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 This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

Saturday, August 28, 2010


There is nowhere that my ambivalence is more noticeable than in the realm of prayer.

I have such a strong sense of fatalism that I've never been able to understand the part of prayer that involves asking God for things. If nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so (Shakespeare reference there) and things happen as they are supposed to happen based on cosmic justice and karma, then where is the place for asking God to change "His" plan?

This question has plagued me for a long time. I don't feel comfortable asking God/the Universe for things.

This came even more accutely to my attention recently. I read a blog called The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker She blogs mostly about injustice to women in Indian society, politics, and change, but a few weeks ago her nineteen year old daughter came down with Dengue fever. She asked for our prayers.

I did not know what to say. I promised my thoughts and my hopes. The child died on August 11th.

So here I am wondering about prayer again. It is hard for me to believe that if you go to a particular temple and make a particular sacrifice, then what you want to happen will happen. On the other hand, I do believe in the power of our minds to create reality and that focusing our attention on something powerfully draws it to us.

Eat Pray Love, the book, gave me some new ways of looking at and thinking about prayer.

Near the beginning, when she's going through a divorce, she takes a long driving trip with a friend from Lebanon. She tells her friend that she wishes she could write a petition to God to get her divorce over and done with. The friend asks why doesn't she. Ms. Gilbert expresses many of the same reasons I have not to pray: "I explained to Iva my personal opinions about prayer. Namely, that I don't feel comfortable petitioning for specific things from God, because that feels to me like a kind of weakness of faith. I don't like asking, 'Will you change this or that thing in my life that's difficult for me?' Because-- who knows?--God might want me to be facing that particular challenge for some reason." (Page 32)

Iva responds, "Where'd you get that stupid idea?" She goes on to say "You are part of this have every entitlement to participate in the actions of the universe, and to let your feelings be will at least be taken into consideration." (page 32)

So they write a petition to God and shortly after she got a phone call that her divorce had finally gone through.

This notion that as part of the universe, and part of the divine, we have a right to ask for things to go a certain way, is a very new idea to me.

Later in the book she talks about prayer again. I want to just quote the whole chapter to you! It's on page 176 when she talks about her prayers becoming more deliberate. At first she felt odd praying, thinking that God already knows what she needs. She describes her prayers as sounding like talking a hairdresser... "Oh, I dunno what I need...but you must have some just do something about it, would you?"

But then she realizes that the half-heartedness isn't going to get her anywhere. She says
"Of course God already knows what I need. The question is--do I know?...You're going to get more out of the experience if you can take some action on your end...Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine. If I want transformation, but can't even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I'm aiming for, how will it ever occur? Half the benefit of prayer is in the asking itself, in the offering of a clearly posed and well-considered intention...In making an effort to stay alert, I am assuming custodial responsibility for the maintenance of my own soul." (pg. 176 and 177)

I love that part about "prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine." That makes so much sense!

It's like when you're sitting in a classroom and thinking, "Please, please, please let me pass this test." First of all, I don't know if God cares if you pass the test, but assuming we're talking about it's important to us, so it's important to the universe...well, in that case hopefully you've also studied!

She goes on to talk about destiny also being a relationship, "a play between divine grace and willful self-effort."

I guess another issue is that I want to be beyond the realm of desires, and therefore praying for things I want seems wrong. But I need to acknowledge my desires and see them before automatically squashing them. I am not spiritually in a place where I can be without desire. Especially desire for good things, like the life of a beloved child. How do I reconcile that I think everything happens for a reason and that death is only natural and not a tragedy with praying for things to turn out a certain way?

Well, it reminds me of another Advaitist story. I only remember the bare bones of it, but the idea was that an enlightened man heard about a woman's young son who died and he wept for the child. His disciples asked him why he did this, when he taught that death is an illusion. He said that we are human beings and we have human emotions and it is important to go through those emotions appropriately. We do and should have emotions and emotional responses to things.

This is still a big question for me, but I'm going to try prayer and experiment with it a little. I'm very inspired by these two new ways to think about prayer.

New Blog to Read

I received an email yesterday from a woman who has just started a new blog called "White Girl Coming Out of the Saree Closet." I love her title!

I went to check it out and she looks like another kindred spirit. I'll be adding her blog to my blog list.

Stay tuned for a post about prayer later today!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More on Labels

I was thinking that the previous post I wrote on labels (as in labeling myself as a Hindu) was too brief and it is a topic worth looking at again.

