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Does Hinduism Have a Future in America?

Dr. Frank Gaetano Morales

Published on Friday, October 14, 2005
Accessed 1724 Times
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  • Introduction

    The mutual histories of both Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) and that of the United States of America have been intimately intertwined for the last two centuries. Though the two cultures have been so different from one another in many important ways, the profound and continuing influence of the world's most ancient spiritual culture on one of the earth's youngest nations cannot be denied. Hindu culture, ideas, philosophy, spirituality, and practices have found an eager audience in America since at least the early 19th century. While today, in the dawn of the 21st century, Hindu influence has continued to mould the American cultural psyche in many ways, surprisingly, Sanatana Dharma finds itself increasingly in danger of becoming assimilated into the greater American mainstream, and of losing its own sense of identity as a unique and vibrant religious tradition. Many important elements of Sanatana Dharma have certainly had a powerful presence in the making of American history and culture. The question now is whether or not Sanatana Dharma itself has a secure place in America's future.

    Turning East: America Discovers Dharma

    The Hindu presence in America is longstanding and deeply pervasive. The first instances of these influences can be seen in the writings of several important 19th century American intellectuals. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) and Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), two of the most important writers and philosophers of the New England Transcendentalist movement, were quite vocal in their admiration of Sanatana Dharma, the Bhagavad Gita, and Upanishadic philosophy. Having first read the famous Bhagavad Gita in 1832, Emerson wrote the following about his profound experience with this most important of Hindu scriptures:

      It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered over and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.
    Thoreau, too, inspired by his first reading of the Bhagavad Gita, wrote the following about his admiration for Sanatana Dharma:
      Beside the vast and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagvat-Geeta, even our Shakespeare seems sometimes youthfully green…Ex oriente lux [Light from the East] may still be the motto of scholars, for the Western world has not yet derived from the East all the light which it is destined to derive thence.
    Similarly, many other important figures of 19th century America bathed themselves in the “Light from the East”, and incorporated many elements of Sanatana Dharma for their own purposes. Many of these American intellectuals borrowed liberally from Sanatana Dharma, but often without giving proper credit and acknowledgement of their dependence upon Sanatana Dharma. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science Church, is known to have derived much of her theology from her readings of the Upanishads. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society, was likewise wholly dependent upon her knowledge of Sanatana Dharma for the formulation of her world-view and teachings.

    The Light of the East Comes West

    While many of 19th century America's leading intellectuals, writers, theologians and artists turned to Hindu India for wisdom and insight, it was not until “the East” itself came to America that Sanatana Dharma truly gained widespread appreciation and acclaim. Without doubt, the most significant 19th century event responsible for America's deep admiration of Sanatana Dharma was the momentous arrival of Swami Vivekananda on American shores in 1893.

    A Hindu sannyasi steeped in both knowledge of Vedic truth, as well as Western philosophy and religion, Vivekananda was, without doubt, one of Sanatana Dharma's greatest heroes and ambassadors to the nascent global civilization of modernity. Previous to Vivekananda's arrival in the U.S., all American intellectuals' knowledge of Sanatana Dharma was absent the important element of a living Hindu voice. Americans had up till then experienced a Hinduism devoid of Hindus, a theoretical Vedanta without the breathing presence of a Vedanta Acharya, a Yoga without living Yogis. Vivekananda's historic speech before Chicago's World Parliament of Religions in 1893 is the first instance in American history of a living representative of Sanatana Dharma being allowed to represent Sanatana Dharma in its own voice, on its own terms, and from its own intrinsic perspective. Sanatana Dharma, as beautifully portrayed by Swami Vivekananda, set ablaze in the American imagination an interest in Hindu philosophy and religion the likes of which America had not seen previously.

    Swami Vivekananda was one of the greatest heroes and ambassadors of Sanatana Dharma to the West. It would be very difficult to overestimate the extremely important and positive impact that he had in the furtherance of the cause of Hindu renaissance. Swami Vivekananda will always be remembered throughout history for his courage, strength and determination to have the entire world understand the greatness of Sanatana Dharma.

    Along with the neo-Vedanta of Vivekananda, early 20th century America witnessed a dramatic growth of interest in such elements of Sanatana Dharma as Yoga, meditation, and bhakti. Such appeal was sparked by the presence of yet more Hindu teachers who came to the States in the first few decades after Vivekananda's momentous speaking tours. These historic figures include Premananda Bharati and Swami Yogananda.

