Resolution?

Not the New Year’s sort. No, after obsessing over the whole cultural appropriation/not cultural appropriation question, I’ve come to a sort of resolution on it.

Here’s where I’ve ended up: I am going to keep on doing what I do.

I’m not trying to be insensitive. Far from it. One of the bloggers who raised this question in my mind originally said something that began to settle my feelings: “Find something in your own culture – your family, your city, your country – to like.” Which sounds really insensitive, but planted the seed of an idea in my brain. I thought a lot about my family, which is where my own personal culture came from. And then I realized that my family cultures are something of a mashup – English from my Dad (painfully obvious when spending time with friends from English families), Texan from my mom (don’t laugh – Texan is a distinct cultural subgroup in the U.S.), and more than that, a very heavy amount of various other cultures. So my entire culture is based on cultural exchange.

That’s the key term – exchange.

The reason Americans have such a difficult time identifying a unique culture is that we try to find culture that is distinctly different from all other cultures, and that’s nearly impossible if you know what you’re looking at. American culture is made up of generations of cultural exchange and appropriation. My family culture is an extreme example of this (skewing heavily to the exchange end of things), but it’s very typically American. You pick and choose what you like. You keep what feels right, you drop what doesn’t, you’re always searching for new things and new experiences (again, typical of my own cultural experience, not necessarily all Americans). So in order to be true to my family culture, I have to be in a constant state of exchange and learning with people I meet.

It’s taken me a long while to finish this post. The things I read hit me rather hard, and I’m slowly figuring out how I actually fell about them, and how they’ve changed my views on things. I spoke at length with my mother, who said that I was dwelling on the opinions of a small group of people, and shouldn’t let it get to me. On one hand, I agree, and on the other, I know that there is value in some of those arguments.

Mostly, though, it has shaken my resolve to become involved with a temple community, because I’m more afraid now than I ever was about what people will think of me. So I’m doing a lot of reflection and meditation (plus reading and studying), and I hope that at the end of it,  I’ll have achieved a sort of equilibrium, where I’m aware of these views but don’t let them prevent me from following a spiritual path.

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About HappyGoth

By day, I'm a graphic designer. By night, I'm a knitter. I'm doing my part to keep Hotlanta stylish. I imagine that if you don't already understand the title of the blog, you're probably confused and perhaps slightly annoyed, but never fear - I do have a reason (and it's a good one). Having gone to hear Stephanie Pearl McPhee, and then having been inspired to blog about knitting, I found myself wondering what to call the blog. I recalled a conversation I had with Mouse and the Chicken Goddess about why it is a Bad Idea to anger knitters - this conversation was following SPM, aka the Yarn Harlot telling the assembled throng about Those Who Do Not Understand Knitting and Therefore Belittle It Much to the Chagrin of Others, or TWDNUKTBMCO, which is not the acronym she used but is the one I'm using because I forgot hers - that is, we are numerous and we all have very pointy sticks, easily transforming into an angry mob. Therefore, knitters = angry mob.
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46 Responses to Resolution?

  1. shivayatra7 says:

    Namaste!
    “I hope that at the end of it, I’ll have achieved a sort of equilibrium, where I’m aware of these views but don’t let them prevent me from following a spiritual path.”

    I think that’s it, really. I understand your fears a bit, having felt them myself, but in the end, they shouldn’t prevent you from doing what your soul calls you to do. If you’re meant to worship Ganesha, or Christ, or Allah, or whatever, your soul will be beckoned in that direction. You won’t be able to help it, despite whatever little ego issues regarding fear and self-image arise.

    If I could recommend anything, pray to Lord Ganesha. He is the Remover of Obstacles, and will certainly bring you clarity if you come before Him humbly and without any expectations.

    I wish you all the best!

    Om Namah Shivaya
    Ricky

    • HappyGoth says:

      Namaste, Ricky!

      I keep saying that I’m my own biggest obstacle, which is to say that the little-s self gets in the way of the big-s Self frequently.

      I pray to Ganesha daily, hoping that eventually he’ll help me see past that obstacle right in front of my face. I am learning to be more patient, and have fewer expectations! Slowly, but I’m learning.

      Thanks for the kind comments!

