For Hindus in America, It's an Intentional Choice

July 4, 2008

Author: Denise Ford-Mitchell

Source: The Saginaw News

[mlive.com/saginawnews/living/index.ssf/2008/07/for_hindus_in_america_its_an_i.html]

With the exception of special observances, followers of Hinduism rarely worship together.

Hindu worship -- or puja -- is primarily an individual activity rather than a communal service, says Midland resident Sambasiba R. Allada.

"Worship for us is something we do on a daily basis at home," explained Allada, 74. "We make personal offerings such as a few flowers from sacred waters or incense to The Deity and pray.

"For special religious festivals, we gather at the temple in Flint. However, there's no head of the church or official leader as such," the retired engineer said.

There are no Hindu shrines in Saginaw, Midland or Bay City, so the 250 mid-Michigan followers attend services at Flint's 26-year-old Sri Paschima Kashi Viswanatha Temple/Kashi Temple.

It's one of 24 Hindu facilities in Michigan. Last month, Grand Rapids Hindus opened the doors to the West Michigan Hindu Temple in Ada.

With an estimated 870 million followers worldwide -- including slightly more than 1.1 million in America -- and texts dating back thousands of years, Hinduism is the world's third-largest religion behind Christianity and Islam, according to the World Christian Database at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

The recent release of Mike Myers' comedy film "The Love Guru" has sparked interest, questions and concerns of offensive depictions of the Hindu faith.

"To be Hindu in America is much more an intentional choice than it is in India," said Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion and Indian studies and director of The Pluralism Project at Harvard University in an Internet report. "Even if you're first generation, you have to decide if you perpetuate it or if you just kind of let it go."