Christian scripture denotes, 'the Kingdom of heaven is within'. While another says, 'unless ye be like little children, ye shall never enter the Kingdom of heaven'. The technique of TM (Transcendental Meditation) although not of the Hindu tradition; it is of the Vedic tradition of India. This simple technique allows the mind to settle down innocently to experience 'that Kingdom' within which, I'd suggest is the fountainhead of the streams of all religions and cultural values.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Adhvaith

      Vedic tradition is Hindu tradition. The four Vedas form the basis of Hindu religion.

      July 11, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  10. BCA

    I don't care about anyone's religion, I just don't want to ******* hear about it. Keep your childish fantasies to yourself.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • ck1721

      Why do you read these articles if you don't want to hear about it? No one forced you to view this.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • TheFuture

      Well Said

      July 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  11. Kris

    People who say Hinduism is Polytheistic.. have absolutely no idea what they are talking about! Hinduism was the first ever religion to lay down the principles of Monotheism. In fact Hinduism takes Monotheism to levels that Abrahamic Faiths cannot even fathom in their philosophies.. look up Advaita in Wikipedia or elsewhere.

    Morons!.. Typical American frog in the well.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Laughing

      Actually when you look at Hinduism and there are multiple gods, it sort of points to Polytheism, not Monotheism, the only monotheistic religions out there at this point is Judaism and Islam. Yes, Christianity is also a religion claiming to be monotheistic like Hinduism but is not (you can't when you have god, jesus and the holy spirit and then claim they're all one thing, actually they're 3)

      July 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Kris

      To Laughing Below..

      who told you these were actually "Gods" ?? Do the Hindu Scriptures say so? NO. This is a fallacy that has been passed on by the Westerners because of their inability to comprehend Hindu Text for eons.
      the term "Devta" from Hinduism, has been grossly misinterpreted to mean Gods..
      so no, you are wrong.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Alyssa

      Frog in the well??

      July 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Laughing

      What else would you call Ganesh, Shiva, Kali.... just to name a few? They are clearly NOT human and have godly powers so..... Keep in mind, I also mentioned christianity falling into the same category, so contrary to what you might think that "Americans" just don't understand (what a stupid overaching statement that is) I think me and my fellow americans actually understand pretty well. I think when a Hindu says they are monotheistic instead of polytheistic, it's the same denial that christians have. You can't have multiple gods and claim monotheistic, it just doesn't make sense

      July 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Laughing – You simply don't understand how the whole "trinity" thing works, do you? The trinity is three in one – three distinct parts of a whole. We have only one God, but he has three parts to Him. It's like the shamrock or water. The shamrock has three leaves, but it's still one shamrock. Water can be solid, liquid, or gas, but it's still water. Does that make it a little more clear?

      July 11, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Laughing

      @ Ryan

      I've heard the water analogy before and it's apt. I understand that they're all supposedto be different forms of god, what doesn't make sense to me is Jesus preaching to know gods will and referring to god as a separate enti.ty and yet that enti.ty is himself? So god came down, impregnated mary with himself so he could be born and then die for all of mankinds sins? If god is so powerful, why didn't he just appear? Why did he have to be born? Unless they are two separate things, a true father and son. If they're separate then how can they be the same? You get my point right? Not only does it really not make sense, but answer me this, when you pray, and you invoke jesus' name AND god's name, are you praying to the same thing? If yes, then why use two different names? It's this type of doublethink that also lets Hindu's believe their religion is also monotheistic when it really isn't

      July 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Laughing – In all actuality, you are very close to what happened. Yes, in effect, God came down and impregnated Mary, then was born and was crucified for the sins of all humans. The whole point was that God had to make Himself a man and live a perfect life, then become the perfect sacrifice so that mankind would no longer have to sacrifice animals to appease God. In effect, God sacrificed Himself for humanity, in effect to appease Himself and mankind. In doing away with the animal sacrifices, it allowed people being able to communicate directly with God, which was previously considered heresy by anyone besides the current High Priest (and, in a way, I suppose it also shows that God cares for all life, not just humans, as animals were no longer required for sacrifice).
      In theory, yes, God simply could have appeared. However, much of the reason I personally believe He chose to do so the way He did had to do with symbolism in the day. The symbolism of the Almighty lowering Himself to be a man, the symbolism of the perfect sacrifice (sacrifices were always symbolic of the Jewish peoples' submission to God, not because God wanted animals killed), and the symbolism of His power in the resurrection. It also shows off His power in that He is omnipresent – He was not only God, but also Jesus and the Holy Spirit at that point in time. Think of it this way – not only was God the Son suffering the pain of dying a horrible, torturous death at the hands of the Romans, but God the Father was suffering at the same time watching his only Son be tortured and put to death before His very eyes. Not because He had to, but because He wanted to. He wanted to end the sacrificing and communicate with His creation on a personal level rather than a chain of command.

      July 11, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Laughing

      @ Ryan

      And that doesn't sound the least bit ridiculous to you? I honestly don't mean to offend, but you're telling me that god did all of this to himself just to make a decision he was intent on doing in the firstplace, furthermore you've implied he did it symbolically, but again, why? Why does he need to symbolically do all this when he can do it literally?

      The whole thing you said about sacrificing, I guess that's sort of correct, but not entirely. As you can see, today's Judaism does not involve sacrifice (well physical sacrifice anyway) and has given the power to communicate directly with god to the people (for the most part) instead of just the high priests. Jesus didn't have anything to do with that, it was the destruction of the second temple that made it possible. You said that sacrifices have been symbolic or jewish submission to god, but that really isn't true either, that's what the yarmulke's and kosher laws and circ.umcision is for.

      You also stil lhaven't answered my question though, do you pray to jesus and god, are the names supposed to be synonomous and if so why bother praying to one or the other. Why pray to multiple names of god? For instance I know that Judaism has a couple of names for god, but they all relate to the same god idea of a man in the sky, when you invoke the name jesus it's supposed to be for the man who came and did the whole dying on the cross thing, whereas when you pray to god, you aren't praying to that specific person, but to the hebrew/muslim invisible enti.ty right?

      July 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Laughing – To answer your other question, when we pray to God the Father and Jesus Christ, we are praying to one and the same. Again, it relates to the multiple names of God. When the Jews pray to Jehovah and Yahweh, is it two seperate gods or one god with two separate names. I'm not an expert, but I'm answering to the best of my ability. If you need more or better answers, a good place to look would be a local church or, if you're not ready to meet a pastor face-to-face, try reading one of Lee Strobel's books, either The Case for Christ or The Case for Faith. They go into much greater detail than what I can remember off the top of my head.

      July 11, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Laughing

      @ Ryan

      Been there, done that. I've done my reading as well as made my way into a church (without setting off the jew detector alarms) and they gave me about the same answer you did. Jews pray to Jehovah and Yaweh and so when Christians pray to jesus and god it's the same thing. But saying that doesn't make it true. In the jewish example, god has many names but is the same form, it doesn't change, god is god regardless of what you call it. It gets murkyer however when you throw another, living, breathing person who takes a different shape and form and has godly powers. That IS praying to something that is supposed to be god, but isn't the same god as "the father". It makes more sense if jesus was just a holy prophet on par with Muhammed or Moses or Abraham. People invoke their names in prayer, however since they were just messengers of god, it keeps judaism and islam strictly in the monotheism category. Jews and Muslims pray to one thing and one thing only, end of story. Calling it a different name does NOT change the one thing you are praying to. The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost are 3 (count em 3) things that christians pray to, and though they're supposed to equal one, it's still 3 separate, unique god parts you pray to. When you invoke jesus's name, you attribute the power that the father has to him, but he is not the father, so isn't that praying to a separate but equal enti.ty?

      July 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Laughing – Okay, now I'm beginning to see more why you're confused. Let me put it this way: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all one and the same. They are all omnipresent, they are all omniscient, and they are all limitless in their power. They are all one and the same.
      However, because He is all-powerful, He can take other forms and still be Himself, thus Jesus Christ, a man, and the Holy Spirit, a spirit. Because He is omnipresent, He can be everywhere at once. Thus, He dwells in us as the Holy Spirit, He resides in Heaven at the right hand of God (Himself) as Jesus Christ, and He is also everywhere as God the Father.
      It is hard to wrap your mind around, but that is partly what faith is for (the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen). It doesn't mean we should stop trying to figure out how and why God works, but it also doesn't mean we should dismiss it as folly simply because we don't understand yet. Does this help you understand better at all?
      (Also, I apologize for the time between responses – I can only respond on work breaks unless it's more than a quick, one or two sentence response.)

