Hindu University Of America Press Release

August 31st 2003

ORHS Chaplains Attend Seminar on Hindu Traditions


Orlando area hospital chaplains and others involved in the care of hospitalized patients gained a new prospective which will help them and their Hindu patients. Thirty-five attendees associated with various hospitals of Orlando Regional Healthcare Services (ORHS) participated on August 28th in a four-hour seminar presented by faculty and staff of Hindu University of America (HU).

Seen engaged in discussion during the seminar are –Professor Gupta,President of Hindu University,Mr George Geans,Corporate Manager of Spiritual Care at Orlando Regional Heathcare; My Braham Aggarwal,Chairman of Hindu University,and Dr Avinash Agarwal ,a physician at ORHC.



HU President and Professor K.C. Gupta began with an overview of Hindu traditions. His presentation emphasized five key elements of Hindu tradition. These include (a) one ultimate reality emphasizing monotheistic character of the tradition, (b) the supremacy of Vedas – the most ancient scriptures, (c) the concept of Atman - the eternal sentient self within all, (d) the doctrine of Karma and rebirth and (e) the concept of Moksha, liberation from the cycles of birth and death. 

This introduction was followed an elaboration on the Hindu concepts that related to health, illness, suffering, death, and dying by Dr. B. V. V. K. Sastry, Professor of Hinduism. He emphasized that Hindu views of death, dying, illness and suffering are woven around the logic and faith related to the understanding of the Karma and the concept of salvation (Moksha).  These concepts are defined by distinct understanding of body, mind and spirit in Hindu tradition.

Ms. Rana Tiwari, attorney and key volunteer with HU, presented an overview of Hindus in central Florida. There are about 16 to 20 thousand Hindus in central Florida, mostly first- and second-generation immigrants from India, Africa, UK and the Caribbean Islands. They belong to over 55 sects of Hindu tradition, patronize 21 Hindu temples in the area, and speak many of the 21 Indian languages. Ms. Tiwari also summarized the “dos and don’ts” when dealing with Hindus. Her slide entitled “Hug, Kiss or Fold Hands?” presented a crisp summary of “dos and don’ts” when interacting with Hindus, and is included below. 

The seminar was opened and concluded by melodious chanting of verses from Hindu scriptures by Ms. Gauri Aggarwal from HU’s volunteer team. She explained the meaning of these verses and shared a legendary story to help hospital staff members remember the presence of divinity in patients (a key element of Hindu thought that emphasizes the divine essence in all creatures). She reminded the audience that the word “hospital” is associated with the word hospitality – the quality of being friendly. The seminar presentation was followed by a delicious Indian vegetarian lunch to highlight the vegetarian food habits of many Hindus.

This seminar was made possible by the initiatives of George Geans, Corporate Manager for Pastoral Care at ORHS; Debbie deMond Lewis, Chaplain; Kenneth Nolen, and Jeane Miller-Clark of Mind/Body/Spirit Center at ORHS


Hug, Kiss or Fold Hands?





Ask before embracing- Namaste is always OK

Kissing other than family members is not a cultural norm

Shaking hands with a woman is allowed

Care, compassion and understanding

Too many questions = anthropological study

Rapport is not established when people feel alienated

Help bridge the food gap

Veggie diet does not mean salad or boiled veggies

Home cooking;

Balanced meatless meals

Help get room for privacy

Do not insist on medication for grief

Culture permits loud and uncontrolled crying

Allow sitting on floor if a dead body is present

Do not assume the family knows what happens in the hospital upon death of a loved one


- preservation of body,


Do make available: water from Ganges, special basil (Tulsi), special ashes

Do not present flowers after death of a family member


Call Hindu University for help: 407-275-0013

Do not feel you must have all the answers. Call 407-275-0013

HU will make telephone and in-person help available as needed