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The White Hindu has moved! This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Another Voice

I was going back through comments on some of the older posts here and came across this comment that I wanted to bring to everyone's attention. I think this woman illustrates really well the frustration of feeling kept out of a religion that one is drawn to:

CS said...
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.)


  1. Hi there...Hinduism, like Judaism is an ethnic religion and does not welcome converts. That's why it is made harder and can take years. Indians have been ruined by the British too making it harder for Europeans to be accepted by them. They need to realize that Indians are still considered Caucasoids (although there are some theories about South Indians being Negroids). I'm not being funny here. These are the proper terms for race and I feel those should be used instead of these made up terms. People are so ignorant when it comes to race that it makes everything worse in the world.

  2. There is an episode of The Office where they are doing a training for helping ethnic minorities get into management positions. One of the characters applies, but is told that he doesn't count because he is white. He tells them that they can't take the Indian girl, in that case, because she's technically Caucasian.

    I do have some previous posts about the issue of ethnicity as part of religion, you might want to read through those. I am aware of why being a white Hindu is difficult and somewhat unheard of, that's why I'm keeping this blog.

    Anyway, I don't know much about the definitions of different terms for race and how people fit into them. Every person identifies with race in his or her own way and I wouldn't force labels onto someone else.

  3. I am born Hindu, but I can understand the social difficulties a new Hindu can encounter.I would advice find a good temple (where more emphasis is given on Hindu Philosophy ) in your area and visit it more often. Make friendship with Hindu "Families". In my part of US we have a very good temple. And its priest is white Hindu. Please visit his website and contact him. He is a person with vast knowledge.

  4. I am a vegetarian cos my religion taught me to be one .. I go to temples, cos my parents led me to it .. I read the Gita cos It is the only book that gives me peace ...If my way of life can be called Hinduism, I would gladly accept I am a Hindu ... Hinduism is a way of life ... I guess no one has the right to force anyone out of his way if life !!!
    If anyone thinks you are not Hindu..stop them and ask .. what is it that they do that you dont? In a positive approach, it could give u lot of insight into the kind of Hinduism people follow and believe makes them unique ..
    Pardon if I offend anyone ...

  5. I do not quite understand why people make caste to be one of the pre-requisites of following Sanatan Dharma. It is not.

    And it is quite true that different people interpret and follow different versions of what they think as the Truth, even within Hinduism.

    And by the way, Westerners/Whites getting attracted to Hinduism is nothing new. There have been serious studies of Dharmic philosophies by Westerners at least 2 centuries back.

  6. To become a Hindu one does not need a certificate from any source.Sanathanadharma is a universal religion,so any one can be a Hindu at any time and any where.What a Hindu is expected to know is the theological basics of Hindudharma.Many Hindus who call themselves as Hindus are in fact quite ignorant of the theological essence of Hinduism.Most of the Hindus are just RITUAL Hindus who neglect the study of scriptures.It is not the rituals that perfects a Hindu,but the knowledge of Paramathma(the supreme divinity).We do not need the certificate of ritual Hindus,but need Mahapurusha sansargam (the company of Hindu Saints).

  7. the supreme court in Delhi clarified when a serious question was raised in a litigation back in 1950s. The judiciary panel defined a hindu as one 'who believes in vedas'. The panel went further and explained that deity, temple, caste are unimportanat variables and can be dispensed away with. Thus belief in vedas is the only required tenet a hindu must accept.

    Let me surprise the racist brown hindus here. The Balinese (indonesian) hondus are orientals and resemble Japanese and certainly not Indians. In Africa afew thousand african (black) hindus have been assembling in a Hindu temple in Accra the capital of Ghana for a long time. The hindu monk is an african blackman, and he had built the ashram himself without any Brown hindus' support.In the global picture I must say white people are a very small racial minority among hindus. They hence need to be given a preferential treatment by the others. Bullying a racialminority is a clear act of himsa which is unhindu.Surya

  8. rituals r very important. we indian(hindus) follow & respecect culture of our ancestors thats why hindu indian culture has flourished to this day & will continue to flourish. western/white hindus should be thankful to indian(hindus)coz without them then they would have been chritian & would have never known this great alternative path 2 god.(c i dont say greatest n only path 2 god)

  9. When I was at the Hare Krishna temple a couple weeks ago, I saw a black man there. Made me curious about other ethnicities in Hinduism...

