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revised 08.09.7
The World Faiths
Center for Religious Experience and Study
Hinduism and Buddhism in Kansas City
for 2013 Buddhist listings click here:
copyright 1999 by authors noted and by Vern Barnet,  Overland Park, KS
The account of the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center was prepared by Anand Bhattacharyya, Hindu member of the Kansas City Interfaith Council and formerly president of the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center. Linda Prugh, of the Vedanta Society of Kansas City, composed the information on Vedanta.  The listings of Buddhist organizations was made by Kevin Dowd and Kate Gaynor Riha, students in Vern Barnet‘s spring term “Religion in American Society” class at Ottawa University — Kansas City  and edited by CRES staff for this space.

Additional installments appear throughout the year as reference supplements to the monthly bulletin, Many Paths.

Hindu Temple and Cultural Center
American Buddhist Center
KC Dharmadhatu and  Shambhala Center
The Community of Mindful Living – Heartland Sangha
Mid America Dharma Group
The Rime Buddhist Center & Monastery Institute of Tibetan Buddhist Studies
Kansas Zen Center
Soka Gakkai International—USA
Buddhist Pagoda Vietnamese
Jamtse Tsokpa Tibetan/American Friendship Society
Vedanta Society
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
NEW WEBSITE for Buddhist Awareness Week

Hindu Temple and Cultural Center

History: The Hindu faith community is a growing community in the Midwestern states.  In the early 1980s the Hindu community leaders in the greater Kansas City area felt the need to build a place of worship for their own faith people.  The idea was strongly supported by the members of the community.  A nonprofit organization, “Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Kansas City,” was formed in 1982. Since most members of the Hindu community in the greater Kansas City area live in Kansas, a site in the city of Shawnee, KS, was selected on which to build the temple. In 1985 the ground breaking ceremony was performed and the construction started.  In 1988 the Hindu Temple building was completed.  The next step was to build the shrine in the prayer hall and install the deities.  This was completed in 1990 and the dedication ceremony was performed in April, 1991.

Services: The services are performed regularly by the temple priest.  Almost all services are performed in Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Hindu scriptures. Sometimes the priest explains the meaning of the services in English. Regular services are performed on a daily basis.  The special services are performed on special occasions in Hindu calendar, such as the religious celebrations. The temple premises are also used by the members of the Hindu community for weddings and other private family ceremonies.

Congregation: The temple serves the Hindu community living in the greater Kansas City area, as well as those living in neighboring cities, such as Lawrence and Topeka. The present strength of the Hindu community in the temple service area is approximately one thousand families. The congregation consists of mostly Hindu immigrants from India.  Hindu immigrants from other countries, such as Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and from some African countries, such as Kenya and Uganda are also a part of the congregation.  Sometimes people from other religious backgrounds are invited by their Hindu friends to join the services of Hindu temple.  Many church groups and local area school students visit Hindu Temple as a part of their study of the Hindu religion.

Youth Program:  Many Hindu immigrant families think it is important to expose their children to the rites of their religious tradition.  Several youth programs have been instituted.  These include Dharma camps, where the children learn about different religious practices from the temple priest, and the teaching of Hindu devotional songs.

Religious Discourse:  Every month a speaker is chosen from the local community or from outside to present a talk on different topics on the Hindu religion and its impact on life.  These discussions are conducted in English. In addition, visiting swamis and other distinguished religious persons are invited to the temple and give scholarly discussions on some aspect of Hindu religion and Hindu philosophy. The temple has also sponsored interfaith discussions to bring awareness of diverse faith traditions in this area.

Additional Activities:  Congregation members collect food for needy people, serve in the community soup kitchen, etc.
     [See the KC Interfaith Council Speakers Bureau for a listing of the Vedanta Society. See link for KC Star story on Indian immigrants.]

American Buddhist Center

History:  The American Buddhist Center was founded three years ago by Ben Worth, a Christian minister and self-described  recovering lawyer. While Ben practices Theravadan meditation, the American Buddhist Center is best described as an umbrella organization, with different Buddhist groups sharing it as a gathering place.

Gatherings:  The American Buddhist Center is located at Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W 47, Kansas City, MO 64112, and holds gatherings most days of the week. Currently, Monday meetings, 7:30 - 9 pm, are presented by the Heartland Community of Mindful Living and are based on the teachings of Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Tuesday gatherings, 7 - 9 pm, are led by teachers from the Kansas Zen Center and are based on the teachings of Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn.  Wednesday gatherings, 7 - 9 pm are titled “ABC’s of Mindfulness,” and consists of exercises to understand and experience the body, feelings, mind and mental states. Thursdays gatherings, 7 - 9 pm, are led by Heart of America Sangha members, with meditation and discussion based on the teachings of the Theravadan tradition of Buddhism. Sunday gatherings, 9 - 10 am features Meditation, Message and Metta (loving kindness).

Membership: All are welcome to attend events.  Knowledge of meditation techniques is not necessary prior to attendance.

Mission/Vision: To foster exploration and enrichment of personal potential through Buddhist philosophy and meditation.  The Four Nobel Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path guide the promotion of meditation, education, and inspiration through various activities and resources.

