The White Hindu has moved

The White Hindu has moved! This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

Friday, December 31, 2010

How to Wear a Sari

Let's lighten things up for a bit, shall we?

I promised a while back to post information about how to wear a sari for those who don't know or are intimidated by it.

As it turns out, I don't have to put up directions and take pictures, etc. because I just found a wonderful YouTube video for it. It looks like these girls are developing a website with useful information for young Indian women. I'll be keeping an eye on their videos!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

From Pakistani to American

I was reading the Gori Wife Life blog and she had a funny post about how her Pakistani husband is embracing the culture of the American South.

"I come from The South but my Pakistani born and bred husband seems to be working harder on embodying the typical redneck persona."

I think a lot of people enjoy testing out other cultures and it's great when we can feel comfortable adopting the parts that we like, that make sense to us. And when it's a culture that we weren't born to, we do put a lot of effort into it!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


There was a comment yesterday on one of my older posts that I wanted to address. Here is the comment and my response to it:

Svaha said...
Why call yourself a "white" Hindu? Why is skin color so important as a means of identifying yourself? Sanatana Dharma is about unity, not separateness. Its not about the externalization of God, but the recognition of universal and internalized divinity. Its great that you want to identify yourself as a "Hindu" (whatever that means), but please do not insult our core religious beliefs by bringing confused notions of race and skin color into the mix.
December 27, 2010 1:32 AM

Aamba said...
Well, Svaha, the reason I named the blog White Hindu is because at the time I felt that it was my skin color that was keeping me from being accepted as fully Hindu. It was extremely frustrating to me, so this was a way of taking back that word, taking control over how people see me.

However, in the year since I've kept the blog, I have become more and more entrenched in Hinduism and have found the acceptance I was looking for. I now rarely feel kept back and taken less seriously because of my skin color, though it does still sometimes happen.

The other reason to put race into it is that this is not a blog about the definition of Hinduism, it is a blog about the intersection of culture and religion and ethnicity. That is the issue I am interested in exploring.

How are religion and ethnicity related? How do people perceive them? How does one move into a religion that was not given to him or her by ethnicity?
December 28, 2010 2:45 PM

The thing is, this blog is about race. I'm not interested in pretending that we don't somewhat judge each other based on ethnicity. It happens, it is part of our world.

Yes, Hinduism is universal and accepts all people as equally a part of God, but that is not always how it is practiced. People are still imperfect and do judge one another and make assumptions about one another.

I am confident and sure of my religion. It has been part of me all of my life. What I came to the Internet to explore is the cultural aspect of Hinduism and how I might fit in there.

I think my skin color is relevant to this discussion and I don't think that it is a confused notion of race. Different races exist and we are all still trying to figure out what that means and how it effects our lives.

There are many who are uncomfortable when we label ourselves by ethnicity. I do not label myself as white in order to keep others back or to separate myself. I would rather not be separate, but many times I still am. I felt that my skin color was an elephant in the room, as the expression goes. No one wants to mention it or acknowledge it, and yet it has an effect on how I am perceived.

People wonder about me and question me in ways that I don't think they would if I were Indian.

They think, "Who does she think she is?" They think the same things they think when they see a white rapper with cornrows!

That is what fascinates me. Expectation v.s. reality.

I'm sorry to people who are made uncomfortable by my direct reference to race, but that is exactly what this blog is about: what it means to be a non-Indian Hindu.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I am back from the land of Bible quotes on gas station price boards, billboards for Christian radio stations, and ads for churches on TV and at the movies!

Everything went really well, actually.

I had told one cousin about being Hindu and the news had spread, though no one had a problem with it. The only reason I knew that the cat was out of the bag, as it were, was when we were having pizza for dinner one night.

My uncle was trying to convince me to try a new flavor of pizza and he said, "If you try it, you'll be saying 'Praise Jesus, that's good pizza.'" It's just an expression he uses, and then he stopped and said, "Or, 'Praise Shiva.'"

I was very surprised!

I had some conversations about it and as I said before, everything was really positive. My brother even chimed in at one point and shared his view that the resurrection of Christ is really just an example of reincarnation. The thing that made it special was only that he knew he had been reborn and most of us don't. That surprised me too, since my brother rarely weighs in on religious topics, it doesn't seem to interest him much. He also said that he doesn't see why anyone needs to pick one.

I'm glad for him and my parents that they do not feel a need to choose between Christianity and Hinduism, but I obviously do feel that need!

It was lovely to see my family, whom I love dearly. I wanted to visit our friend Kat, but a surprise snow storm made the roads impossible to drive for a day and a half!

But now I'm back safe and sound and ready for the next adventure.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My parents

My mom just sent me this article about Sanskrit Day in Boston. She and my Dad are in some of the pictures!

Sanskrit enthusiasts celebrate language | Articles | INDIA New England

This is them here:

I'm so proud of them!

(The other non-Indian couple in the pictures are friends of my parents, they have all been studying together for more than thirty years now)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Study v.s. Practice

I started thinking about the difference between studying a religion and practicing it when I got an email from someone writing a school paper on Hinduism.

First, he asked what the meaning of life is according to Hinduism. I put together an answer the best I could. Then I got an email asking if I had textural support for my statement.

That gave me pause. I realized that I couldn't name a textbook or a religious study or quote a professor or expert to support my understanding of Hinduism. And that is because I don't study it, I live it.

Of course, there is writing to support my view. I could say to read the Gita, and the ten principle Upanishads, but those scriptures are not easy to understand if you have no background or understanding of Hindu history, culture, and story.

I do read commentaries on scriptures and yet many times I don't pay much attention to whose commentary I am reading. I read each thing and look at how it interprets the text and then I ponder whether I agree with the message or not.

But mostly I don't do a lot of studying. Mostly I feel my way in religion.

On the other hand, Christianity is something I've studied. I took classes on it in college and I did Biblical analysis stuff. That was fun and educational, but extremely different from practicing and believing it.

Though I am an intellectual and I do pursue mostly a path of knowledge, it was interesting to me to realize that I do not approach my religion as though it is the subject of a PhD thesis.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Most Important Thing

Recently I was having an interesting conversation with my mom about my romantic history. It made me realize something.

I've always said that my greatest dream in life is to have a husband and children. I've wanted that for as long as I can remember. Being married is hugely important to me. And yet, it turns out that it is not the most important thing.

My mom observed that my religion has been a detriment in my dating life. Not for everyone I've dated by any means, but it has made it more difficult to find potential partners. Knowing that only 0.4% of America is Hindu, it seems to me that the average American man is looking for a woman who is vaguely Protestant.

If I were able to be content with being a Christian and maybe not even going to church much, my dating pool would be much, much larger.

My devotion to my religion has kept people back many times.

And so my mom expressed regret that she had raised me they way she did. Maybe, she thought, she and my dad should not have instilled Hindu beliefs in me.

That's when I realized that my religion is more important to me than anything. I would not trade it to make finding a husband easier. I would not trade it for anything. Without those beliefs, my life would be without purpose and without meaning. I don't want to live that way.

Because I believe in reincarnation I truly do believe that I have had families before. I have had husbands and children many times before and I probably will again. If I miss out on that for this one little lifetime, it's not really that big a deal.

And that desire for a family is a matter of biology only. It is evolution working in my body.

The goal of achieving enlightenment is so much bigger and more important than that. Husbands come and go, they don't go with you when you die. I need to focus on the things that are eternal, the things that will come with me.

This is not to say that I don't still hope to someday get married and have children. But it was a big moment for me to realize that it is not my number one priority. It's just something that would be nice to have. My focus is really on my own soul.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Packing for India

It is far too early to start packing for my trip to India in February. But I love planning clothes and I tend to pack way, way ahead of time.

I am thrilled that I will have plenty of opportunity to wear saris. My dad told me that I'd need one for the ashram and he worried over where I would get one. I told him that I have at least ten and he was very surprised. He asked me to pack some for my mom to wear, as she doesn't have any and last time they were there she borrowed from my cousin.

I bought a fancy sequined one with a matching blouse that Dhurga talked me into ;) I think I will wear it for the temple dedication that we'll be going to.

Mom said that I should not pack all my saris, but I'm not sure how I will choose which ones to leave behind! I love them all.

