When disaster strikes, people turn to religion to help them answer two questions: Why did this happen? and What should we do about it? Call the first the meaning question and the second the action question.
Anyone who teaches at a secular university knows that today’s students are far more likely to know the name of a Hindu god or to practice some form of Buddhist meditation than to recognize the name of the mother of Jesus or to pray in an explicitly Christian way.
In their long struggle for equality, India’s dalits, or “untouchables,” have often exchanged their Hinduism for Islam, Christianity, Sikhism or Buddhism, believing that they will better their lives by doing so. They have been persuaded that Hinduism, with its varna ashramas (caste distinctions), has been solely responsible for all their ills.