Additional Activities: The Center hosts retreats, offers counseling, and sponsors community outreach programs.  Current work includes the Good Samaritan Project, the Prison Meditation Project, and a young adult study group.

Additional Information:  Contact Ben Worth, Founder/Director of the American Buddhist Center at 561.4466 x143.  The American Buddhist Center is also on the internet at center/entrance.html.

KC Dharmadhatu and  Shambhala Center

History: The center was founded in the early 1970s by Chogyam Trungpa and offers Tibetan form of Buddhism,  teaching the Kagyu and Nyingma meditation lineages.

Gatherings: The group meets Thursdays 7 pm and Sundays 9 am - noon. Gatherings are held at the Shambhala Center, 2302 S Ferre, Kansas City, KS.  Knowledge of meditation techniques is not necessary prior to attendance – group members teach meditation instruction. The group also sponsors seminars and periodically sponsors teachers for instruction.

Membership:  This group draws individuals from across the metropolitan Kansas City area, and all are welcome.

Mission/Vision Statement:  Om mani padme hum.

Additional Information:  Contact the Shambhala Center, 677.4835 or David Carey, 561.5365.

The Community of Mindful Living – Heartland Sangha

History:  The International Order of Interbeing was founded in the mid 1960s by the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, peace activist, poet, and Nobel Prize nominee, with a mission to work for peace without taking sides in the Vietnam war.  Today, members of the Order seek to change themselves, by living joyful and mindful lives, in order to change society in the direction of compassion and understanding. We are a group of friends who follow the teaching of Zen Master Thích Nhât Hanh and support one another in the practice of mindfulness.

Gatherings:  The group meets Mondays 7:30 pm and is open to all. Gatherings are held at Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 West 47, Kansas City, MO.  For the schedule, please click on the link below.

Membership:  This group draws from across the metropolitan Kansas City area and all are welcome.

Emphasis:  Mindfulness of Breathing and Mindfulness in Daily Life. The practice is grounded in the fourteen Mindfulness Trainings (a contemporary adaptation and expansion of the Buddha’s Five Moral Precepts), and is active and engaged.

Additional information: Call Bethany Klug: (816) 333-3043 or e-mail  or visit .

Mid America Dharma Group

History: Mid America Dharma Group, known locally as MADG, came about as an outgrowth of the Menninger Clinic in Topeka.  Menninger began a series of gatherings in Council Grove, where speakers would give talks to Menninger therapists on a variety of subjects. One featured speaker was Shinzen Young (born Abraham Young), who spoke on meditation. Shinzen was the catalyst for Mid America Dharma, which hosted fourteen meditation-oriented retreats in 1998.  Mid America Dharma became a non-profit organization six years ago. Columbia, MO, is now the headquarters for Mid America Dharma Group.

Mission Statement: The mission of the Mid America Dharma Group is to teach and promote the vipassana meditation technique. Vipassana (“insight” or “mind-fulness”) is a Buddhist technique originating in Southeast Asia.

Retreat Scheduling:  Retreats are held periodically throughout the year at Conception Abbey in Maryville, MO.  Retreats run from one to ten days. Meals are strictly vegetarian.  Since the retreats are silent, no radios, television, or even journaling is permitted. Anyone is allowed to attend, though it is expected that attendees already know meditation techniques. Individuals wishing to obtain instructions for learning meditation techniques can call Unity Temple on the Plaza or the Continuing Education Department at Johnson County Community College.  Retreat attendees come from Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois.

Additional Information:  Contact John Flaherty or Marnie Hammer at 816. 523.5061. Marnie is a current board member for MADG.

The Rime Buddhist Center & Monastery Institute of Tibetan Buddhist Studies

History: The Rime Buddhist Center is an outgrowth of the Mindfulness Meditation Foundation begun in 1994 by Chuck and Mary Stanford. This non-sectarian center is dedicated to the cultivation of wisdom and compassion.

Vision Statement: To provide a qualified program of Buddhist studies and Tibetan culture taught by lamas and other Tibetan teachers, while also promoting a harmonious relationship of understanding between Tibetans and Westerners.  The Center has two purposes: (1) to provide a destination for the study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism and (2) to help preserve the endangered Tibetan culture by offering classes in Tibetan language, arts, and religion for Western students and scholars, and to make these resources available in the heart of America.

Facility: The Rime Buddhist Center is in the process of procuring a suitable building to house a practice center, classrooms, and a small monastery.

Additional Information: contact Lama Chuck Stanford at  (hm.) 913.897.5316.
Rime Buddhist Center -
700 West Pennway
Kansas City, MO 64108

Kansas Zen Center

History: The Kansas Zen Center was founded in 1978 by Zen Master Seung Sahn, who came to the United States in 1972 to found the Kwan Um School of Zen. The Center has been an affiliate of the School since then.

