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juniper
04-01-2014, 12:34 PM
I'm from the US and not a Christian - that makes me out of step with over 70% of the rest of Americans, according to the American Religious Identification Survey of 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States

The organized religion I identify most closely with is Unitarian Universalist - which encompasses a multitude of beliefs. People of all faiths - and Humanists, atheist, and agnostics - are UU members.

http://www.uua.org/beliefs/welcome/index.shtml

In learning about and appreciating other religions for many years, along the way I've picked up various sayings and religious statues and other items.

I've been looking at tattoo designs and have seen so many beautiful Ganesha and Om tattoos - I've been drawn to Ganesha since first learning about him.

I did some google searches about religious appropriation - found some very ugly things out there - mostly accusing white people of playing with different elements without really knowing what they stand for or mean.

Here's what Wikipedia says about cultural appropriation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_appropriation

"Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It describes acculturation or assimilation, but can imply a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture ...

... Appropriation practice involves the 'appropriation' of ideas, symbols, artifacts, image, sound, objects, forms or styles from other cultures, from art history, from popular culture or other aspects of human made visual or non visual culture."

I wonder - how is it (is it?) possible to change one's religion or other beliefs in a non-appropriation way? I see many different kinds of people within my scope of work - religious needs is one of the things I ask about - I see whites who are Buddhists, Asians who are Christians, Hispanics who are Jehovah's Witnesses - not religions traditionally associated with their ethnic backgrounds. I see Americans who are Pagans of different beliefs, or Wiccans - I've never thought that religion and culture had to be entwined - but maybe I'm wrong.

So is it wrong for me, a white woman, to admire and believe in some aspects of other religions? Is it wrong because I don't fully immerse myself in any of them, but incorporate various pieces into my life? As a UU I have no faith creeds or dogma - UU beliefs are fluid, unique to each individual.

I carry both Ganesha and Buddha miniatures in my pocket daily. They each represent ideals and goals for me to ponder and strive toward.

This tumblr website here has made me feel quite bad about the Ganesha. There are many postings and responses from different people who basically say, "If you are not Indian, you should not use any of our clothing, or religious aspects, or words, or decorating, or anything that belongs to us. They do not belong to you." http://youarenotdesi.tumblr.com/archive

As a white American, to not be accused of religious appropriation, am I limited to the Christian spectrum? Are people restricted to the religion they were "born into" rather than choosing their own beliefs?

How about yoga? And meditation? Not practices from the Christian tradition, but quite popular.

It's late and my thoughts are jumbled around this - so may not be coming across clearly or as I wish - please excuse my ramblings, and take this post as genuine concern. Thanks.

kuwisdelu
04-01-2014, 01:16 PM
I've been looking at tattoo designs and have seen so many beautiful Ganesha and Om tattoos - I've been drawn to Ganesha since first learning about him.

I did some google searches about religious appropriation - found some very ugly things out there - mostly accusing white people of playing with different elements without really knowing what they stand for or mean.

I have a tattoo based on pottery designs from my tribe. It's actually based on a design from a mug my aunt gave me for my high school graduation.

I asked no one's permission before getting it, but honestly, I actually do think that's something I can only get away with because I am (half) native.

I would look askance at any white person with the same tattoo who got it because they saw it on some pottery and appreciated the religion.

How others view you may or may not matter to you, but I do understand it, and it will happen, no matter what anyone else says is okay or not.


Here's what Wikipedia says about cultural appropriation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_appropriation

"Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It describes acculturation or assimilation, but can imply a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture ...

... Appropriation practice involves the 'appropriation' of ideas, symbols, artifacts, image, sound, objects, forms or styles from other cultures, from art history, from popular culture or other aspects of human made visual or non visual culture."

I wonder - how is it (is it?) possible to change one's religion or other beliefs in a non-appropriation way? I see many different kinds of people within my scope of work - religious needs is one of the things I ask about - I see whites who are Buddhists, Asians who are Christians, Hispanics who are Jehovah's Witnesses - not religions traditionally associated with their ethnic backgrounds.

Let's back up for a moment. Asians who are Christian and Hispanics who are Jehovah's Witnesses are very, very different from whites who are Buddhist.

I'm not saying this in a judgmental way, but in a factual, historical way. A great many people who are Christian are not Christian by historical choice, but because they were colonized by Christian empires who gave them no choice but to become Christian. Please understand I am not trying to lay blame here, but regardless, there is no way that can be compared to appropriation.

