Everyday millions of people flock in groves to their yoga classes, yoga mat in tote, prepared to position themselves in the “downward-facing dog” position, eager to achieve peace. This practice has become a phenomenon here in America, and is known to bring serenity and relaxation to the human mind. Society’s interest has shifted from traditional Christianity to obtaining the tranquility and harmony that Hinduism, or Santana Dharma, claims to provide (Nirmalani, 2000). Its recognition in America can be traced to the early 19th century (Morales, 2005). Writers and philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) and Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) made their appreciation of Sanatana Dharma well known. After reading Bhagavad-Gita, one of Hindu’s most important scriptures, Thoreau felt that our own Shakespeare seemed “youthfully green” compared to literature offered by Hinduism (Morales, 2005). As America shadows each other to the next “fad”, the practice of Hinduism will continue to gain in popularity. Unfortunately, its full understanding will not be attempted, leaving only the surface of this deep religion to be scratched.
Hinduism is the 3rd largest religion practiced in the world, following Christianity and Islam (Wikipedia, 2007). Ancient as it may be, its popularity is fairly new, only flourishing within the past 1300 years (Wikipedia, 2007). Hinduism, or Sanatana Dharma, is premised on more than just practicing religion, it is also a way of life. For this reason, Hinduism is taken lightly by some Americans, or those not truly dedicated to understanding its full origin. Although this religion offers liberating insight to enlightenment in many areas, the formula is not effortless.
There are 5 basic principles to Hinduism (Das, 2004). First, Hinduism believes that one Supreme Being is to be revered, although not necessarily the God that Christians are familiar with. Second, believing that all persons are divine and that no person is worthless is considered to release negativity in one’s psyche. Third, unity of existence through love, or loving everyone, lays the foundation to leading a more peaceful life. Fourth, religious harmony is essential in allowing a Hindu follower to accept this practice without reservation. Finally, knowledge of the sacred river (Ganga), the sacred script (Gita), and the sacred mantra (Gayatri) allows for full understanding of the Hindu religion.
Americans have taken the practice of Hinduism and conformed it’s foundation to a more casual state. Paths to reach inner-peace can be found through the practice of yoga. Different yoga spheres can assist one in finding their inner peace. From Jnana Yoga, for those who are interested in finding divinity through wisdom and religion, to Karma Yoga, for those who choose to seek God through unselfish work, no avenue is left untraveled (Frederick, 1999).
While yoga in its proper form is indeed derived from Hinduism, it is merely used as a way to “exercise” by Americans, and not as a way to live life. If studied properly, however, its benefits will far exceed the physical aspects of this religion, and provide a psychological benefit as well.
Definition of Hindu. (2007). Wikimedia, Inc. Wikipedia Writing Staff. January 2007. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu.?
Does Hinduism Have a Future in America? (2005) Sulekha.Com: Morales, F. G. January 2007. www.dr-frank.sulekha.com/blog/post/2005/10/does-hinduism-have-a-future-in-america.htm
Hinduism. (2000). University of Virginia: Nirmalani, R. January 2007. www.religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/hinduism.html.?
Hinduism (1999). GeoCities: Frederick, S. January 2007. www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/1699/Hinduism.html.
5 Principles and 10 Disciplines: The Basics of Hinduism. (2006) About.com: Das, S. January 2007. www.hinduism.about.com/od/basics/a/principles.htm.
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