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Hindu Youth in America

Growing up Hindu in America - A Surprising Success Story is a Youth and Religion Project by R. Stephen Warner, University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Youth and Religion Project (Y&RP) looked into the ways in which religious institutions serve the needs of younger Americans (aged 8 to 30) in the rapidly changing society through a focus on religious institutions in metropolitan Chicago. The project was directed by R. Stephen Warner of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Some excerpts from the project

We expected Hindu youth in our focus groups to manifest bewilderment about their religious identity… We did not expect what in fact we found well represented among the UIC students we began to talk with five years ago: enthusiastic, knowledgeable American-born and American-raised Hindu youth of both sexes. Our subsequent study of Hindu institutions and Hindu families has revealed some of the ingredients in what seems so far to be a success story: religious institutions (temples, congregations, Sunday schools, summer camps, special classes), most of them newly founded; teachers (of the dharma and of music and dance); friendship and kinship networks; and the increasingly intentional efforts of parents.

Missionary Hindu organizations as Chinmaya, Swadhyaya, ISKCON and the Swaminarayans have developed elaborate, age-graded curricula to teach diasporic Hindu parents (as well as their children) how to be Hindu, something these organizations know can’t be taken for granted. The boy who hates going to the temple said that he appreciates the classes at the Chinmaya Mission, where what is most important to him is the intellectual stimulation he receives. "It gives you something to think about.”

The project ended a couple of years ago but it has got several valuable points which Hindu organizations in India can emulate.

Hindu Youth in America

Hindu youth in America represent a dynamic and diverse demographic group with a rich cultural heritage and a blend of traditional values and modern perspectives. As part of the larger Indian-American community, Hindu youth often navigate a balance between their cultural roots and the influences of Western society.

One aspect that shapes the experiences of Hindu youth in America is the practice of Hinduism itself. For many, Hinduism is not just a religion but also a way of life encompassing rituals, festivals, philosophies, and practices that are deeply ingrained in their upbringing. Hindu youth in America may engage in various religious activities such as attending temple services, participating in religious festivals like Diwali and Holi, and observing traditions like puja (ritual worship) and yoga.

Furthermore, Hindu youth in America often face unique challenges and opportunities related to identity, belonging, and cultural integration. They may encounter questions about their cultural heritage from peers, educators, and the wider society, prompting them to explore and articulate their identity in multicultural contexts. Many Hindu youth actively participate in cultural events, language classes, and community organizations to connect with their roots and foster a sense of belonging.

Education plays a significant role in the lives of Hindu youth in America. They often excel academically, with many pursuing higher education and professional careers in various fields such as technology, medicine, engineering, business, and the arts. Education not only offers opportunities for personal and professional growth but also serves as a platform for cultural exchange and leadership development within the community.

Moreover, Hindu youth in America are increasingly engaged in social and political activism, advocating for causes such as environmental conservation, social justice, religious freedom, and interfaith dialogue. They contribute to their communities through volunteer work, charity initiatives, and grassroots organizing, drawing inspiration from both their cultural heritage and universal values of compassion, empathy, and service.

In summary, Hindu youth in America embody a vibrant blend of cultural heritage, religious identity, educational achievement, and civic engagement. They navigate a complex landscape of cultural diversity and globalization while striving to uphold their traditions, contribute to society, and shape a better future for themselves and their communities.