Nor am I saying whites who are Buddhist are necessarily appropriating either. I've found some guidance in Buddhist thought as well, and I'm certainly not Asian.


I see Americans who are Pagans of different beliefs, or Wiccans - I've never thought that religion and culture had to be entwined - but maybe I'm wrong.

Religion and culture and spiritual beliefs are all different things but are incredibly intertwined.

To the point where I see atheist/agnostic white people say "I'll expose my children to different religions and let them make up their own mind," and I can't help but wonder what about culture?

Religion and culture may be different things, but they do deeply influence each other, and it's impossible to be influenced by one and not another. Or rather than "impossible," I might say it's hypocritical.


So is it wrong for me, a white woman, to admire and believe in some aspects of other religions? Is it wrong because I don't fully immerse myself in any of them, but incorporate various pieces into my life? As a UU I have no faith creeds or dogma - UU beliefs are fluid, unique to each individual.

No, not at all.


I carry both Ganesha and Buddha miniatures in my pocket daily. They each represent ideals and goals for me to ponder and strive toward.

That being said, Ganesha and the Buddha are as much cultural as religious and spiritual. I would say that's moving beyond spiritual influence, and into religious and cultural influence.

I would suggest actually getting involved with the Hindu and Buddhist community in your local community. It might be awkward at first, but I imagine both would be welcoming if you are honest about your curiosity.

For all the possible criticisms of religion, I've yet to encounter one that has turned me away when I wished to participate in a service.

I am 100% sure there people in your local community who can answer your concerns better than we can.

Siri Kirpal
04-01-2014, 08:39 PM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I'm a white (Anglo-Scottish/Lebanese half-breed) woman who became a Sikh. You think I'm going to say you can't have Ganesha in your pocket? Of course you can!

Cultural appropriation is what the world's been doing ever since branches of our large human family have migrated elsewhere and then collided with each other. Some political correctness I buy, but not the idea that we can't use each other's images, ideas, etc.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

juniper
04-03-2014, 09:36 PM
Thanks, both of you. I was actually hoping that you two at least would reply, since your experiences are quite different and you are actively involved in your culture / religion.


Religion and culture and spiritual beliefs are all different things but are incredibly intertwined.

To the point where I see atheist/agnostic white people say "I'll expose my children to different religions and let them make up their own mind," and I can't help but wonder what about culture?

Religion and culture may be different things, but they do deeply influence each other, and it's impossible to be influenced by one and not another. Or rather than "impossible," I might say it's hypocritical.

I understand how religion/culture are often taken together, but culture doesn't just mean who your parents are and what larger society you're a part of. Culture is also how someone lives her life daily, isn't it?

Many people change their religion from what they were born into. Many Americans don't participate in the typical rat race. So - are these people being hypocritical when they choose to be Pagan or another non-Christian religion?


Cultural appropriation is what the world's been doing ever since branches of our large human family have migrated elsewhere and then collided with each other. Some political correctness I buy, but not the idea that we can't use each other's images, ideas, etc.

I guess I would feel more secure with my having Buddha heads at home, Ganesha in my pocket, other icons in my life if it didn't feel so hodgepodge.

Choosing a religion and immersing oneself in it is different than being interested in it and doing surface learning and admiring.

As a UU, we don't have designated gods or beliefs - we believe all sincere spiritual paths lead to the same divinity - so I'm creating my own patchwork quilt.

I've done this for years - always wondering, thinking - I don't believe any human has the answers about whatever divine consciousness there is - we are mere humans ...

Siri Kirpal
04-03-2014, 10:00 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

The phrase for what you're doing is Spiritual Eclecticism.

Also, an appreciation of the vast variety of religions and their images ought to be appreciated rather than denigrated, imo.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal, a Sikh who sends out Christmas cards with religious imagery each year

kuwisdelu
04-03-2014, 10:12 PM
I understand how religion/culture are often taken together, but culture doesn't just mean who your parents are and what larger society you're a part of. Culture is also how someone lives her life daily, isn't it?

Yes.


Many people change their religion from what they were born into. Many Americans don't participate in the typical rat race. So - are these people being hypocritical when they choose to be Pagan or another non-Christian religion?

I don't think so. Paganism, for example, definitely has its own culture.

