Proud to be a Hindu

This weekend we went to D.C. to meet Ashu of Hindi University and his family. It was so lovely! A great experience. I can’t wait to see how the video interview turned out.

We also got to have some great conversation with Ashu and his wife. Ashu also introduced us to the Director of Education at HAF (Hindu American Foundation). That was a surprise honor!

I’ve heard people say before that there’s a struggle for young Hindus in America to feel connected to their religion and it hadn’t really clicked with me until the conversation this weekend.

For some reason, I’ve always embraced being different and standing out. I mean, I wore my cult clothes even when I didn’t have to! But I think that’s the case because I would otherwise completely blend in to the American mainstream. For a child who is feeling different because of having a minority ethnicity, that might be all the standing out they are okay with!

I think the situation for a lot of young Hindus in America is that their Indian parents grew up with Hinduism all around them in the culture and it was very natural but they didn’t realize that their kids wouldn’t be surrounded by that. Then the kids go to American school where the one little unit on Hinduism is full of misunderstandings and taught by a teacher who usually knows nothing about Hinduism. So shame enters the equation and Hindu kids aren’t feeling pride. Not always, but it does happen.

I saw a video the other day of a group of Muslim teenagers who were trying to help people get over some of their prejudices by having girls in a mall in America try on hijab scarves. One of the girls was of Indian ethnicity and after she tried on the hijab, the Muslim kids asked her about her background (which they did with everyone). And this girl was like, “Um, I mean, I guess I’m Hindu, or whatever.”

I felt sad that this girl didn’t have a sense of community and pride in being Hindu the way the Muslim kids clearly did.

I suspect that Hinduism to her was nothing more than her parents sometimes chant in a strange language and she was never given a reason to understand it or connect with it or understand why it should be part of her life.

HAF is working to help change that. We were told about new units going to American schools to help teach about Hinduism in ways that aren’t full of myths and misunderstandings! I love that idea.

Another thing that I think helps is educational programs like the one at our Sathya Sai Baba group. They have a “Sunday school” for the kids to teach them about what Hinduism is about. When you’re a religious minority, you do have to put some effort into making sure your kids understand why that religion should matter to them. There’s Hebrew school for Jewish kids and there’s Catholic schools for Catholic kids. I think it’s really good for Hindu kids to have a school, group, community of other Hindu kids where they can learn about their religion and why it is so special.

I hope that another thing that will help is those of us who are strongly identified with Hinduism allow ourselves to be so visibly. Kids growing up need to see diversity and see that whatever religion they are or choose to be, that it doesn’t make them strange and alone and misunderstood.  The culture here is strongly Christian without even trying, so people of minority religions need to balance that out a little bit.

I hope that Hindu parents will realize that it will take a little extra explaining and instilling to raise Hindu children in America and that we’ll see a new generation of proud Hindu kids!

(There are some similar things discussed in this article from which I got the image:

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  • Phoenix

    Thank you for sharing. I struggle with this, but in a somewhat different way. I am a white american who is practicing Hinduism, and I have a young child. I have not yet brought him to the temple with me when I go, for a couple of reasons. For one, I still feel a little bit out of place at the temples in my area, as it is very clear at all of them that non-indians are very rare there. I feel like having a toddler running around might be a little obtrusive, even though many others have their children there. I guess I don’t want to stand out any more than I do!

    Also, I wonder if i should bring him up in this religion, or just teach him as much as I can about it, and let him make his own decision?

    Sorry for the rambling, this is just something I have been thinking about a lot lately!

    • tat

      children are allowed to be children inside a temple & they can run around just be careful so that you dont allow them to touch/ step on anything sacred also keep them away from deepak(fire-lamp)

    • Ambaa

      Those are great things to be thinking about.

      My personal thoughts are that 1) kids in temple are totally normal and the temples that I’ve gone to kind of expect the noise of life to be going on. It happens.

      2) In terms of raising him in a religion, I’ve always been a big fan of raising a child in a religion, but also educating him a little bit on other religions and allowing him to choose when he’s 16 or 18. When I was little and didn’t want to go to SES, my parents told me that when I was 16 I could decide for myself but until then I had to go. It worked well for me!

      I will post these questions on my facebook page and see what response we get!

      • Ambaa

        Here are some of the responses from FB:

        Kaushiki Ma: Under the circumstances, I would suggest that she teach her child as much as she can about Sanatana Dharma along with some simple mantras and make sure she continues practices at home, perhaps chanting some mantras to help improve her relations with other Hindus, or to find some Western devotees. Jai Maa!

        नापसंद · प्रत्युत्तर दें · 2 · लगभग एक घंटा पहले

        राधा नरसिंह: My advice is bring your child. My child went with me from the day we did his naming ceremony there as an infant. And to this day people still comment they remember him running around the temple and how small he was. Check and see if they offer religious classes- might be fun and educational activity for you both! Let him share your religion and later when he’s older if he wants to try other faiths that’s fine too.

        नापसंद · प्रत्युत्तर दें · 1 · 54 मिनट पहले

        Jeramy Hansen: I was raised Catholic and made the conscious decision to leave religion all together. If they child wants to make their own decision, the will.

