So earlier on today, a post was circulating around the tumblr-woods addressing the frustrations of many a Hindu and Buddhist tumblr-er. Particularly the issue of appropriation of these faiths and philosophies in Western Institution. What was meant to address the issues of privilege and the things that are detrimental to these beliefs was unfortunately derailed by a fair portion of privilege deniers. Unfortunately the post got removed and was yet again a blow against the chance for us religious and POC minorities to speak about the things that burden us in predominantly Western based, Abrahamic faith focused world.
I wish I had the opportunity to add on to that post- so here I am making my own. I mean seriously, the privilege deniers baaaws even hit my part of the woods and there for receiving sand and hilarious messages like this.
“I’m white and I don’t have privilege and I’m friends with muslims”
“Christianity doesn’t get the same special treatment as Hinduism”
“You’re being racist”
I didn’t even make the post and my inbox was full of this. God knows how many the writers of the OP must have received.
Even long before that post I was getting messages from angry white folk who didn’t appreciate me calling them out on the ignorance and appropriation of Hinduism. Even now I still get these annoying messages from a Christian dude who demands that I describe Hinduism in a “Christian friendly way”.
Before I get any deeper I do want to establish that I cannot speak for Buddhists here, though our philosophies share a lot of similarity- we are not the same. Though it would be lovely if any Buddhist folk out there did add on how appropriation of their philosophy has affected their identity and experiences.
I can’t even speak for a fraction of all Hindus either to be honest.
What I can say is this. Just sit back for a second dear reader. Imagine growing up in a Christian dominated society which called itself secular. Imagine being told that at a young age that your religion couldn’t be taken seriously or wasn’t worth acknowledging because it was all idol worship and was not the path way to a happy life. Imagine having that being yelled at you at the age of 7 when you tell the teacher that you don’t go to church AND THIS IS AT A GOVERNMENT SCHOOL IN AUSTRALIA. Imagine growing up knowing that your faith is not worthy of public recognition.
Now after all these years of erasure and trying to re-claim what ever knowledge you have lost over the years of something so embedded in your identity that you have some privilege denying hack demand you (not even ask) to make a Christian friendly definition of Hinduism for their convenience.
After all these years, your religion and philosophy is suddenly made into a trend by the same people who tried to erase it from your identity all those years ago. You suddenly see all these white ladies like Julia Roberts screaming about how “they’ve found their inner Goddess”. You see fuckwits like Heidi Klum “dress up” as Maa Kali on halloween like as if she can just take our Mother’s image from us, wear Her, and discard Her at their own convenience.
Maybe the message isn’t clear enough here people. “Define your faith for me or I’ll define it myself at my own convenience”.
“I’ll wear the image you hold most sacred in your heart, an embodiment of someone colonialism has marked as someone evil and fetishised, I’ll wear her for one night and discard her like she never existed”
Do you know what we want? We want you to learn about Hinduism, yes. Well I want you to, anyway. But I don’t want you to learn about it according to your own conveniences. I don’t want you to learn about the Western friendly version of our faith where it will surely erase the history our faith and philosophy has been through. Where it will skip the impact colonialism had on it, the impact Moghul rule had on it. They way it was oppressed and the way it oppressed others. The way it still does.
I want you to learn it, and treat it like a secret. I want you to know the pain, the fear of erasure, the strength you feel when you learn something new about it. Like it was held away from you. I want you to feel knocked outta breath when you suddenly link something you learnt from the scriptures to the world around you. I want you to know how it feels like when your realise how interconnected you are with a total stranger. Like you saw God for the first time. Like you saw the universe for the first time. Like you never knew otherness existed.
Because that’s how it feels for me as a Hindu. And possibly for many others. And if you can’t feel it, at least listen to those who can.
Even then, maybe it’s too hard for you to understand.
You’re probably asking yourself “Why is thesavagesalad telling us all this? This has got nothing to do with the monkey god or yoga or finding my inner goddess or the kama sutra OR EAT PRAY LOVE. THIS IS TOO COMPLICATED BAWWW”
So I’ll give you a number
6000. Do you know what that 6000 stands for?
6000 thousand years. That’s how many years Hinduism has been around for.
