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 This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

Thursday, September 30, 2010

People will find their way

What did I tell you? It's a controversial subject!

Here are some of my further thoughts after reading some of the comments:

One of the great beauties of Hinduism is that there is no rush.

What if Hinduism really is the best or only path to God? Maybe it is. (It certainly is the best path for me personally). I do not have to go around desperately convincing people of that. I don't have to rush to make sure that people know about this because the clock is ticking down and human life is short and it could be too late for billions of people.

If we want the freedom to choose our religion and our path, then we have to grant that freedom to others.

You only know what is best for you. You cannot go into your brother's head and know what it is like to live his life. Our choices about our religion are for us alone and I am so grateful for that. I would not want to live in a place where it is illegal to not be Christian or Muslim or what have you.

I know that Hinduism, as a whole, with its complete package, is my path.

Even as wonderful as it is, with its rich philosophy, beautiful mythology, and ancient traditions, it may not be the best path for every human being.

I cannot know what the best path is for anyone except myself.

But again, there is no rush. Because if Hinduism is the right or only path, eventually everyone will find it. There is all the time in eternity for that to happen. People are born again and again, so don't stress about it.

Tandava commented on the last post that people might choose unhealthy things for themselves if left to their own devices. I say, let them. Let them learn what is best for them by trial and error. How else could we do it? Could we tell people that Hinduism is healthy and so they have to be Hindus "It's what's best for you, dear"? Should we legislate religion and tell people what they have to be because they would pick poorly?

Hec no. If we tried that, as a minority in Britain and America, it would go the opposite way. The others would legislate that we had to be Christian, as the majority in those countries believe that to be healthiest.

People who follow religions because they've been told to are not very enthusiastic. To carry on Tandava's food analogy, I went through years of not eating vegetables and eating sugar whenever I could get my hands on it because sweets were so heavily restricted in my childhood. I resented that I wasn't allowed to have them and I over did it when I was out on my own and could make my own choices.

Then my body started feeling lethargic and not quite right. I began to actually crave fresh vegetables. It was an unexpected feeling. Now I eat healthy most of the time and I love it. It feels good, it makes my body feel good.

But I did it because it felt right, not because someone told me that I had to. I never would have done it if someone was telling me I had to.

Have trust in people.

Many go years living a hedonistic life, but find it dissatisfying and look for and find meaning in religion. But many of them had to go through that pleasure-seeking time. Otherwise, how would they know? If all you do is deprive yourself and you never try out things that seem fun, you run the risk of being more bitter and resentful than joyous.

And the point of religion is joy.

People will find their way to what works for them eventually. They will try many, many things. If Hinduism is what works for everyone, then they will find their way to Hinduism. If Christianity is what works for everyone, we will one day all be Christians and be glad of it (I know, hard to imagine!)

So, don't stress.

You trust yourself to find your way and other people are no different from you, they are just as capable of finding their way.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


This can be a very hot topic in religious circles and people have very strong opinions. Known also as "cafeteria-style religion," this post is about picking and choosing the parts of religions that you like and leaving the rest.

Sometimes people will choose ceremonies, rituals, and practices from many different world religions and blend them together into their own thing. Sometimes people will consider themselves a particular religion, like Christian, but only practice the parts of the religion that they agree with and ignore other aspects that are part of the Church (or other religious entities). These approaches are both considered cherry-picking.

When I was a kid and a teenager I was extremely rules-driven and everything was black and white to me. I think that's true for a lot of kids, it takes maturity to develop the sense of gray area and that sometimes people do the best they can and it isn't ideal. I was taught that religion is about hard work, discipline, sacrifice, and not always getting what you want. Rigorous discipline was valued over every other quality.

So, at that time in my life, the idea of cafeteria-style religion was abhorrent to me. You can't just take the parts you like, I thought. If we did the easy way and just did the parts of religion that were enjoyable, we would not get far on the difficult path to enlightenment. Maybe we don't know the reasons for things, but we have to do them anyway, because that's the path. Who am I to decide what is right in a religion and what is misguided?

But, later in my life I began to think that I am the authority on what religion does for me. Why continue to punish myself and hang on to harsh disciplines if I was not finding any benefit from it in my life?

And then, strangest of all, my home organization relaxed its rules. Ankle-length skirts no longer required, eating Breakfast allowed, cooked food at meals allowed, a more relaxed pace, sometimes waking up as late as 5:30, even. These changes were really hard for me to swallow. What about the hard work, discipline, and personal sacrifice that I had been told were the most important things in life? The people in authority in my life were changing their minds.

I began to realize that they are human too. They don't really know more than I do about God and truth and the right path. We are all just feeling our way through this life and using whatever tests we have available to find what's right for us. Tests like Am I more serene? Do I feel more joyful doing this?

In Elizabeth Gilbert's new book Commitment, about the history of marriage, she has a passage very relevant to the change in my mindset and clearly illustrating why I have such a confusion in my spirit about things:

"It has long been understood by philosophers that the entire bedrock of Western culture is based on two rival worldviews--the Greek and the Hebrew-- and whichever side you embrace more strongly determines to a large extent how you see life.

From the Greeks--specifically from the glory days of ancient Athens--we have inherited our ideas about secular humanism and the sanctity of the individual. The Greeks gave us all our notions about democracy and equality and personal liberty and scientific reason and intellectual freedom and open-mindedness and what we might call today "multiculturalism."...

On the other hand, there is the Hebrew way of seeing the world. When I say "Hebrew" here, I'm not specifically referring to the tenets of Judaism. (In fact, most of the contemporary American Jews I know are very Greek in their thinking, while it's the American fundamentalist Christians these days who are profoundly Hebrew.) "Hebrew," in the sense that philosophers use it here, is shorthand for an ancient worldview that is all abut tribalism, faith, obedience, and respect...Hebrew thinkers see the world as a clear play between good and evil, with God always firmly on "our" side. Human actions are either right or wrong. There is no gray area. The collective is more imporant than the individual, morality is more important than happiness...

The problem is that modern Western culture has somehow inherited both these ancient worldviews--though we have never entirely reconciled them because they aren't reconcilable."

Even though here she is talking about ideas of marriage vows, this passage really caught my attention because this is the very struggle I have been going through. There are parts of my personality that are Greek and parts that are Hebrew and I'm struggling to figure out which one will dominate my thinking. Actually, as a child and teenager I was almost entirely Hebrew and now I am almost entirely Greek, but I still feel pangs of guilt and nostalgia for the Hebrew way of thinking.

