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 This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at Patheos.com.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The White Hindu Has Moved

I'm now blogging over at...

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu/

Come on over and say hello!

Starting January 2013, there will be posts every week day at the new location with these general themes...

Monday: How Will I Be a Hindu This Week?
Tuesday: Meet a God or Meet a Guru
Wednesday: About Me
Thursday: Philosophy Corner
Friday: Wild Card (videos, news, fun stuff)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sometimes It Takes Time

I've had been having strange dreams, but they've mostly stopped since my boyfriend hung up a dream catcher over my bed. I don't know if it's the dream catcher itself or the intention we put into easing my dreams. But whatever it is, it's been working.

Last night I had a very interesting experience with a dream.

Some background:

Four years ago I started dating the friend of a friend. We didn't last long. Just a couple weeks. But we were not able to communicate through the end. The breakup hurt and disappointed me a lot and I was so upset that I just couldn't talk or look at him after it.

For years.

There are some things that people have said to me I just need to get over. And this is one of them. Why was it so hard to let go of? I don't know.

The few times I'd see him, I felt really awkward. I couldn't stop feeling upset and angry even though I knew it wasn't his fault.

This went on for four years.

That's right. Four years. And then last night I dreamed that I spoke to him. We talked about how things ended and I woke up feeling completely at peace.

For the first time the pain of that situation four years ago was gone.

So the point is, healing from something takes the time that it takes. 

You don't just snap out of it. You don't reason your way out of if. Your psyche lets go of it when it's ready. And I'm glad I was finally ready.

***

In other news, the new space for my blog is set up and ready. I'm going to be posting an intro post there today and then the first real posting will begin January 3rd.

I have planned out posts for every week day of the next three months! Some of them are revisiting issues that have come up here and others are not. I have a lot of big plans for the white Hindu.

I'll post a link soon!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Future Changes

I have some exciting news!

I didn't want to say anything this morning, but now the paperwork is passed in and I think it is safe to say that my blog is going to be moving. Thanks to Niki at My Own Ashram, I was offered a great opportunity to be part of an interfaith website.

It has sections for a variety of religions and each section has bloggers and columnists. I have been asked to join the Hindu bloggers there. I'm thrilled by the opportunity to expand readership and widen the discussion!

This is going to take effect in the new year, so watch for a post in January 2013 showing you where I've moved to.

One of the great things about this is that it will mean I have to post more! I'll be obligated to keep the blog up and I think that will be a really good thing for all of us. I'm brainstorming ideas now for different types of posts. I'm thinking of doing some weekly and monthly themes and balancing my philosophical musing with posts about celebrating holidays and day to day life as a Hindu.

So where am I going?

To Patheos.com! Their tagline is: Hosting the Conversation on Faith. I love that.

Doing a happy dance right now!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ads Disabled on the Blog

To take an admin moment, you may have noticed that the few scattered ads are gone.

I was trying out the Google adwords program to see if I could bring in a little revenue from the discussions here. I was making around 30 cents a month or so! Probably not even worth having.

So I suppose that it's just as well that Google suspended my account and accused me of fraud.

I really dislike these websites that go the guilty-until-proven-innocent route. It's very hurtful. The other really annoying thing is that they refuse to tell you what you've done wrong. They accuse you of being a criminal and then say they are unable to say why they are making that accusation.

I appealed and said I had no idea what they thought I did wrong, but I'm just a simple hobby blogger and it's not like I'm raking in millions here.

They denied my appeal.

The only thing I can think is that I must have accidentally clicked on one of the ads once when I was trying to get the page to load (my work computer is very slow, and I get frustrated trying to force it to scroll on a page when it's taken two minutes to try to load it!) Of course clicking on your own ads is fraud and I would never do that intentionally. They will not confirm if this is what happened or not. I'm in the dark as far as what made them suspend my account.

So no more ads.

It seemed like a nice way to get something back from the time and energy that I devote here particularly since I'm struggling financially. But it's not like it was doing much good anyway. What I really get from this blog is the interesting discussion and perspectives that you all bring to these issues. It's great to sort through these things with friends instead of alone!

Friday, November 16, 2012

We Can Be Better Than That

In response to the article I posted about yesterday, one of my friends on facebook said...

 Do u remember I said abt Dr. Swamy, well he is a hindu nationalist & I agree wid him. Coz if such nations won't become secular then we Hindus must change our policies & it is a hindu who has to suffer alot wether he may b in a gulf country or in any other country.What do u think?

What I said there is that I think two wrongs don't make a right. We don't want to become like the others who hurt us, we want to be better than them.

But my response goes deeper than that. I think at the root of this reaction is a very powerful fear.

We fear that Hinduism will be destroyed by the more aggressive religions. And I can understand why we have that fear when we do still see forced conversions and people being conned into believing in another religion.

Still, the fear is not necessary and it holds us back from our full potential. Fear is an emotion that shrinks us, not one that grows us. As my father says, one should never do or not do something because of fear.

Hinduism is strong. It has survived for thousands of years and is one of the oldest (if not possibly the very oldest) religions in the world. It is woven into the core of what it is to be human. Like Krishna, there has never been a time that it has not existed. It is not going anywhere.

No matter what other people might try to do, no matter how individuals experience it, Hinduism cannot be destroyed.

You know what a forced conversion can never do? It can never change your heart. Hinduism will always live  in your heart. No one can take that from you.

Hinduism does have its faults. Not at its core. At its core it is perfect (as we are too). But society and culture over time has corrupted parts of it and we need to always be careful to remember that Hinduism is about love. It is not about discrimination or being hurtful to another human being. When those things happen, then some people think that's what Hinduism is. We can be the example to show that that is not true.

When we feel hurt by the policies and religions of others, the first instinct is to lash back and do the same thing back to them. I think we can be better than that and show the world that a Hindu does not hurt others.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Disturbing Story in the News

On Facebook today I discovered a post about this young Hindu woman who died in Ireland because the Catholic hospitals would not perform an abortion.

It certainly hits close to home for me as she was only 31, just about the same age as me.

The person who shared the article expresses the belief that the people involved should be punished for murder and that it was inappropriate that a Hindu woman be forced to accept rules based on Catholicism. However, it is a Catholic country (that part of it, anyway). To me this really showcases the need to keep religion separate from government.

She should have had the choice to go to a hospital that was not affiliated with Catholicism.

Being a religious minority is a terrifying thing. You cannot trust that your beliefs will be honored when they come into conflict with the majority.

Even for those who are opposed to abortion, it is difficult to see how you could make the choice to kill both the mother and the four month old fetus instead of saving the mother.

http://www.hindu-blog.com/2012/11/hindu-woman-denied-abortion-in-catholic.html

Be sure that where ever you live, you know what the laws about this sort of thing are. You cannot trust that your own religious convictions will be honored when they conflict with the religious convictions of the majority population where you live.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Diwali

We had a great time last night at the ISKON temple. It's about a forty minute drive away, so I don't go very often, but their events are always a great experience.

On our way out the door (+ I need a better camera!)

Though my practices are not terribly devotional, it is nice to do some devotional activity now and then. It's so much fun to get caught up in the energy: jumping, clapping, and shouting to the gods.

