Having completed six entries regarding Western misconceptions of Hinduism, I want to use this topic as a springboard to something that I should have talked about much earlier. In America, the transforming role of the youth has put them in a prime position to overtake not just their Generation X parents, but even the straight-laced Greatest Generation, and their children, the Baby Boomers. College graduation speakers across the country have just finished charging this next batch of young people to challenge the values of the past with the knowledge of the present, while holding true to the hereditary hope for the future. Confusing as this might sound, it really just boils down to older people saying to the younger, “You have been the most problematic people this world has ever known, but you also have the chance to be the people who solve more problems than any others before you. For God’s sake, don’t flub it!”
It’s a familiar song to those who’ve lived in the country for more than ten years, who understand the minutia of American cultural politics and drive to do better. But for people of different cultures, for people of traditional backgrounds and differing social opinions, these ideas don’t always mesh so easily. For Hindus, the drive to succeed comes simultaneously with the great burdens of honor, family, and career. Family life and the values therein are incredibly important to the Hindu community, so much so that they often almost come at the expense of great success. We place just as much value on maintaining respectability and honor as we do on achieving greatness, and the result is the confusing collusion of the American risk-taking go-getter with the honorable path of reverent relations with elders and family. Again, to simplify: the Hindu youth of America are being told to fly higher than anyone ever has, but find their paths narrowed by a thousand little rules.
The tendency of youth, of course, is to rebel, and seek a life of freedom, of self-determination at any cost. Whatever great power or potential within us pushes without relenting, and it chafes mightily against any restraints. You never hear of youth calling for self-discipline and staying true to the lessons of the past. The news is instead full of thirteen-year-olds making six figures a week at companies they started two years ago. Your email is overflowing with ideas on how to help your children pass their SATs before they turn eighteen. Your coworkers compete with photos of their progeny at tournaments, district, regional, state, perhaps Olympic. The people who push the envelope without any worry for the cost are the ones who make it, or at least, are the ones everyone says makes it.
The power of youth, therefore, does not come from this internal restlessness. It is an old thing, distilled from generations past. For the young, it is faith that drives them.
Faith is what brought their families here, as immigrants or permanent visitors. Faith is what kept them going, from day one. Communities of faith are what their children are raised in, to promote strong values and pride in their culture and heritage. Their exemplars at all ages are pillars of faith, strong and resolute in the supreme power of devotion. And it is the assurance of faith that makes these young ones take the plunge without the assurance of success.
If we, the Hindu youth of America, have any reason for capacity to achieve, it is faith.