What Elizabeth Gilbert has to say on the actual subject of cherry-picking religion is as follows:

"My friend was a Catholic by upbringing, but couldn't stomach returning to the church as an adult. ("I can't buy it anymore," he said, "knwoing what I know.") Of course he'd be embarassed to become a Hindu or a Buddhist or something wacky like that. So what could he do? As he told me, "You don't want to go cherry-picking a religion." Which is a sentiment I completely respect except for the fact that I totally disagree.

I think you have every right to cherry-pick when it comes to moving your spirit and finding peace in God. I think you are free to search for any metaphor whatsoever which will take you across the worldly divide whenever you need to be transported or comforted. It's nothing to be embarrased about. It's the hisotry of mankind's search for holiness...

Even in the most unlikely...of places, you can find sometimes this glimeering idea that God might be bigger than our limited religious doctrines have taught us... Doesn't that make sense? That the infinite would be, indeed infinite? That even the most holy amonst us would only be able to see scattered pieces of the eternal picture at any given time? And that maybe if we could collect those pieces and compare them, a story about God would begin to emerge that resembles and includes everyone?...

Don't we each have the right to not stop seeking until we get as close to the source of wonder as possible?"
Eat Pray Love, page 207.

I really like this woman! My thoughts on cherry-picking religion have changed immensely in the last couple of years. It now seems like a very reasonable thing to do. We have to find what works for us and only we ourselves can know that. No one else is privy to our inner heart.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


America is a very religious country in many ways. It's strange to say because we are also known as the land of overly sexualizing everything, but Americans tend to take religion in their lives very seriously. Atheists are also often very hard core about their beliefs. It is difficult to say any one thing about America because it is a land of so many different people and beliefs and attitudes and backgrounds, but it really does have a serious religious core that is too often based on fear of others.

The country began where I grew up and it was first settled by very staunch, disciplined, religious people. New England maintains some of that Puritan attitude to this day.

All this is to say that, strangely, even being quite a religious nation, a survey just came out showing that Americans know very little about religion, their own and other people's:

Half of Americans don't know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist and less than four in ten know that Shiva and Vishnu are part of Hinduism.

The article has a link at the top to a quiz, which has a sample of the questions asked. I got a perfect score :) It was only ten questions. I would love to take the whole thing and see how I do!

Religion is the thing that interests me the most and which I study. I'm proud that I also learn about other people's religions. I have read the Christian Bible, I have gone to Jewish services, I have even visited a Mosque on two occasions. I think that learning about others' beliefs makes for a more unified world.

Knowledge is always good. Learning and growing and understanding is good. We share this world with people who believe differently than us and we will be miserable if we can't accept and try to understand the perspectives of those people.

And here is something that someone named Al Haug posted on Facebook that was very moving to me. This is what being American should be:

By the way, for those who in the comments who have mentioned that I take things too seriously and should lighten up, this is something that you have to know about me. I am a really serious person (I have a sense of humor, but it is dry and British and subtle). I am fascinated by the deepest questions in life and I pursue them. This is one reason I have trouble finding a husband :) I do worry too much and I am intense and serious. I'm working on taking life in a lighter way, but I'll never stop digging into the deepest questions of religion and life and how people find meaning. That's something that I love.

A friend found the actual survey, here it is:

It will take me some time to print this out and go through it, I'll get back to you to let you know how I do.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Weekend a success, in the end.

Thanks for the kind comments, everyone!

Everything sorted itself out.

As it turned out, the picnic was mainly focused on the children, so I didn't hear about it because I don't have kids.

Going to the dinner and the study group will give me people that I can talk to who can keep me informed on things.

I had an awesome time at both. I have never felt so welcomed.

There were more than fifty people at the dinner, which was at the same house as the study group. The two people I had emailed about joining the study group were there and they introduced me around and made sure that I was never alone in a corner (it might surprise you to know that I'm naturally a bit shy and have a hard time with big social situations!) Everyone was tremendously friendly.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the reception of the older people. This must be a prejudice on my part, maybe based on my own Granny, who is quite judgmental. I was introduced to the mother of the man whose house it was and she was cheerful and welcoming and happy to have me. I expected an older generation to be wary of someone like me and that was not the case at all.

I am so impressed by her! She speaks English, Tamil, Hindi, Sanskrit, and Bengali!

There were a couple of other Grannies there as well and they were just as kind. I met one older woman who was visiting from Chennai and she told me all about the arts and music that happen there. She was the most beautiful, elegant older woman I've ever seen.

All the Grannies had a sparkle about them, especially in their eyes. It made me think, I would like to be like that.

The next day I went to the study group, which was about ten people and very comfortable. I was struck again by how familiar the teachings are. Advaita is the same, no matter who is teaching it to you. The concepts, the ideas, they were all exactly what I believe.

Of course I had to explain again and again how I found Chinmaya and why I was there, but everyone accepted my explanation that my parents taught me Advaita as a child, but left out the culture and that I wanted both. A family friend told me that Chinmaya would be a good fit for me, and so it is!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Busy Weekend

This weekend has me bouncing all over the place.

In bad news, I went to Chinmaya mission this morning and the door was locked. I found one person there who was doing some admin stuff and he told me that there was a getting-to-know-you picnic today, but he didn't know where it was! He tried really hard to find it for me, even calling the Swami-ji on his cell phone, but no one answered.

I was really disappointed. One of the things that has been bothering me about Chinmaya is that I'm so alone there. I go each Saturday morning and sit by myself and listen and then I mill around a little afterward and try to find something to help out with, but I don't know anyone and no one knows me. What a great opportunity this picnic would have been to make some friends!

I'm not sure how to get in the loop on stuff like this. I'm on the email list, but I went back through my emails and found nothing about a picnic.

In the end, I had to just turn around and go home. Which isn't so bad, since I have homework to do.

And in good news, I will have other opportunities this weekend to make friends with Chinmaya people. Yesterday I was on their website and I found the information for the study groups, which are small discussion gatherings. I've been looking for one ever since I tried the youth discussion group and found myself with a bunch of people ten years younger than me that I couldn't relate to.

It turns out, there is a study group in the town next to me and they invited me to come to the meeting tomorrow evening. Also, they are putting together a special dinner for the Swami-ji tonight and I was invited to that as well.

So, I'm not as crushed about the picnic as I would otherwise have been. I'm going to go to the store after my dance class and pick up some fruit to make a big fruit chaat and head to dinner!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Conversation on Cultural Appropriation

The conversation around cultural appropriation continues all around me. It isn't something that I want to just dismiss as irrelevant. I am confident in my choice to follow the culture that I feel at home with, but I also want to continue to refresh and renew my understanding and the understanding of the society around me about what the real implications of my choice are.

I was poking around on the Internet like I do and I found a discussion about Native American Shaminism. This discussion, actually, was less about the culture and practices themselves, and more about whether people who are not Native Americans could choose to incorporate aspects of it into their spiritual practice.