I tried to take a picture of the idols, but there was so much light that my camera couldn't deal with it!

Back home...
This is my fanciest sari, the same one I wore to the temple dedication in Sringeri 


Monday, November 12, 2012

Shubh Dipavali

Happy Diwali, everyone! Hope this week will be special for you and that you'll start fresh, challenging yourself to a great new year.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Review: The Destiny of Shaitan


This is a book I've been waiting for.

Oh, I didn't know this author or that she was creating this book, but I have been wanting a fantasy novel set in an Indian-based world for years! I even tried to write one once, but I have no skill in the fantasy genre. I'm so glad that this book was created.

Now, unfortunately, the point of view is one of my least favorite possible. First person and present tense. Present tense is very difficult to do well and it feels much more contrived than the recent past that we're so used to reading in novels. (It's, in fact, easy to not realize one is reading past tense because it feels so natural, but if you pick up a book and look at the verb to be it will almost always be "was" rather than "is.") For me this makes it very difficult to get immersed in the story. I struggled with that a lot, however that is probably just a personal quirk!

I'm always impressed with the imagination it takes to make whole worlds and galaxies come to life. I have to congratulate the author on her creativity! The blend of ancient and future was very cool. I look forward to more books that bring Indian mythology and aesthetic into fantasy settings.

With this book, your enjoyment will depend a lot on taste, so I would suggest checking out the sample to see what you think. Also, as I am an official stop on the author's blog tour, I am participating in a giveaway!
It is tour wide and ends Nov. 25th. Click the link to enter... a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here is the description from the author:

Background: The Destiny of Shaitan, the first novel in The Chronicle of The Three series is a coming of age story, about a girl who falls in love only to realise that to be truly happy, she has to first find herself. Set in 3000 AD, when the galaxy is populated by humans as well as a half human, half alien race called half lives, this novel, tracks the protagonists from five to seventeen years old. 

Synopsis: When Tiina accompanies her ex-boyfriend Yudi on a mission to save the universe from the ruthless Shaitan, she seeks more than the end of the tyrant; she seeks herself. Driven by greed and fear for his own survival, Shaitan bulldozes his way through the galaxy, destroying everything in his path. Tiina wants Yudi to eliminate Shaitan, thus fulfilling the prophecy of the powerful autocrat being killed by his son, but she finds that Yudi is hesitant to do so. The final showdown between Yudi and Shaitan has unexpected consequences, for Shaitan will do anything in his power to win the fight—including getting rid of Tiina. The stakes are high and the combatants determined. Will Shaitan's ultimate destiny be fulfilled?

Return to 7 Islands, (Chronicle of The Three, #2): The Destiny of Shaitan, ends with Tiina, leaving everything she knows—including Yudi and the world she helped save from Shaitan—in search of herself.  The second novel in the series, titled Return to 7 Islands, follows Tiina as she lands in a futuristic Bombay—now  reduced by a tsunami to its original seven islands—and helps Rai, in defending his childhood orphanage from the clutches of Sharmila, Shaitan's daughter. As she struggles to come to terms with her origins in an attempt to understand herself better, she discovers a surprise about her past. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Hindu in U.S. Congress


Andrea M. shared with me an interview with the woman who is likely to become the first Hindu American in Congress. How exciting is that?

Here is a particularly interesting part of the interview...

Your dad is Catholic. Your mom, I believe, is Hindu. So does your Hinduism flow from your mom? How deep is it?I grew up in a multicultural, multi-religious household. My father is of Samoan/Caucasian heritage and he is a deacon in the Catholic church. However, he also likes to practice mantra meditation, including kirtan. My mother is Caucasian and a practicing Hindu.Are you a practicing Hindu?
Yes, I am a practicing Hindu. Some people are Hindus because they were born into a Hindu family, but may not have seriously studied or applied the Vedic teachings and practices. 
In that sense it's very much like many people in America who consider themselves Christians because they were born into a Christian family. But that's not my situation.I fully embraced Sanatan Dharma after serious deliberation and contemplation in my later teens -- it's not because my mother was a Hindu....
It's always interesting for me to find out about other Caucasians who grew up with Hinduism!

{Of course, one should avoid reading the comments. There is someone going nuts in the comments. It kind of illustrates the polarity of white Hinduism. Many embrace it and some become rage-fully angry over it.}

Monday, October 22, 2012

Back from Garba

I had an awesome weekend celebrating Navratri.

A friend invited me to a garba event that her family puts on every year. We came early to help set up and work on food, etc. It allowed me to eat great home made food all weekend long!

My one lengha is not very garba appropriate. I need one with more mirror-work and folk art style. I was also worried about mine being too long, but I managed to dance in it.

I love to dance, so I had a blast. Though I am quite out of shape and had to stop frequently, red-faced and puffing! There was also a beautiful puja and some yummy prasad.

Here are a few pictures...



Sorry they are so blurry! Taken with my iPod instead of my digital camera, which is out of batteries.

My friend got to experience a bit of my frustration. All night people kept saying things like, "Oh, I see they've dressed you up!" with big grins. My friend would say, "No, it's her own outfit" and, of course, no one listened! 

That sort of thing sometimes makes me feel defensive, but these days I more often just shrug and go with it. They don't need to know that I'm no stranger to Indian culture, food, dress, or customs. A lot of people are delighted to see me, excited to welcome me, and explain all the things that I already know. But it makes them happy, so I don't usually fight it anymore.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Working on a New Book

New reader, Suzanne, had a wonderful suggestion in one of the comments. She is new to Hinduism and feeling a little overwhelmed about where to begin this journey. She said she'd like to see some classes for converts. What a brilliant thought!

My mind has been churning on that and I've come up with the idea that I will write a book called A Class for Converts: Beginning Your Journey in Hinduism.

It will, of course, talk about how "convert" is not necessarily the right term for someone becoming a Hindu and how Hinduism is more a way of life and less a religion and about how there is no central authority. But it will also give information about different branches and organizations and options.

Here's the outline that I'm thinking of so far...

Part One
The real basics--principles and ideas
The variety of Hindu beliefs and practices
The three paths and some questions to help you figure out which you are
A good first step depending on the path
How to find a worship community
How to visit a temple for the first time
Setting up a sacred space at home
Do you need to undergo a ritual to be a Hindu?
How to learn more

Part Two
Essays on issues that might be unique to "converts":
-Family issues (talking to your parents or your spouse about this)
-Do I need a caste?
-Some of Hinduism's negative history (I think it's important for people to understand that no religion is perfect and there are people who have behaved badly no matter what religion they claim to follow. Converts should not come to Hinduism because it's "all about love and peace, man. It's not consumerist like the west." People need to see the positive and the negative and make an informed decision).
-What makes Buddhism and Hinduism different?
ETA: -Being a Hindu in the workplace and other social situations (still pondering this one)

Part Three
Debates. I will take sticky issues that I've wrestled with here and provide both sides, an essay for both the yes side and the no side.
-Should you take Indian culture along with an Indian religion?
-Do you need to be a vegetarian to be a Hindu?
-Was Gandhi the perfect man or did he hurt India's future?
-Can you wear Indian clothes?
ETA: -How should I deal with Christmas or other holidays of my native religion?

