The guru movements that flourished in the countercultural spiritual experimentation of the long decade of the 1960s continue to draw followers today. Traveling yogis exhibited their gymnophysical prowess to American audiences, often operating within and exaggerating orientalist tropes for their own profit. They adhere to the teaching that Brahman, the essence of the universe or, in their view, the Supreme Consciousness, is formless and indescribable, save for the attributes of sat-chit-ananda—absolute existence, consciousness, and bliss. In our fight for Hindu dignity, we are championing American pluralism.”31 American multiculturalism demands that Hindu Americans represent their religion and cultural heritage in the public sphere in order to be considered fully American, to occupy legible, hyphenated identities. Swami Vivekananda, Raja-Yoga or Conquering the Internal Nature (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1994). 1. In these cases, the paths themselves are referred to as yoga: bhakti yoga is the path of devotion, karma yoga is the path of action, and jñāna yoga is the path of knowledge. Both aimed to combat and convert Hindus, but the Unitarians were excited by what they believed to be new forms of monistic and even monotheistic Hinduism that were emerging from the Hindu reform initiatives of the early 19th century. Festival occasions like Diwali provide opportunities for Hindus to celebrate both their ethnic and religious heritage and to represent it with grandeur in the American multireligious landscape. In 1900, seven years after Vivekananda set foot in America, there were only about 1,700 Hindus. In 1940, he published his most famous writing, Autobiography of a Yogi, which combined the personal account of his own yogic path blended with an account of the most extraordinary and miraculous yogis of India. Most of the Hindus living in America are Indian Americans. Masculinity, Hinduism, and Nationalism in India (New York: State University of New York Press, 2005); and Joanne Punzo Waghorne, “Global Gurus and the Third Stream of American Religiosity,” in Political Hinduism: The Religious Imagination in Public Spheres, ed. Americans still know very little about Hinduism and many of the predominant images are negative. Religious and cultural allegiances are a critical influence on identity formation in the dislocated context of the immigrant experience. Hinduism in America: A Convergence of Worlds: Long, Jeffery D.: Amazon.sg: Books. Srinivas Aravamudan, Guru English: South Asian Religion in a Cosmopolitan Language (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 40. Brian Pennington argues convincingly that “the historical role of the colonizer was not to invent Hinduism either by blunder or design, but to introduce an economy of concepts and power relations that dramatically enhanced the value of such identity markers.”3 While the provenance of Hinduism is still a contested issue among scholars, there is no question that Hindus (and their practices and beliefs) have thrived on the subcontinent since the Vedic period. Like many polarizing debates, the truth of the matter likely lies somewhere in the spaces between. In most cases, Hindu temples and organizations continue to be internally focused on providing resources to communities of Indian Hindus, such as language and scripture instruction, social support networks, ethnic food, and pan-Indian and regional festivals and events. This form of practical ecumenism is also evidenced in the urban developments in India, wherein temples become ecumenical as they become increasingly cosmopolitan.26 As Hindu populations increased in strength, diversity, and financial resources, this physical expression of ecumenism decreased. One of the most important additions to the temple architecture of Hinduism in the United States has been the rapid expansion of BAPS Swaminarayan Hinduism. The Encyclopedia of Hinduism was sponsored by the India Heritage Research Foundation (based in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania), referenced in Prema Kurien, A Place at the Multicultural Table: The Development of an American Hinduism (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007), 51. This era also encouraged non-Indian Americans to don the religious and cultural apparatus of yoga and Indian mysticism, in efforts to draw power from the prevalent orientalist tropes of the day. The result is that many ideas derived from Hinduism are not attributed to Hinduism, and this continues to foster debates about religious misrepresentation and erasure in the public sphere. 44. Nitasha Tamar Sharma’s insightful book Hip Hop Desis: South Asians, Blackness, and Global Race Consciousness (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010); Ajay Nair and Murali Balaji, eds., Desi Rap: Hip Hop and South Asian America (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008); and Erika Lee, The Making of Asian America: A History (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2015). Often their membership networks overlap significantly. BAPS Swaminarayan Hinduism began as a guru devotional movement, but it soon became articulated as a branch of traditional Hinduism. Adrienne Moore, Rammohun Roy and America (Calcutta: Brahmo Mission Press, 1942), 155. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice). Vivekananda was instrumental in popularizing the neo-Vedantic view that all religions are “the same light coming through different colors … But in the heart of everything the same truth reigns.”16 The Brahmo-Samajists at the World’s Parliament of Religions also told their American audiences of a theistic monism at the core of Hinduism. He systematized his thought and built a religious organization, the Self-Realization Fellowship, which has since become one of the most institutionalized forms of guru-led Hinduism in the United States. Some of them were open and welcoming toward the general public, while others were protectionist and exclusive to devotees only. Mrinalini Sinha, “Introduction,” in Mother India: Selections from the Controversial 1927 Text, 2d ed. The outward conviction that all gods are one provides an ecumenical veneer that enables the veneration of multiple sectarian and regional forms of the divine. Are Hindu’s allowed to divorce? Once there, many of them allied with Mexican farmers and married into Mexican families, creating entire generations of Punjabi-Mexicans in a fascinating moment of American ethnic history.21 In 1923, Bhagat Singh Thind’s appeal to be considered as a U.S. citizen was denied on the basis of his race. The Hinduism that flourished in the North American context drew heavily from the neo-Vedantic theology of monism, which was propagated by Hindu reform movements in the 19th century. Christianity reigned supreme in America, and all else bordered dangerously on heathenism. Devotees revered their gurus not only as charismatic leaders but often as infallible divine persons, which meant that when accusations of misconduct were levied, they were rarely believed initially by fellow community members. 2. 41. The most common religious event in which Hindus participate is Diwali, the festival of lights, with nearly ubiquitous participation. The 1980s and 1990s signified a major milestone in the “institutionalization of Hinduism” in the United States.27 Hindu immigrant communities in the United States became particularly motivated to establish Hindu resources, such as educational materials, student networks, and defense organizations in response to their children’s exposure to negative stereotyping. 48% of Hindus have post-graduate degrees. As such Brahman can be realized through multiple paths and worshipped in various aspects according to one’s personal spiritual proclivities. In 1902, Swami Ramtirtha and in 1920 Paramhansa Yogananda taught Hindu philosophy to citizens of the USA but still the presence of Hinduism was negligible until 1965 when Immigration and Nationality Services (INS) Act of 1965 was passed. The new immigrants wanted to practice their faith cente… 50. 9. Like the Hindus, the Mayas had knowledge of zero, they were the only ones besides the Indians, using this mathematical concept. 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