These discussions often come back to this idea of "white privilege." This is something that I know nothing about. I have never really studied sociology or anything like that. Sadly, not hearing about it doesn't make me not a part of it. Even though I don't feel any loyalty or connection to my literal ancestry or to my skin color, I am still automatically in a privileged position, according to what I've been reading.

I can't know what it is like to be not white. I have been in situations where I am the minority, but in most of my life, I am in the majority. If I do non-mainstream things, those are a choice. Because of my looks, I have the choice to fit in more than I do. People with other skin tones often face discrimination and prejudice and there is nothing they could do to change that (aside from educating the ignorant people who are discriminating against them, I guess).

What saddens me in this is that, as white people, we are expected to bear a lot of blame and guilt for the way our ancestors may have treated people (I have a hard time believing that my Irish ancestors were out there oppressing anyone!). I don't know if that is right or wrong.

I am going to paraphrase some of the points and ideas that were brought up in this discussion. There were some things that I haven't thought about before:

On Facebook, a group called Speaking of Faith posted a question: “What can we learn from Native American shamanism?” The poster on this forum said she was surprised by some of the reactions to that post, that went from "everything" to "leave it alone, it's not yours to experience."

She asked if involving oneself in another culture's spiritual practice is dishonoring or invading them in inappropriate ways.

Why, she asks, would it be bad to encourage people to experience cultures different from their own?

Here are the basic points that were brought up, on both sides of the issue:
-it's a fad
-we have a varied ethnic make up, why not draw from all of them?
-turning it into something it isn't
-white people expect to be able to do whatever they want and take whatever they want without consequence
-cherry picking religion (still plan to do a post on this based on Eat Pray Love)
-people whose ancestors tried to wipe our your religion are now practicing it
-white people erroneously seeing indigenous people as "pure"
-is it still the same religion if it is modified by people not totally understanding it practicing it or "making it their own"?

One person made the statement that it was up to the native members of that culture to choose whether or not to accept an outsider in their practices. I thought that was a grand idea, but impossible in practice. I pointed out that most religions do not have one central person who can declare who is in and who is out. This is what I wrote in response:

"One of the troubles with this is that there isn’t always one authority in a religion or culture. If you are welcomed by one spiritual community, but then someone else from another town sees you practicing her religion and is offended, what do you do? Do you say, 'Ask my priest (or whatever), I got permission from him'? Do you need to carry a signed statement around to say that someone culturally from this religion approved you?"

To which I have not had a response as of yet.

Whose approval is it that we need and why? I'm working now on the idea that I only need my own approval, but I don't want to be insensitive these issues, so I continue to learn about them.

Here are some paraphrased responses to the post on Shaminism:

This seems similar to Messianic Judaism, which combines Judaism and Christianity in a way that offends many Jews. They feel that their religion is being co-opted and turned into something it is not, combining the sacred with something they find profane.

In terms of Native American stuff, I have some Native American heritage as well as a lot of European. I wonder if we need to just be aware and careful when taking these things on. That's why I was reluctant to jump into Celtic paganism because I wanted to make sure it was my path and not just me following a fad. I didn't want my interest to fade and to move onto something else, but now that I'm following that path, I'm trying to be respectful and sit back and learn instead of acting like I'm an expert. And it's frustrating when you've been doing something and it suddenly becomes "cool."

I see a couple of things going on with Native American religious practices. First is the history. White people perpetrated cultural genocide against Native Americans and it must be hard to see your religious practices adopted by people who don't look at the realities of that history on a daily basis. There is also systemic racism in this country and it must be hard to see your practices adopted by people who seem unaware of the unearned privilege that their race gives them. People whose ancestors worked hard to eradicate your culture can now choose to practice it without any negative consequences.

Cafeteria spiritualism that takes just the convenient bits of practices around the world really bothers me.

Involving oneself in another culture's spiritual practice can be dishonoring or invading. There are churches that do not welcome everyone to communion. Non-Mormons are not allowed in certain parts of Mormon sanctuaries. I would not expect to be invited to a friend's celebrations of Passover. If it is not ok for me to walk into a Catholic monastery and explore, why should it be ok for me to go to other sacred places like a sweat lodge? Why do Westeners think they can barge right into practices that are "indigenous" and "close to the earth" without asking?

I see a lot of racial distinctions in what traditions are considered fair game to adapt. Partly this is because of the misguided idea of indigenous people as pure and unsullied by everything that is wrong with Western culture. The avoids the nuances and subtleties of a challenging situation and is naive.

The way people are talking about it, no one outside the culture has a right to even study it, let alone take it on. If there is a non-indigenous person who really is seeking to learn about it and is respectful, why would that not be allowed?

Certainly barding into someone's sacred space and expecting a welcome is a problem and the people who operate that space have the right to decide who is allowed, what if the people are setting up their own versions of something sacred from that culture in their own space? Like if a UU church is teaching kids about dream catchers. Is it inappropriate appropraition from the children to make dream catchers at their church?

A comment on the cafeteria spirituality. This idea that picking and choosing from different traditions is wrong is a Western prejudice and not shared by all cultures. For example, in Japan rituals from Shinto, Christian, and Buddhist traditions are often used throughout a person's life. There's nothing wrong with that unless you adhere to the Western dualism that says you ahve to be this or that, not something in between. We in the West can be very rigid in our thinking, particularly when it comes to spirituality.

Some people say that you should worship in the religion that is most predominate in your own culture because you are born into that culture to learn something specific within that framework. To go outside of the culture you're born into is disrespectful to the gods. I thought it was an interesting concept, though I don't agree with it.

I was on vacation recently and was looking at Native American jewelry. I avoid purchasing jewelry that has symbolic Native American designs just like I avoid wearing African styles of clothes, even though I think the fabrics are really beautiful. It feels as if I am taking something that isn't mine. I asked the woman I was buying jewelry from about this and she looked at me like she had never thought of it like that. I am protective of symbols. If a non-Jew put up a mezzuzah [a container for a sacred scroll that Jews attach to the sides of their front doors], I woudl feel infringed on, like if you are not willing to take on the commitment, why are you taking the symbol. I feel that way also about people I know are not Christian who wear crosses because they are in style.

It's true about the messianic Judaism. I looked at their source texts against the original Hebrew and not one verse means what they say it means. At some point you have to say, this is not Judaism. Dressing like a Jew and sprinkling in some Hebrew is not the equivalent of being Jewish.

And lastly, an interesting article written by a young woman who is both Black and Jewish (and born Jewish, not a convert) and her feelings of being not welcomed by Judaism:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In case you couldn't tell...