Unless I'm misunderstanding you?


I guess I would feel more secure with my having Buddha heads at home, Ganesha in my pocket, other icons in my life if it didn't feel so hodgepodge.

Choosing a religion and immersing oneself in it is different than being interested in it and doing surface learning and admiring.

Yes, but I also think it's fine to draw inspiration from multiple religions and cultures.

Religious syncretism is a reality for much of the world. The average person in Japan, for instance, would have difficulty saying exactly which parts of their culture came from Shinto vs. Buddhist vs. Taoist origins, because they've become so intertwined. Many Native Americans tribes sing their traditional songs in Catholic churches.

This idea of "my religion is right therefore yours is wrong" is actually a fairly modern Western idea.

Teinz
04-04-2014, 04:05 PM
Does Christianity belong to Christians? Do they have any say at all wether I take what I like from Chistianity? Does any group of people have a right to call a religion their own. I can't put it into words why, but my gut tells me that they don't. Sure, they can bar me from joining them as a group, but they cannot prevent me from taking what I believe to be beautiful or meaningful.

snafu1056
04-04-2014, 04:44 PM
Since when does race have anything to do with what religion a person can or can't dabble in? Every religion would still be a minor local cult if racial homogenousness was a requirement. A white person as as much right to dabble in Hinduism as a Chinese person has to be Buddhist, or a Turk has to be a Muslim, because none of those races invented the thing.

kuwisdelu
04-05-2014, 12:58 AM
Does Christianity belong to Christians? Do they have any say at all wether I take what I like from Chistianity?

I would be careful with applying that analogy to other religions. Christianity has a long history of imperialism and forcing colonized people to convert. In doing so and becoming such a dominant religion in Western culture, Christians kind of lost any right to complain about religious appropriation.

I don't think the same holds true for many indigenous religions, and religious appropriation is indeed a thing.

I would recommend this essay (http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/rose/whiteshamanism.htm) about white shamanism by Hopi anthropologist and poet Wendy Rose.


Does any group of people have a right to call a religion their own. I can't put it into words why, but my gut tells me that they don't.

My gut tells me otherwise.

RichardGarfinkle
04-05-2014, 02:12 AM
Since when does race have anything to do with what religion a person can or can't dabble in? Every religion would still be a minor local cult if racial homogenousness was a requirement. A white person as as much right to dabble in Hinduism as a Chinese person has to be Buddhist, or a Turk has to be a Muslim, because none of those races invented the thing.


I would be careful with applying that analogy to other religions. Christianity has a long history of imperialism and forcing colonized people to convert. In doing so and becoming such a dominant religion in Western culture, Christians kind of lost any right to complain about religious appropriation.

I don't think the same holds true for many indigenous religions, and religious appropriation is indeed a thing.

I would recommend this essay (http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/rose/whiteshamanism.htm) about white shamanism by Hopi anthropologist and poet Wendy Rose.



My gut tells me otherwise.

I think a distinction needs to be made between religions that evangelize and religions that are kept within a given people and are part of the way that people live.

An evangelizing religion is offering itself to others. It spreads its stories, practices, liturgy, gods, holy historical figures etc as a means to acquire converts. But in so doing its ideas etc are open to challenge, dissection, appropriation etc.

If, on top of that, the evangelizing religion preaches disrespect for other religions, it is essentially putting its contents up as means of conflict, and, to my mind, at least loses any right to complain about appropriation and disresepect.

But the religion of a people that keeps to themselves. I think they should be left alone if they want to be.

But kuwisdelu, I am curious about one thing. In threads not about religion and culture, you've strongly advocated against the idea of ownership of stories. Do you make an exception for sacred stories?

kuwisdelu
04-05-2014, 02:37 AM
But kuwisdelu, I am curious about one thing. In threads not about religion and culture, you've strongly advocated against the idea of ownership of stories. Do you make an exception for sacred stories?

Sort of, yes. It's a little more complicated than that, though. It also has to do with the evangelical and non-evangelical part, and how the stories are shared, and the role of culture and creator.

