What role could Hinduism possibly have in an African American’s life?
First let us consider the religion that the African Americans brought over from African with them when coming to the USA. That of Voodoo.
Voodoo like Hindu Left Hand Tantra is a faith that accepts spirits and their influence on life. Though Tantra is not exclusively about spirits nor voodoo. This sets the scene for a possible collaboration in beliefs between the two.
One notable African American hindu who followed the path of the specific Hindu sub-sect vaishnavism is John E Favors or HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami. His journey began as a child evangelical preacher, then being part of Martin Luther King’s movement and finally settling in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Hindu movement, Hare Krsna.
So this particular African American found meaning in the Vedic Hindu tradition. He chanted sixteen malas/Vedic rosaries rounds of the holy mantra everyday, he was a vegetarian and gave lectures on Vedic philosophy. Based on these teaching he ran personal development camps and wrote books of prayers in his spiritual journey.
What were his motivations? A lot is answered in his biography ‘Black Lotus’ by Stephen Rosen. He found meaning in the worship, practices and philosophy, the depth of literature made sense to him.
After his initiation into this tradition he was also ordained High Chief in Nigeria. Even though he was following an eastern based faith he still was capable of immense leadership, in fact this empowered him, this was the role of hinduism in his life. He corresponded with Nelson Mandela as a spiritual consultant.
So for the average African American a lot can be gleaned from his biography. Hinduism may support a sustainable lifestyle or a Rastafarian belief system. Hinduism is absorbent in this sense, it is evident that there is overlap and the possibility of practicing both simultaneously.
Ultimately it can be concluded that the role of Hinduism in an African American’s life is one of tremendous empowerment, open to those who choose to tap into this immense resource. Bear in mind however that the term ‘Hindu’ is not Vedic, it is a construct of the British referring to those practitioner of Vedic religions from the Indus Valley. Vedic religion, it has been proposed was channelled to ancient seers from the land of the Gods, in Devanagari ‘ the script of the Gods.’ With this premise it can be argued that Vedic knowledge does not have to be specific to nationality and indeed HH A.C Bhaktivedanta Srila Prabhupada argued that one cannot be born a Hindu priest, but acquires this status by being a disciple and much penance. This then expounds on the forced slavery of African Americans, they were not born slaves because their nationality, amongst that this group, according to the Vedic varnashrama system or caste system origin, there would have been teachers, administrators and laborers, as man should work according to the law of his nature in this tradition, this system asserts that we are all born with inclinations for our work, much like the Greek personality theory when applied to vocational selection and also the Jungian and MBTI theories of personality and occupational orientation.
John E Favors was a teacher, consultant and spiritual leader. He defied the slave label of his predecessors.
Also there is the concept of Kirtan Yoga, singing to unite with God. This is open to all and sweeping the west in a all encompassing trend. The question then, is not what role Hinduism has in an African American’s life but what role it has for humanity at