Sorry to be a downer today. If you couldn't tell, my boyfriend and I broke up last night.

For the girls looking forward to and waiting for fun Indian wedding stuff, here's a couple of links of amazing American/Indian (and sometimes other nationalities) weddings with pictures worth drooling over:


Too American

I hate being thought of as typical. Typical anything. I feel dismissed if someone says "she's just being a girl" or "she's so American" or whatever it is. Maybe that is where my at-odds-ness comes from. In other words, I have tremendous difficulty fitting in with the culture around me, no matter where I am. I have a need to be different and stand out. Unfortunately, that instinct doesn't mesh too well with an Indian culture where individuals are not as important as the whole and family is the smallest unit.

Someone in the comments mentioned the idea that converts to Hinduism treat it like Christianity and approach it from a Christian, which is to say western, mindset. I think that is sometimes the case. There are some western Hindus I see who seem to have replaced Jesus with Krishna and basically have a Baptist religion going on! But I don't really think our brains doom us to only be able to understand religion one way. I'm sure there are tendencies in us Americans to see things a certain way, but I do think those can change. Also, not everything is as western in our brains as you would expect and not all Indians have an "Indian mindset."

Several years ago a man named Whorf published a paper about how our native language effects our thoughts. He posited that if our language did not have a word for something, then we would be unable to know what it was. I'm pretty sure his was the theory behind the strange idea that the Native Americans, when Europeans first arrived, were unable to see the ships because they had no concept for that type of vessel (which seems ridiculous to me. They new what boats were, it just looked a bit different!). It later turned out that Whorf had no research whatsoever to back up these claims.

Our native language (and culture) does not doom us to never being able to understand another perspective. However, it does have effects. This article my Dad recently sent me illustrates it perfectly.

So yes, I do think that we all have a default way that we approach the world that is based on the culture around us and the way our parents teach us. But it isn't unchangeable and it also isn't always what you expect.

In many ways, I grew up with two cultures and two cultural ideals. There is the American culture around me and the Indian culture whose ideals were taught to me in my home. I have had tremendous difficulty reconciling the two.

There are a lot of ways in which I think like an American.

I like personal space, for example. Also, I believe in personal social mobility and that our birth should not be our destiny. Those are pretty American, or at least Western, ideas.

On the other hand, there are distinctly Indian things in my brain too and they often put me strongly at odds with those around me.

One example is that my first boyfriend really believed in progress. He believed that improvements in technology and education are making a better and better world, that we are growing and becoming greater, that a golden age is still in front of us. I could not understand his perspective at all. I'm very stuck in the idea of cyclical time and that we started out good and are running down (like entropy). But progress is one of the main ideas that America is built on.

The biggest thing that has made me unable to fit in is my ideas about marriage. By a huge margin, Americans believe that love is important in marriage and that one must be in love before getting married while Indians believe that romantic love is not a trustworthy emotion and has little to no connection to marriage.

I have both these messages competing for my loyalty and it's making it nearly impossible to date like a "normal" American.

If I say to my mother, "I'm not sure that I love this boy", she will respond, "You're so American. Love is fleeting. He's nice to you, he's a good man, what else do you think love is?"

Strangely enough, said American boyfriend would like for the woman he is with to love him. She thinks he is also being too picky.

What does love have to do with marriage?

I don't know. Growing up, I got the idea that the two are unrelated, or at least that you can create love from nothing with enough dedication and hard work.

But then when I moved out of my parents' house I started hearing something very different.

However, still stuck with my ideas about dedication and hard work, I've spent years with various boyfriends, trying to force myself into the mold of the perfect wife. Yet, I don't end up married. Because these American men don't want the perfect wife, they want someone genuine and that I don't know how to be.

Now that I'm nearing thirty and I'm still unmarried, I'm getting these mixed messages stronger and stronger. Of course, everyone just wants for me to be happy. They have very different ideas about how I should get there.

Love is not something that I can put into words. It is not something I am sure about. It can't be measured or quantified or located in a physical way. Like faith, I guess. And yet I have faith and I don't have any grasp on love.

How important is that spark, the sizzle, the chemistry, the feeling of being in love? Whether important or not, Americans want it in their relationships and I think that I want it too. I've tried the dedication and hard work route and it has not led me to happiness, so it's time to try to approach relationships like the American that I am.

I am taking a year off from dating in order to get a handle on myself and figure out how I am going to fit myself into the culture that I live in. Until I take a breather, and get my feet back under me, it is not fair to the men in my life for me to be dating.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Some Resources

Someone commented and left this link a couple weeks ago:

I haven't done too much exploring there yet, but it seems like it will be a very useful resource. It is put together by Chinmaya, the organization that I now belong to. You can also read more at: And there is also a link to their Facebook group.

I also found something else neat. During my trip to Rosetta Stone in New York, I was given an ipod touch, so now I can experience apps (I've been so jealous of people with iphones!)

Going through the app store I found one called ipooja, which seems like an awesome idea. It comes with one pooja already on it for free, and the idea is that you can buy others (although their store doesn't seem to have much in it, so I hope they will come out with more).

These are the elaborate poojas for certain occasions and not a simple, every day type. But it has a section where it tells you all the things you need for the pooja, then how to set it up, then what to do and what chants to say, etc. It just guides you step by step.

I think this is an awesome idea! Here is their website:

Looking into it further, I found some other similar apps, like this ipuja:

Here's one that answers questions about Hindu rituals and customs:

The only one I've tried so far is the ipooja, but I'm looking forward to downloading the others and seeing how they are.

It's amazing, isn't it, how technology has changed our lives. Only ten years ago, I wasn't sure what this whole "Inter-net" thing was. And look at me now! :)

ETA: I just tried the ipuja and I wasn't able to get it to work. I might try redownloading it. Also I found some other neat apps. If you look up "Hindu" in itunes app store you'll find things like
bhajan lyrics
prayers to use in Aartis
A Ganesha picture to which you can offer flowers, ring a bell, and break a coconut
And a low price one called imantra, in which you move virtual mala beads and listen to various different mantras that you select.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Holiday: Navaratri/Dussehra

Didn't I warn you that it is non stop holidays during this time of the year? :)

You may have seen Sita reference this holiday in the comments. It is indeed time to start preparing for the next one. I hope that in future years this will be smoother for me, but this being my first year celebrating the holidays, it is extremely overwhelming and they just keep coming!

Navaratri starts this year on Friday October 8th and goes for nine days. In fact, the name means "Nine Nights." Then a tenth day, culminating the holiday, is called Dussehra.