It seems to me from reading her book, that Ms. Gilbert doesn't call herself a Christian or a Hindu or anything else. It appears that she simply follows her practices and searches for truth and meaning without needing to attach a label to it. I admire that.

If there is one universal Truth that all religions are paths to, then in an ideal world we would simply be searching for that Truth and not narrowing ourselves into little boxes. It seems so un-universal to force ourselves, in our messy, human, complicated condition, into a box and a label.

We should just be.

And yet, I feel like I need the guardrails of a label. At least for now.

Growing up, I didn't have an easy answer when people asked about me. My spirituality has always been the central and most important thing in my life, so the topic comes up in conversation a lot, since that's what I'm most interested in (I love to hear about how people find meaning in their lives!). I needed a quick and easy way to explain myself. As I said in the last post on labels, trying to explain my spiritual beliefs made it much more complicated than people really wanted. They wanted a label from me, just a sentence to categorize and understand me.

And really my beliefs do come pre-packaged in the convenient label of Hindu.

But which came first?

A friend of mine recently said something that I had not thought of before. She said the philosophy came first and the codification into a religion called Hinduism came later.

It makes total sense. Years and years ago there were philosophers who explained the world and our place in it. Over time people hardened those philosophies into ritual and tradition and put up labels.

Labels do divide us. They make me one thing and you something else. I hate to do that, as I see all humanity as my family.

But I still need that label. Hopefully some day I will grow beyond the need to put a label on my experience, however it has been too hard for me to never belong to anything.

I've spent a lifetime of never quite fitting in, always being a little bit different. I longed for a place to belong, for a community that I could be a part of. I did not like the feel of being so individual and so alone. I need to feel like I belong within the blanket of Hinduism because if I don't fit in there, then there's no where left for me.

It's silly in some ways because I am never going to seamlessly blend in. I wish sometimes that I looked a little bit more believably Indian, but I really don't. No number of bindis or salwar suits will make me look like I belong.

So there it is, my imperfect answer. I do think that we might eventually grow beyond the need for labels, but ours is far from a perfect world and for where I am right now, I still need it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Holiday: Rakhi Bandhan

I was stupid and basically missed this one. It's today, but I just saw my brother yesterday... :/ Of course, he thinks this Hindu thing I'm doing is pretty weird, but he's always been good about just standing back and letting me be kooky.

As you may have guessed, this is a festival about family. It is for brothers and sisters. The sister makes a bracelet of sacred red thread and some decoration and ties it around her brother's wrist to show her appreciation and love for him. He promises to protect her. She does aarti to him and puts a tilak on his forehead and he usually gives her some kind of gift in return. And sweets are eaten.

It's a kind and love-filled day and I wish I had realized earlier that it was coming up. I would have done something to mark it with my little brother (and by little I mean the kid is twenty three and just graduated college!), even if not a full ritual. At least I could have taken him out for ice cream.

For more information:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Eat Pray Love

I got an email from another white Hindu who was a bit concerned about this movie that's just come out.

Would the character flirting with Indian philosophy as part of her three-country tour reflect badly on the rest of us non-Indian Hindus. Would it reignite the idea of us not being serious about it?

The subject of the movie, based on a memoir, is a woman in her mid-thirties, who has a crisis in her life and goes out into the world to find peace. She goes to Italy, then India, then Bali in search of a happy life.

I went to see this movie with my mother this past weekend and I was very pleasantly surprised.

I enjoyed it very much and it seemed to open my heart back up to the joy of the search for meaning. The most powerful moment for me was when she was getting ready to leave India (where she had been living in an ashram) and she summed up her experience there by saying she had learned that "God dwells in you, as you." This image you have of what a spiritual person looks like isn't a real person. You are not the silent, ethereal, angel floating around being nauseatingly spiritual all the time. That's not God. God is you exactly as you are (the person we imagine we should be is Ingrid Bergman in The Bells Of St. Mary, as the character says).

That spoke to me deeply. I feel I have been going through some similar issues to what this woman was dealing with. It seemed as though she was addressing me directly. She was working to find the balance between being spiritual and enjoying life.

I am always trying to be my vision of what a spiritual or enlightened person should look like and it is exhausting.

I was so inspired by the movie that I went the next day to buy the book. I'm more than half way through it now and it is astoundingly good. I've underlined almost every page and I want to just quote the entire thing for you!

I highly recommend it. She has wonderful and very insightful descriptions of meditation. She tells it like it is, as a real person, discovering her soul for the first time.