I will also be packing all of my most flattering salwar suits. I have to leave room in my suitcase, though, so I can get some new ones. My parents visited a tailor near the ashram last time they were there and got me a suit that is still in great shape and I wear frequently. I hope to visit the same tailor and get to pick out the fabric and colors myself.

I'll be packing my bindis, I have some red ones, so I think I will wear those.

My favorite part of preparing for a trip is thinking about the clothes!

I also have to think about what I will bring to entertain myself on the long, long trip. I have to contact the airline and make sure that knitting needles are allowed. I can then choose some projects and some books.

I can't begin to tell you how excited I am about this trip!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


So much has changed in the last year and this blog and all you readers have helped create that change.

I started writing here because I felt rejected and kept out of the religion that my heart was at home with. I felt that I would never fit in.

Since then I have found a lot of acceptance and my relationship with my religion and its culture has changed. I've felt welcomed by many of the Indians in my life this year. I've felt at home and like I fit in at temples and holidays and events.

As a result, I've felt less need to fight against the culture around me. I haven't felt that I need the bindi, which I used to use to set myself apart and help me stand out from the default American culture.

The most noticeable effect has been Christmas. Last year I had a very hard time with Christmas. The whole month of December I felt out of place, out of sorts, out of sync. I was sensitive and easily offended. This year Christmas has not bothered me. It's just one more thing going on around me. It's fun, lots of people like it, it's not hurting me.

Without the acceptance into the culture I feel I belong in, I would not be able to have steady emotions in December.

I've embraced and acknowledged my inner feelings about culture and belonging and I've come to a place where I am secure and confident in my life. I don't feel as much like I have something to prove. This is a nice place to be!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

One Year Anniversary

It amazes me to say, but today marks one year from the time I started this blog.

At first it was completely anonymous and read by no one. Slowly I started sharing the URL with people and the readership has grown a lot.

I really love the feedback and interaction of everyone who reads. It has helped me to become more secure in my faith and confident in myself as well as to see other points of view.

I didn't know that I had so much to say. Spirituality really is a huge part of my life and I can't imagine it any other way. I plan to continue questioning and pondering and wondering about all parts of living a spiritual, Hindu life.

Thanks, everyone!

Here's a recent picture of me with my fabulous, huge Indian necklace, and my new nose stud

Monday, December 6, 2010


The word "myth" makes people extremely sensitive.

Try telling someone who believes in the Bible that the flood story of Noah is a myth and they will likely tell you that it really happened, it is true, history will show it or else the devil did something to mess with historical evidence.

In this world of concrete proof that we live in, only things that "really happened" seem to matter.

Did Krishna really lift a mountain with his finger? Did Hanuman really build a bridge to Lanka? Did Draupada perform a ritual to get his children? Was Arjuna cursed by Urvasi? Did any of it really happen?

It may seem strange to you, but I don't care if it "really" happened.

I get a lot of emails and messages about new proof that this or that thing happened, basically to say "see? it's real, it matters, you should believe in the gods." I find it sad when I see shows on TV that use scientific and historical methods to "prove" that various miracles took place. There's all these ideas about how the red sea might have parted because of this or that weather condition. To me, it does not need to be proven. None of these things need to be proven. Their great power and beauty comes from the unlikeliness of them. Where is the place for faith if we can prove every piece of story?

Why is a story or a myth not a valid part of our lives?

I find myths to be extremely valuable. They can express and show truths better than things that really happened.

To me, it does not matter at all whether these stories happened. They are no more or less powerful either way. My faith and belief does not depend at all on whether or not archaeologists can prove that Rama was born in Ayodhya or any of the rest of it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


In the West we have a way of seeing things in a very straight, linear line.

There's "backwards," foolish thinking and then it moves upward to logical, scientific and practical thinking. The world started out ignorant and we are making progress toward knowing and categorizing everything. The world is straightforward and any event can be explained within the framework that we have.

This is over-simplifying, of course, but what I've been thinking about is the way I think about more mysterious things.

I am a grounded, practical, straightforward person. I don't have much patience for whimsy or magic and I think that's holding me back.

I started thinking about this because my Hindi teacher and the other student in the class were talking about superstition and some of the beliefs of people in their homes in villages in India.

Many, many people believe in ghosts, spirits, curses, boons, miracles, fairies, demons, etc. Traditionally I and most of the West see that sort of belief as ignorant and foolish. In grade school we hear the go-to explanation for myth: "Ancient people didn't know what this was, so they made up a story to explain it and now we know better."

I'm not convinced of the truth of that anymore. First of all, it sounds outrageously condescending. And the world of "myth" is tremendously rich and beautiful. The world is a wild place, always on the edge of chaos. I don't know everything there is to know and no one else does either.

Why do we assume that there is only one plane of existence? I think it could make perfect sense for there to be ghosts and spirits and other things occurring in the subtle world around us that we are completely oblivious to.

I would like to believe that.

I don't yet, but I would like to.

I want to expand my mind and my way of thinking, to accept that there may be value and truth in astrology, in crystal healing, in the ability of the spirit to leave the body and return. I've never been able to believe any of that and I've been secretly dismissive and judgmental about it.

One thing I don't believe? I don't believe that we are smarter or better for having been born later in the world's history.

When I was a child I went to a Waldorf preschool. There I learned about magic. They told us about gnomes and fairies and taught us to see a sparkle and mystery in life. I lost touch with that as I got older and I would like to go back to it.

Science has shown* that we dismiss things we see or experience that don't fit into our expected model and I want to break down those expectations to see a more intense world.

* In one of my college classes there was the following experiment: My teacher told us that he was going to play a video in which two teams were passing a ball back and forth. Each team had its own ball. One team was dressed in white and the other in black, there were three people on each team. He asked us to count how many times the white team passed the ball.

I knew there was a catch, but I played along anyway and watched the video, counting how many times the white team passed the ball to each other. They were doing it in a narrow hallway in a college dorm. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. After the video I told the professor that the team had passed the ball five times. He asked if I had seen anything odd and I had not.

He played the video again, this time without focusing our attention on any one thing. In the middle, a man in a giant, black gorilla suit walked onto the screen, went right up to the camera so that he was taking up almost the entire screen, and waved, then walked off.

I had not seen it at all on the first viewing. Because it was black and I was looking for white, my brain completely dismissed it.

That proved to me that there is a lot going on around us that we never process because it isn't what we are looking for.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sorry for no posts

I don't want to leave you wondering where I am...

It is the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S. and I've traveled to visit my parents. It's an eight and half hour drive from home. I don't use the computer much while I'm here, since it's their computer.

I'll be back home on Monday and digging up more information for posts!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hinduism in Ghana

Tonight a friend at study group had just returned from a trip to Ghana, Africa. He showed us pictures of a thriving Hindu temple there, run entirely by Africans.

This article from BBC is about the temple and its swami:

My study group and I were very impressed. It shows a lot of dedication for them to be following Hinduism in the middle of an intensely evangelical Christian culture.

I think it also opened some people's eyes to the idea that Hinduism is not only meaningful to Indians. It holds a spirit that is enticing and desirable to many people of diverse backgrounds in different parts of the world.

I feel so happy knowing that this temple exists.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Travel Altar

This little craft came about because of a couple of different things.

First, I lost my ipod touch, so I no longer have the cute apps with Gods on them. (It's been missing for almost a month now, I've cleaned my apartment and my car and retraced my steps to everywhere I went the day it went missing, and it really does seem to be gone for good).

The second thing is that last night I was listening to one of the knitting podcasts I like, the Knitpicks podcast, and Kelli mentioned making little craft kits out of empty Altoid mint containers. Then she said that if you Google Altoid tins you will find some amazing art and crafts and different kit ideas.

I love little kits, so I did the Google search and it inspired me to create this:


This is the inside of an Altoid tin. I glued in a little Krishna pendant that I've had for years, which is meant to be a necklace, but I think actually this project would work better printing out a picture of a God and pasting it to the lid.

I glued in a tealight candle and a bunch of paper flowers from a craft store. I took two beads and glued them together to make a holder for a stick of incense. The incense can be laid flat in the tin and I plan to get a little box of matches. I found a tiny bell in the craft store, too.

So now I have a tiny altar that I can take with me in my purse where ever I go!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Indian Decorating

First of all, I'm probably not going to be posting as often for a little while. School is getting very busy and I am running out of time for everything I need to do!

