There now exists a significant Hindu minority in the Western world, particularly the
United States, Canada and Great Britain, but also such peripheral
areas as Trinidad and Guyana. This Hindu minority consists both of
immigrants from India, many from the past few decades, and
Westerners who have adopted Hindu teachings (who may not all
formally call themselves Hindus). There are nearly a million
Indo-Americans and a larger amount in Great Britain.
What does a modern Hindu
say, particularly when questioned by those who may know little about
their religious tradition, to explain what Hinduism is? A Hindu in
the West is often confronted with simplistic and derogatory ideas
about Hinduism - that it is pagan, polytheistic, idolatrous,
unscientific, socially backward or merely no more than a cult.
Though more educated people
in the West may not accept these opinions they may still be
influenced by them, and may not have consistent alternative views.
Modern Hindus are often not educated in their own tradition. They
may not have any real understanding of it or its global relevance as
Sanatana Dharma, a universal teaching. They may not know how to
present it to others under any circumstances.
As Hindus are generally
tolerant and retiring, they may say nothing or even apologize for
their religion rather than try to correct wrong ideas about it. The
thoughtful among them have sought to communicate their tradition
better, particularly seeing the popularity of Hindu practices in the
West, like Yoga and meditation, once presented in a universal light.