Usually – almost always in fact – the term “in the closet” refers to a homosexual who is not open about their sexuality. The title of this piece is not meant to suggest that I am a homosexual who is a Hindu. Only half of that is right. I do practice Hinduism, however I am from a culture where Hinduism is about as common, and about as well-understood as homosexuality. I once had a co-worker ask me, in discussion about my beliefs, “what is your source of knowledge of right and wrong?” I actually had to say “Well, I still believe in God, you know.” And for that reason, in certain company, I do feel like I am “in the closet” in regard to my spirituality.
“Yes, I am a Hinduspiritual.” – There. Now that I am “out” about my religuality (and have invented two words in the process), we can move on.
This may sound like a bit much for something that is merely a matter of choice. That is how it is though. There is so much of a stigma with non-Christian faith with some people that I’d rather not discuss it with them. Not that what religion you practice really comes up often in conversation, but the beliefs by which you live your life tend to come through one way or another even if it is not directly talking about Jesus or Vishnu, or Jehovah or Krishna.
I am by no means trying to belittle what homosexuals go through when revealing to their friends and family that they are gay. I know several people who had difficult times doing so. I am only comfortable making this comparison because I have a friend who is homosexual and Hindu who told me that it was easier telling people he was gay than it was to deal with people finding out he is Hindu. On one level it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Being homosexual is not something that he had a say in. With faith/religuality, we have the choice and may feel the obligation to fluently and knowledgeably back up this decision which according to some, will have infinite consequences for our soul.
But on another level, when you think about what a stigma there is in our society with homosexuality despite the progress that’s been made in recent years, and then think that it is harder for a white American kid to tell his family he is not Christian…it is almost mind-numbing. Think about it. Most of the people who would have a problem with my friend not being Christian probably think he had a choice with his homosexuality to begin with and therefore coming out as Hindu should not have been too much harder to reveal to this bunch.
There still is certain company in which I do not feel comfortable showing my dharma tattoos because it will bring up more questions than I am comfortable answering. Surely this may be a matter of me being not as well-spoken as I’d like to be in regard to my beliefs. But I have to say that most of it comes from the misinformation and dogmatic attitudes of others. I accept that my responsibility as the minority is to inform them so that they can see where I am coming from. It has always been the same with my being disabled. But is it always worth it? I do not want to debate my faith. I just want to live my dharma. With some people, you just know that a debate is inevitable.
Fortunately some people are open-minded and that is why it is only certain company whom I do not care to discuss what some of my tattoos mean. Some people can accept things they don’t understand and are willing to meet me half-way by asking really good questions rather than me trying to start from the beginning and giving them way more information than they require and really just making my stance a tough one to follow. In fact I have been very open about it with another co-worker who I already sensed to be a born-again Christian. Yeah…he exuded Christianity. Call it intuition. In any case, we remain friends though he maintains that I am misguided. Even so I am grateful for this friend.
In some ways, in the very beginning stages of my spiritual journey almost four years ago, I was overly concerned with making people understand the changes in myself that I knew were coming, which led to some awkward exchanges because I was not as well versed about things as I should have been before I started making assertions. That one is on me. I actually recognized in myself a few stages that I had seen some born-again Christian friends of mine go through, like the idea that no matter what we ask for God is somehow required to oblige per some celestial agreement that is cited somewhere in the Old Testament. But I digress.
In society in general, I actually kind of relate to this movement among atheists who have protested “In God We Trust” printed on our money, because it doesn’t represent them. There are very common expressions that are chucked around when it comes to death and the afterlife that I don’t agree with and just have to smile and nod in order to keep the peace and really just to comfort others who are true to said beliefs. It’s the toll one must pay to live in this Crackerbox Palace we call the Judeo-Christian United States of America.
Aum, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!