Defensiveness

I am so proud to be a Hindu that it can sometimes feel frustrating that no one would ever guess that I am one!

When you aren’t the default religion of those who look like you, it’s an interesting experience. Not that people are often thinking and wondering what religion I am, but mostly because it doesn’t occur to them that I wouldn’t be Christian of one type or another. So then if I want people to know that I’m Hindu, I have to tell them. Which sometimes comes up naturally in conversation, but usually does not! I end up feeling pushy or obnoxious for bringing it up. On the other hand, as I said, I’m proud to be a Hindu and proud to represent it.

I’ve realized over the last few years of identifying as Hindu that my defensiveness has to go and it has lessened a lot. I have been practicing remembering that it does not matter whether I have the approval of others when I know I am on the right path. So sometimes I need to just relax and not jump in with this unsolicited information about my religious status. Still working on that!

For a long time I felt frustrated that I wasn’t taken seriously as a Hindu and even wearing the bindi full time, I often felt like people saw me as delusional, foolish, or obnoxious. Now I’ve reached a place where I take me seriously as a Hindu and that is enough. (Most of the time!)

***

How did I do on my goal this week? Total fail! I did not try out new meditations. So I am going to set this goal again for the next week and try again to make the time to try out two new meditation styles.

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Jeramy

    Wait … you’re Hindu?

    :P

    • Ambaa

      :P

  • Avi

    This is actually something we have in common! Being Indian, people assume I’m Hindu until they see the crucifix around my neck. Then they’ll ask me questions like “When did you convert?” Or if it’s an Evangelical, “When were you ‘saved’?” and I’ll always have to explain that that’s not how it happened for me…

    • Ambaa

      Hahaha, yes that’s exactly it! It can be tough feeling like you’re always having to prove yourself, explain yourself, etc.

  • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com Andrea

    We were always taught not to discuss religion and politics with people who were not very well known to us. So generally people in the US won’t usually ask because it’s not a topic we’re terribly comfortable talking about. As Avi said though, yes, there is always a little cognitive dissonance when people assume you are the religion of the ‘mainstream’ of people who look like you but you are not. I just take it as a fact of life. And usually, I’m more comfortable not discussing religion with anyone and everyone. Spaces like this of course are good to talk in, and I think this site is good for you – you are freely able to share your faith and identity!

    Don’t worry about everyone on the road knowing you’re Hindu or at least not Christian. What is more important is that you are a good person; what doctrine you follow is there in your heart and will be reflected in your life.

    • Drekfletch

      That depends on where in the US you live. In the south asking “which church do you go to” is the standard opener, even more than “what do you do for work” which is the norm where I live.

      • Ambaa

        True! I lived in Arkansas for a little while and it was somewhat delightful to answer with the “I don’t go to church: I’m not Christian.”

      • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com Andrea

        Very true… in some places you are expected to wear your (Christian Evangelical) faith on your sleeve. This happened to me in Baton Rouge and it was a little awkward for me to say “I don’t go to church actually” … I was kind of seen as the misfit for a while but eventually people were ok with me. :)

  • HARRY

    @ Ambaa

    I don’t think wearing a bindi costitute as being a Hindu. This is more of a fashion statement for women now a days. People in west don’t associate wearing a bindi as being Hindu because loads of singers and actresses have worn them before when they don’t follow any part of hinduism. But wearing a Tikka ( Tilak ) is some what different. When you wear a Tilak people will ask questions, what is that you are wearing and why? I think this is when you can tell them, what it is, and why are you wearing it.

    One other thing that I can suggest that you can do is, when you meet people first time, greet them by saying something like Namaste or something on those sort of line and wait for them to ask you questions. I think this is a very suble way to say that you follow Hinduism.

    One shocking thing that I also discovered was that people are sometimes more shocked at the fact that I follow a religion. I think it would be more easier for people to accept me as a drug addict then religious. :) Nice one.

    HARRY

    • Ambaa

      I experimented a year or two ago with wearing a small, plain, black bindi every day. It definitely attracted attention and people responded well to it. It did allow me to bring up Hinduism more easily. I think it’s very similar to wearing a cross.

      On the other hand, in America it stands out so much that an Om necklace might be a more blending-in way to go.

      I didn’t like feeling that I was forcing people to notice my religion when I was wearing bindi.

      Now I don’t wear it every day, but I do it when it feels appropriate to the situation or when I particularly would want to draw attention to my religion.

      I’ve always felt really self conscious about greeting people with “Namaste”! Is that weird? I feel like I just seem totally pretentious and obnoxious!

      My boyfriend and I met an Indian fellow last weekend and the boyfriend was trying to get me to ask him in Hindi where in India he was from, but I was too chicken to!

      • HARRY

        LOL, You chicken, And I thought you were brave. Mind you when you wrote the article What I don’t get about Christianity I thougt to my self, I would not want to meet this woman in a back alley, just incase if she had the trait of a real Ambaa, Then I wouldn’t know what to do and where to run. :) Angry women are scary women, if you know what I am saying.

        Why do you feel conscious about greeting people with “Namaste”. It is a beautiful word from sanskrit. It’s a bridge that leaves all the human differences ( Race, Religion,Gender,Caste,Creed,Class,And all the other anomaly ) on a side and concentrates on a soul and nothing else when it comes to greeting. One word which says ” Divine within me bows to divine within you “. Period.

        I knew few people who used to ask me ” How do you say hello in Indian ” And as you know Russel Peters came in handy. I used to wobble my head side to side and said “Hello” In an Indian accent, which used to drive people nuts. That’s when they used to say, “well smart guy” tell us, How do you greet peope in India and that’s when you tell them. :) See easy as that.

        I think Drekfletch is right to some degree at this point as well.

        • Ambaa

          I do love the word Namaste. I’ll try to practice getting used to using it :)

  • Drekfletch

    Depending on where you live, many people might not even blink at Namaste. It’s kind of entered the language from the yoga-as-exercise industry.

    “I didn’t like feeling that I was forcing people to notice my religion when I was wearing bindi.”
    I think that depends on why you were wearing the bindi. From the context you’ve given, it sounds like letting people know you’re Hindu is something you actively pursue. So the question must be asked of whether you were wearing it for religious reasons or as a conversation starter. If it was for religious reasons, then fine. If it was a conversation starter, then I’d qualify it as force.

    Personally, I don’t care what people think my religion might be. If someone asks, usually in the form of “do you go to church?” I laugh and say “No. I’m not Christian.” I laugh because, as a pagan polytheist, I’m kinda the antithesis of Christian.

  • N.B.

    Some times music is helpful to make peace among religions. I like Bach Jesus joy of man’s desiring . this is nice help people accept Hindu without seeing the Devil,maybe . I have feeling Holy Mary Mother of God has listen to this once or twice or maybe three times

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liLbdwpVR38


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