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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.


  1. In this respect I am glad I was raised in the environment I was. My nan used to tell me stories about faeries and other Irish myths. She used to indulge me in tales of the wood faeries in her headboard. Growing up around myth and the supernatural tales allowed me to look at the world with a little more imagination and innocence I think.

    I know for me nothing is more calming, magical and inspiring than walking outside in a heavy fog. You know the kind of heavy fog where there is no sound, everything feels insulated from the outside world and there is absolutely no wind. In a scientific analytical view it is easily explained away, it is simply a low pressure fog front and the density of the fog absorbs sounds. For me, it is the gateway to Tir Na nOg or the faerie world. It gives me warmth and solace in this belief and I can actually enjoy it and take in the mystery that causes this phenomena beyond the science.

  2. You know, I've seen that same video, and I was completely shocked that I had missed something so major! Our brains really do know how to compartmentalize, right?

  3. I'm glad I'm not the only one who missed the gorilla. I don't think most of my class was playing along, so I felt a bit dumb!

  4. Amba,
    you dont have to print this here, but please see if you can help these poor victims of conniving evangelists. Right in your home state newly arrived hindus and buddhists are poached relentlessly.Your mandir group very well be alerted, but dont get noticed far you will be isolated by missionary mafia, we have to live in feareven in USA, scary. 1

    HPI Dec 3, 2010
    Nepali And Bhutanese Immigrants Are Easy Convertion Targets

    [HPI note: Reader Kalyan Vishwanathan sent this article to HPI, alerting to the vulnerability of Hindu immigrants from Bhutan and the eagerness of some Christians to convert them. Read the article from the North America Mission Board, a proselityzing group, describing the event below. The refugees attend drawn by free medical services and other benefits, but how many realize there their hosts have second intentions? Vishwanathan says, "I don't know if there is anyone in the Baltimore area working with the Bhutanese to ensure that they don't all convert en masse to Christianity. Here in Dallas and Fortworth, we have to fight weekly to keep this conversion from happening. With a little effort the Hindu Mandirs can play a crucial role in keeping these bhutanese Hindus' religion alive. I also am aware the SEWA International and VHPA are playing a major role with the Bhutanese; I wonder who can counter react to this."]

    BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, October 2010: The fifth annual medical block party was held on October 1 for the community surrounding the Nepal and Bhutan Baptist churches in Baltimore, Md. Inside, pews were filled with worshipers clothed in colorful, ethnic dress who celebrated as some 30 Nepalese men and women made professions of faith during the joint service. Rev. Samuel Cho, senior pastor of both The Nepal Baptist Church of Baltimore and The Bhutan Baptist Church, welcomed the diverse congregation of 170, a mixture mostly of Nepali and Bhutanese.

    After worship, the group joined in with about 80 others who had come for the Nepali festival and free medical fair. Volunteers from the church served traditional Nepali food while festival goers could choose to receive haircuts and clothing, along with blood tests, dental exams, doctor referrals and blood pressure checks. During lunch, Pastor Cho presented Nepali Bibles to those who accepted Christ that morning.

    The First Secretary for the Nepali Ambassador for the United States, Ananda Sharma, was an honored guest and speaker.

    Baltimore is home to about 3,000 Nepalis and about 500 Bhutanese refugees. To serve this growing community, the medical fair was launched five years ago by The Nepal Baptist Church of Baltimore along with Global Mission Church, a Southern Baptist church in nearby Silver Spring, Md., which provides medical volunteers for the fair. In 2005, Rev. Cho planted The Nepal Baptist Church, the first Nepali Baptist church in the U.S. In 2008, Rev. Cho planted The Bhutan Baptist Church.

  5. Bro/Sis Anon: Yes, conversion by force is despicable. I tend to have mixed feelings about conversions...If people cannot defend their belief in Sanatana Dharma and are easily swayed by Christian/Muslim evangelists, what exactly can we do about it? Even if Sanatana Dharma practitioners decrease in numbers, so what? Isnt quality more important than quantity.

    I have the same question Aamba raised (I dont know exactly where) as to why the Hindu world view (Truth is one but the paths are infinite) is not the default? We have Abrahamic religions (especially Islam/Christianity) that spread more by force than true values. But Sanatana Dharma has phenomenal resilience. That is why centuries of marauding invaders were unable to make a dent. There are countless places in India (Kashi, Haridwar, Kancheepuram, Puri, Ayodhya) where Hindu practices continue to this day just as they were practised millenia ago!!! Just thinking about this gives me goose-bumps. Recently, I visited the Akshardam Swaminarayan temple in Gandhinagar. The Swami Narayan sect is a sect of Sanatana Dharma that developed in the 17th-18th century India when society had degraded due to certain practices like Sati and Islamic my-way-or-the-highway theology. Yet Hindu society managed to produce a leader (Neelkanth, who became the first leader of the sect) who travelled the length and breadth of India spreading the message of Sanatana Dharma. Go back to around 800 AD. Hindu society faced similar degradation. This was the time when Jainism and Buddhism replaced Hinduism. There emerged Adi Shankara who again travelled the length and breadth of India spreading the Advaita philosophy. So, dont worry too much or lose sleep over conversions. Hinduism is all about the eternal search for truth. The search never stops. Did you know that WITHOUT MISSIONARIES Hinduism exists in Ghana (refer Aamba's previous post). If it makes you feel any better, google and read Lisa Miller's Newsweek article titled "We are all Hindus now" that says that Hindu philosophy has permeated a lot of thoughts of Westerners. Yes, they do not call themselves Hindus but they are more "Hindu" than they might think. Peace.

  6. Amba there are certain things in this world which cannot be explaind logically. I myself have experienced certain things but never told anyone as I thought ppl will laugh at me. But they did happen to me.

  7. Reading your latest posts reminded me of a book I read and loved. It is called "The Field" by Lynne McTaggart and talks about quantum physics in a very interesting way. Mostly it describes how linearity is a mostly a human construct. I know it goes against what you wrote about trying to prove things, but still :)

  8. I am very interested in quantum physics, thank you for the recommendation!