    And yes, Anonymous, I appreciate all that Indians have done in discovering and explaining the wonderful philosophy! :)

  10. hi aamba
    do not worry about what other so called hindus thinks.
    i m hindu as well as indian by birth. her in india we follow much things actualy which are not part of hinduism as caste system which treat some of our brothers as untouchable this thing still survive in some regions of india. so how can i call myself a hindu if i m discriminating others based on birth.
    as far as your knowledge abt hinduism as i see in this posts you are more hindu than me or any odd indian hindu who is blindley following any belief without proper knowledge

  11. Dear all,
    i am a born Hindu brahmin.i read lot of comments on this blog.let me share my thoughts.their are two categerious of traditional that is existing with all its caste and their suppers ion and dominance etc. their is another i.e. vedic or prehistoric this is the true sanathan dharma which is professed in the gita.the Hinduism as thought in west is inclined towards this vedic culture.we in india with baby steps in many directions are trying to bring back this vedic culture.this vedic culture once dominated the world from Latin america to Asia and Australia {the abrogines}.so do not be worried about acceptance.even yagabhhat the mediaeval's revelotunary was not accepted.

  12. Message to CS. When Indian Hindus criticize white people wanting to be Hindus I don't think they're talking about someone like you. Your case is different. You married a Hindu man. It's a well established belief among Hindus that a woman marries into the caste of her husband. If you embrace the Hindu way of life the Indian Hindus will accept you as Hindu. Don't worry. You can go into any temple when accompanied by your husband. They'll know that you belong to a Hindu family if your husband is with you.

  13. As vast as the unplumbed space can be, Sanathana Dharma encompasses all. She the eternal mother is ever vigilant of our breathes, is always there for all irrespective of race, caste, color, language, culture, weakness, strength, belief and mental aptitude. A Mother who sustains the entire creation, that is the power of this Sanathana Dharma. Amidst Her grandeur presence, who are this little humans to claim superiority over this primordial religion or a way of life, and deny others their birth right? There are hypocrites everywhere, all around the world who breach every injunction laid in the scriptures of their respective religion, and yet dare to come and intimidate people with their narrow views. Once you decide to sail in the ocean, know as well that there are sharks lurk down there. Be bold, be yourself, be sure and know that you are but your FAITH. Fight the waves, play with the wind, love the salty water, carress the sharks and reach the shore with firm conviction that this is but another chapter in life. God bless.

  14. I don't know where this woman s from or what she is. I would apologise to her for her bitter experiences with Indians.
    But i dnt know hw it happens !
    Westerns are usually welcomed here, and EVEN IF YOU PRACTICE HINDUISM FOR 'FANTACY' ,no one would care. We never thnk of ,whether u are doing it for fantacy or seriously. And i have been seeing many western devotees in temple, here n south India. Lots of tourists too come here, to Kerala known as gods own land,. Coz of its beauty.
    People like David frawley were welcomd and heard here.
    Francois Gautier, a french is even associatd with Hindu nationalist movement. There are people who say British regime was 1000times better than current corrupt governments. So please stay away frm making such unnecessary generalising comments. No 1 s inferior in hinduism. If its the staring or looks that worry you, then its out of curiosity nt offence.
    And the blogs which annoy you are of ANTI HINDU elements in India who are angered by growth of hinduism without any forced conversion. So leave it and dnt get into such blogs.

  15. I disagree that "no one would care." Clearly, based on the experiences people have, there are those who care and those who are prejudiced against Westerners. It does happen.

    Then again there are many who are not. Such is the world.

  16. Negative reactions like the one the lady suffered shows lack of understanding of their own religion on those Indians' part. Today's popular Hinduism seen in India is far away in spirit to Sanatana Dharma. Too many social factors have contributed to such a sorry state of affairs in India. as long as humans believe in the Vedas, they are Astikas and have every right to practice Sanathana Vedic Dharma. No amount of social pressure by anyone against believers is valid. Ethnicity is a card played by the bigots. Being a practicing Brahmana, schooled in the Vedic Sanathana Dharma, I confidently say that ethnicity does not hamper one to practice Sanathana Vedic Dharma.

    1. I couldn't agree more! Thank you so much for this contribution.

      Societal pressures really do screw up religious intent.