    Without doubt, however, the explosive interest in Sanatana Dharma that we are witnessing today owes its antecedent momentum to the 1960s. In the 60s, America witnessed several concurrent trends that starkly marked the spiked growth of Sanatana Dharma in the West. In the early 60s, Martin Luther King, Jr., the great leader of the African-American civil rights movement, openly acknowledged his dependence upon the ideas of Gandhi for the success of his own movement. In the mid-sixties, immigration policy was altered so as to allow the influx of hundreds of thousands of new arrivals from India. This is a trend that has continued today, and has resulted in the presence of roughly two million people of South Asian origin currently living in the United States. Along with their hopes of sharing in the relative prosperity of the American Dream, many of these Hindu arrivals have brought with them important sacred elements of their precious Hindu heritage.

    The most important development that began in the 1960s, however, was the beginning of the influx of dozens and hundreds more living representatives of Santana Dharma. Gurus, swamis, yogis and acharyas from India arrived in America, many of whom started movements that would ultimately be responsible for introducing tens of millions of Americans and Europeans to a taste of Sanatana Dharma. Such latter-day Vivekanandas include: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Sri Swami Rama, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja, Swami Satchidananda, and many others too numerous to mention. America witnessed the explosive growth of things Indian in the 1960s.

    Today, in 2005, we are witnessing the mainstreaming of Sanatana Dharma. NRI success in America has become legendary, with the Indian Hindu community now representing the most successful minority community in the nation. Over 700 traditional Hindu temples have been built in America, with another 20 or so being built every year. In the post-9/11 geopolitical scene we are seeing dramatically increasing rapprochement between India and the U.S. in the War on Terror, as well as on economic, military and political cooperation - a trend that can only increase the admiration of the general American public toward both India and Sanatana Dharma.

    Most significantly, however, many of the most important elements of Sanatana Dharma have been gaining increasing acceptance and popularity with a very large number of Americans. In 2005, roughly 18 million Americans are practicing Yoga. In multiple polls of American religious beliefs and attitudes, up to 25% of Americans believe in reincarnation. Tens of millions of Americans meditate. Over 20 million are vegetarian. Almost half the population has turned to alternative health systems, such as Ayurveda, herbal medicine and massage. Looking at the widespread acceptance of these many elements of Sanatana Dharma, it would seem that we are almost experiencing a “Hinduization” of the American cultural milieu.

    Vivid Examples of American Hindus

    While admittedly, the vast majority of these Americans tend to be interested exclusively in the various elements of Sanatana Dharma, to the exclusion of overt Hindu identification, many Americans have openly and proudly embraced Sanatana Dharma itself as their own religious tradition. Indeed, many have become respected authorities and globally recognized spokespersons for the tradition. David Frawley, Steven Knapp, Georg Feuerstein, and I myself represent only several of the many better-known American converts to Sanatana Dharma. Hinduism Today magazine, by far the highest quality and most widely circulated periodical on Sanatana Dharma on earth today, is created and staffed primarily by American converts to Sanatana Dharma.

    Taking the Cross out of the Crossroads

    Still, despite the increasing popularity in America of many isolated elements and practices of Sanatana Dharma, most Americans are more interested in the immediate benefits of these useful individual facets of Sanatana Dharma than they are in Sanatana Dharma itself. Americans are interested in Yoga asanas, but are not as interested in become self-realized Yogis. They are interested in meditation for its calming effects, but not necessarily as a means to achieve samadhi. They are primarily interested in the many goodies that Sanatana Dharma has to offer, but without taking the next logical step of becoming Hindus, or in many cases without even acknowledging the purely Hindu origins of the many practices that they have derived so much benefit from.

    Thus, while many useful aspects of Sanatana Dharma have become increasingly popular, today Sanatana Dharma finds itself standing at an important crossroads, certainly in America, but also in India and globally. With profit-driven Americans increasingly exploiting Hindu elements for their own financial gain, we are beginning to see Sanatana Dharma as a unique and vital religious tradition being eclipsed. While elements of Hinduism become more popular in America, Hinduism itself is in danger of being assimilated into the greater cultural milieu, just another ingredient – albeit a nicely spicy one – of the great American melting-pot. We face the very real possibility of authentic Sanatana Dharma becoming co-opted into the greater American cultural matrix as nothing more than a menagerie of disparate elements used to market New Age spirituality. We are in danger of losing the heart of Sanatana Dharma itself, as a unique and separate tradition of its own. And more, as these elements of Sanatana Dharma rise in popularity in America, they are tragically declining in India.

    For the sake of this present paper, however, I will be focusing primarily on the American scene for now. The situation of Sanatana Dharma in Bharat (India) will be saved for a future paper.

    The Challenges Sanatana Dharma Faces Today

    There are several concurrent factors that are responsible for the dangerous situation that Sanatana Dharma currently finds itself in:

    A) A Lack of Systematically Trained Hindu Leadership
    The greatest challenge by far that Sanatana Dharma is facing in the world today is a distinct crisis of leadership. Every other major world religious tradition has systematic, comprehensive, and well-formulated means of training their religious and lay leaders. Such training usually includes (but is not limited to) training in the religion's theological tenets, critical thinking skills, debating/speaking/writing skills, comparative analyses of what other religions believe, principles of effective leadership, administrative training, etc. 

    The Catholic Church, for example, gives its priests years of such training in the seminary before they are seen as proper stewards for their congregations. Priests of the Catholic Jesuit Order, as one case in point, often rarely have anything less that a Masters degree, with many of these priest having Ph.D.s. Protestant / Evangelical Christian missionaries, Muslim Imams, Jewish Rabbis, and even Buddhist monks, undergo similarly rigorous training to lead their respective communities. When I was studying for my Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for example, there were no less than 6 Buddhist monks and nuns working on their Ph.D.s in my department. Their plan, upon graduation, was to use their education to serve their respective Buddhist communities. I, as an American convert to Sanatana Dharma, was the only Hindu in the program. These other religious communities have understood that having a trained leadership is the greatest assurance of community survival.   

    The modern Hindu community, as is currently situated, is severely lacking such effective leadership-creating institutions. Today, there are almost no traditional training facilities left that are designed to create a strong, knowledgeable, confident, and courageous Hindu leadership. Thus, modern Sanatana Dharma is lacking a well-trained leadership that can help defend Sanatana Dharma properly, and guide the Hindu community into the 21st century. The reasons for this current state are multiple: The primary reason has been due to the systematic eradication of our intellectual, spiritual, and kshatriya (warrior) leadership during the last thousand years of anti-Hindu oppression. While leadership training institutions did exist for thousands of years in Sanatana Dharma in the form of gurukulas, traditional ashramas designed to train leaders in Vedic ritual, thought and philosophy, as well as diverse networks of Hindu educational facilities, these traditional institutions have been systematically destroyed over the last 1000 years during the Hindu Holocaust. Another reason for the current crisis of leadership in Sanatana Dharma is the zealous overemphasis on economic development at the expense of religious development. Truthfully, encouraging our children to become courageous Hindu leaders has taken a back seat to forcing them to become engineers, doctors, IT professionals, and making as much money as possible. Unfortunately, more engineers and doctors and industrialists are not going to ensure the survival of our religious tradition – well-trained and committed religious leaders will! Another factor has been a lack of economic, academic, technological, and strategically visionary resources. Most importantly, however, the reason why we are lacking the institutions necessary for creating a future wave of Hindu leaders is a complete lack of will.

    Without a well-trained leadership, no community can survive.

    B) Radical Universalism
    Radical Universalism is the false teaching that "all religions are the same, that all religions are equal, with no important differences between them".  That Hinduism teaches such a preposterous notion is one of the greatest myths of the last century. Yet despite the fact that this dogma is not actually Hindu in origin, we hear it endlessly parroted by innocent, but unknowing, Hindu parents; by Hindu community leaders; and often even by badly-trained and popularity-seeking gurus who come to the West with a greater yearning to gain a following, than to represent pure and authentic Sanatana Dharma. Without going too deeply into the social, philosophical, theological and historical problems posed by this false notion, suffice it to say that the dogma of Radical Universalism has philosophically weakened Sanatana Dharma to its core, has forced Hindu youth to question the maturity and rationality of Hindu teachings, has made Hindu “philosophy” look silly in the eyes of qualified intellectuals, and have left us open and defenseless to attack by Christian missionaries, Marxist terrorism, and Islamic aggression. I would ask that you please read the 43 page paper that I wrote on the subject, and which Sulekha published in summary form here