One of the things I like about this festival is that it is focused on the feminine side of the divine. It worships the divine mother. The first three days are devoted to Dhurga, a warrior and a very strong female. The second three days are devoted to Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity and the final three days are devoted to Saraswati, goddess of wisdom and learning. All are forms of shakti, the female divine energy. Other forms of shakti are also worshiped, in some places there is a different goddess for each day.

According to Wikipedia there are actually a number of Navatri holidays throughout the year, but this one is the most important, the Maha Navatri.

I'm told that it is celebrated differently in different places. In some places, steps are placed with idols on them, which is called golu.

In other places, the Garba dance is performed. Here's an example of Garba:

This is a time to respect and be grateful for the tools of trade and in South India, children often start school at the end of this holiday.

Anyone who knows of any misinformation here, please let me know and I'll edit it! Thanks.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I heart Rosetta Stone (and some other stuff)

I have been away from the Internet for a whole two days! Oh my goodness. So, that's why I didn't respond earlier to the comments on the last post. I think there is a lot of material there, so I'll need to go through carefully and bring some of the discussion into new posts.

The reason I've been away from the Internet is Rosetta Stone. You all know that I am a huge fan of theirs. I've been happily learning Hindi with them for the last year and I love the way that I am able to feel the language on a very deep level because they don't use translation and my brain goes through the work to puzzle out what each thing means. (Proof that it is working, a new person friended me on Facebook recently and left a comment on one of my photos in Hindi and I was very proud to realize that I understood it and was able to respond. I still have a long way to go before I'm fluent, but I'm making good progress).

Rosetta Stone has a Facebook fan page and I am there frequently, making comments and helping out new users. Apparently, Rosetta Stone took notice of this. They called me up and asked me if I would like to go to New York as a guest for the launch of their newest product. They invited two other people as well (and one of them is also a Hindi learner! He is learning Hindi so that he can communicate with his Indian fiancé's family. He started learning it as a surprise for her, isn't that sweet?).

The new product is another big leap forward for Rosetta Stone. As a company, they are constantly researching new learning methods, listening to customer feedback, and trying to make the very best language learning product possible. Five years ago I had their first offering and it had some problems. Last year I discovered that they had been working on it and continuing to improve it and they had come out with an amazing new version, version 3, that solved all my issues. Now they have version 4 launched.

It has the same great course that version 3 had, easing you into learning and helping your brain to figure out what things mean based on series of closely related pictures. Now they also have a way to play games with other learners of your language, chat with native speakers, and have live coaching sessions entirely in your target language. They also have an iphone app as well as mp3 files so that you can learn where ever you go.

These last couple of days I have been in New York, being treated like a total celebrity. They gave me a free copy of the version 4 Hindi! I can't believe how they are paying back the love that I have for them :)

One of the things I really like about the company is that everyone who works there is passionate about language learning. Every person I met, I asked what language he or she was learning. Every single one of them is learning a language with the Rosetta Stone software. Many of them started using Rosetta Stone before they worked there. Their staff are anthropologists, linguists, programmers, game developers, all sorts of amazing skills are being brought to this product!

This new version will allow me to ease my way into actually speaking with people and I can't wait to get started, which is a great new motivation, since I've been feeling run-down and have not been practicing my Hindi like I should.

This pic is posted on the Rosetta Stone twitter feed.

I came to another conclusion while on this trip. I decided that I am going to stop wearing a bindi every day. I think I'm being too obsessive about it and that it can be off-putting to people to see that and it's making me seem harsh and unapproachable.

I would like to learn to better regulate how I fit in with those around me and to choose what I wear based on what impression I want to create.

I will now wear a bindi when I feel like it or when the occasion is appropriate.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gunas (qualities)

Giving the politically charged stuff a rest for a bit (somehow getting a new issue of Hinduism Today, always leads me into the political stuff!)...

I wanted to do a quick post about gunas because that's a word I use frequently and it's something that I often can't find an English equivalent for.

To start of, I'm not honestly sure where this comes from. Wikipedia says the three guna system comes from Samkhya, one of the classic schools of Indian philosophy. For me, I was taught growing up that this was just how the world works.

The idea is that all things in creation are made up of different proportions of three subtle qualities. I say "subtle" because this is not on the physical level like atoms or molecules. There is a physical world and body and there is a subtle world and body.

The three gunas are:

Rajas: passion, energy, lust, excitement, agitation

Tamas: lethargy, sleepiness, dullness

Sattva: peace, calmness, serenity

Some believe that it is right for all three to exist in everything in their natural proportions. Others believe that we should always be raising the amount of sattva, especially in ourselves. I had a professor once who espoused the idea that sattva was not its own separate guna, but was made up of the proper balance of the other two (which is a rather strange and radical idea).

In some schools of philosophy one should not eat spicy food because it is rajasic and will inflame rajas in you.

I find these three descriptors very helpful in my day to day life to explain and understand things.

Some days I feel "blah." If I acknowledge to myself that I feel "tamasic," though, it is easier for me to see it as just a process going on in the world, and not part of who I am. Tamas exists and is interacting with me in some way, but the other two are there as well and will eventually make their own appearances.

So now if you hear me talk about the gunas, you'll know what I'm referring to.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Reclaiming "Hindu"

The other day my mom was pointing out to me that if Truth is universal and One, then it doesn't matter what you call it. You can give any name you want to the divine. I think that's true. Look at Mother Theresa who saw God in every person she cared for. I read a book collected from speeches she gave and over and over again she said that she cared for the poor because when she looked at them, she saw Jesus. That's a pretty Hindu concept, seeing the divine within people. But she found it in Catholicism. Does that truth of unity belong exclusively to Hinduism? Does believing that make you a Hindu? Of course not.

However, knowing that I have a choice what I call the divine, I choose to call it Brahma and to call myself a Hindu.

That word can be a bit charged. I was reading an article in the new Hinduism Today that was about a debate between Deepak Chopra and Aseem Shukla about yoga and whether it is a Hindu practice or one that belongs to everyone. Regardless of that debate, what I found interesting in it was that Dr. Shukla called on Mr. Chopra to acknowledge his own Hindu roots and Chopra refused to. He associates the word “Hindu” with the close-minded Orthodox and calls himself an Advaita Vedantan (that is, by the way, what I used to call myself). Shukla argues for reclaiming the title Hindu and I agree with him.

Shukla writes, “Not willing to identify himself as a Hindu, Chopra is content to accept the term Sanatana Dharma as the source of the yoga and the Vedantic wisdom he propagates. Chopra is hardly the first to find it hard to openly identify himself as a Hindu, just as Eckhart Tolle eschews the term Hindu while he admittedly parlays the copious works of the towering contemporary Advaita Vedanta Hindu master, Sri Ramana Maharshi. Today, Sanatana Dharma and Hinduism are synonymous. Chopra incomprehensibly condemns Hinduism as ‘tribal’…”

In another place Shukla does acknowledge that the ancient rishis did not call themselves “Hindu,” that the term is rather recent, but it is still a useful way to describe the practices and the beliefs.