Conclusion

Resources
(Definitely the books from Himalayan Academy)

What other issues would you like to see addressed? (Some of these are extremely emotional issues, so please try not to argue in the comments about them. As I said, I will present both sides. In the end, it's very important for us all to remember that our experience is our own experience and none of us can speak for how every Hindu feels about something).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Excited for Garba!

I'm going to a garba for Navratri this month! So excited.

I'm afraid my only lengha is awfully long on me and it might not be good for dancing. I guess I just have to go shopping, eh?

I'll try to get some pictures to share with you!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Vedic Prayers

On the Facebook page, Bhismah Arya posted an article about the Gayatri mantra. It reminded me that chanting of the Vedic prayers is a great way to calm the inner turmoil that has been stirred up by the arguing I've been doing lately with the "soulman" commenter.

He can believe if he wants to that I will never be accepted by the Indian community, but that has not been my experience. He can believe that people are just being polite and secretly thinking I'm just playing with my faith. Most of the people at my temple have expressed amazement and joy that I understand Hinduism on the level that I do (more so than most Indians, they often tell me!) But people can go ahead and think that I'm just playing around with this faith if they want. People can think whatever it is they are going to think. I can't control that.

Apparently to be taken seriously he believes I must marry someone random that I don't even like (but I've tried that! I got rejected for marriage by someone in my community as well as by a Hindu Advaita man). So he will continue to believe that my refusal to marry someone only for the sake of being taken seriously in my religion is an inappropriate choice. It's good to know that some people will always think that and I cannot be responsible for anyone's beliefs but my own.

At the same time, only I am responsible for my feelings and my behaviors. So if I'm wrong, then I take the consequences of being wrong. No need to anyone else to get worked up about my spiritual progress.

The fact is, this commenter is making accusations about my character that I don't have to listen to. His comments will no longer be published.

Now, let us all enjoy the beautiful hymns that I grew up listening to. My mother used to sing these to me as lullabies. :)

I also found this girl who appears to be a white convert to Hinduism singing bhajans. She's got a beautiful voice!

This reminds me that all I need to do is commune with the divine and enjoy my unique relationship with the universe. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Life Lessons

I took a break! And I feel much better.

These things clearly do still affect me. I keep thinking that I'm getting to a point where I don't care what others say, but then something will hit me really hard.

The lesson here is that I am learning some of the sanskara that I am in this life to work through.

Clearly not taking the things that other people say so personally is a life lesson that I need to work on!

(And no, for those who keep commenting on this, marrying an Indian is not the solution to my problem. Please see all blogs written by white wives of Indian men. They still have issues like this to deal with. Also, I am in this life to improve ME. Who I am and my progress on my soul is not a job for a husband.)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Maybe I Need to Step Away from the Internet!

I take everything I see on the Internet way too personally.

I'm not sure how to stop doing that!

It would probably be good for me to step away again for a while and recharge myself.

Duty Calls
http://xkcd.com/386/


...And the Other Side

It's a good thing I don't really rely on other people for my self-esteem anymore.

No sooner do I see the blog post that I gave you earlier today than I have one from the opposite perspective:

http://www.biculturalmom.com/2012/09/27/white-privilege-links-resources-reblogged-from-i-drink-white-tears

Lots of links to articles about white privileged and cultural appropriation. There's at least four on why you shouldn't wear a bindi.

Here's why white people can't be Hindu: http://sitaronse.tumblr.com/post/31223924664 I still don't really understand why I'm supposed to be responsible for the behavior of other white people. Because some white people oppressed your people, it's my responsibility? I know that sounds callused, but I didn't oppress anyone. My family, so far as I know, didn't oppress anyone. All white people didn't do that to you. But I guess I'm not really allowed to say that.

Apparenty, according to this person, a white person cannot have a respectful relationship with Hinduism. She can only treat it like a toy and enjoy its "otherness" and act like she's making it better. I do not come to Hinduism lightly and I think my regular readers know that! I know it intimately and it is not a game to me.

I am privileged. I feel guilty that I have that privilege. But I'm just not going to accept that I shouldn't follow my heart and do what feels right because I might offend or upset someone else. I don't purposefully go out to offend, of course, but I'm not sure who these people want me to be. The stereotype of a white person, I suppose. They probably have an idea in their minds of what a white person's domain is and exactly what it looks like.

I do not.

I have only what feels right to me and I'm finished with asking for anyone's permission to do it.

Heck yes!

I feel energized and delighted from reading this post that Andrea M. pointed out to me. I think he makes some really excellent points. I pretty much wanted to say "Yes, exactly" to every single sentence, so you absolutely have to go over and read it.

It's about cultural appropriation and how Indian culture is 1) extremely varied, 2) is strong enough to survive people dabbling in it, and 3) allowing others to learn and experience one's culture enriches and strengthens it, helping to fight against racism by destroying ignorance.

Here are just a few of the wonderful lines...

"There is nothing wrong with taking the best ideas of a group of people and using them to improve your own. It doesn't destroy your culture, it makes it BETTER"

"...the people complaining have forgotten one thing. That culture changes. Indian culture of 100 years ago is not the same as today."

"Yes there are a lot of things that suck like 'Fair and Lovely' and the like about Indian culture but you know what? That has nothing to do with a bunch of white people putting indian things on their foreheads or carrying our bags or dancing in movies. That has to do with a society that doesn't realise that all skin colour is beautiful. It's due to western influences and the idealisation of beauty but you have to realise one important thing. White people are as exotic to Indians as Indians are to White People. You are just as fetishised as our women are to you. "

Go read it now! :) http://a-million-gods.blogspot.com/2012/09/baggy-silk-pants.html

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Readers, help me help this woman!

I got a message on Ravelry yesterday from a woman who loves to wear saris, but can't find a choli big enough to fit her.

I am terrible at sewing and I got my cholis mostly online, but my bust is not quite as large as hers.

What we need is this:

A resource where someone can buy (or have made from the fabric that sometimes comes with a sari) a blouse that is 48 inch bust and 40 inch underbust.

Please let me know in the comments if you can think of anywhere I can direct this woman!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Huh?

There's a comment awaiting moderation on my Happy Ganesh Chaturthi post. It says "I'll pray for you."

???

I'm not sure what to make of that.

It's something I've heard Christians say when they've decided that my religious Hindu life is leading me straight to hell.

What do you guys think? Original commenter, would you like to provide clarification or context?

Will stay unpublished until I know whether this is some Christian B.S.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Do we have a right to die?

Something has disturbed me recently. I found out that there is a bill on the ballet in Massachusetts to legalize physician-assisted suicide for those who are terminally ill.

On the surface, such a law often sounds like a good idea. Supporters use words like "dignity" and talk about suffering. If someone knows he is going to die, why prolong the suffering?

My beliefs suggest that there are some very important reasons why suicide is never an option.

