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Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I had my first therapy appointment today. It was really excellent and I have real hope that this woman will be able to help me get back to myself. There's a lot of different things going on that are making it difficult for me to see clearly. We talked about a few different things today, one of which was my spiritual background.

The therapist said that in all aspects of my life that I talk about I seem ambivilent. That word describes me all over, not in a bad way, just an observation of how I see life. And it's true. I have that Indian fatalism.

I don't tend to strive for much because the world is an illusion, but then I am left feeling blah and without purpose.

Right now I am feeling that I need to more deeply explore my beliefs and be willing for them to flex and change according to what I myself see about life. I am afraid to question things and afraid to criticize what I have been taught to believe.

And yet I really do believe that it is valuable to question what you are told. I wouldn't take anyone as an authority unless it rang true in my heart (Except for the people who have been given to me as authority from the time I was a child. I never question Shankara, but I should. Questioning doesn't mean disagreeing with, after all.) I think faith that is questioned and stands up to the pondering is much stronger. One should ask questions, one should try to understand. Questioning is not being disrespectful to God.

Some part of me feels like it is. In part I don't want to do this questioning in public, in front of others, in case it gives an opening to people who would blame my religion. There are people who would say that my current aimlessness is the fault of me not "having Jesus in my heart." I don't think it is the fault of my religion, but something in me. But then why am I even afraid to explore in private? Who do I think is going to be displeased? Would examining my beliefs make me disloyal to my parents, to the people who taught me all I know about spirituality?

Maybe it isn't God I fear displeasing at all. One of the great things about the Smartha branch is that it encourages that you rely on your own experience. You have an inner guide, the Atman, God, and so you have all the knowledge and everything that you need already. Finding that inner voice is just part of the journey. I'm not sure I can hear much of an inner voice yet. I think I have a lot of an outer voice telling me what my inner voice should be saying.

This is not me questioning my religion. I am dedicated to my religion, but I do think it is valuable to examine the rote answers I have been given and try to understand them for myself. In order to do that I have to leave open the possibility of things I have been taught being proved wrong in my own experience. I am really, startingly afraid to do that. I guess I'm afraid I will lose my mooring.

I believe so strongly and so fiercely in the existence of an immortal soul. That belief is valueless if I never question it and never probe it. I don't honestly think that I will discover it to not be true or to discover a belief within me that it isn't true. So why am I afraid to ask it? What do I not want to see?

We must, we really must, look from the corners of our eyes, to what is lurking behind our conscious awareness. Pull those fears and deep-seated beliefs into the light and see exactly what they really are.

How much more relaxed and sure I will be once I have done that! As the therapist pointed out, I am not happy right now. My religion teaches that I should be happy. I think there is a little, niggling fear in me that it won't hold up to scrutiny. But what good is a religion that doesn't hold up to scrutiny? We're looking for something to give meaning to our lives, to help us understand why we are here and what our life is for. We should be ruthless in looking for the answers to those questions.

I think the truth will turn out to be what I have always suspected it was, but I will be much happier and more confident and not be plagued with night terrors connected to dying if I leave open the possibility that the truth might not be what I think. I will be a scientist about it, and explore those questions with as little bias as I can.

I have always thought that our purpose in life is to find the answer to those questions of who we are and why we are here and that it is dangerous to think we already have the answer.

I'm sorry to those people who thought they gave me the answer already, but I have to explore the questions from the ground up instead of starting with the assumption that the answer to the question of who I am is the Atman. What if it isn't? I really need to know that!


