I found this blog while in a particularly frustrated mood about religion and ethnicity and fitting in. I am a white woman married to an Indian Hindu man, and have grown exceedingly tired and frustrated by these on-line discssions that insist that white people MUST NOT EVEN THINK of converting to Hinduism.
All the same reasons come up: we have no caste, the colonial legacy, which we, British or not, will be expected to pay for until the end of time, supposed scriptural references, we white people are all corrupt, or pretenders or looking for a cheap exotic thrill, or we don't know enough when not to enter a temple (during a woman's period)...
I get the feeling that the Indian born Hindus who insist that we stay in our places, thank you, feel a sense of smug superiority - we want something they have, and we're just not allowed because we're not good enough. We're polluting.
But I have been to India with hubby many times. And I have seen things first hand. Many things. Materialism, greed, no respect for elders, et cetera. As well as generosity, kindness, great love, acceptance. So I agree, Aamba, we are all the same.
We are all part of the human race, like it or not, and Hinduism is out there in the marketplace of ideas, and as irritated as that must make some Indian Hindus, too late. Too bad. Don't come telling us white people how wonderful your religion is, how superior, how advanced and perfected it it, and then say, "Oh no! Not for you, no way! You keep out! Respect us but DO NOT EVEN THINK OF PARKING HERE!" [emphasis added]
Am I angry? Just a little! I hate hypocrisy. And I've seen more than my fair share of late. I've tried so hard over these many years of marriage to fit in, hubby says there's no Hindu pope who says you can't be Hindu, so chill out, stop getting so worked up. And then I'm okay for a while.
But then I read or hear something and get mad all over again.
Is Hinduism for white people worth the struggle? If what you want is communal acceptance, it's dicey. If what you want is a personal, private communion with your inner self and with your conception of the Divine, then yes, it is.
Maybe our answer, as white Hindus, is to create a community for others in our position, to take what is good and pure and sacred in Hinduism that transcends race and ethnicity and caste and create a "Western Hinduism", much like western Buddhists have done.
I don't know what the solution to this is. I'm hoping that this blog will help to spread the idea to born-Hindus that there are non-Indians out there who take being a Hindu seriously.
So far you all have given wonderful, positive responses, so I am hopeful!
CS's idea of having a group of Western Hindus doesn't seem like a good solution to me personally. I feel that is what I had in my organization growing up. We had Indian philosophy with British social traditions. It isn't that they didn't work together, they do. Not surprisingly, I do believe that Vedanta philosophy is The Truth (otherwise, I wouldn't be here doing what I'm doing) and if it is a universal Truth, then it would fit any society.
They emphasize making philosophy practical and applicable to everyday life. There is little to no ritual. It is focused on questions of how to be blissfully happy and discovering our purpose for being here.
It just didn't quite work for me. It seemed like a lobotomy to strip off the Indian-ness from the Vedanta. However, that might just be me feeling very connected Indian culture. It may have to do with my own personal past lives.
I don't know where you live, CS, but you might enjoy Philosophy School's take. Here are some links for you to check out. The first link is the one I grew up belonging to and my parents are still very active there.
Advaita Meditation Center
Philosophy School New York (Also with branches in various other U.S. cities)
School of Economic Science London
Or try a group historically welcoming to the non-Indians like Chinmaya, Himalayan Academy, or ISKON.
And no matter what, hold your head up high and don't let people badger you into believing that you aren't a Hindu. Your husband is right, you already are. It's exhausting sometimes, but we are the ones who have to be visible and show over time that white people can be good and devoted Hindus. Eventually enough people will see us that it will no longer be such a strange thing.
(By the way, on the caste issue I discovered some interesting things that I'll be posting about soon.)