Hinduism

Pixar's New Film Takes Gamble on Hindu Theme

Screenshot via Youtube / Disney•Pixar

Pixar, the computer animation studio beloved for its kid-friendly fare such as Finding Nemo and Inside Out, is not known for taking on religious themes.

But its newest short film tells a personal story about a boy who learns to appreciate his religious heritage by envisioning the Hindu gods as superheroes.

Sanjay’s Super Team, directed by artist Sanjay Patel, is based on Patel’s relationship with his father and his experience growing up in California as the son of Indian-American immigrants.

“This is a very personal story; it’s the truth about how I grew up,” Patel said.

“It’s about how difficult it is for different generations to see eye to eye.”

Atheists Tweet More Often than Muslims, Jews, Christians, Study Shows

This tag cloud shows the top 15 most discriminative words used by each group studied. Photo courtesy of Lu Chen/RNS.

What does a map of the U.S. religious landscape look like in 140 characters?

A new study of Twitter finds that self-identified religious users are more likely to tweet to members of their own faith than to members of a different one. The study examined people whose Twitter profiles identified them as Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and atheist.

And while adherents of all six groups studied tweet frequently, atheists — among the smallest populations in the U.S. — are the most prolific.

“On average, we can say the atheists have more friends, more followers, and they tweet more,” said Lu Chen, a doctoral candidate at the Kno.e.sis Center at Wright State University who co-authored the study with Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn of Rutgers University-Camden. They will present their findings in November at the sixth annual International Conference on Social Informatics.

Is Yoga Religious? An Indian Court Mulls Mandatory School Exercises

Private yoga instructor Shailendra Singh (far right) leads a group at The Yoga Guru club in Delhi. Photo by Vishal Arora via RNS

The Supreme Court of India is weighing whether yoga has a religious element, as it decides if public schools may teach the ancient discipline in the country where it originated.

India’s school policy considers yoga an integral component of physical education. But the court has expressed caution, and is considering arguments that yoga has a religious component. The issue is complicated because India is a secular democracy but has pockets of Hindu nationals who would like to force their way of life on others.

“Can we be asking all the schools to have one period for yoga classes every day when certain minority institutions may have reservations against it?” the court asked Oct. 18, referring to Christian and Muslim groups.

Mapping Gandhi's Faith Journey

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. once said that the greatest Christian of the 20th century was not a member of the church. He was referring to Mohandas Gandhi. A remarkable number of King’s fundamental beliefs—the use of active nonviolence as a tool of social reform, the commitment to loving one’s enemies—can be traced back to the influence of Gandhi, which means that one of the defining figures of 20th century American Christianity was profoundly shaped by the example of an Indian Hindu. As King said in 1958 of the civil rights movement, “Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method.”

But what of Gandhi’s influences? How did a skinny, middle-class, mid-caste Indian, so scared of public speaking as a student that a classmate had to read his speeches aloud for him, come to lead one of the great liberation struggles of the past century? A new book by Arvind Sharma, professor of comparative religions at McGill University, makes the case that the source of Gandhi’s strength was his spirituality. And while the heart of Gandhi’s faith was Hindu, as King’s was Baptist, the influences were remarkably diverse.

Pointing out that most of the biographies of Gandhi really tell the story of Mohandas Karamchand (the name he was given by his family), not Mahatma (a title that means “great soul” and is given to saints in India), Sharma’s book Gandhi: A Spiritual Biography sets out to give an account of the Mahatma. Sharma quotes Gandhi directly on the importance of highlighting the dimension of spirituality in any attempt to understand him: “What I want to achieve—what I have been striving and pining to achieve these 30 years—is self-realization, to see God face to face, to attain moksha [the Hindu term for liberation]. I live and move and have my being in pursuit of this goal.”

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Abused Hindu Goddesses Recall Violence Against Women

Goddess Saraswati with a bruised face. Photo via RNS/Hindustantimes

A new public campaign in India uses powerful images of three Hindu goddesses with bruised faces to raise awareness about violence against women.

The ad campaign is titled “Abused Goddesses” and portrays the beaten faces of three Hindu female deities: Saraswati, Durga and Lakshmi.

“Today more than 68 percent of women in India are victims of domestic violence,” the caption reads. “Tomorrow it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray to,” the posters say.

The Rise of a New Religious America

In November, Americans elected the first Hindu and Buddhist representatives to Congress. They represent a growing number of religious minorities who are becoming more and more visible. The Washington Post reports:

Now that Protestants are no longer in the majority – as reported in a study released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in October – even the term “religious minority” will need fresh definition in our newly minted minority-majority nation.

Read more here.

Bhutan Bans Religious Activities Ahead of Elections

RNS photo by Vishal Arora
Two Bhatanese students carry the national flag. RNS photo by Vishal Arora

NEW DELHI — Political leaders in the tiny Buddhist nation of Bhutan have announced a nearly six-month ban on all public religious activities ahead of the upcoming elections, citing the Himalayan nation's constitution that says “religion shall remain above politics.”

A notification by the Election Commission of Bhutan asks people's "prayers and blessings" for the second parliamentary election, expected in June 2013. But it also states that religious institutions and clergy "shall not hold, conduct, organize or host" any public activity from Jan. 1 until the election.

The ban comes a year after the country's religious affairs ministry identified Buddhist and Hindu clergy who should be barred from voting to keep a clear distinction between religion and politics.

Parents Take Teaching Hinduism Into Their Own Hands

Hindu monks on the banks of the Ganges River on September 17, 2008 in Varanasi,
Hindu monks on the banks of the Ganges River on September 17, 2008 in Varanasi, India. Image via Tracing Tea / Shutterstock

SANTA MONICA, Calif. --- Children are usually the primary complainers about Sunday school, but when Mudita Bahadur started looking for excuses not to take her children to the Hindu temple on Sunday, she knew she had to make a change.

"One, it's dogmatic and two, it's inconvenient," she said of the Hindu classes held a 45-minute drive away from her home in Santa Monica, Calif.

Bahadur decided to take her children's religious education into her own hands. For the past three years, she and other Indian parents have been teaching their children about religion in each other's living rooms.

The do-it-yourself approach permits them to instill pride and progressive values in a traditional manner, the parents say.

In the Name of the Divine

"I am very worried about the upcoming election," said a colleague this morning in daily worship. "Let us pray that a party wins that will establish a truly secular government, so that the rights of minorities are protected." I am not accustomed to hearing Christians praying for a "secular" government, but then, I have not been living in India for very long.

Living as a religious minority in a country whose majority religion—here it is Hinduism—includes people publicly agitating to run the country by their own religious principles is an eye-opener for a Christian from the United States. Classical Hinduism is a religion under severe stress. Like all religions it faces the eroding tides of modernism, but additionally it is burdened by linkage to India’s caste system, which holds millions of lower-caste people in desperate poverty. Outlawed in the 1950s, the caste system lives on in the hearts of many. For decades, low-caste Hindus have been converting to Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism for a way out, causing mounting concern for Hindu leaders. A radical fringe has turned aggressive, calling for India to be declared a Hindu nation.

Muslims and Christians are worried, for in recent years this radical "Hindutva" movement has expanded in numbers and in aggressiveness towards religious minorities. In the last 18 months, local goons in the "Hindu belt" have burned churches and mosques, raped Catholic nuns, and murdered several individuals, both Christians and Muslims. In decades past, Muslims bore the brunt of such attacks, but recently Christians have been the main target. Indian human rights groups reported more than 90 attacks against Christians in 1998.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 2000
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