Gatherings: The Kansas Zen Center, 1423 New York, Lawrence, KS 66044, offers Zen meditation training through both morning and evening practice. Morning practice occurs Monday through Friday 6 - 7 am, Saturday 6 - 8 am, and Sunday 9:30 - 11:30 am. Evening practice takes place only Monday through Thursday 7 - 8 pm.  Retreats are held every month and are either half day or  an intensive two days in length.  They are designed to help individuals realize their true nature and to develop compassion for the world. In addition to meditation and retreats, the Kansas Zen Center gives teaching interviews (conducted during retreats), conducts Buddhist study courses, offers celebrations, and conducts Precept Ceremonies. At the present time, members serve at the Lawrence Interdenominational Kitchen.

Membership: Although it is not mandatory for attending activities at the Kansas Zen Center, membership does entitle individuals to reduced rates for retreats and subscriptions to newsletters.  Visitors are always welcome to attend practice –  meditation instruction will be provided for any visitor who needs it. Satellite groups meet in Kansas City at Unity Temple on the Plaza and in Topeka.

Additional Information: Kansas Zen Center 785.331.2274.

Soka Gakkai International—USA

History:  Soka Gakkai International-USA (SGI-USA), is an American Buddhist movement that promotes peace and individual happiness based on the philosophy and practice of the Nichiren school of Mahayana Buddhism.  SGI is a worldwide organization of Buddhist lay believers dedicated to peace, culture and education.  The Soka Gakkai (“Value Creation Society“) dates to 1930. In 1960,  Daisaku Ikeda brought it to the US. He is the current SGI president. The activities of SGI are based on the philosophies of Nichiren Daishonin (1222-1282). The SGI sponsors exhibits to benefit children’s and environmental causes and encourages members to become involved in community activities. SGI-USA is a non-governmental organization of the United Nations and has a history of donating money, food and clothing to UN relief efforts. SGI emphasizes the sanctity of human life and peace.

Gatherings:  Local SGI gatherings are held monthly at 1804 Broadway Boulevard in Kansas City, MO, 64108 and include world peace prayer meetings and study meetings.  Discussion meetings are held in members’ homes throughout the metropolitan area. Weekly new member meetings, introductory meetings, and chanting sessions are also held. Anyone can attend these gatherings. SGI attendees chant the phrase Nam myo-ho-renge-kyo.

Membership: Membership in SGI-USA is available to individuals who wish to support the goals of the SGI, which is committed to individual happiness, the prosperity of each country and society, and world peace.

Focus:  To cherish each individual despite environmental, economic, and military crises. SGI members believe that Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, a humanistic philosophy of infinite respect for the sanctity of life and all-encompassing compassion, enables individuals to cultivate and bring forth their inherent wisdom and nurturing human spirit, to overcome difficulties and crises facing humankind, and realize a society of peaceful and prosperous co-existence.

Additional Information:  In the Kansas City area, contact John Ford, 816.474.7973. For US information, contact Al Albergate, SGI Public Relations, 310.260.8900.

Buddhist Pagoda Vietnamese

History:  The Temple was formed about fifteen years ago.

Membership:  Mostly Vietnamese immigrants.

Gatherings:  Sundays, 10 am - 1 pm at 1614 White Ave, Kansas City, MO 64126.  Group services and youth activities are offered.

The Reverend Thich-Chan-Tinh, 816.241.9371.

Jamtse Tsokpa
Tibetan - American Friendship Society
(Association of Love and Compassion)

History:  This organization was started by two sisters, Cecily Fatima Sabato and Stephanie Nuria Sabato, following a trip to India in 1996. Its aim is to save Tibetan Buddhists from the genocide and persecution in Tibet by the Chinese authorities (the majority of Tibetans are Buddhists).  The group began in 1997 and is essentially a program to sponsor exiled refugees.

Gatherings:  The organization sponsors numerous educational and cultural events featuring Tibetan art and lectures on Tibetan Buddhism. It also holds prayer vigils, musical benefits, and features many of the most distinguished lamas of Tibetan Buddhism.  This group is open to anyone wishing to participate. The Board welcomes any volunteers wishing to assist with fundraising activities.  For volunteer opportunities, call Kate Ottinger 816.361.3704.

Additional Information:  Contact Stephani Nuria Sabato at 816.920.6117,  816.920.5606; 1824 Newton, Kansas City, MO  64126

Vedanta Society

History: The first two Vedanta Societies in the United States were founded in 1894 and 1900 by Swami Vivekananda, chief disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, who helped found the Ramakrishna Order of India. Swami Vivekananda represented Vedic religion [Hinduism] at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893, during the World's Columbian Exposition. The swami taught in the U.S. and England for several years. Later, twelve more Vedanta Societies were established in the U.S. by monks of the Ramakrishna Order. One of them was the Vedanta Society of St. Louis, founded in 1938.

The Vedanta Society of Kansas City was founded in 1947 by Swami Satprakashananda, minister of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis. His successor, Swami Chetanananda, is minister of both Societies. In 1985 the Society purchased its present building at 8701 Ward Parkway, where regular programs are held. The Society has a lending library of books and audiotapes
and stocks Vedanta literature and devotional items for sale. In 1997 the Vedanta Society of Kansas City observed its fiftieth anniversary of founding.

