Beliefnet
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (RNS)-- Whether he's on the bus, on hisbicycle, on the subway, driving his car, at the gym or bouncing on histrampoline, Promod Puri silently repeats the Indian name of the SupremeBeing, Param Atma.

Since he's a busy man in a busy city, the special adviser to federalFisheries and Oceans Minister Herb Dhaliwal has learned to simplify theoften-demanding traditions of Hinduism and Sikhism and adapt them to hisfast-paced life.

His morning prayer to the Hindu god of the sun takes just oneminute. In India, where each temple is dedicated to only one ofHinduism's many deities, Puri and others must travel around to get intheir various devotions. But in Canada one temple often serves as thehome of 20 deities or more.

That's spiritual efficiency.

Many of the roughly 800,000 Canadians and 2 million Americans whohave South Asian origins -- most of whom are Hindu or Sikh or, likePuri, informally blend the two religions -- are finding spiritualshortcuts these days.

They've had to adapt the time-consuming sacred traditions of India,Pakistan and Bangladesh to North America's hectic pace.

"North American culture is more materialistic than in India," saysPuri, who is enjoying the festive month of October, when Hindus andSikhs prepare to celebrate the victory of good over evil that culminatesin Thursday's highly popular festival of lights, Diwali.

Several Vancouver-area Hindus and Sikhs with fast-paced lives saidthey wholeheartedly agree with the findings of a new scholarly book,"The South Asian Diaspora in Britain, Canada and the U.S.," published byState University of New York Press.

It maintains immigrants have had to radically alter their religiouslives after moving from the leisurely pace of India to North America,where the Protestant work ethic reigns supreme.

The book, co-edited by Raymond Williams of Wabash College inIndiana, says few East Indians in the United States or Canada, young orold, have the time any longer to memorize long passages from ancientSanskrit texts, such as the Vedas or Upanishads, as many did in India.

Instead, like Puri, the many South Asian immigrants who want to keeptheir faith strong in their new homelands do it in bits and pieces whilerushing through a typical North American lifestyle of work, exercise,TV, travel and entertainment.

"It's definitely busier here. Making your bread and butter in Canadais the most important thing," says Satyn Banerjee, a Vancouverpathologist who is prominent in Vishva Hindu Parishad in Burnaby. It'sone of the country's major Hindu temples.

Like most Sikh and Hindu temples in the United States and Canada,Vishva Hindu Parishad doubles as a kind of community center for bothreligious and non-religious South Asians. To a greater extent than inIndia, North American temples have become places for social events,weddings, birthdays, political meetings and basic education in Indianculture, language and faith.

"In India, the rituals are learned in your blood. But here they ...are harder to pick up. We have to be flexible," said Banerjee, who sayshe recites his personal religious mantra hundreds of times a day whilein his car, on the bus or wherever.

Banerjee, who doesn't think he is compromising his faith by beingversatile, noted that his son has learned to combine Hindu meditativepractices with exercise through the martial arts.

"He has found his Hindu beliefs are similar to those in tae kwon do,where he has a black belt."

Parshotem Goel, a Vancouver real-estate agent, says many youngIndo-Canadians have started to stress the philosophy and moral virtuesof Hinduism and Sikhism rather than their specific devotional exercises.

"The traditional ways of doing things are getting thrown out. Inyour busy schedule, you do what is comfortable. That is why Hinduism andSikhism are good religions, because they're flexible," says Goel.

"The South Asian Religious Diaspora" says society places too muchemphasis on racial prejudice and internal conflicts experienced by SouthAsian immigrants, making it appear as if the communities are problemsrather than successes.

Instead, the book urges academics and the media to focus more on thevitality of new immigrants' religious lives and the rising power anddiversity of their communities.

It argues that immigrants from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh oftenstrengthen their religion and make it simpler to follow so they canmaintain a spiritual life and achieve material wealth in Canada.

It also notes numerous positive trends among immigrants to NorthAmerica, including that young South Asians are becoming "skilledcultural navigators" who make the best of old and new cultures.

The book is edited by Williams; Harold Coward, a noted Hinduismspecialist who is also director of the University of Victoria's Centerfor Studies in Religion and Society; and John Hinnells of the Universityof London.
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