    [On an important note, Radical Universalism is not to be mistakenly confused with Hindu universalism, as some commentators have erroneously stated. Hindu universalism is the correct idea that Sanatana Dharma is a philosophy and religion that is open to all people regardless of their national or ethnic origin, and that Dharma is a universal Truth that applies to all people at all times. This is correct. The dogma of Radical Universalism, on the other hand, makes the fanatically sweeping claim that there are no fundamental differences between religions. Radical Universalism is a modern doctrine that is not found in Classical Sanatana Dharma.]

    C) Anti-Hindu Defamation
    There is an academic/media/education/government matrix in America (and now duplicated to perfection in Bharat) that fosters anti-Hindu stereotypes, and has done so very successfully for decades. Rather than standing up and fighting against such anti-Hindu portrayals of Sanatana Dharma (as every other stereotyped group in America has forcefully, loudly, and successfully done), the Hindu community has been so slow to respond to these attacks in the past that many of the anti-Hindu bigots in academia feel they have a free reign to propagate any lies about Sanatana Dharma they wish. They also know that if the Hindu community ever even responds at all, it is usually too little, too late, and in a purely reactionary manner. We need to counter any and all attacks against Sanatana Dharma immediately, forcefully and professionally. 

    Some of us have, in fact, responded forcefully to anti-Hindu defamation in academia – including David Frawley, Koenraad Elst, Subhash Kak, Rajiv Malhotra, Yvette Rosser, and myself, among others. However, the majority of instances in which Hindus are engaged in the marketplace of ideas tends to be only when we need to respond to the attacks of others. Our interactions with academia, and other power-wielding institutions in America, have been almost purely defensive and reactionary in nature.

    The time has now come to go on the intellectual offensive, and to engage in a conscious campaign of ideas. The world knows what the Christian perspective is; what the Islamic perspective, the Marxist perspective, the Feminist perspective are. Now is the time to vigorously educate the world on the precise nature of the Dharma perspective. Such positive Hindu intellectual activity includes creating comparative analyses of Hindu philosophy vs. other thought systems (i.e., comparing Hinduism vs. Christianity, Hinduism vs. Marxism, Hinduism vs. Atheism, Hinduism vs. Post-modernism, etc., etc.). This category of positive Hindu intellectual activity also includes the creation of original critiques, commentaries, and position papers giving the Dharma perspective on the most important issues of the day: the Dharma perspective on the environment, on fiscal policy, on ethics, on terrorism, on women's rights, on race, on poverty, on euthanasia, etc., etc. Unless we come to this crucial stage of positively and assertively projecting the Dharma perspective into the current realm of ideas, Sanatana Dharma will not be taken seriously by either the non-Hindu world, or by our increasingly intelligent and cosmopolitan Hindu youth themselves.

    D) Disaffected Hindu Youth
    Too many young Hindus today feel completely alienated from their religion and from their cultural roots. A large part of this problem is certainly due to the problems mentioned above. In addition, others have pointed to a) the lack of proper education for children about Hinduism, b) the inability of many Hindu priests and leaders to answer their questions properly, and c) the overwhelming influence of popular American culture as additional reasons for why many Hindu children question the validity of their religion. While these and many other causes have certainly contributed greatly to Hindu youths' confusion about Sanatana Dharma, however, the main problem for why Hindu youth so often feel disconnected from their spiritual roots is one that I feel has rarely been addressed. The primary reason is actually a deeply psychological one:  A complete lack of healthy assertiveness, pride, and fearlessness in today's Hindu culture - and especially among contemporary Hinduism's leadership - has left many Hindu youth ashamed of their culture's supposed timidness, lack of self-respect, and lack of courage. Due to the lack of such models of Hindu strength, Hindu youth feel disaffected from their very own religion and culture. Hindu youth living in America have observed throughout their young lives every other group, religion, race, ethnicity, etc. around them proudly and assertively celebrating their own respective religions and cultures. Christians are proud to be Christians. Muslims insist on receiving respect from the greater culture. African-Americans celebrate their history and heritage. Hispanics hold on tenaciously to their language, culture, religion and roots. Only the Hindu community, the typical Hindu youth observes, is afraid to assert itself proudly as an ancient, glorious, and relevant culture, worthy of the greatest respect and admiration.

