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 This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at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 9, 2011

An Honor

As you may know, I am a big fan of Hinduism Today, the magazine. 

I just found out that this blog has been mentioned in the latest issue's Digital Dharma section! I am so thrilled and flattered.

Bamboo Thoughts is also mentioned!  

Totally cool. That made my day.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Diwali!

दीपावली की शुभकामनाएं

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Hindi Resources

I made a new page to house all my Hindi learning resources.  I hope it will be easier to navigate and more fun than just my long list of links buried in the archive!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Parents' Guru

I was startled to find out that my parents' guru, Sri Bharati Tirtha, is being featured in Hinduism Today as Hindu of the Year! This is the man that we went to India to see. We spent a week at his ashram and went to see him two to three times a day (well, my parents did. I went once a day, occasionally two).

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's here! The book is here!

It is available both in print and in Kindle

In Print $14.99
In Print at Amazon $14.99
Kindle $3.99

Eventually it will be on all ebook formats. It is over 400 pages long! So, that's a lot of material that's probably much easier to read in book format than digging through this website.

It would be so awesome if all the regulars here would head over to Amazon and write some reviews! :D There is also a Facebook fan page! And, you know, tell all your friends!

The blog itself will no longer be active. I may, perhaps, occasionally post something that catches my attention, but for the most part I will stop posting. I have come to a point where I have said what I wanted to say, I have engaged and discussed with you all, and arrived happily at a place where I am content with my religion, no longer feeling any need to prove myself to anyone.

I believe the book will be valuable for others who are following a similar path to mine. If you are newly arrived here, all the information is in the archives, but the book packages it together in an easier to manage format.

For all my wonderful friends here, thank you! Thank you for your support and kindness and engagement with this subject.

I love you.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Book Imminent

I have been busy, busy, busy preparing to turn this blog into a book. There's a lot of formatting and referencing and such to do. It should be done very soon, so stay tuned! :D

Also get updates (and make me happy!) by "liking" the Facebook page:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Clothes and Politics

It turns out, apparently women's clothes is symbolic and a topic for debate and difficulty. I was chatting with a guy recently who said that he noticed from my blog that I wear Indian clothes frequently and that he wasn't sure, as a feminist, how he felt about that.

I don't tend to think about the political implication of my clothes.

I wear clothes because they suit my mood, they make me feel a certain way (elegant or cute or graceful), they are pretty, they are comfortable.

But clothes have other meanings, particularly female's clothes. Clothes can be a sign of oppression, they can be forced on a woman (such as a burka, or Hindu daughters-in-law who can be required to wear sari).

When I get dressed, I never worry about those things. I'm not a very political person, I guess. I just do my thing and I don't always see the big implications of it.

I don't believe that salwar kameez are clothes of female oppression, what do you think?

To avoid forcing women to wear certain types of clothes, doesn't it make sense to allow us to wear what we like best? Are there reasons not to do this?

For me, the clothes of oppression are the ankle length skirts that I used to wear in SES. I still sometimes wear ankle-length skirts, but it's rare. I only own two now, when that used to be my entire wardrobe. I've never forgotten the humiliation of being sent back to my room to change when I wore a skirt I borrowed from my mother that was mid-calf length instead of all the way to my ankles.

I don't want it to sound like I'm upset by this, I just thought it was an interesting topic to talk about!

Edited to Add: Picture of me at work today, this kurta is from my trip to India and the biggest problem with it is that it makes me look fat!

Friday, June 3, 2011

More on Hindi

It is ridiculously frustrating that I've been studying a language for two years, and steadily studying it, and still can only say very basic things.

However, languages are not easy to learn, particularly for someone who has only one language.

I think perhaps I need to let go of the goal of speaking and focus on a goal of understanding. If I take the pressure off myself to produce something and just be happy with how much my ability to understand is improving, maybe someday, after a lot of listening, I'll begin to be able to speak.

I've wanted so badly to be bilingual, and I chose this language because it's one that would have practical purpose in my life!

I will attempt some more simple sentences at some point soon, but I'm going to try not to get angry with myself when they're wrong!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hindi Practice

My Hindi learning has slowed way down. It's hard to maintain enthusiasm across the long haul of getting fluent. I'm at a point where I can understand the gist of a lot that I hear, but that's about it and it's not good enough!

Sometime I would like to do is start writing a few posts or parts of posts in Hindi for practice. I tried doing this through lang-8, a website designed for you to write in your target language and get corrections, but I feel frustrated there that I can't explain myself in English. I don't trust the corrections I'm getting because there is no "why" included.

So I'm going to occasionally post little stories and things in Hindi and if you know the language, feel free to correct my usage in the comments, and it would be really helpful to say something like "the reason for this correction is that 'ki' is only used for..." etc. But I trust you guys to be making changes based on real need, rather than on cosmetics.

When I do Hindi posts, I'll plan to also do English posts with them.

So, here we go...

अब जो गर्मियों में यहाँ है, मैं बाहर व्यस्त हूँ. पिछले शनिवार मैं दोस्त के साथ चिड़ियाघर के पास गए. मैं धूप की कालिमा है.

कल रात मैं अच्छा आदमी के साथ रात का खाना खाया. मैं भी कल उसे देखती हूँ.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: The Jedi and the Lotus

This book was not what I was expecting.

I have long been telling people that the religious aspects of the Star Wars movies (as least the original ones) are based on Hindu philosophy. I point out the direct quotes from the Gita that Yoda spouts. I vaguely try to explain how the force is very much related to the Hindu idea of all things being connected by energy.

When I was sent this book, The Jedi and the Lotus, to review, I expected to find a few more tidbits to support my assertions at parties. I thought it would support a fun little preoccupation, but it is so much more than that.

This little book is much denser and more heavily researched than I anticipated. It is packed with fascinating information. More than just showing how Star Wars was influenced by Hinduism, it takes beliefs and experiences from Eastern philosophy and shows how both Star Wars and Hinduism support them. It goes into tremendous depth.

There is an introduction about Joseph Campbell and his connection to the making of Star Wars and there are quotes from George Lucus, but it is also full of footnotes and research and information about some of the most advanced and mystical of the Hindu practices.

Chapters are subtitled: "Star Wars and Brahman," "Nature in Hinduism and in Star Wars," "Spaceships and the Vedic Literature" and more.

This book is a really fascinating read and I definitely recommend it. It is much bigger than it appears at first!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Religious Compatibility

I've been noticing ever since I started dating ten years ago that I have the most successful dates and relationships with atheist men. According to the research at OkCupid, that appears to be the most successful match for Hindu women in general! I never would have guessed that.

In fact, from their study, there is mutual dislike between Hindu males and Hindu females! I don't know much about statistics and getting meaning out of data like this, but I wonder if its source has something to do with that. Perhaps traditional Hindus are highly unlikely to be on OkCupid looking for a match!

Apparently this might also mean that Hindu men are much more difficult to please, have stricter requirements for dates (and apparently Muslim men and women as well). That's what I gathered from OkCupid's own analysis.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

End Times

I don't know if this was advertised heavily around the world, but in America, some very vocal people had the idea that "the rapture" was going to take place last night. For those who don't know, the Rapture is a Christian concept that towards the end of the world the good Christians will be taken up into heaven in their bodies and the "sinners" will be left behind in a world of horrible disaster for several months until the whole world destroys itself. People have been trying to predict when this end time will be ever since a few years after the death of Christ. People in Paul's time actually believed the world would end in their lifetimes. 2,000 years later the world hasn't ended yet.

I was at a party last night. Several Jewish and atheist friends, so when 6:00 came, we checked online to see if there were any reports of people floating into the air, since certainly none of us were going to be raptured! It seems it didn't happen. Either that or there isn't a single worthy person on the entire planet.

I was pretty relaxed, considering that Hindu mythology also predicts an end of the world and we have several thousand more years to go. Also, Hindu time works in circles, so the end of the world is simply the beginning of a period of rest and then the creation will spring forth again in the golden age.

There are some striking similarities between Hindu myths about the end times and Christian myths. In Hinduism, when things in the Kali Yuga (the final age) get as bad as they can get, it is an avatar of Vishnu who will appear, known as Kalki.