One thing that is not so clear in the movie is that she has been practicing Hinduism for two years before she arrives at that ashram. India is not just a random stopover for her in the midst of a world tour, it is deeply personal and meaningful.

I know the guru that she speaks of. I'm familiar with that school, though she doesn't name it. She is still a devote of that guru as far as I can tell. I doubt that she labels herself as a Hindu, but she certainly practices advaita and practices it with great sincerity. It may be that she is beyond the need for labels, while I am not yet. I know that someday I will need to let go of the label and be universal, but right now I really need the label of "Hindu."

In fact, the author has more claim than I to Hinduism in some ways, since she actually went to India and lived at the ashram for four months.

And so I think that Ms. Elizabeth Gilbert fits into our rag-tag little group. If she ever stumbled upon this blog, I would welcome her heartily as another American, non-Indian Hindu. I would give her a guest aarti and feed her chai and chaat.

Inspired by the book, I plan to do a few different posts on subjects that she made me reflect on, such as how prayer works, cherry-picking religion, and how we are imperfect and perfect at once.

I feel better than I've felt in months, refreshed with energy to tackle my meditation again, and to look for a mantra that suits me better. It's cliche to say, but these last months have been very dark for me. I didn't ever lose faith or my beliefs, but I did distance myself from God and from those beliefs as I dealt with the grief and rage of losing a dear friend. I can feel myself starting to find my way back, though, back to the traditions and practices that will heal me. I thank Elizabeth Gilbert for her book because she really showed how spiritual practices work for a real person, not just a monk or a holy person.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I know where I'll be celebrating!

I thought I was going to be doing Krishna Janamashtami alone at home.

But today I got an invitation through my Hindi meet-up group to go to the Hare Krishna temple for the celebration.

I'm really excited. I'm so happy to have somewhere to go and there will even be at least a few familiar faces there.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Holiday: Krishna Janmashtami

We are about to head into the Hindu holiday season. Although there are holidays all year round, a lot of major ones happen in the Fall, leading up to and culminating with Diwali.

September 2nd this year is Krishna's birthday.

Let me tell those who don't know a little about Krishna's background.

Krishna was born more than 3,000 years before Christ in Mathura. His mother was a princess named Devaki and his father was her husband, Vasudeva. Her brother, Kansa, had wrongfully imprisoned their father, the king, and seized the throne.

But there was a prophesy that Devaki's eighth child would kill Kansa. So Kansa had his sister and brother-in-law imprisoned also and each time she had a child, Kansa would murder it (except the seventh child escaped). When Devaki gave birth to the eighth child, Vasudeva managed to carry baby Krishna out of the prison, through a rainstorm and across a raging river (all this with the help of various gods) and brought Krishna to the village of Gokula where he was exchanged with a baby girl there and Krishna was raised by his foster parents, Yashoda and Nanda. The girl child was brought back to the prison where Kansa attempted to kill her, but she became an angel.

Years later, Krishna does come back to fulfill the prophecy and kill his evil uncle. Another interesting part of the story is that many believe that Krishna was conceived without sexual union, again much like the stories about Jesus that came thousands of years later.

Krishna and his foster family moved to Vrindavana nearby (all these places are in Uttar Pradesh)

Krishna was known as a mischievous child. He loved butter and would often find ways to steal it from the butter pots of the women in the village. They would try to put them up high, but Krishna always found a way. He got the nickname the Makhan Chor, meaning The Butter Thief.

At various times Krishna showed his specialness. He killed demons, for example. Also, his mother discovered some strange qualities of his. When he was being naughty, Yashoda attempted to tie him to a tree, but found that even though he was a small child, no rope was long enough to tie him. Once she found him eating sand and she pried open his mouth to get the grit out, but found that she could see the entire universe in the back of his throat.

As a teenager he herded cows and played a flute. Gopis (milk maids) adored him and vied for his attention. In particular, he had a close relationship with one named Radha.

Much love poetry is written about Krishna at this age.

Later Life
As a young man Krishna returned to his place of birth to kill his evil Uncle and reinstate his grandfather as king. He continued to live in the palace and at this time befriended the Pandava brothers.

Krishna takes on an important role in the Mahabharata, where he is the spiritual advisor to the Pandavas, particularly Arjuna. It is within the Mahabharata that Krishna teaches Arjuna the lessons that are called the Bhagavad Gita, the song of the Lord.

