mr-elementle asked: Btw i wanted to let you know how disrespectful to Hinduism your post was, the idea that someone was be born into hinduism is against the basic foundation of the religion, that anyone may be reborn and follow the teaching for a better life. if you dont even know the basic principles of the religion then you have no business telling other people about it. i know you probably feel like you need to help less privileged people, but uninformed statements that go against them isnt helping anyone
If you actually read those posts, which were both written by actual Hindus, you’d see just how wrong you are. Seeing as you’re probably not the type to actually click links, I’ll quote them directly for you, mr-elementle:
From You cannot convert to Hinduism without disregarding a basic Hindu concept by Swami Balendu
Today I don’t however want to write about this interesting detail but rather about the question how the religion of Hinduism actually refers to people who are not originally Hindus but want to believe in Hinduism and go to Hindu temples.
To be very straight and clear with my words, it is actually not possible to convert to Hinduism. There is no scripture that describes any procedure, method or ritual how you could convert. It is not like in other religions in which you have to get baptized or in which you have to proof that you know a certain part of the scriptures of that religion. There is simply no way to convert. Instead you can find verses that tell you that a Hindu is only a person who is born a Hindu.
People who say ‘I converted to Hinduism’ thus may have not understood that part of the scriptures or they really want to be Hindus so much that they ignored it. I think that is a bad start into your new religion! Look, if you really want to believe in this religion, you should follow it properly and first of all find out whether you can be a member of that club. If that religion tells you that you cannot, shouldn’t you follow its rules and leave it?
What we can learn from this is that you can enjoy any belief or any aspect of another person’s belief from far, that you can adapt it to your life in any way you want but that you don’t have to make an official ‘conversion’. You don’t need to imitate anybody or anybody’s religious behavior. Don’t become a copy of anyone! Just appreciate it from far and stay original, just as you are. Being someone else than you really are will definitely have an effect on your psychological situation. If you stay too long in this identity conflict, it will harm your mind, your feelings and your personal life. I have seen this kind of examples many times on my journeys and with my counseling work. You really don’t need to convert to any religion – and especially not to one which does not allow you to convert!
From Conversion vs Covenant by Jessica Kumar
What does it mean to be a Hindu? Lately I have been confronted over and over again with the question if people who were not born into the Hindu Dharm can be true Hindus?
The fact of the matter is that Hinduism can hardly be called a “religion” is the first place. There is no central doctrine. No set of laws. No requirements of lifestyle or dress. It is a way of life, a broad philosophy, a wide cultural precept.
One can be an atheist and be a Hindu. One can worship multiple representations of God and be a Hindu. One can worship one God and be a Hindu … With this incredible diversity, is there any one string that holds the concept of Hinduism together? What makes someone a Hindu?
Hinduism is encapsulated in Sanatan Dharm. Many have defined Dharm as Duty, but this is a shallow definition … He suggested that we can look at Dharm as a COVENANT. And this covenant is something one is born into.
Is Sanatan Dharm a religion that one can convert to?
So why do we see bhakti yogis and celebrities like Julia Roberts claiming to be Hindus? Performing the rituals, chanting the Hanuman Chaalisa, reading the Bhagavad Gita or following a guru does not make someone a part of Sanatan Dharm. Its all about the covenant of dharm.
This “white Hinduism” is something else.
When I look at folks like the bhakti yogi movement. Many of these people LEAVE their family and family traditions rather than draw closer to their family. The opposite of what Dharm truly is.
Some of the aspects embedded in Hinduism that I find that most white Hindus are attracted to are:
- Worship of Mother figure (feminine aspects of God)
- Verbal and physical forms of worship
These people “follow” some principles of Hinduism, but the principles they choose to follow within Hindusim are the principles that differ MOST from white cultural Republican Christianity in America. What about family values? What about respect for elders? What about sacrifice? Essential parts of Dharm which are neglected in this brand of “Hinduism.”
Is “white Hinduism” merely a reaction to a decayed brand of cultural Christianity? An exotic escape? The newest religious fad?
Can we call someone a Hindu that does not embrace and embody dharm?
From White Hindu Converts: Mimicry Or Mockery? by Deepak Sarma
It is ironic that, while so many Diasporic Hindus mimic imaginary archetypes of “white” American culture in order to assimilate, to deny their colonized and oppressed histories, to (futilely) self-blanch, and to be accepted by the dominant white Christian privileged culture, a select group of white Americans do the opposite. They claim to have “converted” to Hinduism and concurrently mimic their imaginary (and often Orientalist) archetypal “Hindu” in order to reverse-assimilate, to deny their colonial histories, to (futilely) color their lives, and, paradoxically, to be marginalized.
But is their mimicry merely disguised or (unintentional) mockery?
The former group, the Diasporic Hindus, may not have much choice but to aspire to be accepted, despite (or because of) the proclamation of Pollyanna pluralists.
