[GHHF] From yoga to Julia Roberts, Hinduism goes mainstream

21 Jan 2011 2180 Views


Sanatana Dharma or Eternal Religion is a religion with no inherent animosity to any other religion. It only talks about Vasudhaiva Kutumbam. It's values, morals, and ethics are universal, not sectarian. They are applicable all times to entire human race. It's philosophy had spread to Malaysia, Indonesia, Phillipines, Thailand, Myanmar, China, Japan, China, Afghanistan and Korea.  Once the Ambassador for China in the US said

"India is the only country in the world which had conquered many nations without even sending out one soldier"

Hindus are about 2.2 million in USA. It's impact is being felt by the way Americans are embracing Yoga. meditation, karma philosophy, the concept of reincarnation, vegetarianism and spiritual outlook.

Let us remember what Mark Twain said of India:

"This is India! The land of dreams and romance ...  the country of a hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays bear date with the mouldering antiquities of the rest of the nations—the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prate."

Please enjoy reading this article, talk to our children and grand children and make them proud of their religion. Let us all be small instruments in practicing. preserving and spreading it in USA and to the entire globe.


V. V. Prakasa Rao, PhD

Global Hindu Heritage Foundation


From yoga to Julia Roberts, Hinduism goes mainstream


Jan 29, 2011 | 1129 views

Julia Roberts shouldn’t be the icon conjured up when envisioning humanity’s oldest living religion.
And yet the star of Eat, Pray, Love, about a woman’s spiritual journey through India and other places, became just that when she revealed that she, her husband and their three children were Hindu.

Not since George Harrison introduced the world to Indian mysticism in the 1960s has the 6,000-year-old faith experienced such headlines.

Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, J.D Salinger, pop star Katy Perry and NFL running back Rickie Williams all practiced some form of Hinduism. Britney Spears had her 4-month-old son blessed in a Hindu temple.

It was Gandhi who transformed the Hindu ideal of ahimsa, nonviolence toward all living beings, into a political and social movement that later inspired Martin Luther King Jr.

Hinduism has a rich, though rather low-key, American history, but that’s starting to change thanks to such high-profile devotees as Julia Roberts.

“Popular stars talking about Hinduism only helps,” said Vandna Kashyap, a Hindu mother of three in Anniston. “Many people are interested in movie stars and their beliefs. They can identify more with what American movie stars describe about the religion and its practice than from a foreigner.”

Growing up in an area dominated by Christianity, Vandna Kashyap’s 17-year-old daughter, Nisha, got used to the questions: Do you believe in heaven? Do you go to church? As a child, being Hindu made Nisha feel “weird.” But now the Donoho High School senior has learned to embrace what once made her different.

“Soon I realized that I am unique,” she said. “I have a background and a story, a religion so different from those around me. I think it’s fun when people ask me about my culture and religion. I feel like I have something special to share.”

Today, many of the philosophies, sacred practices and even some of the 33 million Hindu deities have achieved a pop-culture cachet.

It’s nothing to see a housewife practicing yoga on a Wii, to buy icons of Shiva the Destroyer at Pier 1 or a T-shirt from Target emblazoned with the “ohm” symbol, signifying the rounded wholeness of Brahman.

Having aspects of Hinduism fall into the pop-culture vernacular is a blessing, said Sam Shah, president of the board of trustees for the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Birmingham.

“Hindu faith is known as sanatan faith,” he said. “This means it is a universal faith for all human beings without considering any color, cast, faith and origin. Hindu faith tells me that we are brothers and sisters under the fatherhood of God — it can be any Krishna, Ram, Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha.

“Let us all enjoy the heavenly earth.”

‘India is in the limelight’

While 76 percent of Americans continue to identify as Christian, the more than 2.2 million Hindu Americans — a fraction of the nearly 1 billion on Earth — are making their presence known, though largely under the religious radar.

“From the practical — yoga, meditation, vegetarianism — to the more esoteric — belief in karma and reincarnation … core concepts of Hinduism are not only being embraced by Americans, but are slowly being assimilated into the American collective consciousness just as Judeo-Christian values were a generation before,” said Suhag Shukla, co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation.

But assimilation doesn’t necessarily translate into understanding. “Hinduism is often misunderstood or misrepresented,” said Vandna Kashyap. “It can be confusing. Hinduism is not a monotheistic religion, as most other religions are. Hinduism is just a way of life.”

While it might be fashionable to get a henna tattoo or practice yoga, these are merely glimpses into the culture of Hinduism and do not fully represent the depth of this ancient religion or its people … but it’s a start, Kashyap said.

“By the same token, India was only known for its snake charmers and cows roaming its streets,” she said. “India has a much deeper, more vast, very ancient culture. It’s immense dance forms, many spices, different cloths, vivid rich saris, amazing temples, incredible sculptures … the list goes on.

“I’m glad that people are becoming more and more aware of that, even if it stems from the fascination with the Bollywood stars or the fashion.

“India is in the limelight … more people are traveling (there) and learning about its rich culture and heritage. That’s nice to see.”

Conflicts with Christianity

In India, yoga was free, practiced in public parks and ashrams as part of the Hindu commitment to an austere life. It was led by yogis, holy men in loincloths who abstained from alcohol, prayed, meditated and chanted for hours a day.