There is disagreement about Krishna's death. According to Vyasa's telling of the Mahabharata, Krishna retired to the forest to meditate for the rest of his days and ascended into heaven. However, according to another telling of the Mahabharata, while Krishna was in the forest meditating, a hunter mistook his foot for an animal and shot and killed him.

Either way, Krishna's disappearance/death marks the transition of the world into the final age, the Kali Yuga.

Different people are drawn to different stages of Krishna's life and worship different aspects of him.

To celebrate the birthday one fasts the day before and stays up all night to observe the time when Krishna was born at midnight. At that time a statue of baby Krishna is bathed, clothed, and placed in a cradle, and aarti is performed (worship with light).

Women often paint footprints in rice powder outside their homes at dawn, indicating Krishna entering his foster home.

Many places put on plays, or lilas, about the life of Krishna. In some areas young men form huge human pyramids to knock down jars of butter that are suspended high in the air.


(all of these beautiful paintings are all over Google images and I can't seem to figure out where they originated and whose work they are, but each one, if clicked, will take you to the website where I found it) Update: Apparently, they belong to ISKON and that is not really a surprise! So, thanks to ISKON and its members for these beautiful works of art.


Once again I find parallels between converts in different religions. I've mentioned this blog before, it is one written by a convert to Judaism. Right now Judaism is struggling with some law issues that might make it possible to revoke a person's conversion.

I see these people who are lucky enough to have been born Jewish repeat over and over again that what affects converts ultimately affects the entire Jewish people, not just converts and their immediate family because the entire Jewish people IS a family. What happens to one Jew affects all Jews. It is a quick step from making the everyday lives of converts and potential converts miserable to making the lives of every Jew (born Jewish or not) miserable and making anyone and everyone's Judaism suspect.

Two things stood out to me in that quote. The first is the phrase "lucky enough to have been born Jewish."

I think this is a common feeling in converts. We think, if only we had learned this wonderful religion from the start, how much pain and trouble it would have saved us!

We might feel frustrated that those who were born into it don't appreciate it enough or realize what a treasure they have.

But what we often don't realize is that we needed that pain and trouble to get where we are today. It was part of our soul's journey to struggle to find a path that gives us peace. We are lucky in our own way, to have the opportunity to explore all the options and to find the way that we are completely sure of.

When I was a kid, growing up in a spiritual organization, some of the adults who had found it later in life used to tell me how lucky I was to have been born into it. "You won't have to make the same mistakes I made," they told me.

I found that it was a tremendous pressure to always be perfect and to follow the path they gave me because they told me it was the best, not because I knew it for myself.

I also discovered that I had to make mistakes. We don't get through life without making mistakes. That is a huge part of how we learn things.

Sometimes I think my life would be easier if I had been born fully Hindu and sometimes I think that I might not have loved it as much as I do if that were the case.

That is, of course, not to say that born Hindus can't love and appreciate their religion. But I think many of the born Hindus who love their religion have thought carefully about it and examined it. Who knows if I had been born Hindu if I would have done that? I'm very glad that I did and so I don't think that I would change my path even if I could. I have learned so much just because of starting as an outsider and working my way in.

The other thing that I like in this quote is the way of seeing everyone in the Jewish faith as family. I think this is true of Hinduism too. If we see all Hindus as part of the family we can see how we would be diminished by leaving anyone out. The variety and debate are some of the things that make Hinduism great. Diversity of thought keeps our minds sharp and keeps us always questioning so that we don't become complacent in our knowledge.

On an administrative note, I will start to delete comments that I find hateful or offensive. If there is a point that you would like to make that might be considered angry or hateful, please email it to me and I will decide whether to discuss the issue or make a post related to it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Images from:,photos/cid,3165/

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hindi Slow Down

I've run low on the energy it takes to study a new language every day. My progress now is so slight that I feel crushed by the weight of how much I don't know.

I am able to read and understand somewhat as long as it is simple material (Tintin movies, Teach Yourself Hindi book, Krishna comic books). Every time I try to write or speak, it comes out so grammatically wrong that people can't understand me.

I think the reason this happens is that when you are reading or hearing something, you can get the gist of it without understanding all the little parts. When producing the language, you have to know which postposition to use and what order to put the words in, and it's just a lot more to know.

I've been taking a bit of a break from it, trying to recharge my batteries, as it were. I've signed up for a class starting in mid-September at the Washington Language Institute. They offer nine levels of Hindi classes, and I signed up for the second level, since I already know the alphabet and the basics of the language. This should help me to start actually speaking and give more structure to my learning.