Emphasis: Veda means knowledge; anta means culmination. Vedanta describes spiritual laws which operate throughout the universe. These spiritual laws were discovered by generations of sages in India who had a passionate yearning to understand the entire spectrum of life. Their realizations, which came to them through meditation, were recorded in the Vedas.  In the concluding portions of these ancient scriptures, their highest experiences were recorded. These sections are known as the Upanishads or the Vedanta. Knowledge of these is regarded as the highest wisdom one can have in this life. Though Vedanta philosophy is the source of Hinduism, it is not confined to Hinduism or to any culture or any religion.

Vedanta teaches that our real nature, our real Self, is divine, a manifestation of the Infinite Divine Reality or Godhead. The aim of life is to realize this divinity. To help us achieve this goal, Vedanta teaches various methods suited to individual needs and capacities. According to Vedanta, Truth is universal and the different religions of the world are many paths leading to the same goal. It does not seek to convert but to support aspirants in their own spiritual paths.

Services:  Regular Services are held on Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30.  These include a period of meditation and a program on a spiritual topic.  Most Service programs include a short presentation on the Upanishads prepared by a devotee and a videotaped lecture by a monk of the Ramakrishna Order of India. Special observances in honor of auspicious days are planned by devotees. These often feature chanting, readings, symposiums, dramas, and vigils.  A Vespers Service is held every Wednesday evening.  Special classes and other programs conducted by Swami Chetanananda take place on weekends several times during the year.
The swami also grants private interviews to those interested in spiritual practice.  (No services are held in August.)

Membership:  All are welcome to attend programs.  Membership in the Society is available to those who are interested in the teachings of Vedanta, are in sympathy with the Society's ideals, and have attended programs for some time.

Other Activities:  The Society holds an annual food and clothing drive to benefit the needy.  Beneficiaries include the Don Bosco Centre, Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Association of the Blind.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

One of the best spiritual resources in the Kansas City area is not a religious group but a museum. “The Nelson” has world class works of art that visually recall Buddhist history.  Laurence Sickman, internationally respected scholar of Chinese art, collected many items early in the Museum’s development. Sickman’s skill has given the Nelson the core of  one of the finest Oriental collections in the world.

The collection includes works from India, Tibet, China, Korea, Japan, and Indonesia, and shows how Buddhism adapted to each culture. This suggests that American Buddhism may also manifest its own religious and artistic forms.

A highlight is the Chinese Temple with its eight foot Bodhisattva “Seated Guanyin” statue, a superb example of Buddhist art from the 11th Century.  Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who refuse final bliss in order to help all sentient beings on their road to enlightenment. Guanyin Yin represents the Buddhist virtue of compassion, which is one  of the two great Buddhist virtues  (the other is wisdom).  The Tantric collection includes sacred ritual objects. On a stairway is a nine foot Amida Buddha from Japan.

Additional Information:  Contact Carol Inge-Hockett at 816.751.1239 in the Adult Education Department.  The Nelson is located at 4525 Oak, Kansas City, MO 64111, three blocks northeast of the Country Club Plaza. The Nelson does not charge an admission fee on Saturday. Web site:


By SANGEETA SHASTRY | The Kansas City Star
[2012 08 08]