      Jai Ganesha

  2. kodanda says:

    No need to pray to Ganesh, Lord Rama states:

    “I am not concerned with your Caste, kinship, linage, reputation, wealth, power, connections, accomplishments, nor ability. I am concerned only by your devotion”

    Humans are weak and stupid, do not allow a couple of nay sayers play upon your anxiety and draw you away from your devotion over materialistic, nationalistic and otherwise worldly trappings that have no bearing over your true self. So go to Mandir, make friends, do not worry about what others say, as in the end it does not matter. Wear what you like because you like it, a piece of cloth is not going to lead you to moksha, realizing the self beyond all this and with devotion to Sri Rama will. 😀

    Jai Sri Ram

    • HappyGoth says:

      I am so sensitive! This has been my biggest obstacle my entire life (my mother told me as a child to imagine myself as a scarab beetle, and that the angry words of other people are sand, hitting my shell and bouncing off), and evidently I’m still struggling past it). Thanks for the reassurance, and hopefully I will remember to envision myself as a scarab beetle more often in the future (but stop before I start rolling up little dung balls).

      Jai Sri Ram

  3. Lalitaditya says:

    hi HappyGoth,

    I really wish I am not that blogger you mentioned who made you think about some things and in the process seems to have hurt your feelings and caused anguish to you. If I am indeed that blogger, I beg your pardon for having hurt your feelings and I do not want have it on my conscience that I hurt a fellow world citizen who wanted to learn more about Dharma. Once again, I apologize, mostly I am not a jerk and I absolutely hate hurting other person’s feelings.

    Your being proud about your heritage and American culture makes you the perfect candidate to start exploring Dharma and other philosophies of the world. Taoism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism, Jainism, Sikhism etc all have an in built message of Dharma to them. These are religions which do not demand that you belong to a particular race, ethnicity or sect to be able to follow the religion or appreciate their essence. You need not be bound by man made thin lines of nationalism, regionalism and geographical boundaries in your search for truth and Dharma. Indeed as Kodanda wisely said above, these should not dissuade anyone. I am a Hindu who is influenced by wise teachings of other non-fanatical and non-Abrahamic religions.

    However, what you need to safeguard is that you do no insult your inherited wealth, that is culture, heritage and traditions in your exploration of Dharma. You need not suddenly claim that you are a lost tribe of the original Indians and hence Hinduism is the right fit for you. You need not suddenly start wearing a saree and claim you feel more Hindu by wearing it. You need not say that your Christian ancestors were in the wrong path to Jesus while you have found the right path in Buddha or Ganesha or Rama. You need not say that Krishna is the only God who will give you salvation and following Jesus will get you into hell fire. Hinduism DOES NOT mean abandoning your past culture, traditions and heritage. The more you value your ancestors and respect them the more appealing will be Hinduism to you for in Hindus you will see people still performing rites for ancestors 3-4 generations backwards, I do! Just as we need to ensure that Hinduism and other such wonderful religions around the world do not die, we also need to ensure that the ways and traditions of our ancestors and forefathers are not lost. Krishna or Rama or Ganesha would absolutely hate you were you to do that. After all, isnt that the hallmark of the radical Islamists and evangelicals who want their religion to grow on the grave of other religions? Muslim converts and Christian converts want to act all Arab and White literally disowning their dead ancestors.

    You can be every bit American wearing your jeans and your denim top and still follow the principles of Dharma along with those of your present religion and other religions from around the world which essentially are our collective wealth handed down to us by our ancestors from time immemorial. You can be every bit patriotic about America and owe your allegiance only to it and none else. I am extremely happy to see you being proud of your ancestry, heritage and traditions. You will make for a great Hindu. What Hinduism needs is quality converts, not quantity converts. Once again, I apologize for any hurt I may have caused.

    • HappyGoth says:

      I have come to realize as I read more and more news stories about celebrities starting up Tumblr-style blogs that Tumblr is the new MySpace, and is just as raw and unfiltered as MySpace ever was (albeit much more elegantly designed). The internet is actually kind of awesome that way – people have an open forum to vent and share and say what they want to say to whoever happens to find it.

      All that I ask from people is that they make the effort to understand the other person’s background and point of view. I would like to sit down and have coffee with the people who write those Tumblrs (or you, even!) and have a conversation about what we believe, because I think that blogs, like email, are imperfect methods of communication, since they lack any sort of gestural or emotive element (facial expressions, etc), and are easy to misinterpret. Honestly I just want people to interact with each other as human beings, understanding that we’ve all got the capacity to learn and change and grow with one another (and I think that’s really what Sanatana Dharma is all about).

      As far as the culture thing goes, as much as I am learning about Hinduism and Hindu tradition, I am also learning about the importance of honoring ancestors, so as much as changing my name might be a part of many Western Hindus’ practices, in my case my name carries my family tradition (I’m named after my great-grandmother and an aunt who died as a child), so keeping my name honors those ancestors, and I feel that’s important. I am a firm believer in holistic cultural understanding. In order to understand a culture, a person must understand all aspects of that culture – its good parts, its bad parts, its past, its traditions, its food and clothing, its religions and art. I also find that immersing one’s self in that culture leads to greater understanding of one’s own culture by comparison, and eventually the discovery that there are many parallels (for example, my parents are fairly strict and traditional, so many experiences I had growing up are very similar to those had by the children of South Asian immigrants). That’s part of the reason this blog is called “Also Hindu” – I am Hindu, but it’s not the only thing that makes me who I am. I realize this is not the case for everybody, but this has been my experience.

