Hinduism’s Influence on American Culture

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HINDUISM 'S INFLUENCE ON AMERICAN CULTURE

Hinduism is believed to have immigrated to America around the late 1800’s. Its influence on America and American culture and its peoples has been pervasive and varied. It was first introduced to mostly Christian America at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair at The Parliament of the World’s Religions by Swami Vivekananda (Guthrie 2). Since that time his descendants have grown so as to include indigenous Americans as well as many new arrivals from all over the world. Hinduism has impacted American culture in the areas of religion, literature, music, and philosophy, and most importantly, in the minds and souls of its American converts. And, in turn, America has also had a profound impact on Hinduism.
Hinduism, also known as Sanatana-Dharma is the dominant religion in India and the third largest religion in the world with a following of about a billion people. The name Hinduism is derived simply from the word India and is not found in any religious texts concerning Hinduism, not even the Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the Mahabharata and is Hinduism’s most sacred writing. It is important to note though, that the word Hinduism is sometimes translated as ‘river’ usually referring to the Indus River which is a reference to the Indus River Valley where Hinduism is believed to have begun.
Sanatana-Dharma, on the other hand, has a very specific meaning. Sanatana means that which can’t be destroyed by fire, water, nor air, and is present in all living and non-living things on earth. Literally translated to English, it means Eternal. Dharma means duty or the code of life or the law. There are four major sects within Hinduism, Saivism, Vaisnavism, Saktism and Smartism. Vaishnavism and Shaivism are primarily monotheistic sects. Each believes there is one supreme God, who is identified as Vishnu in Vaishnavism and Shiva in Shaivism. Worshippers who follow Shaktism pray to the goddess "Devi." She is worshipped most often as the consort



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