Miss. Mouse's motto in the comments on the last post: "Do whatever makes YOU happy and the hell with what everyone else thinks" is becoming quite true for me as well. On the one hand, I agree with my mom that I don't want to be making people unhappy on purpose. On the other hand, people are going to be offended no matter what. There are people who disagree on whether Mother Theresa was a good person, for goodness sake. No matter what you do, everyone has their own take on it. There are people my age who are offended by how old fashioned I am, my lack of feminism. That's just life.
Anyway, on to the point of this post.
There are aspects of Hinduism and/or Indian social customs that I do not follow. I am aware of them and I am making a conscious decision that they do not fit into my belief system. Part of having a religion is being able to use it to accomplish what you need it to in your life, so I don't think it is a good idea to take an entire faith system and go with it no matter what. Some people might call that having faith, but understanding why I do something is very important to me. I love tradition, but only if there is a meaning and a reason behind the tradition. I am not going to do it "just because."
Astrology is very important in India. Before getting married, a bride and groom (or their families) will usually have their charts drawn up and compared. They also use astrology to determine an auspicious day to get married. There are many things that one has to find auspicious days for.
I am not a particularly superstitious person and I don't believe in luck. To me, karma negates the possibility of luck. Not everyone sees it that way. (More on karma another time). Of course, auspicious and lucky might not be exactly the same thing.
I can understand how people can believe that the stars drive fate and I think this is one instance where American culture is more strong in me. I do believe that we make our fate ourselves (perhaps partly due to choices made in a past life). In my belief system, nothing fated is completely inevitable. In the present moment, one always has a choice. I do think there are things that are fated to happen to us, but how we interpret those things is completely up to us and that is what sets the course for the next fated thing. There is a fluidity to fate in my understanding and the idea of fates being pre-written in the stars does not mesh with that.
This is a major one. A vast majority of Hindus are vegetarian and even those that eat fish, chicken, or even lamb, would not eat beef.
Here in America it can be so hard to understand not eating beef, it just seems so weird. I explain to people to think of it the way we think of Koreans eating dog meat. I don't even know if that is true or not, but it is a common enough legend in America. The way we feel about the idea of eating dogs is the same way Indians feel about the idea of eating cows.
Cows in India are not worshiped per se, but they are sacred. Actually, all life is sacred, but cows get special status for a couple of reasons. They are frequently used as an image to represent the mother, since they provide so much without their meat. They give milk and cheese and butter. Also, they are said to be the favorite animal of Krishna, who was a cow herder in his teenage years.
Many Hindus are vegetarian because of the doctrine of ahimsa, which means non-harmfulness. This is a major part of Ghandi-ji's message and a driving force in Buddhism. It is also present in Hinduism. Krishna lists "ahimsa" as one of the qualities of a perfect man.
My parents do not eat red meat and only my mom eats chicken. They don't do it for ahimsa, but because the digestion of heavy red meats is said to be detrimental to meditation.
For two years in college I was a vegetarian. I stopped because it became impractical. The men I date have never been vegetarian and I end up cooking for them, also I never had a good reason for it. People would ask me why I was vegetarian and I really had nothing to say.
Again, I don't think it's enough for me to say, "I am Hindu, therefore I don't eat beef." The reasons for not eating beef are not compelling for me. I think it's part of the natural cycle of birth and death that humans eat meat and I don't think the cow is an exception. For me it would have to be either all or nothing.
I feel very self-conscious about eating beef. It is difficult for me to claim to be a Hindu, yet eat hamburgers.
UPDATE: I stopped eating meat May 2010 (so two months after this post), but I'm still eating eggs.
I don't always eat with my right hand. In India it is very rude to eat with the left hand because that is supposed to be the hand you wipe yourself with when you use the bathroom. The only time I consciously eat with my right hand is when I am in Indian restaurants.
I point. Pointing a finger at someone in India is also very rude. This one is just a habit that I would like to break, but pointing is a sub-conscious gesture at this time.
Those are all I can think of at the moment.