From Sacred Space to Hindu Community
Fortunately, I found that there are people in the temple community who understand what I am saying—the Outreach Committee lives on; people from around the neighborhood are invited to the major events—be it the Prana Prathishta of the new deities as part of the expansion, or the temple's annual summer fun fair called Anand Bazaar. In 2013, the temple is planning to host the 14th annual World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation, a major regional interfaith event. The temple-based preschool is also a reality; while it's a decade too late for my children, hopefully, these youngsters will develop an attachment to the temple as they participate in rituals, put on plays during the holy days, and grow up feeling a connection to the ancient faith of their ancestors. This hope I feel on seeing them and all the young students who attend the myriad of classes provided at the temple allays concerns I have about the lack of Hindus raised in America involved in the temple, even as I wonder if the hope is misguided.
But perhaps it is to the wise monks at Hinduism Today that both Narayan and I should turn, as we seek answers about the multitude of temples being built in North America and who will sustain them. Their latest 2012 issue had a cover story dedicated to the Hindu temple, highlighting how "Hindu Temples of the West Adjust, Adapt, Improvise . . ." The monks attended the first Hindu Priests Conference, held in mid-2012 in Pennsylvania, and the magazine article uses anecdotes to explain how temples are changing what they do to support the needs of the community, be it life sacraments such as weddings and funerals, community service, marital counseling, or elder care.
As Guyanese-born Canadian Pandit Roopnauth Sharma, of the Shri Ram Mandir of Mississauga, says, "Hindu temple leaders and community members must accept that we must change our approach in disseminating the tenets, philosophy, and practices of our great religion." Perhaps we should adapt what we do in temples—rather than stop building them—just as Sanatana Dharma aka Hinduism has done over centuries. As Managing Director of the Hindu American Foundation, Suhag Shukla said in her essay on the Future of Hinduism, that we Hindus in America are experiencing a journey back to the basics, "a testament to the eternal and dynamic nature of Hindu teachings."
Padma Kuppa is a writer, IT professional, community activist, wife, and mother working to build a more pluralistic society within a Hindu and interfaith framework. You can also read her blog A Balancing Act, at padmakuppa.blogspot.com. The views represented in this column are not a reflection of the views of any organization of which she is a part.