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Hindu Awareness Week brings festivities to campus

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Students experience Hindu food, dance and discussion in the BSC

There are more than 900 million Hindus in the world. Roughly two million reside in the United States and 16,000 in the Saint Louis area. This Feb. 20 through 24, St. Louis University’s own Hindu Student Community held Hinduism Awareness Week to inform students and discuss how to bring Hinduism into the current times alongside Western culture.The week included a number of events all directed at understanding Hinduism and bringing it into the modern culture. SLU hosted guest speaker Swami Nishpapananda from the Vedanta Society of St. Louis.

In his talk titled “Booting Up the Modern Hindu,” Nishpapananda explained how Hinduism could be applied in a modern world. In addition to this, throughout the week there was also a taste-testing event, “You Are What You Eat,” in which people attending learned how the foods one eats effects one’s attitude and faith, and the “Hanuma-a-thon,” which included live classical dances and movie clips.

Sophomore Cody Steely attended the “Hanuma-a-thon” on Wed.

“I’ve never seen anything like [the classical Hindu dances]. It was both a beautiful and educational experience.”

In “Hindus in America,” a panel discussion, several of SLU’s Hindu students and Jack Sisk, creator of the Living Insights Center in Saint Louis, discussed the challenges Hinduism faces in modern-day America.

The panel on Thursday introduced students Samyuktha Balabhadra, Yash Mehta, and Pooja Parupalli, as well as Sisk. Balabhadra, Mehta and Parupalli have all been Hindu since birth, while Sisk experienced a semantic trance at age 14 and has been Hindu ever since.

The panel began with a brief opening by Sisk, who explained the challenges Hinduism often faces in America.

He explained to the audience that not only does Hindu not have one central authority to answer questions about the misconceptions of the faith, the beliefs also vary among believers.

Sisk and the other members of the HSC sought to tear down many misconceptions of Hinduism throughout the week. Panelists discussed that Hinduism is not necessarily associated with any one particular race, among other things including the nature of their polytheistic beliefs.

Sisk concluded the panel’s discussion by describing God as “an infinite, clear light” that when shone through human beings is bent into different colors; each person has a different color and is not the “whole” of God but a part of him.

Sisk used this illustration to explain how Hinduism in different cultures can look so different. His hope for America is that Americans can one day make Hinduism their own. The week concluded with a meditation and yoga session open for all students.

Alex Gaston, a freshman, was present at Friday evening’s yoga and meditation. Gaston said, “I have taken yoga before once or twice, but I’ve never thought of its religious background. It’s odd how the practice of yoga has gotten so twisted in the translation into western culture.”

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Hindu Awareness Week brings festivities to campus