"When the practices taught in the Vedas and institutes of law have nearly ceased, and the close of the Kali age shall be nigh, a portion of that divine being who exists of His own spiritual nature, and who is the beginning and end, and who comprehends all things, shall descend upon earth. He will be born in the family of Vishnuyasha, an eminent brahmana of Shambhala village, as Kalki, endowed with eight superhuman faculties. By His irresistible might he will destroy all the mlecchas (Barbarians) and thieves, and all whose minds are devoted to iniquity. He will reestablish righteousness upon earth, and the minds of those who live at the end of the Kali age shall be awakened, and shall be as clear as crystal. The men who are thus changed by virtue of that peculiar time shall be as the seeds of human beings, and shall give birth to a race who will follow the laws of the Krita age or Satya Yuga, the age of purity. As it is said, 'When the sun and moon, and the lunar asterism Tishya, and the planet Jupiter, are in one mansion, the Krita age shall return.'" (Vishnu Purana, Book Four, Chapter 24)

As with some Christian sects, there are Hindus trying to predict the exact time of the end of the Kali Yuga and they do a lot of cross referencing of ancient texts. Personally, I don't think it's important. I will continue to live as dharmically as I can and knowing when the end of the world is will not change much for me, I don't think.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Looking for Signs

I have a bad habit of trying to find a deeper meaning to random little occurrences. I think this is a natural human tendency, our brains like to find patterns. Also, it's so difficult to not be in control of life, so we assign meanings to things to make us feel like everything is operating as it should and something in the universe has our best interests at heart. At least, I do that.

I do believe in karmic consequence, everything happens for a reason, all that stuff. But is it a sign from God if you, for example, get a good parking space? Is there a deeper meaning to finding the color placemat you were hoping for at Home Goods?

An example of how this thinking has gotten me into trouble:

A few years ago I was over at a new guy's house for the first time and I felt incredibly nervous, I realized very suddenly that I was in over my head and I had gone too far too fast with him. But then a song that I love came on the radio. I felt more relaxed immediately and every time I felt panic in that relationship, I thought of that song unexpectedly playing and convinced myself that it had been a sign. That relationship was very bad and never should have gone past the first date.

When I meet a new guy, I look for stupid, weird things that we have in common rather than the important things to have in common! Maybe it's from reading too many romantic stories, but I put too much weight on something like we have names that start with the same letter or we have the same color car. (Those are not real examples, but that's the idea).

I'm trying not to look for signs in everything, not to think that little coincidences are God trying to tell me something!

A Facebook friend recently wrote: Is there really such a thing as "signs"??

Several people made jokes about street signs, but I said: Every time I think something is a "sign" from the universe, I end up making a really bad decision based on it.

I can't live my life based on what I think are "signs." Maybe there really are signs, but my ability to correctly interpret them is clearly broken!

What do you think?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Blogger Meetup!

HappyGoth of Also Hindu and I met up this weekend!

She and I are both knitters as well as non-Indian Hindus and we stopped in at the giant Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

It was so much fun to get to see HappyGoth in person and get a sense for what she's really like beyond the computer screen. I've met people from the Internet several times and it's always interesting to see how they are the same and different from what you expect.

HappyGoth, it was great getting to meet you! I hope to talk to you again soon :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May the Fourth

If I had realized that today was Star Wars day, I would have hurried up on my Jedi and the Lotus review! Darn, I had no idea until Facebook told me this morning.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Respect and Empathy

[Well, I didn't go to the Ganga-ji talk. Sorry, guys. I was exhausted. Lately I've had things I need to do every night of the week. I keep trying to cut back, but something always seems to come up to fill the blank spaces.]

I got an email recently from someone reading my episode about Glee and it's portrayal of religion and atheism. This person is an atheist and said that when he first saw the post he was afraid that it was just going to complain about the lack of Hinduism on Glee. He was surprised by the respect I have for atheism as a valid choice in life and asked why I am not an atheist if I hold such a view.

I thought that was a very interesting question.

First because I think it is sad that people do not expect respect or empathy from religious people. People expect me to think only of my personal interest, my own religion, and leave everyone else to fend for themselves for respect.

Second is the idea that if we understand something, would we become it?

I am definitely not an atheist. I respect many atheists for reasons that they probably would not be comfortable with! To some extent one can only see the world in his or her particular way, and so we find strategies to help us try to understand they way the people around us see it.

I have dear friends who are atheists and I've found them to be moral people, with a strong sense of dharma that comes from within. To my mind, they are close to Truth because they feel the divinity of the universe within themselves rather than without. They might be highly offended by that view!

People who are invested in the idea of Christianity being the only truth sometimes see my religious behavior and justify to themselves how I seem to be a moral person on a good track by thinking that worshiping Krishna is just another name for worshiping Jesus (it's not, but I know people who have used that logic in order to accept me).

Even if atheism is not at all similar to how I see it, I still believe that people who choose it deserve respect. Something along the lines of: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." --Evelyn Beatrice Hall, on Voltaire's philosophy. It might not be my philosophy, but everyone has the right to find and practice his own philosophy. I would not want that taken away from anyone for the simple reason that my right could then be taken away from me.

I guess in terms of proselytizing I look at it like the airplane announcement about the oxygen masks. Put your own mask on first before attempting to help others. I will work on my own life, work on freeing my own soul and then I will be able to see more clearly how I can help others.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Coming Soon

Coming soon from The White Hindu...

1) I was sent a review copy of a book called The Jedi and the Lotus, all about exactly how Hinduism was used in the Star Wars series. Hinduism is all over the jedi "religion" and I'm excited to find out the inspirations and how that came to be. So, I'll be posted a review of that when I finish it.

2) There's a new group creating a website based on celebrating the diversity of religion in America. I've written a short piece for them about how Hinduism helps make America great. I'll let you know when that's live. (Word of warning, I only had 750 words to work with, so I had to simply a bit)

3) Tonight is the talk and meditation seminar with the woman known as Ganga-ji. I'm stressed and wiped out and don't want to go, but that's an excellent reason to go! So I'll try to drag myself over there :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Goodbye to Sathya Sai Baba

Spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba died yesterday after a long illness. I don't know too much about him or his teachings, but I've heard him mentioned several times.

He was, it seems, one who believes that all religions lead to the same God, and hence no one need leave the religion of his/her birth. It is unclear to me whether no one *needing* to leave the religion of his birth is the same as no one *should* leave the religion of his birth. I'd have to do more reading to figure that out. "Sathya Sai Baba said that his followers do not need to give up their original religion, saying 'my objective is the establishment of sanatana dharma, which believes in one God as propitiated by the founders of all religions. So none [sic] has to give up his religion or deity.'" -

According to the same source his followers report that he performed miracles and caused objects to manifest. He also faced criticism based on sexual abuse allegations. It seems that he predicted his own death, but incorrectly. This page ( goes through a lot of hoop jumping to make it sound like he wasn't wrong. Altogether, sounds like the arch-type of the modern Hindu guru.

This explanation of his teachings is quite lovely and I certainly could not disagree:

Sathya Sai Baba -- His Message

Sathya Sai Baba encourages us to recognize who we are. We are not these minds. We are not these bodies. We are the eternal spirit that temporarily occupies these minds and bodies. We can appreciate and become who we really are by turning inward with faith in God and an intense yearning to know Him. Our conscience is a reflection of the eternal spirit. Sathya Sai Baba tells us that our conscience is our master. When we follow our conscience, our thoughts, words, and deeds will be noble and consistent. Spirituality is having the courage and determination to follow our conscience in all things and at all times. In doing so, we recognize that we are all united in God. We are bound together by divine love.

I have come to light the lamp of love in your hearts, to see that it shines day by day with added luster. I have come to tell you of this universal, unitary faith, this spiritual principle, this path of love, this duty of love, this obligation to love. Every religion teaches man to fill his being with the glory of God and to evict the pettiness of conceit. It trains him in the methods of unattachment and discernment, so that he may aim high and attain spiritual liberation. Believe that all hearts are motivated by the one and only God; that all faiths glorify the one and only God; that all names in all languages and all forms man can conceive denote the one and only God. His adoration is best done by means of love. Cultivate that attitude of oneness between men of all creeds and all countries. That is the message of love I bring. That is the message I wish you to take to heart. Sathya Sai Baba

Let the different faiths exist, let them flourish, and let the glory of God be sung in all the languages and a variety of tunes. That should be the ideal. Respect the differences between the faiths and recognize them as valid as long as they do not extinguish the flame of unity. Sathya Sai Baba

Friday, April 22, 2011

Offbeat Marriage Site

Our friend, Mrs. 4B, had a great interview in a website about "challenging" marriages (i.e., those that are inter-faith, inter-cultural, inter-ability, etc.) I was happy that the site also rightfully pointed out that really any two people from different families are coming from at least subtly different cultures.

Here is Mrs. 4B's interview.

