द्वेष

ignorance

I love playing the Devil’s Advocate. When you google the definition of that term, here’s what you get: 1- A person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments. 2- The popular title of the person appointed by the Roman Catholic Church to challenge a proposed beatification or canonization…

I could easily be either of those things, but usually just #1 applies to me. The intent of this post isn’t necessarily for the purpose of advocating devilishly, so much as just making my own point about something.

Not long ago I received an email that a blog I subscribe to had been updated. Naturally, when I had free time I went there to read the new news. What I read was manifold-ly bothersome. This blog is maintained by someone I know little about, but respect in a way that kind of surprises my own self. Tandava-ji is well-enough read, writes well, and almost always seems balanced in his approach to whatever is appearing on his blog. He does a great job at showcasing other Hindu bloggery and as such has proven to be a great resource for someone like myself. However, a recent post on his blog (click here to see it) has me scratching my noodle.

The post is about an abrasive young smartass who maintains her own blog and apparently is “wrong in so many ways.”

The drama concerning this smartass goes back a ways… to her own blog, actually, and a “shitstorm” (her own words) that she started there. If you visit the link to her place that I provided above you’ll see a little of what I’m talking about. Here’s a basic timeline for your own understanding: Karol posts something inflammatory on her own blog, she later comments on Tandava’s blog (generally in support of what he’s written, I might point out), and then Tandava takes her comment and her blog and makes an additional post to his own blog detailing how “in so many ways” she’s terribly wrong.

And now I’m pissed and sorely disappointed. Although, in all fairness I’m pissed at and disappointed with just about everyone, regarding this. What follows is my meager attempt at detailing how I feel about said suchery.

1) Karol is a grown human and should have known to take a better approach. I understand precisely where she’s coming from because some of my own experience as a non-ethnic Hindu seems to mirror her own. Still, that doesn’t warrant free license to offend as one wants. She should already recognize, as a white Hindu, that eyes are on her from both sides of the fence: ethnic Hindus will be skeptical (thus her frustration) and non-ethnic Hindus will think her every misstep reflects on them directly, or on the blessed Faith of their choosing. Otherwise, she’s simply misguided. The frustrations she’s expressing are unique to no one. As such, no one has any room to hate on her for them, and in fact it would be far more productive and beneficial to all, literally to ALL, if those who are a bit farther on the journey would guide her instead of judge her.

2) The online Hindu community would be better served if Tandava-ji would ignore the things he finds to be so immensely offensive and stick with posting what he appreciates. (I do realize that, in the context of the last sentence, the very nature of this post makes me a hypocrite. I’m okay with that.) For one, that’s why his blog is what it is. I go there because I know I’ll find useful material for my own betterment. And now that’s not as true. His first point seemed two-fold: we should be sympathetic to those who feel their religion/culture is being appropriated and be careful so as not to offend them. Umm… Anyone who feels something has been stolen from them is likely to feel insulted no matter the subsequent usage of what might have been stolen. For one, I don’t think we need to offer sympathy for ethnic Hindus who feel their religion/culture is being appropriated. That’s essentially apologizing for loving what they’ve brought to the table. I’ve never apologized for asking someone for the recipe to a dish after openly adoring his cooking. Sympathy to someone who is offended when outsiders adopt his/her way of life? That’s bullshit.

I agree with Tandava that we shouldn’t necessarily use someone else’s symbols and then insult them. But I don’t think Karol is insulting anyone but herself. She’s showing her ass, for sure, and if she wants to get in someone’s face I’d say she’s succeeded. Otherwise, all her words amount to, regardless of how crass they are, is that she’s a western Hindu and anyone who doesn’t believe her can go to hell. She’s abrasive, and she’s sloppy, but she’s not wrong.

Tandava’s next point dealt with ethnic Hindus who don’t agree that outsides can also become Hindu and how we shouldn’t insult them. Again, I agree that insults are unnecessary and wrong, but again I don’t see Karol’s words as an attack on anything except the ego of those who, for no good or valid reason, refuse to welcome her. It can’t be stated enough that she should have used a different and more responsible approach, but beyond that I’m with her. Maybe it’s because I’m a gay non-ethnic Hindu in religiously-barren old Indiana that I can relate to the effort required by one having to “prove” one’s own validity. I don’t know. Sometimes people say things and use the wrong words. Karol has certainly used the wrong words. I suspect, though, that all she’s saying is, “I don’t care what you think, I am one of you.”

