My Story: Growing up in a Priest’s Family

vhpa_logoBy Aneesh Bairavasundaram,

Grade 11, Ashland, MA

I proud to be a Hindu, but the misconceptions widely spread also makes me sad. For example, in school, houses on the temple grounds that were set aside for the priests and their families. Since I was young I was surrounded by the Hindu culture and its festivals. In fact, I only learned English after first grade. Because everything was provided to me, a home, a place to play, a place to worship, I never had a need to leave the temple grounds; while this nurtured my spirit and my familial life, it also resulted in me being completely unaware of American culture and society.
At the age of five, I had my Upanayanam Sanskar. Since I got my Upanayanam I have been doing my Sandhyavandanam. But because of my age, I did not know what my Upanayanam truly meant, or why did sandhyavandanam. I was very proud of my Upanayanam, but it was a pride that had no backing. During gym class at school, my friends would ask me what my Upanayam was, and even though I was proud of it, and knew it was very important, I was embarrassed because I did not know what my Upanayanam was, or why it was important. From a young age I began to question why many of our rituals are performed. I asked many people, but never got an answer. Many said that they followed what their parents had asked them to do without understanding why they did so. In the American society blind faith is looked down upon and I became more embarrassed of all the things I didn’t know. I felt that my performing these rituals without understanding them was just pure blind faith. As time went on more and more questions about our religion

Hinduism is taught to be a polytheistic religion. I and began to arise and my faith began to waiver. But, with the help of my father and my spiritual guru Abhaya Asthana Uncle I learned that everything in Hinduism had a reason; why abhishekas are done or what Upanayanam is. But as my urge to learn more about our religion grew, my education was limited by the short amount of times I got to see my father. As a priest, he is required to work at all days of the week and almost all hours of the day. Even with the short time windows in which I could see my father, the temple environment still helped me answer my questions about our religion. One program was Bala Vidya Mandir. Many of the things I learned made me many who are taught the truth, understand that this is a

misconception, but many, including Hindus, do not know the truth and believe these misconceptions. I believe that many Hindu children leave their Hindu traditions behind because of the lack of awareness in the Hindu community. From a young age Hindu Children are exposed to a vast pallet of religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam but not their own. What has become common today is that parents take their children once a year on Holi or Diwali to the temple and rather than showing their children all the murthis and explaining to them about Diwali they socialize with their friends and the children are left clueless about the festivals, much like I was in the beginning. Though the parents may know about all the different aspects of our religion, something they learned from their parents and their own society, many children who grow up here are left in the dark without knowing the importance and value of our religion. If this continuation of ignorance grows, Hinduism will become a religion full of meaningless rituals. But programs like Bal Vihar strive to make sure that Hindu children know about their traditions and customs as well as teach them how to clear out misconceptions of their own religion.

In the future I wish to continue my academic studies and learn the Vedas and more about our Hindu culture. Because of my father’s busy schedule, I grew up facing the same cultural struggles and challenges of almost every other Hindu-American boy, perhaps even more. I had the added expectation of knowing everything, since I was “the priest’s son”. But despite these challenges, I found a way to learn the truth about our religion through many programs and wish to see all Hindus taking an active role in serving their community. I also wish to see the elders of the community, like our priests, teach the younger generation about our Sanatana Dharma. While I have firsthand knowledge about the busy life of a priest, and have seen just how difficult it is to make time to truly teach the younger generation, I feel that if my experience has taught me anything, it is imperative that our priests and religious leaders do guide our youth. I may have found a path on my own, but it is one that was steeped in struggles and challenges, and is one that was unnecessarily more complex than it needed to be.

Source: Hindu Vishwa