Hinduism and Caregiving

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Hinduism is a minority religion in America accounting for 0.7% of the total population (Religious Landscape Study, 2014). Hinduism is a strictly personal religion and, unlike other religious traditions, has no standard form of worship (Johnsen, 2009). For example, some Hindus meditate, others pray and some combine meditation and prayer with physical exercises as in some forms of yoga. Most Hindus have a small wooden shrine or an alcove in their homes set aside for offering devotional worship (Bhaskarananda, 2002). Daily worship, to receive blessings from specific gods, is performed by the woman of the house. The Hindu religious year abounds with festivals and these are frequently linked to a calendar based on the lunar cycle (Spector, 2000). There are various gods and goddesses in the Hindu religion (Johnsen, 2009). According to Hinduism, three lords rule the world: Brahma: the creator; Vishnu: the preserver; and Shiva: the destroyer (Gatrad, Choudhury, Brown & Seikh, 2003). Lord Vishnu helped preserve the world by incarnating himself in different forms at times of crisis (Brodbeck, 2003).

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Hinduism’s theological rationale is based on a body of sacred literature known as the Vedas (meaning knowledge), which was composed between 1200 and 600 BC (Johnsen, 2009). Besides the Vedas, other texts are recognized as having great authority: the Upanishads, Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata (Wright et al, 2004). The holiest book of Hindus is the Bhagavad-Gita (Radhakrishnan, 2001). It comprises three parts: karma-kanda, upasana-kanda and gnana-kanda (Walters & Portmess, 2001). The Bhagavad-Gita teaches various spiritual practices, such as bhakti (devotion), gnana (knowledge) and yoga (Radhakrishnan, 2001). Unanimously, in western cultures and religions, when mentally capable, it is the individual who gives their informed consent and makes decisions on their own behalf exercising the right of autonomy and independence (Thomas, 2001). In the Hindu religion family members, particularly the elder members of the family will make the decision. In the scenario of the Hindu couple, it is always the husband who will make the decisions for his wife. Elders are greatly respected and given much importance in society in this religion.

Most families tend to live in an extended family with as many as three generations in the same house. Family plays a major role in the life of the Hindu and in the family, whatever the elders say, the younger ones listen and obey. Likewise, the son (preferably the elder son) in the family is highly recognized and valued, because he is responsible for taking care of his parents when they become old and sick and he has all the rights for decision making (Doorenbos, 2003). The family is the central unit of American Indian society and family care for dependent members is part of the values and preferences of American Indians (Baldridge, 2001; Light & Martin, 1996). Elders are held in high esteem, and most families want to care for their elders in ways that preserve and promote their dignity and honor cultural traditions (Jervis & Manson, 2002; Red Horse, 1980) which can be related to the religion as the religion can be conceptualized as the form of culture as it is a unified form of beliefs and practices (Cohen, 2009).

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