But, today I'm going to post some links about decorating. I love to decorate, even though I think I'm only just starting to develop an eye for what goes together well.

I am going to be doing some redecorating next month, so I'm looking for inspiration. did a post about Indian decor and in the comments Gori Girl suggested these:

And I found this one An Indian Summer

I also found some neat looking books on Amazon (inspired by seeing a coffee table book on Indian Decor at my study group)

India Decorations

Indian Interiors

Home Decorating Indian Style

For further inspiration, here is a Google image search on Indian Decor

So far I do have wall art that is Indian, one poster from Dolls of India (They have a lot of beautiful items and they are very friendly. Even though it isn't one of their items, they tracked down a copy of Lord of the Rings in Hindi for me) and several beautiful prints from a Krishna Calendar that my Hindi Teacher gave me. I also have a 3D Krishna framed that was given to me as a "Secret Santa" gift a couple of years ago. I have several Ganesha statues throughout my apartment, also.

I would like to add a lot of fabric. Many pillows of various sizes, layers of curtains in vibrant colors, etc.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Appropriate Conversation

I often forget that not everyone thinks about things as much as I do. In fact, maybe most people don't. Or they think about different things.

For me, I am so fascinated by religion and the ways people find meaning in their lives and so somehow conversations almost always find their way to philosophical pondering around me. I don't intend for it to be that way, I don't notice that I'm doing it, but I'm sure that it's my great interest in the subject that almost always moves conversations with new people in that direction.

I think I need to get better control over these tendencies of mine. Religion is one of those subjects that is considered not appropriate for the dinner table, which is to say, not appropriate for casual, friendly conversation. I know it embarrasses my parents and makes some people rather uncomfortable.

I was trained in conversation, as part of lessons on being a demure and quiet "good" woman. I never mastered those lessons.

I need to learn how to have small talk that does not involve questioning the meaning of life! :D

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fun Song and Dance

If any of you are as nerdy as I am, then perhaps you have seen the web-based show The Guild. It's about a group of people who play an MMO-style game together.

This may not sound relevant, but one of the characters is Indian and as an promotion, they put out this hilarious Bollywood inspired ad.

Watch for one of the characters speaking fake Hindi. (If you aren't familiar with Hindi, he says "hey" a lot because the Hindi verb "to be" sounds like "hey").

An Article and a Close Encounter

Speaking of marriages, I discovered this fascinating paper about various kinds of mixed-religion marriages in the U.S. (all of them have one partner who is Christian).

It was also interesting to see the graph of religions in America. Apparently Hindus make up only 0.4% I had no idea the number was that low!

The odd thing for me is that in my future relationships I will, almost no matter what, be either in an inter-racial relationship or an inter-religious one.

If I am in an inter-racial relationship, it will not be inter-religious and vice versa. In reading more of these blogs of people in inter-racial relationships, I am curious to see how many of them have different religions and how many of them have partners who had previously converted to the religion. I'm sure the assumption is that the white partner converted to their spouse's religion, but I would like to find out if there are relationships where the white partner was already a convert previous to meeting the spouse. I think that this is the case in many of the Muslim white/non-white marriages that I've read about.

(Please write and tell me about it if you are in such a situation, by the way!)

I almost got myself into a situation that would have made me mad. I was on my way to my Hindi class. When I got out of the subway, there was a young man passing out cards about beer tasting and theology talk.

Now, I don't ever drink, but I love to talk about theology and I've been meaning to be more social and expand my circle of friends. So, I took a card from him.

As I continued to walk toward class I suddenly realized that "theology discussion" might be code for "we want to talk you into converting to Christianity." Sure enough, when I found their website in tiny letters, the word "Christ" was in there.

I didn't go.

I love to talk about theology, but only in truly open-minded company. I want my ideas to be respected and I have no interest in telling people about Hinduism if their only purpose is to find loopholes in it and try to make Christianity sound better.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Interracial Love

It seems that there has been an explosion of mixed race couples lately, half Indian and half something else (usually white) and a lot of these couples are moving back to and living in India.

An article came out in India a few weeks ago profiling a bunch of women who have blogs about their relationships with Indian men. Here is one blog that scanned and showed the article. I was contacted about participating in this article too, but it is focused on interracial relationships and I had to inform the person who contacted me that I'm not in a relationship and my connection to Indian culture has nothing to do with me meeting and falling in love with an Indian man :/

I've discovered more and more and more of them as I explore. I think this all began with The White Indian Housewife, here are several more:

This couple is Muslim and live in Pakistan, I know the woman from the knitting site Ravelry and she is a white American:

This is a Sikh couple with a white wife. I think I mentioned her a few days ago too

It sounds like this couple is no longer together:(

And I'm sure there are many more too! (Not to mention, a few I already have linked on the side, like our friend Kat and the Big Bad Bahu Blog).

I also know a friend of a friend from college who is married to an Indian man and apparently they are moving to India later this year.

I'm fascinated by this trend and I'm happy to see the world coming together like this, the boundaries between people melting, and the sharing of different cultures. I think it's wonderful.

It's too bad I haven't found any blogs of white men with Indian women. I know that happens too, but maybe men are less likely to write on the Internet about their relationships...?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Happy and Content


Here I am on my way to my Diwali party. I had an awesome time. (I got mistaken for Indian twice!) The potato dish I brought wasn't great, it was somewhat undercooked, but I am going to try making it again.

I got to see friends and meet new people and play games and enjoy great company. I'm really feeling very comfortable and content with my life right now. It's very nice.

Kodanda asked if I put on any holiday weight and that will have to wait for next Friday's weigh-in to see, but chances are yes! So far I have lost 13 pounds, but I may have put one or two back on this weekend ;)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wear Your Sari to Work Day!

So, our friend over at White Girl Coming Out of the Saree Closet had the thought to wear a sari to work for Diwali. She ended up wearing a salwar kameez, but a friend of hers suggested a Wear a Sari to Work Day and I thought it sounded like a fantastic idea.

Indeed, I decided that I should organize one.

I'll have to decide on a day, I'm thinking a Monday so that everyone in your office can enjoy something bright and beautiful on a glum day.

If your office has a dress code that wouldn't allow for a sari, you could wear it after work for the rest of your day.

Of course, there are a lot of male readers here, so I have nothing for you. If you want to you could wear a kurta, I don't recommend trying a dhoti!

I can post ideas about where to get a sari and pictures and videos on how to wrap it. Once I pick a day, I'll advertise on Facebook as well as here. We can increase the visibility of Indian culture in the western world and we can show that there are gorgeous, amazing clothing options out there that are not centered around jeans or a wrap dress.

If people ask, tell them The White Hindu told you to do it ;) Trust me, Indian grannies will be thrilled to see their clothing being worn by young people or non-Indian people.

All the girls can participate in this, even if you live in India and it's not as shocking.

Let's do it!

Hmmm, I'm going to take the total lack of comments as lack of interest. I'm not doing this by myself! So, until people start saying that they're on board, I won't proceed with organizing. But I will probably still at some point post information about how to wear sari in various styles.

Friday, November 5, 2010

शुभ दीपावली


This is my door decoration currently. (Since I started it, I can't complain if people put up Christmas messages on their doors!)

The chocolate burfi turned out great. It's an easy recipe to do, using the microwave, I highly recommend it.

Tomorrow I'm going to make an aloo dish I've never done before and head to a party in Virginia!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Diwali Puja from

A great newsletter came by email from They are the website that makes great, high quality toys based on Indian themes and languages. They shared some beautiful cards giving step by step puja instructions for kids. Here is what the author had to say about them:

Maybe rituals "aren't your thing." Maybe they are. Whatever your beliefs and lifestyle, the fact is that The Puja Ceremony is a key component to understanding Hinduism. It's how Hindus, for centuries, have connected with the Divine. And it's a vital element in almost all Hindu holidays - including Diwali - when the Lakshmi Puja takes center stage.

But how often do you see a 5-year-old (or an 8-or-10-year old for that matter) actually sit through a puja? Maybe they don't understand what's going on. Maybe all those Sanskrit hymns bore them.

This Diwali we encourage you to shake things up. Adults: sit back and let the kids take charge of the prayer ceremony with our Step-by-Step Diwali Puja Tutorial! From the starting preparations to final aarti and prasad, our Tutorial instructs kids on what to do - and, more importantly, the meaning and purpose behind each step. It's The Puja - deconstructed and distilled to the essentials. It's learning by doing.

