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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stories and Bindi Update

Here is my favorite story:

There was a man who wanted to become enlightened/one with God. He meditated under a pine tree (just picking a type of tree with a lot of needles here, it wasn't actually a pine tree in the story) with great devotion. After years of meditation, God took pity on him and sent a messenger to answer a question for him. The messenger of God came and asked the man what question he would like answered. The man said, "How long until I am enlightened?"

The messenger relayed the question to God, who answered, "Do you see the number of needles on this tree? It is that many lifetimes you will go through before you are enlightened."

The man got up and danced with joy. The messenger looked at him, astonished, and asked, "Why are you celebrating when God has told you it is so many lifetimes away from you?"

The man said, "Because the number is finite."

And at that moment he became enlightened.

In Hinduism, the goal of life is to become one with God. Really, we already are, but we just have to discover it. This is called Samadhi. Unlike Buddhism, in which the end is nothingness, in Hinduism the end is everythingness. Every lifetime we live is in pursuit of this unity. Sometimes in our ignorance, we try to find unity in other things, not knowing the way back to our true selves. When I was sixteen I was in a sort-of confirmation ceremony to reaffirm vows that, according to tradition, I made in the womb. That we all made in the womb. One of those vows is to find our way back to God. Another is to obey the natural laws of the universe.

Another story along the same line is that of the lion who thought he was a sheep. Disney actually made a cartoon of this story years ago and I had it on video when I was a kid.

There was a lion cub who was lost by his pack and ended up growing up in a pack of sheep. In the Disney movie his name is Lambert. Because he had never seen another lion, he believed he was a sheep. He behaved like one and sounded like one. He had never roared. The sheep were his family and he did not know he was different.

One day another lion saw the pack of sheep and attacked. At first Lambert cowered with the other sheep, but his desire to protect his family woke something up in him. For the first time in his life, he roared, and became the lion he really had always been. He scared the other lion away.
The "lesson" of this story is that we are all lions who think we are sheep.
The next story is one that I was told when I was being taught to be a "perfect" wife. I'm not at all sure I agree anymore with its message!

There was a wise man who was deeply devoted to his work. He studied and he wrote night and day. So that his writing would not be interrupted, his wife brought him food silently and also kept his oil lamp burning.

One day she was late and the light went out. The man was roused from his study and looked around him with surprise. The wife came in and apologized for the lamp going out and the man said to her, "Who are you?"

She told him that she was his wife. He was so grateful for her devoted service that he dedicated his book to her.

Oh, here's another great one. Another of my favorites.

There was a man who tended a temple in south India. He dreamed that the statue of the God was asking him to bring it water from the mouth of the Ganges.

So the man took an arduous journey, walking all the way from south India to the mouth of the Ganges in the far north. When he finally got there, he scooped the water into a pail and started the walk back.

On the way, laying on the side of the road, he came upon a donkey who was almost passed out from thirst. The animal was dying.

Instantly the man used the pail of water to revive the donkey.

When he got back to the temple, his fellow caretakers could not believe that he would waste the sacred water on a donkey. They asked what happened.

He said, "God was kind enough to meet me halfway."
In Hindu philosophy, particularly my branch, all things are God. There is no duality. Just as all the variety of things in the universe are made up of the same basic molecules, so everything is different forms of one God. This is the reason why the doctrine of Ahimsa (non-harmfulness or non-violence) is so important. This is why most Hindus are vegetarian.

One more story illustrating this point:

Once there was a man who took a picnic lunch out to a field. A wild dog ran by and grabbed his bread. The man got up and ran after the dog, shouting, "My lord, my lord, you forgot the butter!"

I'll post more stories as I remember them.

I have been wearing my bindi every day this week.

I had a very hard time finding someplace that sold plain, every day bindis. Finally I found and they had a variety of colors and sizes, as well as fancy bindi.

At first I bought several packs of red (before I decided to go with black) and I bought the smallest size they had. I was not prepared for just how small that is. I think it looks more like a bug landed on my face than a bindi!

However, the very small size, has made me more comfortable wearing it, feeling that it is subtle. I have worn this size to work.

From the same website I ordered my black ones in a slightly larger size.

I have worn it to school, the bank, the library, the post office. I've only had a comment by one co-worker who liked it. He said, "Is this bindi thing an every day thing?" I said, "Yeah, I'm trying it out, just getting started." He told me that he had lots of fancy ones that he stuck on his face for parties.

I realized also that most people are probably noticing more the dent on my face than my bindi! In the pictures it looks like a dimple on my left cheek, but in person you can see more a dent and a bump. It's a cyst that left a noticeable scar. I forget that it's there and sometimes people ask about it and I'm always surprised to remember it's there.

Today at the library, I was wearing a full salwar suit and my smaller bindi. Wouldn't you know, the girl who checked me out was Indian. She was also wearing a salwar suit. She said, "I notice you're wearing Indian clothes."

I said, "Yes. As are you. Very lovely."

That was it. I have no succinct explanation to offer to curious people. I'm not sure what I should say when Indian people actually ask me outright about what I'm wearing. She didn't phrase as a question, so I gave no explanation at all.

Also, I discovered to my delight that the library (this was my first time there), has Hindi books!


  1. My best friend and I *love* the Lambert cartoon.. its actually (or it was at one point..) on YouTube. I loved the stories you shared.. especially the one about the dog & the butter.
    I like the second size of bindi much better than the first (though I think you could go the next size up as well..) and I like the black on you. Because I'm so fair I usually wear the maroon bindis - I just hate that they are usually gold accented which clashes with my silver jewelry.

  2. Really try the website. I don't know if you'd find ones with silver accents (since gold is so popular), but they do have plain ones.