Sunday, September 23, 2012

Conversion or Initiation

What do you believe in? Why do you believe it? Were you born into it or did you change your beliefs as you came upon it? Is it mutually exclusive of other viewpoints and beliefs, or is it inclusive and expansive with them? The two words: conversion and initiation used in a religious or spiritual context have subtle differences in meaning. They both usually refer to coming to a new religious system or belief, but they depart from there.

When I was first introduced to Hinduism, I was told it was something people can’t convert to. At the time my 20-something brain said to me, don’t tell me what I can and cannot do; I was put off. Whenever I’m told there is something I can’t do, my first reaction is gut-wrench abhorrence to the idea: why not? Whether the statement itself is true or not, the answer underlying it is rooted more in philosophy and perspective than mere facts. My current understanding is: you can’t convert to Hinduism, but you can initiate into it. The difference seems subtle, but the meaning is very important. (I’ll leave caste aside.)

Most of the dominant Western religions [Judaism, Catholicism, Islam] have a conversation aspect to them. You shed your previous beliefs and proclaim you now have taken on the new dogma. You are converted. You now believe what the others believe. Of course there are variances. Not all people from a religion are generic and believe the same things wholeheartedly, but the conversion takes place and in doing so you proclaim your faith in the new dogma and doctrines. The door closes on your past belief system. These systems are usually exclusive in their beliefs with the religion you converted into.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Missing The Point: White Privilege Part 1

I was deeply saddened and angry by the Sikh Gurdwara (temple) shooting. I wrote the post I Wear a Kara in its wake. In the discussion that followed I understood that I didn’t quite fully achieve what I was hoping to.

How did I go astray? I focused time and energy on how Sikh’s are different than Muslims, instead of focusing on the real problems: racism, hatred and misunderstanding. In my own case, I was stifled by my own blind spot: white privilege.

Sikh Knowledge Quote
Twitter user @sikhknowledge sums it up for me

I spent time in my post on how Sikh’s are different. I never should have gone there. I’d like to say we’re all the same: people, families, trying to survive, trying to pray, celebrate life. I want everyone to be treated as equals to the point that I force myself to believe we are all equals – even though we’re not.

I wish the world where a place where all men were treated the same; all women were treated the same as men; all religions were seen as paths of love and a celebration of life with one another: but the world is not that place. Sometimes I want it so bad I try to believe that all men are equal (and all the rest above): but then I get my white privilege blind spot. The world is not an equal place. Further, I’m in the top dominant, privileged position.


I’ve been away from blogging and I have some posts that are backlogged. My personal life needed attention at the beginning of July. Most of these emergencies are behind me now. Work also demanded too much attention, I needed to really put the computer down and veg with the iPad.

I hope I haven’t lost too many of my readers. I know some people have reached out and asked why I haven’t written in a while.

There are a few posts that should be up in the next week or two. First, I readdress the temple shootings that I wrote about in I Wear a Kara, hoping to restate some things that, upon reflection, left me unhappy with the piece. Second, I hope to finally post on the difference between initiation and conversion. I feel in the west, we tend to think of things in absolutes: you are one thing or another. The rest of the world doesn’t always understand things this way.

Hopefully you’re still with me. I hope to see some exciting discussion raised.