When discussing the non-ownership of stories, I am often speaking of interpretation. Naturally, Death of the Author comes into play there. But that still doesn't mean all interpretations are equally valid. I also think it's folly to ignore existing interpretation — although it's fine to disagree with it. With sacred narratives, the original authors are long since gone or exist elsewhere, but there are still those who have spent more time with the stories than others. For example, I think it's silly for Christian scholars to try to interpret the Old Testament without considering the thousands of years of existing interpretations and commentary of Jewish scholars. So likewise, I think it's often valid for a culture to be critical of the interpretations of outsiders. To bring it back to fiction, if an author's interpretation is any more authoritative, it is because he or she has spent more time ruminating on the story — not because of his or her station as author. In fact, I do tend to give more credence to an author's interpretation, until I don't.

Obviously, there is a discussion of fanfic going on in another subforum here, so there is also that issue to address. I try to speak of responsibilities rather than rights when discussing borrowing from other cultures and religions, and I think the same holds true for things such as fan fiction. I don't like to think in terms of an author's rights to a story, or a fan fiction's rights to write a story. Rather, I think both have responsibilities to the created world, the characters, and the narrative itself. I think some fan fiction writers respect (or try to respect) these responsibilities in ways that some authors of fiction do not necessarily respect when writing about other cultures (and vice versa, too). In a way, fan fiction becomes its own culture, and its holy text is the canon (there's that word again) written by the author. The author becomes god (and the trope of an author's statements becoming canon is aptly called "Word of God"). So a more appropriate analogy of "appropriation" might actually be someone writing (licensed or otherwise) in a fandom of which he is not actually a fan, because this writer would be coming from outside the culture.

In the above, there is also the issue of profiting and exploitation to consider, which is one reason why "white shamanism" or "plastic shamanism" is particularly egregious. It's not just appropriative, but exploitative. So I would also draw a distinction between borrowings that are for profit and not. "Profit" I think is more complicated than "payment." For example, most doujinshi in Japan are sold for money, but not for profit. Likewise, "profit" to a cult leader might consist of gaining followers. So there is the issue of how the borrowing is used.

Finally, as I brought up originally, there is the issue of sharing. If an author never publishes and doesn't widely share his or her stories, I'd be amicable to the idea that the author indeed "owns" them artistically. Likewise, we have both brought up the distinction between ways religions are shared. Through evangelism, a religion gains followers, but complaints about "appropriation" also become less valid. Likewise, through publication or other dissemination, a writer gains readers, and I think that also constitutes a way in which they lose a certain amount of "ownership" of their story, because it is intended to be shared with others. In this analogy, the non-evangelical religion is the writer who writes only for himself or herself (and perhaps close friends).

And yes, there is also the issue of sacredness, which I think necessitates an extra level of respect.

kuwisdelu
04-05-2014, 02:51 AM
As you may or may not be able to tell, I was thinking about all of this at the same time as this whole fanfic discussion has been going on, and found it quite useful to consider fictional canon and religious canon at the same time.

The author-as-god analogy is one I think about a lot, and it may have even backwards-influenced my thoughts that gods need not be omniscient or omnipotent. As authors, we often like to think we are, but we're not either.

And from there, we could also ask: is the author really god, or a prophet?

RichardGarfinkle
04-05-2014, 03:44 AM
As you may or may not be able to tell, I was thinking about all of this at the same time as this whole fanfic discussion has been going on, and found it quite useful to consider fictional canon and religious canon at the same time.

The author-as-god analogy is one I think about a lot, and it may have even backwards-influenced my thoughts that gods need not be omniscient or omnipotent. As authors, we often like to think we are, but we're not either.

And from there, we could also ask: is the author really god, or a prophet?

I had noticed the trend in the threads you started in various forums. You did seem to be trying to find your way through a complicated concern that touched on all these aspects. That's partially why I asked a question synthesizing some of them.

Since, as you know, I think of gods as part of the human mind, I am inclined to think of the author as partially god and partially prophet.

I like your point about the author having thought about the matter more and therefore being given a certain credence for that.

The question of sharing from non-evangelizing religions is a tricky one. I've gathered in a number of ideas from various practices and stories to craft a way of dealing with the world (this is an ongoing process). Some of them are from evangelizing religions, some from not (and many parts from non-religious sources).

This evolving view informs my writing and my other works. In a sense, I can't help but profit by them if any of my works are successful.

This to me brings up a complicated question. If I am inspired by ideas from a culture or religion that I then incorporate into my thinking, I tend to think it's right to credit the source of inspiration.

But is that appropriation? What I end up with are personal ideas that are often disconnected from the source culture and religion. Would it better to say nothing about that source and so not create a false association? But in doing so am I not implicitly claiming to have created an idea that come in part from somewhere else?