Not that we can ever do anything to set us back permanently. Suicide is not going to land us in hell for eternity. But leaving early does deprive us of the chance to work through the sanskara that we were put in this life to deal with. and the act of suicide is going to add some very serious sanskara to future lifetimes.

It may sound cruel to say we have to stick it out no matter the circumstances. And I'm a very firm believer in the "separation of church and state," as they say here. I don't want to legislate my morality. I don't vote based on religious preferences alone (although my religion certainly informs everything in my life).

Some of you may now that I'm connected to doing work in disability rights. Another thing that I have against a bill like this is the double standard. When a healthy and/or able-bodied person says they want to kill themselves, we rush to get them counseling, medication, and help. When someone with a severe disability or illness wants to kill themselves, we say "Yeah, that makes sense. Your life must be shit."

No one has the right to take his own life.

And I think that's what's at the heart of this passionate debate back and forth over the right to die issue.

We want to believe that we have some control over our life and our death. We like to tell ourselves that if things got too bad we could always kill ourselves, that at any time we could take control.

But we are not in control of death. 

The universe takes us when it is our time and we will never see that coming. Even those who are terminally ill cannot predict (or have doctors) predict the moment they will pass. Prognoses are educated estimates. We don't know when our time to go is.

Proof of that, to me, is the seemingly random way that some people do insanely dangerous things and live while others die tucked away at home reading a book. People even frequently survive suicide attempts. When a doctor gives you poison, though, there's no turning back.

This is not the same as a do-no-resuscitate request. This is an active killing of a human being. And whether that life is your own or someone else's, it's still murder in my book. Our lives are not given over to us to control. Not entirely.

Now since I try not to force my moral and religious beliefs on others, I can almost come to this issue the way I do to abortion. I think it's wrong and I wouldn't do it, but I don't begrudge anyone else making the moral decision for herself. I don't judge those who do choose it and I don't prevent them from choosing it. I am not in their skin. I don't know what the situation looks like to them. I am not terminally ill. I don't know what such people are facing.

This law gets more personal for me. It concerns me that, for example, the official witness who confirms that the person really does want to die can be the person who inherits from the death. It concerns me that we put doctors, whose oath is to life, in the position of purposefully killing (and what that might do to their sanskara!). And it concerns me that we value some life more than others.

I no longer live in Massachusetts, so this is not something I will have to vote on as of yet. My friends tell me there are some states where such bills have passed and nothing terrible has come of it. I am not so sure. After all, we can't see sanskara.

These are my thoughts at this moment. I'm uncertain how they may evolve. At this time, though, I am passionately opposed to legalizing suicide.

{And for further reading, I would suggest the "life with dignity" people, Not Dead Yet}

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi!

I don't have any big plans this year. I did not attempt modak again or make a clay Ganesh.

But I'm thinking about Ganesha and the joy and energy that he brings to the world.

(I am wearing a sari, of course! Soft magenta with a border of black and gold).

I think holidays will be more meaningful for me when I have children. I know I really look forward to making Ganesh statues with my children someday and sharing stories and lore with them.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Religion is Alive


This was on a friend's facebook wall the other day.

 I love it.

I think this quote makes a very excellent point. We should approach the world as a scientist does: modifying our understanding to conform with what the world shows us rather than (as too many religions do) try to hide and misrepresent what the world shows us in order to conform with our ideas.

The Truth is the Truth and it is eternal and unchanging.

However, we do not yet fully understand it. When new information comes to light through science, it allows us to deepen our understanding of the universal Truth.

Religion exists to help us approach this Truth and it should always be a tool, not an end to itself. Religion should grow and be capable of adapting to new information. If it can't do that, it becomes stale and is eventually nothing but dogma with no meaning attached, used to beat people into submission.

My religion is alive. And it is always growing to encompass every new piece of understanding of our mystical universe.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Live Discussion of Conversion and Identity

Yesterday I received a message from someone at the Huffington Post on my Facebook page! I was quite thrilled, let me tell you. I really respect their webpage.

They are working on doing a live webcam chat with converts whose lifestyles have changed dramatically because of their choice to convert.

And they asked me to participate.

Unfortunately, I had to tell them that my life hasn't changed that much!

I don't think that I'm quite what they're looking for, though I can speak about the experience of conversion. How we struggle to find a balance between our past and our present, how we start out tilting wildly into zealous passion, but usually even out eventually, how our stories never actually end, the journey continuing as long as we live.

However, my choice to become a Hindu was, for me, an awakening to something that I already was. The changes in my life were superficial. I celebrate different holidays. I sometimes wear different clothes. But for me there was no hijab to put on and there was no break with my family.

I wish I had thought to mention that they should approach Aliza Hausman, a Dominican woman who converted to orthodox Judaism.

They showed me an article they had done about Hispanic Americans converting to Islam. A very cool read/video!

Anyway, it got me thinking about the nature of changing your religion.

Sometimes it's a very dramatic shift, particularly if you go to the conservative ends of a religion and need to take on rules and dress codes. Sometimes it's just a quiet awakening and a slow blossoming into what you were always meant to be.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Need Less and Less

If you've been with me a while you might know that I grew up in an organization that is at least a little bit cult-like. While I was growing up I heard a lot of rhetoric about not being materialistic, not being attached to things, etc.

I tried to live it. I tried to give up things because other people told me that things were not the way to happiness. It was a very deprivational /punishing thing. I loathed myself for having desires. Particularly for ever giving in to a desire.

I felt crippling guilt about owning anything, having anything, wanting anything.

When I became an adult, at some point I made the decision to follow my heart. To "follow my bliss" as Joseph Campbell says and always do what felt right. This may sound perfectly reasonable to you, but it can sound negative too. My elders might easily say, "You mean you want to be hedonistic. To follow pleasure and ignore honor and duty and right."

Words like "pleasure" and "hedonist" were pretty much the worst things you could say.

Life isn't about selfish pleasure, right? It's about dedication, duty, hard work.

For a little while I left that duty and dedication and deprivation and allowed myself to start feeling the pleasures and feeling the desires.

They might not lead to lasting happiness. But I had to find that out for myself. I had to go on the journey.

And that's the key, really.

Lots of well meaning adults tried to make me into a perfect person by teaching me all about the mistakes they felt they made, the regrets that they had. They had discovered that material possessions didn't make them happy. They wanted me to understand that. But I had no experience to draw on, could only believe what I was told.

During my twenties I found out that I couldn't be spared those mistakes (well, maybe some of them). I had to experience. I had to try and test and find out where happiness was and discover it in my own experience.

Now I find that I don't have much desire for material things. I have little clutter and less all the time. I don't feel very attached to things.

The difference is, it isn't forced.

It's just the natural development of a life lived honestly and very close to the heart. If I feel desire, if I want something, I wouldn't deny getting it (currently I'm wanting a composter!). I would no longer become angry at myself for having a desire. I don't feel deprived because I just don't need very much and I find that I don't want very much .

But I could not have come to that conclusion, and been at peace with less stuff if I hadn't tried the stuff out.

Desire isn't wrong or evil. It's natural. And it can tell us a lot about ourselves and our needs. At some point one may find desire lessening, but I don't think we can skip ahead to that part of the journey. I think we have to arrive there naturally.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Maybe it's all in my head

A comment on my post of a few days ago got me thinking...