      July 11, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Laughing

      @ Ryan
      Like I said before, this isn't the first time that christians have told me that jesus, god and the holy spirit are 3 parts of one whole, which means it's only one thing they're praying to instead of 3 different things. You split up each of gods "personalities" for lack of a better word to show that god being omnipresent can be all three and still be one, but keep in mind that Judaism and Islam have the same god, and they haven't felt a need to separate god into three parts to achieve omnipresence.
      This is where I've always hit a roadblock and I am not satisfied with the answer but I can't get past it. Whenever someone says that my mind is too small, too human to understand the enormity, it can still be true, I just have to have faith it is instead of getting a real answer. This is tantamount to "just sit down and shut up". Now I know you were clearly trying to be helpful (which I appreciate, as most people do just go whole hog and say that I need to have faith), but both muslims and jews have proven they can make their god omnipresent, omnipotent without having to split him in 3 parts to do so, so why did christianity need to? The only answer I can stomach is that it needs to be true in order for jesus to be divine and not just a prophet like moses, muhammed, et al, and making jesus divine makes the christian religion more right because they can now quote god directly instead of through a prophet.

      But back to christianity being monotheistic vs. polytheistic. From what I understand you say, it doesn't matter that you pray to jesus because that prayer will get fastracked from jesus to god because they are the same, so why pray to jesus (or for that matter the holy spirit) at all when it's all going to god. What's the point of praying to jesus on the cross or invoking his name if you really mean god? When jews say Jehovah, or Yaweh, or anything else, they're all different names to the same thing, When people invoke jesus' name, they're referring to god's human form on earth right? So why? Why pray to that which is really god? jesus is a different thing, a different incarnation of god right? Well you don't see jews ever praying to the burning bush, even though that too was god taking form on earth, because they know that that isn't truely god, only yahweh is. Same can be said about jesus.

      July 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  12. waterman

    What I have always found funny is that after repeating over and over that "there is only one God", Christians cannot help themselves and have created a "holy trinity" – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is one God but somehow there are three. Very similar to the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh. Yet Hinduism is somehow ridiculous because it is "polytheistic". LOL.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Just someone out there

      Good point. Someone help point out where in the Bible there is a mention of Trinity where all 3 parts are equal or where Jesus calls himself God or where Jesus says worship me. Unbelievable how people have twisted their original faith into what it is today. Jesus said, follow my words but all people do is follow Paul and the Council of Nicea – which took place around 300 years after Christ (supposedly) died.

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

      you just watered down ignorant readers!

      July 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • NP

      If i need help in city, I dont always go to Mayer, cause its higher chair and busy with much more responsible activity for my whole town.
      One Step Higher,
      If i need help in state, I dont always go to Governer, cause its higher chair and busy with much more responsible activity for my whole State.
      One Step Higher,
      If i need help in community, I dont always go to President, cause its higher chair and busy with much more responsible activity for my whole country.

      God is much much higher and has many responsibility for everything on and beyond earth.

      Hinduism addresses that with an expert God taking specialized responsibility. So We can easily pray them of need base and ask for quick help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      July 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • ck1721

      Three interwoven parts. That's like saying ice isn't water. H2O has three forms but it is one element. Stop being ignorant and hateful towards Christians.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • waterman

      @ck – I have no hate whatsoever towards Christians. I just find the funny. Three "forms"? Now you are copying HInduism. Hindu "polytheistic" Gods are different forms.

      July 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  13. believer598223

    I think that a culture should be valued for what it truly is: in its pure and non-Americanized state, and I find it ridiculous that these people want to "Americanize" things. I agree that Hinduism is a way of life. But, don't change things up to say that Hinduism isn't polytheistic because it is, by definition. I like that they're expanding the culture so that it's more accessible to people who want to practice, but don't change the books to teach something so that others will accept it. If they don't accept it, it's their loss.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Alyssa

      Really? Because Christianity, in its original form, was a far cry from what it is today (ie. supporting slavery and making shellfish an abomination). Why shouldn't it evolve with their society? A religion becomes useless if it doesn't adapt.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  14. Hemant Rana

    According to Bhagawad Gita which is called the song of Lord Krishna, God is ominipresent i.e everywhere and everything. The 64 million gods are the form that the ever omnipresent God. So Idol worship goes with the fact the God does not have form but at the same time God can take many forms. Isn't that beautiful. In that fact, Hinduism does not discredit or discard Christianity or Islam as whole. Thus, idol worship does not contradict the idea of God being a formless being, but at the same time recognize the idea that God can take many form as is present in everything and everywhere. In otherwords, God is present in every atom. Thus, according to Hinduism God is within you and you can realize God by looking inside yourself and making yourself free of Karma. So there is no need for mediation by priest or anyone if one knows how to get there. Of course, if you don't know how to get there you need a Guru. That is the basic belief in Hinduism about God and our as well as nature's relationship with God.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Frankly Speaking..