Of course, keep in mind the puja won't be perfect (or very long), but the kids are sure to have fun being "in charge." And feel free to adapt the Tutorial - we set-up a very basic presentation, but you can insert special family traditions or longer mantras if you wish.

We hope our Tutorial will help kids connect with the more spiritual elements of one of Hinduism's biggest holidays.

And here are the cards:

Another Hindi Update

I had made it my New Year's Resolution to be fluent in Hindi this year. January is coming up soon and I'm not there yet.

It's easy for me to feel discouraged and crushed by the weight of how much I have left to learn, but when I think about how far I've come, I've been doing pretty good!

I started learning Hindi a year and a half ago, in the summer.

I can now:

-read the script extremely well
-follow the basic context of cartoons
-understand most of the words in Bollywood songs (though not always how to put them together)
-say basic conversational things

Things I need work on:
-genders. I have a lot of trouble with putting the correct gender endings on things or knowing which word creates the gender of the sentence (i.e., which word to use to determine mera v.s. meri)
-complex sentences. I'm starting to see how these work, but am not able to generate them yet

Last night I was at my Hindi class and feeling frustrated with myself when I realized that even though I'm struggling with the oblique case and when to use it, just a couple of months ago I didn't understand what the oblique case was!

I have new motivation and a test for my skills possibly coming up. My parents are talking about maybe making another trip to India early next year. Last time they went, I had to work. This time, nothing is going to stop me from going!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Holiday: Diwali

The end of the holiday season is fast approaching! The size and scope of Diwali makes it a good comparison for Chistmas. It's that important.

It is also called "The Festival of Lights" and I've seen amazing pictures of places where it is celebrated where there are strings of lights everywhere and oil lamps burning. It's very beautiful. The word Diwali is actually Deepavali and it means "row or lamps" in Sanskrit, so that's why it is the festival of lights.

There are a lot of different stories and significances about this day. For me, I see the lights as a metaphor for our inner light, for discovering the bright Truth within. It is also supposed to be the day on which Sri Ram returned from his exile in the forest.

Wearing new clothes is part of the tradition, as well as giving gifts of sweets to everyone.

I have a new silk sari given to me by a woman on Ravelry that I will be wearing. I also need to get working on some Diwali candies! I want to bring some to work, to study group, to game group, everywhere I can I think of.

I got this recipe for chocolate burfi from my favorite Indian cooking website. What a great blend of India and America! Burfi is one of my favorite sweets.

I have a string of lights on my balcony and a rangoli pattern on my front door. I'm going to a party in Virginia on Saturday. I am ready for Diwali!

Monday, November 1, 2010


This is not very relevant, but I wanted to tell you all that I had a wonderful Halloween. I can't remember the last time I felt so happy and content.

I had a lovely lunch with some new friends, one of whom knows Hindi and the other is learning, so we can practice together.

Then I went to my study group and after that, they had a big party. Lots of kids in adorable costumes. We carved pumpkins (I didn't have one and someone gave me one of theirs to carve) and we ate lots of good food and the kids went trick or treating. I haven't carved a pumpkin since I was about thirteen years old and even then my Dad did most of the work!

The gathering was all Indian except for me, but I felt welcomed, accepted, and part of the crowd. Everyone else there was married and had children between the ages of 2 and 10. I had fun with the kids and talked with the adults; I ate Amma-ji's halwa and brought home a cute little pumpkin.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nice Try

We are heading into the time of year that puts me on a very short fuse.

To start with, Halloween is this weekend. It's a fun holiday for children to dress up and get candy, not connected to a religion anymore. Today there are fliers all over our building about how Halloween is celebrated around the world as a way to honor Satan. It is, they claim, the biggest holiday on Satan's calendar. There are some Biblical verses that supposedly supports this claim, even though Halloween didn't exist when the Bible was written.

Clearly the evangelical message is, fun is evil.

Other than that, people are trying to be sensitive and politically correct, but not quite making it.

For example, I went to my weight watchers meeting, where they are talking about how to prepare yourself for the eating holidays. I have not mentioned to them that my holidays are winding down and almost over. The leader said that we would discuss techniques for how to deal with the December holidays, whichever ones you celebrate.

Nice try, but I don't have any December Holidays. Again, mine are going to be over in November.

During the meeting one girl described starting exercising as "I was afraid Jesus was calling me home."

The rental office is holding a door decorating contest for winter holiday theme and I am cringing to think about what kinds of Christian decorations that is going to inspire.

And lastly, I tried to create a music station based on bouncy dance/club music and every other song it plays is a soft, Christmas special. No matter how many times I thumbs-down the Christmas songs, they keep playing more of them. It's giving me an angry twitch.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Karwa Chauth

Completely missed this one! It was yesterday.

In my defense, I am not married, so it is not very meaningful to me.

This is the married women's fast. For the day the wife does not eat (and in some cases does not drink either) for the entire day. In the evening she gets dressed up in fine clothes, sometimes her wedding clothes, and waits to see the moon. Once she sees the moon, either reflected in a pool of water, through a sieve, or through her shawl, then she can eat.

This fast is for the well fare of her husband, although I could have done it as part of preparing for and asking the Gods for a husband.

The day is, I am told, somewhat like the North Indian Valentine's Day. You can see it taking place in some Bollywood movies, for example it happens in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.

More information here:

This is yet another opportunity for me to be frustrated by the distance between myself and others who practice my religion. Granted, I let it slip and didn't notice what day it was. I found out because my Hindi teacher told me. She said, "I'm tired because today is Karwa Chauth."
"Oh I see," I said, "You must be feeling weak."
She continued as though she had not heard me, "You see, Hindu women fast on this day..." And she continued on giving me a long explanation of something that I already know while I smiled and nodded politely.

I've told her before that I'm a Hindu. It frustrates me that even when I say that, it is assumed that I don't know anything about it. I am educated and given explanations for things I already know all the time. I don't want to be obnoxious, though, so I don't say, "Yes, I know. I'm a Hindu, I do that too."

Naturally, when the Indian girl arrived in class she was told what day it was and not given the explanation, even though she is Christian and her family has been Christian for many generations. (Not that she didn't know what it was, of course she did, but I do also!) Argh.

The Meaning of Unity

I know I'm getting a bit of flak for my belief that all Gods are the same God.

(Again, to clarify just a bit, I do think that many world religions have lost sight of the true teachings of their own Gods and the religions as practiced today might not lead to the same truth. Most of the passages from the Bible used to justify conversion were said by Paul, not Jesus and I have no trust at all in Paul).

But anyway, I am an Advaitist and as such I believe the following with all my heart:

All Gods are the same God because there is only God. All of everything is the one God. All of everything is one. The trees are God, the pigs are God, the computers are God, the stars are God, the humans are God, the streets are God, the rocks are God, the Tupperware containers are God. It is all the same God. There is only One entity in all of creation.

Our minds are limited by our birth and our death and so we cannot easily see this bigger picture. From our smaller vantage point, we see division, but if we could step back and see all creation together we would know that there is no division. All is One.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Formula for Reaching God

The main discussion on Sunday was actually about ritual and religious observances. This is something I've spoken about a little bit before.

The book we are reading (Saddarsanam by Ramana Maharsi with commentary by swami Tejomayananda) had this to say about its tenth verse:

"The discrimination of the means and the goal is important for a spiritual seeker. If the means are mistaken for the end or vice versa, then there is trouble. For example, money is the means to purchase objects of pleasure. Happiness is the goal. When collecting money and objects becomes the goal of life, happiness is left far behind."

I like that he doesn't say that getting money or purchasing objects is bad, it's just that one has to be aware of what end goal one is hoping to achieve with one's actions. When we get the means confused with the ends, then we don't get to the end because we are stuck in the means.

"...various spiritual practices are prescribed in different religions by different masters and scriptures for different students as means to purify and concentrate the mind. For a student whose mind is already very well prepared, spiritual practices are superfluous...The desired end is achieved with sincere practice of any one or more of [rituals and practices like puja and japa and meditation]. Thereafter they are dropped, e.g., the car is given up on reaching the airport. The mind is ready for the flight within."

This makes a lot of sense to me. The ritual is there to guide us toward the goal of being at peace and being one with God. Once we are enlightened and merged and realize that we are the Self, we don't need them anymore. The danger, of course, is that we might think we are further along than we are and drop our spiritual practices because we think we have already surpassed them!