My favorite highlights:

"In retrospect, we look at the wedding as a hurdle we had to jump over. When people ask us about the wedding, we often say that since our marriage survived that wedding, we will be able to get through anything."
"We both have our superstitions and little rituals that make us comfortable, whether it’s my saint medals or the Ganesh idol on our dashboard. Those tend to be the things that show up on a daily basis."
"One man openly mocked our marriage and basically called Mr. 4B a race-traitor. Because of social rules about politeness to older people, especially men, we were required to just sit there and take it, even though we were seething."
"I think that a lot of the comments I get from her [mother-in-law] as wells as from my husband’s aunts and uncles comes from a deep insecurity about themselves. They are so insecure that they need validation at every level to prove that Maharashtrian culture is better than any other. There are several 'lecture uncles' that I can count on to give me a speech about the superiority of Maharastra or India on any subject from food to women’s rights to dogs. Ever since an uncle got mad at me, in all seriousness, for teaching Chini her commands in English instead of Marathi, I’ve realized how ridiculously insecure he was."
"I think that we have both had to become secure and confident in our own beliefs and values. If we both came out of the same culture, we might just do certain things without questioning their value or understanding why we were doing them. When we have a choice between two ways of doing things, we get to make a choice about what works best for us."
"Don’t give into the idea that respecting your spouse’s parents or culture means letting them call all the shots or have their way every time. Your partner fell in love with YOU, not a version of you that tries to live up to his parents’ ideas."

I like this website, I think it's a great idea. I am rather disturbed, though, by the woman who runs it and her inconsistent goal.

On the front, the website seems to have the agenda of supporting people in having unified marriages despite coming from very different backgrounds. Once I started to read more, though, there were many posts whose agenda was to push a Biblical idea of what a good marriage is (and what a good wife is).

The creator of the site is a 7th Day Advantist and instead of letting that be the colorful background of her story of inter-faith marriage and its challenges, she uses Bible quotes to tell us that open marriages are bad and that Evolution is just a theory that shouldn't be taught in schools. (Not that I would want an open marriage, but I fully support people who choose to do that. I can't know what works best and makes the most sense for everyone).

I hope that the site will grow more towards showcasing many different couples and how they make inter-something marriages of all kinds work.

I just went back over there and my comments on a couple posts that she seemed to be proselytizing her views rather than giving an honest discussion of offbeat marriages were erased and she added this:

"P.S. Some of my writings and advice are influenced by my Christian point of view. I hope you still find them helpful even if you aren’t a Christian and pick up the ones that can possibly be applied to you."

I thought I made good and rational comments, particularly on her post about whether to raise her children believing in Creationism as she does or in Evolution as her husband does. Rather than actually create a plan for what they will teach their children, she just spends the whole post talking about why she's right. Doesn't seem like good advice for a fair marriage to me...

But I also don't want to be mean to her, as it does seem like her heart is in the right place and she's working on building something wonderful and valuable.

Who knows GangaJi?

I just got a notification that my Hindi meetup group is going to a meditation event given by Gangaji, so I went to the website and saw a white woman.

I have never heard of this woman, but I'm intrigued, so I think I'll go to the event and see what it's all about. The event is next Friday evening.

Here is her website
And some quick info:

"Antoinette (Toni) Roberson Varner was given the name Gangaji by her teacher H.W.L. Poonja in 1990. Before that meeting, she had spent decades searching for lasting happiness.

Gangaji shares a simple message-This is an invitation to shift your allegiance from the activities of your mind to the eternal presence of your being. Gangaji travels the world speaking to seekers from all walks of life. A teacher and author, she shares her direct experience of the essential message she received from Papaji and offers it to all who want to discover a true and lasting fulfillment. Through her life and words, she powerfully articulates how it is really possible to discover the truth of who you are and to be true to that discovery."

This should be a great example of how Hinduism is universal, available for all people of all races because underneath our ethnicities, we have the same soul.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Favorite Thing

There's nothing more satisfying and enjoying than a discussion of religion between two curious and open-minded people.

I love to talk spirituality with people!

On Monday night I was invited to a Passover Seder at my best friend's house. Jewish religious events are the one time that I'm willing to drink alcohol, incidently. I hate the taste of all alcohol (and actually juice, milk, coffee, and tea as well), so for the four official "cups" of wine for Passover, I take itty-bitty sips!

Anyway, that's beside the point. During dinner I was seated next to a friend of a friend whom I've met, but not really spoken to. Somehow (because I'm great at causing this) the subject of religion came up (hey, we were at a religious event!).

We ended up having a fantastic discussion about spirituality. I was energized and riveted. He told me about his spiritual journey, his own self-discovery, as well as how he and his wife thought about how to raise their future children.

There is nothing more interesting to me. It was a great Passover experience!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Made It

As I frequently say, life is a journey and I doubt I will ever arrive at a destination in my process of learning and questioning and growing. I'm not interested in locking down answers, I am interested in always being open to new ways of understanding.

However, in terms of the cultural confusion that this blog started over, there are ways in which I feel that I have achieved something. My experiences now are different than they were when it comes to interacting with the world at large.

A year ago when I wore a sari to an event, someone would hustle me into the bathroom and redo my pleats. This year I got asked to dress other women in saris, both for the Bollywood party and my own mom for going to an ashram.

A year ago I felt self-conscious about my wearing Indian clothes. This year an Indian girl told me that I had such ease with them that she could tell I wore them frequently.

Last week I went to FedEx for work and I was wearing my professional looking gray salwar kameez. The blonde woman behind the desk asked if I was wearing Indian clothes and we started chatting. It turned out her husband is Indian and she showed me a picture of her beautiful teenage daughter.

All these examples are about clothes! Sometimes I can be such a girl. But there are other ways in which my life has changed, they just aren't as easy to pin point.

I'm truly living my life from the mindset of being a white Hindu and it's working for me. I feel confident that I belong in the life that I built for myself. I don't apologize and I don't offer explanation for the many Indian aspects of my life (like my white board at work where I track my projects in Hindi!)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Presence of God

No matter what I go through in life, no matter the pain or the joy or the brain chemistry being messed with by PMS, I always feel a solid presence beside me.

I'm wondering if this experience is unusual or if it's what most people feel and maybe label it differently.

I constantly feel a conscious force around me, particularly just to my right side, but it spreads out from there to encompass everything. It doesn't look like anything, and yet it almost has a personality in my mind. I direct a lot of conversation in my thoughts towards it.

Because of this presence I feel self-conscious even when I'm alone in my apartment. I know there is something always listening. Not in a creepy or upsetting way, just in a way that I can see how crazy I'm being because there is a calm and unflappable aura next to me that reflects back to me how I look.

In the past year and a bit as I've mourned the loss of my dear friend, I've been overcome by tears. I tend to cry a lot and it embarrasses me, but I don't feel in control of it at all. However, this crying is huge shaking sobs that I wouldn't want anyone to ever see. I do it in my car or alone in my bed at night. Even then I feel that presence and it looks at me gently, but it knows that grief is temporary, that death is not real, and that these gut-punched, can-barely-breathe sobs that give me headaches are not the ultimate reality.

Never, never, never have I had a time when that feeling of a presence nearby has been gone. I felt it when I was a small child and played by myself for hours and hours. I've always felt it and maybe that's why faith comes as naturally to me as breathing.

I recognized this feeling in Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor* (one of my all time favorite writers). Her character has a different response to it than I do. "[Jesus moves] from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark..." Hazel Motes feels that Jesus is haunting him, a figure in the woods, always just behind him. He is determined to reject this figure that follows him.

On the other hand, I have always felt that presence as comforting, strong, steady, and loving. I don't know what it is or why I feel it, but I give it the name of God and no amount of despair in my heart ever causes it to waver.

*[This book is very complex and cannot really be broken down and analyzed without spending months at it, so I'm skeptical of the summaries and reviews I see of it online, I feel that they are mostly all missing the point. O'Connor is a very unusual writer and her work defies easy description.]

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lack of Confusion

Another lesson that I can't control how others see me, Tandava let me know that someone on his blog said that I seem confused a lot!

This was my response:

I just like to ponder a lot. I wouldn’t say that I’m confused.

I have a lot of knowledge and I’m always trying to work at how to apply that knowledge to life, just as we all do.

As I always say, that’s just part of the journey!

I never want to assume that I know something and then stop thinking about it and stop revising my thoughts and opinions, I don’t sit back and rest on one achievement or one thought, I’m always rethinking and reworking my life to try to get the most out of it.

Actually, my lack of confusion is one of the reasons that this blog has slowed down quite a bit. I had a lot to say at first, but now that more than a year has gone by, I feel that I've addressed most of my issues and worries.

I've settled into a comfortable relationship with my spirituality and my cultural behavior.

I'm sure every once in a while I will still find things to say and have opinions about, but it's going to be few and far between, I believe.

