Hindu American Students’
Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
A part of being Hindu American is balancing the individuality of American culture with the collectivist framework that sits at the heart of indigenous civilizations like Sanatana Dharma. The two different systems reflect two different paradigms – individualistic and collectivist – that are “normal” for each community. As Hindu Americans, we often feel the tug of these two different normals in our personal lives; perhaps we have different ways of thinking about our families than some of our peers who have more of an individualistic mindset about family and society. As a result, we may make decisions or hold opinions that our peers don’t understand; they may even find some aspects of our lives “unfair” or restrictive. It can be helpful to remember that we are simply operating from different frameworks, although this doesn’t necessarily mean others will understand this or that it’s easy even for us.
One core aspect of how Hindus think about our membership in society is that, while we are certainly on our individual journeys, we have a responsibility to something bigger than our individual experience and individual rights. As we continue to understand and address Hinduphobia in our lives and in the world, we come to understand our responsibilities as stewards of Dharma. This is a deeply personal journey, there is no prescription and there are no predetermined formulas; unlike Abrahamic religions, we don’t have a single book or a list of rules. What we do have is an incredible library of resources (i.e. our Itihasas, Vedas, Upanishads), our teachers (Gurus, Acharyas, elders), and our community, in addition to our practices of sadhana. What is so powerful about our tradition is that rather than indoctrinating us in moral certitude, it invites us to engage in understanding how to navigate the moral dilemmas that are a natural part of life.
In this spirit, we present to you the Hindu American Students’ Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. There are no hard and fast rules about what is a right versus a responsibility here; this is something for you to think about and incorporate into your life as and if it is helpful. While this is obviously not a legally binding document, we hope that it provides a framework of solidarity for Hindu Americans to support our collective journey as Dharma stewards.