The end of the passage is what gave rise to the other conversation that night:
"The unthinking man feels that he is spiritual just because he does japa or visits the temple daily. The fanatic says 'My path alone leads to salvation' and 'My God alone saves.' He has not understood that the worship of the name and form of the Lord and following a particular path are only means to purify the mind and this can well be achieved by other ways. Sanatana each the freedom to adopt his own means suitable to his inclinations. The goal however is abidance in the Self...the seeker has become one with the sought."

We do these rituals and practices to purify our minds and hearts and allow deeper understanding to enter. It is easy to get caught up in the idea of rules, though, to feel like we'll get to the goal if we just follow all the rules. But enlightenment does not have a formula. You can't just follow certain steps and after you've performed japa exactly 85,000 times, then you are enlightened!

I like that this passage emphasizes trusting your own heart and following the rituals and practices that work for you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Other Stories of Identity

I am working on a post today also about the conversation at my study group on Sunday, but I also wanted to share a couple links.

The first is to the White Indian Housewife,whom I have referenced before and whom many of you know and read. She wrote a moving post recently about identity and very relevant to the subject of this blog:

This next one is a blog I just discovered, written by a white Australian woman who is about to marry a Sikh (I think they haven't married yet, I'm not totally clear on that). This post is about her spiritual identity, also quite relevant to my topics:

One God

I had another wonderful, rousing discussion at my study group last night. There were two different topics from it that I wanted to talk about, so I'll save the other for tomorrow.

The first is that toward the end of the evening the conversation descended into talk about conversion. In a group of Hindus talk of conversion is always about the efforts of Islam and Christianity to convert the Hindus away from Hinduism. Obviously, of course, a painful topic.

Being advaitists, the people at my study group believe as I do that really all religions are one, all of everything is one, and practicing any religion as it was intended, would lead to the same liberation.

However, the behavior of the people in certain religions does not always show that truth. Part of the passage that we read from Saddarsanam by Ramana Maharsi with commentary by Swami Tejomayananda says "The fanatic says 'My path alone leads to salvation,' and 'My God alone saves.' He has not understood that the worship of the name and form of the Lord and following a particular path are only means to purify the mind and this can well be achieved by other ways."

I spoke up at this point to show the other perspective. I said that there are times when conversion is appropriate because each individual needs to find the best way for him or herself to purify the mind.

I very rarely say to people that I am a convert. I am not comfortable with it, I feel as though it makes me less of a Hindu. And maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. Certainly, everyone there was very happy to have me call myself a Hindu (as far as I could tell, anyway) and they quickly modified talking about conversion in a negative way to say that it was fine for each individual to find a good path for himself, but not okay for him to force others to his path.

Agreement could not be reached on the idea of what is forced. Is it okay to tell people about your path if you think it might benefit them? Is it never okay to tell people about your path?

One man quoted someone whose name I can't remember, but it was quite brilliant. This man said that when approached about converting to Christianity, the wise man in question would say, "If there is only one God, and I am worshiping a God, then it must be the same God, because there is only one-- so what's the problem?"

I adore that. It's so true. It reminds me of a talk I heard once where the professor made the argument that ancient Judaism was not monotheistic. According to his reading of the Torah, the Jews believed in the existence of the heathen Gods, but that theirs was superior. In modern times, the Abrahamic religions believe that only one God exists. Well, so do we. So, if there is only one God, our God and their God must be the same one.

I guess that means it comes down to arguing over what is the best way to worship Him.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

You'll never guess...

...what I've been up to. Actually, you might. Because you know how crazy I am.

I've just returned from Virginia, where I attended a "Hindi Day" celebration and gave a speech. A speech in Hindi, a language I am not yet fluent in, in a room full of strangers.

It was really fun. I'm fond of public speaking, but doing it in a language I don't fully know was a first!

And it turns out that not everyone was a stranger. Another student giving a speech was a young man I met at my Hindi meetup group a while ago. It was on his recommendation that I signed up for classes at this school, but I had no idea he was going to be there. He and I hung out afterwards and visited the upstairs temple with his family. We arrived right in time for an aarti.

It was a beautiful temple and had a very spacious, open, and peaceful feel to it. However, I probably won't be going back, since it is a little over an hour's drive from my apartment when there is no traffic at all.

It was worth it for this, though. I didn't understand all the speeches, but I caught the gist of most of them and I ate wonderful food and I took prasad.

It has been a beautiful evening and now I am heading to bed!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Inspirational Reading

Okay, getting back on track...

One of the commenters a few posts back mentioned being an Osho follower and that was something I have never heard before. So I looked it up.

Osho was an international guru, having a large effect on the "new age" movement in the West. According to Wikipedia: "His syncretic teachings emphasise the importance of meditation, awareness, love, celebration, creativity and humour – qualities that he viewed as being suppressed by adherence to static belief systems, religious tradition and socialisation."

That sounds pretty delightful. Awareness, love, celebration, meditation, humor, and creativity are all great things. I will have to look up some writings from him. If he is as uplifting as Wikipedia makes him sound, I might add his books to my collection.

There are some negative things said about him, but we are all human, even the really great men and women and I would rather see if his writing speaks to me than judge based on anything else.

Though I follow a particular path, I do believe in looking for Truth and Meaning in everything around me. I gather books and articles and other readings that inspire me, that have insight, regardless of what tradition they come from.

Often when I am feeling down or frustrated or hopeless, I can just flip to a page of one of these books and feel filled with the light and joy or the masters. Easwaran is a favorite on that bookshelf. I've had Ekhart Tolle recommended, so I'm going to give him a try. Sri Ramana Maharshi is another.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Off Topic: Beauty

I just read a fascinating article in Psychology Today and it is not related to the topic of this blog, but it got me thinking about some things in my life. It is about why beauty is important. The article is a bit intense and I found it kind of shocking, but also made some interesting points.

The Truth About Beauty by Amy Alkon is the name of the article and here are a few key parts:

"There are certain realities of existence that most of us accept. If you want to catch a bear, you don't load the trap with a copy of Catch-22...Yet, if you're a woman who wants to land a man, there's this notion that you should be able to go around looking like Ernest Borgnine: If you're 'beautiful on the inside,' that's all that should count...

...It just doesn't seem fair to us that some people come into life with certain advantages--whether it's a movie star chin or a multimillion-dollar shipbuilding inheritance..."

Men are drawn to beautiful women, no surprise there, and women are drawn to men with resources and status, which also makes evolutionary sense.

The article later continues...
"Just like women who aren't very attractive, men who make very little money or are chronically out of work tend to have a really hard time finding partners. There is some male grumbling about this. Yet, while feminist journalists deforest North America publishing articles urging women to bow out of the beauty arms race and 'Learn to love that woman in the mirror!', nobody gets into the ridiculous position of advertising men to 'Learn to love that unemployed guy sprawled on the couch!'"

Interesting point. Is there a difference? I'm not sure. Giving the message that women don't need to take care of their appearance at all seems like a bad idea, yet we have to find the balance of not killing ourselves trying to reach a standard that's impossible or feeling terrible about ourselves when we are not the most beautiful girl in the room.

The next part of the article gets a little bit into the idea that women who take care of their appearance are not smart:

"Take The Beauty Myth author Naomi Wolf: She contends that standards of beauty are a plot to keep women politically, economically, and sexually subjugated to men--apparently by keeping them too busy curling their eyelashes to have time for political action and too weak from dieting to stand up for what they want in bed. Wolf and her feminist sob sisters bleat about the horror of women being pushed to conform to 'Western standards of beauty'--as if eyebrow plucking and getting highlights are the real hardships compared to the walk in the park of footbinding and clitoridectomy. Most insultingly, Wolf paints women who look after their looks as the dim, passive dupes of Madison Avenue and the magazine editors. Apparently, women need only open a page of Vogue and they're under its spell..."

It's true that I hate when people think that just because I enjoy reading Vogue, that is makes me a slave to the beauty industry.

"...We consider it admirable when people strive to better themselves intellectually; we don't say, 'Hey, you weren't born a genius, so why ever bother reading a book?' Why should we treat physical appearance any differently?"