      Why only 64 million ? The population of world as it stands today is about 6 billion, combine that with trees and animals. Man, you need a doctor, lemme call you a doctor

      July 11, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • badder24

      Well said Hemant – this is exactly the beauty of Hinduism – there are millions of forms in which God is worshiped in Hinduism that makes them accommodating to other religions and beliefs – & adaptable. The reason why it survived & flourished for centuries even when other religions tried to invade India & convert the masses to Islam or Christianity.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Hemant Rana

      @ Frankly Speaking..
      Please call a doctor. Lol. You don't have any idea what you are talking about. God is everywhere does not mean everything is God. Idol worship is for the purpose. Every god in hinduism represents certain quality that human beings value, aspire for. For example Goddess Saraswati is goddess of knowledge. Now if you think about the purpose of worshiping Goddess Saraswati, its very obvious that it makes humans to understand value of education and inspire hindus to gain knowledge. In Hinduism we believe God is Goodness as well and the way to Goodness is Idol warship for whaterever good quality one lacks.

      July 11, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  15. ggrr

    Hinduism is a philosophy – a way of ife- rather than a religion per se. The Bagawad Gita narrates a story of the win by good over evil. It presents the message of karma- a person is defined by ones actions/deeds. Hinduism does not convert people of other religions into becoming a Hindu. You can still follow the hindu plilosophy by being a part any other religion. The other important message of the Bagawad Gita is that one must do their duties without expecting the results. The results will commensurate your actions. In other words as you sow so shall you reap.

    Unfortunately, its so hard for people to understand the simple truth of karma and the sentence as you sow so shall you reap. Even Newtons third law is the same.

    Now there are hijackers of the religion- fundamentalists who create viiolence- just igore them and they will vanish one day. If you pay attention to them and cover them in the media you are only boosting their violent spirits.

    For those who have read the above think about your karmas and put that towrd betterment of humanity and yourself.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • roger

      Well said. You just nailed the point.

      July 11, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Jay

      Perfect explanation. Hindu is not a religion. It is a culture, way of life. Anybody on the planet can follow.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  16. Fuyuko

    I don't really see why they need to americanize.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  17. Ravi

    Hinduism is more spiritual than religious. It doesn't preach proselytism... rather its a very accomodating religion in the sense that it saw creation of other relgions like Budhism, Sikhism, Jainism etc without conflict. The Hindu philosophy of Salvation/Karma/Nirvana is deeper and centers around the person's lifestyle rather than who they pray to. I personally feel that any religion that says I am the only God/Prophet is selfish (no offense intended for anyone).

    July 11, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  18. Arik Novak

    Now, This is what you can define as a PEACEFUL religion! Not only is their Religion non conflictive, the people themselves are very caring and loving. These are the people we should be allowing to migrate into this country.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Ahmad

      Sorry to spoil it for you, but there are Hindu extremists that are just as deadly if not more than others.
      Extremism is a state of mind not limited to one religion, it is a disease that can impact anyone and understanding one another is the first step for finding a cure.

      July 11, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • NP

      Ahmed, right but any reason why ISLAM is one party on most conflict in the world today????

      July 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Frankly Speaking..

      @NP

      Maybe, just maybe because they are being oppressed, plundered, killed in the name of rewarding democracy/libertaion they never asked for. I am not saying its the right way to retaliate but what do you expect when you corner a cat ? Most of them have nothing to loose or have already lost everything to war. I do not wish anyone to be in their shoes but if you were I would be pleased to see how you would downplay

      July 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Rahul Doshi

      @Frankly Speaking..

      NO reason is enough reason to kill and be violent. I repeat, NO reason.
      Don't try to find reasons why people are becoming terrorists. That is what gives them moral support.

      July 11, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Frankly Speaking..

      @Rahul Doshi

      Please read the complete sentence before you respond.. I never said its the right way to retaliate unless you are out of options and in a war. Please re-read my sentence before you respond again, I used AND between out of options and war.. Or you could be a coward and let your wives and children get murdered in cold blood

      July 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  19. A Shah

    Very true , I am proude of being Hindu-Indian. very rich in culture and purity.

    July 11, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  20. Kchitwood

    Great article and fantastic insight into Houston's growing Hindu community! As a religion reporter in Houston I really appreciate the perspective! Here's a link to an article I wrote on the Asian-Indian Religious Experience – http://blog.chron.com/sacredduty/2011/06/indian-religious-experienc/

    July 11, 2011 at 11:24 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.