I always get confused with such posts. because it doesn't make much sense. Nor does it match what I've seen (attitude of Hindu-by-birth towards Hindu-by-choice)

I truly hope such reactions you speak of are mere exceptions.

I think I really do imagine more strife than there actually is.
I can't think of any examples of anyone questioning my validity of a Hindu to my face. There are only two things that lead to posts like this:
1) Knowing that some people say behind my back that I romanticize Hinduism. But I think the more I talk about it, the more they see that I know the good and the bad sides.
2) Stories or articles where people complain about a particular person (such as a celebrity) being into Indian culture out of nowhere. Somehow I seem to take those stories very personally and the things that people say about them, even though it is a different situation.
I am sensitive to and worry over people trying to dismiss my Hindu-ness and yet I think it's mostly just in my own defensive brain. 
It reminds me of a key moment in my childhood. I was watching Duck Soup, the Marx Brother's movie. At one point Groucho is waiting for a rival to show up to apologize for a tiff that happened between them. While he's waiting he starts to worry about the apology. "What if he refuses to shake my hand?" he says. "What if, in front of all these people, he humiliates me by not shaking my hand?" He gets himself so worked up that when the other fellow arrives and holds out his hand to shake, Groucho shouts at him, "How dare you refuse to shake my hand!" and storms out.
Watching this as a child I didn't get it. I turned to my mother and said, "That's so silly. No one would ever do that in real life."
And she said, "It happens all the time."

Friday, September 7, 2012

I Need Some Inspiration

Usually I scroll through Facebook or Pinterest for some feel-good pictures and words.

Lately, though, it seems like there's nothing but politics and that just raises my blood pressure!

Then I realized that you guys are a great resource.

What are your favorite quotes, sayings, or readings that you turn to to help you see the bigger picture and remember Truth?

Share in the comments!

UPDATE: Thank you, thank you, thank you :) I really appreciate all the suggestions and places to find inspiration. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dreams Are Plaguing Me

Growing up I was told not to put any stock in dreams. They're nothing and you can get distracted from your purpose by trying to find meaning in them.

Yet I feel like there has to be something more to them than just the mind churning through influences of the day.

We still don't really know why we dream or why dreams are common among many animals. One theory is that they help us test things out before actually doing them. I don't know. I feel like if that were true, we would remember them better.

My experience with dreams has been becoming more intense lately.

To start out with, most of my dreams are very true to life. They are believable and realistic and about normal, every day activities. I tend to remember many of my dreams fairly well. There are some common themes, including the popular: dreaming that I'm going about errands while completely naked.

I noticed something a while back, which is that I often have trouble with my eyes in dreams. My eyes will be closed and I won't be able to get them open, or the lids will be very heavy, or I won't be able to raise my gaze or turn my gaze.

Sometimes this clues me in that I'm dreaming. More often, it just frustrates me. Within the dream I will think: this is something that tends to happen in a dream. Am I dreaming now? And I conclude that I'm not! Everything feels just too real.

Sometimes I force myself to test out whether I'm dreaming by jumping and seeing if I fly. Whenever I do this test, of course I do start flying and I have to acknowledge that it's a dream.

Recently I was having trouble with my vision and realized that it must be a dream, but I wanted to wake up. I really tried hard to wake up and couldn't. I felt trapped and panicked, afraid that I would never wake up. I kept dreaming that I was waking up but the vision problem remained the same. I dreamed I was laying in my own bed. I would try to stand up. Still dreaming. I would try going to the bathroom and splashing water on my face. Still dreaming. It was terrifying!

Shortly after that I had a dream where I was talking to my boyfriend while organizing a closet. I told him about how to tell that I wasn't dreaming. I know this isn't a dream, I said, because I have all my senses. I can feel the clothes that I'm touching, I can smell and hear and come into the present moment right here. But I was dreaming.

I had a similar conversation with a good friend in a dream later.

It reminds me of a Dr Who episode where Amy and Rory and the 11th Doctor are trying to figure out which reality is real and which is a dream. Each time they wake up to the other reality, they are absolutely convinced that the one they are in is the real one.

That's how I feel.

After I wake up, it's obvious it was a dream. While I'm experiencing it, it is so real that I refuse to believe that it's a dream. (Although I'm lucid dreaming more and more lately).

And I wonder if that's the point.

This is what the test is. Not to try out different experiences before trying them in real life, but to have a frame of reference for how what we think of as "real life" is actually a dream. A slightly different kind of dream, as its designed to last some 80 years rather than a few hours.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Being a Hindu is a Privledge

It should be, anyway.

But like with any word or label, almost anyone can claim it.

It's so difficult to define what Hinduism is.

Because even if we come up with a definition that includes things like follows vedic principles, harms none, etc., there will still be mean-spirited, angry people who were born Hindu and will therefore also claim to be Hindu. And of course they are.

Even people who take, as Andrea M. said to me the other day, only the worst parts of Indian culture call themselves Hindu.

If people who act in anger to hurt and defile others can call themselves Hindu, then I certainly can!
If people who kill their own children for being defiant can call themselves Hindus, then I certainly can!

Christians  have this issue as well. Each sect with its different beliefs is frustrated that others with different values and beliefs can use the same label. For example, I see frustration from liberal Christians who know that people like me are very put off by the word "Christian" just because we associate it only with the people who believe that I'm evil and going to hell. The word "Christian" has a bad connotation for many people (And of course a great one for others).

"Hindu" is the same way. Some people will associate that with radicals. Others will associate it with unfortunate news stories. And others, like me, are proud to be Hindu and associate it with the highest calling and purpose in life.

No one owns the word.Which is a shame in some ways and a good thing in other ways!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Maybe I'll Say I'm Going to Temple Later...?

I should probably stop obsessing over clothes!


I couldn't wait for an opportunity to wear this sari! My mom gave me a bag of unwanted saris from a friend. This one came with a pink, poofy-sleeved blouse that was very dated. I just swapped it for a white blouse I already had and it's perfect. I love it.

Unfortunately the picture does not do it justice. You can't really see that there are flowers made of pink beads all over it. And it flows so beautifully.

Ran into an Indian guy at the accountant's office today and he said, "Beautiful sari" as I passed. He did look a tiny bit stunned, though.

It's perhaps more of a spring look rather than a fall one, but hey, whatever :)

Something I love about blogging is the exchange of ideas and the opportunity to explore new thoughts by talking with each other. Andrea M. has a great post today about how we learn about new cultures.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Another Take on Clothes

My Next Life posted the link for this article in the comments section of yesterday's post. Very appropriate subject! It wonders why clothing creates so much scandal.