"...Unfortunately, because Americans are so conflicted and dishonest about the power of beauty, we approach it like novices. At one end of the spectrum are the 'Love me as I am!' types, like the woman who asked me why she was having such a terrible time meeting men...while dressed in a way that advertised not 'I want a boyfriend' but 'I'm just the girl to clean out your sewer line!' At the other extreme are women who go around resembling porn-ready painted dolls."

The article also talks about studies showing that there are universal standards of beauty around the world. Some things are different, but some are the same. Ideal weight seems to be directly related to availability of food, so in places where food is plentiful men prefer thin women and in places where food is scarce, men prefer large women. However, they all like to see a woman's waist, regardless of her size.

There are also some articles in this issue about the differences on the other side, how male beauty is very different and not the trait to cultivate when looking for a woman.

I'm curious to see what the backlash to this article will be.
To speak on this issue from my own personal life:

I have been caught in a beauty trap all my life. I grew up in an area with a lot of hippies who emphasized that inner beauty was the most important thing. Hearing that so much, I felt confused when I was expected to put an effort into looking beautiful. On the one hand, my mother has never worn makeup and told me that I was being vain when I was staring at myself in the mirror at eight years old; on the other hand, she took me to get electrolysis treatments for hair removal when I was twelve (in case you don't know, electrolysis is a very painful treatment involving shooting electric currents into the skin. I had it done on the most sensitive parts of my face for years).

My female cousins in the South are brilliant at clothes and makeup and hair. They know how to use a flat iron and how to apply the most tasteful eye color (neither of which I know how to do). The culture in the Northeast seemed to suggest that women who care about their appearance are shallow and dim-witted and just plain stupid. I discovered just how untrue that is when my beautiful cousin went into engineering in college! Just as the movie Legally Blonde charmingly illustrates, a woman can be both smart and beautiful, can care equally for school and for fashion.

I was interested in makeup as a teenager, but I was the only one of my friends in high school experimenting with it and if I wore it to school I got teased by my own friends, or given looks that suggested they thought I was from another planet.

Every time I start feeling good about how I look, I bash myself back down again with negativity in my mind. I feel guilty for caring, feel shallow for loving clothes, feel vain for loving my hair.

I'm the kind of person who always wants to make everyone else feel good and be happy. I'm afraid to go for my true beauty potential in case I make other women feel inadequate. Which is odd, because I really do believe that 99% of women are gorgeous. And imperfections are so easy to hide, there are thousands of little tricks out there so that we can all look and feel like the models in the magazines. I have yet to see an ugly woman. They all have at least one feature that is achingly beautiful.

The other thing this article briefly brought up is that we trick ourselves into thinking that the quest for beauty is a Western thing, when of course it is a human thing. Every culture has a standard of beauty, and there are actually some universals, like an hourglass figure, which is said to be a visual cue of fertility to men. As the last post showed, while in America we strive for tanned skin to give a "healthy glow", in many parts of the world extreme measures are taken to look paler. I think there does need to be a certain amount of loving what we have. We need to see that there is beauty in a wide variety of natural human appearances.

You can probably tell from this blog that I have a hard time doing things without evidence and support from others. That's something else I am still working on understanding and exploring. It isnt' enough for me to believe something, I seem to need support from others.

It's hard for me to make the decision to enjoy my quest for beauty without backup from a magazine article that has studies in it. I want to show it to people who tell me that I shouldn't pay attention to my own appearance or to the appearances of the people I date and say, "See? Appearances do matter. And they should. It doesn't make the world a bad place that appearances matter."

I do have a suspicion that, despite where I started out, I could be quite beautiful with a little effort. I have some cousins who have the same coloring as I do and are very beautiful. I think it wouldn't be too hard to look like them. I am also encouraged by the website Before You Were Hot, which shows people's ugliest awkward teenage years picture along with how lovely they look now. It makes me smile to know that I'm not the only one trying to go from sweatpants and a uni-brow to head-turningly beautiful!

Okay, sorry for the aside! The talk about skin color and beauty from the last post got me going in this direction and this blog is mostly a self-analysis, so I found it very useful to explore and think about these things in writing.

What do you all think about beauty?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Can't tell by looking

Radha found this article about "looking Indian." This really proves that you can't go by appearances to figure out who is Indian and who is not.

The article is about a pale, blonde girl competing in a Miss India competition in New Zealand. Though she doesn't look it, she is half Indian. Some people were shocked and upset that she was accepted into the competition and that she made it as far as she did (second runner up).

I could see having a concern that there is already a struggle to help young Indian women to know that darker skin and dark hair is beautiful. Beauty does not have to match up a European standard.

But that is a general idea to try to spread around in culture, not something to use against one young woman whose heritage is Indian even if she doesn't look it.

Holiday plans

Being connected to a variety of Indian communities has served me really well this year.

My study group people are having a Navratri puja at their home tonight that I've been inviting to. I've picked out a sari to wear!

I am also signed up for a few Indian meet up groups on Usually their events are too far away (often in Virginia, which is just a tad far for me), or they are doing bar hoping or some other "young person" thing that I've never been that interested in. However, on Saturday some people are getting together to find places doing Garba and other celebrations and I'll be joining in for that.

I'll have to do my relaxing time after holiday season is over! :D

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Busy, busy

My schedule is packed, as usual. I need to learn how to not try to do everything all the time. I'm lucky I only work part time.

Here's what I do every week:
Monday, work, long walk with dog and friends, paralegal class
Tuesday, therapy session, work,long walk with dog and friends, Hindi class
Wednesday, work, long walk with dog and friends, game group with friends
Thursday, work,long walk with dog and friends, paralegal class
Friday, weight watcher's meeting, work,long walk with dog and friends
Saturday, temple, dance class
Sunday, study group (and once a month, writer's group)

There's some obligation on every single day. And I used to go to a knitting group, but I can't fit it in anymore. They meet Sat morning, Tue morning, and Wed evening, and all those times I have other things happening.

The paralegal classes are on a campus that is not close to me and takes at least an hour to drive to and from.

The Hindi class is in Washington D.C. and takes me close to two hours to get to.

I am enjoying the Hindi class. I signed up so that I would be forced to speak and to get some of the finer points of grammar. It's intense because there are only two of us in the class, so there's a lot of attention on both of us and we have to translate sentences on the spot. It's good for me, but I'm not going to take it next semester. It's too far and I really can't afford it.

I have too many hobbies! I'm trying to fit in language learning, writing novels, and knitting (as well as several computer games!)

So, sometimes I go days or even weeks without posting and this is why! Rest assured, when I have something that I think is interesting to share, you will know right away.

In one year I should be done with my paralegal classes and after Thanksgiving I'll be finished with the Hindi class. That will free up some of my time and energy :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

For the kids...

You know how when you're a kid, your parents have certain rules like no television during dinner or no more than two cookies for dessert or ice cream is not a breakfast food? Then you grow up, move out on your own and eat dinner sitting on the floor in front of the television, eat three cookies, and eat ice cream for breakfast...or is that just me?

We enjoy doing things our own way, but what puts a stop to it is when we have children of our own. Suddenly the cycle starts over again and you find yourself telling them that they can't have three cookies.

When it's just us, we make our own choices, bad or good, but when there are little kids who we are responsible for, we want to teach them to make good choices. Even though they are highly likely to grow up and disregard it all until they have their own children.

Sometimes I feel like I do the same thing with spirituality.

I don't sit down for a puja every morning. I don't meditate every day. But I figure that when (if) I have children, I will do these things every day just to set a good example to them.

But then they'll just grow up and continue the cycle, only doing spiritual things when it's for show, to demonstrate to their own children.

Why don't I do these things regularly for my own sake? For my own soul? When will the cycle end, whose soul will actually benefit? It will be the one person in this chain who performs her spiritual tasks for her own sake, not to show it to others.

I want to do things because they will help and benefit my soul, not as practice and to get in the habit for when I have children who are looking to me to see how they should live.

I wonder if this is why spiritual differences between spouses becomes much more pronounced after they have children? People in general seem to become much, much more spiritual once they have children. I guess it's not just me.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Navratri time is known for lots of dancing, particularly the Gujrati folk dance, Garba. I posted an example video of that a few weeks ago.'s blog has a post about it and an instructional video so we can all learn a little Garba (and it is a lot of fun!)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Disappointed in Glee

I'm feeling conflicted about this past week's Glee episode.