The latter group, the White Hindu Converts, in (dark and stark) contrast, have a choice to believe that they can “reverse mimic,” identify with the subaltern group and can transform from the oppressor to the oppressed, from the colonizer to the colonized. Surely such an imagined transformation is only available to those who are privileged in the first place. While the responsibility for the historical privileging may not lie with them, they cannot avoid benefiting from the ill-gotten fruits.
So, no matter their sincerity, or self-proclaimed authenticity, their mimicry seems more like mockery. And, unlike the forced mimicry of the Diaspora Hindu, which may have subversive undertones and may destabilize the dominant ideology, reverse mimicry, ironically, merely reinforces existing hierarchies and paradigms. In fact, some claim to be more “authentic” than Diaspora Hindus and, in so doing, deny the voice of those they mimic/ mock.
- The great thing about Hinduism is that with over a thousand books written, there is no set way to worship. Hinduism is open in the sense that it …
OH HEY here are more direct quotes by people raised in Hinduism and the culture it’s a part of
“To be clear on my last post, I didn’t mean to imply that mr-elementle was white, but that these false, simplistic and stereotypical ideas of Hinduism were created by white colonisers, and should not be spread by anyone.
It’s damaging as well as disrespectful because it’s not what Hinduism is, it’s what white people want Hinduism to be. What the colonisers did is create these negative stereotypes of Hindus as cow-worshippers and in touch with nature and peaceful and submissive and all that (in an effort to spread around the idea that we are primitive, irrational, superstitious, savage, subhuman idolators and deserve to be dominated and destroyed - see the history of the phrase “White man’s burden”). Now what’s happened is that due to capitalism, White people have commodified their own cultures, which has rendered them meaningless, and now they want to seek spiritual salvation in ours. (See Vijay Prashad talking about it in this awesome documentary: http://vimeo.com/3846269) So they’re taking those false, simplistic stereotypes and reclaiming them, not for our benefit, but for theirs. But as your first quote said so well, this is not healthy for them or for us.
It does incomparably more damage to us, though, because what it does is sever the link between the culture and the people… and ultimately renders it completely meaningless, a perverse mockery of the real (complex) meanings of our traditions that it becomes completely unrecognisable. And because the white people who spread this around have power, it becomes the dominant story. People think they know what Hinduism is, and talk about reincarnation and karma and the Vedas and chakras and “the god of destruction” stuff without realising that they’re all completely false Western fantasies. The hippies were some of the first to do it in the 60s, and I can’t even express how incredibly disrespectful they were with our sacred traditions - and that is what started the whole movement of cultural and religious appropriation that continues today.
(Edit: Even academic sources are terrible, because they’re almost alwayswritten by white people, and when you look at THEIR sources, it’s white Indophiles / “Indologists” from the 18th and 19th centuries who thought they understood Indian culture because they were colonising it.)
The other side of the coin is that it idealises and romanticises Hinduism as a religion of peace and non-violence and wonderfulness, and it completely ignores the oppressive elements in it like casteism, misogyny and the once-fringe, now mainstream Nazi-inspired genocidal movement of Hindu fundamentalism. These people are the ones who pretend that conversion is possible, because they don’t understand Hinduism themselves - all they care about is wielding it as a weapon against the most oppressed members of our society. There are also so-called “gurus” in the West who know that white people have deep pockets and are desperate to be sold spiritual transcendence and meaning; this is basically what the Hare Krishna movement is about. So spreading any information that you think you know about Hinduism (99.9999% of the time you really don’t) is damaging and destructive to a whole lot of people.” -theastrolibrarian
“There is no official (or generally accepted), conversion ceremony, and not all schools of thought are the same. Hinduism is intrinsically linked to one’s heritage and the rites and rituals that accompany one’s bloodline, so you cannot separate ethnicity and culture from Hindu identity or practice(s). If you’re born to it, you remain part of it and it remains part of you. An individual could very well be an avowed atheist and still be considered a Hindu by their community - because birthrights can’t be cast off or taken by another at a latter date. They are what they are and they are involutnarily conferred upon us.
Anyone can make a song and dance and say they believe in X, Y, or Z but they can never be part of the community because the community as a whole has requirements for full admission, i.e. being born into it. The very fact that there is any disagreement on the simple question of who’s allowed membership in our group(s), shows just how different the various strains of “Hindu identity and beliefs” are. And that fact alone should point to how wildly outlandlish the notion of blanket conversions to something so varied and tethered to ethnicity that Hinduism is.” -kashmirkikali
"If “religion” is defined as a belief system you can convert into, one that has a proselytising or missionary imperative, then Hinduism is simply not a religion. (And religion is often defined that way, because we are speaking a language that developed in a largely Christian country. Context matters.) In that case, Hinduism is best described as a heterogeneous CULTURE tied to an ETHNICITY that is passed on through BLOOD and ANCESTRY. If you are born into a Hindu family (that goes back many many generations), you are Hindu. You can’t convert into Hinduism any more than you can convert to another race or ethnicity or culture. “White Hindus” are actually the same as those absurd people who call themselves “trans-ethnic”. Oh, and guess what - you can’t convert OUT of Hinduism either! I tried when I was younger - told my family that I didn’t believe in God and I wouldn’t pray and I wasn’t a Hindu - and I got laughed at. I can’t stop being Hindu any more than I can drain my blood and deny my ancestry. It’s not about belief; it’s about belonging to a community; it’s about your mother and your grandmother. [This is a much more complicated issue and does not apply to ALL people, i.e. those who have been oppressed by caste Hinduism and South Asians of other religions who have assimilated with Hindu communities, and thus become Hindu. But white people always have been and always will be outsiders, ridiculous colonisers trying to cannibalise our souls and steal what we have left, after they took everything else.]
