Quantcast ORIGIN  OF  HINDUISM  IN  AMERICA

 
  
 
belonged  to  no  caste  at  all.  The  Government  of  India  outlawed  untouch- ability in 1947. Aryan  invaders  who  conquered  India  before  1000  B.C.  first  imposed  the caste  system.  They  tried  to  maintain  a  barrier  between  themselves  and  the darker-skinned   Indians.   Varna,   the   Hindu   word   for   caste,   means   color. Caste lines were loose at first, but the system became rigid as it grew, and many  subdivisions  developed.  Even  eating  and  drinking  with  members  of other  castes  was  forbidden.  In  time,  the  caste  system  received  a  religious explanation  and  became  the  test  of  orthodox  Hinduism.  The  doctrines  of reincarnation and the law of Karma were used to justify the place and rank of each person in the system. Hindu scriptures taught that a person was in a low caste because of the previous life the person had led. A person could be reborn  into  a  higher  caste  if  the  person  lived  righteously  and  obeyed  caste rules. The caste system brought about class hatreds and hindered the progress of Indian society. But it also had its merits. It gave each individual a sense of belonging.   Today,   many   lower   caste   groups,   particularly   those   in   rural villages,  continue  the  caste  system.  Many  symbols,  representative  of  the many  Hindu  divinities,  can  be  associated  with  Hinduism;  however,  no  one single symbol is adequately representative of the Hindu faith. ORIGIN  OF  HINDUISM  IN  AMERICA The  history  of  Hinduism  in  America  dates  to  1893  and  the  appearance of   several   spokesmen   at   the   Parliament   of   Religion   in   Chicago.   Swami Vivekananda,  a  disciple  of  Ramakrishna,  became  a  nationally  known figure  because  of  his  oratorical  ability  and  vibrant  personality.  After  the Parliament,  he  established  the  Vedanta  Society,  the  first  Hindu  group  in America. Approximately  50  other  groups  which  are  based  upon  Hinduism  have been formed in America. Almost all American Hindu groups represent either older  groups  which  were  reconstructed  by  the  Renaissance  or  new  groups which  developed  after  the  Renaissance.  The  best  known  groups  are  the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Integral Yoga Institute, the  Sri  Chimoy  Centre,  and  the  Divine  Light  Mission.  Over  the  years, Hindu  teachers  came  to  the  United  States.  The  most  notable  of  these, Swami   Yogananda, founded   the   Self-Realization   Society.   Only   after World  War  II,  however,  did  Hinduism  begin  to  make  a  major  impact in  America.  The  growth  of  modern  Hinduism  was  made  possible  by  the increased  study  of  comparative  religions  in  colleges  and  universities,  the cross-fertilization   occasioned   by   American   visitors   to   India,   and   the increasing number of Gurus (teachers) who migrated and settled in America. BRANCHES  OF  HINDUISM During  its  long  history,  Hinduism  has  seen  the  rise  of  many  groups  of dissenters   from   traditional   Hindu   beliefs   and   doctrines.   Religions   such as  Buddhism,  Jainism,  and  Sikhism  have  developed  as  outgrowths  of Hinduism, Buddha founded Buddhism as a protest against the Hindu caste system  around  500  B.C.  Jainism  was  founded  by  Mahavira  (599-527  B.  C.) as   a   reform   sect.   If   Jainism   teachings   were   to   be   summed   up   in   one 2-88


 


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