Issues such as the plight of Kashmiri
Pandits and human rights abuses of
Hindus and other religious minorities in
Pakistan are of concern to me
I won’t shy away from
opportunities to increase
understanding and appreciation
of Hinduism and Hindus
Aziz Haniffa speaks
to the candidate from Hawaii,
on course to become the first
Tulsi Gabbard is considered a shoo-in to winning Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District November 6 on the Democratic ticket and becoming the first Hindu American in the United States Congress.
Gabbard, 31, was last week again felicitated by the
Indian-American community in the Washington, DC area
in a manner unprecedented in terms of the community’s
embrace of a Congressional candidate of its own, even
though she’s not Indian American.
Earlier last month, Gabbard, fresh from her rock star sta-
tus at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte,
North Carolina, had visited Washington, DC to meet with
party leaders and Democratic National Committee offi-
cials. Then too, she had been accorded a reception and
fundraiser by the Indian-American community.
Her popularity among Indian Americans, particularly
Hindu Americans, is so palpable that leading Indian-
American operatives in the DC area like Shekar
Narasimhan brought her over to a reception-fundraiser
organized by another longtime Democratic operative Toby
Chaudhari in his home for US Senate candidate Tim Kaine,
just so that she could be a crowd-puller for Kaine.
In August, Gabbard defeated her main opponent, former
Honolulu mayor Mufi Hanneman, in the Democratic pri-
mary by 55.1 to 34.3 percent in a come-from-behind victo-
ry, which put her in the driving seat to win the general elec-
tion in the predominantly Democratic district.
Gabbard said she would be “honored to join the India
Caucus”, and that she is “eager to visit India and plan to do
so within the first year of my term if I am elected.”
You have been embraced by the Indian-American com-
munity, particularly the Hindu-American community, like
no other Indian-American Congressional candidate has.
And you are not even Indian American. What’s your take on
this unprecedented and enthusiastic embrace?
That question would probably be best asked of my sup-
porters from that community. However, I suspect it is
because they appreciate the timeless and universal nature
of our Hindu Dharma.
Your dad is Catholic. Your mom, I believe, is Hindu. So
does your Hinduism flow from your mom? How deep is it?
I grew up in a multicultural, multi-religious household.
My father is of Samoan/Caucasian heritage and he’s a dea-
con in the Catholic church. However he also likes to prac-
tice mantra meditation, including
. My mother is
Caucasian and a practicing Hindu.
Are you a practicing Hindu?
Yes, I am a practicing Hindu. Some people are Hindus
because they were born into a Hindu family, but may not
have seriously studied or applied the Vedic teachings and
In that sense it’s very much like many people in America
who consider themselves Christians because they were
born into a Christian family. But that’s not my situation.
I fully embraced Sanatan Dharma after serious delibera-
tion and contemplation in my later teens — it’s not because
my mother was a Hindu.
I’m a Vaishnava in the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya
Sampradaya. As a Vaishnava, my perspective of Hinduism
or Sanatan Dharma comes from the Bhagavad Gita.
I have been studying the Bhagavad Gita since childhood
and have, especially beginning in my teenage years, been
trying to apply the Bhagavad Gita’s principles of karma
yoga to every aspect of my life. And of
course I am very familiar with the Mahabharat, Ramayana,
On my two deployments to the Middle East, I daily prac-
meditation and contemplating on the truth
of the Bhagavad Gita.
By doing this, I was able to achieve great inner peace,
despite being in an environment of fighting and death. One
of the first things I saw when I arrived in Iraq was a giant
sign at the gates of our base that read, Is today the day?
I saw that sign every day and it was a constant reminder
that today could be the day that I have to leave this world.
This forced me to constantly remember and contemplate
upon the truth of my eternal identity as taught in the
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