To those just starting on the path, you can see that the self-consciousness fades and the fears fade and then you just have yourself, doing what feels right.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Some interesting discussion is going on in the comments of the Unhappiness post. As I said yesterday, I've been working through some things from my past and still in the middle of a journey on that.

I really want to tear back everything and go back to the beginning, back to basics. What do I believe? Why do I believe it? Why is my spiritual life so important to me? What do I hope to gain in the living of my life?

Why do people start on a spiritual journey?

Why did you start yours...?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Seen and Heard

Just like the column in one of my celebrity gossip magazines, Seen and Heard is little snippets of spirituality in unexpected places of every day life and just things that resonated with me.

My dad downloaded some spiritual lectures that Oprah has been doing and I listened to the beginning of one today. A Catholic priest on her panel said, "The idea that God is separate from us, and that we are separate from each other, is an illusion." A Catholic said this! I'm looking forward to listening to more.

I've been reading Amy Tan's The Kitchen God's Wife, and it's quite excellent. As I try to navigate moving away from my parents and their spirituality and into my own life and my own understanding, one quote that really stood out to me was this:

"I no longer denied I was betraying my father. I no longer looked for excuses. I knew what I was doing was both true and wrong. I could not make just one choice, I had to make two: Let me live. Let my father die. Isn't that how it is when you must decide with your heart? You are not just choosing one thing over another, you are choosing what you want. And you are also choosing what somebody else does not want, and all the consequences that follow." p. 360

Even though my choice is not nearly as dramatic, I also have that sense of my choices not just effecting me.


I've been quiet lately because I've been dealing with and processing some things to do with my past. I'm not sure of my thoughts and feelings on the subject, and it is closely connected to my spiritual growth, so I'll need some time to sort through it all.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Right to Unhappiness

I was chatting today with an Internet friend and our conversation left me with a sense of revelation. This might sound stupid or obvious, but...

There are no rules. There is no answer.

I've said similar things before, but never felt it on a gut level like this. My life has been consumed with rules trying to achieve the goal of enlightenment: I should be kind, I should be generous, I should be a vegetarian, I should meditate, I should eat healthy, I should read scriptures, etc. Should, should, should.


To be happy. That's the reason for all the advice and all the religions and all the philosophies. We want to be happy. But what's so important about being happy? Should not being happy fill us with guilt?

If you want to be unhappy, that's okay. It isn't a crime. We tend to feel like we're bad ppeople if we're not doing everything possible to be completely happy at all times.

What's wrong with bring unhappy? It's just a feeling, feel it if you want to.

If you want to be happy then take advice into consideration, try out the practices and see what works. But remember that the reason you do things is to be happy. So you keep trying things until you find what causes you to feel deep, content joy and bliss.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fun Next Week

I'm excited about an event next weekend. There's a benefit dance happening that my boss is inviting everyone at the company to and it turns out, it's Bollywood themed!

Quite unexpected. I went to talk to the guy who is organizing it and when he found out that I owned saris, he set me up to lend them out to the ladies in the neighborhood and teach them how to wear them.

I love an opportunity to get decked out in my Indian finery!

There will be Indian food and Bollywood music and dancing. I'm going to have to go on YouTube and try to learn some appropriate Indian social dancing, bharatnatyam is little good in those situations.

I'll post pictures afterwards (and if anyone is in Maryland and would like to go, send me an email and I'll tell you where to get tickets)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hindi Teacher Over Skype

This is a bit of an advertisement, please forgive me! But I actually was getting tutored by this woman for a while and found it really a neat way to learn.

We would set up Skype sessions and she teaches from India to anywhere in the world. Her rates were very reasonable too.

She just told me about her webpage, so I wanted to share it with you all in case anyone else was interested in learning Hindi:

She also teaches Bengali.

Pass this on to anyone you think might benefit from it! Thanks :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Holi Recap

Holi was pretty good, I drove a little over an hour to the temple in VA where Hindi Day had been. There was food, and stands and performances of folk and classical dance.

I dragged along a Jewish friend, but I didn't know anyone else. As it turns out, it's a bit hard to get into the spirit of throwing colored powder at complete strangers.

Next year I think I'll hit the Hari Krishna temple with my friend K.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy Holi!

Tomorrow is Holi, probably my favorite holiday. I've been invited to an event at a temple in VA, I need to call them today to make sure that there will be colors!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gods and Goddesses- examples of perfect relationships?

I met some new people last week and we went out to dinner for a birthday. They were all Hindu Indians by birth, but felt that they didn't know as much about it as they would like.

One thing that I found interesting was that one girl said that she was frustrated with the way men treated her and she thought they should take some lessons from the Gods and Goddesses. She thought men should learn from the Gods how to treat a lady.

I'm not so sure.

The Goddesses in Hindu mythology are strong women, very admirable. The Gods are also full of wonderful qualities. But when I look at some of the relationships between them, it doesn't look like what I'd want!

Take Radha and Krishna, the number one example of perfect love (and often used as a metaphor for the soul and God being united). Radha is frequently alone, waiting for Krishna to return. There's no cell phones, so she just pines after him and is constantly waiting for him to deign to show up. She also shares him with many other adoring women! (Technically Radha is not a Goddess, but she does fit into this example well).

In a lot of the stories about Goddesses, like with Shiva and Parvati, I see the females being supportive, kind, loving, generous, and going above and beyond to help the Gods. In return they often seem to be ignored, their desires shrugged off, and they have to take matters into their own hands to get what they want. The Gods fear the wrath of the Goddesses, but I don't know if I think of that as a loving thing.

I don't know, what do you think? Do the relationships between divinities mirror what we should desire for our human relationships?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Addressing Comments

First off I want to say that some people are having trouble leaving comments and I am working on fixing that! I want everyone to be able to comment, but I hope to do that without turning off the comment moderation.

There have been some new comments on old posts that I wanted the chance to address. I don't mean to pick on you, alnguyen, and this isn't criticism at all, just want to open up the discussion.

alnguyen said...
I want to address the problem of caste. It's not politically correct to recommend this but for a western woman I think the solution is to marry a Hindu man. When you marry a Hindu man you marry into his caste. Since you embrace the Hindu way of life I'm sure his family will embrace you as a real Hindu. I'm in the software engineering field. I have many Indian buddies with gori wives and these ladies are integrated into the Hindu communities of their husbands. To me the Hindu way is not primarily an individual religion. It's primarily a communal religion. If you want to enjoy the full benefits of the Hindu way join a Hindu family and community through marriage. Why not? You can have a dharmic life together, enjoy artha and kama, and raise a family.

This is a good thought, and one that I've had myself. I'm still in the process of figuring out what I hope future marriage will do for me, and until I can decide that, I can't decide whether to marry purely for the social benefits.

I have concerns about marrying someone purely for his race, which I've written about before. Part of it is that I don't like the idea of people assuming that I became a Hindu for my (hypothetical) husband. It bothers me that people would see me as an extension of his Hinduism and not my own experience of the religion. This might be an esoteric and stupid concern, but it is something I think about.

alnguyen said...
My dear you will always be perceived as an outsider unless you marry into an Indian Hindu family. Generally speaking if you marry into a Hindu family the community will see you as one of their own.

Generally indeed. I've seen cases where gori wives are accepted and other cases where they are not, it depends a lot on the family and the actual individuals one encounters. We've seen from some of Mrs. BBBB's posts that marrying into Hinduism doesn't always get you instant acceptance.

However, as time has gone on in the writing of this blog, I have felt a lot of acceptance from the Indians that I know. I think my feelings of being an outsider and not wanted stemmed a lot from my own fears and inner thoughts, and not from reality. I'm pretty comfortable at this point with who I am and how I interact with the world. I no longer feel like I need to prove that I am a Hindu.

[In response to my post about why I don't just marry an Indian man]:
alnguyen said...
With all respect I think you're making a big mistake. Within the Hindu religion marriage is two people following the path of dharma and enjoying artha and kama together. That sharing of a way of life you're going to miss out on. You'll never know the joy of it. Furthermore, you will never be fully accepted into an Indian Hindu community if you marry a white guy. You will always be an outsider. If you're not fully a part of a Hindu community what's the point of trying to be a Hindu? You'll find it empty and void within a few years. Don't make a mistake you're going to regret. You're a very pretty woman. You can get a nice Indian man if you really want to.

Not to be vain, but I do think that I'm beautiful and could land an Indian husband if I tried hard at it. I'm not sure, though, if that's what I want. There are some other factors that come into play that are not related to race and complicate my life, so I'm not sure yet and I'm not going to pursue a husband until I am sure. I don't think that would be fair to the (hypothetical) man. It may end up that it would be better for me to remove myself from family life, that remains to be seen and it is an issue that I'm not comfortable discussing here.

