[Assam] Teaching Indian faiths in the West
jaipurschool at yahoo.com
Tue May 13 12:21:06 IST 2008
These days I have an added role. For many high school students studying for their AP (college level) World History exams I am explaining but eras which I feel I am uniquely suited for. Most US history books do try to present a holistic picture of various religions and how they originated and how they impacted the society over time. Recently I helped outline 3 major religions till 600 AD/CE- Roman civilization and Christianity, Hinduism in India, Confucianism in China.
Here my intense efforts to learn more about Middle Eastern faiths in 2005/2006 paid off - from museum visits, thru TV shows, and reading the Bible. Further, following the course of the California book controversy on teaching of Hinduism, Islam, Jewish faith etc in 2006 I got a sense of the problem areas.
Thus, when it came to explaining about Hindu faith - I avoided going into Aryan migration controversy (the school books didn't go into it either) but agreed that Aryans came from Central Asia and their religious practices mingled with those of the inhabitants of the Indus Valley civilization (of which little is known since only in 1930s excavations found Indus valley civilization's existence in current Pakistan). It seemed logical to show the connection between Hindusim, Buddhism , Sikhism and Jainism (I always highlight Jainism's peace message of non-violence which influenced Gandhi's struggle for India's independence - which is another topic I teach).
Ofcourse, I also teach math/calculus, AP chemistry, Physics etc etc.
In Fairfax, one of the richest and the most diverse communities in the US students are quite aware of Sikhs and Buddhists but as the books say Hindus do not believe in any one thing - which is certainly true. I try to draw connections between ALL Indian faiths - like ALL Indian faiths believe in reincarnation, Karma - which that guy was born in a rich family or what might happen to Stalin after he massacred millions - as per ALL Indian faiths -atleast Hindu, Buddhist, Sikhs -I am not sure about Jains. I also highlight that Hindus have separate beliefs just like scientists have separate theories - all trying to find more about the truth. And that Buddhists, Sikhs are more easily recognizable since they follow one founder of their faiths ---- still containing the basic elements of Hindu faith - minus its bad elements esp the caste system. Some students are given handouts that Caste is Varna - based on color :
White - Brahmin, Brown - Kshatriya, Red - Vaishya, Black - Shudra .
I keep quiet about the other meaning of Varna which means classification - like Varna Maala - Varna = Letters of alphabet, Maala = Garland.
I do highlight how caste still plays a dominant role in rural areas and is reponsible for segregation. Low caste members cannot enter houses of upper caste members.. In cities and even in the US Hindus still put out advertisements in major newpapers -easily accessed over the internet - seeking brides/grooms of the same caste -- (just scroll down to the Classified section http://www.expressindia.com/ ). Things are changing - I give example of my roommate marrying a girl from another caste from another region - but things are tough. I do not mention his collegemate had to elope with his Rajput/Kshatriya girlfriend in the US since her orthodox parents did not like inter-caste marriage.
I do not talk about caste-based job quotas or reservations for the oppressed castes (Delits -as per the teachers) in India since affirmative action is a controversial issue in the USA.
I do seem to know a lot more about Israel and the Middle East - surprisingly my stay with the Iranian and Amreican couple (the American wife is a Harvard classmate of mine) in Canada from Bahai faith helped me a lot there where I met Israel born and bred guys (now my Facebook friend).
The Art of War is a favorite book of mine ever since I read about Sun Tzu in a Harvard Business Review Artcile in AmericanCenter library in New Delhi. Ying and Yang is the logo of Jaipur School.
Ed.M. - International Education Policy
Harvard Graduate School of Education,
Class of 2005
http://www.uknow.gse.harvard.edu/index.html (Edu info)
http://hbswk.hbs.edu/ (Management Info)
www.gse.harvard.edu/iep (where the above 2 are used )
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