This is a phrase that gets used in my paralegal studies. It means that if there is an issue before a court, you can look to previous decisions in that State to see what the outcome should be, but if this issue has never happened in your State, you have to look to other States for similar cases (ones that are "on point" with the facts of your case) and try to persuade a judge to make that ruling.
Conversion in Hinduism is, I think, an issue of first impression. We do not have guidelines of how it would work. So, we need to look at other, similar cases for guidance.
The question here is whether one should join the culture when joining the religion? This was brought up to me by a friend who reads this blog. There is some question of why I can't just practice Hinduism without "acting Indian." I personally believe that the two are so closely linked that it is not possible to separate them without losing vital parts of the religion.
Let's look for some on point cases to help us with this question.
Christianity is not a similar case. Conversion in Christianity is strongly encouraged, which is unlike the facts of our case. Also, there is no "Christian culture." It is practiced by a wide variety of people in places all over the world. The way Christianity does interact with culture is that when one converts to Christianity, one must give up any actions, cultural or otherwise, that go against the principles of the religion. This can be very strict. What ties Christians together is social many times. Worship services are always on Sundays (as far as I know). Worship always includes supplicant prayers and readings or stories from the Bible and often music. All the churches I know of include a social hour afterwards where people enjoy cookies together. If there is a Christian culture, I guess those things are it. We will not be able to take much advice of how to treat Hindu converts or how Hindu converts should behave from this.
I think Judaism is a perfect on point example. Judaism, like Hinduism, is an ethnicity as well as a religion. Conversion is not encouraged in Judaism. Traditionally people are turned away from studying toward conversion at least three times. No effort is made by Jews to bring in others. However, they do have a system in place for those times when others insist on joining.
The wikihow on converting to Judaism says "Judaism is a major commitment which will affect every part of your life, will last as long as you live, and may even transfer to your children." (emphasis added).
In order to become a Jew, you have to study the religion, history, and culture for at least a year. You have to start "living a Jewish life" according to the authority above.
At the end of the studies you will be tested and, if passing, go through a ritual bath.
Also from the wikihow page: "When one becomes a Jew, they[sic] will acquire a Jewish name."
Clearly, in converting to Judaism, it is expected that you will also integrate into the culture and be as fully integrated into it as you can.
This makes a lot of sense to me for Hinduism as well. (Not that I think intensive study and ritual will be required by everyone. There is at least one group that has this in place already, others who don't believe in conversion at all, and others who say that as long as you behave like a Hindu then you are. I don't think uniformity is going to happen there.) We wouldn't expect someone to convert to Judaism, but avoid going to a temple, or keeping kosher, or covering the hair (if Orthodox). Converts to any branch of Judaism would certainly be welcome to celebrate the holidays, have Shabbat dinners, etc. Why are we surprised by converts to Hinduism doing similar things?
I also came across this article by an Orthodox Jew about why ethnicity and race should not matter at all in the practice of Judaism: http://www.beingjewish.com/identity/race.html I think this could also be applicable.
I do think that it makes sense to integrate into the culture of one's new religion. If all you do is join a hippie American group whose leader is thirty-five and likes the Gita, then you've lost the connection to the ancient heritage. As I said to my friend, why join what is arguably the world's oldest religion and not try to connect to its tradition?
Here is a list I came across of famous converts to Hinduism. I'm sure some of these people would not have considered themselves Hindu, but simply followed Vedic philosophy, as my parents do, but others clearly labeled themselves as Hindu and some took on Indian names: