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 This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at Patheos.com.

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

Perfection

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

Wikipedia

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

Waiting

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: http://bigbadblondebahu.blogspot.com/2011/01/trying-too-hard.html

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!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A quote

A friend just posted this one Facebook:
When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That's the message he is sending. -- Thich Nhat Hanh

I think this is quite relevant to the nun in question on the Conversion post

Monday, January 17, 2011

Memorial: Ilana Jonsson


April 14th, 1981 - January 17th, 2010

I am lost without your spirit and your energy, your opinions, your chatter, your zest. You were always like a mirror of me. We were friends for nine years and it should have been more. It should have been much more.

At this time, I should be staying with you in your condo and helping out with your new baby. I should be gossiping with you and trading recipes and new tricks for housekeeping.

I miss you so much, I can't stand it. My heart is broken. The world does not make sense anymore, the pieces don't add up.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why are People Mean?

I really believe that people's basic nature is good. Also, that all human beings are created in the image of God, are in fact God and as such should be treated with utmost respect and love.

Yet that is not what we see in day to day life.

Sometimes I think I am the only one who believes this! So many people seem to think that they are right and anyone who is not on the same path should be "re-educated," by force if necessary. Or else they think that minds are changed by ridiculing and hurting other people.

What exactly does it accomplish to call me a bitch? To say I'm like my "fucking for[e] fathers"? To spit in my face?

I'm not perfect, and I'm doing the best that I can here, exploring the mysteries of the universe. Are you trying to get me to stop? Are you hurting me just because you think it's fun? It does hurt. It hurts a lot. So, if that gives you satisfaction, then I'm glad. If it makes you happier, well, the world can use more happiness.

But I have a hard time understanding what purpose it really serves to say nasty things about anyone-- whether it is me, professing to be a religious woman, or a nun who is also doing the best she can to understand the world, or a Muslim woman who I'm sure has studied her faith to her own satisfaction.

Before anyone takes this too personally, it seems that there are two people who are continuing to submit vile, nasty, mean-spirited, hateful comments. It hurts me very deeply.

Show some love and some respect to your fellow human beings, who are your equal no matter what their beliefs.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Holiday: Pongal + Sankranthi

Today is a harvest festival. In the South, particularly Tamil Nadu it is celebrated as Pongal. In other parts of India it is Sankranthi.

It is a day to celebrate the beginning of the harvest season.

It's interesting to me that it falls in January. I think it shows how festivals and holidays form differently in different parts of the world because of differences in weather. Weather has such a tremendous effect on the development of society and culture, since we all started out as hunter/gatherer and moved into agriculture (from what I understand of anthropology, anyway).

In America, harvest festivals all occur in October and November. There is Thanksgiving and there is Sukkot, a Jewish holiday. Harvest festivals here are connected to trees that turn yellow, orange, and red; to corn and pumpkins and other gourds.

Pongal in Tamil means "spilling over." Using a clay pot to boil milk until it runs over symbolizes prosperity and abundance. The festival is dedicated to the sun God, Surya.

Sankranthi is celebrated differently in different areas, so I will simply link to the Wikipedia article about it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

White Hindu: the book

I'm thinking about gathering several of the posts here and putting them into a book...

What do you all think?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Another Philosophical Question

There is another aspect of how to live advaita philosophy that comes up a lot at study group. I think this is something that we all struggle with, trying to find the right balance.

The woman who writes the blog That Wife put it the best in one of her posts recently:

"How much do I have to give to others and how much can I keep for myself if I want to be a 'good person'?"


The comes up a lot because of pan-handlers. Particularly in America, where the beggars on the street are not as overwhelming as in India, are not being controlled by pimp-like characters, and many have mental illnesses. When they ask for money, should you give nothing? Give a little? Give everything in your wallet?

If you don't believe in giving to beggars, how much do you give to charity? Do you set a "safe" percentage of your income the loss of which won't detriment your family? It feels like we should be doing more, that if we love all people as our brothers and sisters, that we would give everything we have to help them.