      So all that said, while yours may have been one of the blogs in question, I appreciate your taking the time and effort to communicate and engage in dialogue (as disjointed as blog dialogue is). I think the internet needs more of this.

      Om shanti

  4. Ambaa says:

    The conclusion that I came to after my year of struggle was that the people who think I’m being offensive or inappropriate have their own issues and I’m not responsible for that. I’m a kind, respectful, and empathetic person, but I know who I am and I won’t compromise it for a handful of people who are going to hateful and angry over something no matter what!

    Take the comments from born-Hindus that have encouraged you, the ones that say you do belong, and print them out and stick them on your fridge. That’s what I did!

    • HappyGoth says:

      “Take the comments from born-Hindus that have encouraged you, the ones that say you do belong, and print them out and stick them on your fridge.”

      What an awesome idea! I hadn’t thought of that (I did put self-affirming statements on my bathroom mirror, along with reminders to brush my teeth.) Your journey has been an inspiration for me, and so I have a feeling that the advice you give is very sound. I think I’m getting to the same place, though several years behind.

      I know who I am, and I will definitely stay true to that.

  5. IndicRace says:

    Happy Goth ji,

    Posting my reply in response to your comment in your blog. Take care.

    —————————————–
    No, it does not sound like an argument at all and I agree with you when you mentioned reading something typed does not send across the correct message at times. I perfectly understand what you are trying to say. Its great that you wear a saree when you feel like wearing it and not to be more Hindu. It is just like when I occasionally make Pasta for my wife who loves it.

    As I said, given what you have said, you will make a very good Hindu and your comments on other religions makes you all the more so. Now why should it matter what anyone on the internet (like me) says, since you are firm in your resolve and your direction is correct, go for it! May lord Ganesha’s blessings be with you always.

    I really hope you can forget whatever it is that offended you from my earlier post, which I am afraid was ambiguous in the definition of “convert”. Here in India I run into a lot of Muslim and Christian converts who either try to behave like Arabs or like Britishers, they have completely disowned their ancestors. like for example, http://www.haindavakeralam.com/HKPage.aspx?PageID=14178&SKIN=C

    It is these people and some westerners who ape Indians that I call converts.

  6. kodanda says:

    “the people who think I’m being offensive or inappropriate have their own issues and I’m not responsible for that.”

    Where’s the like button when you need it.

  7. Anuj says:

    Good for you

    What i tried to do in my previous comment was to help you understand that the word “hindu” has an identity connotation for the indians. So when you say that you are a hindu, some indians will think that you have an identity crisis. It is imp to find where the problem really is.

    In india, when people convert to islam, they start conversing in urdu, abandon their native language and murmur arabic verses. They begin wearing different cloths, grow beards and try to completely disassociate with anything indian. Same happens when an indian converts to christianity; starts conversing in english, changes his lifestyle etc etc

    So when an indian see’s a western hindu dressed up in indian cloths and things like that, he/she immediately recognizes a familiar reflection from back home and silently nods in disapproval. No one will respect you if you disregard your own ancestral tradtions and culture. If you like indic tradtions then apply it as a complement to your existing lifestyle. The nepali hindus have their own distinct hindu traditions. So do the indonesian hindus and the cambodian hindus.

    What im trying to say to the western hindus is that you do not have to be “more loyal than the king” to show us that you are hindus. You do not have to replace your native culture and traditions with indian traditions and practices to be hindus. We accept you as you are.

    You do not have sign out from blog posts and comments sections with farewell sanskrit mantras. You do not have to wear saris or dhotis. You do not have to prove anything to the temple authorities; they are self appointed authorities. You do not have to visit temples to prove your devotion. There is no such obligation.

    You do not have to prove to us that your christian ancestors were wrong and that hindus are right. Indians accept you as you are. You do not have to trace any lineage to india to claim to be hindus. Just like the south-east asian hindus, the western hindus too have got a rightful place in the indic pantheon. Be yourself. Most importantly, respect your ancestors traditions.

    • Ambaa says:

      It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. As you say, there can be disapproval for taking on EVERYTHING, but if you don’t do everything “more loyal than the king” people assume it’s because you don’t know and set about educating you.

      It’s really annoying. When I choose not to do certain Indian-esque things, I usually get people giving me long lectures about those things, not realizing that I know I just chose not to do it!

