Embarrassed by Spirituality

Am I embarrassed to be a Hindu? Not at all. No, I am embarrassed by this perception of me as trying too hard.

Why is it that I (and plenty of others) are so afraid of that? What harm is it to me if some people think I’m over the top? Strange? Ridiculous?

I hate that people think these things of me:

Spiritual tourist

“India Syndrome”

Trying too hard

Delusional

I hate hearing those things. I hate thinking that people think that’s me. But really, so what? Why do I take it so much to heart?

Some reasons why I think we might feel judged if we happen to be religious people…

Vulnerability

Most of the time passion for something is admired and respected but sometimes someone seems just too into whatever they love. So passionate about it that we cringe. Why? I think it’s because someone who loves something that much comes across as vulnerable. What if it lets her down? What if someone takes advantage of his love in order to scam him? Loving something too much makes us feel vulnerable and when we see someone else love something that much it makes us feel worried for them. We might distance ourselves from that worrying by rolling our eyes or being dismissive of this person’s passion.

Desperation to Fit In

This is one that converts to Hinduism can easily fall into. Since Hindus usually have a particular look that maybe you don’t quite have, you try really hard to be as Hindu as possible in every way that you can. Usually this results in going way too far and doing more than a native ever would.

Desperation is not attractive on anyone and we feel sympathy pains as we see someone try so hard for something she’ll never achieve (such as striving to be a different race!)

Getting Taken Seriously

For religious people in particular we might worry that in our job or around our peers we could be dismissed as not as intelligent if we are open about being religious. When you’re in a secular area, admitting to being religious could expose you to ridicule.

***

Fear of trying too hard is something I think a lot of Americans suffer from. This is why we don’t dress up very much for events and usually don’t want to be the most dressed up (and hence look like the person who cared the most!). The hipster craze going on in this country right now seems to be all about being above it all and too cool; detached and ironic, not caring too much about anything so they aren’t vulnerable and exposing their true hearts.

Just like all our dating advice books say, he who cares the least wins.

I don’t want to see the world that way anymore. When I see someone swaying in bliss, eyes closed, lost in communion with the divine, I don’t want to shudder or scoff. Some people may laugh at me sometimes, but I don’t have to do that to others. I can hold my head high and say, it’s okay if you want to make fun of my passion. I’m strong enough and confident enough to keep following my heart.

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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.

  • KS Subramanian

    Most of the so called philosophers or yoga masters come here for fund raising and very few of them are really interested in the subject they preach.

    • Ambaa

      Sad, but true. :)

      • lalit

        how much quantifies as most? following or preachiing anything costs money. and if the practice itself is not generating any money, then the preachers and followers do need to raise money from places they can. it is not just about funds, its also about interest raising amongst people they think they should raise interests in. and more so in the west, as this is where people believe, they will be able to get some students, who can help them get social acceptability also, as the general belief is that whatever is adopted by the western world, gets accepted elsewhere also….let me give an example…if we today cite some practice or belief and try to support it with some quote or saying from some ancient indian literature/text….we ourselves dont take it as credible..but the moment we support it with ” oh,..so and so western scientist has shown this in a study that…..”it immediately kind of gains some sort of credibiity…

  • Sabina

    I think people who scoff at enthusiasm or fervor in general are insecure or sad. That kind of thing was considered the height of “cool” in middle and high school, but on adults, it comes across (to me) as immature.

    People who scoff at you (or me) for being passionate may actually feel envy, because they haven’t yet found anything that moves them so deeply. It’s hard not to feel hurt by their slights, but it’s helped me to view them with pity that they haven’t yet discovered a passion. Being “ironic” and aloof is actually a deeply unrewarding way to live.

    • Ambaa

      That is a great way to look at it!

  • wasderasaurus

    I think fear of ridicule is one of the primary reasons. As Saul Alinsky said “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

    Good for you that you’ve found your way. Best wishes.

    • Ambaa

      Definitely. I wonder why we are so afraid of ridicule. Do you think it dates back to days living in tight-knit tribes where being different could get you left behind…?

      • wasderasaurus

        Could be..we can only speculate when it comes to evolutionary psychology.
        On a different note, based on your other posts, I gather you are interested in Hindu rituals and the reasons/stories behind them. I found a resource that was helpful to me – a television program called Upanishad Ganga (available on youtube). Perhaps it will be of interest to you too. It is surprisingly well-researched and detailed for a Hindi TV program.

        • Ambaa

          Wonderful! Thank you so much for the recommendation!

  • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

    Apathy is cool in some circles but also moderation is a value of American culture. Whether people are religious or not in the US on the whole may be up for debate, but that Protestant “frozen chosen” way of expressing spirituality has been a defining part of the white American experience for many whose families have been here for generations… As I mentioned on the post about ‘bikshuk,’ we in the US do not have a term for a mendicant spiritual person who has thrown everything away to follow their passion for God because that sort of thing makes us uncomfortable.

