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.