Americanizing Hinduism and other Pagan News of Note

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Top Story: The CNN Belief Blog has a story about Hinduism in America, and how some younger Hindus are trying to “forge a distinctly American Hindu identity that’s more tightly woven into the national fabric.”

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Houston

“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 article mentions the Hindu American Foundation and its work, an advocacy group that has done outreach to the Pagan community in recent years, and profiles younger Hindus who want to take their faith “outside officially Hindu spaces.”

Yet [Kavita] 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.”

In my recent interview with historian Kevin M. Schultz, he mentioned that Catholics and Jews in the early 20th century worked to “present a positive and forceful image of what it meant to be an American” using the “languages of good Americanism to show they belong.” This article makes it quite clear that this process is well underway for American Hindus. That said, despite Hinduism’s many successes in building infrastructure and mainstreaming some of their practices, there still remains a lot of distrust and hostility, as evidenced by the comments section of the CNN profile. American Hindu organizations will also have to decide, ultimately, how they are going to present themselves to other faiths. Hinduism’s theological diversity has allowed proponents to engage with Pagans, noting their common ground, while also (sometimes vociferously) portraying themselves as monotheists. It’s a complex subject, but American politics hates complex subjects, and the process of “Americanizing” a diverse decentralized umbrella faith may present roadblocks in the future.

In Other News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!