Some months ago, I began to wear a certain sartorial item that I had long admired. That I was turned away from two stores when I tried to purchase the said item should have given me a clue about what was to follow. Still, purchase it I did, for myself, for no reason other than that I found it beautiful.
The humble metti, nuptial toe-rings, were by far the most subversive thing that I – doyenne of firetruck-red lipstick, leopard-print thigh-highs and strapless sari blouses – had ever worn.
“What next? If thaalis were ‘pretty’ would you wear one too?” snapped someone.
“You’re not supposed to!” exclaimed another. Such a simple condemnation. Supposed
http://sharanyamanivannan.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/toi-idiva-are-women-now-becoming-unafraid-of-controversy/

Interesting to note that Indian girls are not free from the controversy of choosing to do Indian things in new ways.
.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Clothes v.s. Ethnic Clothes

I'm starting to wonder why me wearing salwar kameez and other Indian clothes is so unusual.

Somehow, and I'm not sure how but racism is probably involved, Western style clothes became the default. When you talk about "clothes," what you're picturing in your mind is probably jeans, t-shirts, blazers. Whereas Indian clothes are *Indian* clothes. Not just clothes.

Why should Western clothes be the default?

Jeans, t-shirts, pencil skirts, and trousers are not the definition of clothes. They are an option. Salwar suits, kurtas, saris and lenghas are other options.

We should all embrace all the choices that the fashion of the world has to offer! As Andrea M. pointed out in the comments on her blog, we have come to see things like Norwegian sweaters as regular clothes. Why not Indian clothes?

Not as cultural mis-appropriation. Not as culture at all. Just as clothes that make us feel beautiful.

Wear salwar kameez and sari because you love them, not because they are Indian! I believe we should start a trend. Americans wear salwar suits. Why? Because they are comfortable, beautiful, and easy to move in.

{As a side note, my boyfriend has a friend who is an acupuncturist and in tune with subtle energies. Apparently this man told him that I give off a much more authentic energy when I'm wearing Indian clothes!}

******
On a related note:

Andrea M posted a link in her blog to this article about a French woman who loves wearing saris and also wedding bangles.

http://nymag.com/fashion/lookbook/look-book-2012-7-16/

With the clothes, I really can't see it being a problem. This woman loves the look and feel and experience of saris and that's awesome. It's making saris something that people like, admire, and respect.

The wearing of wedding bangles when she isn't married gives me pause. And it gave others pause too. That was the first time I started to see this issue of cultural mis-appropriation. But then I kept thinking about it.

My boyfriend said this is the same thing that people feel about dread locks. I've gotten into online arguments before about whether it's okay for white people to wear dreads. Personally I feel like you can do whatever you like to your hair. If it's possible to create a hairstyle, then I don't think it can be "copyrighted" for lack of a better word.

He said that dreads signify a spiritual achievement in the Rastafarian culture and that's why it is upsetting to them if others use them.

To me I still can't see it. It sounds like a culture saying: "We're going to take this hair style and make it ours alone and none of the rest of you are allowed to do it (even if you accidentally discover it completely on your own)"

So then I started thinking, why is the wedding bangles any different? Can a culture tell someone else that she can't wear jewelry of a particular type because it's been, essentially, trademarked?

Here's the thing:

I long to wear a manglasutra. Not just because they are beautiful, but because I know what they mean and I want to be married. Very much so. I want both the beauty and the cultural significance and so I would never, ever, ever wear one when I was not married.

But if I were someone who was not a Hindu and just saw a beautiful necklace...? I don't know if I could really call it wrong to wear something purely for its beauty when the cultural significance isn't, well, significant to the person. If I were to craft a necklace based on inspiration from a manglasutra, could someone really tell me that I couldn't wear my own creation?

Her wearing the bangles suggests to people who are Indian that she is married. But is it such a horrible thing to mislead that way? I can think of much worse things! And it makes me think of American girls who wear fake engagement rings to avoid being hit on at work.

What do you think?

New Friend

The Internet is absolutely remarkable for bringing people together.

Thanks to being Facebook friends with a blogger that I met once at a blog meetup, I got into a fascinating discussion about white women wearing Indian clothes and through that conversation I met Andrea M. who has just started a blog.

She is part of the community of western white women married to Indian men. I've enjoyed many wonderful conversations with such girls even though I don't quite fit that model!

Here is the link to her blog. Our conversations definitely sparked some thoughts in me, so I'll have a few new posts coming out shortly.

http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/

Enjoy!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sari Love

Can't believe it's been a year and half since this picture! 

I have a new sari and I'm itching for an opportunity to wear it.

The White Indian Housewife Has a Book

I'm behind in checking in with some of my fellow bloggers and I didn't even realize that Ms. Sharell Cook has a book out!

It looks gorgeous. I love the cover!

http://www.whiteindianhousewife.com/book/

I'd love to find out more about the background of the wonderful blogger behind White Indian Housewife, so this is going on my wishlist for sure.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Being In Control

I don't think I'm much of a control freak. Not any more or less than the average person. In fact, maybe even a little less. I'm comfortable with other people taking the lead in most things and have a lot of trust in others. But there are a few places where the lack of control is terrifying.

Death is the main one.

It seems like we as human beings feel a need to create the illusion that we are in control in the big areas of our lives. Like the superstitious rituals of baseball players wearing their lucky pair of socks, I think we all have these little rituals that we like to think prevent disaster.

When my boyfriend had to fly to London unexpectedly, I was hit with an enormous fear that his plane would go down. This was just projecting my own fear of planes onto his situation, but I couldn't figure out how to release that fear and put faith and trust in the universe.

I've heard a lot about "manifesting" and "the secret," which believes that you can control your fate by visualizing what you want and putting positive energy into that visualization. I've heard a lot of people using prayer to feel in control of the outcome of something. My dad surprised me by saying that he's always felt that if he visualized the worst case scenario it couldn't happen because only the unexpected seems to happen.

All just illusions to make us feel better because living with the knowledge that you will not be in control of when and how you die is terrifying.

I'm thinking about this because of a train accident. I work in historic Ellicott City, where very late Monday night, a train went off the rails and dumped twenty-one train cars and their cargo of coal all over Main st. Two young women were killed.

They were 19 years old, on holiday from college, and they had been sitting up on the bridge where the train passes. They had probably been drinking. But they weren't on the tracks and if the train had functioned normally, they would have been fine. Somehow, at the moment that the train was passing them, something went wrong and the two girls were buried in coal and killed so fast that their bodies were found still sitting.

People have had mixed reactions to this.

I will admit that my first instinct is to say "They were being stupid. They were on the tracks. They shouldn't have done that. It's their own fault."

It's so very tempting to continue with that line of thinking. Because then it isn't random. It isn't out of my control. They died because they made a stupid choice.

But I don't think it's that simple.

People hang out at that bridge all the time. It wasn't the wisest choice, but it doesn't mean they were courting death. What a crazy freak accident to be killed by coal falling from train cars. How more unlikely can you get?

On Facebook there is a friend of a friend trying to say that we do control being safe. She makes good choices and is careful. She would never go near train tracks, she wears her seat belt, she doesn't drink, she goes to bed early, etc. Good for her.

But if death wants her, it will still find her.

People die from the strangest and most unpredictable events. A stranger could run off the road by accident and kill her standing on the sidewalk. Perhaps she would say she shouldn't be outside at all. Too risky. So her house could collapse on her. Perhaps she would say that she would have had it inspected more closely.So a gas leak could start in the middle of the night. Etc.