    Outward displays of spirituality can be jarring in this context, where either nonreligious people or people who are very private about their religion encounter those who display it openly, whether it be a woman in hijab, the little old Catholic lady who tells you she will pray the rosary for your ailing mother, the Hare Krishnas at the airport, the Mormon missionaries at your doorstep, or the convert to any and all religions with a zeal not found in the “cradle” members of said religion. Sometimes that discomfort comes across as ridicule or defensiveness. No one wants to admit they’re uncomfortable; they would be cruel before they will admit their own discomfort, which might be seen as weakness.

    There are some regions of the country where outward displays of religion are okay as long as it’s the most popular one, and of course in that context anything that deviates from the norm is not only seen as “off” but also suspect. That can be an added challenge to those who wear their faith on their sleeve, so to speak.

    And spiritual tourists are out there, people who put a veneer of holiness over their materialism (‘check out the cool crystal/candle/Ganesh tattoo I just bought’), people who go searching for the ‘exotic’ because they think their life is ‘bland’ and religion’s a good way to do it, people who pick up esoteric practices because it makes them different from the rest, and those who are blown by the wind, ‘drawn to’ whatever catches their fancy for that month or that year. They exist and I think we have all come in contact with them. And in my experience, prolonged contact with them seems to drain me of energy. They are so excited to talk at you, not necessarily to you. They want to show you how much they know, when spiritual life is about the subtle moving of the heart and soul that is difficult to share, but sublime when it does happen in an atmosphere of relationship and trust.

    Being a spiritual tourist is easy, which is why so many are, and why people may assume that of anyone who is deeply and outwardly religious. We’ve seen it. It is rare to find that depth of thought, that constant struggle with faith and culture and community while still somehow also having something that resembles inner peace. Our culture is a cynical one. People will think what they think. So don’t worry about them, but in this culture people really do get weirded out when religion is prominently displayed, particularly if it’s one they don’t follow or don’t know a lot about.

    • Ambaa

      You’ve articulated it better than I, I think! This post is disjointed because I feel like partly I’m defensive about people making fun of me and partly I’m the cynical one too! :)

      “No one wants to admit they’re uncomfortable; they would be cruel before they will admit their own discomfort, which might be seen as weakness.” This is so true!

      • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

        Trolls are out there… you know you can ignore those kinds. For the others who are criticizing or making fun, I’ve found that asking them “In what way?” is a great way to deal with it. That way, they have to actually engage with you and talk to you instead of laughing AT you, and in a rational conversation you can see where your perceptions may be at odds with each other. Both of you may learn something. And if they have nothing of substance to say to you, or can’t articulate what it is they’re making fun of, then their ‘making fun’ is just for the purpose of making fun, and it says a lot more about them than it does about you.

        • Sabina

          Oooh I like that. “In what way?” I’m going to use it.

  • ghada

    white people r corrupting/destroying the world in every possible way. they should be christians or jew or muslim & should follow their west Asian/middle eastern religions.white people have a tendency to justify every immoral act as acceptable & their brown slaves also like to follow their white masters blindly.

    • Ambaa

      I don’t believe that either behavior falls along racial lines, personally. White people do have a position of power and should use that to help and do good. That is not always what happens, unfortunately. I wish that weren’t the case.

      • lalit

        Not sure you had to justify your stand as a white person vis a vis a practicing indu ( what is practicing suppose to signify, by the way? i hope you aint praciticing hindu today and zoarastanism tomorrow to see which one suits you best ) people are entitled to their own opinions as you have tried to state in the blog above! so if the orignial commenter is trying to say something then let him be..IMHO…its not that browns are doing any greater service to this planet and this world!!!!

        • Ambaa

          :)

          I suppose I should update my bio to say that I’m a Hindu rather than a “practicing Hindu.” Practicing just means that I’m not Hindu in name only, but actually participate in it, you know?

          I certainly didn’t mean for it to look like I’m wishy-washy about it. I’ve identified as Hindu for ten years, but in many ways I’ve been Hindu all my life.

    • TruthSeeker

      what a stupid comment.No doubt you are really justifying you name ghada (donkey )

  • ghada

    most people outside of India have rakshasa like tendencies it doesn’t mean indians dont have it. but i think there r more rakshasa people outside india than inside.indians are also becoming rakshasa type very fast following their white masters & the rakshasas within india

    • Ambaa

      Well, I disagree. I think we all do our best to do the right thing with the information that we have. Some have a very flawed understanding of the world, but they will eventually come to realization.

  • Rajesh Kumar

    White Americans are inferior culturally. You feel inferior to superior Hindu culture, Hinduism never claimed they are a better way to God, and Hinduism is the fastest way to God. Its a superhighway. Other religions are just roads to God. Thats why you feel a need to borrow from Indian HIndu traditions like Yoga to feel better about yourselves. If you want to do Yoga, accept there is no Yoga without Hinduism, and there is no Hinduism without Yoga. Dont distort or delink Yoga from Hinduism. Accept the fact you are born in an inferior culture & Christianity or Judaism does not fulfil you. Even your own Christian chruch accepts Yoga & Hinduism are insperable, and they are right. Stop bastardizing Hinduism by creating “Christian Yoga”. You look inferior to Indian culture, and Hindus think you copying Hinduism & India.


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