Meet Hindus who debunk Western misconceptions about caste, cows, karma and more.
He adds, "The other misconceptions are that Hindus don't acknowledge one absolute source of the universe or God, and that karma is fatalism. They also assume that the cruel tradition of caste bigotry is blessed by our scriptures and that we are somehow related to Islam. They even confuse 'tamasic' with turmeric!"
Stella points out that the only exposure many church groups have to Hinduism is through missionary films which show images of destitute villages in India and say "Well, this is what you get when you practice bad religion."
Beth Kulkarni of Texas came to Hinduism through marriage and has become an evocative interpreter of the faith for non-Hindus. She has spoken at church religious classes, religion classes at schools and universities. She also takes non-Hindus on tours of Sri Meenakshi Temple, where she is an Advisory Council member.
"One of the most frequent misconceptions is that Hindus are polytheistic," she says. "I reply that we believe in an 'Ultimate Reality' that is simultaneously both with form and without form, and that this Ultimate Reality is both transcendent and imminent, both personal and non-personal. I give the example that I, Beth, am a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, community worker, with different functions and relationships due to these various roles, but am still the same 'Beth.' How, I ask, could God, therefore, not have different roles, functions, and relationships?"
In this Internet age, sometimes the best way to answer questions is in cyberspace, because you can reach so many more people. M. Menon, 63, who is an industrial design consultant, has been in the U.S. since the 1980s. During his college years he studied all the works of Swami Vivekananda and says, "India, Hinduism and Sanathana Dharma are my passions."
"Most Indians are asked questions about India and Hinduism and very little support is available," he adds. "Over the past 5 years I have put together an informative Q&A online and have also been a participant in Internet discussion groups on Hinduism."
One question he often gets is whether idols are Gods. He replies, "Idols are mere representations of God. They represent various aspects or attributes of a single spiritual reality. Consider for example, the IBM logo representing a company. Logo is not the real company. Icons are essential for focused attention. Much like a logo, the religious icons are full of symbolism."