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

  1. #11

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

    Namaste,
    Thank you for your reply.

    Just to clarify a few things

    -Im in the UK, I live just outside London, near a place called Slough and in a place with a large Asian, Chinese and muslim population. There are mosques and mandirs and buddhist centres, and its even becoming more commen to find white poeple in islamic or asian traditional clothing.

    - The mandir I go to requires that traditional dress - including vaishnav tilak be worn when doing service around the temple -something i do on a weekly basis.

    - Ive always been something of an alternative dresser. On my very first visit to an Iskcon temple I was wearing a floaty sari skirt, kurti top and scarf over my head, with bangles and a bindi. Its the way i dressed for years. I dress in long skirts and kurti tops because i feel more comfortable and modest in them than jeans and t-shirts.

    - I do wear a few strands of tulsi mala and because of the style of tops I wear - they are on show most of the time but i dont go out of the way to wear huge chunky ones or anything. I think that by the time ive a nose pin, tulsi mala, long skirt and t-shirt/ kurti top - i look like a devotee one way or another. its the whole look taken together rather than the fact that im walking around in saris or punjabis or something.

    Im used to people staring at me for how i dress ( i was a goth for many years - piercings - black make up - the works ) and that doesnt bother me. And i dont mind standing out as being a devotee - nor do i feel the need to stand out as a devotee..

    most indian people i come across are very accpeting - and think its nice that a non indian can appreciate their culture - but the problems I have come from the ''white'' camp so to speak.

    The job where i work is a call centre - and people are always going out for after work drinks or meals etc which i dont join in with. Where ever possible i try to keep explanations away from anything religious but it gets hard to keep coming up with excuses without seeming rude or unsociable or getting too personal about my beliefs.

    Sometimes i do find it easier to at least say im religious and leave it as ambiguous as possible - but its when it really gets down to needing days off, or when there is a big event on - like at christmass - or when the odd joke goes past about hare krishnas that i feel like my faith just isnt taken seriously - because im white.

    I often feel that things get said to me that wouldnt if I was indian or in a headscarf or something..

    once when i complained about the situation- i actualy had a manager blame the problem on me and my skin color.

    Ironically - my work also has a number of hijabi muslims at work - and ive actually ended up finding myself a whole bunch of friends in them - just because on many levels we understand each other - even if our core beliefs are very differant.

    Im really just wondering how people deal with this kind of attitude in every day life ? I dont feel that its fair that i should have to go out of my way to hide my beliefs but im not one to push it in peoples faces. I do strongly believe in dressing modestly and wearing tulsi and chanting etc but i dont walk out of my house trying to dress like i just fell out of some indian village - just so everyone will think im cool..

    sorry again - for such a long post. I hope again that you understand what im getting at here ?
    Jagganatha Swami nayana patha gami bhavatu me !!

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Sahasranama View Post

    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."
    Being mistaken for the priest is better that being mistaken for God. Back when I was the pandaram here, a kid came up to me and called me God. After some discussion with the parents, the reason for the confusion became clear. Apparently the parents had been telling the child that they went to the temple to see God. (Which was fair enough) but the child wasn't actually told that the murthy was God, so since I was the only breathing living creature that was always there the child thought I was God. I imagine there was a rather detailed explanation on the car on the way home that day. Kind of funny and sad at the same time.

    I do hassle some of my older Tamil friends about wearing veshti. At festival time 90% of them do. But on regular days, no. But you're right that it depends on the temple too. I just make it a point at any temple. The veshti is like putting on nice clothing for a wedding or something. Not only that you are going to see God, and He is like a king. I think people should dress up for the sanctity of the event basically.

    Aum Namasivaya

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

    I am white, 29 years old and a devout Hindu. I see a lot of these issues as a cultural things. Hinduism is a faith or religion and its core is that of Brahma (who is beyond description). Being "Indian" is cultural and comes from a specific country, India. I am Italian by heritage and American by birth. My diet is mostly that of my forefathers but removing meats and eggs and follows Vedic law. My dress is American and when I go to temple I wear a nice button up and slacks. My home is very modern but contains a proper shrine. None of my furniture or decorations are Indian in design.

    I am not Indian nor do I pretend to be. Most of my fellow devotees are Indian but this creates no conflict for me. While the taste of our food, our language, and style of dress differs; our hearts burn with the same fire. That is all that matters.