I disagree that lack of acceptance into a Hindu community makes being a Hindu pointless or empty or void and I disagree that I would lose interest.

If you separate Hindu philosophy and beliefs from Indian culture and social tradition, then I've been a follower of Hinduism for 29 years. Most of those years were without a comfortable connection to a Hindu community.

Hinduism is my heart and my soul and it will be whether I am in a community (as I do love to be) or all alone. An ascetic might go into the mountains to meditate alone for years-- though he is not a part of a community, he is still a Hindu.

alnguyen said...
If you marry a non-Hindu man you will give up much that you could have. I encourage you not to follow the advice of people leading you down that path. Having been in software engineering a long time I've known many Indian Hindu men with white wives. You can get a good Hindu man. No problem. btw - what does your mother think about the possibility of you marrying into a Hindu family?

I wrote a comment in response to this:
"My family would like for me to marry an Indian man, I think. I believe they see it as the same solution that you do, to give me legitimacy.

However, I am a Hindu whether I'm married to an Indian or not.

I don't need to prove myself that way."

I know that everyone here wants to help me to feel happy and safe and fulfilled in my life, and it's so lovely to have people care so much that they write comments and give advice. I appreciate you all! I will continue to take all opinions under consideration and ponder whether they feel right for my circumstances or not.

I'm happy to report that for the last several months I have felt comfortable with my religious and cultural behaviors and the sense of being an outsider is mostly faded. I know I'm a bit of an odd duck, and people still look at me like an exhibit in a zoo, but it's all in the fun of the game.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A new western Hindu blog

Our own has started her own blog about western Hinduism!

Check it out at Also Hindu for yet more philosophical pondering!

Secret Thoughts

Kat found this on PostSecret, which is a place where people let out their secrets anonymously.

I hope that who ever wrote this keeps looking and keeps trying.

It seems to me that whatever religion touches your heart and makes sense to you is the right one for you to follow.

However, it isn't that simple if you worry about your family or other outside factors.

I can say from my own personal experiencing, following your heart and letting go of the fear of what others will think, feels fantastic and makes you a much happier person.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Throwing the Baby Out

Such a strange expression, throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but that is what I am thinking about today.

This past weekend a friend came over and we watched a movie he likes called The Peaceful Warrior. It is very philosophical, all about how to control our minds and bodies, staying present, the joy of the present moment, that happiness is not found in achievements (i.e., "If I just had this one thing, then I could be happy").

As much as I agree with everything, the whole time we were watching it, my insides were screaming, "I'm not going back into that cage."

I am very resistant to discipline these days.

I was talking to another friend recently, someone with whom I grew up, so having the same background as me. He pointed out some interesting things about our upbringing. For one, something I never thought of before, is that a lot of the discipline that we grew up with was masculine in nature. It was about control over one's emotions and being stoic and immovable.

There is value in those disciplines, but there is also value in the feminine side and that part got left out.

He described the inner being as a marriage between a masculine and a feminine side, we are all always working at keeping a harmonious balance between them within ourselves.

Right now I am needing to explore the creative and the chaotic. I need to find truth for myself, to experience it, rather than believing the things I've always been told. I want to discover for myself whether or not I need the present moment, whether or not meditation benefits my life.

So, for now, I am cutting loose from discipline. I'll come back to it soon and find my balance, I'm sure. I can't tell yet what from my past I want to keep and what I want to get rid of, so I'm throwing it all out and picking back up piece by piece as I find it helpful.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What Won't Aamba Do?

I don't know the answer to that question yet. What I won't do has not been discovered. Wearing a sari in my regular day life is not that thing!

Here's the photographic evidence that I did indeed wear my sari today:

I went to my therapy appointment, to work, and also to the mall and the grocery store for work errands! No big deal, I could totally do this on a regular basis :)

No one at my office batted an eye at it. They are far too prepared for my eclectic and unusual wardrobe. In the mall we passed a couple of ladies wearing full head coverings and they smiled at me. At one store the girl behind the counter told me she loved what I was wearing.

So all together it was a hit. Next year maybe my female office mates will want to join in, I wish I had thought to bring some extra saris for them to put on!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Yikes, wear your sari to work tomorrow?

Ms. Malathi has written this wonderful post about wearing sari and she suggests that we hold our wear a sari to work day March 8th, because apparently it is women's day...? I didn't know that!

Of course, March 8th is tomorrow!

Will I be brave enough to put on a sari for work tomorrow? (Thank goodness it isn't the day of our big presentation).

I'm going to try to do it and I'll get a picture to post here if I do!

By the way, on the subject of clothes, I saw a woman in Wal-mart yesterday wearing a beautiful, bright green and pink salwar kameez and she didn't look Indian at all. She was black, but she could have been mixed race. I didn't get up the courage to go over to her and compliment her outfit. :(

Hindu Terms

I love when I find someone who has a big problem with Hinduism using its terms. It seems that many Americans now don't know the origin of words like "karma." Below is a quote from a blog that I read occasionally. Its heavy evangelical Christian emphasis is usually too much for me, but there are some useful writing tip gems applicable outside the Christian writing market (why is there an entirely separate market just for Christian writing, anyway?)

Monday, February 28, 2011
Why Men Don't Read Romance

If you're a Christian man who reads Christian fiction, well, you're a dying breed. Call it payback for centuries of misogynist tyranny, but finally karma has caught up. Don't believe me? A stroll down the Religious Fiction aisle will cool your jets, bubba.
Novel Journey

An evangelical Christian believing in karma... hilarious.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Humor: Buddhist

A friend posted this hilarious video on Facebook. It is about Buddhism, but there is a lot of relevance to Hindus too!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Inter-religious Marriage in India

The latest Hinduism Today magazine just arrived. There are a number of interesting articles, as usual. On one of the opening pages is a tiny piece about an Indian/non-Indian couple trying to get a divorce.

It sounds like the Delhi high court is questioning whether inter-religious marriages are valid. The man in this couple is Hindu and the woman "claims" to have converted to Hinduism. The Justice said, "a bare declaration that he is a Hindu by a person born in another faith is not sufficient to convert him to Hinduism."

They are requiring documentation or some kind of proof that the woman is a Hindu. This is relevant because there are different marriage laws for Hindus and for other faiths.

I think this court case could have far-reaching effects and I worry what those will be.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Happy Maha Shivaratri

I was going back through my old posts, thinking I must have said something about this holiday a year ago, yet I can't find anything! I'm sure it's in there somewhere, but I didn't have much of an audience back then.

It's a little later this year than I was expecting, I'm used to it falling in February, but this year it is today, March 3rd.

The title of this festival means "The Great Night of Shiva."

A fast is held through the day, and an all night vigil is held with ongoing pujas.

Here is some information about it:

I don't have time for a long post today, work is very busy, but I wanted to acknowledge this important day and tonight, once everything has settled down, I'll be spending some time meditating on Shiva, the central God on my altar.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Center of the Universe

It never ceases to interest me how every one of us billions of people has our own world. We can experience the same event, yet have different memories of it, different feelings about it.

We meet so many people in our lives and through one or two degrees touch so many other lives.

All of us billions and we all have an inner self. We all put ourselves in the center of the action and the world around us is like a play starring us. It's so interesting to realize that everyone does this, there are billions of different plays going on all around us.

It's interesting to find that someone who was a huge presence in my life barely remembers me.

A sting to the ego, certainly, but a valuable perspective also, that what I am thinking and experiencing, what is meaningful to me, is being experienced completely differently by the people next to me.

And then it gives me an odd feeling about the solidity of my own existence. How I see myself is so different from how anyone else sees me. Who am I if each person has a different impression of me and what I am like? I am a small player in other people's dramas, or sometimes a large player. I am different to every single person who encounters me.

Fascinating, isn't it?

Monday, February 28, 2011

To Achieve Before Dying

I worry a lot (actually, I could end the sentence there) about feeling accomplished in my life. I have a fear of dying without feeling satisfied by what my life was.

I've had the sense from the time I was around ten years old of my life draining away. Like in The Last Unicorn (which, if you haven't read it, is an awesome and very philosophical book). The unicorn, who is immortal, has to be disguised in a human body through magic. Her first experience of being human is the feeling of decay, she says she can feel the body dying around her and it terrifies her. (Eventually she spends so much time in the human body that she forgets what she really is and is afraid to go back).

But anyway, this feeling of my life slipping away has made me very ambitious. For some reason, though, we always focus on the things we don't have or haven't done. I've written books and short stories and I've dipped deeply into myself to write about spirituality. I hope that my writing has touched lives and will continue to do so.