There are people who do insanely dangerous things every day and don't die from it. There are people who have never taken a risk and die in a freak accident.

This makes me really believe that everyone does have a "time" and there's nothing you can do to prevent it or make it come sooner. (Okay, maybe suicide. I haven't thought through that one!)

When my best friend died, she had done everything right all her life. No one would find fault with any of her behaviors. No one would be able to blame her for her own death.

It is a double tragedy that people blame these young girls for their own deaths, smug and secure in the knowledge that they would never do anything risky like that.

We are not in control. I hope the Gods are and that the universe is an ordered place as I've always believed it to be. But we are not in control of its pattern.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Gaps in my Experience

Last night the boyfriend and I were talking about Alan Watts and Richard Bach. Boyfriend said (paraphrasing...I did not have a tape recorder!) "Alan Watts may have misunderstood or simplified, but he did have a gift for framing eastern ideas for a western audience to understand."

I was suddenly struck with an odd thought.

I do not have this gift!

As you know, I am white. I am pretty white-bread American looking (though my hair is dark, not blonde). I grew up in America and have never lived for any extended period abroad. And yet.

And yet there are places in my brain that are purely eastern.

Because I grew up with eastern philosophy as part of my life from the very first moment, I am lacking some of the normal western mind. This has come up a few times in the past where boyfriends and friends have been startled or confused to find my ingrained assumption of a situation being not at all western. Even my parents have occasionally found themselves surprised by this phenomenon. I don't think they realized that raising me with eastern philosophy was going to shape my brain and how I see the world.

I cannot translate eastern ideas to a western mind because my mind is not fully western. Plenty of it is, of course, but when it comes to philosophy, religion, and spirituality, that's almost entirely eastern.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review: Onsite Opportunity

I was sent a copy of this novel by the author.


It is charming, even though it relies heavily on summary and sometimes I feel as though information is just being thrown at me rather than getting immersed in a story. The glimpses of story are often brief and surrounded by a lot of exposition, but it's interesting and light exposition, so it wasn't a big problem.

What I really like about it is that while showing some of the absurdities of modern life in India, it doesn't descend into bitterness or superiority. It lacks the negativity of so many books that I see.

The writing itself is clean and fresh. It bothers me a little bit that there's a lot of explanation along with dialog, which feels weak. That information would be better coming from the words and actions of the characters, rather than the reader just being told, i.e., " 'Give it your best, guys!' The team was excited." I would rather see what the team members are doing to show that excitement. Are they turning to one another and grinning? Are they elbowing one another and joking? It's difficult to visualize the scene when so little is given.

It's a short book and I think that's due to so much summary and more telling than showing, as in the example above. Along with that, it is definitely more character-driven than plot-driven, but Ganga is an enjoyable character to follow. He has an endearing innocence about him.

There's a great part near the beginning where Ganga is proud to present his business card to an important business client, but it causes the client to get angry that only an associate engineer and not someone higher up is there! I like the way Ganga is completely taken aback by this. He was so proud and excited, doing his best to be the height of professional, but it is not taken the way he expects at all.

On the other hand, it's hard for me to feel connected to what's going on in the book. So much of it is focused on Ganga's work life, which is not something that I personally am that interested in (Of course it's clear that's what the book is about! I just don't think I would have picked up the book for myself). Still, it is very informative and an interesting insight into a different life.

I would sum it up with this sentence: a charming and sincere look into the life of an Indian engineer.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Using my Hindi

I am on vacation at the moment visiting my parents and other family. I was delighted to be able to visit a cousin who has moved back from India with her family. Her daughter is a year and a half old and is extremely cute.

I had met her when she was 1 month old, but it was a big difference to see her now.

She speaks both English and Hindi and so I had a great time trying out my Hindi on her. I think the level I've gotten to is about a three year old, so it was perfect! I wish I could spend more time with her.

I was pleased that I understood all her Hindi and she understood mine.

Definitely renewed and refreshed my desire to get fluent and I'm ready to put in some more intensive studying again.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Exhausted

It is so difficult to remain peaceful and calm, with a spirit of serenity when there is so much hatred all around us.

I suppose it should be expected in the Kali Yuga that people become stubborn and ignorant, unwilling to care about anyone beyond his immediate family (and sometimes not even that).

Day after day we hear about random murder and hate crimes.

Why is it so difficult to see the common ground of humanity between ourselves and others?

All of humanity is my family and my heart is aching for the violence we are doing to one another.

Yesterday there was a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. It appears that perhaps the gunman thought that Sikhs were Muslims and was attempting vigilante revenge for 9/11 on random innocent people. Sikhs are not Muslims and I hate that so many Americans are too dumb to know that. But even if they were, it is not okay. Killing innocent people, no matter their religion or lack of religion, is not okay.

Why does that seem to be such a difficult concept?

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2012/08/05/witnesses_tell_of_hostage_situation_at_sikh_temple

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Raksha Bandhan Always Makes Me Wish I Were Home

My timing is good, actually. I'm going to be driving the eight hours to my parents' house this weekend. Each year when Raksha Bandhan comes along, I start thinking about my brother and wishing I had more contact with him.

Though I will be seeing him this weekend, I know that he'd just roll his eyes and refuse to let me if I tried to tie a string on his wrist! :)

"Raksha Bandhan is a regional celebration to celebrate the sacred relation between brothers and sisters. Primarily, this festival belongs to north and western region of India but soon the world has started celebrating this festival with the same verse and spirit. Rakhi has become an integral part of those customs."


Learn more at http://www.raksha-bandhan.com/rakhi-the-thread-of-love.html

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wedding Gowns

Even though I'm not engaged, I LOVE weddings (Hey, I'm a girly girl, what can I say?) I read www.apracticalwedding.com every day and today I saw a post that made me think of you guys.

This is the story of a western woman who converted to Islam and planned to wear a Pakistani wedding outfit, but found that she fell in love with a western style white dress.

http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/07/intercultural-wedding-clothing-pakistani-american/#

This is interesting to me, as I am looking forward to wearing red to my own wedding.

When I was a little girl, that was not my plan. Despite the Hindu philosophy in my upbringing, I knew nothing about Indian culture at that time. (I don't think I was even aware that my Early Life of Krishna comic book was Indian. It was just...mine).

I thought it would be so romantic and wonderful to wear my mother's dress. At eight years old, that was the plan.

That idea has changed a lot. My mother's dress is an ivory gown with full sleeves that is very, very, very dated at this point! (Congrats to my parents on a very long marriage!)

And once I immersed myself in Indian culture and began to blend Indian clothes into my wardrobe on a regular basis, a traditionally Hindu gown became more and more appealing.

For one, I look good in red! That's the one color that every time I wear it, someone compliments me.

Unlike the woman who wrote this post, Indian clothes are a big part of my life. I wear salwar kameez frequently and sari for special occasions.

For another thing, I love bling. I love the sparkly and intricate details of wedding lenghas!

