So obviously I write this blog from my perspective and I am a white Hindu, but there are other experiences of non-Indian Hindus and I wanted to showcase some other voices.
I’ve heard rumors that Black people receive even less of a welcome than White people in Hindu communities. I hope that that’s just lies and slander! After all, in Hinduism there is no “Was Jesus Black?” debate (for the record, I’m positive he wasn’t white!). Krishna most certainly is Black. His name even means “The Dark One.”
So I reached out to a few people of darker complexion than my own to talk about their experiences with Hinduism and the Hindu community. The first to respond to my questions was Trent…
Tell us a little bit about how you came to be a Hindu…Have you felt welcome at Hindu events and places of worship? What kinds of receptions have you had?
Well, I’ve always been fascinated with the world’s cultures and religious traditions. When I was around 11, I found two books in the children’s section in the library. One was stories about Ganesha and the other was a children’s version of Bhagwad Gita. As I got older, I stayed interested in Hinduism and by the time I was 17, I was following the Hindu tradition.
What challenges have you experienced when it comes to expressing your Hinduness?
I’ve had only very warm receptions in Hindu temples. A few odd stares at first, but that’s to be expected. It’s not often you see a Chinese Jew either! The majority of the devotees at my temple and many temples in my city are Indo-Caribbean. They’re used to black and other people participating in Hindu festivals like Diwali, Holi, and Ramleela, so a black Hindu isn’t as far-fetched for them as it is for the Indians from India.
Honestly, I haven’t experienced very many challenges, I’d say. The worst I’ve gotten were an Indo-Caribbean Musllim try to tell me that Hindus worship monkeys (referring to Hanuman) and several Christians seeing a pendant I wear with Shiva on it and promptly trying to minister to me. Other than that, being Hindu has been a great topic of casual conversation with most people I come across.
What do you think are the racial issues around Hinduism and conversion to Hinduism?
I think the main and maybe only racial issue surrounding Hinduism today is Hinduism and it’s traditions become less “Indian”. A lot of the traditions and customs that make Hinduism so vibrant are the ones in the culture out of which it arose. It’s not a matter of Westerners and others adding their own spins on popular Hindu/Indian traditions, but a matter of not knowing or having a respect the original traditions at all (pujas, knowing the traditional kathas or stories, etc.). I don’t think there’s any dire tension surrounding the issue, ultimately, but I have heard this opinion expressed by some Indian Hindus.
What advice would you give to other non-Indians who are interested in becoming Hindus?
I would say visit read up on as many resources as you can get your hands on so you can see the many aspects of Hinduism at glance. Find a temple and ask the pundit or pujari any question you have about anything. They’re always very helpful and willing to talk or maybe even an elderly person at the temple. They’re filled with knowledge, I’ve found. Finally, start doing meditation! It’s the best thing most people (Hindus and non-Hindus alike) aren’t doing.
What else would you like people to know about you?
I will say being black and Hindu is certainly easier than being gay and Hindu as far as public reception is concerned, but knowing that being gay isn’t spoken against within Hindu shastra is affirming. It really hasn’t been that much of an issue for me, but I’ve heard some not so nice opinions about homosexuals from some other Hindus.
Thank you so much, Trent, for sharing your thoughts with us. This gives me a lot to think about. You’ve painted a happy picture, though, and I’m relieved to hear that you haven’t found it too challenging to express your Hindu-ness. I really do need to get meditation into my routine!
For new readers, I recommend taking a look at my post on Hinduism and Homosexuality.