    America is a culture that fosters and rewards assertiveness, self-respect and pride in one's roots. When Hindu youth look back upon their own families and culture, however, rather than seeing a community that is brimming in a healthy pride in who they are, they often see, instead, a community that is scared to death of making itself known to the outside world, and a community that is often even ashamed of its own religious heritage. The typical Hindu youth in America thus finds herself in a position of alienation from her own Hindu culture, and forced to accept an American Christian culture which she sees as more of a reflection of her own inner need for strength, pride, and assertive self-respect. When then faced with the personal internal choice of either A) siding with the assertive, confident, and unashamed American culture they see around them, or of B) siding with their own parents, families, and community who often seem ashamed and apologetic about anything Hindu, is it any wonder that we lose so many Hindu youth to popular American Christian culture? 

    Like a broken record, Hindu parents, leaders, and activists bemoan the fact that we are losing our youth. The solution to this very real problem is, however, deceptively simple. We are losing our youth because they don't want to be like us. We have been weak; we have been ashamed; we have been reactionary instead of proactive. As a result, we have lost our youth's respect. To regain our children's respect, let us become the examples of Hindu strength, Hindu courage, Hindu conviction, Hindu intelligence, Hindu pride, and Hindu assertiveness that our children so yearn for us to be. Let us stand with dignity and pride, and not be afraid to proclaim to the world: “I am a follower of Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Natural Way, and a servant of the almighty God! Mein Hindu Hun!!”

    And if we Hindus can learn to stand courageously in the face of our many opponents, and serve as examples of strength to our children, I guarantee that our youth will follow our example – and far surpass it.

    E)  Gap Between Indian Hindus and Hidden Hindus
    There are two distinct Hindu communities in America today, 1) Indian Hindus, 2) what I call the “Hidden Hindus”. Indian Hindus tend to be healthy cultural Hindus. That is, they have no difficulty identifying themselves with the term “Hindu”, and seeing themselves as being part of an ancient religious tradition. But sadly, very few Indian Hindus actually study Hindu philosophy or scriptures seriously, or practice the all-important elements of Hinduism such as Yoga, meditation, etc.

    The Hidden Hindus, on the other hand, include at least 1-2 million non-Indian Americans (Caucasians, African-Americans, Hispanics, etc.) who practice Yoga, meditation, vegetarianism, believe in reincarnation and karma, study the Vedic scriptures, etc., but who – despite the fact that they are practicing Sanatana Dharma - will not call themselves "Hindu", and do not understand that they are part of an ancient and living religious tradition. We need to do everything in our power to bring these two communities together, to bridge this gap, if we are going to have a vibrant and meaningful Sanatana Dharma thrive in America's future. 

    The Indian Hindus must learn from the Hidden Hindus, and begin to seriously study the teachings of Sanatana Dharma, as well as practice Yoga, meditation, etc. The Hidden Hindus, on the other hand, must learn from their Indian Hindu brethren, and begin to consciously identify themselves as followers of a distinct and beautiful religious tradition called Sanatana Dharma. In this way, each of these currently distinct Hindu communities will teach each other what the other lacks…and together we can celebrate and practice Sanatana Dharma as a vibrant community of faith.

    Having looked at a few of the major problems confronting Sanatana Dharma in America today, there are several solutions that the Hindu community must implement immediately if it is going to preserve Vedic culture and secure a future for Hindu children.


    A) Hindus Must Develop a Formidable and Well-trained Leadership
    We need to hold our present leaders – both Hindu activist leaders, as well as our current crop of gurus, swamis, and sadhus – to a much higher standard than we do at present. It is no longer acceptable for “swamijis” to flock to America, gain a large and profitable following among American devotees, only to then abandon their allegiance to Hinduism by telling their American followers that what they are practicing has nothing to do with Hinduism. Such Radical Universalist “gurus” wish to have it both ways – telling their American followers that they are not really practicing Sanatana Dharma per se, while simultaneously approaching the Indian Hindu community for donations and support. When our own supposed leaders shy away from being proud Hindus, how are we to expect our own children to behave any different? We need a stronger, more honest, and more credible Hindu leadership than this if Hinduism is going to have a meaningful future in America.

