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 This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at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