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Tulsi Gabbard’s Run for Congress Carries with it Many Hindu Hearts

Bijay Dixit (left), Bhagwan Bhutada, Sameer Wadwalkar ,Sharad Amin, Partha Krishnaswamy,Richa Dixit, Tulsi Gabbard , Desh Kapoor and Vijay Pallod.

By Jawahar Malhotra

SUGAR LAND: Just a few months ago, in August, Tulsi Gabbard, 31, had stolen some of the limelight at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte as she addressed the immense gathering with a warm “Aloha”, adding that she was “a candidate for Congress from Hawaii and a captain in the Army National Guard.” The Time Warner Cable Arena erupted in applause and cheers as she shared the stage with Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic Congresswomen.

This past Sunday, October 28, Gabbard shared a much smaller stage – the living room of local community activist Vijay Pallod – and shared the story of her pursuit of a career as a public servant even before she graduated from college. But what they wanted to hear most about was her religion and the practice of her faith as a Hindu who follows Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

Currently, Tulsi Gabbard is a Company Commander with the Hawaii Army National Guard, and has volunteered to serve on two deployments to the Middle East.

Gabbard’s story is certainly remarkable and an inspiration for many young people, especially the Indo-Americans, who would like to follow in her footsteps. She was born in Leloaloa, American Samoa, the fourth of five children of Mike Gabbard, an educator, tennis pro, business owner and current 19th District Hawaii State Senator and Carol Porter Gabbard an educator and small business owner. In 1983, the family moved to Hawaii, where Tulsi grew up. Tulsi was homeschooled through High school, with the exception of two years spent at an all-girls missionary academy in the Philippines. She graduated from Hawaii Pacific University with a degree in international business. Tulsi is often asked if she is Indian, though she has never been to India but hopes she does soon and would like to visit Vrindavan when she does.

Neither one of Gabbard’s parents is Indian nor has any Indian ancestry, but her white mother Carol became a Hindu and later her husband, a Catholic Samoan, followed suit. “They gave all their children staunchly Hindu names,” Gabbard explained, “and raised us as Hindus and vegetarians.” During Gabbard’s two tours of duty in Iraq in 2004 and 2009, her vegetarianism was both a challenge for her due to the lack of variety of meals as it was an amusement for her fellow soldiers.

With the upbringing that she had, at an early age Gabbard felt an inner urge and passion for service to others, which she believes she draws from her faith. Not yet out of college, she contested an open State House seat and amazingly won against a slate of four other older candidates. After 9/11, she felt compelled to join the Hawaii Army National Guard and volunteered for a 12-month combat tour in Iraq, serving with a medical unit.

On her return, she served as a legislative aide for U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka in Washington, DC until 2009 when she again voluntarily deployed to her unit in Kuwait. When she returned, she ran for, and won, a seat on the Honolulu City Council in November 2010, resigning in April 2012 to run for the vacated District 2 Congressional seat from Hawaii. She won the six-way primary, and has turned the final race from a 45% deficit to a 70% heavily in her favor, with a victory almost certain. She looks forward to taking her oath on the Bhagwad Gita!

Gabbard’s story of determination, her passion for service and the strength in her Hindu faith appealed to Pallod and other members of the Hindu community in the Houston area whom he shared with, including Rishi Bhutada, the local head of the Hindu American Foundation which he helped co-found. Simultaneously, local community activist Sanjay Ram ran into Gabbard at the Young Americans event in Des Moines in September. This culminated in an invitation to Gabbard to visit the Bayou City for a fund-raiser to help ease her campaign debt as well as to share her views on how she could further the values vital to Hindus in the US.

As Ramesh Bhutuda (Rishi’s father) expressed in the luncheon meeting this past Saturday, “After much thought, I have concluded that our children are not  just Indo-Americans, but Hindu Americans first, so that they can understand the spiritual values that we hope to inculcate in them.” He, like the other 50 or so people in the room, saw in Gabbard a ray of hope, and appealed for them to support her generously.


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10 Responses to Tulsi Gabbard’s Run for Congress Carries with it Many Hindu Hearts

  1. harish October 2, 2013 at 3:08 am

    Juan, I am Hindu with Indian ancestry. I believe in god and do not mind what other people call their god. I believe Tulsi believes in God. I am not going to investigate if she really prays to god, do her meditation and chant mantras and kirtana. Faith is something very personal matter and let us respect each other’s faith. You can certainly “investigate” what Tulsi has done for the people who have elected her in public office.

  2. juan November 14, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Useful idiots in the media, political correctness and easily excitable Hindu community are pivot keys to Gabbard’s propaganda. Don’t believe everything you read and become useful toys to manipulators. For every fact out there, there are ten counter-facts by propaganda agents. INVESTIGATE.