    B) The Hindu Activist as a Servant of God
    In their volunteer work, Hindu activists must be motivated by the insights derived from their own spiritual experience, an attitude of bhakti (devotion) toward God, and an overarching desire to serve God. They cannot be motivated merely by political ideology or ambition, or even merely by a fondness for Indian culture. Hindu lay-leaders, such as the many dedicated volunteers of the RSS, the HSS, the Vishva Hindu Parishad, and other Hindu activist organizations who are active today, must themselves deeply understand, and boldly proclaim to the world, that Sanatana Dharma is a religious tradition and has a purely spiritual goal, and that goal is to know God and to achieve spiritual emancipation. We must no longer shy away from the spiritual nature and goals of Sanatana Dharma.

    It has been a source of amazement to me over the years that so many Hindu activists and lay-leaders I have met, who otherwise are very dedicated and sincere volunteers for the Hindu cause, are in their personal lives often very unspiritual people.

    Several months ago, I had a meeting with one of the most important leaders of the RSS. After at least an hour of intense discussion with him about the current state of Sanatana Dharma throughout the world, and strategies for making Sanatana Dharma a global force again, he eventually shifted the conversation by asking me if I would mind a more personal question from him. When I said I would not mind a personal question, this is what he asked me: “Dr. Morales. You are so passionate and enthusiastic about your work to save Hinduism…more so than most Indian Hindus I've known. You weren't born Hindu; and you're not Indian. Why are you so eager to save Hinduism? What is it that motivates you?”

    My answer to him was immediate and direct: “I care about Sanatana Dharma because I want to know and serve God.”

    The reaction that this top leader of the Hindu RSS had to my answer has amazed and haunted me to this day. At first, his eyes glazed over, dumbfounded by my answer. Immediately proceeding this, his eyes then began to quickly dart around the room in a confused mental search as he tried to grasp the meaning of my answer. “What do you mean?!?” he finally thought to ask me a very long half-minute later.

    “A deep personal yearning to know God, and a strong desire to serve God with bhakti (devotion) and an attitude of surrender, should be the only motivation for why one is a Hindu activist,” I said to him, “Without this pure spiritual motivation…why else would one care about the fate of Sanatana Dharma?”

    Our leaders must be motivated by such a desire to serve God, and must have as the very foundation of their personal character, a deeply rooted experience of the Transcendent, fostered by a living and meaningful sadhana life. Without such purely spiritual motivations, our Hindu activists will merely be motivated by political gain, or at best, an empty pride in secular Indian culture.

    C) Distinguishing Between Dharma and Adharma
    We need to create systematic critical analyses of non-Hindu religions, ideologies, and thought-systems. Too often, when a modern Hindu encounters an anti-Hindu ideology (like Christianity, Islam or Marxism), instead of having the courage to defend Sanatana Dharma by, not only discussing the very real differences between the respective ideologies, but going so far as to show the actual superiority of Sanatana Dharma, they will instead try to weakly appease the opponent.  "Oh we Hindus are the best Marxists!"  "We love Mohammed in Sanatana Dharma!"  “Oh, I'm a Christian Hindu…I love Jesus so much.” etc., etc.  When we adopt such tactics of appeasement, we only end up looking like foolish children in the eyes of our opponents, and like cowards in the eyes of our children. We must no longer be afraid to actively engage non-Hindu systems of thought, and to show how Sanatana Dharma is not only distinct from them, but has much from which they can learn.

    D) We must be able to vigorously defend the traditional essence of Sanatana Dharma, unaltered and unwatered-down, while also learning to adopt the famed American sense of excellence and professionalism.  We must seek nothing less than absolute excellence in everything that we do in the name of Dharma. In everything we do in the name of Sanatana Dharma, we must aspire to the highest degrees of qualitative excellence - whether this be in the realm of writing, Hindu website development, organizational operations, philosophical polemics, the presentation of Sanatana Dharma to non-Hindus, in our behavior, ethics, eloquence and motivations. To merely say “It's good enough” is not good enough for Dharma.

