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Thread: The problems of being a Hindu ''convert''

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    The problems of being a Hindu ''convert''

    Namaste everyone,

    Ive been a part of ISKCON for about the last two years. I consider myself a Hindu, and while I am practising ( no alcohol, pubs, bars, restaurants, meat and chanting 4-8 rounds a day, attending mandir one day a week) I am by no means as strict as some of the people who attend my temple.

    I am trying to ease myself in slowly so to speak. To take my time to read and experience as much as possible and to understand properly where I fit into the whole lable of ''Hindu''.

    One thing I have come accross where I live within the ''white'' community though is a negative perception of ''white'' Hindus - especially white ISKCON devotees.

    At work especially I am percieved as not being a ''proper'' Hindu and instead some kind of hippy playing ''lets pretend to be an Indian'' or a member of a fringe group that isnt accepted in mainstream Hinduism and therefore has no credibility.

    I find that my faith and beliefs are not taken as seriously and things are said or implied to me that I feel would not be said if I was of indian or asian background.

    I try my best to keep away from the stereotypical '' hare krishna hippy'' look. I wear indian style clothing but mix it with western dress ( Shalwar kameez tops with jeans for instance )- just because I find it more comfortable and in line with my own standards of modesty - and save the saris for the weekend - but I feel constantly like I have to down play or make light of my faith.

    Im wondering if anyone else has come accross this type of negative perception? especially those of non indian or asian ethnicity. How do you deal with it in everyday life?? what about at work? how do you deal with the perception that only indians are proper hindus??

    I feel like im constantly having to justify or defend myself to the white community despite living in a town with a large muslim and asian population.

    Im sorry for such a long post - its only my second here. I hope you all understand what im trying to say ?
    Jagganatha Swami nayana patha gami bhavatu me !!

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    Re: The problems of being a Hindu ''convert''

    Many Christians would view Christian converts to Hinduism negatively, as they believe that Christianity is the only true religion. Americans would also see it as being counterculture, especially since you're not eating meat or drinking booze (on VeggieBoards there are a large number of negative comments that vegetarians have reported people making against vegetarianism).

    At work especially I am percieved as not being a ''proper'' Hindu and instead some kind of hippy playing ''lets pretend to be an Indian'' or a member of a fringe group that isnt accepted in mainstream Hinduism and therefore has no credibility.
    ISKCON is Hindu, regardless of what they say. They're a particular sect of Hinduism. However, they are far stricter and more devout than many Hindu sects, and they have some beliefs that differ from "mainstream" Hinduism. Therefore, they're perceived as being a different religion or "fringe group".

    Most Americans are just not used to seeing white Hindus. They see Hinduism as the religion of Indian people and have most likely never heard of non-Indians adopting it. Many Indians actually believe that it is not possible for a non-Indian to convert to Hinduism - they believe that one must be born into it. However, this is not true and Hinduism has always accepted converts. Swami Vivekananda said that conversion to Hinduism is natural. Some of Alexander the Great's Greeks converted to Hinduism. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami wrote a book called How to Become a Hindu that details conversion to Hinduism. You can find the full text here.

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    Re: The problems of being a Hindu ''convert''

    Vannakkam Bhaktinanna:

    I would say patience is the key. The white people eventually will get used to you for who you are, and so too with the Indians. I've been at this 35 years and still encounter the occasional stare, mostly from Indians who are coming to our temple for the first time, and see me as out of place. Same thing if I go into a temple in a strange city. It does help tio wear Hindu attire to the temples. All the old timers who know me well would never do that. But then I don't where veshti in the western public. I was in a temple in Omaha, the only white guy there, but dressed in Hindu attire, and some Indians came up and asked me about the temple. They were there for the first time as well.

    So just be patient. it takes awhile to prove sincerity with everyone, because often they are right in the idea that it is a passing fad. Two years is not a very long time, I'm afraid, in their eyes, or the eyes of your family, or westerners. I found also that when I legally changed my name and announced it at work (I taught) , it was the younger children mostly who thought it was cool. The adults thought it was weird. But amongst the Indians, a name change meant a lot to them. Then they knew I was serious.

    Best wishes in having all get used to you.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: The problems of being a Hindu ''convert''

    hari o
    ~~~~~~

    namasté


    Quote Originally Posted by Eastern Mind View Post
    I would say patience is the key.
    EM offers wise words.

    Also it is not what you wear but who you are. We all want to be accepted no doubt. Yet at the end of the day you have come into this world alone and will leave alone.
    No one will be there to negeotiate anything different - family, friends, or otherwise.

    So what is an approach ? .... what EM offers along with just being simple.

    you mention,
    I feel like im constantly having to justify or defend myself to the white community despite living in a town with a large muslim and asian population
    What if your answer to questions is, Oh I enjoy this dress or style. And of your spiritual practices , It just feels right to me. IMHO you owe no-one a reason for your choices. You are bound by them. Keep them wholesome and people will notice. Do things that are uplifting, yet just be simple about it. It is our words & actions people are watching. Do the words match the action?

    praṇām
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

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    Re: The problems of being a Hindu ''convert''

    Vannakkam again Bhaktinanna

    I was giving this some further thought and realised I never showed my Hinduness at all in the west in the secular school system. We never talked religion at all there. It wasn't important. So I never had to 'defend myself' as you say, because the topic never came up. I didn`t wear rudraksha, or vibhuthi to school or shopping. To me the hassle of defending it to anyone wasn`t worth it. So I was thinking you might be presenting yourself in the world so that people do ask, and then you feel you have to defend it. To me, religion is a private matter anyway. Just a thought.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: The problems of being a Hindu ''convert''

    Namasté BhaktinAnna
    Is it a requirement to wear Indian Clothing? I have seen followers of ISKON dressed in Indian clothing in my city.