    I don't feel that my offerings of a vegetarian pasta and salad are frowned upon by the Gods I offer them to. I don't feel the clothes I wear offend them either. When The earth was made, it was all created by Vishnu. He did not only make India. All the cultures, traditions, diets and languages come from him. While many nations have lost their way spiritually, I have not.

    Even though I look different I never feel out of place. The temples I visit were made for Hindus and since I am Hindu I have just as much right to be there as anyone else.

    I feel like white devotees try to fit in by assimilating the cultural aspects of India. This is ineffective. It is your faith that matters, your devotion and your love. The color of your skin, your country of origin you dress are neither this nor that. If you are a Hindu you should be more concerned with your karma than your shirt.

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

    EasternMind, you make a good point, maybe it's even good to stand out with clothing, so that you can set a standard so that others will show up in traditional clothing too the next time.

    Most people will argue that it's all about what happens on the inside, but the outside can definitely influence the inside. The atmosphere of the place of worship can bring tranquility if it's clean and decorated and when people show up dressed for the occasion.

    The clothing can be a symbol for Hinduism and there's definitely a lot of shakti in symbols.

    I am white, 29 years old and a devout Hindu. I see a lot of these issues as a cultural things. Hinduism is a faith or religion and its core is that of Brahma (who is beyond description). Being "Indian" is cultural and comes from a specific country, India. I am Italian by heritage and American by birth. My diet is mostly that of my forefathers but removing meats and eggs and follows Vedic law. My dress is American and when I go to temple I wear a nice button up and slacks. My home is very modern but contains a proper shrine. None of my furniture or decorations are Indian in design.

    I am not Indian nor do I pretend to be. Most of my fellow devotees are Indian but this creates no conflict for me. While the taste of our food, our language, and style of dress differs; our hearts burn with the same fire. That is all that matters.

    I don't feel that my offerings of a vegetarian pasta and salad are frowned upon by the Gods I offer them to. I don't feel the clothes I wear offend them either. When The earth was made, it was all created by Vishnu. He did not only make India. All the cultures, traditions, diets and languages come from him. While many nations have lost their way spiritually, I have not.
    Yes, you should offer the pasta by all means if you want to!

    Even though I look different I never feel out of place. The temples I visit were made for Hindus and since I am Hindu I have just as much right to be there as anyone else.

    I feel like white devotees try to fit in by assimilating the cultural aspects of India. This is ineffective. It is your faith that matters, your devotion and your love. The color of your skin, your country of origin you dress are neither this nor that. Om Tat Sat. If you are a Hindu you should be more concerned with your karma than your shirt.
    If the desire to dress up like an Indian doesn't come natural to you, then I doubt it's really necessary for you personally. There's definitely a lot of culture mixed with religious customs and in India the customs are diverse, some are more traditionally based on vedic literature and others come from various foreign cultures. There are lots of rules varying from sect to sect, region to region and scripture to scripture. But those rules cannot be followed by everyone.

    But a lot of people will be attracted to both the philosophical side of Hinduism as well as the cultural aspect of it. I definitely think they enrich each other.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by NetiNeti View Post

    I feel like white devotees try to fit in by assimilating the cultural aspects of India. This is ineffective. It is your faith that matters, your devotion and your love. The color of your skin, your country of origin you dress are neither this nor that. If you are a Hindu you should be more concerned with your karma than your shirt.
    Vannakkam Netineti:

    I agree that it is faith that matters. The Indian clothing is meaningless without the faith and respect when in a temple. But I wouldn't go as far to say its ineffective. Irrelevant, maybe. It's an individual thing. I'm very comfortable in Indian clothing and it makes me feel more Hindu. But that's just my personal take. I don't dress to impress anyone other than myself. I'm glad to hear you dress neatly. At our temple we have no dress code, but occasionally the administrators ask someone to remove their hat, and sometimes people enter dressed immodestly.

    In South India many temples have dress codes. No lungis for example. Some also have no shirts for men. I have no problems following that within any temple anywhere.

    Aum Namasivaya

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

    Personally, I've found (in my experience) that the loudest voices that a non-Indian cannot adopt Hinduism come from (in order of frequency):

    1. Western Christian Supremacists who use that as a "reason" to denigrate Hindus.

    2. Muslims and Christians who are Indian-born, often because of their deep-seated hatred for Hinduism.

    3. Indian Hindus who doubt the commitment of white Hindus and feel that they are likely to lose interest, or mistrust their motives as a form of cultural appropriation.

