Thursday, November 15, 2012

White Hindu Converts: Mimicry or Mockery? (Article)

  White Hindu Converts: Mimicry or Mockery?

 Here is an article published in the Huffington Post regarding White Westerners converting to Hinduism and mimicking  the stereotypical or 'imagined' archetype of Indian Hindu culture. I will say for myself, that first off I did not just choose to embrace chose me. Why should I go against what I feel in my heart and soul is my Dharma. It has nothing to do with my culture or the Indian culture. I believe very deeply in the philosophy of Sanatana Dharma, Vedanta to be precise. Should I call myself a Hindu? I doubt myself every day. I ask myself all the time if I am somehow just pretending, but then I read Hindu scripture or words from Hindu gurus and it dissolves my doubts for a time. I do not question the philosophy, what I question is do I belong in the Hindu culture. I know in India Hinduism pervades ever aspect of life both religious and secular...where in the United States religion is thought of as aside from secular life.
      I would in no way mock least not intentionally and it troubles me to think that Hindus would even think that of me. Yes I would like to fit in with them, but I do not feel the need to do it just to claim that I am a Hindu. My spirituality is very personal to me and no one...absolutely no one can take that from me. I still embrace my own culture, and am working to integrate parts of my new Hindu beliefs into my own culture at home. I am always looking to those born into Hinduism for guidance. Those I have met online have been very welcoming and honestly quite loving...they have no idea how grateful I am for that.
     I feel as if I am part of something bigger in respect to being one of the few Western Hindus out there, and with that I feel a great responsibility in living a Hindu life that bares integrity and genuineness. I know I have a good following of Hindus out of India here on my blog and am always open to discussion...and would love to hear from many of you and what your thoughts may be on this matter. I look at each of you as my brother and sister in Dharma.
      If Vedanta was not meant to be spread throughout the world then great men like Swami Vivekananda and Paramahansa Yogananda would never have brought it to the West. Hinduism culturally may not be for everyone, but who holds claim to Vedanta? It is what every human being is our birthright.

Tat Tvam Asi,


  1. A long response, but just three points actually..

    The article in Huffington Post made me laugh and i'll tell you why. I'll just pick the first few lines he wrote.
    "It is ironic that, while so many Disaporic Hindus mimic imaginary archetypes of "white" American culture in order to assimilate, to deny their colonized and oppressed histories, to (futilely) self-blanch, and to be accepted by the dominant white ..."

    This author, who is of Indian Hindu origin, has given up his native (Dharmic, Purva Paksha) way of analysis and instead, blindly adopted a Western paradigm (Marxist), so that he can continue to get academic funding (at case western :). In other words, he is a great example of what he accuses the Indian diaspora of doing. Poor chap does not even realize the irony of starting his article with "It is ironic..."

    I do have one comment on what Nirvani wrote above: " I know in India Hinduism pervades ever aspect of life both religious and secular...where in the United States religion is thought of as aside from secular life."

    This is an unintentional apples to oranges comparison but I'm glad the author made this statement since this brings out a critical and important point about Hinduism:

    Unlike Abrahamic faiths, Hinduism does not have a central authority that can pass papal bulls, "laws", fatwas, or decrees that large groups of followers have to obey. In other words, Hinduism has secularism *built in* and by design can never come into conflict with the constitutional law of the land. There is no "church" to separate the state from. A Mandir (Hindu temple) and Christian church have some superficial similarities, but have some gigantic differences, above is one example. Like the dual nature of Light, Hinduism is both a philosophy and a religion. It's futile and counter-productive to separate the two and say "i'll keep this and not that". why? Hinduism is not an *organized* religion that the west automatically thinks of, but *your own* religion that organically arises from self-realization.

    "I am always looking to those born into Hinduism for guidance. "
    The HuffPost author above is born into Hinduism, as was the lady who wrote another contemptuous post on Hinduism in HuffPost-religion just yesterday. Frankly, these two clowns will greatly benefit by seeking guidance from you, rather than the other way around, which leads me to 3.

    If you go to a Mandir, chances are that the Pujari (priest) there may be unable to explain the critical differences between Christianity & Hinduism. Since Hinduism does not proselytize, these priests are not taught about other faiths, and usually end up spouting the "we are all same, all roads lead to Las Vegas" line that only frustrates people in trouble who come there looking for serious answers. A scientifically written book in my humble opinion (that i have read) that will help western readers recognize some of the key concepts that differentiates Hinduism from other philosophy/religions, is "Being Different" by Rajiv Malhotra, a Hindu American who has lived in the US for 40 yrs and has raised his family here.