Being really good at a foreign language is remarkably difficult. For me, anyway. And being able to understand is great, but it isn't good enough. If I want to raise bilingual children, then I need to be able to speak the language and speak it correctly.

I am completely worn out from the effort.

My heart is unsettled

Surya sent us this link of images of the devastating floods in Leh:

It is so hard for me to hear about and look at images of people in pain. I hate feeling helpless.

Anyone have ideas about what we could do to relieve some of the suffering there?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Right Path

In response to some of the discussion about my statements that all religions boil down to love.

Do I think my way is best?

Of course I do.

It's really hard not to think that a religion that has helped you and made sense to you wouldn't help everyone and be the best for everyone.

I think Hinduism holds the answers, otherwise I wouldn't be working so hard to be part of it.

However, Hinduism (at least Smartism) has taught me that we as human beings are all one family. More than that, we are one being. More than that even, all matter in the universe is one being (not just living matter, all matter). Unity is more important than anything else.

If I believe that Hinduism is the best religion with the clearest path to Truth, should I try to convince everyone else of that and get angry, mean, or hurt people who don't believe me? That might seem like unity: get everyone in the world on one page and kill anyone who disagrees. Okay, there's unity.

But that is ridiculous, of course. New people would be born who would have their own ideas and the cruelty of killing defeats the purpose of a unifying religion anyway. You cannot force people to agree with you (have you ever tried to have a political debate with a friend or family member? You really can't force people to agree with you).

People, while being part of the same God, experience the world differently and understand it differently. That variety is beautiful. It is the way the universe was designed to be.

Intellectually I know that there is not a single path that is going to be best and clearest for all people. We all have to follow the one that is clearest to us, the one that makes sense to us. I would not want to become like the Christians and Muslims that I have a problem with, the ones who pressure conversion, saying that their own path is the only way to Truth.

It may seem very strange to say that all religions lead to the same Truth. If you look at the teachings of some different religions, it sure doesn't seem that way. But there is a difference between what one human leader of a religion teaches his followers and what the religion is really about.

If you say, "Islam is about hate and destruction" I say, Where do you get that from? Oh, this one Imam over here says that's what Islam is about and he tells all his followers to kill anyone who isn't Muslim. That is a particular person's interpretation of Islam, but it is not the only interpretation out there.

If you say, "Christianity is about division and worshiping Jesus" I say, Where do you get that from? Oh, this Baptist preacher told me that. And maybe he has quotes from the Bible to prove it. But you know what? I have a different way of interpreting Jesus and his message. Different from all the churches. And I have Bible quotes to support my view too.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You."
"Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself."
I can go on and on. There are also gospels written by people who were contemporaries of Jesus, who knew Jesus, which are not in the Bible. The Bible is a collection of writings written by men and it was men who decided which writings went in and which didn't. Human beings make mistakes.

I'm sorry that I have not read the Quran and cannot make similar arguments, but from the Muslims I have spoken to I have heard messages of love and kindness that I did not expect based on the hype around Islam.

I continue to believe that all religions are based on the same Truth at their core. There are many misinterpretations and many people preaching lies. That's true in Hinduism too. Whatever tradition we identify with, we have to continue to dig deeper and look for the Truth that resonates in our hearts, not just what our guru or preacher tells us is True.

Hinduism is the religion that resonates with me. It seems less bogged down in misunderstanding and the path seems much clearer there than anywhere else. But I have to respect that that is not the case for everyone. As much as I love Hinduism, I will continue to defend the rights of every other human being to find the Truth in his and her own way.

I think the reason some of us have so much resentment or anger toward Islam and Christianity is a fear that they are taking over. Because they are converting religions, how will mine survive? What will I do if one or the other of these religions really does take over the entire world (and what an epic showdown that would be!). As terrified as I am by that, I don't think it can happen.

I think it's like supply and demand. As long as there are people happy and getting a lot out of Hinduism, it will survive. And if there is not a single person in all the world getting anything out of a religion, that religion will die and that's okay, because no one was benefiting anyway. People are benefiting from Hinduism. I am benefiting from Hinduism!

It makes me think of a wonderful book called Fahrenheit 451. In that story, it is a future America in which the government has banned all books and all reading. Books are too dangerous because they allow people to think and form ideas on their own. All information is given to people through enormous TVs in this future world. But as hard as the government works to wipe out all literature, they cannot do it. In the end there is a group of people hiding in the forest who have memorized all the great works of literature and are passing them on orally until the world comes to its senses and realizes how much it needs that literature. It cannot be killed.

