Tulsi Gabbard, the incoming congresswoman for Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district, is poised to be the first Hindu American in Congress and will take her oath over the Bhagavad Gita.
According to the Huffington Post, Gabbard follows the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism and credits her faith for having helped her during her time serving in Iraq.
“First thing in the morning and the last thing at night, I meditated upon the fact that my essence was spirit, not matter, that I was not my physical body, and that I didn’t need to worry about death because I knew that I would continue to exist and I knew that I would be going to God,” Gabbard said.
She also believes her faith will useful in cultivating a closer relationship between Congress and India.
“It is clear that there needs to be a closer working relationship between the United States and India,” Gabbard said. “How can we have a close relationship if decision makers in Washington know very little, if anything, about the religious beliefs, values and practices of India’s 800 million Hindus?
“Hopefully, the presence in Congress of an American who happens to be Hindu will increase America’s understanding of India as well as India’s understanding of America.”
In a statement released after her victory, Gabbard said her election would be an inspiration to Hindus across the country.
“On my last trip to the mainland, I met a man who told me that his teenage daughter felt embarrassed about her faith, but after meeting me, she’s no longer feeling that way,” Gabbard said.
“He was so happy that my being elected to Congress would give hope to hundreds and thousands of young Hindus in America, that they can be open about their faith and even run for office, without fear of being discriminated against or attacked because of their religion.”