Here were some of my favorite things said so far:
There is a lot of truth, though, to the notion that bored rich white people seek spiritual thrills by "following" Eastern religions. They are colorful and spicy and exotic. (But I wonder why no one bats an eyelash when an Indian or other Asian or any other non-white person embraces Christianity or Islam and a "western" lifestyle... Is that appropriation?)
I found serious Hinduism the first time I went to India and traveled with DH (darling hubby) to a well-known pilgrimage temple in the south, and spent a night there and got up at the crack of dawn to wait in hours-long lines to do the puja and then see the main deity (have a darshan). What I saw of real humanity, rich, poor, sick, young, healthy, dying, and the devotion there in the inner sanctum, was something that a rich white person probably can't access in the same way in a cushy resort on a beach in Goa or Kerala, having $1,000 ayurvedic treatments, and the like. I have to admit, as a white (dare I say it) Hindu, even I have to sneer at that.
Christianity is an Eastern religion. My European ancestors stole it 1500 years ago, but does that make it any less stolen? Jesus was not European...
No one owns Hinduism, anymore than they own any other faith. Every great religion is a gift from the Lord. Who is any man or woman to decide that another is not worthy of that gift?
In the most widely loved Hindu scripture, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna tells us that none are more or less dear to Him, that He is the Lord of the universe, that He dwells in the hearts of all. He does not say that Indians are more dear to Him than Americans, that He is the Lord of the Indian sub-continent, or that He dwells in the heart of every Indian.
I always find it intriguing though that ONLY Americans (or "white folks")can "steal" other people's cultures... as if we ALL have absolutely no respect for anyone else and couldn't possibly be doing x for a good reason. I'm also (like you) exhausted by the notion that because I'm a "white girl" I must have this horribly romantic notion of how things are in other parts of the world (especially India) because I haven't been there to "see the other side" first hand. *sigh*
An Anonymous poster pointed out many examples of non-Indian Hindus and said, "*Serious converts are welcome but we dont want new age type dabblers."
And CS again:
In the end, brown skinned, white skinned, who CARES? We are all human, all subject to the making the same bad decisions or all capable of rising to our highest impulses. Your brown skin and my white skin doesn't say one damned thing about who's better and who's worse as a human being, and thus who's eligible to be Hindu or not.
Seeing that we are all the same has made me realize that I, as a white German-Jewish-Norwegian-Lutheran woman, am no better and no worse than an Indian Hindu, or a Japanese Buddhist or a Brazilian practioner of Candomble. So if I want to call myself a Hindu, and you don't like it, just go busy yourself with your prayers and I'll do the same.
Can I just say, Exactly! And this is why this blog is so useful, it is a place for us to come together and show that non-Indians can be serious about Hinduism and not just dabblers. And it is also a place where open-minded Indians come to say that we are welcome. Thank you so much to everyone!
I've mentioned a couple of time being uncertain of non-Indian gurus. I thought I'd talk a little about that today as a follow up to yesterday.
I guess I sometimes come across as sounding like I think Indians are better or are better suited to Hinduism. That is not what I intend at all.
When it comes to spiritual leaders, I am suspicious. Partly from my dad's scientific mind influencing me and partly being jaded from what I've seen. I'm suspicious of both Indian and non-Indian gurus. My lack of trust in white gurus is a fear that there is a lack of continuity. Many Indian gurus have been groomed and installed in a long lineage.
I'm not interested in learning Indian philosophy from someone who gets high and chants the Gita. As CS put it, "I don't go for the ganga-smoking, Krishna is my Om Boy tee shirt wearing, barefoot groover as Hindu." Exactly. Couldn't have said it better myself. I've seen that sort of thing too often. (Although, my boyfriend really wants the bumper sticker that I found that says "Ganesh is my Om Boy"! I think it really suits him, too)
I've also seen and heard about spiritual leaders in India leading people astray, tricking them with faith healings like America's revival tents, preaching against material possessions while living in luxury, etc.
When it comes to looking for a spiritual leader, I am not willing to give up my own judgement and understanding. Even once I found someone that I trust, who feels authentic, whose teachings line up with what feels right to me and my experience, I am never going to just do everything that person says without carefully thinking about it first. Maybe that will slow down my spiritual progress, but it's how I am. This is why the path of devotion isn't right for me.
You don't have to be Indian to be enlightened. Duh.
You don't have to be Hindu to be enlightened (although there are several Hindus who will be thinking that actually you are Hindu, you just think you're something else!) Vedantic thought can be found at the base of just about every spiritual path. As I've said before, it's more buried in some than in others and Christianity is a tough one because it has been interpreted and remade so many, many times.
So we're back to the question of why do I imitate Indian culture?
I don't think I have an answer for that. It's not a self-hatred thing. I certainly think that anyone can find enlightenment on whatever path is right for him or her. I follow what feels right for me. As I've said before, I didn't have a culture for this to displace. There was a void and it is now happily filled.
I find that philosophy works better when blended into all the other parts of my life and I have no desire to reinvent the wheel, as the saying goes. I love Indian philosophy and I love Indian culture. The two go together pretty well.