It never feels like enough. No matter how much I am doing, it is never good enough. I still panic when I think of facing my deathbed and I don't know what it will take for me to feel at peace with leaving this life.

I had a brief reprieve from it when Ilana died. It seemed that she had done enough in her life, though it wasn't much more than I and I've been granted more time than she. There was a sense of peace with her that she had been wonderful and perfect and done everything she needed to do. (Even though I still wanted her here and could have continued to use her help and advice).

What is enough? How do we learn to feel satisfied with what we've done/are doing?

Friday, February 25, 2011


Mrs. BBBB is at it again with fascinating, thought-provoking posts. Jubeee at My USA Life has also been talking about feminism.

I have a different relationship with feminism, I think. Despite growing up in the 1980s in America, I did not get the same post-70s messages of equality.

I used to be against feminism.

I was taught, and fully believed, that feminists and women who fought against social expectations of them were pathetic, lonely, overly masculine, and would bring only misery to themselves.

I followed the rules. I was a good girl, ready to be quiet and submissive. I saw that as a spiritual practice. I was taught that if I was a good girl, I would get the things I wanted in life: a husband and children and spiritual enlightenment.

Yet here I am, turning 29 in April and I don't have those things. I did everything right and I still somehow became an independent woman, living on my own, with no family. But, as horrified as younger me would be by my life, I like it. I'm happy with my choices. And grateful to have choices, which I came to realize is what feminism is all about.

It hit me hard to realize that the women who end up alone, who don't marry and don't have families, are not always there by choice. It isn't necessarily because they were too focused on a career and let life pass them by or whatever other lies women tell to make themselves feel better about the sad realities around us. Some women want a husband and a family and don't get it. And it's not their fault. There's nothing they should have been doing differently. That is a harsh and difficult idea to swallow. As a society we like to come up with reasons why they ended up that way so that we can avoid those things and be okay. It's how we get kept in line, too. We hear, if you are a good girl and follow the rules, you get satisfaction and fulfillment. If you are fill-in-the-blank-with-any-non-society-approved-personality-trait you will be miserable and alone. So, you better behave yourself.

I bought into that and I worked really hard at being the good girl. I didn't work on a career, I planned to marry and be a stay at home wife. So, here I am almost thirty and I don't have a career or a family, I have nothing but my dog and my soul-searching (which are certainly not bad things to have!)

You will see the words "I was taught" a lot in this post. I'm beginning to understand some of my upbringing as brainwashing.

I wonder if I would still be the way I am now if I had been married off young. They say that if women go unmarried too long they become stubborn, strong-willed and difficult. And I am those things! I wonder if I had married at 18 as planned if my stronger personality still would have shown up and asserted itself at some point. I'm thinking that's why young marriages fail so often. Because becoming strong-willed and stubborn isn't just for single girls, I think it happens to young married girls too just as part of getting older.

I am no longer in touch with the people who taught me these things and I don't know whether the things I think I want are really my wants or what I was told to want. I was taught that women's experience of the divine is through their husbands. Their husbands are their gurus, their husbands are worshiped as their Lord. This was the best kind of woman, she who devoted herself selflessly to her husband with no thought of herself. Like Yajnavalkya's wife Maitreyi, who followed him into a life of poverty to find spiritual wealth.

Selfless service, humility, lack of vanity, silence, lack of opinion. Those were valued qualities in my world. It turns out that I am too big a personality to fit in that box. I always thought I was fitting in the box and I couldn't understand why I was so unhappy.

I wonder if any one of us actually fits into the submissive, good girl box. Some of us have no choice. I'm lucky that I do have choice, even when those close to me say that I should sacrifice personal fulfillment for a socially acceptable match, even when people I trust still say that is the path to spiritual joy. "People do it all the time. What do you think arranged marriage is? It's learning to live with what you've got, not desire more." Stop wanting more, be happy with what we give you.

A strong personality is emerging in me. This is why I go back and forth so much and feel so torn. I have not fully grown into the new person I am discovering within myself.

There's part of me that wants to be patted on the head and praised for being a good girl. But the fact is, no matter how hard I tried to be that girl when I was growing up, I never did it well enough. There was always something I was criticized for, there were no pats on the head, there were only comparisons to other girls who were better than me.

Another personality is showing up as the brainwashing wears off and I think this strong-willed, irreverent, dark-humored person is the real me.

I've fought it all my life because I thought I should be the other one. "Should" doesn't have a place in my life any more. Everything is about what is, not what should be. Yet I don't fully know what that looks like. I am still a people-pleaser, especially with the people who were a strong presence in my childhood. I can't snap my fingers and make that go away.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

For Dhurga

Reader Dhurga is the one who talked me into buying the sari that I wore for the temple dedication. This is the first time I wore it. It's my first sari with a matching blouse!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Same End

It was strange to me during this trip to realize that I'm not the only one who has gone this direction with the background I have.

What I mean by that is this:

One of the people we went to India with was a leader in the organization I grew up in. I always found him intimidating and a little scary, didn't really get to know him at all. This trip I got a chance to talk to him and really enjoyed his company.

He has been traveling to India frequently and meeting with the guru there. He said that if he had to give a label for himself, he would consider himself a Hindu. He participates in the culture and does his best to fit in when there.

This all started about seven years ago, which strangely is exactly the same time I started identifying as Hindu.

I was out in California, on my own, and just discovering that my beliefs were Hindu beliefs and beginning to explore Indian culture and trying to figure out where I fit in. At the exact same time, this other person was doing something very similar!

This person totally understands that I'm not ready for a guru, understands much better than my parents. He did say, though, that he has come to believe in the guru's grace. I had an experience that has me thinking I might be starting to believe it too.

I can't go into too much detail without revealing information that I don't want to be on this blog, but something happened right after we went to see the guru that helped my mother to accept and deal with something in my life that has been a source of a lot of conflict. It was very unexpected and startling and I don't know whether to chalk it up to a coincidence or to believe in something more. I'm going to sit with it for a while and see what I think.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Not Ready for a Guru

I've been more scarred by my childhood than I realized.

My parents went to India to see their guru. They didn't seem to realize that I wasn't there for the same reason. I was in India just to be in India. I feel that I carry my spirituality with me and I don't need to be in a particular place for it and I don't need my relationship with God mediated through a third party. My parents seemed upset and disappointed that I wasn't thrilled at the idea of going to see the guru three times a day while we were in Sringeri.

I didn't feel comfortable prostrating to him, I don't know him and he doesn't know me. I find that there is a lot of mistrust in my gut.

This is a natural stage to go through. Particularly because I put a lot of trust and faith in certain figures of authority when I was growing up and I was crushed to find them mere human beings. I feel betrayed in some ways and it has left me very skeptical of gurus and having a lot more faith in myself than in anyone else.

I'm sure this guru is legit. He is part of an incredible lineage. He has good credentials. He came recommended by someone who did his taxes! He comes recommended not only from my parents, but also a good friend of ours who tends to be skeptical and pragmatic like me. He says he has seen the grace of the guru work in his life.

But even if he is a great guru, I am not at all ready to let someone into my heart in that way.

I also don't know about being connected to a guru who lives so far away and who doesn't speak the same language as me. Apparently I just need his grace and his energy, but I would like to be connected to a guru I could communicate with, who I felt understood me and what I'm going through.

They say, when you are ready a guru will appear.

I am not ready yet. There is a guru available and a lot of good reason to go with it, but I can't do it yet. I need my time and my space to feel comfortable again with trust.

Tomorrow I'll have a bit more to say about some of the interesting experiences with the guru himself.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

General Impressions

I'll have a number of different posts on my India trip. I thought I would start out with an overview.

I loved it.

I felt very comfortable in India. It met my expectations exactly. It seemed like I had been there before. I really do think I lived there in another life. I know, everyone says that, reincarnation is a good excuse for these sort-of feelings!

We spent a week touring and shopping. It was awesome to be in a place where the cultural references were all familiar! Our hotel in Bangalore was right next to Garuda mall, for example.

I am always surprised when I travel by the similarities between places. I know it shouldn't surprise me that it is all one earth and the divisions are so arbitrary. When I see the grass and the trees it just gives me that sense of the unity of the planet.

I ate better than I can ever remember. I adore Indian food, and I even enjoyed things I didn't expect to like. I stuffed myself every day! I bought some cookbooks at Gangaram's bookstore and I'm looking forward to trying to recreate some of those awesome meals.

We had lunch with my cousin's in-laws who live in Bangalore and they let us use their driver for the rest of the trip, which was wonderful. He was a lot of fun and took good care of us. I attempted some Hindi with him, though his primary languages are Telegu and Kanada. I'm pretty sure I told him that the trunk of the car was a very old man, rather than very big.

