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Hinduism In The United States Essay

2596 words - 10 pages

The first understanding of India arrived in America through commercial and missionary activity. The finding of America itself was a mistake, as explorers were searching for a shorter route to India. At the time India was known for its great wealth, kingdoms and exotic mysteries (Charles Lippy & Peter Williams). Based on religious perspective India was thought to have an “ancient wisdom”, which rest upon a philosophy with the oldest religious scriptures. Prior to the twentieth century Americans knew little about Hinduism, therefore conceived it as inferior, pagan, and probably idolatrous (Charles Lippy & Peter Williams). Sadly this will not be the first of or last time America will have made quick and inaccurate decision on a diverse world religion. Even though Hinduism may have had difficulty establishing itself earlier in America, it has grown exponentially over the years.
Prior to 1917 several forms of Hinduism arrived in America. A small number of Asian Indians were allowed in the United States during 1820, however most Indians came in the 1890’s. Indian Immigrants were lured to North America by commercial transporters with the promise of work on the Canadian Railroad (Charles Lippy & Peter Williams 685). Other than the Asian Indians coming directly to America, Indians from both Mexico and Canada eventually crossed legally or illegally into America (Charles Lippy & Peter Williams). Hinduism even gained popularity with non-Asian converts. Hinduism appealed to young, middle class Americans that have not yet married. (Charles Lippy & Peter Williams 690) Yoga and meditation practices are what appealed to most Americans interest. Meditation is described as paying attention selectively, while yoga is a form of meditation for stopping the usual minds’ awareness, so that a person can find their inner spirit (Charles Lippy & Peter Williams 691). After the 1917 act, Hinduism grew slowly, yet continued to develop through non-Asian Hindu groups, which were small, and memberships were limited to select cities. The 1924 Immigration Quota Act “assigned strict limits to the number of immigrants from each country, which stopped significant immigration not only from Asia, but the rest of Europe” (Melton 20). Congress may have been able to stop immigration into the States for a few decades, however future immigration will be influential to Hinduism growth in the United States.
The largest immigration movement of Asian-Indians began in 1835 after the abolition of slavery within the British Empire (Charles Lippy & Peter Williams 685). Asian Indians went to other countries than just the United States such as Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, and Trinidad. Melton suggests “Since Hindus possessed strong traditional bonds that prevented evangelism outside of the ethnic group, so further growth depended on the communities’ birthrate” (20). For many years the growth rate was slow due to the immigration restrictions, so birthrate constituted the minorities’...

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