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    Re: The problems of being a Hindu ''convert''

    Don't be afraid to outwardly display that you are Hindu. It's not necessary though. I am an "Indian" Hindu born in the west and I almost never wear Indian clothing. Most of the time when I go to a satsanga or a ritual, I wear jeans and a t-shirt. Only on occasion and in my morning ritual I wear a dhoti and a shawl. The clothes don't make you a Hindu, but if you like the clothes, by all means keep wearing them.

    If I'd go to school or work with in traditional Indian style clothing, I would sure get weird looks, even though I am not a white person.

    One word of advice, don't express you being a Hindu with even a pinch of self doubt. Say it with confidence, enthusiasm and pride. If you doubt yourself, they will doubt you. If you act like it's the coolest thing in the world, they'll even be a little jealous that they don't have the same background as you do.

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    Re: The problems of being a Hindu ''convert''

    Quote Originally Posted by Sahasranama View Post
    Most of the time when I go to a satsanga or a ritual, I wear jeans and a t-shirt.
    Vannakkam Sahasranama:

    Interesting, because I have the opposite take and I'm a convert.

    Although it doesn't really matter, I do differ on this one. I ALWAYS wear veshti and shirt to temple, even when its -40. It's an odd contrast when the only people wearing veshti are the white guys. I see western clothing as an erosion of culture. Who's next, the priests in blue jeans too? I think it is a carryover from the British system of denigrading Hindus so we're all ashamed. But the main reason is I FEEL more Hindu in veshti.

    Suits and ties, jeans and t-shirts etc kind of look out of place to me. Everyone in traditional dress makes the whole place feel more like India, and therefore more like a Hindu temple. But then I don't have to drive far and its easy for me. There is also the problem of availability of Hindu clothing here.

    I try a bit to wear non-leather all the time as well. I have a denim belt, but wallet and work boots are leather. You can buy synthetics but they are hard to find.

    I understand if you are on your way to work, and you are just doing that 5 minute drop in thing. Here there are only two Tamil men in a community of some 200 who make it a point to wear veshti like me. I find raunchy slogans on t-shirts somewhat offensive as well, and that too does happen. Some temples have dress codes. The Vishnu temple in Toronto used to have one, although I'm not sure any more.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: The problems of being a Hindu ''convert''

    I can see you your point. I think it depends of the culture of the temple. In south Indian temples, ISCKON temples and sikh temples almost everyone is dressed in Indian clothing. In a lot of north Indian temples outside India, people wear very diverse clothing.

    In our culture, amongst Hindus in the Netherlands, it's important for the people performing the ritual, the priests and the yajman to wear traditional clothing. The rest of the people generally don't wear dhotis. In fact many north Indian priests wear kurta and pajama which is not traditionally Indian at all, but came from the arabs.

    Another thing that I have to consider is that if I would wear traditional clothing to most of the religious gatherings, people would think that I am the priest. This has happened to me before. I had put on a red dhoti, a white shirt with a large orange shawl with "aum namah shivay" printed on it and some rudraksha malas as a yajnopavita. People started calling me "maharaj ji."

    I agree that if everyone would wear Indian clothing, it would benefit the atmosphere. Maybe I'll consider it in the future.

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    Re: The problems of being a Hindu ''convert''

    Quote Originally Posted by BhaktinAnna View Post
    Namaste everyone,

    Ive been a part of ISKCON for about the last two years. I consider myself a Hindu, and while I am practising ( no alcohol, pubs, bars, restaurants, meat and chanting 4-8 rounds a day, attending mandir one day a week) I am by no means as strict as some of the people who attend my temple.

    I am trying to ease myself in slowly so to speak. To take my time to read and experience as much as possible and to understand properly where I fit into the whole lable of ''Hindu''.

    One thing I have come accross where I live within the ''white'' community though is a negative perception of ''white'' Hindus - especially white ISKCON devotees.

    At work especially I am percieved as not being a ''proper'' Hindu and instead some kind of hippy playing ''lets pretend to be an Indian'' or a member of a fringe group that isnt accepted in mainstream Hinduism and therefore has no credibility.

    I find that my faith and beliefs are not taken as seriously and things are said or implied to me that I feel would not be said if I was of indian or asian background.

    I try my best to keep away from the stereotypical '' hare krishna hippy'' look. I wear indian style clothing but mix it with western dress ( Shalwar kameez tops with jeans for instance )- just because I find it more comfortable and in line with my own standards of modesty - and save the saris for the weekend - but I feel constantly like I have to down play or make light of my faith.

    Im wondering if anyone else has come accross this type of negative perception? especially those of non indian or asian ethnicity. How do you deal with it in everyday life?? what about at work? how do you deal with the perception that only indians are proper hindus??

    I feel like im constantly having to justify or defend myself to the white community despite living in a town with a large muslim and asian population.

    Im sorry for such a long post - its only my second here. I hope you all understand what im trying to say ?

    Certifications are not required to believe in a way you can. No one is more or less hindu. Neither you have to show outwardly any hinduness to believe in hinduism.

    It is your (and only uniquely yours) spiritual path. Tread it as you can. You do not have to live other's life.

    There are plenty of books, friends, discourses, etc available all over the places.

    Love and best wishes

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