Today, more than 30 million Americans practice some form of yoga, an industry that generates an estimated $6 billion.

Jill Timmons considers yoga a “godsend.”

Every morning, after dropping off her three kids at school and clearing away the breakfast dishes, the 41-year-old changes into her workout clothes and turns on the flat-screen TV in the family room.

Using her Wii Fit video game console, Timmons spends upwards of 45 minutes practicing yoga, crediting it for helping her lose 20 pounds and giving her “the flexibility of a teen-age cheerleader.”

But she won’t go so far as to call it a spiritual exercise. “It’s about what works for me,” she said. “I don’t necessarily feel closer to God because I practice yoga in front of the TV, but I do feel more in tune with my body. That helps to center my thoughts on other things.”

While yoga is not a religion in the traditional sense, it is considered a spiritual path designed to reach the divine, which could fundamentally put it at odds with Christianity, said Rajiv Malhorta, founder of Infinity Foundation, in a recent essay, “A Hindu View of Christian Yoga,” written for The Huffington Post.

“Yoga’s metaphysics center around the quest to attain liberation from one’s conditioning caused by past karma,” Malhorta wrote. “Karma includes the baggage from prior lives, underscoring the importance of reincarnation. While it is fashionable for many Westerners to say they believe in karma and reincarnation, they have seldom worked out the contradictions with core biblical doctrines.”

Yoga transcends creeds

But most who teach and practice yoga believe its benefits transcend individual pronouncements of faith.

“The practice of yoga is a philosophy or way of life, but not a religion,” said Mariya Bullock, founder of the Anniston Yoga Center. Bullock has been practicing yoga since she was 11 years old. But it was at the age of 26, after sustaining a lingering back injury following a marathon in Frankfurt, Germany, that she recommitted her life to yoga.

“There is no need to attach a religious label to yoga, anymore than there is a need to attach a religious label to penicillin,” said Bullock, who is a Christian. “Regardless of one’s religious affiliation, the medication will do its work without bias.”

But C.O. Grinstead, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Oxford, believes that there is only one path to inner peace.

“In the Christian society today, we are substituting various things for peace, tranquility, conformity,” Grinstead said. “Why do we need to go to ‘substitutes’ to find calmness and a peaceful spirit? What happens to us is that when we hear this new thing, solution or practice, then we quickly run after it rather than to the Lord, who is the Prince of Peace … Why do we need to use yoga when we have Jesus?”

Cheryl Moody has been practicing yoga for some 25 years, spending the last three years as an instructor at the Anniston YMCA. Most who come to learn from her are seeking not only to gain strength and flexibility but also a sense of community, which is fostered in yoga classes.

“Yoga is a mind/body/spirit practice done with intention, so you practice it in a more present way than other, more traditional forms of strength training,” Moody said. “Yoga means to yoke or unite your breath with movement; this clears the mind as well as strengthens the body.

“Yoga also offers the opportunity to quiet all that internal chatter.”

Contact Brett Buckner at brett.buckner@yahoo.com

Hinduism 101

From about 1500 BC, they threaded the passes of the Hindu Kush mountain range, spilling across the vast wedge of earth bordered by the seas and massive walls of ice and rock.

As they wandered this new world, mingling their own and native beliefs, they praised the sun for giving them fire and light, praised the air for giving them life, praised the earth for remaining firm beneath their feet. Their sacred lore, or Vedas, extolled the gifts of nature as gods, yet asked, “To which god shall we dedicate our offerings?”

The many could not exist without the One.

“I have seen him … beyond the darkness,” exclaimed the Vedic. It was a revelation that would soon give rise to the Ultimate Reality

In the beginning there was neither naught nor aught:

Then there was neither sky nor atmosphere above …

Then there was neither day nor night, nor light, nor darkness...

Only the Existent One breathed calmly, self-contained.

The central idea of Hinduism is the concept of Brahman, the Supreme Being, the God above all gods, the source of universal life.

The worshiper might seek favors or blessing from any of a multitude of deities within the Hindu pantheon, which numbers some 33 million gods, but each is an aspect of the all-embracing, “thousand-headed” Brahman.

“Truth is One,” the Vedas proclaimed. “They call him by different names.”

Next in importance comes the trinity of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer.

Brahma is held above all others in popular rites, but Vishnu and Shiva are venerated in hundreds of guises. Vishnu, beloved protector of the world, has 10 chief avatars, or forms in which he descends to earth. Among them are Rama and Krishna, heroes of India’s two epics, the Rammayana and the Mahabharata. Other avatars include the historical Buddha and Kalkin, a savior yet to come.

Shiva, god of destruction, is also the restorer of life and lord of the cosmic dance of creation.

With no founder or uniform dogma, what is generally believed to be humanity’s oldest living religion essentially started itself.

Its name, “Hinduism,” derives not from doctrine but geography: the Sanskrit word sindhu or indus, means “ocean” or “river.”

Over six millennia, new cults and philosophies have enriched it, waves of reform have challenged it. Other religions, from Buddhism to Christianity, have brought their witness to India and strengthened, rather than weakened, this tolerant, diverse faith.

Today, Hinduism is practiced by upwards of 1 billion people worldwide, 98 percent of which live in India.

—    Brett Buckner

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