    Numbers one and two clearly have a Christian/Muslim Supremacist agenda, and should be ignored and/or ridiculed. Number three should be approached as a challenge. Prove your sincerity. (IMO)

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

    hariḥ oṁ
    ~~~~~~

    namasté

    Many good ideas and insights have been offered above. I'd like to offer another from the taittirīya upaniṣad 1.11.1 .
    For me, it keeps what is important in focus,
    and reduces the items we add to ourselves that just may be burdensome.

    satyānna pramaditavyam
    dharmānna pramaditavyam
    kuśalānna pramaditavyam
    bhūtyai na pramaditavyam

    Never swerve away from truth
    never swerve away from dharma
    never neglect your welfare;
    swerve not from any act for the protection of yourself

    said another way,


    Let there be no neglect of truth
    let there be no neglect of dharma ( some call righteousness)
    let there be no neglect of prosperity
    let there be no neglect of protecting yourself

    praṇām
    Last edited by yajvan; 10 August 2010 at 04:41 PM.
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

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

    Quote Originally Posted by NetiNeti View Post
    I am white, 29 years old and a devout Hindu. I see a lot of these issues as a cultural things.

    My dress is American and when I go to temple I wear a nice button up and slacks. My home is very modern but contains a proper shrine. None of my furniture or decorations are Indian in design.

    I am not Indian nor do I pretend to be. Most of my fellow devotees are Indian but this creates no conflict for me. While the taste of our food, our language, and style of dress differs; our hearts burn with the same fire. That is all that matters.

    I don't feel that my offerings of a vegetarian pasta and salad are frowned upon by the Gods I offer them to. I don't feel the clothes I wear offend them either. When The earth was made, it was all created by Vishnu. He did not only make India. All the cultures, traditions, diets and languages come from him. While many nations have lost their way spiritually, I have not.

    Even though I look different I never feel out of place. The temples I visit were made for Hindus and since I am Hindu I have just as much right to be there as anyone else.

    I feel like white devotees try to fit in by assimilating the cultural aspects of India. This is ineffective. It is your faith that matters, your devotion and your love. The color of your skin, your country of origin you dress are neither this nor that. If you are a Hindu you should be more concerned with your karma than your shirt.

    Beautifully summarised NetiNeti.

    I would suggest to divide the aspects into two clear areas

    1. Culture : Food, dress, rituals, traditions, superstitions, habits, etc.

    2. Spriritual growth : Niskama Bhakti, Niskama Karma and Knowledge of TRUTH

    The culture part will vary from place to place : even in India we have so many cultures which vary widely. It should be more so with countries.

    Culture has some bearing on Spiritual growth but Spiritual Growth has major bearing on culture.

    So to move to Spiritual growth through adapting culture (in a major way) would be herculean task and challenging socially.

    Rather moving from the spiritual growth to adjust the culture would be more aligned to mind's conformance.

    I would be happy if I am continuing with my culture and gain the knowledge of Sanatan Dharma and be able to assimilate that in my interaction with myself and outside.

    The crux of hinduism is the assimilation of the knowledge and live it. This focus should not be lost.

    Ofcourse to appreciate that knowledge one needs to develop that devotion and faith through niskama bhakti and karma to condition the mind to receive the knowledge in more pure form.

    Love and best wishes

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

    Quote Originally Posted by BhaktinAnna View Post

    The job where i work is a call centre - and people are always going out for after work drinks or meals etc which i dont join in with. Where ever possible i try to keep explanations away from anything religious but it gets hard to keep coming up with excuses without seeming rude or unsociable or getting too personal about my beliefs.

    Ironically - my work also has a number of hijabi muslims at work - and ive actually ended up finding myself a whole bunch of friends in them - just because on many levels we understand each other - even if our core beliefs are very differant.

    Im really just wondering how people deal with this kind of attitude in every day life ? I dont feel that its fair that i should have to go out of my way to hide my beliefs but im not one to push it in peoples faces. I do strongly believe in dressing modestly and wearing tulsi and chanting etc but i dont walk out of my house trying to dress like i just fell out of some indian village - just so everyone will think im cool..

    sorry again - for such a long post. I hope again that you understand what im getting at here ?
    Vannakkam BhaktinAnna:

    I dealt with stuff like this as a teacher. At Christmas time I refused to celebrate Christmas, so I supervised the Muslims and the Jehovah Witnesses in the library. So I can relate to your befriending the Muslims where you work.

    The Friday after work going to the bar thing I just never did, and I wasn't alone. Lots of people didn't go. I was often pressured but I'd usually just say I had something else to do, which I did ... like going home to be with family.