   If you had wandered by Indian Valley Elementary School a few weekends ago, the sight would have been unremarkable.
   Empty parking lot. The surrounding neighborhood nearly silent. The welcome breeze occasionally rustling a few leaves.
   But if you’d listened carefully, you’d have heard phantom cheering from a far-off corner of the grounds in the heart of suburbia near 116th Street and U.S. 69 in Overland Park.
   If you’d heard it, you might have wandered behind the locked brick building, through a back parking lot packed with cars and down a hill spotted with patches of browning grass.
   With the backdrop of cars rushing past on U.S. 69 and encircled by joggers throwing curious glances that way, a game of cricket was under way on a converted dusty baseball diamond, sharing the oppressive midday heat with a softball game on a neighboring field.
   English and Hindi — and occasional other languages — harmonized as a crowd about 30 strong yelled from under tarp tents.
   “Catch it!”
   This is how it works, the immigrant life. The constant hope that even amidst work and school and spelling bees and PTA meetings and soccer practice, they can make time for regular visits to Hindi classes, maybe, or things like this cricket match. The hope that, even nestled here in the middle of America, they can give their children a culture all their own — and the hope that those children will carry it with them as they grow older.
   You might have driven through the area’s Indian cultural equator between the Hindu temple on Lack-man Road and the Sikh house of worship on Pflumm Road less than two miles from each other in the middle of Shawnee. That path is anchored by those fairly unassuming buildings that, inside, are the beating hearts of the community — gathering places that draw hundreds.
   And so it is that Johnson County has steadily become something of an epicenter for Indian immigrants, home to two major religious focal points, a plethora of businesses and hundreds of families. This is where the majority of the Indian community lives, its members say. This is where they’ve chosen to build the life they’ll pass on to their children. It’s a decision fueled by good schools, job opportunities and rising real estate values.
   They came to the makeshift cricket pitch that Saturday to have fun. To catch up with friends. But they also came to keep alive in America a sport that’s more religion than pastime back home.
   By holding onto what’s familiar to them — and sharing it with whomever they can, whenever they can — the span of 8,000 miles, 11 time zones and assorted oceans and continents doesn’t loom quite as large.
   Hitting the reset button on life doesn’t seem so daunting with people who understand you by your side.
   In 1991, Suresh Kumar knew of just one Indian restaurant in the area.
   The restaurant was called Mother India, he said — reassuring, perhaps, in a time when there were just a handful of Indian families here. Though it was “very nicely done,” there was sluggish demand, Kumar said.
   Now, a trip to one of the multitude of Indian restaurants in Overland Park, Shawnee or Lenexa is proof of 20 years of growth. You might even have noticed that more than 10 Indian restaurants and grocery stores dot a roughly seven-mile stretch of Metcalf Avenue alone.
   The dinner crowd isn’t made up of just Indian people looking for a familiar palate. The country’s cuisine is almost mainstream now. Demand for Indian spices to add to homemade tikka masala or korma, for instance, is on the rise. And those words themselves aren’t so foreign anymore.
   That one slice of life, food, seems to mirror the tectonic shift in these immigrants’ way of life. Kumar came from Calcutta to study at UMKC. In 1996, he started his own accounting firm in Overland Park. He’s also on the board of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Kansas City, which has its headquarters in Overland Park.
   Kumar remembers when the trickle of immigrant families turned into a tidal wave in the early 1990s. As the information technology business picked up speed, Indian programmers and engineers saturated the market, and companies like Sprint and Black & Veatch drew some of the masses to the area.
   The numbers paint a clearer picture of what Kumar and so many others have seen over the years. The U.S. Census’ American Community Survey estimated in 2010 that there were 9,343 Asian Indians living in Johnson County. That’s up by almost 2,000 people from the earliest survey data available, from 2005. A steady influx of hundreds of immigrants arrived in the county each year.
   Johnson County’s Indian community is coming into its own as a microcosm of the motherland, people say. The diversity in these suburbs has come to mirror India’s villages and cities and quite a bit in between.
   No longer is this community a small nucleus. There are enough people from enough places across India for the community to seek out people who share their mother tongue — the Indian government recognizes 22 languages — or their hometown — India has 28 states and seven territories. It’s about a third the size of the United States, but it accounts for nearly 17 percent of the world’s population at over 1 billion people.
   A simple peek around the Web shows the plethora of Indian cultural groups that have surfaced in the area, some based in Johnson County.
   The Gujurati Samaj of Greater Kansas City. The Kerala Association of Kansas City. The Kansas City Tamil Sangam. The Kannada Association of Kansas City. The Telugu Association of Greater Kansas City. The Marathi Mandal of Kansas City.
   To name a few.
   The regional associations started out simple. The Kansas City Bengali Association, for instance, began with about 20 people two years ago in someone’s basement, said Joyeeta Chakraborty, the group’s cultural secretary. Now, the whole executive board has around 80 people, and the association’s events draw hundreds.
   “It is a replica of India, the different cultures, different communities, different doctrines,” Kumar said of the community. “We need the diversification. That is what India is for. That is what this country believes.”
   Rahul Mazumdar was briskly weaving his way around the cricket pitch and through the tents, taking careful notes on a clipboard with a complicated-looking chart.
   He was overseeing the tournament as a sports coordinator for the Bengali association. The games were back by popular demand: a hit last year, the organizers had to turn people away after they hit 16 teams so they could keep the tournament to just one day.
   Nine matches down — and the semifinals and finals still left to be played — Mazumdar squinted as he scanned the field, making notes on his clipboard and responding to urgent calls of “Rahul!” when people wanted to know the score or who was up next.
   It was organized chaos set to the sound of cheering and animated conversation peppered with English words. This is a young community — bachelors and nascent families figure prolifically among them — and their energy is undeniable.
   So is their serious love of the game, evidenced by heated debate throughout the day over whether this person was out or whether that play was allowable.
   “You still get to share that same feeling as if you were back home, doing the things that you want to do, having the food that you wanted, even talking to people and having the same culture,” Mazumdar said. “It means I’m not here alone. Maybe my immediate family is not here with me, but I have close friends over here who I can rely on.”
   An electrical engineer with Black & Veatch, Mazumdar has spent seven years in Kansas and five in the Kansas City area. Before that, West Bengal.
   He remembers when he first arrived in Pittsburg, Kan. Only 25 or 30 people in the whole town looked like him, he said, along with one or two professors, maybe. People would ask him what his home country was like, throwing in details of things they’d seen in movies. Elephants surfaced from time to time.
   That’s all different now.
   “With globalization and the development they’ve made in the IT business, you see more and more Indians coming in,” Mazumdar said. “Most people are becoming accustomed to Indian culture.”