Here are some of the gowns that I've discovered and pinned onto my Pinterest account as, twenty two years after my eight year old self began wedding plotting, I continue to hope for a wedding in my future.

http://www.cbazaar.com/bridesmaid-and-family/lehenga-choli/gorgeous-net-embroidered-lehenga-choli-p-ghsfd9028.html

http://www.utsavfashion.com/store/sarees-large.aspx?icode=LSA3

http://www.cbazaar.com/brides/lehenga-choli/rich-zardosi-art-red-net-lehenga-choli-p-ghdda224.html

{I was watching a Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? show with an Indian wedding on it. I'm glad they finally represented something different than they usually do, but they were clearly out of their element. They kept talking about the things that are done at Indian weddings and I thought: you do know that there's no such thing as a typical Indian wedding, right? There's different rituals and traditions based on both religion and region.}



Friday, July 13, 2012

Reviews for my Book

I just wanted to let you all know that it would mean so much to me if you'd take a minute to leave a review for the book that is based on this blog!

Here's a link to the book on Amazon...



 I would love for the people who stumble across the book to see what a vibrant and rich community this is. Hinduism touches the lives of so many people, both Indian and non! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Can Androids Have Souls?

This is the sort of question that has come up for me a lot as a religious person surrounded mostly by engineers. At one time I dated a roboticist.

It was his belief that if we continue to develop computers to be more and more like the human brain, we will eventually have a robot who is effectively human.

But what about consciousness?

To him, if the machine could imitate consciousness, then it was conscious. I was not so sure.

Talking about this question with my current guy, he had an interesting way to look at it. He pointed out that I believe that consciousness is one thing that permeates all of reality. His thought was that it is one consciousness everywhere, but there are certain places in which it pools. One of the places that consciousness pools is within individual human beings.

A robot in that theory could be developed to do the same thing. If so, it doesn't feel nearly as sacrilegious as the "building consciousness into a machine" did to me.

But is consciousness the same thing as a soul? 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cover Reveal

This book really is going to get done! Someday :)

I made a cover for the book to help inspire me to move forward. I hit some difficulty with it, but I think I've figured out where to go next and my writer's group is helping a lot. They like the plot I've come up with and they're helping me to polish it!

How do you like the cover? Anything you would change? Does it look cheap or unprofessional? Would this cover make you investigate the book further?


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What is the Purpose of Illness?

From a purely biological, scientific point of view, of course illness is the response of a system to other biological systems. Our bodies and viruses and bacteria all have their own motivation to live and continue.

But as a spiritual person, I wonder if there is more to it than that.

Is there a karmic connection to being sick? Do we become sick because of some lesson to learn or some consequence that we need to experience from the past?

Is illness sometimes caused by being at odds with our environment, or by negative thoughts against other people?

I am reminded of the story of the guru who had cancer and his followers urged him to cure himself. He refused because he said that this was something he was required to suffer and if he went through it, there would be no karma left and he would leave the world completely pure. If he cured it, he would have to come back in another life and suffer it later.

Do you agree? Do you think there's a difference between minor illness and major illness?

I started to think about these things because I fell ill last week. Life is sailing along absolutely wonderfully and I feel very at peace the vast majority of the time. Out of nowhere, I came down with strep throat and mono. Still don't know where I got either one from!

Was my illness just part of being a biological being in a world with viruses? Or did it have some other purpose or meaning? What do you think?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Guru's Blessing

In February 2011, a year and a half ago, my parents and I traveled together to India to visit their guru, Sri Bharati Tirtha.

I was 28 years old and I was still single. I had never been married, though I had been engaged once. Those of you who have read here for a long time will know that I also went through the opening stages of an arranged marriage where the man ultimately chose someone else.

This was very difficult for me, and I felt particularly embarrassed about it as we headed to India. I felt the shame of being an old maid more than anyone expressed it to me, but particularly there I felt as though everyone would judge me and wonder why I didn't just settle and make do like everyone else (I've tried hard to settle in the past, btw, it never works! I think God has been protecting me from making the wrong choices).

My mother knew how unhappy being single made me. She knows me very, very well. She knows that I'm the kind of person who needs a partner to express love and caring to. I'm a family person. Seeing me struggle to find the right person, she has tried everything she can think of to help because she wants so much for me to be settled and happy. It was so hard on her that she was not able to fix it for me.

Five months earlier I had broken up with an absolutely wonderful man. A guy who was so very close to perfect for me, but just not quite. How perfect are you expecting?! I could almost hear my mother's exasperated voice when she looked at me. It wasn't quite fitting together, that relationship, something critical was just off. But relationships are work, people told me. Maybe there was nothing more perfect than that. If not, I was screwed because I couldn't hold it together. My parents worried over my choices, wondering if I would ever find happiness with a guy if I was that picky.

***

One of the traditions in visiting the guru is to ask for a blessing. Before we left, my mother asked if it would be all right if she were to ask the guru for a blessing for me to find the right man. I shrugged and said it couldn't hurt.

And so she carefully composed a prayer request asking that the guru bless me to find the man who is meant for me. She translated it into Sanskrit herself and recited it before the guru.

My face burned hot with embarrassment. I felt like a failure for being old and unmarried. But the guru smiled and raised his hand. We backed away and bowed.

We came back from India and life went on as it had been. I continued to not date. Or rather, I had a first date here and there, but nothing I got excited for, nothing I expected to go any farther. Months and months went by. I turned 29.

***

I didn't know it, but as it got to be November and December 2011, my mother began to wonder about that blessing. Why was it not coming true? It was nearly a year and she felt that a blessing ought to have some fruit within a year.

Somewhere she read that if one had any doubt, the blessing would not come true. And so she began to say to herself over and over, "I have no doubt that Ambaa will find her soul mate."

***

In January 2012 (just barely before that one-year anniversary of the trip to India) I went out on a date with a guy that my ex had started bringing to hang out at our game nights. Within weeks we were both deeply smitten.

Four and a half months later he continues to be completely perfect for me in every single way. My happiness soared when he asked me to be his girlfriend and it has done nothing but climb every day since. My life feels right, perfect, delightful, and full of joy. I have no doubt at all that I have found my soul mate.

My mother called me this morning and, as we were talking, she said, "Do you think this has to do with the guru's blessing?" And she told me how she had been erasing her doubt.

"Could be," I said, "Could be."



Friday, May 11, 2012

Non-Attachment in Action

My boyfriend and I were talking the other night about the book Tao of Pooh. My boyfriend is a Taoist and says that some object to that book being considered representative or educational about Taoism, but he and I agreed that whether the philosophy in the book was Taoist or not, it was great.

I haven't read it in years, but when I did I found it very helpful in encouraging me to relax more and stop trying to control everything.  It got us thinking about other characters like Pooh who are able to calmly and happily go about their lives while strange or incredible things happen around them.

Like "the dude" from The Big Lebowski . Or Forrest Gump .

I thought about how all these characters really have non-attachment down.

The events that happen around them are the sort of thing that the average person would get very worked up about, and try to grab hold of the events, control them, profit from them, DO something with them.

The Dude, Forrest, and Pooh don't try to make the things happening around them belong to them. They don't try to grab hold, but just pause and smile and admire, then go back to what they're doing.

It's like being able to take every moment the way a child sees a butterfly.