  2. Thank you for stately that very eloquently and to the point Subra! I thought you might have something to say on the issue. I think I just need to stay away from do seem to have their own agenda and it always seems to be skewed with falsities or at least half-truths. I am ordering that book right now;)It is not that I am naive enough to take this article at face value, it is more that I want to know what true 'authentic' dyed in the wool Hindus feel about us Westerners embracing their faith. Not just embracing I guess, what I mean to say, is how do they feel about Westerners dressing to look Hindu. Do they see this as a mockery? I know there are many in the West who like to adopt Hindu Gods as their own personal Deity...I refer mainly to Pagans on this one. I also know that there are many New Age type spiritualities that like to take bits and pieces of Hindu philosophy and make it their own and giving no credit to the Hindu religion...How do Hindus feel about this?
    For me personally, and not to offend anyone, I just feel that if I am going to believe in Hindu philosophy then I ought to embrace all of it and not just pick and choose. Again that is just my own personal view. I feel that to do otherwise is disrespectful and a disservice to Hinduism at large.

    I do appreciate your thoughts Subra. You obviously have the benefit of seeing objectively as you seem to understand both Indians and Westerners. You may just have to be my go to guy if you don't mind:)

  3. I have just check his article and then i have gone through the comment section after looking in to that I found that people who are actually commenting are more knowledgeable then the person is...Anyway I had good laugh after reading his article...Don't know he is on some agenda..One more person is Deepak Chopra he says he is NOt Hindu but openly sells Hinduism Philosphies to west by delinking it from hinduism...he is NewAgey Stuff guy and shameless person...he was exposed by Aseem Shukla of Hindu American I feel Hindus need to stand up and expose these clowns and actually we are doing by writing blogs and in comment section . I agree with everything which Subra has wrote above...By the way to your question ..
    How HIndu feels about Western Convert ?

    It doesn't affect HIndus if someone is converting or Not you will Not see any HIndu in Panic to convert others in their religion the fact is that...For a Hindu his religion is very personal to him ..that is his path of Sprituality. he has to bear the fruit of his own Karma...Nor do Hindus look for others to authorize their belief like he is good Hindu or He is bad Hindu.. that is the reason why there are section in hindus who do Worship via Idol and other sections who do not do it(AryaSamaj)...The section who use Idol to train his mind to connect to god doesn't go other section to authorize it...Every one believe in their own path that's it...There are many sections in HInduism they have different set of belief but they don't kill each other like Shia and Sunnis do...The Reason being same...This is your path...Once you look for others to authorize it...that make your mind unstable. and bring the rift..the Possible Reason why so many religions like Bhuddism,Jainism etc flourished in India for centuries with No act of Violence..

    Regarding the dress or other...Question to you how west feels when Eastern people wear Western Dresses...I don't know about other but most of people whom I know and Including myself appreciate it after seeing other race people wearing Indian dresses........

    However I personally want Hinduism to spread ....However In Ancient time Hinduism/SantanDharma was practiced till europe/Iran,Afganistan etc...Many countries where Hinduism is still practiced from many thousand years are like Bali/Indonesia ,Bhutan,Nepal etc....Everyone has right to know the truth

  4. Prabhat, thank you so much for your reply! It helps greatly to have Hindu friends, who actually know what they are talking about. I understand entirely about people like Deepak Chopra. I am pretty good at judging character. I usually take information in that is helpful to me and leave the rest alone. Like Osho, I think he had many good teachings, but there was also a lot of junk. It is weeding out the good from the not so good:) From the perspective of a Westerner, I have no problem with Indians dressing as we do at all. I greatly appreciate your input on these matters. The internet has been a God-send for me as I have no personal Hindu friends on the island.

    I too love to see Sanatana Dharma spread, as it is the one religion on earth that is not antagonistic, is peaceful, but still believes in taking a stand on important issues. Thanks again for sharing my friend!

  5. To add to Prabhat's fantastic comments:

    "there are many New Age type spiritualities that like to take bits and pieces of Hindu philosophy and make it their own and giving no credit to the Hindu religion...How do Hindus feel about this?"
    Saddened, angry & upset enough to begin a fightback by exposing these attempts.

    "it is more that I want to know what true 'authentic' dyed in the wool Hindus feel about us Westerners embracing their faith. Not just embracing I guess, what I mean to say, is how do they feel about Westerners dressing to look Hindu. Do they see this as a mockery? "

    The average well-to-do Hindu archetype in today's urban India would be English speaking, in Levi Jeans and Ray-bans. However, a vast population in India still love wearing the traditional flowing, colorful Indian dresses. Indian food and fashion is rapidly going mainstream (one of the positive effects of Bollywood pop culture). India, like the U.S., does not enforce a dress-code. Hinduism will typically recommend making a scientific and practical choice appropriate to the context. If wearing an Indian dress helps a person feel more spiritual or simply look good, then that can only be a good thing.