   Brijpal Singh, 45, remembers when he arrived in the area 16 years ago. He and his wife would go to weddings and religious festivals and find that every face in the crowd was familiar.
   “Now, when we go to any new event, we find people we have never seen before,” he said. “The Indian community has grown a lot in the last 15 years.”
   Singh, who’s also involved in the India Association of Kansas City, can see the change by using yardsticks like the number of Bollywood movies that are screened at local theaters. A while back, there might have been one occasional showing at best; today, theaters like Olathe’s AMC Studio 30 are sometimes packed on nights when Bollywood movies are set to release, the electric atmosphere not unlike the midnight hype of heavily anticipated Hollywood blockbusters.
   Singh measures the change by the size of the Kansas City Midwest Sikh Gurudwara, the Sikh place of worship on Pflumm Road.
   When his son was born, he and his wife individually bagged desserts to bring to the gurudwara — Singh estimated that he’d need around 175 sweets. Now, he’d have to bag 300 to feed everyone, he said, laughing.
   In a multipurpose room in a back corner of the gurudwara, with stacks of extra chairs and rugs and children’s toys taking up nearly every inch of the small space, Charanjit Hundal, spokesman for the gurudwara, told the story of the Sikhs in Kansas City over the ongoing singing being broadcast softly from the large prayer room on the floor above.
   The Sikh community traces its roots to the Indian state of Punjab. In the Kansas City area, the community started out with just about five families, Hundal’s one of them. They met in the basements of people’s homes, bringing their own food for the traditional post-prayer meal. They designated people to hold onto the sacred scriptures — or the Guru Granth Sahib.
   And as the years passed, they made a new home for themselves.
   In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the growing Sikh community — then up to 15 or 20 families — began renting out large halls in Shawnee and Lenexa, having graduated from the basements they’d been using roughly once a month.
   Monthly services turned into biweekly ones. Then weekly, every Sunday. And in 1984, the Sikh community of about 30 families broke ground on the land at 6834 Pflumm Road to build a place of their own. The gurudwara that stands there today opened as 1987 came to a close with about 200 worshippers.
   For Sarbjit Singh Gugnani, the gurudwara became home for a week and a half before he found a foothold in downtown Kansas City.
   “I came here in 2007, and the second day I landed here at the gurudwara,” he said. “It was the perfect place to get started. You get all the support from the community.”
   Now Gugnani serves on the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, paying forward the help he got when he first arrived.
   “I got real encouragement that we can survive here,” Gugnani said, laughing. “Otherwise it would have been difficult for me to settle down initially.”
   Now, with around 600 regulars, they’re pushing the limits of the now 25-year-old gurudwara.
   “We have to adapt and provide services for each age group that’s out there,” Hundal said. “The older generation and new immigrants will be more comfortable in a traditional setting whereas the generation that’s born here will want something different that they can understand and grow with the faith.”
   Expanding will help, he said. They looked for property just before the economic downturn of 2008, which put a hold on their plans. Now that the markets are turning around, the gurudwara is hoping within the next two to five years to move with the Sikh community as families relocate farther south and west.
   We gravitate toward what we know, Hundal said.
   “People would try to find a place to live close to something they were familiar with, whether it was friends or whether it was a place of worship,” he said.
   The Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Kansas City on Lackman Road started off small, too.
   The large building with the expansive parking lot and hall space for weddings, baby showers and festivals didn’t exist just a couple of years ago. And, like the gurudwara, plans are in the works to expand the temple again. With thousands of people now showing up for some events, the space is still too small, said Chetna Ranat, a member of the temple’s executive committee.
   “It’s growing, definitely,” said Vaishali Shah, who helps coordinate temple events. “It’s growing a lot. Especially during Diwali or Holi, if it’s a big celebration, then you can see a lot of people.”
   Those annual holidays — one the fall celebration of lights, the other a festival of colors — draw anywhere from 300 to 1,500 people to the area’s Hindu center. People come and go on an everyday basis, Ranat said, but weekend events and festivals draw huge numbers — numbers that used to be unthinkable just a few years ago.
   India is literally the land of a thousand gods. Different areas of the country pray specifically to certain deities. And now, with the Indian community growing as fast as it is, the temple showcases murtis — or idols — for many of the religious sects within Hinduism itself, each decorated and the object of frequent prayer by devotees.
   “India itself is just full of rich culture and so many different ethnicities,” Ranat said. “The most amazing thing about this Hindu temple is that all the gods are in one place. You don’t see that in a lot of bigger cities. All the communities can come together, which is amazing.”
   Shah needed to look no further than a festival going on behind her for an example. It was Hindola, celebrated by followers of Vaishnavism, one of Hinduism’s sects, to honor the Hindu god Krishna.
   On a stage inside the hall that’s part of the temple’s expansion, a golden swing was decorated with brightly colored sacred threads and flowers and set against a sunny yellow cloth backdrop. The temple’s priests chanted mantras, or prayers, as women seated on the floor sang the upbeat tunes, some tapping their palms against their knees to keep time.
   “It’s Hindu religion, but there are so many different religions inside it,” Shah said.
   The search for a better life has brought Indian families to Johnson County, accountant Suresh Kumar said.
   “Indians always have the tendency to be in a neighborhood that is good for schooling, that has got a good real estate value,” he said. “Overall, Johnson County is what the Indians prefer because of the school districts.”
   Blue Valley, Olathe, Shawnee Mission — these all draw Indian families, says Ishita Banerjee of the Bengali association. Their children are the ones who will carry on the culture, the language, the food, the achievement. In 10 years, Banerjee says, they want their children to be “stars in the community.”
   Some of the 10-year-olds can already recite what it takes to reach their goals of being neurosurgeons or cardiothoracic specialists. Four years of undergraduate education, followed by four years of medical school. Residencies. Specialization.
   “We put a special emphasis on the kids’ education,” says Debabrata Bhaduri, president of the Bengali association and a member of the Great Kansas City Interfaith Council. “That is reflected in the schools, the Indian kids — they’re doing very well.”
   What’s more, the schools and businesses Johnson County are conducive to getting a good job and raising a family, Bhaduri said.
   At a minimum, everyone has a bachelor’s degree, says Banerjee. Everyone is well-placed in their communities; for the most part, they’re professionals — engineers, doctors and lawyers.
   Under the tarp tents at the cricket match, she motioned toward some of the young men whose eyes were fixated on a bowler charging toward a batsman. At least four of them have PhDs, and one of them is a professor who has been published many times for his cancer research.
   The whole setup is mutually beneficial, Bhaduri said.
   “The Indian community here is changing Overland Park and John-son County in a very special way,” he said. “We take pride in developing a good society, and this society has given us opportunity to do that.”
