In this issue of your Hindu Family Newspaper you will read about a number of stories centering around cultural questions. On the youth page "Caught Between Worlds, Lifestyles East and West" counterpoints some of the difficult choices facing teenagers. The truth is these dilemmas don't puzzle just young Hindus in the West. They are equally challenging the next generation in India, Page one reports on Hindus in Reunion who are struggling with the cultural stigma of Hindu names in an officially Christian country. On this page the editor explores our greeting, namaste, and asks what it really means. Culture is a central part of Hinduism. This is due, in pan, to the fact that Hindus have a hard time dividing life into the sacred and the profane. It is life, and it is all a divine expression. Thus, Hindu art is sacred art, Hindu music is devotional music. Even business, for the devout Hindu, is not just livelihood but a way of serving God and helping man. But not all Hindus live the life as fully as they might. There has evolved a double standard in the modern world. There are those who are consistent in the temple as well as at home, whether they live in Europe or in an Indian village. There are also those who are Hindus when it is convenient and something else when it is not. A good look at oneself, once in awhile, is beneficial especially at this time of year when many Hindus send Christmas cards. Do they send greetings to acknowledge the holy days of Islam or Judaism? No. Educated in Christian schools, they feel it is all right to send Christmas cards. Christian on the inside and Hindu on the outside. It's a double standard. Rice and curry at the temple. Big Mac on the way home.
This is changing, Hindus are getting more confident to live their culture, even in the West. A recent speaking tour of Canada and California brought to my attention an awakening in the older generation (for the sake of their children, they explain) and that is to be 100% Hindu all the time in culture at home, in the work place, the temple and even in dreams. One temple I visited in Toronto, Canada, has set up a dress code for the devotees. No shorts, slacks, skirts; etc. for the ladies and only traditional attire for the men. Those who don't comply are not admitted.
Yes, there has been some reaction, management said. Some just won't come if they can't worship the Lord in teeshirt and jeans. But others who don't appreciate the double standard and would not come because many were dressed so immodestly have since replaced the dropouts. The strictness has brought other boons along with it, such as a one hour, absolutely silent meditation of two and three hundred people before the evening puja. The management prides itself on cleanliness and discipline. Our party was there shortly after a feeding of several thousand. The kitchen was immaculate, so was the dining room. A grand bravo to the trustees of the Vishnu Mandir. And, yes, we are looking forward to returning next year, and this time with a schedule that permits that trip to Niagara Falls, too.
Similar efforts to bring forward the whole of our tradition are underway in other communities. What happens when a religion is lost in yesterday and not brought forward to guide its followers today and on into the future? All kinds of problems arise. The youth begin to think religion is obsolete, abandon it and become immersed in worldliness, which is adharmic. They leave the Eternal Path. Families break up. Friends argue, and people fight within themselves and with one another. Poor citizens are raised in the absence of ethics and guidelines for good conduct. Unrest and discontentment reign, and the entire nation suffers.
So many problems arise when religion is lost, when people don't know the right things to do. People become unhappy, unstable. They have no place to turn in difficult fanes. This leads to divorce, to suicide, to disease, to murder and dozens of sad experiences said hellish states of mind.
In America a large sum of money was spent to conduct a survey on the effects of religion in people's lives. Thousands of people from every walk of life were interviewed as to their religion, jobs and family life. It was found that those with a religion who really followed that religion were happier, wealthier and healthier than those who had no spiritual life. Researchers concluded that non-religious people were less happy in their home life, less successful in their businesses and personal relationships. We have to take that information seriously and determine to live our spiritual life in all its dimensions. We have to realize that there are serious problems awaiting us if we are half-hearted and live a double standard.
Article copyright Himalayan Academy.