Tandava’s last point really gets me. He first correctly distinguishes that a Hindu can be either cultural or spiritual and that, when it comes to ethnic Hindus, if one doesn’t act very spiritual then they’re assumed to be merely cultural. I don’t know why this can’t apply to everyone. I’ve known a number of ghetto thug idiots who go around representing what many consider the worst of my society, yet they may well be wearing a gold cross around their neck. Are they Christian, or just in a Christian culture? It could be either or both – it doesn’t matter. If culture and religion can be adopted by anyone, and truly they can, then it also doesn’t matter if Karol is a cultural Hindu or a spiritual one. She’s not ethnic, but she’s still Hindu either way. Asking why a westerner would wear Hindu symbols without strong faith is assumptive and stupid. Many people, in many cultures, in many religions – everywhere- do this very thing. The reasons vary widely and include every excuse from shallow fashion preference to sweet, sublime devotion. The only reason I care about, in this context, is why do I wear what I wear and do what I do. I would encourage the same for everyone.

3) Ethnic Hindus and non-ethnic Hindus alike need to step back and take a look at what Hinduism means. Aside from a sad little handful of basic tenets held in common by almost all Hindus, Sanatana Dharma is too big for anyone ever to say, “You gotta be like this or you’re a bad Hindu.” And, in fact, that aspect of the Faith is part of what makes it supreme among man’s religions. Modern Christianity is undergoing an immense struggle currently. It’s flailing as it tries to maintain what it thinks its image is, while grappling with modern issues – a struggle that, according to Depak Chopra, could push it into extinction. A result of the internal conflict within Christianity that I’ve experienced is that whenever one Christian group misbehaves, many of the others are quick to distance themselves saying, “Those people aren’t true Christians.” This is horrible and disgusting. A family that turns on itself will not survive. The sentiment expressed in Tandava’s post and in the comments that followed are dangerously Christian and it almost makes me sick.

This might sound mean and shallow, but something about her physical appearance tells me that, in person, I’d likely be annoyed by her. Although, in all honesty, if we get past the fact that she has boobs and no penis, she and I are likely far more alike than we’re not. She seems to like challenging where people think they stand. I couldn’t begin to speculate her reasons for this, but I know I do the very same for my own reasons. Let me be clear: the path she and I walk, however differently we walk that path, is not easy. Throughout most of humanity, throughout most of human history, people have loved the very chains that bind them. Anyone committed to using their own brief human existence for the cause of shaking folks out of their ignorant slumber should be commended, not ridiculed by others who not only have no room to ridicule, but also have more in common than not.

Ekam sat…, right? Truth is One. It seems like we’re all good with that part. The other half is “vipraha bahudha vadanti” The wise call It variously. Like no other religion in the world, Hinduism alone offers the richest pool of methods, margs, icons and ishtadevatas for the aspirant to draw from. In a faith where it’s acceptable to live a worldly life, to retreat to a mountain cave and let everything fall away, or to wander around nude and covered in ash foregoing all of society’s norms, I promise you -like it or not – one of God’s names is Karol.

Om Shanti

P.S. My apologies for the lengthiness of this post. In all honesty, everything that contributed to it gave me quite a bag of mixed feelings. I did my best to convey those feelings and thoughts in as orderly a manner as I could, while under the influence of cold medicines. My intention wasn’t to attack any one person, but to attack the principles I perceived to be in action and which I perceive to be mostly adharmic in nature. Please, spare us all, and before commenting read the last bit of this for the rule I have about comments.

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Fight or Flight, or Faith

I recently overheard a conversation which made me ask a few question within mine own head.

Here’s the deal: A few coworkers were, for whatever reason, discussing flying to places as opposed to road travel. One admitted that she was in her 40s when she flew for the first time. She reminisced with a smile on her face of how her aunt, who has since passed, once was in from out of town and as she was headed back wanted my coworker to come stay for a bit, so she bought her the plane ticket and the rest is history. My coworker said she was so thrilled to be flying that she was glued to her window the entire flight.