   Says Banerjee: “We are a really established community and a really strong community. We are middle-class, not super-rich or anything. We’re hoping that we can make a mark.”
   It’s all about their children.    “The focus has always been to try to do things to help them as they grow,” Hundal said. “(We) concentrate and focus on children’s needs to further the faith and help them carry it with them as they grow.”
   The gurudwara’s youth association helps. Organized by the younger members of the congregation, the association does community service, helps out around the gurudwara and holds discussions about the state of Sikhism today, among other things. The group of about 20, give or take a few members, tries to walk the tightrope of growing up in today’s America and holding onto their faith with the gurudwara’s help.
   It isn’t easy.
   “We’re the first-generation Americans, so we have to deal with all of the mixing between keeping the Sikhism tradition and the culture shock we have to deal with,” said Harneet Kaur, 17.
   That includes things like listening to parents being “really strict,” not going out and having to handle a double standard for boys and girls, she said.
   “It’s a whole thing for us where we’re with our friends, and then there’s a whole difference when we’re here” at the gurudwara, said Pritpal Singh, 16.
   They have to be able to hold the demands of their religion, as keepers of their culture, and still function within today’s society.
   “With the survival of the culture we need to be able to adapt since there’s so much cultural diversity in this area,” said Anthony Gosal, 16. “I myself used to speak Punjabi, but I lost that at about 2 years old, so now I only speak English. And I feel that I’ve lost a bunch of my roots and my originality and really what ties me back to India. Now, I’m pretty much more of an American person.”
   That gets even harder when they head off to college.
   Harman Tiwana, 20, just finished up her junior year studying accounting at KU. She was involved with the gurudwara from the time she was in seventh grade through high school, singing during prayers every weekend.
   Her family moved from Seattle, making Kansas City’s small Sikh community seem tiny. It grew, though — the community began celebrating Vaisakhi by marching outside the gurudwara, a sight that draws the attention of neighbors each year. The youth association gained traction.
   Finding time at college to keep up with her religion is tricky, but she knows there’s a strong Sikh community at home.
   “Everybody knows each other pretty well,” Tiwana said. “We’re always there for another.”
   Kaur, a rising senior, is anticipating the challenges of keeping the faith as she prepares to head off to college.
   “It’s hard to come into a community if you don’t know people,” she said. “Since we’ve all been here for so many years, we all know each other, we have friends. It’s easier. Once you leave Kansas City, I think it’s going to be harder to keep your roots.”
   The shootings at a gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wis., on Sunday left the Sikh community here shocked — and scared that the violence was a repeat of what they saw in the aftermath of 9/11, said Sarbjit Singh Gugnani.
   Phone calls came in from concerned relatives in India. At home in Johnson County, the news “traveled like lightning,” Gugnani said. “It spread like fire.”
   The Oak Creek rampage killed six members of the gurudwara, some of whom had personal ties to people living almost 600 miles away. One of the victims, Ranjit Singh, was a friend of one of the priests at the Shawnee gurudwara, Gugnani said. Shevy Kaur, program chair for the Punjabi Cultural Society of the Heartland, said her mother is from the same village as Paramjit Kaur, the only woman killed in the shootings.
   “The thing with most Indian communities, but especially with the Punjabi and Sikh community, is that we’re very connected to each other,” said Kaur, who is organizing a candlelight vigil for the shooting victims tonight in Shawnee Mission Park. “Everybody knows everybody. Your village is pretty much your family.”
   For the Sikh community, 9/11 was a turning point. It marked an effort to come together and both grieve the national tragedy as well as let the public know that the practice of Sikh men wearing turbans or Sikh women covering their hair didn’t equate them with al-Qaida. They went to public officials and into schools. They participated in discussions.
   “The damage that it caused to our community, that perception that anyone with a turban on their head is al-Qaida, that is not true,” said Rani Duggal, a member of the gurudwara. “Once the misconception is gone, then you can start educating the people about who we are.
   “There has been outreach, but has there been enough? No.”
   Tragedies like Sunday’s shake communities at their core once again, sending ripple effects across the nation. The fear hits close to home, Gugnani said. It prompts serious questions. What if crimes like this become more commonplace? Are our lives in danger?
   While conversations about our differences shouldn’t have to be catalyzed by moments of crisis, he said, people are taking the time to talk in the aftermath of this one.
   “Not that we want this kind of incident to happen, but it is being used to create awareness,” Gugnani said.
   As the Indian community has grown into a critical mass here, the immigrants are reaching out, beyond their own borders, working to become part of the greater Johnson County landscape.
   Thinking ahead, social media might be a way to reach the masses — and a wide variety of age groups at that, Duggal said. More media exposure could help showcase and share their culture and religion.
   “We do make those efforts as we can to not be insulated,” Hundal said. “We are part of the community, and we need to try to get our views and ourselves out there into the public.”
   The Bengali association’s cricket match, for example, was one attempt to reach out. So was their recent volunteer event at the local Ronald McDonald House. Or the group’s trip to Joplin after the devastating 2011 tornado to help the recovery efforts. Or their dance performance at the Nelson-Atkins museum to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
   Other regional associations, the temple and the gurudwara have put themselves out into the community as well, inviting the public to religious festivals or even just regular services.
   “Each of these associations, including the temple, is trying to see how they can bring the mainstream community to their activities,” Ku-mar said. “They are trying all the time.”
   Hundal said the gurudwara tries to get the community involved in religious festivals like Vaisakhi. He said they’ve become a fixture at the annual Old Shawnee Days Parade, where they’ve handed out water bottles for the last 20 years.
   “It’s become one of those things that people expect,” Hundal said. “Those efforts do pay off. They present an image of you that everybody acknowledges. It’s been helpful.”
   It’s ongoing work, the reset life. The effort to integrate isn’t easy. It’s a slow process. And sometimes it might seem more of a challenge than it’s worth, in the moments when home seems impossibly far away and the microwaved mess in front of you simply won’t cut it anymore and the time difference makes you feel alone.
   But there are other moments. Like the one when the sun turned orange and cast the cricket players’ shadows long over the browning grass, when the stifling air began to cool, when everyone was crowded under the tents, when there was a harmony of people eating pizza together, talking together, laughing together, making fun of each other, playing with everyone’s children, knowing everyone’s names.
   When there was calm in the chaos.
   “You’re so far away from home. But still you can get that feeling,” Mazumdar said, squinting as he looked out onto silhouettes of the players returning from the pitch, dripping sweat, draining water bottles, exchanging shoulder slaps and high fives. “It feels great.”

