Despite what many think, or what many may want to think, Hinduism has been leaving its mark in America since the 1800’s . However, at that time the religion was relatively insignificant to the local population, due to the small number of Hindu’s in the country. It was not until the 1970’s that the Hindu population became a number great enough to sustain the public’s interest in the religion. Migrating by the thousands to work in the medical industry, as well as IT, their religion both intrigued and mystified a public ready to take on anything after the height of the 1960’s drug boom (28).
According to Phillip Goldberg, author of, “American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation—How Indian Spirituality Changed the West,” over 20 million Americans have taken to practicing one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy (42). The most common of the six school practiced are the mental and spiritual exercises of mediation and and the physical exercises of yoga, which often combine many elements of Hinduism (45). This is perhaps the most noticeable influence Hinduism has had on America. The religion has erected over 900 temples across the country, fit for worship. Traditional festivals such as the sping festival of colors, known as Holi, are celebrated where state officials allow, in California and New York. The American public, practicing or nor, are normally invited to partake in the festival.
Many may not realize that Hindu culture has also begun to influence American music, as well. Goldberg remarks that bands as early as The Beatles were using Indian instruments in their music, fusing Hindu culture with what would become a staple in music around the world (83). Even Hindu’s popular Hare Krishna mantra has been heard in several famous songs not only in America but all over the world. Other religious Hindu chants can also be heard in tracks by famous artists (85). Many famous musicians of today attempt to combine the ideals of Western pop with Indian musical instruments or hindu chants in an effort to find a unique sound that beats all others.
An example of Hindu’s impact on America, as mentioned in “Homegrown Gurus: From Hinduism in America to American Hinduism,” is the Kama Sutra (89). American’s normally think it is an instruction manual to guide them through tantric sex but this is incorrect; the Kama Sutra teaches, according to Hindu belief, one of the four “human purposes.” The purposes are to wish, love, desire, and experience sensual pleasure (92). When first discovered by Americans, only certain chapters were translated into English. The passages about a human’s inclination to wish, love, or desire were passed over in lieu of more exciting chapters focused on coitus. By the 1990’s they had become very popular, per graphic and sometimes comical illustrations. In America, sex sells, and marketing organizations took the Hindu’s innocent, natural beliefs and distorted them for gain. They managed to make millions in the process.
As you can see, Hinduism has influenced America in many ways. The most obvious way it has impact America is in the numbers: over 20 million Americans are now practicing Hindus. Hindu chants and Indian instruments have been leaving their mark on chart topping songs by the Beatles, as well as other artists, for decades. Though it has been reduced to nothing more than a gag gift, the Kama Sutra is also something Americans originally borrowed from Hindu culture. In some ways, American and Hindu culture are fusing into one.
Gleig, Ann and Lola Williamson. Homegrown Gurus: From Hinduism in America to American Hinduism. New York: SUNY Press, 2013. Print.
Goldberg, Phillip. American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation—How Indian Spirituality Changed the West. New York: Harmony Books, 2010. Print.