On October 8th, Baruch College’s Hindu Student Association (HSA) held it’s second general meeting titled, “What Does It Mean To Be A Hindu?” Hosted in conjunction with Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, Baruch’s HSA led by Journalism major Kamelia Kilawan, attracted students who are curious about where the direction the Hindu religion is going today, and in the future. One student, Raj, a Hindu who finds it hard to relate to certain rituals in Hindu culture, relayed the story of his aunt’s mother who travelled from India to visit her grandchildren in California. He says of her experience, “She was shocked to know that Hindi was not spoken in the home, the foods eaten were not Indian, and the clothes were all American. She feared for her great grandchildren.”
Based on Raj’s story, the question is: Are we to upkeep our religion to simply hand it down to our children? What about the experience of achieving self-realization? Kamelia, a founding member of Baruch’s HSA specified her concerns as well. She says, “When someone passed away in my family, my mom lit diyas and performed Hindu rituals with such devotion. It terrified me because I don’t know if I have that level of devotion. Will I get to that level when I have kids?”
Akash, a transfer student and staunch Jain whose main texts include those from Hinduism, says that, “Rituals evolve. We will always practice a Hinduism that’s evolving from the way our parents and ancestors practiced it. Nothing is wrong with that.” Annamol, a Sikh who believes in universal love, left her remarks on the need for young adults to understand why rituals are performed. “Although times have changed, there are certain things that were written in the holy texts and still hold relevance in today’s world. However, it’s not good to just perform a ritual because a holy text says so. It’s important to figure out the meaning of our rituals to clear up simple misunderstandings.”
The meeting had its tense moments too. Raj, Akash, Annamol, and her colleague Sindhu had disagreements on the Hindu principle of detachment. Akash pointed out, “Just do your karma, and forget love and religion and everything else. That will get us to the ultimate point, a point of detachment of relationships, which is what Krishna says in the Gita.” Raj then said, “So, do we all become Sadhu’s?” Sindhu, a Hindu from Pakistan, said, “If that’s the case, then no one will ever marry for love.” After some back and forth discussion, the group concluded that the topic of detachment proved to be complex and will be the topic of another meeting.
Sadhana, represented by myself, commented on the zeitgeist of young Hindus in today’s world. I said, “It’s imperative to understand that we are the torchbearers of Hinduism, and we must accept and live by that. If we don’t take up the torch as progressive-minded Hindus, who will?”
The meeting, lasting a little over one hour and fifteen minutes, proved to be extremely thought provoking, and has led to a third meeting on the same topic to be held later this month. Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus would like to thank Baruch College and Kamelia at HSA, without whose support this would have not been possible.