Glee is a new television show just starting its second season. The writing is not the greatest, but it's not bad. The characters are over the top and ridiculous, but it's fun in a cartoon way and the music is wonderful. I enjoy it a lot.

The show is about a high school glee club (a group that sings and performs) and a cast of characters from around the school. In this episode, one of the boys gets religious when he sees a face that looks like Jesus on his grilled cheese sandwich.

All the characters are allowed to express their beliefs, but when one child says that he doesn't believe in God it is met with horror. He has every right to his beliefs and his friends ought to respect that. Instead they pray for him behind his back and in the end he apologizes for being upset when they were only trying to help. "You're right," he says, "I shouldn't be pushing my friends away." But what about them pushing him away? His friends are being much, much pushier. "Why are you closing yourself off to a whole world of experiences that might surprise you?" one friend asks. Well, by that same token, would she be willing to experience atheism? She is closing herself off to that possibility in exactly the same way.

I think if you are a friend then you give someone help in the way that they ask for it.

The lack of diversity on Glee upsets me. There is one Jewish kid (and one sort-of Jewish one) and she doesn't seem at all bothered that her boyfriend is the one who found Jesus in a sandwich. Everyone else is Christian. Including the Indian principle of the school. I know it takes place in middle America, but they had an opportunity in this episode to bring in different ways of understanding God and they failed. There is a Sikh acupuncturist, but she gives no mention of what Sikhism is.

The two atheist characters were the evil cheerleading coach (who is an atheist because God did not cure her sister's Downs Syndrome) and the boy who is gay and feels rejected by the church. The message they give is that it isn't okay to believe whatever you believe. It's the default to be religious and if you're an atheist you have to have a reason, some terrible trauma to make you hate God and then you'll eventually get over it. That is not at all true in real life.

I wish Glee had been more sensitive. I guess they gave it a good try. It's a very hard subject. I miss Joan of Arcadia. Now that TV show did a fantastic job exploring ideas about faith and God.

Sneak praying is the worst. There are people in my life who pray for me to find God. Even though I already have. Even though I'm very happy with my God, they pray for me to find their God. Mine is not good enough. That irritates me.

I believe very strongly that every individual person has the right to define how they understand divinity and the way the world works. I have chosen Hinduism and no one can take that away from me. If someone chooses atheism, it is his right to do so.

To me, atheism is not a disrespect to God because God isn't a separate being somewhere out in the universe, keeping tabs on who is being nice to Him. To me, atheists just have a unique way of expressing a belief that they in themselves are enough. And they are, because actually they are God. (And they may very well find that as obnoxious as I find people praying for me to become a Christian, but that's my perspective).

Regardless of whether I understand someone's take on spirituality, their right to believe it must be defended. As I've said before, as soon as any one of us is able to take someone else's religion (including atheism) away, then someone can take ours from us. It is never okay.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Keys to India and TM

Ela left a blog suggestion on my last post and I've been reading though the posts and enjoying them very much.

This is the blog of a white woman who lives in India and has for quite a long time. This post in particular was interesting to me because she talks about her experiences with Transcendental Meditation (TM)

This is the same type of meditation and the same teacher who started the organization I grew up in down its path!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


The passage that we were reading in study group had a lot to do with identification with the body, identification with the mind, and identification with universal consciousness.

The teaching goes that in reality who we are is the universal consciousness, God. We mistakenly identify with out limited bodies and minds and therefore, see ourselves as limited and mortal and incomplete. If we are able to recognize who we really are, then we will see that we are unlimited, immortal, and all of everything. That realization is what the term "self realized" refers to.

I realized that I shift between my identifications at different times. On an intellectual level, I understand the idea that I am the universal consciousness. When I rest in that awareness, there is no fear, no pain, and no longing. I have everything, I am everything.

At those times the whole world is like a big play going on around me and I can enjoy the drama for what it is, be entertained by it, but not bothered by it.

At other times I am strongly identified with my body. Those are the times when I feel desperate for a husband and children. Those are the times I feel depressed and lonely and worthless and unloved. And this is no big surprise. After all, it is a biological drive to want children. There is nothing more body-identified than that!

But that is all part of the game in this life. Whether I get it or not, doesn't actually amount to any importance. Perhaps that is not my part to play. As a game we used to play in Middle School would say, In two hundred years it won't make any difference whether I got married or had children.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A question for all

Another delightful study group is finished.

Afterward, Amma-ji spoke to me and she asked me a very important question. She said I should ponder this question and come back next week with an answer.

She said, children are always asking the why of things and when you teach religious classes to children you have to learn to have answers.

Why do we need religion?

That is the question. In stark contrast to my post about cherry-picking, in which I said it was fine for people who wanted to do that. However, religion is very important to me, the most important thing.

Why is that? Why do we need it at all? Is it not enough to be a good person?

I would like all of us to ponder this and start a discussion on this subject.

Friday, October 1, 2010

About Me

So, I realized that all you guys hear about me is the parts related to religion and I thought it might be nice to get a more rounded picture of me and what I'm like.

I am 28 years old. I live on my own in the North Eastern part of the U.S. I have a brother who is four and half years younger than I and he is my only sibling. Our mother comes from the Northern part of the country and our father from the South. We have many, many cousins and are a close-knit family.

I am the "creative one" in my immediate family. My father is a molecular biologist, my mother studied geography in school, and my brother just got a degree in information systems (something to do with computers and business). I got a B.A. and an M.A. in Fiction Writing!

My favorite job was when I was working as a proofreader. I love grammar and correcting grammar all day is a dream come true. Right now I'm working as a secretary and I've gone back to school to get a certificate to be a paralegal.

I've lived in five states in America, very spread out. They are: Massachusetts, New York, California, Arkansas, and Maryland.

I've visited Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and England (three times in England).

My brother has always considered me to be a most boring person. I'm a home body. I don't like to stay up late or go to bars or parties. I'm an introvert, so I find social situations overwhelming and scary. Plus, I hate the taste of alcohol, I hate loud noise, and I hate crowds. The usual twenty-something social scene is not for me!

I don't read social cues very well, but in college I stopped worrying about it. Now I just say what comes to mind and try to small talk with people without thinking too much about whether they dislike me or I'm making them uncomfortable. I trust that people will tell me.

I have a lot of hobbies that I am very passionate about. I do a lot of knitting and crocheting. I take on knitting with a fierce energy that goes against its reputation as something to relax with. I like to create things, whether its socks, a sweater, a blanket, a book, or a cake.
I made this shirt, can you believe this is only two years ago? I look so young!

I love extra long hair. I find it the most beautiful thing in the world and I always stare at women with hair to their knees or longer. I have always wanted to have such hair, ever since I saw Crystal Gayle on tv when I was a small child and her hair pooled on the floor around her. I have never managed my goal because of problems with guilt. Most of my young life I was hemmed in by tremendous feelings of guilt over everything. Especially guilt about having nice things. I didn't feel like I deserved to have beautiful hair and that it was vain and prideful of me to grow it, so if it ever got to around waist, I would cut it. I'm finished with that. Now I am going to grow the hair I have always wanted. I'll keep growing until it decides to stop, whatever length that might be. I get support for my crazy from, where I am also learning fun, fancy updos for hair.

I have a tremendous weakness for gossip magazines at the grocery store. I love the pictures and the wild stories, it's like a real-life soap opera.

I love to play games, both board games and computer games. My recent boyfriend introduced me to World of Warcraft and I really enjoy that one! Previous to that I mostly just played The Sims and I was nervous to try a game that involved a lot of fighting. Then I discovered that I liked fighting things in the game. :)

I love small, cute things and particularly small dogs. When I finally got my own dog three years ago, I got a toy terrier. She is full grown and weighs 13 pounds. She has traveled across the country with me and been my constant companion. She's got a huge personality and she still gets me up at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning to use the bathroom. I treat her like my child (a common occurrence in America) and I pour all my love into her.

I was mentioning in the comments that I have bad taste in movies. I am not at all interested in special effects in movies. I like movies that most people consider painfully boring. If it has philosophical questions about the meaning of life, I'm sure to like it. Then again, I find philosophical questions about the meaning of life in almost everything.

Back in school I took Spanish classes for a couple of years, but I dropped them because I was too nervous to be put on the spot to speak. In high school I took Latin because I wouldn't have to speak it. I was terrible at both Spanish and Latin. My translations were...creative.