  3. Sesha November 11, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    I feel this is a very nice achievement and I have so much respect for Ms. Gabbard for staying true to her Hindu beliefs and not pretending to be something else or hiding. This will help other Hindus and people who may belong to other minority religions, such as Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, etc. Hinduism is a way of life, as some of the other posters mentioned, and so by nature Hinduism is very inclusive and non-sectarian.

  4. Prabhat November 9, 2012 at 1:39 am

    Dear Juan,

    Religion is an man made thing…..The Hinduism/Sanatan Dharma is an eternal dharma….With No Start and No End…However to fit in current system Hinduism is referred to as religion..

    Anyway..you are wrong…Hare Krishna’s are also Hindus..All of Hare Krishna Temples in India are registered as Hindu Temple even outside also…Krishna is an Hindu God..Hopefully you know that…For a Hindu his religion is very personal to himself..we don’t have any pope or any central authority who say he is Hindu or Not…so No one digs in to what other person is practicing…as it is our own spritual path…

    Anyway Best of Luck Tulsi for your new Job..Be a KarmaYogi

  5. Friend November 8, 2012 at 12:00 am

    Juan, Prabhupada actually comes from a more traditional denomination of Hinduism called Vaishava. Hinduism, as it is known today, is a non-denominational, contemporary nomenclature. Basically, Prabhupada preferred an original wording and understanding. He preferred Dharma or Vedic Dharma, which is the traditional name and belief of Hinduism. Anyhow, that is just a philosophical discussion within the religion. In fact, Vaishanava Hinduism, to which Tulsi belongs, is one of the oldest, largest and most famous branches of Hinduism, focusing on the devotion to Krishna and the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita. Congratulations to Tulsi and Hindu-Americans. Thank you.

  6. justahindu November 7, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    I know you could not be bothered about facts but you “just know better” about Hinduism and how it differs from other faiths that you may not agree with. Hinduism cannot be defined easily and is more of a life philosophy than a religion as Vinod currectly characterized above. There are plenty of Christians in India who consider themselves “Hindu” in a broader sense. Stop judging, and start understanding, there is much more to Hinduism than what could probably penetrate your tin foil hat.

  7. Apurva November 7, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Juan – your comments are valid. Often hindus (i’m one) in the US are quick to latch on to anyone in the public sphere willing to not eschew their Indian/hindu heritage or beliefs. Sometime we even latch onto those who suppress it, because it seem there is such a paucity of such people in the public arena. I suspect it’s because there is a lot of mis-information, and even thinly veiled bigotry or ignorance out there towards Hinduism from even typically “respected” quarters. However, I also believe in giving people a fair chance, and she is not her father. And if she says her service in the military changed her then I and willing to accept that until proven wrong. It would certainly make her more hindu, and in alignment with most hindus. And that is a good thing.

  8. juan November 7, 2012 at 6:21 am

    “Your attempt to tarnish or suspect her beliefs is rather pathetic.”
    Shame on you. Why is it that everytime somebody questions someone’s faith, that person gets subjected to a backlash? If a politician brings up his/her belief on the table, it’s every voter’s right to investigate. So, Hinduism is a way of life, not an institution? What the hell do you need your temples, gurus and organizations for? What if all religions claim to be a “way of life?” It’s the same old excuse for skeptics to back away or be accused of bigotry. That girl Tulsi and her cultic group, The Science of Identity is far from free of controversies. The founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta disavowed that his movement had nothing to do with Hinduism. The funny thing is, everytime they need public support, they become Hindus. Google her, investigate, that’s all voters like me ask for.

  9. Vinod Nair November 4, 2012 at 12:12 am

    Dear Juan –
    1. She is a practising Hindu & she is not claiming to be Indian. For your information one doesn’t have to be an Indian to be a practising Hindu.

    2. Also for your info Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism is a way of life….there is no induction or baptism or memberships or control by anyone/organization.

    3. Your attempt to tarnish or suspect her beliefs is rather pathetic. No, we Hindus are not in the “business” of digging into someone else’s faith. You can go ahead and do it own your own…your heart’s content

    Vinod Nair

  10. juan November 2, 2012 at 7:03 am

    The story is very inspirational, except it is inaccurate. Tulsi belongs to a Hare Krishna sect, an offshoot of ISKCON (International Society for Krsna Consciousness) founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta in late 60s. I find this misleading because the hare krishnas disavowed their connection with traditional Hinduism and Tulsi nor her parents are Indians by birth. The claim is solely on the basis of belief only, and is not technically accurate. It’s like an American practicing a belief somewhat similar to Buddhism can just claim to be a Chinese or a Japanese. Faith shouldn’t be an issue but since she’s the one who often speak about it, then people especially Hindus may need to dig in further about her faith.

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