Death Raises Questions on Hinduism
Byline: Oliver Andresen
"The same creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to earth, yet we can pray that all are safely home," said President Bush, addressing the nation Feb. 1.
His words, based on a quote from the book of Isaiah, held solace for the families of the American Christians aboard along with the family of the Jew from Israel, but among the crew was Kalpana Chawla, a Hindu woman from India.
"The Bible tells us that after a single life on earth, good people who follow its teachings spend eternity in Heaven. What are the Hindu beliefs on the circumstances of death?" I asked Ravi Patel, an employee at Friendship Village. Patel, now 18, was born in India. His mother, Saroj, brought him to America when he was 6.
"Hindus believe in many gods," said Patel. "We worship the ones we personally need. And we believe in reincarnation. We come into the world to the circumstances we've earned from our previous lives. Our family, our caste, our sex, our physical health are all what we deserve."
So Kalpana Chawla was destined to die in the Columbia crash and now will be born to a better level of life on earth?"
"If she has paid for her sins in her previous lives," said Patel.
"Still, before Kalpana Chawla was born, her mother had hoped for a son," I said.
"All Hindu mothers hope for sons," said Patel. "Sons are much more of value. They stay with the family to help with whatever work the family needs to survive. Whereas a daughter, sometimes even at the age of 2, is married off to another family to live for their needs and goals."
Still, Kalpana Chawla's mother is proud to say that her daughter achieved much more than a typical son in India. At the age of 14, Kalpana Chawla decided to become a space engineer. Hence, she was the lone woman to study aeronautics at Punjab Engineering College. But it was her decision to come to America that really shocked her family. …