But what about our own families? Should we not be keeping back enough to provide for them? How much do our families and ourselves need? Is it wrong to have money to spend on vacations and DVDs and such? Is it our duty to give everything excess away?

There is an Indian story about a man who would take his income and put it out on a table for everyone in his village to come and take what they needed. His wife also had to wait in line to do this. When she complains, he chastises her for it.

But can we really live that way? Should we be living that way?

This is a question that haunts me. It always has.

When I was a kid, I would give away everything I had. I gave my lunch money to other kids who had forgotten theirs, I gave away clothes that I loved because someone else might need them. I drove my parents nuts, but I felt too guilty and selfish and terrible if I didn't. It took to college for me to gain some control and to stop doing that.

I had this book when I was a kid about a little girl who is walking through the woods, I think on the way to visit someone, and she keeps coming across people who need things. There is a man with no shoes, and without hesitation she takes off her shoes and gives them to him. There is a woman freezing to death and the girl gives her sweater, etc. At the end she is completely naked and the stars come down from the sky to clothe her. Stories like this suggest that it is a good quality to be so selfless that you give away absolutely everything you own. Yet you can't really function or live in society if you do that!

Currently I try to be aware of the needs around me, and provide for them if I am able. I don't go "looking for trouble" and I don't give more than I am comfortable with. But I'm not sure which way is best for someone who wants to be a saint (for lack of a better word).

Monday, January 3, 2011

Attachment

One of the ideals in Hinduism is detachment. Detachment from the fruits of one's actions, detachment from life because it is not ultimate reality.

It's a really tricky thing to come to terms with.

On the one hand, lack of attachment saves one from pain. If we were enlightened (supposedly) we would enjoy people and objects while we had them, love them thoroughly, and also be fine when they were not with us. Things come and go, but really, as our universal Selves, everything is with us and everything is in us.

The trouble is that the idea of being detached from one's family and friends, from one's spouse and children, sounds horribly inhuman. It sounds cold and cruel.

This is a topic of frequent discussion at my study group. What does it really mean to be detached? Does it mean that we don't care? Does it mean that we don't stop bad things from happening because we should not care about the result of our action?

This is a subject that I think could take lifetimes to come to grips with.

However, I had a moment of insight the other day because I was reading a book a friend lent me about codependency. This is a psychological term that is often applied to the spouses of addicts. There is a tendency in those who love alcoholics or drug addicts to become overly involved in the addict's life, to try to fix him or her and ease their pain by taking away the addict's responsibility. There is a chapter in the book about detachment.

I was moved by a quote from a member of Al-anon, which is a sister group to AA (alcoholics anonymous) specifically for those whose lives are affected by alcoholics or other addicts. This person said, "Detachment is not detaching from the person whom we care about, but from the agony of involvement."

I think that is pretty profound and gave me a different perspective on what attachment and detachment are.

It's a concept I will still struggle with and keep refining my understanding of. I look forward to reading the rest of this book for more insight. It is called Codependent No More, it's a classic in this field.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Comments

I'm sorry to say that I have set up comment moderation. Your comments will now not show up until after I have reviewed and approved them. You also will no longer be able to comment anonymously. I hope that this won't cause problems, please email me if you have concerns about it: aambablog@gmail.com

I know that my friends here understand that while the Internet is an open forum of many different ideas, this blog is my space and I need to control the message. I don't wish to silence anyone who has legitimate questions, concerns, or objections.

If you keep the language clean and polite, then I will certainly publish contrary opinions and allow for a friendly debate.

I will not publish comments with name-calling, excessive capital letters, or personal attacks.

Please remember, my firm belief is that we are all family and we should treat each other with the love, respect, and dignity that we show to our most beloved family members.

*****
Oh, and on a different note, I wanted to mention that you'll now see a third blog listed on my profile. In case anyone sees that and is confused, I decided to set up another blog for yet another of my passions in life. I have this one for my religion and I have one for my knitting, my third big passion in life is disability rights. I know that seems a bit...different...from the other things you see around here, but it is another side of me. I get easily frustrated and angry about injustices I see against people who have disabilities, so I express rants calling out those behaviors on that blog.