Oh, and white “Hindus”? It’s not a “tumblr chick” telling you you can’t be a Hindu. Try to step foot into a temple in my state in India, and tell them you are a Hindu. There is a sign at my local temple that says “No non-Hindus allowed” and guess what? That refers to you.
This bullshit reminds me of this militant atheist friend I have who tried to prove how bad all “religions” are with a chart (from Richard Dawkins, lol) that tells you what they believe and what evidence they have for it - and he said Hindus believe that the world was created out of Vishnu’s navel or some shit and the evidence is that it’s in the Vedas. I tried to explain to him that we don’t take this literally (like fundamentalist Christianity might do) and Hinduism is unlike other religions in that we have no textual authority (like the Bible). You can be a Hindu without ever referring to the Vedas; it’s just not an authority. (All books are sacred in Hinduism; none of them are authoritative.) He didn’t see the problem with the chart. They just refuse to believe us when we talk about our own culture.” - theastrolibrarian
"Apart from the fact that Hinduism is a misnomer, what she’s saying is that white people came, screwed us over, changed our religious mandates and rituals, and we, the poor natives who have transmitted these rituals and beliefs to our descendants for eons, are at a sudden loss for knowledge and understanding of our past, our rituals, and our beliefs. But she, singular white woman understands our history and our beliefs better than we do.
Regardless of whether or not an individual believes that conversion is acceptable, this type of egotism, where the outgroup individual takes the position of intellectual superiority concerning the ingroups religion/culture in order to “correct,” ideas that do not directly benefit the desires of the former… I just can’t.
How convenient that we’ve managed to maintain our beliefs and rituals for thousands of years, yet we’ve been suffering a collective memory lapse for the past century and a half. How lucky we are to have found this woman and the like, to set us straight.” - kashmikikali
So what was that again, funprivilege, about ‘just finding links”? It is very clear that the reality reality that Hinduism is not something that can be converted to, ALL direct quotes from people raised in the culture and religion with no statements or commentary of my own. In fact, ISKCON is specifically called out “These people are the ones who pretend that conversion is possible, because they don’t understand Hinduism themselves - all they care about is wielding it as a weapon against the most oppressed members of our society. There are also so-called “gurus” in the West who know that white people have deep pockets and are desperate to be sold spiritual transcendence and meaning; this is basically what the Hare Krishna movement is about.”
Thanks for the tag. People like mr-elementle and funprivilege need to be mindful that Hinduism may be the name we’ve (South Asians) adopted to call our various religions traditions” in more recent days, but it wasn’t too long ago that we were identified through our individual community/ethnic lineages - because that’s what determined what our philosophy, rituals, and traditions were - not some generalized and sanitized notion of “eastern religion,” that actively erases the myriad of differences between our communities.
So I’d really implore the naysayers advocating conversion here not reinforce the apathy required to default to this blanket terminology that was foisted on us by those too lazy and disinterested to tell the difference in the first place. Don’t reinforce this idea that “eastern religions,” are some buffet for westerners to pick through until they’re satisfied with what they’ve taken completely oblivious to the context in which these traditions and beliefs were formed in the first place.
Conversion is impossible in Hinduism. Anyone seeking any semblance of conversion must first try to force themselves into specific sub-continental communities because at our very core we are family practitioners. And as a general rule we do not proselytize, so rather than seeking converts, it is recognized that they have their paths that they were born to, just as we have our own.
You cannot possibly uphold any of the shared tenets of “Hindu faith,” while seeking conversion when in doing so you must actively abandon and disgrace your ancestors/the beliefs of your ancestors, when you deliberately cause turmoil at the familial level, and eagerly cast off your culture to make grabby hands at another. In order to claim conversion one must first denounce Hinduism because the reality of conversion to hinduism itself an oxymoron.
No one said that a person not born to our traditions would not be allowed to uphold our values. By all means, they are welcome to them. But upholding our beliefs means that they cannot impose themselves on our lives, our traditions, and our lifestyles. If they actually believed in our traditions and upheld our morals they would simply retain their own identities while maintaining a respectful distance from ours. But again, that requires *actually following what our traditions teach,” - not swallowing some commodified, bastardized version of them.
The question of “who is a Hindu,” is one of a shared heritage, a history written by the blood and sweat of those who created us. So do us all a favor and stop trying to force the complex and varied ethnic traditions of our people(s) into a convenient package so that it’s an easier sell to the Western mind. Because the moment you divorce our traditions from that ethnic heritage and culture is the moment you’ve set down the path to destroy them.