There about 1,000 identified Hindus in the U.S. Army, and now they have a chaplain, Captain Pratima Dharm.
Yes, that is probably fewer than the followers of Pagan paths in uniform. The Buddhists have been recognized too, but a qualified Wiccan officer was rejected.
But there might be more to this story:
Dharm speaks easily of Christian teachings. A unique aspect of her story is that until this year, she wore the cross of a Christian chaplain on her battle fatigues. When she started on active duty in 2006, she was endorsed by the Pentecostal Church of God, based in Joplin, Mo.
But she’s now sponsored by Chinmaya Mission West, a Hindu religious organization that operates in the United States. A Washington, D.C.-area religious teacher who interviewed her for the organization before giving her an endorsement said her multifaith background is an advantage.
“She knows Christian theology, and she has a great grasp of Hindu theology,” said Kuntimaddi Sadananda of Chinmaya Mission’s Washington center. “This means she can help everyone.”
She didn’t convert from Christianity to Hinduism, she said.
“I am a Hindu,” she said. “It’s how I was raised and in my heart of hearts, that’s who I am.”
But — and perhaps it is hard for some Western Christians to understand — she hasn’t rejected Christianity either.
“In Hinduism, the boundaries are not that strict,” she said. “It is to base your life on the Vedantic traditions, and you can be a Christian and follow the Vedantic traditions.”
As I understand it, the Vedanta schools of Hinduism tend toward a sort of intellectual monotheism and reject all that colorful gods-and-goddesses stuff except when interpreted allegorically. So she has blended it with Christianity?