      • Suman says:

        Hinduism is not about rituals. A lot of hindus in india engage in ritualistic practice but that does not mean that it is a core component. Krishna in the bhagawat gita himself points out the misguided ones who delight in the melodious chanting of the vedas, perform intensive rituals for prosperity, have a materialistic outlook and whose only aim is to reach heaven after they die. What indians love to do the most is to tell others that they are “authentic hindus” because of their birth and their routine ritualistic practices.

        Everybody has a “dharma” to follow. This “dharma” is basis of individual-society-rashtra’s decisions regarding Artha and Kaama (Pursuit of material wealth, fame, power and fulfilment of desires). This “dharma” is given utmost importance by everybody irrespective of their personal pursuits of Moksha (spiritual paths of achieving salvation). The segregation of spiritual pursuits from “Duty” and sense of Justice (dharma) is what is advocated by krishna in the bhagwat gita. Arjuna confused himself by mixing these two. BTW Dharma is not a synonym to religion and Rashtra is not a synonym to nation-state.

  8. surya says:

    Long post, I apologize . Last week I watched Philip Goldberg’s interviews on youtube, in his recent book American Veda, he researched how vedas have changed the American mindset over the last 150 yrs. Watch and enjoy hindus, its worth the time spent. Kodanda is right, all western hindus must interact among themselves and derive collective moral boost and strength. ‘cause these big brother attitudes from some brown hindus (iam one of them) is very disconcerting. Thankfully there are also some acharyas of white race and these monks help you adopt hindu path with finesse. (Browns go to them as well.) That said many browns are very proud of western/other converts, they maybe photo shy and fail to express. Over the July 4th weekend I met a couple of family members. The one from Durham, NC, was jubilant saying that ‘americans come there and carry out puja much more traditionally than me’. The other one was all in smiles, ‘I see many Americans (whites) in chicago mandirs everytime I go there’. The second man is visiting here from India.
    They call it a global village now. India is not Hinduism and Hinduism is not India, for example if you ask Trinidadians they will give Indians an earful. Balinese don’t care about Indians. So iam not sure why this self appointed custodians of hindus are trying to trample on nonindian hindus on these blogs. The new hindus are not trying to ‘impress’ any old hindus and the latter must stop assuming things. Converts mostly are following what was said in shastra (roughly, scriptures), that is the reason the Sanskrit quotes appear at the end or beginning of their posts. By wearing saree/ salvar kameez the white hindus are doing a bunch of favor to brown immigrant hindus, the hindu attire is not going to be frowned upon here anymore. Why all this overcaution getting heaped on white hindus, I really cannot fathom, are they (white hindus) looking for a shrink on their blogs? I really don’t think so. Born hindus (in India) instead must focus on changing the course hindus are adopting with their ‘westernization’ there, better use the energies locally. A white hindu woman who has been living in central India for over two decades recently lamented that, Indians adopt the wrong aspects of American culture and discard what is right there all in the name of modernization and westernization, as a result we see all kinds of social problems appearing there in the last couple of decades, and at the same time law enforcement finds all excuses and fail to implement law..
    To westerners their born faith is not convincing at least to a few. On top of it we all hindus are by and large modest and keep away from being critical. Deep down we don’t agree with the abrahamic doctrines. Imagine, even before the birth of these faiths we declared, god (truth) is one and wise call it by many names. Meaning they are many paths to salvation; the abrahamics paths are incompatible with that concept. Hindus say, god is inside me, you and also in everything that is seen and unseen, we go a step further and say’ aham brahmasmi’ meaning I am god, and Tat Tvam Asi (you are that (truth). We argue that its all one big thing (both manifest and unmanifest, AKA advaita doctrine), the nondualism works best for many, and dualism for those who want to immerse in the realm of devotion and Bhakti. These are not mere philosophies they also have rituals and paths to adopt, with dharma, karma, meditation, moksha etc serving as the guiding doctrines. Westerners are practical people, when in doubt they research and act. And so let them be, they can get there sooner only without someone impeding their free inquiry. Finally my fellow brown hindus these blogs are not on climate change they specifically talk about Hinduism, so please take your universalist theories to appropriate forums.
    Anuj, it is not an identity crisis, a Christian living 2 miles away from you in india will file a law suit if you say such things. You sound very immature, as always. Namaste.

    • HappyGoth says:

      At the end of the discussion I had with my mother, she said, “You’re insecure about your own place in all of this, but these people sound far more insecure than you do.” And I think I agree. If your world is changing, and other cultures are coming into it, you begin to feel insecure about your place in all of that. I have a theory that many Americans are born insecure. We never really know exactly what our culture is, because it’s in a constant state of flux.

