Hinduism is hardly new to the United States. Swami Vivekenanda is thought to have first introduced it when he visited as part of the World’s Parliament of Religions at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. He received a standing ovation from the 7,000 people in audience, whom he declared his “Sisters and Brothers of America.”
In spite of Vivekenanda’s reception, subsequent series of lectures, and ultimately the establishment of the Vedantic Society of New York, with satellites in Boston and San Francisco, Hinduism remained a tiny presence in the United States for decades. It was but a demographic trickle. Only after 1965, with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which eased immigration from India and the rest of Asia to the United States, did the population of Hindus begin to grow. They now comprise a reputed .4 percent of the U.S. Population or, depending on whose arithmetic, 1.2 million people.
And what a population it is! According to the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, nearly half of Hindus living in the United States in 2009 had a post-graduate degree, by far the highest percentage of any community and five times the national average. As a population, they appear to be socially mobile and rising quickly within American society.