A Timely Call for Religious Accessibility

Indian women offer prayers at the 'Sangam', confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and mythical Saraswati, on the auspicious oc
Indian women offer prayers at the 'Sangam', confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and mythical Saraswati, on the auspicious occasion of “Basant Panchami” at the annual traditional fair of Magh Mela in Allahabad, India, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. Basant Panchami, the fifth day of spring is celebrated by worshipping Hindu Goddess of knowledge and wisdom, Saraswati. Hundreds of thousands of devout Hindus bathe at the confluence during the astronomically auspicious period of over 45 days celebrated as “Magh Mela”. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

My Hindu education has neglected to teach me how to apply my religion in my life. Yes, I went to Sunday school where I memorized shlokas and mantras. I sat, texted, or fell asleep during numerous pujas. After 21 years and some soul searching, I can say that I know some of the basic philosophies and stories behind Hinduism.

Though I am proud to be a Hindu, I must admit that I struggle to find applicability of my religion in my college. This struggle has been prevalent throughout various stages of my childhood as well. Maybe it's my lack of knowledge or an absence of resources, but I don't think I've explicitly ever been told how I, as a 10 year old, 15 year old, and now 21 year old, could interpret the depths of my religion and piece it together for my daily life. Talking to my peers who share similar sentiments, I have discovered that this has become a problem for Hindus.

The problem manifests itself in two different types of people
  • Group number 1: People who shut themselves down from their religion because of a lack of understanding
  • Group number 2: People whose yearning to understand religion leads them down the a path of misinformed beliefs and interpretations

Group number 1 is problematic because as Hindu Americans and minorities, it is important for us to make sure that our cultural and religious memory lives on for the next generations to experience. If Hindu Americans are denying Hinduism because they don't understand it, how will the religion continue on and evolve for Hindu Americans?

Group number 2, however, is far more dangerous than group number 1. This group self teaches Hinduism because they want to learn but lack resources. These people can become extremists due to their inability to properly interpret their religion. Eboo Patel's Acts of Faith asserts that hateful religious groups exist due to the lack of relevant religious education. People turn to believe corrupt religious views because they yearn for religious value in their everyday lives but lack the education to decipher the true religious groups from the other.

I see both of these groups manifest in the U.S. today. Group number 1 exists in my college life. I see Hindu Americans my age push their religion away because they just don't know where to start, don't have the time, and don't know how it will add to their daily lives. I have seen the emergence of group number 2 in this election cycle. I was horrified to find a "Hindus for Trump" Facebook page with 721 likes. The rhetoric they use, in the name of "Hinduism" focuses on dehumanizing immigrants and Muslims, all of which fundamentally goes against the core of Hinduism.

I write this blog post now because of the urgency of the situation. I believe, as Hindus, it is our duty to decrease the presence of these two groups. Hindu leaders and parents, I urge you to make our religion more accessible. I urge you to teach me and my peers why Hinduism adds value to our lives. I urge you to teach us how to apply it on a daily basis. I urge you to teach us the compassion and discipline we need to prevent these groups from existing. I urge you to please teach us true Hindu ways before it is too late.