USA: Growing Indian Membership Leads to Conflict in Vedanta Movement

August 27, 2008

Author: Richard Cimino

Source: Religioscope

Vedanta, an American and Hindu-based organization created for Westerners interested in Eastern religious thought and practice, is becoming increasingly Indian Hindu in makeup, causing controversy and concern among the remaining non-Indian members. Such members claim that Vedanta is losing its distinctive mission of reaching Westerners with Eastern philosophy and spirituality.

The first Vedanta center was founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1894 in New York. The Vedanta societies 14 centers have traditionally catered to white Americans interested in Indian spirituality but not necessarily the rituals and traditions usually associated with the religion. Some of the societies featured distinctly Protestant settings, including sermons and pews.

This pattern started changing in the 1960s when many Indian Hindus immigrated to the U.S. They brought with them Hindu rituals and culture—a process many American Vedantists have called “Indianization.”

As the Indian Hindu influence in Vedanta societies has grown, Indianization has become a point of contention in the national movement. Hinduism Today magazine (July/August/September 2008) cites a recent issue of an unofficial Vedanta publication which suggests a good deal of disagreement, even among leaders, about the nature of the Vedanta society in a multicultural America.