  1. amba you are in to some introspection here, which is good.
    "I seem ambivilent. That word describes me all over, not in a bad way, just an observation of how I see life. And it's true. I have that Indian fatalism. "- Perfectly natural and normal. Fatalism should be post action. Krishna told arjuna to perform his dharma to fight evil and save noble. The fight should not be abandoned in favor of fatalism. That tantamounts to adharma. The result should be left to fate.
    "be willing for them to flex and change according to what I myself see about life".- Excellent you said it all. Hinduism allows so much flexibility you dont need to follow any traditions like daily puja etc. Meditate at work for a few minutes if you can. Or just do Pranayama. Do not debate religion with anybody at all. The heavy dose of religion may put your fiance off, your mom may get tired of it all. Go to church with her once in a while. Also go to temple in between. Brahman has no problem with that, right? But see how much happiness you will bring to your folks. It is not cheating. It is interfaith and tolerance, especially when you OPENLY acknowledge you believe in both faiths.
    " I am afraid to question things and afraid to criticize what I have been taught to believe ". Nonsense. No hindu acharya monk or guru has the authority to shout us down. We have to believe only in vedas as ultimate teachers. 'Mimamsa' is a very significant accepted component of hinduism -One can debate and take the most reasonable path oneself. The very fact that vedas permitted the opposing concepts of both dvaita and advaita to live on for millennia, endorses that contradiction and debate is legitimate and wise.
    "Questioning is not being disrespectful to God. Some part of me feels like it is"- No. It is not. Its the same feeling a loving mom questions herself when she deals with her adopted child. She blames herself for being mean and less loving than the natural mom. That feeling only reinforces the fact that the adopted mother loves the child that much more. Feeling Guilt is love not sin.
    "And yet I really do believe that it is valuable to question what you are told". Agree. Never stop questioning. Look at vedas and upanishads in their naked beauty. Strip all the myth, miracle first, read in between the lines.
    Finally, if your inner rattling is causing work impossible to perform, go back to your faith by birth for sometime and just cool it. Dont make vedas take away your peace of mind, they are worthless arent they, in that case? Vedas dont pin you down to one set of rigid rules. They wont demand servitude.They only help you accomplish self realization.
    Amba, we cannot find the truth of creation or god. The collective intelligence of human race from its inception till its demise (remember dinosaurs are extinct now ?) cannot figure out the truth. Vedas stated 'the creation is infinite, beginningless and end less'. Now science, which I love and respect a lot ( I have an excellent set of post masters univ qualifications myself) will have to come to that vedic conclusion or at least keep saying that 'well we are still looking for the dimensions of creation, of which there seems to be no end till now' or come up with some similar rebuttal. Being a born brown hindu, I fight for my right to religious freedom, the freedom to question, ridicule and oppose hinduism. Somehow vedas have had a calming effect. The advaita is exceptional. Keep good work.SURYA

  2. Thank you, Surya. I love about Hinduism that it encourages questioning and finding one's own path. I love that the only authority we need to recognize is the one in our own hearts. Such a wonderful thing.

    What the religion of my birth is is a confusing question. I was sort-of raised Hindu without having that title. My parents don't go to church much because my mom is usually at the Lakshmi temple teaching Sanskrit! :)

  3. Surya, those were fantastic comments. Very enlightening for anyone to read.

  4. @Art, thank you, Iam a regular guy and not a religious person by any measure,Amba is more religious than most of my family members. But once I understood the advaita doctrine I fell in love with my born faith, until then lingering doubts haunted me all intelligent of those vedic scholars to even entertain that idea.. especially millennia ago...its clearly arrogant of me to think Iam more modern and civilized

    if Iam not risking the potential accusation of 'invading my privacy' thing here, are you and your (both) parents not caucasians and born christians? whats the story sister..cheers

    surya, chicago

  5. Aamba,

    Wow girl, you are really struggling. I am in no means knowledgeable about Hinduism(yet). What little bit I feel I can contribute to this post I will.

    No one truly knows what the right path is. Not even the strongest Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Jew can tell you that they have knowledge of which way is the best way. That is why it is called Faith. I really feel like you should do all the questioning, researching, and practicing that you can, and continue to always keep your mind open but rational. If you do this your heart will tell you which way is best. If you stay with Hinduism there is no reason why you can seek enlightenment or encouragement from other types of religious scriptures. All religious scripts have encouraging and note worthy words. Just listen to your heart and don't try to fight those desires of your heart because of the fear.

    Continue to work through this the way you need to, just don't let it bring down your good spirits too much.


  6. I hope you find all the answers you are searching for Aamba. Questioning faith is a wonderful journey and at the same time can be a very daunting aspect. Since I've started questioning, I never realised how limited in knowledge I was. There's a saying in Tamil which goes 'Katrathu Kai Mann Alavu, Kallathathu Ulagalavu' in translation it's 'What you have learned is a mere handful; What you haven't learned is the size of the world'. So keeping questioning until you feel in your heart and mind it's right.

    I think only two religions in the world claim to be the right way and that would be Christianity and Islam *no pun intended

  7. @Surya, Things are often not as simple as one would think! My parents and I are completely Caucasian. My mother was born Catholic and my father was born Lutheran, both branches of Christianity. They were dissatisfied and looked for more meaning in life. They found advaita and applied it to Christianity. They still see themselves as Christian, though they started going to a UU church (famous for being extremely welcoming of anyone practicing any faith and sometimes not regarded as really Christian at all). They occasionally go to church, but now my mom has a Sanskrit class at the temple on Sunday mornings and she does that instead. They meditate, chant Sanskrit scriptures, etc. So I grew up with this strange blend.

    I think I'll do my next post on the idea of "religion of one's birth" it's quite a topic!

    @Kat, It's so true that we must always continue to question and seek. Might as well be dead if we had all the answers, right? :)

    @Dhurga, it reminds me of Socrates, who always maintained that he knew nothing. The best way to always be learning and growing as a person is to keep your mind open and available to take in new knowledge.

    Thanks to everyone for the supportive comments. I've been feeling a lot of pressure lately to have all the answers. I don't know why!