    I would like to think that a vast majority of the Hindus would gladly welcome those who approach Hinduism with a spirit of sincerity and mutual respect. India is already as heterogeneous as it gets in terms of languages, foods, customs, religion, skin-color. However, A Hindu anywhere in the world shares a treasured common inheritance in the form of the epics 'Ramayana' and the 'Mahabharata', and 'Yoga' from a practice perspective. The truths and lessons derived from these are quite scientific (universally valid). I'd recommend reading C. Rajagopalachari's translation of these two epics.

  6. cant't u still be christian & adopt some hindu values which u like.mahabharat & ramayan are part of indian hindu culture but u westerners may not like & understand many things in it.because if westerners convert to Hinduism they should be under the guidance of some great teacher or some devout
    hindu person because u don't have any back up from the family like hindu indian family has . independent of good teachers or influential hindu person around independent practitioner of hinduism may get lost after sometime.

    --im not a christian or muslim & also no malicious agenda involved.

  7. Hello, and thank you for your reply:) I do not think your words are malicious at all! I think I understand what you are saying. I do not understand how a person can be Christian and believe in Hindu philosophy as well because both belief systems are completely at odds with one another. I left Christianity because I just cannot continue to accept the Christian concept of sin and the need for a personal Savior (Jesus Christ) to save me from my sins. Christians also believe that God is separate from man and in Mormon theology it is believed that God is actually a glorified man. Neither believes at all in reincarnation or karma. They believe we have just this one shot on earth to determine where we end up in Heaven.

    I completely understand the importance of seeking a guru or teacher in Hinduism. I wish for that more than you can know, but the only temple here on Oahu, Hawaii is an ISKCON temple and I am not a follower of the Vaishnava path in Hinduism. I have been taking the lessons through the Shaivite Himalayan Academy on the island of Kauai and plan to visit them in the very near future. Finding a teacher/guru is something that is very important to me and I think about it often, although I have heard that you do not find your own guru, the guru finds you. I expressly adhere to the teachers of Vivekananda and Yogananda as both their teachings identify greatly with Westerners. I am most drawn to Advaita Vedanta but feel the need for a personal Deity to go to daily for spiritual guidance. I just happen to be most drawn to the Divine Mother aspect.

    As far as family support, yes I am the only practicing Hindu in my home, but my husband is in complete support of my path. He even plans to attend the temple with me. He is very respectful and open-minded where other religions are concerned. I am very fortunate to have a companion who wholeheartedly allows me to follow my own Dharma, and I certainly do the same for him.

    I hope this explains where I am coming from. Please feel free to share your thoughts here. I believe in good healthy respectful debate and am in no way offended or intimidated by it:)

  8. "I just feel that if I am going to believe in Hindu philosophy then I ought to embrace all of it and not just pick and choose. Again that is just my own personal view. I feel that to do otherwise is disrespectful and a disservice to Hinduism at large." I can sense your sincerity and respect for Hinduism from this statement. All the same, most Hindus pick and choose. This is because Hinduism is like a limitless ocean and it is almost impossible to practice Hinduism in its entirety. There are certainly commonalities but different regions have different points of focus. As a Westerner who wants to adopt Hinduism, I would suggest you to read up on the major philosophies (dvaita/advaita/mimamsa/vishistadvaita/samkhya), a good translation of the Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, etc. and practice dhyana/yoga. Do what is possible and which brings you peace. That is the beauty of the Sanatana religion - there are no do's and don't written in stone...(I know the orthodox Hindus won't approve!).
    Reg what Hindus think about Westerners trying to mimic Hindus. Well, it amuses me. But it would be better if they imbibed the essence of Hinduism -- and not bother too much about changing their external appearances.

  9. Dear Nirvani, I hope you have come across this:
    (A Response to Deepak Sarma
    by Jeffery D. Long)

    //my own comments:
    I must say that Dr. Jeffery D. Long has written an excellent critique of Mr. Deepak's essay, and I feel it imperative to add that Jeffery has given the so-called 'rationalisations' of Mr. deepak's arguments for perceived injustices and 'mockery of the hindu faith' way more weight and consideration then they deserve, as Dr. Jeffery rightly should as an academician.That in itself proves very simply that he has a much better understanding of the pluralism that Hinduism stands for more than the myopic( and if I may add so, with ulterior motives) view of Deepak. In fact, in spite of being a born Hindu, I can frankly say that most of these 'white Hindu converts' (whom I have interacted with or read about) as Mr. Deepak derisively addresses them, knows more about the Dharmic path than I or the vast majority of so-called 'born' Hindus do.