It is, after all, a word recognized by the entire world, even if grossly misunderstood. I think rather than abandon the word because it is misunderstood, it is up to us to give it its true meaning.

Instead of being afraid of the baggage of the word “Hindu”, why not remake Hinduism to be what it should be? It does not belong to the close minded, hateful, or bigoted. I won’t give the word to those who espouse violence.

Let’s live by example, embodying the good parts of Hinduism and showing the world those best parts.

I wear Indian clothes and a bindi in part to help make it normal in the west, to send the message that you don’t have to whitewash your culture to be American or British, etc. Rather than saying, I can't be religious (or I have to hide being religious) because I am young, modern, and liberal, we can go into the world and show that you can be both. I can be religious and show my religion and at the same time be sassy, modern, and liberal!

I have pride in the title of “Hindu” and I know that I am creating the definition of what that is every day when I interact with people who are not Hindus or who are put off by their memories of unyielding Hindus in their family, etc.

With pride we can say, this is what Hinduism looks like. It is not stuck in the past, it does not have to be "tribal," it is vibrant and alive and modern.

How I celebrated

I had a great time with Ganesh Chathurthi.

In the morning I went to Chinmaya and there was a Ganesh puja performed by the children.

In the afternoon I created my own Ganesha statue, then I cooked modak and offered them to the idol and then we drove to a park and I released the statue into the water.

There were a couple of hitches. My modak turned out terrible! They were falling apart and I couldn't get them into the right shape, but my friend who was visiting said to keep trying anyway. They ended up looking like wontons. The filling tasted fine, but the dough was not great. Next time I'm buying them from the grocery store.

Letting the little statue go in the water was deeply moving. It was hard for me to leave it behind there. I like the symbolism of "dust thou art to dust returnest" (which is part of a line from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, though he goes on to write that this was not said of the soul).

You may not realize it, but this is the first year that I'm doing Hindu holidays. I've considered myself a Hindu for seven years, but all I've done before is Holi. I was never well connected in a Hindu community and I didn't know how to go about it. Now I have a temple to go to and I have my Hindi meet up group, which invites me to things. And I'm figuring out for myself how to make each holiday meaningful, and which traditions I want to

Friday, September 10, 2010

Diving in Anyway

There are certain things in my life that I have been waiting for with varying amounts of patience. I have been waiting a long time to be married and there were things I set up in my mind as things I would wait to do until that time. Unfortunately, now it just feels like my entire life is on hold and I'm hanging in a closet waiting to get started.

It's tough coming from a community of marrying young and arranging marriage, but living in a society that believes in late marriage and dating for years. I haven't adjusted very well, but that isn't the point.

The point is, I decided to do something that I had not planned to do until I was at least engaged.

In Hindu culture, there are five signs of a married woman (well, approximately, anyway, this can vary by region and community, of course!). In America the wedding ring is gaining popularity in Indian weddings, especially because it is the only sign of a married person recognized in America, but it is not part of the original Indian system.

So, for the western culture, a ring on the third finger of the left hand is the only sign of a married person. Here are the Hindu signs (as far as I understand it, anyway)

1) Mangalsutra necklace. This is sometimes also called a thali, I believe in South India. There are slight differences. A thali is usually a gold necklace with a gold pendent. A mangalsutra is usually black beads also with a pendant.

2) Kumkum in part of hair. Kumkum, or sindoor, is a red powder. During a wedding ceremony, a groom will put it in the part of his new wife's hair. Traditionally, she would do this herself daily. I heard some story that way back in ancient times it was originally the groom's blood!

Here is a picture of the lovely Bollywood actress, Aishwarya Rai (now Bachchan) at her wedding and you can see the red in her hair and the necklace:

3) Silver toe rings on the second toes of both feet.

4) Round, red bindi.

5) Nose piercing

The first three (as far as I know) always mean marriage, but the last two depend. In some parts of India they mean marriage, in some parts they mean you're just more traditional. I've had some people tell me that bindis have nothing whatsoever to do with marriage and other people tell me that a red one is specifically making the point of being married.

So to avoid confusion, I have been wearing a black bindi. When I get married, I will switch to a red one, most likely (though I think black would probably look better on my skin, so I'll have to see).

From what I've read, it is common for girls in India to get their nose pierced when they are engaged or reach marriageable age. The reasoning I've heard most is that Ayurvedic medicine (traditional Indian medicine, there's another post I need to write!) believes that making the hole in a particular spot eases the pain in childbirth.

The nose ring is something that is utterly different in interpretation between America and India.

Here in America, a nose piercing is something that a young person gets to be rebellious and different and to upset his or her parents. In India, it's an ancient tradition that is well respected and they create nose rings that are much more beautiful and elaborate than anything you would get in the U.S.

So in one place it means modern and in the other it means old-fashioned! Isn't it funny how that happens?

I have wanted a nose piercing for many years. I thought they were beautiful from the time I was a teenager and the farther into Indian culture I get, the more I want one. I had a previous boyfriend who hated them and said they look like boogers stuck on your nose. Yuk. So that opinion prevented me for a long time. Then I thought maybe I would get one as a celebration of getting engaged.

But ten years after my first prospective/possible marriage, I'm still not engaged and I've decided that I don't need to find something special to celebrate to do this, so I just went for it.

Today, I got my nose pierced.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Going extinct

White Indian Housewife has a brief post about the (crazy) people who really do think that white people are superior and who give her a hard time about marrying an Indian man. It's a good read:

There are people out there who are concerned that the white race is in decline and will go extinct. This doesn't worry me at all. Yes, paleness is a trait that is usually dominated by darker skin, so a white person and a brown person will have a brown baby in most cases. Is that a problem, though?

To me, as long as the human race doesn't go extinct, we're in good shape.

People are people and we are all equally capable of leading fulfilling lives as human beings. If in a couple hundred years there cease to be any white people at all, I wouldn't be at all distressed.

So what if paleness goes extinct?

(Oh, and I wanted to add something about the having kids that look like you. My cousin is white and her husband is from South American ancestry, I believe. They have two children. The girl looks exactly like my cousin except her skin is darker and the boy looks exactly like her husband except very pale. These things can be quite unpredictable!)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Racial Differences (funny)

A friend sent me this hilarious article about racial groups.

Basically, someone took thousands of profiles from a dating site called OKCupid and separated them by gender and by race (what the people themselves classified their race to be). Then he analyzed all the parts about what the people like in order to find the top 50 things that people of that race and gender list as what they like. (It doesn't say, but I believe that these people are all in America).