None of my Hindi worked out very well. It takes me a while to formulate a sentence, and I was trying to force myself to do it faster in order to talk. I would realize about five minutes later how I had messed the sentence up! No one seemed to understand me. Partly because most of the people I interacted with aren't Hindi speakers, but I think also because it was too weird and unexpected for Hindi to be coming from me. I was really encouraged that I understood almost all the Hindi I heard, so that made me feel pretty good.

I was delighted to discover that very, very few women wore western clothes. I thought at least in the city there would be lots of jeans and such, but that was not the case. I really think American women could take a lesson from Indian women's wardrobes! Everywhere you look there are amazing colors and patterns. I would say half salwar kameez and half saris. For anyone who doesn't think saris are practical everyday wear, women there wear them as part of uniforms, old women washing floors were wearing beautiful saris. I got a picture of a woman officer in the army wearing a khaki sari. It just shows there is never an excuse not to look gorgeous!

The second week we spent at a small town called Sringeri, where there is an ashram dedicated to the shankaracharya of the south. We went to darshans and pujas there and asked for blessings from the guru, etc. I'll have more detailed posts about that later.

Everywhere we went outside the city, I felt like an exhibit at a zoo. People stared at me and wanted to take pictures of me or have their picture taken with me. I was surprised by how noticeable it is when people are staring at you! I was glad that people were happy to see me wearing Indian clothes and embracing Indian culture. A couple of high school girls in Sringeri were asking me what I thought of Indian culture and they were just thrilled when I said I liked it! They were very impressed with my sari wrapping skills too.

I felt very inspired while there and got a lot of good writing done. I also came home feeling emotionally lighter and steadier.

I have almost 200 pictures, so I'll link to my flickr album rather than post them all here! (At the beginning are some pictures from my parents' house in Concord that were on my dad's camera, so that's what it looked like at home while we were gone)


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Greetings from Mysore

I'm in a hotel and half way through my vacation in India. I spent two days in Bangalore and now I'm on my second day in Mysore, tomorrow we head for Sringheri and my parents' ashram.

I'm having a great time.

My head is cleared and I'm feeling so much more grounded than I have in weeks.

I'll post detailed stories when I get back, but I wanted to check in and say hello and let you all know that I'm doing very well.

You know, a while back I spoke about labels and how important it felt to me to have them. I thought there might come a time when I didn't feel like I needed it and I think that time may have come. I'm feeling a lot more at peace with myself and therefore much less defensive and consumed with labels and identity.

I am how I am, as strange and varied as it is!

It is very interesting to me to see my own progress over the last year and the changes that have come about as I have written this blog. I'm sure some of those feelings of insecurity will be back, everything in my life seems to go in cycles, but I hope that I can hold onto this peace for a while.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Trip in One Week!

I'm going to take some time for quiet introspection so I can get some of this emotional baggage under control and be ready to enjoy India!

I'll be back in America by the 20th and I'm sure I'll have lots to say :)

I plan to keep a journal while I'm on my trip.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I think the struggle I'm going through has a lot to do with fear and feeling loss of control.

I keep trying to control my life and control outcomes that I can't.

All I can do is good action, dharmic action, and the outcome is not up to me.

Life is never going to fit my vision of perfect, but it is perfect. It is fine as it is.

That is perfect, this is perfect
Perfect comes from perfect
Take perfect from perfect,
Perfect remains

My father told me once that one should never go in the direction of fear. If a choice is motivated by fear, it isn't the right one.

I remind myself to relinquish control and just enjoy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul

Title Cite
I'm struggling right now with things that I'm not even sure how to put into words. I'm not looking for answers from you because I know this is something that I have to come to terms with in my own life. However, writing it out helps a lot and the experience of sharing my deep fears and concerns about life with friends is cathartic.

How much to focus on the world and how much to focus on the end goal?

I believe that we are here in this life to discover our true nature and to become one with the universe. Yet I am in this body and my body and mind have desires. There is built-in biology and I don't know if I should be fighting it or giving it what it wants.

On the one hand I want to see beyond the limited view. Life is more than just having fun and watching movies. What am I really here to do? Can I be happy just living life the way normal people do, having a family and a career? How can I balance that "householders" life with the spiritual drive? All that stuff doesn't seem to matter when I think of my friend who died without being a mother, without experiencing most of the human lifespan. She had only 28 years here and that was fine. She came into the world and she left. People are dying all the time, dying young and in strange ways. Leaving when we thought they would sort themselves out eventually and then they don't.

When I leave, what will I want to have done? I want to have no regrets, to throw open all the doors and examine every dark, dusty corner of my being and to share it with others who could benefit from my excavation.

I'm trying to learn how to balance. There is a natural measure to all things. Can I keep grounded in my faith while also fulfilling the natural human drives? Sometimes I have an urge to be an ascetic, but I am so young and I want to do the whole life thing first. But haven't I already done that? How much does it matter to experience the pleasures of the world? I feel called to something deeper.

Sometimes I think I can see a life that works fine, a job, a husband, children, living within one sphere, quietly practicing my beliefs and trying to bring whatever joy I can to those I encounter around me. I am happy in that vision.

But there is another part of me. One that needs to do big things, to make big change, afraid of wasting my life on trivial things.

Sometimes I am a crusader and sometimes I'm just a girl. I want the normal life, but I also want art. Sometimes I feel myself falling into a black hole of introspection and I am overcome with the desire to create and to explain and to build a poem, a song, an epic explaining the experience of life. All my life "desire" has been a dirty word. Desires should not control us, we should be the masters of our desires (the wild horses of the senses).

I have come to realize this is part of the experience of being an artist (and probably part of the experience of being human). There are things caught in me that force their way out. My mom asked me once why I can't just live my life, why I have to record it? Why I have to share it? Write about it? "Would you rather live life or write about it?" I picked writing about it. It has a much farther influence than my one small life that is like so many millions of others.

A big fear is that I might get that life that I envision, with the balance, and something happens to throw me into another mode and I become dissatisfied with what I have.

Why do I always feel like I have to choose? People have called me complicated and intense. I have a few different personalities, contradictory drives. Most of my life I have tried to suppress that and be one thing or another, not everything. But it doesn't work, the other sides break through and throw my life out of balance. My therapist thinks I need to express all my sides and not judge them and not pick one over the others. But how will I have a partner in life if I can never be pinned down?

I know, it's pathetic, it always comes back to me having a boyfriend. What can I say? I'm a girl. I know everyone would tell me to choose a future partner based on common interests and how we want to raise children and not based on hotness. But I'm in a hormonal mess, a woman with a biological clock and a strong libido. I don't want to ignore that need. I'm not ready to.

Should I wait it out, stay strong and single until the hormones subside years from now and do spiritual work? Am I a danger to the men who might get close to me? Am I a danger to the men who fall for me? Do I unintentionally manipulate their feelings?

I just don't know whether to give in to biology and the desires of my body, which is a temple of God, or to redirect my energies (if that's even possible). There are sides of me that you have not seen or experienced here and I don't want to explain it, but I do feel a tearing of my life. Half of me pulling one way and half the other way.

I follow my instincts and do what seems right in the moment, but I'm consumed by the knowledge that my instincts change day by day and what feels right one day is not what I want the next, and then it goes back. How can I ride through that? How can I find an overriding peace?

A couple nights ago I wrote this poem (and how I long to not suck at poetry!)

Despair is planted in the belly.
It sits low and squat in the stomach,
dark and green and sharp.
Its roots wrap the organs,
its vines wrap the heart and squeeze.
It presses up against every cavity
so entwined it cannot be extracted.
Pointy leaves that all the air passes through.
Sickly blooms behind the eyes,
letting in no light.
Trapped by the growth within,
shrinking from the world.
Calling us in, deeper and deeper.

I know this is just part of the process. There is struggle, there are questions, there are dark nights of the soul. The questions are good. It is right that we question and struggle, I think that's the only way to interact with life and make it worthwhile.

But right now I am in darkness. God is there in the edge of my mind, as He always has been, yet He is quiet right now.

Why can't I just laugh? Why do I take life so damn seriously? Isn't 42 all I have to know? At least I'm not the only one consumed by these questions.

I think my poor dog is feeling my anguish. She's been acting very mopey the last couple of weeks.

Happy Republic Day

Image from this post

Statement by the U.S. President


Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Sympathize With Duryodhana

I think a lot of people like Karna and see him as a good man caught on the wrong side.

Duryodhana, on the other hand, is very much the bad guy of the story. Yet I don't think he was evil. I feel sorry for him because he had so much and was not able to be happy.

I think he is very human. I think I am more like him than like the Pandavas. The Pandavas were born from Gods, Duryodhana from a somewhat-weak man (We can have a discussion about Dhritarashtra another time!)