      At any rate, it would do me (and others) good to focus on the positive, rather than the negative. Sure, closed-minded people exist, but there are many more open-minded, peaceful people out there who are really who I should be listening to. If I have problems with closed-minded Christians, Muslims, whatever and don’t listen to them, why then am I listening to closed-minded Hindus (and especially if deep down, I haven’t ever believed in Abrahamic doctrines, either)? Doesn’t make much sense.

      I don’t think we’re looking for shrinks so much. I think Westerners tend to be a lot more vocal about this sort of thing than other people, and tend to create blogs because of it. I personally appreciate that I have a forum to discuss this with other folks, because it helps to have a sort of shared experience. I was reading back through other white hindus’ blogs, and found a post in each that deals with exactly the same subject, and while it doesn’t fix anything, it helps to know that I’m not isolated in this experience. So maybe there is an element of therapy to it, but I don’t think that was the intention (it certainly wasn’t mine). My intention was more to provide documentation of the process, so that another person who starts on a similar path will see that there have been others who have done the same things, and that it’s okay to feel doubt or insecurity, because there are people who are supportive and have made it through the same things. And that there are loads of Hindus (like you) who are very supportive of people like me.

      So, thanks again for your insightful, positive comments. I think folks like you are why I get so worked up about those who close themselves off to others’ experiences. Hooray for the open-minded!

      • Ambaa says:

        Apparently our exploration can look like insecurity, and that can be pounced on by some who say that’s a sign you shouldn’t do it. I don’t think I’m insecure at all! I like to question things, I like to live an examined life, that’s all.

        Luckily, no one owns Hinduism. Those who criticize are still human and have their own understanding, which is limited in its own way, just as our views are also limited. Only an enlightened person has an unlimited view!

      • HappyGoth says:

        I am totally insecure about some things (superficial things mostly), but my interests and what I believe? Not that. I read a smart quote this morning that basically said “somebody’s always going to hate what you do, so do your thing,” and I think it’d be good for me to remember that. Also, I like how you say “examined life.” It’s important for people to consider the things they do, and learn about their interests, making well-informed decisions. Totally with you on that.

    • Ambaa says:

      Beautifully put!

    • kodanda says:

      Surya,

      As your name implies, you have beautifully illuminated the subject and tackled it eloquently.

      I do really think this circle of bloggers are not the true target of such concerns, but have gotten into the crossfire by being vocal and visual. Yes, there are westerners out there that have adopted Hinduism for all the wrong reasons or you also have the kids that wear, do and say things not being fully aware of the cultural implications. But this is in any country, it happens in Europe, Japan and even in dear ol Bharat.

      The one thing that breaks my heart through this whole process, and I have refrained from saying it till now, as I have been trying not to get personal or political (well for me that is). This part is that it seems the majority of these nationalistic nay sayers and self appointed judges of Western Hindus and guardians of these faith do not even seem to have a base education in their faith, they spout off and their points easily dismissed by the Gita and insist that the creator of the Universe does not exist beyond the borders of Bharat and this truly saddens me that they feel content in this. It also saddens me how they talk of pluralism and shoving Christianity in our faces, worse than evangelicals do, telling us that should be our faith and in the same breath tell us the evils of Christianity.

      Finally, and the last controversial comments I’ll make here. I know for myself, and I have said it a few times. I am not running around playing Indian, in fact I think out of all this circle of bloggers none of us really adopt much more of the culture than necessary as to properly practice our faith and lifestyle (following Dharma is not a religion).

      As for the shoving of Christianity in our faces, as if we now need it from both sides. We are not hurting anyone living our lives in Dharma. Secondly, in this circle of bloggers, I am probably by far the most fundamental and traditional. I do not believe in pluralism that includes the Abrahamic faiths and I have been quite honest in my views on this. To me, a dear native Hindu and a man I respect a lot once told me that there is pluralism in the Hindu faith as long as it is Sattvic and Dharmic. The introduction of Christianity and Islam into this fold was to appease the conquerors and yet this found itself as a part of doctrine, and it is a shame, as it is tearing things a part from the inside. Anyway, in my fundamental view of things, All things, as said in the Gita are of the three Gunas, this includes faith as well. Dharmic faiths= Sattvic, Abrahamic Religions (with a big R) are Tamasic and Shamanisic, occultic what have you is Rajistic. This is my view, take it or leave it.

      Anyway, thanks again Surya for your beautiful and well executed comment.

      K

      • Anuj says:

        insist that the creator of the Universe does not exist beyond the borders of Bharat and this truly saddens me that they feel content in this.
        This mentality didn’t emerge out of nowhere. Much of it has been cultivated through historic events. You have to understand the deference between dharmic and abrahamic systems. Before islam/christanity arrived in india, no one asked anyone whether they were hindu or buddhists. Words like “religion”, “hindu” or “infidel” just didn’t exist. It was either that you followed this or that philosophy. The debates between Vedantis and Buddhists are considered as debates between two religions, wherein one religion vanquished another. This is not how they looked at things during those times.

