Many paths to one destination
In the previous post I answered the main points in a comment by littleindian, about freedom to chose and following a guru. This post addresses the two questions at the end of the comment. Answering these questions has proved to be quite difficult, each question has subtle meanings which have made me think very hard about the nature of Hinduism, religions, conversion, and culture. The first question intrigued me because of the wording:
Why did you choose to learn to live like a Hindu?
Usually people just ask “why did you chose to become a Hindu?”, which I answered in my three “How I became a Hindu” posts. Littleindian’s question is subtly different, showing an understanding of Hinduism as a way of life as well as a belief. So to what does it mean to live like a Hindu? To what extent do I live like a Hindu? Continue reading
Pick one or pick something from each?
I read an interesting blog posts on the White Hindu blog: “Cherry-Picking” and a follow-up post People will find their way, Aamba quotes Elizabeth Gilbert:
My friend was a Catholic by upbringing, but couldn’t stomach returning to the church as an adult. (“I can’t buy it anymore,” he said, “knwoing what I know.”) Of course he’d be embarassed to become a Hindu or a Buddhist or something wacky like that. So what could he do? As he told me, “You don’t want to go cherry-picking a religion.” Which is a sentiment I completely respect except for the fact that I totally disagree.
I think you have every right to cherry-pick when it comes to moving your spirit and finding peace in God. I think you are free to search for any metaphor whatsoever which will take you across the worldly divide whenever you need to be transported or comforted. It’s nothing to be embarrased about. It’s the hisotry of mankind’s search for holiness…
I have reservations about cherry-picking from many different religions. I agree wholeheartedly that we should not interfere with anyone else’s spiritual path. If someone wants to cherry-pick from various religions we should not even try to force them to do otherwise. That said, if anyone wants to take part of our faith I think we should advise them that it is better taken as a whole. Cherry picking is unlikely to give most people the best or quickest path.
Pope Benedict xvi
I have mixed feelings about the Pope’s visit to the UK, which ended last Saturday. His visit can be seen in two very different ways; as a visit of a holy man to his devotees or as a visit to the UK of the head of an evangelical outreach organisation.
Seeing the pope as a man visiting his followers, I can be pleased for them having the spiritual experience. I know that this can be a great spiritual experience and a coming together of a spiritual community. I know from my meeting with Satguru Bodhinata Veylanswami what the visit of a spiritual leader can mean for devotees. I hope that this visit will help Catholic Christians on their spiritual task. A wise man at our local Mandir told me that the time of the Pope’s visit was not the time to bring up differences, out of respect for Catholics seeing this as a spiritual visit.
Hindus and Jews share more than just a symbol
A few days ago I read some comments that were rather disparaging of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The commenter was a Hindu who lumped all Abrahamic religions together as proselytising and intolerant. Of course there are many Christians and Muslims who are tolerant and accepting of other beliefs, but as far as Judaism is concerned the accusation misses totally, it goes against the faith’s basic teachings. Unfortunately the linked comments are not the only time I have seen this “lumping together” of Judaism with Christianity and Islam on the web.
Judaism is not a proselytising religion. Though accepting converts, Judaism does not actively seek them. In fact traditionally people wanting to convert are turned away three times before being accepted. Jews do not want everyone in the world to become Jewish. Just like Hindus they believe that this is their way, but others may follow a different path. But what do Jews think about Hinduism?
Not a real Rastifarian
I recently read a blog entry that dealt with the idea that Westerners following Hinduism could be a form of cultural appropriation. I had not intended to write on this, as the post covered the issue well. The post concluded that taking things out of context and using them as an adornment to another culture is cultural appropriation. The Rastafarian dreadlocks and colours in the picture are an example of cultural appropriation, as is the Disneyfication of Mulan .
Respectful study and following of elements of another culture is not. I fully agree with this conclusion and I thought that there was not much more to be said on the matter.
Oil on Silk "Hau Mulan goes to war"
(Mulan Images from Wikipedia, film still under fair use.)
Mulan from the 1998 Disney cartoon
Then I read a Hindu Press International article about a stone in Hawaii that was worshipped by Hindus being taken away. This stone the Healing Stone of Wahiawa was sacred to the Hawaiian natives, but worshipped by a Hindu group.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Locomotive 780
I can’t remember where I heard it, but I had read somewhere and believed that despite the obvious exploitation of India under the British Raj, there were two lasting positive legacies; the education system and the railways.