I honestly don't know what a good way of dealing with this is.

kuwisdelu
04-05-2014, 03:56 AM
The question of sharing from non-evangelizing religions is a tricky one. I've gathered in a number of ideas from various practices and stories to craft a way of dealing with the world (this is an ongoing process). Some of them are from evangelizing religions, some from not (and many parts from non-religious sources).

I think that's fine. Like I've tried to emphasize, I think it's more important to think in terms of our responsibilities when we borrow from other stories/cultures/religions, rather than in terms of our "rights" to take from them.


But is that appropriation? What I end up with are personal ideas that are often disconnected from the source culture and religion. Would it better to say nothing about that source and so not create a false association? But in doing so am I not implicitly claiming to have created an idea that come in part from somewhere else?

I would say appropriation is borrowing that abdicates those responsibilities of treating it respectfully.

In a sense, I think that respect is more important than credit. If you respect it, credit will follow naturally when it's needed, and credit given without that respect is fairly meaningless.

I think it's difficult to answer any more specifically than that without going into a case-by-case basis.

RichardGarfinkle
04-05-2014, 05:16 AM
I think that's fine. Like I've tried to emphasize, I think it's more important to think in terms of our responsibilities when we borrow from other stories/cultures/religions, rather than in terms of our "rights" to take from them.



I would say appropriation is borrowing that abdicates those responsibilities of treating it respectfully.

In a sense, I think that respect is more important than credit. If you respect it, credit will follow naturally when it's needed, and credit given without that respect is fairly meaningless.

I think it's difficult to answer any more specifically than that without going into a case-by-case basis.

That's reasonable. And I agree with you about the respect.

Siri Kirpal
04-05-2014, 06:04 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

And I think that answers juniper's original question. As long as the appropriation is respectful, it's appropriate. When the appropriation is disrespectful, it's not.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

kuwisdelu
04-05-2014, 08:33 PM
I would also add that I don't think "liking" something — on its own — constitutes respect.

Too many people think it's enough to portray something positively or to "like" it is enough.

But that only gets you as far as "some of my best friends are black!" :tongue

There are many men who "love" women but still don't respect them.

Siri Kirpal
04-05-2014, 09:51 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Yep. Like does not equal respect. Respect does not equal like.

You can respect a cobra without liking it.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

juniper
04-06-2014, 04:29 AM
I would say appropriation is borrowing that abdicates those responsibilities of treating it respectfully.

Perhaps in the case of people who tattoo Ganesha on their feet or ankle, when in the Hindu beliefs, it is sacrilegious to wear the image below the waist? Or on their lower backs (above the buttocks would be considered rude). Perhaps they are liking the image for its design or its trendiness, without taking on even the simplest requirements.


Too many people think it's enough to portray something positively or to "like" it is enough.



Yep. Like does not equal respect. Respect does not equal like.

You can respect a cobra without liking it.

I agree with the respecting without liking. It's hard for me to imagine liking something without respecting it, though.

With individual people, I can love someone (due to family connections) without respecting or liking him. But I can't like him without respecting him. And the people I like, that I would want to be friends with, must have my respect in some way. (I retain a difference between acquaintances and friends.)

I can't like a film without respecting the quality of it in some way (writing, cinematography, acting, directing, whatever).

I'm trying to distinguish what you mean between liking or respecting a religious belief, symbol, or tradition. Can someone like the idea of it (giving up things for Lent, fasting for Ramadan, the 8 days of Chanukah, Ganesha, everlasting salvation) without having some respect for that religion?

Do you think respecting a religious belief means immersion in it? If someone participates respectfully in some way, without attempting to learn about and adhere to the deeper aspects, is that not enough?

What if a white Anglo-Saxon American became enamored of a Native American society and religion, to the point of immersion? Leaving behind his place in the white world to live in his adopted society? Would he ever be accepted? Or would he be seen as just playing around?

That thought made me look up the biography of Tony Hillerman, whose southwest US mysteries I began reading as a teenager. He was a white man who immersed himself into the Navajo and Hopi tribal societies. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/mystery/american/navajoland/abouthillerman.html He was well respected but realized he would always be considered an outsider.

xxx
It's an interesting distinction Richard is making, between evangelizing and non-evangelizing religions. Yes, if your directive is to "spread the word" then it's unfair to criticize when others spread it and the message takes on a different flavoring.