6000 years, can you imagine that? 6000 years of development, discovery, oppression, radicalisation, erasure, reform oh damn I could go on forever. I mean this is a philosophy/ faith/ culture which has survived years upon years of oppression and the threat of erasure from those who’ve invaded the subcontinent for so many years. Or what was known as India before colonialism. It’s journey has not been perfect, but it’s still in motion.
And yet, after all these years of development, the pursuit of Eternal Truth ( Sanatana Dharma) and the creation of many sects, schools, divisions,philosophies and path ways to help us on to this pursuit- much of the Western World still sees this philosophy/faith of ours like it were stuck in a time warp. Like it disappeared. You call us “The Ancient Hindus”- sorry baby but we’re still here.
You treat our practices and what we hold most sacred to us with a perverse sense of exoticism- without ever thinking about how we managed to evolve these after 6000 years. What it took to protect the practices.
You treat our scriptures like fanfiction and mythology, and yet the Bible is some how more holy. Yet Hindu literature is always in constant motion. Always changing according to how society works and functions. We don’t have the One Book because it was well established all those years ago that the world would be changing.
Our idols are like dolls to you, our Gods and Goddess and what they represent are like costume to you. Our pujas are seen as cults and our dances are there for you to appropriate.
Yet they never told you that time in our history, all our faith had were those dances so it could survive another wave of oppression- for the outsider they were just pretty moves, but on the inside- they were keeping the story rolling telling us not to forget. Telling us to build it.
Yoga to you is just a bunch of fancy stretches, a pair of pants, light up the room with incense sticks and bam ~*yoga*~. But they don’t tell you about the emancipation. The liberation. The surrender. How people devote their lives to this.
Yeah, I could list you all the Gods and Goddess a lot of us worship, or the prayers that we recite. The Vedas. The Bhakti Movement. Shaktism. Vaishnavism. Shaivism. I could tell you that Hinduism is pantheist. Polytheist. Deist. Monotheist. Agnostic. Atheist. I could tell you that it’s all about reincarnation. I could tell you it’s about breaking the cycle of reincarnation. I could tell you it’s about seeing God or what you believe to be as God in every thing, living or non living. I could tell you about how we are one with the universe. How everything is temporary and all we’re left with is liberation.
But I can’t. Because these all mean different things for different Hindus. And our duty as Hindus is to find out the truth at the end- and the truth means different things for us all.
Though don’t let all this discourage you from learning about all the different manifestations of the Gods, or the Sagas and Epics with lay the ground work for our philosophy.
Now I don’t expect you to know all this or feel all this- but at least try to understand how vast this body of knowledge is. Because that’s what Hinduism is, a body of knowledge. There are even a large portion of Hindus out there who can’t even take it all in. Some of us don’t have that privilege of learning like that.
I’m not telling you to not be inspired either, or to take inspiration. I’m not telling you that have to be a Hindu to appreciate all these things, or not to adapt what you have learnt into your own life. But what I’m asking for it that you keep yourself open to different interpretations of this faith. That you don’t redefine it to make it “western friendly”. Don’t appropriate it. Don’t erase it. When you step into something to do with Hinduism, step in with invitation. Step in knowing that that you’ll be handling 6000 years of work. Treat it as such.
As for your question: “define Hinduism in a Christian friendly way”?
Remove it from your head that Christianity is the default formation of faith. To you I ask you, “define Christianity in a Hindu friendly way”
“Define Hinduism in a Western friendly way”
Can you define Western beliefs in a Hindu friendly way? Stop thinking that everything that came into the world was of Western background.
I feel quite fatigued after typing all this out, and a bit shaken. I understand and accept there will be Hindus who will disagree with what I have to say or what I believe in, and I welcome you to add what you believe in. I also apologise to hose who are Buddhist, that I couldn’t address your beliefs directly or fairly- though I know of how your beliefs have been so heavily appropriated for years on end.
Again I apologise for the rabble and the length of it, and to those within Hinduism who do disagree.
But it has been something that has been biting at me for a long time.
It feels good saying it now.
This diasporan Hindu-by-way-of-the-Caribbean agrees with you, sister.