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 This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

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.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Asking Permission

When starting to practice a religion that is not your native one, it is natural to look to natives for insight. You want to learn how to behave and how best not to stick out as you master new practices.

There is also a tendency to see ones self as lower than the "real" people of the religion. It feels as though we need the permission of a native practicer for every thing that we do. I remember early on feeling like I needed a signed endorsement to carry with me to show people who doubted my Hinduness. "See? This Indian Hindu said that it's okay for my to practice Hinduism."

At some point this will change.

If you truly become a member of that religion, then it becomes equally yours. That is my belief, anyway. And that is how things have gone in my own life.

After ten years practicing Hinduism, I now have complete confidence that it is my religion and I am as valid a member as any other. My interpretations of scripture equally valid, my choices about which practices to take on equally valid, my relationship with the Gods equally valid.

I am a Hindu. And I don't need anyone's permission to make that claim!

What I have come to see as I publicly talk about my journey in Hinduism is that there is no one authority. And I mean that beyond the fact that there's no pope or leader of Hinduism. I mean that every individual has his own understanding of each aspect of Hinduism and almost no matter what you do or assert, someone will tell you that you're wrong. And someone else will tell you that you're right.

The only one that matters is the one in your heart, the Self within.

The Indian Hindu who tells you that you shouldn't enter a temple is not the authority over you. Neither is the Indian Hindu who tells you that it's wonderful that you are practicing this religion.

You are a Hindu and every moment of struggling to understand some piece of your faith is the same struggle that every other Hindu is also going through.  The others can give you advice, but always remember that they do not know everything or have the clarity of God. Their advice is their opinion. Which is well and good and you must decide if you trust that opinion. Being a native practicer of Hinduism does not give someone authority over your practice of Hinduism.

So choose your advisers with care and trust your intuition as you proceed in Hinduism.

I do not seek permission any longer. I trust in my own relationship with God and the universe.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What Do Dreams Mean?

What do you think causes us to dream when we sleep? What is the purpose?

Is it the brain processing all the input from our day? Is it messages from the divine? Is it a way of predicting the future? A way of understanding what's going on in our psyche?

I've always been curious about dreams, wondering what purpose they serve. When I was growing up I was told to focus on the present and pay no attention to dreams. But it seems like they must be there for a reason.

I have frequent and very vivid dreams. Some themes come up again and again and I wonder about what they might be trying to tell me.

Only once have I had a lucid dream, the ability to realize I'm dreaming and start controlling things. Usually when I suspect I'm dreaming, I try to wake up and I very frequently experience thinking that I've woken up when I haven't. There's usually at least three or four layers of this trying to wake up, being sure that now I'm awake, and being wrong.

I've often heard dreams used as a metaphor for how our soul is. That we are like someone asleep, enjoying a dream, but not realizing how wonderful our real life is and that we should wake up to it.

Is that the only reason we dream? To help us understand that simile?

A week or so ago I woke up distressed from a dream in which half my teeth had fallen out. I had never had a dream like it. Today I Googled it and was told that this can be a symbol of experiencing change and a new chapter in life with some trepidation. Pretty accurate, I'd say, considering that I just turned 30.