The White Hindu has moved

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 This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

Friday, 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

...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:

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: 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! :)

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


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!