Duryodhana was lost, confused, discontented without knowing why. He felt things deeply and was hurt easily. He was very, very human.

While many of the other characters are better than us, showing us what to look up to and how to be, I think Duryodhana is our baser instincts.

I've read a number of versions of The Mahabharata, all of them abridged in some way. In fact the only unabridged version I read for a college class, only had the first three books translated at the time. But anyway, the version of the story that always clings to me is the Peter Brook's movie. There's a scene in that movie that makes me cry every time I watch it.

Duryodhana is arguing with his mother. She says something along the lines of, "Why can't you be happy and content with everything that you have?"

He shouts at her, "I want to be discontented...."

A man says: I have enough to eat and wear. I need nothing more! Shame! He says: I don't know anger! Shame! I am like a dried up stream, like a wooden elephant. All because my father was born blind, because one does not give a throne to a blind man...A man's body grows from birth and everyone is delighted in the same way his desire grows, his desire for power.

Of course I think he is wrong, that he should realize the greater truth that the kingdom is not his and it was never meant to be. But my heart aches for him because I know how hard it is to remove one's own desires and see the world as it is without the bias.

I think God had some sympathy for him too, as he did find contentment after death.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Was Karna a Noble Man?

Okay, away from real life for a bit and into philosophy...

(For those who don't know the story of Karna, I'll put as brief a summary as I can at the end of the post)

At study group last week we were reading about fate. We think of fate as something done to us, something we have no control over, but Advaita says that fate is the results of our own choices. We cannot effect the past, it is done, but when the past was the present the things we did created our fate. In the present we always have the choice of what to do and we can change our fate for the future. The message is, make good choices now for a happy future. It isn't quite that simple, but that's the basic idea.

There is a Sanskrit saying:
...For yesterday is but a memory
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today well lived
makes every yesterday a memory
of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day....

So, with that in mind, how much choice was there in The Mahabharata? It is a great piece to look at for examining fate because it is all about how can you tell what needs to be done. Every action that happens has an element of fate from the past, but also a choice, and a fate, and a choice, and it keeps going back and back and back so you can't tell which came first.

When Karna finds out that he is the son of Kunti, he has the choice to join the Pandavas or to stay loyal to Duryodhana. He stays where he is and as a result of that choice, he is killed.

Do you think he should have made a different choice? Do you think that he could have? Did he know what he was sacrificing? Was it noble to be loyal to a friend, even when that friend was wrong?

The story:
I will make this as brief as I can, so forgive me if I leave out some details. The heroes of The Mahabharata are five brothers called the Pandava because their earthly father was Pandu, but in fact each was fathered by a different God and born to Kunti (and Madri, but I'm going to leave her out). Before Kunti married Pandu, she had used her "gift" to have a child with the sun God and his name was Karna. She was ashamed and abandoned him, he was raised by a chariot driver (a much lower class than what he should have been, as Kunti was a princess and later a queen).

Years later the Pandava brothers are in conflict with their cousins for the kingdom. It rightfully belongs to the Pandavas, although it's a little bit murky. On the side of the cousins, the Kaurava, is Duryodhana. He is selfish and power hungry and unable to see the greater good.

Karna arrives and challenges one of the Pandava brothers, Arjuna, to fight. Karna is rejected because he is a lower class and doesn't know who his real parents are. Duryodhana sweeps in and gives him a small kingdom in order to make him worthy to fight Arjuna. Karna and Duryhodhana become good friends and Karna swears loyalty to him, not knowing that Arjuna is actually his brother.

A war begins over the succession conflict. In the middle of it, Karna is told that he is the eldest Pandava and he could go and join their side and they would welcome him, but Duryodhana is the only one who has been kind to him, so he stays where he is.

He is killed in battle by Arjuna. (His death has some complicated issues also, which I might get into later).

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Sorry if it seemed like I flipped out earlier. So many thoughts and ideas and questions... These are the questions that this blog is here to explore! And maybe I'm harder on myself than people in the world are. After all, my biggest problem as a teenager was I was convinced everyone hated me, which I'm now sure was not true at all.

But it was very timely in my life, actually, to read that post. Have you noticed that happening? When you are questioning something and an answer appears in an unexpected place?

I've felt very torn as I consider possible future relationships (I'm not dating this year, but I am trying to figure out what I'm looking for in a relationship, what is most important to me).

I've said before that I don't want to date someone because of his skin color, because of his race. Yet I've been feeling some pressure to do that. I started thinking how maybe it would make my life easier if I married a Hindu.

Mrs. BBBB's post reminded me that it is not that simple.

I have to hold out for love. I can't date someone just to gain some kind of passport into culture. Sounds obvious, doesn't it? It's easier said than done. I think a lot of people end up getting married for social reasons, and not for passion.

I don't understand love, I don't know what it looks like or what it feels like, I don't trust the experiences I may have had with it in the past.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that the grass looks greener, a certain kind of relationship looks easier, and it really isn't.

And maybe I will end up with a Hindu Indian man and maybe I won't, but I am not going to date someone for what it could get me socially, I am waiting for love (and how very modern that sounds!)

What Do People Say?

I know this is probably another sign of me caring too much about other people and what they think, but I've always been really curious about what people say about me behind my back.

Whenever kids have discussions about what super power would you want to have, I want one that would let me find out.

I think I'm just self-destructively curious.

I wonder if people say about me what Mrs.BBBB says in this post:

From that discussion I have to conclude that finding an Indian boyfriend would not help my case at all! My idea that it might legitimize my behavior doesn't hold up. That's good to know.

I really get the impression sometimes that I am like the red-headed step-child, as the expression goes, in this blog world. There is an entire community of non-Indian women who are married to Indian or Pakistani men and I read many of their blogs and enjoy what they have to say. But I don't fit in. I think they roll their eyes about me. And they may be right, I may be ridiculous.

I have no reason. Whenever I try to explain, it just turns out that I am racist and elitist. Maybe flattered to my face because I'm pretty, but laughed at behind my back.

The thing is, I am happier since I started expressing my full quirkiness. Knowing that there are people rolling their eyes at me behind my back doesn't dampen that happiness very much.

Time will tell. And maybe in time I will let go of my Indian behavior. As many of the commenters on that post said, with time one finds the right balance. I hope that if that does happen that people will not ridicule me. I am on a journey, as hippie as that sounds. I am trying to learn about and understand myself, and I do that however I can figure out.

I think we should all cut each other some slack. People make mistakes, people try out things that don't work, and it would be a lot less scary to try new things if we didn't fear that people were making fun of us.

I know, I know, I keep caring too much what other people think. What can I say? If I didn't care, I wouldn't be writing a blog!

It seems strange to me that when people come to America or England or Australia, that it is expected for them to fit into the culture, wear the clothes, learn the language, etc. Why is it that the same is not expected going the other direction?

Does it make me racist to say that? I hope not. I mean, I'm not sure anyone wants to be a racist. I certainly would hate to find out that I was.

The discussion on the other post has a lot to do with clothes. It seems like both here and in the cities in India, Western clothes are seen as better and more modern. I don't understand why. Personally I find salwar kameez extremely comfortable and practical. I love that they are coordinated because matching is not my forte. I don't see why they are regulated to being "ethnic" clothing and not just being clothing, being a reasonable and legitimate choice for women everywhere.

There is the fear of losing one's self in the culture of one's spouse or significant other. Obviously, that is not going on in my case, but there is still the question of am I giving up my own culture in pursuit of another?

I've said I didn't feel like I had a culture, but LuckyFatima points out that we might not see our culture until we have something to compare it to. I don't know. Are Sunday waffles and Ricky Lake after school a culture? Maybe. It wasn't enough for me, though.

Does it make a difference that I had a Krishna comic book when I was six? That my mom sang the Perfect Prayer at bedtime? That she read stories from The Mahabharata to me? Does that give me some claim? If so, what happens to the people who find a home in Hinduism later, with no background? Sanatana Dharma is available to all, it is universal. But what about culture? Is that available too? What are the rules?

What happens with the children of these interracial marriages? There will be some who look mixed race and some who look Indian, but some will look purely white. We've already seen a couple of these young people who have Western names and blue eyes, but an Indian parent. Will eyebrows be raised if they try to express their culture?

All my life I have longed to belong and yet it is as though no place wants me! I think that sense of being outside of myself is something that I will always carry with me. I think that has something to do with what I am here in this life trying to work out.

Thanks to Mrs.BBBB, who knows how to look right into the heart of issues and state what she sees honestly and with clarity. I am always inspired by reading her posts. As you can see, it raises a lot of questions for me!