That's an area of my life where I've made a lot of growth. I'm not in a Hindi class and I speak and answer questions every time (there are only two students in the class). I've stopped having a problem with making a fool of myself.

I really believe in self-improvement. I am always striving to make myself a better person, to cleanse and guide my soul.

So there you are, some other things about me.

And in case you want something more relevant, here are some recent posts on a Hindi Blog about the history of the official languages of India (Bonus, this is a new writer for this blog and he is great, he actually puts the post in both English and Hindi side by side).

Thursday, September 30, 2010

People will find their way

What did I tell you? It's a controversial subject!

Here are some of my further thoughts after reading some of the comments:

One of the great beauties of Hinduism is that there is no rush.

What if Hinduism really is the best or only path to God? Maybe it is. (It certainly is the best path for me personally). I do not have to go around desperately convincing people of that. I don't have to rush to make sure that people know about this because the clock is ticking down and human life is short and it could be too late for billions of people.

If we want the freedom to choose our religion and our path, then we have to grant that freedom to others.

You only know what is best for you. You cannot go into your brother's head and know what it is like to live his life. Our choices about our religion are for us alone and I am so grateful for that. I would not want to live in a place where it is illegal to not be Christian or Muslim or what have you.

I know that Hinduism, as a whole, with its complete package, is my path.

Even as wonderful as it is, with its rich philosophy, beautiful mythology, and ancient traditions, it may not be the best path for every human being.

I cannot know what the best path is for anyone except myself.

But again, there is no rush. Because if Hinduism is the right or only path, eventually everyone will find it. There is all the time in eternity for that to happen. People are born again and again, so don't stress about it.

Tandava commented on the last post that people might choose unhealthy things for themselves if left to their own devices. I say, let them. Let them learn what is best for them by trial and error. How else could we do it? Could we tell people that Hinduism is healthy and so they have to be Hindus "It's what's best for you, dear"? Should we legislate religion and tell people what they have to be because they would pick poorly?

Hec no. If we tried that, as a minority in Britain and America, it would go the opposite way. The others would legislate that we had to be Christian, as the majority in those countries believe that to be healthiest.

People who follow religions because they've been told to are not very enthusiastic. To carry on Tandava's food analogy, I went through years of not eating vegetables and eating sugar whenever I could get my hands on it because sweets were so heavily restricted in my childhood. I resented that I wasn't allowed to have them and I over did it when I was out on my own and could make my own choices.

Then my body started feeling lethargic and not quite right. I began to actually crave fresh vegetables. It was an unexpected feeling. Now I eat healthy most of the time and I love it. It feels good, it makes my body feel good.

But I did it because it felt right, not because someone told me that I had to. I never would have done it if someone was telling me I had to.

Have trust in people.

Many go years living a hedonistic life, but find it dissatisfying and look for and find meaning in religion. But many of them had to go through that pleasure-seeking time. Otherwise, how would they know? If all you do is deprive yourself and you never try out things that seem fun, you run the risk of being more bitter and resentful than joyous.

And the point of religion is joy.

People will find their way to what works for them eventually. They will try many, many things. If Hinduism is what works for everyone, then they will find their way to Hinduism. If Christianity is what works for everyone, we will one day all be Christians and be glad of it (I know, hard to imagine!)

So, don't stress.

You trust yourself to find your way and other people are no different from you, they are just as capable of finding their way.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


This can be a very hot topic in religious circles and people have very strong opinions. Known also as "cafeteria-style religion," this post is about picking and choosing the parts of religions that you like and leaving the rest.

Sometimes people will choose ceremonies, rituals, and practices from many different world religions and blend them together into their own thing. Sometimes people will consider themselves a particular religion, like Christian, but only practice the parts of the religion that they agree with and ignore other aspects that are part of the Church (or other religious entities). These approaches are both considered cherry-picking.

When I was a kid and a teenager I was extremely rules-driven and everything was black and white to me. I think that's true for a lot of kids, it takes maturity to develop the sense of gray area and that sometimes people do the best they can and it isn't ideal. I was taught that religion is about hard work, discipline, sacrifice, and not always getting what you want. Rigorous discipline was valued over every other quality.

So, at that time in my life, the idea of cafeteria-style religion was abhorrent to me. You can't just take the parts you like, I thought. If we did the easy way and just did the parts of religion that were enjoyable, we would not get far on the difficult path to enlightenment. Maybe we don't know the reasons for things, but we have to do them anyway, because that's the path. Who am I to decide what is right in a religion and what is misguided?

But, later in my life I began to think that I am the authority on what religion does for me. Why continue to punish myself and hang on to harsh disciplines if I was not finding any benefit from it in my life?

And then, strangest of all, my home organization relaxed its rules. Ankle-length skirts no longer required, eating Breakfast allowed, cooked food at meals allowed, a more relaxed pace, sometimes waking up as late as 5:30, even. These changes were really hard for me to swallow. What about the hard work, discipline, and personal sacrifice that I had been told were the most important things in life? The people in authority in my life were changing their minds.

I began to realize that they are human too. They don't really know more than I do about God and truth and the right path. We are all just feeling our way through this life and using whatever tests we have available to find what's right for us. Tests like Am I more serene? Do I feel more joyful doing this?

In Elizabeth Gilbert's new book Commitment, about the history of marriage, she has a passage very relevant to the change in my mindset and clearly illustrating why I have such a confusion in my spirit about things:

"It has long been understood by philosophers that the entire bedrock of Western culture is based on two rival worldviews--the Greek and the Hebrew-- and whichever side you embrace more strongly determines to a large extent how you see life.

From the Greeks--specifically from the glory days of ancient Athens--we have inherited our ideas about secular humanism and the sanctity of the individual. The Greeks gave us all our notions about democracy and equality and personal liberty and scientific reason and intellectual freedom and open-mindedness and what we might call today "multiculturalism."...

On the other hand, there is the Hebrew way of seeing the world. When I say "Hebrew" here, I'm not specifically referring to the tenets of Judaism. (In fact, most of the contemporary American Jews I know are very Greek in their thinking, while it's the American fundamentalist Christians these days who are profoundly Hebrew.) "Hebrew," in the sense that philosophers use it here, is shorthand for an ancient worldview that is all abut tribalism, faith, obedience, and respect...Hebrew thinkers see the world as a clear play between good and evil, with God always firmly on "our" side. Human actions are either right or wrong. There is no gray area. The collective is more imporant than the individual, morality is more important than happiness...

The problem is that modern Western culture has somehow inherited both these ancient worldviews--though we have never entirely reconciled them because they aren't reconcilable."

Even though here she is talking about ideas of marriage vows, this passage really caught my attention because this is the very struggle I have been going through. There are parts of my personality that are Greek and parts that are Hebrew and I'm struggling to figure out which one will dominate my thinking. Actually, as a child and teenager I was almost entirely Hebrew and now I am almost entirely Greek, but I still feel pangs of guilt and nostalgia for the Hebrew way of thinking.

What Elizabeth Gilbert has to say on the actual subject of cherry-picking religion is as follows:

"My friend was a Catholic by upbringing, but couldn't stomach returning to the church as an adult. ("I can't buy it anymore," he said, "knwoing what I know.") Of course he'd be embarassed to become a Hindu or a Buddhist or something wacky like that. So what could he do? As he told me, "You don't want to go cherry-picking a religion." Which is a sentiment I completely respect except for the fact that I totally disagree.

I think you have every right to cherry-pick when it comes to moving your spirit and finding peace in God. I think you are free to search for any metaphor whatsoever which will take you across the worldly divide whenever you need to be transported or comforted. It's nothing to be embarrased about. It's the hisotry of mankind's search for holiness...

Even in the most unlikely...of places, you can find sometimes this glimeering idea that God might be bigger than our limited religious doctrines have taught us... Doesn't that make sense? That the infinite would be, indeed infinite? That even the most holy amonst us would only be able to see scattered pieces of the eternal picture at any given time? And that maybe if we could collect those pieces and compare them, a story about God would begin to emerge that resembles and includes everyone?...

Don't we each have the right to not stop seeking until we get as close to the source of wonder as possible?"
Eat Pray Love, page 207.

I really like this woman! My thoughts on cherry-picking religion have changed immensely in the last couple of years. It now seems like a very reasonable thing to do. We have to find what works for us and only we ourselves can know that. No one else is privy to our inner heart.