    More importantly, much more importantly, no follower of Hinduism whether white or black or yellow or 'born' is answerable to anyone for the path which he chooses to follow in his journey towards spirituality, least of all to a 'born Hindu' or a pseudo-intellectual like Mr. Deepak. Lastly, as for adopting sanskrit names and 'Hindu' dress code, the very idea that doing so is imperative(as opposed to personal choice) to get closer to the dharmic path will make the pantheon of Hindu gods die of laughter(all manner of puns intended). I am a born Hindu with a christian name and western manner of dress, my father is a born Hindu with the name of a Hindu god and Hindu manner of dress. Both of us have a firm belief in the hindu way of life. I don't think either of us have a higher claim to ParaBrahman(or in mu case Shiva-Shakti as the divine couple) hearing our prayers than (say for eg) a white beer-guzzling rock-loving red-neck who wishes to embrace Sanatana Dharma. The very idea that Mr. Deepak seems to think so makes me again, wanting and wishing to die of laughter(all manner of puns intended).

    1. I'm sorry I just saw this comment. Thank you so much for posting it! I am off to read this response. Your comments are most helpful and so appreciated. Obviously since posting this article I have become more and more established in my dharmic path, although still following where my heart leads me:)I cannot not imagine ever going back to my former Christian life. Hinduism has forever changed my life. I am very blessed to have been led to it in this incarnation.

      What you said about 'white Hindu converts' knowing more about the dharmic path is understandable. I think most converts to a specific religion tend to display more devotion as it is a personal choice to follow that given path, whereas those born to a certain faith grow up with it and it can lose its appeal by the time they become adults.

      Again thank you for posting!


  10. dear nirvani (what a wonderful name)

    hindus totally and whole heartedly welcome who ever wishes to embrace hinduism
    the greatest disciple of swami vivekananda is a irish woman named nivedita
    please read about nivedita and ramakrishna
    please also read about david godman who is a follower of ramana maharishi

    a lot of hindus do not know about the philosophy of hinduism. so do not worry about what any person claiming to be a hindu might say
    true hindus do not criticise other religions
    all religions have truth and all religions are prone to distortion by people with vested interests who want to exploit the innocent and trusting people
    no religion including hinduism is free from it
    hinduism emphasises personal experience
    so follow the principles of hinduism
    there are chiefly four approaches to realising
    god through personal effort
    devotion, self less work, yoga-meditation and use of discrimination or wisdom
    please see bhakthi yoga, karma yoga, raja yoga, gnana yoga

    i hope my comments help you
    may god bless you

    1. Thank you for this most positive and encouraging post dear soul! I have a great love of Vivekananda. I have read all of his works and they resonate very much with me. Within Hinduism, I have found myself most drawn to the Divine Mother aspect of God. Hinduism is the only religion or place I have found that all-encompassing idea. When you have been exposed your entire life to the masculine dominance in religion it is most empowering to see God as the Divine Feminine. Thank you so much for your words and yes they are most helpful! I have read extensively on the various yogas and try to practice them in my life.

      Jai Maa,

  11. You must know the eternal religion of the soul

  12. Ur name is beautiful. Do u know the meaning? Hope u know. Just asking.

  13. After reading your article it makes me feel uplifted a bit that someone feels the same way I do. I'm from the US and have always felt like Christianity wasn't for me and so I tried all types of religions from animism to Catholism and Hinduism is the only religion that seemed right to me. I read Vedanta as well and I felt way better and relaxed than I have ever felt in my life with any other religion. Like you, I wouldn't call myself a Hindu al that much and I don't wish to mock the religion in anyway. I don't try to mimick indian women. I don't deny that India has a beautiful sense of colors and clothing, and I don't deny that I one a few dupatta scarves myself. I would also like to fit in, but I'm not going to be someone that mimicks. But I just want to say thanks for making this article it made my day!

  14. This is such a wonderful article. I am born in a Hindu family and understand how one is given complete freedom in choosing their path of enlightenment and that is the beauty of this religion. You have your choice, you are allowed to question and you can stay an atheist and no one will kill you for the same. Its your life to live the way you choose to and quench your soul's thirst. Although I am open to every other religion and not a "frequently practicing Hindu", I feel much comfortable being a Hindu as every other religion tries to enforce rules that stops your soul from growing which is such a pity.

  15. Sanatan dharm is as great as a mother love for her child and it's knowledge of everything.

  16. Sanatan dharm is as great as a mother love for her child and it's knowledge of everything.