Table of Contents

  About the Author
  Books by Bansi Pandit
  What is Hindu Dharma?
  Hindu View of God
  Why Hindus Worship Deities
  Hindu Scriptures
  Principal Hindu Doctrines
  Law of Karma
  Popular Systems 
  Moral & Ethical Ideals of Hindus
  Hindu View ...
  Hindu Reverence for Elders
  Daily Routine of a Devout Hindu
  Hindu Dharma
  Hindu View of Ecology
  Some Philosophical Aspects
  Hindu Response 
  Contribution of Hindus
  Practicing Hindu Dharma
  Timeless Wisdom 
  Swămi Vivekănanda's Address
  Works Cited
  Color Plates
  Download Book

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir


Symbol of Unity


Chapter 17: Practicing Hindu Dharma in Foreign Lands

Practicing Hindu Dharma in foreign lands presents an opportunity and a challenge as well as a dilemma. Modern emphasis on the materialistic aspects of human life has created a spiritual vacuum in affluent societies of the world. The lack of a spiritual vision of life is taking a heavy toll on moral, ethical, family and human values. Apprehension, anxiety and daily worries about one's job, material needs of the present, and financial security for the future in a "cut-throat" competitive environment is causing confusion regarding the basic purpose of life.

The current confusion of affluent societies is similar to that of Arjuna in the Mahăbhărata war. Arjuna, with all his sophisticated weapons and military might, represents the scientific and techno-logical advancement of the modern world. Krishna, who gave spiritual instruction to Arjuna and removed his (Arjuna's) confusion, represents the spiritual force needed to resolve the restlessness, worries and confusion in today's world. Vision and action must be blended every step of the way to bring harmony in human life. Where Krishna and Arjuna are together, therein lies the opportunity for progress and ultimate victory.

The challenge to practicing Hindu Dharma (or for that matter any other religion) in modern societies arises largely due to the illusion of rationality. This illusion leads to the view that nothing is real if it cannot be directly or indirectly perceived by the senses. We also tend to believe that reason is highest in man and that it can give us a reliable and complete understanding of all our problems.

The sages tell us that intuition is the result of direct knowledge of Truth and thus intuition is superior to and transcends reason. A reasonable man is not necessarily a virtuous man. In today's world reason is often used to separate rather than unite people. The sages further tell us that faith and devotion are the powerful tools which can be used to tread a spiritual path until one gains intuition through one's own spiritual experience.

Owing to the increased scientific and technological outlook in modern societies, the traditional methods of religious teaching based upon mythology, ritualism, and folk religion are losing their power. The questions that are being raised by the younger generation pose a dilemma for those who rely solely on mythological, ritualistic and sociological forms to provide basis for their beliefs and practices.

In the Mahăbhărata war Krishna did not use mythology, ritualism or folk religion to address Arjuna's concerns pertaining to his role in the war. Instead, Krishna used ancient philosophical thought to answer Arjuna's numerous queries. It was the power of the philosophical teachings of the Vedas and Upanishads that inspired Arjuna to address his final words to Krishna, "Destroyed is my delusion, Oh Krishna. I stand firm with my doubts dispelled. I shall act according to Thy word." (BG 18.73).

Practicing Hindu Dharma means combining devotion, knowledge and work-love, light and life-for the benefit of one's family, society, country, and the world, with the ultimate goal of union with God. The following guidelines are intended to accomplish this goal by blending the vision of Hindu Dharma with the actions of individuals and social institutions:

  • Establish a temple room (or a corner in a room, if the entire room is not available) for daily worship and meditation. Install a family deity-a picture, image or a symbol-in the temple room and worship the deity daily in the morning and evening. Perform the daily routine as described in Chapter 11.
  • Have a firm conviction that the family deity will protect and aid if sincere prayers, offerings and vows are made regularly with love and devotion. Paramahamsa Sri Rămakrishna is a modern example of how high one can rise spiritually by sincerely performing deity worship alone.
  • Meditate daily and practice yogic exercises regularly. In order to successfully live in this world of "cut-throat" competition, one requires a healthy body and a strong mind. Meditation strengthens the mind and yoga preserves the body.
  • Meditation and yoga are the backbone of Hindu religious and cultural tradition. Establish yoga and meditation centers and libraries to learn and practice the philosophical and theological themes of Hindu Dharma.
  • Earnestly organize and support temple activities to preserve the traditional religious and cultural heritage. Donate generously to temples and community service organizations.
  • Organize, support, coordinate or host religious festivals and celebrations of birthdays of saints, sages and holy men and women.
  • Organize conferences, seminars, symposiums, discussions, and debates at temples, community centers, and educational institutions to expound the teachings of the scriptures and to illustrate how the spiritual wisdom of Hindu sages and saints can be utilized to solve problems facing the modern world. Ahimsă, the divinity of ătman, and unity of existence are the three jewels of ancient wisdom which can promote unity and harmony in the divided world of today. In the words of Donald H. Bishop, Professor of Philosophy at Washington State University, "A major contribution [that] Indian thought can make today is to remind the world of the illusions it must overcome. Our present crisis results from living by illusions. Indian thought would call us back to the real." 22
  • Invite saints, swamis and scholars to provide discourses on religious and spiritual topics of interest.
  • Support, participate and organize pilgrimages.
  • Support, organize and participate in weekly religious activities, such as bhajans, kirtans, and scriptural readings (swadhyaya).
  • Organize events and activities of common interest to enhance the spirit of unity in the community and pride in the Hindu way of life, and to foster friendship and understanding between Hindu Americans and other Americans.
  • Establish cultural centers to promote religious and cultural activities. Promote media activities such as radio, television and newspapers to expound the true teachings of Hindu Dharma and to clarify misunderstandings or misinformation about Hindu religious teachings.
  • Raise, collect and disseminate funds for charity work within the Hindu community, other communities, the country, and the world.
  • Educated Hindus need a demythologized and less ritualistic Hindu Dharma to blend modernity with the vision of the Vedas, Upanishads and other Hindu scriptures. In addition to normal activities, temples need to raise funds to support various institutions such as universities, yoga and meditation centers, senior citizen centers, and hospitals. Such institutions would be the symbol and model of the modern Hindu Dharma.
  • Organize and support dramatic pageants based on the Purănic and Epic literature. These pageants carry traditional religious ideals to the young generation and are effective tools of popular religious instruction for modern societies.
  • Hindu festivals, art, music and dance are the four pillars of Hindu culture. Organize and support these activities regularly. Such events should be used to foster friendship and promote understanding between Hindus and other communities.
  • Remember "He who sees Shiva [God] in the poor, in the weak, and in the diseased, really worships Shiva; and if he sees Shiva only in the image, his worship is but preliminary. He who has served and helped one poor man, seeing Shiva in him, without thinking of his caste, creed or race, or anything, with him Shiva is more pleased than with the man who sees him only in temples," declares Swami Vivekananda.30


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