UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “Spirituality completes me.” A simple statement by Aathithya Divakar, a first-year graduate student at Penn State Harrisburg, rings true for many people. Across the globe, individuals pray to and worship different religious and spiritual entities, actions that are a part of their everyday lives, and across the University, Penn State offers opportunities for students to explore and express their personal beliefs — including those who don’t practice a religion.
Hindu views, welcoming atmosphere
Born and raised in India, Divakar was raised in a family that has been practicing Hinduism for generations. His religion, an ancient belief that evolved from cultural changes throughout India, is an important part of his identity.
“I feel incomplete without being connected to the gods,” Divakar said, explaining that Hindus believe in deity worship and, while there are nearly 10,000 deities to choose from, Hindu myth discusses three main gods — Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, or the creator, the preserver and the destroyer. “My spirituality provides me a means to do things. It allows me to set goals and achieve them.”
Before enrolling in Penn State Harrisburg’s electrical engineering graduate program in January 2014, Divakar had spent his entire life in India. Travelling to central Pennsylvania was intimidating and he wasn’t sure what to expect. While 80 percent of India’s population practices Hinduism, Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project shows that, in America, only 0.4 percent of adults identify as Hindu.
“It’s not so scary,” Divakar said about being away from home. “It is hard, but the people here are so good. People actually ask me about my religion because here people want to know a lot about other people.”