Immigrants from India bring along their love for the game of cricket. On a scorching hot day, members of the Kansas City Bengali Association held a cricket tournament at Indian Valley Park near 116th Street and U.S. 69. Harsha Alluri took a swing at the ball from bowler Ranjan Ghosh.

   At the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in Shawnee, Hindus gathered recently for Lakshmi Puja, or prayer to the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Lakshmi was at the center of the altar.

Participating in the Lakshmi Puja, or prayer to the goddess Lakshmi, were 18-year-old Aswathi Pradeep
(left) and her sister Anjali Pradeep, 14.

Before praying
to Lakshmi, Hindus typically stop to pray to Ganesh, the god of prosperity (at lower right). Kerav Agarwal, 4, watched as Namita Bhardwaj prayed to Ganesh.

Dances of India were featured during a recent fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that was held by the Kansas City Bengali Association. Hema Sharma of Overland Park performed Jal Kamal inside the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

   One of the traditions at the Kansas City Midwest Sikh Association Gurudwara is the fanning over the covered scriptures before a prayer service. The gurudwara is a place of worship in Shawnee.

Many male Sikh followers wear turbans and refrain from shaving their beards. These men lined a wall during a recent service at the Midwest Sikh Association Gurudwara, 6834 Pflumm Road.

Part of the weekend worship gathering at the gurudwara in Shawnee involves small meals between services. Women including Raj Ball (right) were in the kitchen recently preparing roti.
   Local groups will remember the victims of the Sunday shootings at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., that killed six of its members.
   The Punjabi Cultural Society of the Heartland and other local groups will hold a candlelight vigil from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. tonight at Shawnee Mission Park, Shelter No. 4, 7900 Renner Road. There will be two speakers, a prayer and a balloon release. Participants are asked to wear blue as a sign of peace and bring a candle.
   The Kansas City Midwest Sikh Association Gurudwara will hold a vigil from 8:45 to 9:45 p.m. Friday at the gurudwara, 6834 Pflumm Road.

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