The other, I’m not sure has ever flown and was very clear that she prefers to travel by car/bus/train… anything except air. I don’t recall her citing any kind of tragic or unpleasant experience. Just some disdain… and much fear. Interestingly, she did go a little into how she felt powerless while flying, or whenever she considered flying. I remember her saying something like, “When you’re in that air plane you can plummet from the sky, crash, and die. There’s nothing below you. You’re in The Hands and that’s all you got.” While saying this she cupped her hands before her solar plexus.

Of course, by “The Hands” she meant the hands of her god, which happens to be the certainly crucified and possibly risen Jesus of Nazareth. And for the record, both this woman and the one she was speaking with are both Christians. What struck me the most isn’t that one Christian had no fear and the other was full of it, but that the one with fear pretty much out rightly proclaimed that resting in her own god’s hands wasn’t safe enough for her. She trusts her own flawed driving skills more than she trusts the one who’s “driving skills” are the source and direction of everything.

I’m not as versed in Christianity as I once was, but I know a huge part of walking that path pertains to faith and believing. I know faith has numerous definitions, but a generalized definition I think applies often enough is something along the lines of, “I hope/have confidence that this/that will happen, although I have no concrete reason to logically know it will.” After all, by faith you’re saved through Jesus Christ (biblical Book of Ephesians), who apparently paid not only for your transgressions, but also everyone else’s. After accepting Jesus into one’s heart, faith is what makes a person a “new creature.” (biblical book of 2nd Corinthians) Faith is what saved the three in the fiery furnace. (biblical Book of Hebrews, and Book of Daniel) Jesus was so impressed by the centurion’s faith that he healed his young gay lover, without even going to him. (from the Gospel of Matthew)

But apparently faith isn’t enough to comfort someone as they fasten their airplane seatbelt.

I guess I’m trying to decide whether I think she’s a “good” Christian or a wishy-washy one. As if my opinion actually matters! Maybe that’s not even a fair question. And by “good” Christian, I don’t mean a Christian who is a good person. I think most Christians are perfectly good people. What I mean is a Christian who adheres to their religion strongly. Since its advent, and in most cultures where Christianity has been present, good Christians have taken solace in what they consider faith during times when reason seems to have left them. Example: Just about any time science has made a new discovery or advancement. Galileo’s life was made quite miserable by the Christians of his day.

I’ve sat through sermons in many churches where the understanding of faith is different from this. In Christian theory (theology?), faith (and the corresponding salvation/relationship with Christ) is not unlike the concept of faith in dharmic religions. In a practical context, though, a difference definitely appears.

In Hinduism, the word for faith is SHRADDH(A). In the context of shraddha, one’s faith must be evident in his actions, or it can’t truly be said that he even has “faith” (shraddh). He may have belief, but not faith. The idea here is that if what you believe isn’t reflected in your actions, then necessarily, it can’t be said that you believe what you think you believe, or at least what you tell others you believe. You can’t call a spade a spade, if it has no characteristics of a spade. No?

However, within Christendom, it’s completely accepted and common practice to say or preach one thing, but do another. I know that might sound judgmental and harsh, but it’s the historical reality. The Church, as it exists as a collective body of believers, has not been very diligent about focusing on the actual teachings of its guru, Christ. (This could easily lead me to a post on the value of practical hypocrisy, but now’s not the time.) This brings me back to the coworker gal in my office who says she believes she’s in “The Hands” while flying, but refuses to fly. Surely to have faith that your version of God is in control is the same as acknowledging “The Hands” everything rests in. How is it even logical to walk around glorifying your Lord up one side and down the other, at every turn (and trust me she does all day long), but then not have faith in that Lord to care for you? Am I missing something here?

But whatever.

I’ll close with a quote by someone I respect immensely for his work and its clarity. He’s a celebrity, but no less authentic in regard to the teachings he passes on to us. Deepak Chopra once said,

“Faith can be the cover for a mind that stubbornly holds onto God or stubbornly refuses to accept the possibility of God. All faiths were founded on direct experience of God and their intention was to pass that experience on. Faith is a form of hope and hope is unfulfilled unless real experience arrives. Turn inward to find the root that faith springs from. When you find it, faith will no longer be a crutch, an excuse, or a desperate hope.”

Om shanti