Let's see what white women like v.s. what Indian women like. And which one am I closer to?

White Women
the red sox= Well, I'm from Boston and that's our team. I don't care about sports at all and would never mention it in an online dating profile, but if I'm going to root for any team it will be them.

jodi picoult= Yuk. I think her writing is terrible. I read one of her books and the plot had an enormous hole in it and was very disappointing.

boating= not interested

nascar= really, really not interested

mascara= it's useful sometimes, I guess. I already have very dark and thick eyelashes, so I don't worry about mascara much.

ireland= the land of my ancestors from one side of my family.

nicholas sparks= Yuk. Even worse writing than Picoult. Horrible, overblown romantic stuff

horseback riding= never done it

bonfires= never done it

flea markets= never been to one, though they sound fun

a country girl= not at all

nora ephron= I do like her writing and her movies. She did My Blue Heaven, which is fantastic

waitress= the profession or the movie? I've never been a waitress. The movie was okay

ray lamontagne= I don't know who this is

i'm blond= Nope, never have been

yankees= This is the team directly against my Red Sox team, so certainly not!

kenny chesney=heard of him, but never heard his music

decorating= LOVE

getting dressed up= LOVE (hello, gorgeous sari)

skiing= I did it once when I was a kid, didn't care for it

when harry met sally= cute movie

baths= not really, although I like them better than showers

my red hair= I do like my red hair. Thanks to henna I am delighting in having orange hair in front.

horses= I like animals in general, horses are nothing special to me

summertime= Sure, summer is fine.

wine= I don't drink any alcohol

dmb= don't know what this is

historical fiction= I've enjoyed it when I've tried it, though I'm more into literary fiction and classics

cookbooks= love them

flip-flops= indifferent to them

my girlfriends= having friends is nice

the time traveler's wife= Amazing book and I highly recommend it

country music= don't care for it

diet coke= I hate soda

dirty dancing= good movie, nice love story

coffee= I also hate coffee

thunderstorms= I like rain more than I like thunderstorms

midwest= I drove through the midwest once

tim mcgraw= heard of him, never heard his music

new recipes= Yeah, new recipes are always good

patricia cornwell= heard of her, never read any of her books

mom= I like my mom

carrie underwood= heard of her, never heard her music

nursing school= I'm not a nurse, so never been

eat pray love= LOVE, we've all ready established that

yoga= I like it okay, but I've talked about that before too

pilates= good exercise

my toes= Um, weird. I am fond of my feet. I don't know why. They are very small and I think they are pretty.

animal lover= I do love animals

baking=I do love cooking, though baking is something I'm not great at.

I'm giving myself a generous 19 out of 50.

Indian Women
bhangra= love it. I love the music and I love the dancing, but I'm not so good at the dancing. I enjoy watching it, though. My college had an amazing bhangra team

the namesake= amazing book and very good movie, I highly recommend them both

shantarama= I haven't read it

thousand splendid suns= haven't read yet

bollywood= love

residency= not a doctor, so I don't know about this one (see, right there you can tell I'm not an Indian, I've never even considered being a doctor)

the kite runner= it's on my list of books to read

jhumpa lahiri= Love. She is the author of the Namesake above. I've read all her work and I'm a huge fan.

interpreter= still only monolingual :(

indian food= love some of it. it is often too spicy for me, but I'm trying to build up my tolerance.

my passport= I'm fond of my passport, but I probably would not list it on a dating site.

my couch= I like my couch.

thai food= I really like pad thai, which I only just found out about this year. Haven't tried anything else.

slumdog millionaire= great movie

i heart a foodie= food is yummy

spices= like them

monsoon= never experienced one. Maybe it would cause me to change my mind about loving the rain?

wedding= LOVE weddings. I read about weddings a lot and really enjoy going to weddings and hearing about people's weddings.

bridget jones= love the movies, haven't read the books yet

vegetarian= yup.

frnds= Friends? I like them.

new yorker= shudder. No, I dislike New York.

my parents= Yup, I like them. Both of them.

neighborhoods= Sure, neighborhoods are nice

social justice= I believe in it

different cultures= Obviously :)

physician= nope

soca= I don't know what this means

when harry met sally= very enjoyable movie

be silly= Not so much. I get accused of being too serious a lot. I have a sense of humor, but it's kind of a subtle, wry, British sense of humor that I got from my dad (and I don't know where he got it, as he's from North Carolina).

norah jones= the couple songs of hers I've heard, I've liked

paradiso= I don't know what this is, but it sounds really it a movie?

anna karenina= Haven't read it yet and I'm ashamed. My dad loves Russian authors and I've been meaning to read this one.

tapas= yummy

funny= see "be silly."

the alchemist= haven't read it, but it sounds good

dance floor= I do enjoy dancing, though I'm terrible at modern club dancing

my mom's= her house? It's fine.

exotic destinations= Sure.

the unbearable lightness of being= Love the title and have always meant to read it just for that

discovering new things= Yup. I love to learn and I'm always trying to learn new things all the time.

gandhi= I like him

dark chocolate= Yum.

analyst= ?

jane austen= Love

coffee= Don't like

vivacious= Um, I don't know if anyone would call me this

great conversation= I like to think so, as long as you enjoy philosophical meandering

salman rushdie= I like his writing

god of small things= it's on my bed side table, but I haven't read it yet.

And for this one, I get 30 out of 50.

Hmmmm. In either category it looks like I'm not really the statistical norm. Although, I get 11 more points in Indian than in white.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Updates on Things

Satish made a great point on my last post that sometimes clothes are just about what's easiest. When you have a hectic life, you might not be putting much thought or effort into what you're wearing and I hadn't even thought about that.

I also forget how hard it is to look different from the norm around you. I always have and I'm not sure why. Even before I got involved with Indian culture, I always looked different, even when I was trying to fit in. It used to upset me a lot, when I was a kid in middle school. I had a boyfriend who taught me to just dress and look how I want, in a way that makes sense to me, and ignore stares. Not everyone has that.

I think clothes are an interesting thing. They are, to me, always a costume. I'm not sure how I would dress if I was not trying to portray myself in a particular way.

My new way of looking at prayer is slow going. I have a problem with wanting to be in control of everything all the time. I'm guilty of seeing prayer as something that I can use to force the world to do what I want! I need to learn how to surrender to the universe and really do it, not just pretend to surrender to get what I want. I feel like if I want something badly enough it will come to fruition, but I'm making my self sick wanting things so much.

Perhaps my ambivelence about what happens is a way to safe-guard myself against feeling disappointed when things don't go the way I am trying to make them go.

