More Hindu Than Hindu

I’ve reached a point where I’m in the awkward position of sometimes knowing more about Hinduism than some people of Indian ethnicity that I encounter.

Being Hindu is a huge part of my life and I dedicate a lot of my time and energy to it, so it’s not surprising that by this time I have a reasonably deep understanding of the faith.

At the same time it seems there are many children growing up in the west with Hindu parents and ancestry who don’t really connect with it or care about it. Some people are just not religious, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people feel a stronger connection to the American culture than the Indian one of their families. Some are still trying to figure out their dual identity and the place that Hinduism has in their life.

It doesn’t always come up, of course, but when it does come out that I practice Hinduism and they don’t, it feels very awkward.

I always want to defer to native voices, to make sure that I’m not overpowering Indian Hindu voices with my white voice. But sometimes I am encountering Indian Hindus that know (and usually care) much, much less than I do.

I start to wonder, though, why we have the expectation that people who grew up fully American but happen to have Indian Hindu ethnicity should know about Hinduism. Afterall, no one in America looks at me and expects that I have to know all about Irish or Scottish traditions and practices. It is a part of the racism in America that I can be looked at as fully and simply American while someone with a slightly darker skin color is seen as first and foremost belonging to a different country.

I was thinking about this as I read this article in Brown Girl Magazine on a show about a Canadian woman of Indian ancestry exploring her roots and learning to hold both her identities: Indian and Canadian. I started thinking about how often I have met people who have not yet taken on that journey to learn about their roots and ethnic identity.

And again, while there’s nothing wrong with that, I feel very uncomfortable with the position that I am in when I know and understand more about Hinduism than a person whose family and ancestors are Hindu!

Do those people still “own” the rights to Hinduism more than I do? It’s an interesting conundrum in the world of social justice and trying to make sure that Hinduism is not co-opted, stolen, or “digested” by white people.

New to this blog? Check out these posts:

What Makes Me A Hindu?

Did I Start Out Christian?

Why Am I Called “The White Hindu”?

New to Hinduism? Learn more here:

Hinduism 101: What Do Hindus Believe?

Can I Convert To Hinduism?

Your First Visit To A Hindu Temple

Super Simple Daily Puja

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • ash

    I think it very much has begun being co-opted by the west. Holi has become a rave type party. Yoga is exercise for the trendy. The story of the bindi is that it is a fashion item and that makes it ok for anyone to wear – even though I know no one who wears it as such. But these things still remain as they should be in Hindu communities even outside of India (maybe not so much in the USA where the culture devours everything). That’s what important.

  • Anonymouse

    I had come across your blog several times before and didn’t consider it worthwhile commenting.

    But, with this post you have finally shown your true colors.

    That old Jesuit dream of destroying Hindu culture and civilization never seems to go away. The mission civilisatrice never ends. As if marketing the Gospels as the “Fifth Veda” wasn’t depraved enough, now you have actively started infiltrating Hindu culture in order to mislead Hindus and re-define who a Hindu is; all the while Your fellow Irish Catholic, Jeffery D. Long, rants and raves against “right-wing Hindus” (i.e. Hindus who don’t take crap from foreigners)

    And yes, “those people” that you referred to in the last paragraph, as you usually do when the atavistic race-hatred of Hindus pops out once in a while, ARE Hindus and YOU ARE NOT.

  • Anonymouse

    I should also like to add that “knowing” about Hinduism DOES NOT make you Hindu, no more than reading the Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon makes me an Englishman.