        पसंद · प्रत्युत्तर दें · लगभग एक घंटा पहले · संपादित

        Madhavan Charles: Bring him to the temple. Do not be shy. Someone have to make the first move. Maybe once you start being comfortable with bringing your child to the temple, other minorities will have greater confidence on visiting the local temple as well. Don’t worry about the stares. It happens, it’s not that they dislike you or anything, more like it’s something new to them. We all go through that. Pass your knowledge as much as possible and then when he matures, let him choose his path.

        पसंद · प्रत्युत्तर दें · 4 · लगभग एक घंटा पहले

        Shyam Chakraborty: Teach him to be a good human first! And don’t impose your religion upon him. Let him be free in his spiritual pursuit. And a time will come when he will discover the Truth within. For any spiritual help you can contact me personally. I am sharing one website which may help you.

        पसंद · प्रत्युत्तर दें · 1 · लगभग एक घंटा पहले

        Halley Goswami: no need to teach him extensive rituals . teach him the values — the karma , re incarnation , meditation , positive discrimination etc . narrate to him stories of gods and goddesses in a heroic way that is attractive to a child’s ears . give him cartoon books on indian mythology .. ramayana mahabharaa etc . if u can make it sound attractive enough , he will be glued to it .. more than fairy tales or sci fi movies ! that way , unconciously you would be building the foundation of his beliefs .

        if you have to teach him rituals then its better to habituate him to pray or meditate for few minutes every day . later in life .. this habit may actually be his stress buster ! and ofcurse it is good idea to take him to any puja or temple programmes so that he knows what rituals go like .

        when he grows up , he would be well equipped to chose if he wants to continue practice hinduism or not . leave it to him . dont impose the ideas on him . expose him to the wonderful world of indian spirituality

        always remember not to compell him to do anything . hinduism is never authoritative . when he grows up , hopefully he would see the benefits of hinduism over other faiths and chose accordingly

        पसंद · प्रत्युत्तर दें · 2 · लगभग एक घंटा पहले · संपादित

        Selva Raj: Bro you should not feel out of place in a Hindu temple or any other place of worship. Hinduism is an open religion. It gives reverence to the soul more than the color of your skin.

        Bring your child along but let him to decide when he gets older as to which religion or faith he wishes to embrace. I believe all religions are the same but only the path we take differ. ” Om Shiva namaha ”

        पसंद · प्रत्युत्तर दें · 24 मिनट पहले

        Praba Knight: My husband is white and had been into Hinduism even before he met me. When we started talking he mentioned about going to the temple and how he was afraid of being the odd one out. I told him to go and pray, it’s that simple. Now being married we go to temple on Sundays. We do get stares but it doesn’t bother us. Bring ur child to the temple and you will be welcomed.

        पसंद · प्रत्युत्तर दें · लगभग एक घंटा पहले

        Karishma Roy: Do your thing without bothering about who thinks what Krishna is Gaurang (i.e. Fair) and also Shyam(i.e. Dark) so no one holds an authority on Sanatan Dharma.
        I am sure your drawing of attention has no negative connotations for you being not ‘Indian’. Get into conversation with the local priest or other visitors, it will be easier

        पसंद · प्रत्युत्तर दें · लगभग एक घंटा पहले

        You can keep up with the discussion at:

        • Phoenix

          Awesome, and thank you so much! I was actually keeping up with the responses on Facebook as well.

          • Ambaa

            Excellent 🙂 Let me know if you ever want to write a guest post about your feelings and experiences at the temple!

  • Amar

    like it or not but is is a fact, the reason why HIndus are so I think that until now West almost hated Hindus, even more the britishers always looked down upon Hindus(india got independent in 1947), this is not very long ago- this is why the effect is still there. present political parties too are doing the same thing.

    • Ambaa

      It’s weird because America was very enamored with India and Hinduism in the 1970s. But it seems like people took what they wanted from it and dropped the rest, eventually forgetting where they got it from. “Karma” is a word you’ll hear multiple times a day in America!

      • Amar

        true, but here another factor comes into effect, which is politicians, who for their own place degraded Hinduism, and Hindus were further humiliated. the fact is English media till today bashes Hinduism, but roots of it lives in rural areas, it survived- but did not kept uptodated- because rich turned toward English, and it lacked funds which are necessary to progress/flourish further. Rajnish or Osho was latest guru here in America, one might not find depth it his speeches, but it connects. Karma, Guru, Pandit, are very much main-stream words here, true. now I see I’m complete off the track.

        • Ambaa

          I haven’t seen any “bashing” of Hinduism in American media. I feel like America is still stuck with this vision that Hinduism is mysterious and weird and super different, but also about love and peace and flower children. Which is still inaccurate, but it’s a more positive stereotype than many other religious groups get!

          • Amar

            no no there isn’t any bashing Hindus here in America, I’m talking about earlier times. one is bound to see wierrd when he sees legs behind neck while doing Yoga, or worshipping cows. Religious freedom is present here in real.

          • Ambaa

            Ah, I see!

      • Amar

        most of Hindus believe all White are same(I can say about Hindus, not Amercans because I do not know much about it until now atleast),

        • Ambaa

          That’s so sad to me! As with any group of people, we have a wide variety of beliefs and behaviors!

  • Madhu K Agnihotri

    great work ambaa 🙂 here you find some interesting he is great dharma pravartak pracharak as vedic said before its happening and happened.. deepen ur dharmic values & live with dharmic convictions celebrate this life propagate dharma 🙂

  • Madhu K Agnihotri

    pls watch ambaa u like it for sure