    Occasionally someone would say something stupid. I remember once I was telling someone else (an understanding person) how I didn't like it when people brought up Christianity in my face, and this guy said, "I guess the truth hurts," Another time I was wearing a single rudraksha and someone said it looked like a dried up calf testicle.

    The best advice I ever got came from a Christian colleague (smart one, not some nut case) to always "consider the source". Racist mean drinking bullies get this attitude from one thing alone: their own insecurities. They have a psychological need to belittle others. Often it is to get attention from their own version of an 'in' crowd, no better than adolescents. That's what causes the behaviour. So the goal is to be able to let it go in one ear and out the other. To not react. If you can look at it from the old soul, young soul angle, and realise they are also on the path, but in the kindergarten class, that will help.

    I used to practice a bit mentally as well by imagining scenarios, and visualising myself not reacting.

    Best wishes.

    Aum Namasivaya

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

    people are always going out for after work drinks or meals etc which i dont join in with. Where ever possible i try to keep explanations away from anything religious but it gets hard to keep coming up with excuses without seeming rude or unsociable or getting too personal about my beliefs.

    Sometimes i do find it easier to at least say im religious and leave it as ambiguous as possible - but its when it really gets down to needing days off, or when there is a big event on - like at christmass - or when the odd joke goes past about hare krishnas that i feel like my faith just isnt taken seriously - because im white.
    They are seeing you as being counterculture. Going out for a few beers after work at a pub and having some bangers and mash is part of British culture. You could always say that you're vegetarian and that you don't drink.

    I often feel that things get said to me that wouldnt if I was indian or in a headscarf or something..
    When people see someone Indian, they instantly recognise that that person is from a different culture and probably a different religion. When they look at you, they see a white British person, who is of the same culture as them. With regard to what you said about a headscarf, converts to Islam are probably taken more seriously because the religion has a specific conversion procedure and many famous people such as Yusuf Islam and Muhammad Ali have converted.

    when the odd joke goes past about hare krishnas that i feel like my faith just isnt taken seriously - because im white.
    Tell people that you're a Hindu. People associate Hindus with India while they associate Hare Krishnas with hippies who dance around on the streets. ISKCON follows the Gaudiya Vaishnava sect of Hinduism, so feel free to call yourself a Hindu.

    once when i complained about the situation- i actualy had a manager blame the problem on me and my skin color.
    Isn't that illegal in Britain? If the same thing was said in New Zealand, the manager would find himself facing all sorts of complaints and possibly even charges.

    I dont feel that its fair that i should have to go out of my way to hide my beliefs but im not one to push it in peoples faces. I do strongly believe in dressing modestly and wearing tulsi and chanting etc but i dont walk out of my house trying to dress like i just fell out of some indian village - just so everyone will think im cool..
    Wearing tulsi beads and tilak is not 'pushing your religion in people's faces' any more than a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf. The only difference is that people assume the Muslim woman was born following that religion while you have converted.

    Possibly you could buy some shalwar kameez suits. They consist of a knee-length shirt and loose baggy trousers and look very nice. They are easier to put on than a sari and might suit your image better. Try looking in Indian clothing shops (I'm sure they'll be a few in London).

    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.
    At our temple, the majority of women wear saris, and the majority of men wear Western clothes. Myself and the priest are usually the only ones who wear Indian clothes. I used to wear kurta shalwar as my normal dress for going to the temple, but I've gained so much weight that the shalwar trousers don't fit comfortably anymore. So I'll be wearing the dhoti/veshti to the temple from now on. My mother (who isn't Hindu or religious) keeps telling me that I'd fit in much better if I wore "normal" clothes but I prefer to wear clothes that I don't wear for any other purpose than worship (although I did wear my kurta shalwar for other purposes in Malaysia where it was warmer).

    The way I see it is that as a convert, I need to declare that I am a Hindu. The clothes, together with the red tilak on my forehead, show these people that without a doubt, I am a Hindu. A Westerner who went to the temple wearing jeans and a T-shirt would not be seen the same way. A friend of mine, who is a Western Muslim, always dresses in modest Islamic clothing (generally a skirt or abaya) and always wears a headscarf. If she walked into a mosque in a strange city, everyone would know that she was a Muslim and would not question her. In contrast, I saw Muslim women in Malaysia who were born Muslim but wore immodest clothes such as tight tops and tight jeans with their headscarves (and some who didn't wear headscarves at all). It's generally the case that converts are more zealous because they need to prove that they are truly a member of that religion.

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