My assumptions about history began to change 13 years ago. I was teaching a class called Media, Stereotyping and Violence when the tragic events of 9/11 overtook our lives. In the days that followed, my students and I confronted a question: Is all this violence inevitable?
If there is a lesson to be learned from the nine short films that blend to create the magnificent Words with Gods it is that organized religion is not the most direct way to communicate with our higher being.
It's critical for South Asian American organizations that truly embrace progressive values to be inclusive of a Hindu American voice, acknowledge that Hindu Americans suffer from various forms of discrimination and hate crimes, and include them on policy initiatives that impact South Asian Americans and other marginalized communities.
Out of these troubled "my god is better than your god" times, rises an incredible film, premiered at this year's Venice Film Festival, out of competition.
I've been heartened to see some of my second-generation Hindu peers who have started their own families embrace a different model that makes a clear distinction between growing up as a practicing Hindu and being culturally Indian.
For many Hindu Americans, the pain that Sikhs have felt hits close to home, in part because of both faith's shared history and because many Hindus and Sikhs in the United States have congregated in the same communities.
As Americans of all backgrounds continue to try to achieve the ideals of the Civil Rights Movement on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, members of three growing religions in the United States have a unique opportunity to stand together for equality and shared human dignity.
In a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 3,217 Americans were asked to rate religious groups on a 0-100 "feeling thermometer," with 0 representing the coldest and 100 the warmest. Hindus received a lukewarm rating of 50.
A new government has taken office in India a couple of months ago, a government that was voted in to majority on the backs of a coalescence of Hindu support, the first ever instance in the country's history.
Based on my conversations with folks at IAMCR and even back in the United States, progress is being made to help "de-politicize" Hinduism. It will eventually mean Hindus - no matter how they self-define or self-identify - can start to more boldly be part of the public sphere without politicized or attacked for doing so.
India's sexual violence is unique in some ways, but in others, it reflects the global crisis of violence against women, particularly girls.
None of this is to say that open defecation is either a good idea in this day and age, or even defensible. But making sweeping claims, using them to justify near-bigotry, and papering over obvious challenges hardly advances the conversation.
All religious traditions are different in important and often disturbing ways. And yet, when diligently pursued to their innermost depths, they meet, like rivers in an ocean, in oneness and universal love.
The highly politicized pro-choice/anti-choice dispute is usually fought on the battleground of religion, though not religions agree on it. It involves complex moral and personal questions that are framed by some religions as theological.
History can also be highly politicized, as we continue to see in states such as Texas, where small but vocal groups envisage instructional materials and curriculum shaped solely by their own worldviews.
For the most part, Schachter-Shalomi's success was based in his liberal acceptance of people exploring alternate paths of spiritual awakening (from LSD to Yoga), and his legitimizing of alternate possibilities within Judaism.