But it seems to me that most of the world's religions are not evangelizing, and so could be seen as having closed doors to others. You are born into it, or you are not.

xxx
I don't feel as if I'm contributing much to this thread, rather just asking more questions and trying to piece together my thoughts. But I appreciate that others are contributing.

kuwisdelu
04-06-2014, 05:41 AM
It's hard for me to imagine liking something without respecting it, though.

Oh, it's quite common, actually.

Think of all the people who like some foreign culture because it's "weird" or "exotic."

Think of the people who dress up as Indians for Halloween.

From where do you think we get tropes like the noble savage and the magical negro?


I'm trying to distinguish what you mean between liking or respecting a religious belief, symbol, or tradition. Can someone like the idea of it (giving up things for Lent, fasting for Ramadan, the 8 days of Chanukah, Ganesha, everlasting salvation) without having some respect for that religion?

Of course.

Think of all the people who have "tribal band" or hanzi/kanji tattoos because they think they're cool but have no idea what they mean.


Do you think respecting a religious belief means immersion in it? If someone participates respectfully in some way, without attempting to learn about and adhere to the deeper aspects, is that not enough?

I don't think immersion is necessary, no.

But I think it's important to understand what you don't understand.

Look at the kinds of stories the media tells: we have movies like The Last Samurai where Tom Cruise comes in and learns everything it means to be a Japanese samurai in a few months. Not only that, but he becomes a better samurai than the other samurai. We see this story repeated over and over again in Dances with Wolves and Avatar and other movies.



What if a white Anglo-Saxon American became enamored of a Native American society and religion, to the point of immersion? Leaving behind his place in the white world to live in his adopted society? Would he ever be accepted? Or would he be seen as just playing around?

The answer is yes and no.


That thought made me look up the biography of Tony Hillerman, whose southwest US mysteries I began reading as a teenager. He was a white man who immersed himself into the Navajo and Hopi tribal societies. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/mystery/american/navajoland/abouthillerman.html He was well respected but realized he would always be considered an outsider.

I've read one Hillerman novel, but I don't know anything about him personally.

I do know about Frank Cushing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Hamilton_Cushing), who was an anthropologist who came to live with my tribe. He was eventually accepted and initiated into the bow priesthood.

So in some ways, the answer is yes, acceptance is possible.

But in other ways, the answer is also no.

I'm half-Zuni. I didn't grow up on the reservation. I don't speak the language yet. I've been initiated into a kiva, but I've never danced.

Even I will never be truly accepted in the way other Zuni children would be. I will also always be an outsider.

What is difficult to understand for someone coming from a position of privilege is that there is no free pass to acceptance. There is no easy answer to what constitutes respect, because you will always step on someone's toes. There is no easy answer to what is appropriation and what isn't. It is a constant struggle in reassessing yourself.

It's what we all do. We, too, who come from the cultures and religions that are often appropriated. We're also always reevaluating ourselves. People who come from a position of privilege often believe this is an additional difficulty burdened on them. But it's not. It applies to all of us. They are merely less used to it.


I don't feel as if I'm contributing much to this thread, rather just asking more questions and trying to piece together my thoughts. But I appreciate that others are contributing.

Asking good questions is also contributing.

Rhoda Nightingale
04-06-2014, 04:56 PM
I'm fascinated by the discussion going on here. The idea of being immersed in a particular culture as tied to a specific religion is something I can understand intellectually, but spiritually it feels utterly foreign. I call myself a "pseudo-pagan," because the path I chose has more commonalities with paganism than anything else, but there's more to it than that. Also, I'm a solitary practitioner. The idea of anyone else on this same path with me--or even going into the details of what I believe and how I "worship"--feels counter intuitive. It would be weird to try and find a group to participate in this "culture" with me.

Maybe it's because the only "group" setting I've been part of spiritually have been Christian churches, which are unbelievably boring. I basically fall asleep with my eyes open for half an hour. More to the point, I'm not a believer. That faith doesn't resonate with me hardly at all.

At the same time, I've often gone looking for other cultures, religions, and ideas that actually fit with what I do believe, but rarely with the intention of fully immersing myself in any of them. I try to find universal truths, wherever they come from, and incorporate them into my own path. Which is still solitary.

Does that make sense to anyone besides me?

