A recent article in The New York Times, republished by The Indian Express, attracted my attention with the headline – “Meet the Hindu priest officiating LGBTQ weddings“. Curious, I clicked on the link, an interview with a “Hindu priest” named Sushma Dwivedi. As expected, the whole interview is an amusing read that is also instructive of the “progressive” designs on Hindu Dharma.
Sushma Dwivedi lives in New York and offers various “progressive, inclusive, LGBTQ+-friendly” religious services like baby namings, house warmings and business blessings to people who are “straight, gay, having an interracial marriage or just want a female pundit.” She claims to have officiated in 33 weddings, nearly half for gay or lesbian couples. Her full time job is in a subscription based organic food company.
On being asked why she became interested in becoming a pundit, she tells about her husband’s brother/sister, a trans, who was sad that he could not be married the Hindu way. So two months later, she “got ordained” at the “Universal Life Church”.
The Universal Life Church is a fake church, that “ordains” any person of any religion online to become a priest. Before the internet era, this worked using postal order, i.e. you send them money, they send you a certificate declaring you are a priest. So, I could pay a small fee and become a “Christian priest”, a “Sikh granthi“, “Jewish rabbi” or “Muslim kazi/imam” or even a “Jedi knight” according to their ordination certificate. In fact, the ordination is free if you want to print out the certificate at your own expense. But that does not change the reality that I am a common Hindu, not a priest of any religion. In fact, Universal Life Church has been barred from officiating in marriages in Australia, Canada, and multiple states of US, including New York, the base of Ms. Dwivedi!
According to Ms. Dwivedi:-
“A traditional Hindu ceremony can take two to three hours. Mine is 35 minutes. I begin with a prayer and offering to Lord Ganesha to clear the couple’s paths or obstacles. I have the couple take several laps around a sacred fire; each signifies a commitment they are making.
And I include a passage from the Panchatantra, which is mythological text written in Sanskrit. It asks the couple to commit to a life of equality and partnership. That’s very different from a traditional Hindu reading, which still positions marriage as a patriarchal system where you give away a bride as property.”
Clearly, what she is doing is not a Hindu marriage. It could have borrowed some elements from Hindu Dharma, but only to mock those. Thus a fake “Hindu pandit” who is mocking Hindu Dharma is being given pride of place by the New York Times, which itself described the Universal Life Church as pumping out ordinations “at an assembly-line pace, almost mocking a process that usually requires years of seminary study”. To top it all, she spreads the misinformation that Hindu bride is treated as property at the time of marriage, when the fact is she is considered as Goddess Laxmi herself on that day.
Denigration of values marketed as progressiveness
Ms. Dwivedi has a story to tell for everything. About the first marriage she officiated, she tells a story of how a couple wanted to get married before becoming parents and she helped them at the hospital, where she and the lady in the couple had both gone to deliver the child.
Premarital sex and parenthood has been sold as a progressive step to us through American movies, TV series and is increasingly being featured as a mark of empowered woman in entertainment industry in Bharat. The truth is that it is incompatible with our society, or any human society for that matter. We are supposed to romanticise and celebrate this degeneracy, if we want to feel progressive.
Same is the case for same-sex marriages, with many in Bharat demanding that Hindu law recognise the same. This is despite the fact that only 29 countries in the world currently have legalised such marriages, with only a single one in whole of Asia.
Ms. Dwivedi and others like her, who would surely come sniffing a business opportunity, would promote this denigration of Hindu dharma and social values for their own financial gain. Being a PR professional, she has been very efficient in marketing her services and most probably, the whole interview is part of the PR job. Curiously, The Indian Express went along with an issue.
Women priesthood is a lesser issue
There would be no issue, if she supported LGBTs and their right to live together under a civil ceremony. There would certainly be less of an issue, if she did not make a mockery of Hindu religion and after due study, put forth her claim to be a priest. Afterall, Hindu Dharma has had a very strong tradition of women sanyasis and one can find women rishis/seers in the Vedas and multiple philosophers in vedic literature. This includes brahmavadinis, who ran their own schools.
One could also look towards other religions and learn. Among Christians, there was no female clergy until fairly recently. There is none even today among Catholics, as Catholic dogma strictly forbids it. Among protestants, first women priest was ordained only in 20th century. Now their number is on the increase, even in Bharat. Among Muslims, there have been few female imams. There are no female granthis among Sikhs as far as I could search. That said, female priesthood is something that would definitely become normal in a few decades, if not years. This is the reality, whether or not we accept it.
However, among female religious leaders of all religions, one thing is common. They worked hard, studied their scriptures and passed their exams to become priests. No person with an ordination certificate from Universal Life Church would probably market their services as a “Muslim kazi” or “Christian pastor”.
Some people, influenced by celebrities and movies, might get an ordination certificate from ULC to officiate weddings of their near and dear ones, but none would offer their services professionally. When she says “Indians love shiny things and they make me feel like a real pundit.“, she betrays her inner feelings, where she knows that she is not the “real thing”. In any case, pandits hardly ever wear shiny jewellery.
Beware of the agenda
Hindus need to be beware of the “progressive” agenda. As a society, we have progressed at our own pace and evolved with times. We have integrated various practices while retaining the core of our Dharma.
The “progressives” would have us sacrifice everything for a few trinkets and replace the Vedic chants with, of all things, panchtantra ! Some things are worth saving and Dharma is definitely top on the list. Let us be wary of more such attacks and be prepared to question the Hindu credentials of people like Ms. Dwivedi.
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