Call Me Hindu
Fortunately, there are resources out there: Newsweek's August 2009 column by Lisa Miller suggested that "We [Americans] Are All Hindus Now," and explains the monotheism (the Truth is One . . .) and pluralism (. . . the wise call it by many names) that are foundational to the Hindu faith. And Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, founder of HinduismToday.com, was comfortable with calling himself a Hindu, and started the online magazine with its beautiful and colorful print edition in 1979. A non-profit organization which I am part of, the Hindu American Foundation, seeks to educate leaders in public policy, academia, media, and the public at large about Hinduism. Many people from around the world have written tomes, trying to explain Indian spirituality or Hinduism in a Western context—from Dr. S Radhakrishnan, a scholar and first president of India, author of Eastern Religions and Western Thought to Linda Johnsen, whose The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hinduism remains a personal favorite.
Hinduism is the world's third largest religion, faith tradition, or spiritual philosophy, with a billion adherents, practitioners, or followers. As Shakespeare said, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet . . ."—whatever phrase you choose to call it or the person whose beliefs are derived from it, it has some pretty amazing things to offer such as pluralism, yoga, and Vedanta. Maybe those who are uncomfortable with the terms "Hindu" and "Hinduism" will realize that the only way to dispel these misunderstandings and foster an awareness of its value is by accepting the terms and explaining them correctly.
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.