        Regarding the indian nationalist view; it will need time to heal.

        EDIT: “Suman” is me only

  9. surya says:

    ” insist that the creator of the Universe does not exist beyond the borders of Bharat and this truly
    saddens me that they feel content in this.”

    Now where does that come from may I ask, I thought hindus are the ones who declared many millennia ago that creator Brahman (not brahma) or THE GOD is ananth or infinite, without a beginning or end, that Brahman doesn’t have a physical form, gender or any ‘qualities’. That the Brahman (The God) is both what is there and what is not there. So therefore the accusation that hindus trapped the creator within the borders of Bharat (india/south asia) sounds hilarious.

  10. kodanda says:

    “Now where does that come from may I ask”

    Suryaji,

    I ask this every time I’m told that Westerners have no right to God and should remain Christian. I find this funny as I wasn’t raised Christian and can guarantee the Average Indian knows more about it than I do.

    K

    • Anuj says:

      There are flaws in both abrahamic(AB) and dharmic(DH) systems. I compared those two just to show you that they are totally different systems. If you call “DH faiths” as “religion” then you cannot call AB faiths as “religion”. Only one of those systems is an “actual religion”. Clubbing both of them under one “noun” is the cause of all the confusions. One particular confusion is the question asked by many western adherents that if they can “convert” to DH system. What is there to f#$king convert? You either believe in a system(AB) that pro-claims itself to be the genuine authority from god himself. Else you believe in a system(DH) where nothing is certain. You have the freedom to believe what you want and lead you life based on those learnings(provided it is in the path of “dharma”.

      Both systems have their own problems.

      DH faiths lets its users determine their own way of life as long as it meets its criteria of upholding “dharma”. Mix these spiritual teachings with ritualistic practice and you get the chaos that is current “india”; home to uncountable different beliefs so complex that an accepted definition of hinduism is yet to be found.

      Whereas AB faiths has pre-defined everything. Jesus/allah etc are the only way and there is no other way. It is right and everything else is wrong and blasphemous.

      So which is better? The west with its christian undertone administration is far more stable and prosperous than any other continent in the world. The chaotic nation state of india is a prime example of what happens if you do not shackle humanity under a set of dogmas and instead let his mind run free.

      Islam is a book full of dogmas cum military doctrines and i have nothing more to add.

      I only have one negative opinion about religions like christianity and islam. The abrahamic pursuit of welding the whole world under “one god” will most definitely lead humanity to its doom.

      • kodanda says:

        @Anuj,

        I agree totally. The problem lies in verbiages used. A lot of times people use the verbs that they know hence why in the west DH systems are called religions, and the term Hindu is thrown around too much. I know the real definition of Hindu, hence why I wince when I have to use it. I think the first step we need to do is stop using the term Hindu period, both within the west AND east. It’s a foreign word and does not accurately encapsulate anyone’s faith.

        You are correct Dharma is a way of life, not a religion in the modern sense of the word. So as it’s a way of life there is nothing to convert to as you say. I’m not a “convert” I am just a humble follower of a Sattvic and Dharmic way to God, period. While there are problems with both DH paths and AB religions, DH faiths give you room to grow, to expand your knowledge and perceptions and to realize the self at your own pace and in your own way where as the tamasic streamlined and controlling dogma of AB only allows a singular way of thought and means to the end. Their way or the highway to hell and eternal damnation… oh yeah (to all the pluralists out there) this sounds like a different path to the same god, NOT :/ I don’t want to come off as a fundamentalist or anything, but this is how I feel, others can take what I say or leave it. In fact Krishna says the same thing, “read my words and do with it as you will”.

        @Happy Gothy Hindu girly, sorry if this conversation veered way off track.

      • HappyGoth says:

        I kind of expected things to eventually get into debate mode. It’s sort of something you have to accept when you start up a blog about religion or politics. I reserve the right to reign things in if they get nasty, but I encourage healthy debate and discussion, so carry on!

      • HappyGoth says:

        I just want to explain the “conversion” thing a little more fully, from a Western perspective. Right or wrong, many of us from the West say we “convert” to a philosophy because that’s the process that’s part of our culture. Since I’ve started on this path, I’ve learned that there’s a big difference between the Western way of adopting a religious philosophy and the Eastern way (or the Abrahamic versus the Dharmic). In the first instance, because the religion and path to salvation is so clearly defined, it also has a clearly defined method of adopting that religion, or a “conversion” process. Therefore, when someone from this cultural background, even if they aren’t raised in that faith decides to follow a Dharmic path, the path can be very unfamiliar and confusing. Calling it “conversion” provides a distinct separation.