    The Future of Sanatana Dharma in America

    Sanatana Dharma, I feel, not only has a future in America, but America, more than any other nation on earth at present, is potentially the stage upon which a revitalized Sanatana Dharma as a global force can once again reemerge. America itself signals several potentially important attitudes and mindsets that Sanatana Dharma must adopt if it is to have a future at all. This is so for the following reasons:

    A) Sanatana Dharma as a Multi-ethnic Community
    Unlike the case in Bharat, or any other nation on earth at present, Sanatana Dharma in America is very much a multi-racial, multi-ethnic phenomenon.  Only here do we see Indian Hindus, Sri Lankan Hindus, Nepali Hindus, Caribbean Hindus, Caucasian Hindus, Black Hindus, Hispanic Hindus, Chinese Hindus, etc. all practicing Hinduism – even if they are not always practicing it together. In America, we are beginning to have a glimpse in microcosmic form of what the world would look like if Sanatana Dharma were to be the primary world religion, as I believe it will be in the not too distant future. Moreover, the example and fact of a multi-ethnic Vedic culture will display for the world the truly universal nature of Sanatana Dharma as the future religion of the world, and not only of Bharat.

    B) Ancient Dharma with a Modern Face
    Sanatana Dharma in America will be instantiated as the most ancient religion on earth, but with a thoroughly modern face and attitude. American culture is a culture that fosters and celebrates success. It encourages a sense of practicality, excellence, a no-nonsense attitude, and high standards in every endeavor. These are all mindsets that Sanatana Dharma at one time also shared and taught when Vedic culture was historically at its greatest strength. It will now relearn these values from America.

    C) Sanatana Dharma on the Cutting Edge
    Here in America, more than anywhere else on earth, we will witness a revitalized Sanatana Dharma coupled with the most cutting-edge technology. Just as the IT revolution has begun to transform Bharat in ways we could not imagine only a decade or two ago, similarly the IT revolution will help to bring about a Dharma revolution globally as we begin to use the latest technology in the form of the Internet, DVDs, computer graphics, etc., to get our message out. Not only is Sanatana Dharma not opposed to the use of technology, but we must and will use such technology in Dharma seva.

    D) Revitalized Hindu Youth
    Long have we bemoaned the Americanization of Hindu youth. My prediction, however, is that in America, we will soon witness a veritable army of these very same Americanized, savvy, cool, energized and very practically-minded Hindu youth coming back to Sanatana Dharma. And when they do, they will be the vanguard of a new and truly American Hinduism that will instantiate the very best of both worlds – bringing together the very best of the most ancient with the very best of the most cutting-edge.

    Does Hinduism Have a Future in America?

    Like two wings of the same powerful eagle, Sanatana Dharma and the best of American culture must be coupled together in partnership if either is going to have a meaningful future. If this can happen, not only will Hinduism have a future in America…Hinduism will be America's future!

    Futures, however, do not merely occur. Futures are made. If Sanatana Dharma is going to once again become the meaningful and influential global force that history shows us it once was, then it is incumbent upon each and every Hindu to rededicate ourselves to our religion's future. We must learn not to merely be Nominal Hindus (Hindus in name alone), but to be Conscious Hindus – practicing our religion, studying the scriptures of our religion, and becoming living examples of God's grace (prasada) and compassion (karuna) alive in the world. It is up to each of us to be dedicated and loving stewards of this great religious heritage known as Sanatana Dharma. Hinduism's future is in the hands of every Conscious Hindu.


    I want to thank the following people for their inspiration, encouragement, and continued support for my work. Param Pujya Sri Swami Dayananda Sarasvati, His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sri Bodhinatha Veylanswami, Dr. David Frawley, Dr. Subhash Kak, Steven Knapp, Sashi Kejriwal, Frances Elizabeth Morales, Heather Tulasi Lim, Dr. Anita Bhagat Patel, Dr. Manan Patel, Nanda Sahadeo, Vrindavan Parker, Professor Keith Yandell, Vishal Agarwal, Professor Ramesh Rao, and all Hindu youth everywhere.

     Comments on this Column
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     About the Columnist
    Dr. Frank Gaetano Morales
    Dr. Frank Gaetano Morales, Ph.D. earned both a doctorate and a Masters degree in Languages and Cultu
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