A couple of days ago someone on facebook someone mentioned Thomas Babington Macaulay as responsible for severely damaging the Indian education system. I had not heard of him, and I was told about an article in Hinduism today that described his attitudes towards Indian culture and the changes he implemented in India. This totally changed my opinion of the effect that the British Empire had on education in India.
When is conversion Ethical?
To what extent should a religion welcome converts, and should a religion actively seek converts? There are many schools within Hinduism, and many different answers to this question.
I have previously written about Hinduism’s attitude towards newcomers, and how most typical Hindus don’t actively attempt to proselytise. This was illustrated in our mandir recently. We often have visits from school groups learning about religions practised in the city, and occasionally we have adult groups visiting. One day when I came to the mandir for arti there was a group from a nearby church. When the arti had finished some of the visitors came over and talked to us, and one of them asked if I was a convert. One of the other Hindus present said that he wanted the visitors to be clear that Hindus do not try to convert people. If people come and are interested they will welcome and help them, but they don’t actively seek converts. I have heard it said that Hinduism should be offered like sweets on a plate. If someone wants to take them then they are welcome, but they are equally welcome to decline the offer and move on. This is certainly far more restrained than the practice of religions which actively proselytise, but is it sufficient to ensure that people who convert have really accepted the faith and have positive reasons for joining? To answer this question I will take a side-step and look at the acceptance of converts in Judaism.
Amba was getting her things together ready to go in the car with her family to the seaside town of Seaport, when her friend John called. He said that he was going to Seaport with his family, and would she like to see them off at the station.
“Sure”, said Amba, “I’ve got time. I’ll probably see you in Seaport”. John didn’t answer but looked glum. Amba wondered what could be wrong.
When she got to the station her friend John looked at her seriously.
“Look”, he said, “I know that your parents said that you were going to the seaside, but they were lying. Can you see the sign there”.
Shiva as Ishvara the personal God
A lot of people seem to think that all Hindus see God as ultimately impersonal. Most Hindus see God as primarily personal, though possibly having transcendent or impersonal aspects.
I am currently studying with the Himalayan Academy, who believe that Shiva has both personal and impersonal aspects, but is primarily our personal God Continue reading
Someone recently commented that my blog was anti-Christian. It was certainly not my intention to be anti-Christian, though my condemnation of the fundamentalist, evangelical Christian Right may have given that impression.
A while ago I wrote an article “Muslims, friends of Hindus“. I had not written a post about the friendship between Christians and Hindus, perhaps because I take for granted the fact that there are many Christians who want friendly, supportive relations with other religions. In fact in Britain probably a majority of Christians would be against aggressive conversion tactics. Continue reading
Continued from How I became a Hindu – part one.
Having been brought up in a small town that was almost exclusively white and Christian, at University I met a number of people from all over the world and of all religions. In fact I have lived in ethnically diverse cities since then.
A mela in the UK
This in itself had a major impact on my understanding of Christianity as “the only way to salvation”. One of my closest friends at University was a Sikh, and whereas it is one thing to theoretically hear that people you don’t know will be destined for hell, it is quite different if you know this is talking about friends, fellow students, work colleagues, etc. It is obvious to anyone who meets people from many different religions and cultures that if God is loving, then it can’t be true that only those from one particular religion will be saved.
The strength of atheists’ arguments
I also met many articulate atheists. These were in general sincere, people of integrity and they had very logical arguments. Continue reading
Posted in hinduism, other religions, religion
Tagged agnosticism, atheism, caucasian hindu, christianity, hindu, unitarian, universalism, western hindu, white hindu
I have been asked why I am became a Hindu. In one way this is simple to answer, God called me to this path. What people really want though is a description of the manner and the process of this calling. I will attempt to describe this, though in some ways it is quite difficult. Writing things down makes it appear as though they are an ordered set of steps, one leading to another. In reality I am not certain which thoughts and ideas occurred before others, and many things happened concurrently. I have also left out certain influences and events concerning other people. Anyway, I will start at the beginning and end at the present, and even if the order in the middle is a little uncertain the gist will be correct. Continue reading