HOUSTON, TEXAS, February 9, 2011: On a cold Saturday morning, I was gathered among Hindu youth from various colleges within Texas partaking in havan, a Hindu ritual that involved saying prayers and offering food to God while sitting around a ceremonial fire.
The havan was part of Hindu Students Association's second annual Gateway, a retreat where Hindu youth from Texas A&M, UT Austin, UT Dallas, U of H, and Bellaire High School gathered in a campsite last weekend. This retreat provided a platform for Hindu youth to connect with each other, hear discourses from well-respected spiritual leaders, and allow for Hindu youth to redefine what it means to live a Hindu lifestyle as a first generation Hindu-American.
In a sense, the Hindu Students Association has had a monumental impact in allowing Hindu youth to truly understand what it means to adopt a Hindu lifestyle while at the same time defining oneself as an American. I joined Hindu Students Association as a freshman, and it was the first time that I realized that I was not alone in my struggle as a Hindu-American, living a Hindu lifestyle in America.
This organization has allowed for Hindu youth to come together and discuss the struggles and importance of Hinduism within their own life, provide for unity against common antagonism and misconceptions of Hinduism, and allows for non-Hindus to learn more about the practices, rituals, and universal values of Hinduism through events hosted on college campuses and within the local community such as Navratri and Holi.
I have found that merging Hindu principles and values into the American way of life allows for greater strength of mind and focus while providing for greater adaptability into the global environment. This has allowed me to better see my path towards dharma and provided me with greater strength to overcome the obstacles that I will face in life.
[HPI note: Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, publisher of Hinduism Today, attended the retreat as a guest teacher.]