        “You either believe in a system(AB) that pro-claims itself to be the genuine authority from god himself. Else you believe in a system(DH) where nothing is certain.”

        So if you’re coming from the first system (which brings along with it a surety and clear path for how to adopt the associated religious practice), and then go to the second system, the second system is vast and very confusing, because there are so many ways to do things, all of which are valid. You can say “relax and just go with it,” but for a person who has lived their whole life in a culture based on the first system, that’s not so easy. “Conversion” is a familiar concept. It’s defined. It’s got a nice set of clear rules. It doesn’t apply to Sanatana Dharma. As a rules person myself, that’s a little overwhelming.

        It may not actually be the perfect term, but it helps a lot of us reconcile two distinctly different mindsets.

  11. Anuj says:

    @aamba
    Hinduism is not about rituals. A lot of hindus in india engage in ritualistic practice but that does not mean that it is a core component. Krishna in the bhagawat gita himself points out the misguided ones who delight in the melodious chanting of the vedas, perform intensive rituals for prosperity, have a materialistic outlook and whose only aim is to reach heaven after they die. What indians love to do the most is to tell others that they are “authentic hindus” because of their birth and their routine ritualistic practices.

    Everybody has a “dharma” to follow. This “dharma” is basis of individual-society-rashtra’s decisions regarding Artha and Kaama (Pursuit of material wealth, fame, power and fulfilment of desires). This “dharma” is given utmost importance by everybody irrespective of their personal pursuits of Moksha (spiritual paths of achieving salvation). The segregation of spiritual pursuits from “Duty” and sense of Justice (dharma) is what is advocated by krishna in the bhagwat gita. Arjuna confused himself by mixing these two. BTW Dharma is not a synonym to religion and Rashtra is not a synonym to nation-state.

    • Ambaa says:

      Agreed. Hinduism is not about the rituals. Many born-Hindus are practicing in ways that seem like ignorance and misunderstanding to my view. I’m not allowed to say that, though! As a non-native, my thoughts and opinions about Hinduism are often dismissed.

      It is frustrating to be dedicated to finding Truth, to practice Hinduism in the way that I understand it from Lord Krishna and from the Vedas and to have people give me lectures about things they assume that I don’t know about. “In India, we do like this. I’ll show you.” For the most part, yeah, I already know. I choose not to do it. It’s tiring to have my knowledge of my own religion questioned at almost every turn.

      I’m twenty-nine years old and for twenty-nine years I have been steeped in dharmic tradition. I know what dharma is, I know what artha and kaama are. I know what moksha is, I’ve read the Gita all the way through more than once. As a white person, the assumption by everyone is that I don’t know these things or that I don’t know them as deeply as an Indian. And that’s just not true.

      My comment was to explain one of the reasons why you might find a Western “convert” going overboard. Part of it is proving themselves, part of it is falling in love with the religion (or whatever you want to call it) and part of it is that if you don’t do EVERYTHING, you hear about it endlessly from all the aunties who think you’re doing it wrong.

      • HappyGoth says:

        The single most useful realization I have had (and this only about a week ago) is that like my relationship with the Episcopal Church, my relationship with Sanatana Dharma must be on my own terms. A great deal of my unhappiness came from me forcing myself to do things that I honestly didn’t find meaning in. Now that I understand that, I’ve found a place where I’m quite content, and as things come to me I’m far better prepared to learn about and deal with them before adopting them blindly.

        I’ve also had to teach myself that just because I don’t reach the level of devotion that Art and Kodanda have (being initiated into a particular sampradaya), my relationship with God is still quite valid and is exactly what is right for me. There’s no competition in Sanatana Dharma (I really want that on a t-shirt). You believe it, you live your life the best way you know how, using it as a guide, and that’s exactly where you’re supposed to be. Getting that straight in my head made me so much happier. I get what you said in your blog, now, about time to yourself to be yourself.

  12. surya says:

    ” I ask this every time I’m told that Westerners have no right to God and should remain Christian. ”
    Kodandaji ever heard of cyberbullying? We dont know who is hiding and impersonating behind the key board, especially his/her faith, welcome to the 21 century!!

    • kodanda says:

      @Surya,

      You have a point I never thought about. We only assume that they are “hindu” when in fact they could have an agenda to keep us away. Much like how the signs “Hindu’s only” on temples was actually started by the British Raj to keep the British from possibly turning to the Dharma. Then in time these signs became a part of the Hindu mentality and is now used in the ways by keeping western devotees out of temples.

      So this may explain why these nay sayers seem to know nothing about the Bhagavad Gita and other texts. Thanks for opening my eyes.

