We begin with Hinduism because it is believed to be one of the world's oldest current religions. having originated along the banks of th~ Indus River in Pakistan between 3,500 and 4,500 years agq. Hinduism began before written records were kept, so modern scholars have only limited information about its earliest leaders and their teachings (Kurtz. )995). Hindu beliefs and practices have been preserved through an oral tradition and expressed in texts and hymns known as the Vedas (meaning "knowledge» or "wisdom"); however, this religion does not have a "sacred" book. such as the Judeo-Christian Bible or the Islamic Qur'an (Sharrna, 1995). Consequently. Hindu beliefs and practices emerged over the centuries across the subcontinent of India in a variety of forms, reflecting the influence of the various regional cultures (Kurtz. )995). Because Hinduism has no scriptures that are thought to be inspired by a god or gods and is not based on the teachings of anyone person. religion scholars refer it as to as an ethical region system of beliefs that calls upon adherents to follow an ideal way of life. For most Hindus, this is partly achieved by adhering to the expectations of the caste system Central to Hindu teachings is the belief that individual souls (jivas~ enter the world and roam the universe until they break free into the limitless atmosphere of illumination (moska) by discovering their own dharma-duties or responsibilities. According to Hinduism, individual jivas pass through a sequence of bodies over time as they undergo a process known as reincarnation (samsnra)-an endless passage through cycles of life. death. and rebirth until the soul earns liberation (Kurtz, 1995). TIle soul's acquisition of each new body is tied to the law of karma (deed or act), which is a doctrine of the moral law of cause and effect. The present condition of the soul-how happy or unhappy it is, for example-is directly related to what it has done in the past. and its present thoughts and decisions are the ultimate determinants of what its future will be. The final goal of Hindu existence is enter ing the state of nin'Qlla-becoming liberated from the world by uniting the individual soul with the universal soul (Brahma). Hinduism has been devoid of some of the social conflict experienced by other religions. Because Hinduism is based on the assumption that there are many paths to the "Truth" and that the world's religions are alternate paths to that goal, Hindus typically have not engaged in religious debates or "holy wars" with those holding differing beliefs. One of the best-known Hindu leaders of modern times was Mohandas ("Mahatina"t Gandhi, the champion of India's independence movement, who was devoted to the Hindu ideals of nonviolence. honesty. and courage (Sharma, 1995). However. some social'analysts note that Hinduism has been closely associated with the perpetuation of the caste system in India. Although people in the lower castes are taught to live out their lives with dignity. even in the face of poverty and despair. they may also come to believe that their lowly position is the acceptable and appropriate place for them to be-which allows the upper castes to exploit them (Kurtz. 1995). Hindu religion is almost as diverse as the wide array of people who adhere to its teachings. It is estimated that there are more than 700 million Hindus in the world today. with 95 percent of them residing in India, over 80 percent of whose population is Hindu (Sharma, 1995). Since changes in U.S. immigration laws in the 1960s brought a wave of immigrants from India. the number of Hindus in this country has increased Significantly (Albanese, 2007). Most Asian Indian immigrants to the United States have been well-educated professionals who have joined the ranks of the U.S. middle and upper-middle classes and have been active in supporting the more than forty Hindu temples in the nation. For most people of Asian Indian descent in the United States, these temples are sites of worship and gathering places where they can maintain a sense of community. They are also ritual centers where language, arts. and practices from their ethnic past can be preserved (Albanese. 2(07). How have Hindus fared in the United States? Intolerance has been an ongoing problem for many members of the Asian Indian community in this country. In view of numerous violent hate crimes perpetrated against "dot heads" (so-called by adversaries because some Asian Indian women wear a dot in the middle of their forehead), many have bound together La fight intolerance across lines of race, class. and religion. Despite discrimination and initial confrontations with embers of other racial-ethnic groups, the influence of Hindus in the United States is likely to be profound as their Weinberg increases. It is estimated that there are about 800,000 adherents in the United States today-a number eight times as large as it was twenty years ago (Shorto, 1997).