I want to be at peace with whatever happens, but I need to also still want things and express those wants in a healthy way (I think they are expressed in unhealthy ways currently). So, still working on that!

Hindi is not happening at all right now, as I'm exhausted and overwhelmed by so many other things, but I'm starting a formal class on the 20th, so then I'll be back to learning with full force.

What else do you want to know about? Ask me about my life and I'll happily tell you... :)

Monday, September 6, 2010


I was able to spend a lovely afternoon yesterday with a friend from the Hindu Student's Organization at my graduate school in California. She has moved closer to my area and I'm thrilled to have her here.

We talked about religion and life and lots of things. I told her about this blog and about my continuing journey to mesh my ethnicity with my religion. She didn't think there was any issue with me being culturally Indian and thought it was great that I wear a bindi now.

In some ways, I'm more culturally Indian than a lot of the second generation Indian Americans here. Probably because being cool and fitting in have never been on my list of priorities!

I'm an old-fashioned girl at heart. I like tradition and I'm slow to adapt to change. While some people go through their teenage years and want to fit in and look like everyone else and not be labeled "weird", I am not one of them. I don't really understand the fear of being labeled "weird."

I don't need to have designer jeans or wear the right kind of clothes or have the right kind of hair style. I don't need to rank on the social ladder at all. I don't need to be thought of as "modern." And so I am free to follow my own instincts and wear things that others my age find hopelessly old-fashioned.

I guess it helps that my mother is not an Indian mother, so though I often dress like an Indian woman of her generation instead of my own, I'm never in a position of feeling like I'm too similar to my mother. I don't need to rebel in that way.

Now, I only know that it is rare for young people who grew up in America to wear "ethnic" clothes and be traditional. What is it like in India? For those who live there, do you feel like many young people are trying to be cool and look Western or are many of them wearing suits and bindis? Do young married women still wear kumkum in their part or is that something that only grandmothers do?

I get the impression that I might not be so out of place there with my old fashioned look. I often see recent immigrants from India who are my age and who are dressed very traditionally (though I'm sure for some of them it is because their in-laws prefer it that way).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Holiday: Ganesh Chaturthi

Guess what? There's another great holiday coming up in one week.

Next Saturday is Ganesha's birthday.

The celebration actually lasts for 10 days and I believe it starts (this year) on September 11th (although it could be that's the day it ends...someone want to tell me for sure?)

The big tradition for this is that beautiful statues of Ganesha are created and on the last day, parades bring them to be immersed in water. People sometimes make their own statues and "return them to the earth" by leaving them in nearby bodies of water.

I think this would be a tremendously fun thing to do with kids and they can craft their own Ganesha statue.

I want to craft a Ganesha that I can leave in the lake near my home that will not be bad for the environment, so my boyfriend and I went looking for non-toxic and biodegradable clay. What he came up with was a clay that's basically bread, a mixture of flour and water. Here is the recipe.

The other thing that we are going to do for Ganesh Chaturthi is making Ganesha's favorite food, modak.

This is a dumpling made of rice flour and coconut. Here is a recipe, from the website


Ingredients Needed To Prepare Modak
1. Rice – 1½ cup 2. Salt – A pinch 3. Pure Ghee (Clarified Butter) – ½ teaspoon

For Stuffing
1. Fresh Coconut Grated/Scraped – 1½ cup 2. Jaggery Grated – ¾ cup 3. Green Cardamom Powder – A pinch

How To Prepare Modak
Wash and drain the rice thoroughly. Spread it evenly on an absorbing cloth so that the rice gets thoroughly dried. After it dries, grind it to a fine powder in a mixer. To ensure the thoroughness of the grinding process, pass the powdered rice through a sieve. In a pan boil one and quarter cup of water, adding salt and ghee into it.

Slowly start adding the rice flour, constantly stirring it so that there are no lumps formed. After the entire mixture is added, remove the pan from heat and keep it covered for the next 10-15 minutes. Grease your palms with a little bit of oil. Knead the cooked rice mixture to soft dough. When done, cover it with a moist cloth.

Take a pan and cook the mixture of the scraped coconut and jaggery on medium heat until it turns into a light golden brown color. Make sure that it is not overcooked. Then add the cardamom powder, remove it from heat and allow it to cool a little. Then divide the coconut mixture and divide it equally into 10-12 equal portions. Grease your palm with oil. Now divide the dough of the rice flour into 10-12 equal portions into lemon sized balls. Then flatten the ball in your palm to form discs with a diameter of three inches. Press the edges of the disc further to reduce the thickness.

Next, place the semi cooled coconut and jaggery mixture in the centre of this disc and form 8-10 pleats with your fingers. Then gather them together in the shape of a bundle with its tip being conical. Seal the edges. To understand the shape better, take a look at the picture with this recipe.Steam these balls in a steamer for 10-15 minutes. Serve the hot modak with a bit of ghee.

Next week I'll put up pictures of my statue and how my modak turns out. Also next Saturday Chinmaya starts up again!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A very Hare Krishna Janamashtami

We had a great time at Krishna Janamashtami at the Hare Krishna temple. I had never been to an ISKON temple before. They actually had a whole festival sort-of set up with stands with food and gifts, etc. There were Bhajans and Lilas and some Bharatnatyam dance.

I fasted during the day and broke my fast with the prasad at the temple. (Made me start thinking about fasting as a practice. I'd like to learn more about it and do a post on it).

Here is me all dressed up:

This is a new sari and I was extremely pleased that I found bangles that matched it perfectly. You can't see them too well, but they are gold, black, and orange.

At home I drew designs on our balcony. Here are Krishna's footsteps going into our apartment:
(And Thea wondering what's up)

At the temple, my sweetie bought me a brand new puja set. What I have been using for pujas is an old thaali and some bits and pieces put together and I use a tea light instead of a lamp. Take a look at the old "set" verses the fancy new set:

We met up with some friends, and we learned how to chant the Hare Krishna mantra. I thought it was funny that the guy who wanted to teach us was asking, "Did you know that today is a special day?" I thought, "Why else would I be dressed up in one of my best saris and driving an hour to be here? Do you think I was just wandering by in my best clothes?" He had us chanting the mantra to 108 beads (I have a japa mala and I was surprised that the ones he taught us on were actually rough wooden beads).

ETA: Oh, and I realized when we were chanting it, that the word "hare" sounded more and more like "hurray" which was sort of appropriate. I wonder where we got the word "hurray" from... It's interesting that for some reason native English speakers tend to call Hare Krishna "Hairy Krishna." Apparently that's what it sounds like to them. I don't think "hare" sounds anywhere near "hairy." But anyway, it felt like we were saying "yay Krishna!" which was kind of fun.

All in all it was a delightful evening.