Asian and Abrahamic Religions: A Divine Encount

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To many Americans, the Asian religions remain a mystery despite a well-established presence on U.S. soil that dates back centuries. Asian religious practices, over time, began to influence and transform the American landscape - in the form of yoga, meditation and the martial arts. Nineteenth-century American transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau took some of their inspiration from Asian scriptures. Later, Beat writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg incorporated the tenets of Zen Buddhism into their work, and followed by The Beatles, who brought Eastern thought into the realm of pop culture following their encounters with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In addition, Hinduism - the world's oldest religion - and Jainism profoundly affected Martin Luther King's stance on non-violent protest during the Civil Rights movement. THE ASIAN AND ABRAHAMIC RELIGIONS: A DIVINE ENCOUNTER IN AMERICA explores the beliefs, practices and rituals of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism in an effort to dispel the misconceptions and stereotypes associated with these faiths. The documentary offers an in-depth look at the differences and surprising similarities among the polytheistic Asian religions and the monotheistic "Abrahamic" faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Also examined are the challenges of interfaith marriage, the younger generation's struggle to reconcile their families' traditional expectations with the desire to forge their own identity, and the difficulties in maintaining one's cultural and religious heritage in a largely Judeo-Christian environment. Cinema verite-style scenes capture a variety of religious ceremonies, festivals, rituals and sacred dance: a Hindu holiday celebrating Ganesha's birthday; a service recounting the great Hindu epic, the Ramayana, at a temple in Maryland; a royal Hindu wedding; and the 300th anniversary celebration of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scriptures. In addition, cameras visit the oldest Buddhist temple in the U.S., located in San Francisco's Chinatown, and contrast a Buddhist monastery in West Virginia with its Catholic counterpart in Washington, D.C. The film features diverse voices ranging from Asian and Abrahamic religious leaders and adherents of Asian religions to distinguished scholars, including Robert Thurman, professor of Buddhist Studies at Columbia University; Dr. Diana Eck, director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard Divinity School; Romila Thapar, professor of history at Nehru University; author Karen Armstrong and Stephen Prothero, professor at Boston University and editor of Asian Religions in America: A Documentary History. THE ASIAN AND ABRAHAMIC RELIGIONS: A DIVINE ENCOUNTER IN AMERICA intends to serve as a catalyst for broader interfaith dialogue, understanding and respect.

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