      K

  13. Anuj says:

    @kodanda
    There is nothing wrong in calling a spade. Those things which are destined to go will go; you cannot stop it. Adjectives like “fundamentalist” or “atheists” are just words used to discontinue an argument.

    The problem is not AB spiritual pursuits. The problem is refusal of AB to give higher precedence to “dharma” and keep spiritual pursuits purely personal and non-proselytizing.

  14. kodanda says:

    Anuj-ji, I believe you and I are saying the same things 😀

  15. Anuj says:

    @HappyGoth
    Im beginning to understand your PoV.

    BTW, were you attracted to hinduism because of its concepts or because of its traditional rituals or both?

    • HappyGoth says:

      Mostly the concepts, but a little of the rituals. I grew up in a church that was very traditional in its own ritual practice, with sanctus bells and incense being used quite frequently, so a lot of Hindu ritual is familiar. Mostly, though, I deeply believe in the philosophy of Sanatana Dharma. I don’t believe in proselytizing, I don’t believe that anyone is eternally damned for not believing in the Christian God (or Allah or anybody else, for that matter), and I believe that we experience multiple lifetimes so that we can learn and grow and move closer to realizing God. I also had a hard time believing these things and praying the prayers repeated every Sunday church service, because those two sets of beliefs don’t match up. I felt like I was lying to myself.

      So I read some things (including the Gita), did a little research, and realized that I was sort of on the way to following this path already. Now I’ve got a better idea of how to go about that. I am learning as I go that nobody can give me an easy answer to the question, “How do I do this?” because the practices are so vastly varied that each person finds the method that’s right for them. I just now learned that there’s a separate Ekadasi for each deva! Makes sense now that I think about it, but that was a revelation. I like meditating and performing puja at home, as well as going to temple occasionally, but a lot of very traditional Hindu (and I use this word to mean “of Indian origin”) practice is strange to me, since it’s not culturally familiar, so I’m finding practices that are comfortable while staying true to the underlying philosophy. It has taken some time to sort out, though, since there are so many options. Sometimes I wish someone would just tell me, “this is exactly how you do it!” except that I know it would only be a temporary fix, and that I’d have to find my own way eventually. I’m not saying that I plan on disregarding thousands of years of ritual tradition. I just mean that not all traditions will work for me, and because I’m a cultural outsider, I have to find those that make the most sense to me, culturally.

      Learning about Hindu culture has been as much about learning what it means to be American as it has been about learning what it means to be Hindu.

      • Anuj says:

        I guess i understand your need to practice it tangibly.

        I know many indians who practice it through yoga while never feeling the need to visit any temple.

      • HappyGoth says:

        Good to know! I guess that’s one of the really nice things about Sanatana Dharma (and why “Hinduism” isn’t an adequate name) – it is a very personal thing, and each person who follows it finds a unique way to practice it (even if that unique way is much like what your parents practice).

        I do still have times where I’d like a guidebook, but those are happening less frequently. If nothing else, this experience has taught me not to stress about things so much.

      • Kodanda says:

        It’s all about Prapatti 😀

        “sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja
        Aham tva sarva papebhyo moksayisyami ma suca”

        “Abandoning all other means (dharmas) take refuge in me alone:
        I will liberate thee from the effect of all sins, grieve not”

        If it’s good enough for Hanumanji, it’s good enough for me.

      • HappyGoth says:

        “If it’s good enough for Hanumanji, it’s good enough for me.”

        Pretty much, yeah. 🙂

  16. Kodanda says:

    “I do still have times where I’d like a guidebook”

    This is why I finally turned to the Sri Sampradaya, same philosophy, same roots but unlike the Ramanand Sampradaya they have lots and lots of programmes to learn Vedas, continuing education, many web sites devoted to Sri Sampradaya and if you look hard enough you find guide books 😀
    http://www.srimatham.com/storage/docs/handbook-of-srivaishnavism.pdf

    Since you are gravitating to a Vaishnava/ Vashishtadvaita philosophy give this a good read through. *poke*

    • HappyGoth says:

      I will read it! Definitely. Thanks for the link.

      I watched a weird documentary on the Kumbh Mela the other day (weird because it was produced all by Westerners, for Westerners, and seemed a lot like a “hey, this is cool and spiritual and whoa let’s find the weirdest babas ever thing), and one of the babas interviewed said something pretty interesting. He said that a guru comes to you when you’re ready for one. I don’t know if I’m ready for a guru, but I definitely could use a good teacher. I am willing to entertain options!

      Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned. It makes things LOADS easier.

    • Ambaa says:

      No, no, I must have her for smartha! 😛 Join my side! lol.

  17. Kodanda says:

    Much to the dismay of many a readers out there, I’m going to be training as a purohita as soon as I get settled in 😀

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