I take great hope from that story. I see this the same way. Hinduism is not at all in danger of dying out, but even if in the future it became a tiny religion, there would always be people secretly passing it on until the world became a safe place for it again. And it always will. Nothing lasts forever, so even a world-wide Islamic regime could not last forever. When the Romans tried to destroy Christianity, they couldn't because people were getting something out of it. There were people who loved Christianity enough to practice it in secret and pass it along until the world became a safe place. I love Hinduism that much.

So I control my desire to tell everyone that Hinduism is the greatest religion out there. It is for me, but I can't speak for anyone else. We all have our own paths to tread.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Who is Indian? Who is American?

I came across a blog with an essay on a very relevant subject.

It is called "Why there are no Indians in India." It is about labels and how we see ourselves, in particular about the way India is divided according to location and family and many other identifiers. More division and less unity:

So, who is an Indian? Ask me. I really don’t belong anywhere – including the place where my ancestors lived. At any place in India, wherever I go, my identity and acceptance –and therefore my ability to function as a normal human – seem to hinge on my speaking a particular language, or my belonging to a certain caste, a certain religion, a certain ethnicity. The boundaries of identity that we have been drawing around ourselves seem to be getting tighter and tighter, as we discover reason after reason for some new fissure, a fresh fracture.

It goes on to talk about the way the identity in India is defined by creating an "other." I wonder if that is something that we all do to create a sense of our place in the world. In America it seems more like each person thinks being an American is being whatever he is.

In other words, in India people identify more by their state and their ancestry, for example they will consider themselves Punjabi before considering themselves Indian. It is rare for Americans to identify by their state, even though there is tremendous variety in the American experience in different parts of the country. Instead, someone in Georgia will believe that his experience of America is what being an American is. Likewise, someone in Maine will think that his experience of America is what being an American is. We get into enormous arguments over what being an American is and what showing patriotism is because it is so different in different parts of the country. It's natural for us to think that our way of doing something is the right way, and I work hard to fight against that instinct, to try to see and understand (and respect) the way other people approach things. It's tough.

So really, America is having the opposite issue, that everyone identifies as American and finding a definition of that identity is impossible. Yet it still rests on the "other." For me to believe that my experience of America is the "real America," then I have to believe that people with a different experience are not real Americans and that they are wrong to call themselves that. Pretty silly, really, since all the people I'm speaking of have American citizenship. There really shouldn't be a way to be more or less American than the person next to me who also has American citizenship!

The conclusion of the above article is that it is up to us, not our leaders, to make small changes toward a better future. If we start trying to be kinder, more accepting, and courteous of those around us, we can teach those qualities to the next generation and they might be better than we are and create a happier, more peaceful world. It's a good thought and certainly better than any alternative! I agree with the author that small changes make a difference.

(Edited to Add: I'm not making an argument or a thesis statement here, I was just musing about what the essay made me think of, following my thoughts one to the next...)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Interfaith Children

My mom told me this morning about a woman she just met who is Catholic and married to a Hindu man. They have two young sons and are, apparently, still trying to figure out exactly how to raise them with both faiths.

That, I think, is the trickiest part about interfaith marriages. What to do about the kids?

But then I think that kids are more resilient than we give them credit for. I think it's kind of like language. If you want to raise your kid with two or more languages, you might worry that they will get confused or have language problems. However, the research shows that kids are more than capable of handling up to four native languages without confusion. I think kids can handle the idea of more than one faith co-existing and it might even help them to grow up to have flexible minds. I think kids can handle the idea that their parents do not have all the answers about everything. There are mysteries in the universe and that is a beautiful thing.

Of course we try to think of the best way to give our children the most advantage in life, but there is no perfect way to raise children. If there were, then we'd have a lot of perfect adults by now, having had thousands of years of human history in which to practice. No matter our parents' intentions, we all grow up into imperfect adults.

And you know what? All religions in the world do have at least one thing in common and that is love. (Of course there are some crazy extremists who practice hate, but they obviously haven't read their own scriptures very closely. Even Islam and Christianity, the two worst offenders, are actually filled with love). Love, acceptance and compassion are the backbone of every religion I've studied (and I love studying different religions).

A long time ago my mom was teaching a spiritual type class and a little boy said, "Mrs. M, do you believe that Jesus was the son of God?"

She replied, "Yes. And so are you."

If you find yourself in this situation, trying to raise children with more than one faith, my advice (bear in mind I have no children of my own!) would be to focus on the love.