Siri Kirpal
04-06-2014, 09:59 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I think kuwi gave a good example of how one can "like" without respect: the men who "like" women, but don't respect them.

So, to give you an example from Sikhism: We cover the Siri Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh Guru, which takes form as a book) with beautiful cloths called ramallas. It would be hard for anyone with good eyesight and color vision to dislike these cloths. But I can imagine easily that someone who had no idea of their significance putting them somewhere that we wouldn't consider respectful (using them as placemats or pillowcovers, for example, or worse yet, upholstery for a footstool).

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

kuwisdelu
04-07-2014, 01:47 AM
Does that make sense to anyone besides me?

I consider spirituality a very solitary and personal thing. It's distinct from religion to me, which is cultural.

Wilde_at_heart
04-07-2014, 05:23 PM
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I've been looking at tattoo designs and have seen so many beautiful Ganesha and Om tattoos - I've been drawn to Ganesha since first learning about him.

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This tumblr website here has made me feel quite bad about the Ganesha. There are many postings and responses from different people who basically say, "If you are not Indian, you should not use any of our clothing, or religious aspects, or words, or decorating, or anything that belongs to us. They do not belong to you." http://youarenotdesi.tumblr.com/archive

As a white American, to not be accused of religious appropriation, am I limited to the Christian spectrum? Are people restricted to the religion they were "born into" rather than choosing their own beliefs? Some Buddhists say we are born into our Karmic path, but ultimately the decision lies with the individual

How about yoga? And meditation? Not practices from the Christian tradition, but quite popular. Completely untrue. The oft-suppressed Gnostic branches involve similar practices. This is where I think to a degree the Buddhists I referred to are right - often people will seek things from 'outside' religions' while not really exploring their own enough. Also, what gets called 'yoga' in the west isn't, really, what actual yogis practice (don't get me started on Bikram), nor is a lot of the stuff in India that's sold to gullible Western tourists


This is a bit tricky (hence this thread of course).

My partner is Indian, though not Hindu, but the concept that anything in a religion as divergent as Hindu (I did take comparative religion classes in university and the Professor, an Indian man, practiced Kundalini yoga long before most people had ever heard of it as well) or as diverse as India 'belongs' to a narrow group of people is rather silly. There's a Russian writer who claims Jesus's travels to India are what account for his 'missing years' and he brought back a lot of ideas from there with him, so there you go.

Many symbols are common to more than one religion as well - the hexagram, the Bolgar cross and the much-corrupted swastika for example - so who owns what isn't that simple. Many practices are similar as well, but it sometimes takes in-depth reading to realise that.

For the most part, my partner and most of his friends see white people taking an interest in Indian culture as pretty cool. Certainly better than being bullied. A bit eye-rolling when a woman comes up to him in a bar saying 'ooh, I loooove India, it's so fascinating I practice yoga and see my tat of Shiva?' on the other hand. And he's had that a few times...

At the same time, I don't consider that sort of thing appropriation. Using Ganesh in a Coca-cola ad or something, definitely.

Also ... I do agree to the protections afforded the Haida Gwaii for some of their symbols. Partly because a fair amount of income is derived from their artwork, but also because they're a tiny population and much more vulnerable than a country of 1 Billion + and who-knows-how-many more living abroad.

Rufus Coppertop
04-09-2014, 08:17 AM
... Appropriation practice involves the 'appropriation' of ideas, symbols, artifacts, image, sound, objects, forms or styles from other cultures, from art history, from popular culture or other aspects of human made visual or non visual culture."

Taking one Buddhist symbol as an example, the phurba...

Two movies, The Golden Child and The Shadow abused the symbol of the phurba and misrepresented it and its meaning and place in Vajrayana Buddhism. That is misappropriation.

Some Wiccans, Satanists and occultists of various flavour in the west, use the phurba as an athame or ritual dagger or wand. That is absolutely misappropriation.

A Westerner who is a Buddhist and has received initiation from an authentic lineage holder into one of the phurba mandalas and who maintains the samayas and does the practice is not misappropriating anything, he or she is being an authentic practitioner and the whiteness of his/her skin and his/her nationality is absolutely irrelevant.

It's about context and use. If you use a symbol or symbolic artifact within its context and you understand its meaning and use it with respect, in the way it is meant to be used and for the purposes it was designed for, you're not misappropriating anything.