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4 Nov 2011

Some accidents are meant to happen . . .

 

ac·ci·den·tal

adj.

1. happening by chance or accident; not planned; unexpected.

 

I didn’t set out 10 years ago to become Hindu. Converting to a religion –- or, to be more accurate, accepting one -– was not on my mind.

I had always been a spiritual girl while growing up, but I was not formally a part of any religion. I had supposed, with one parent having been raised Catholic and the other Seventh Day Adventist, that I was nominally Christian. Kind of by default. But I was never told that I was, or that I had to be anything. I was taught a firm set of principles, a sense of right and wrong and personal honour, and then given the tools to explore and make spiritual choices for myself. The only definitive guidance my parents gave me as a teenager was tongue-in-cheek: “Just don’t go running off to join the Hare Krishnas.” I have no idea what I had said or done back then to elicit that droll bit of advice, but it was the 1970s, and young people were doing just that in the US then, so I suppose it didn’t come out of the blue. (I did point out years later that, just maybe, buying a house around the corner from an ISKCON headquarters was probably not the best move, if they wanted to keep me off of that path!)

But I didn’t run away and hitchhike to Alaska (something I had daydreamed of doing), nor did I join ISKCON, I went to university. I went off to New York City and ended up joining a Baptist church near my school, mostly because the young assistant minister was a friend and it provided some sense of family or community, with me being so far away from home. But I never did feel that it was the ‘natural religion of my soul’ -– it never felt ‘like me’ and, in evening bible study, I was always arguing points and defending principles that were decidedly not of the Baptist path. I never fit. It was soon clear that it was time for me to move on. Later on, I befriended several Bahá'ís and made a sincere conversion. I have no regrets having been a Bahá'í for about 9 years of my life. It was the right choice at the time. It was the faith that, with what I knew at the time, most complemented the natural path I had always felt I was on –- it was the best fit. But, again, as the years went on, I realised it was not the right fit. Once again, I went my own way, following what I felt was my natural path, and it led away from the Bahá'í Faith.

That was it for me. I was done trying to find a faith to fit me. I was in my mid thirties, I had tried several paths, and I was content that what I had inside me was enough. No more need to fit in or belong. I did not need any form of congregation to feel at home or to be my family away from my family (I had moved half way across the world by then). And I was fine with that. Years before, I had begun studying yoga and meditation and, eventually, I found a teacher whom I trusted and bonded with. Then I began noticing that the Vedantic teachings I came across were simply right for me. The more I learned, the more everything I was doing -– every prayer, every chant, every asana, every celebration -– felt natural to me. I didn’t notice the exact moment that I had begun to feel entirely at home. But it was a few years along, when asked to fill out a form and to fill in what my religion was, that I found myself writing the word Hindu.

Why on earth had I done that?!

I had shocked myself. Really? Well… yes…. really. It was that simple.

Swami Ambikananda SaraswatiIt was a short while later, while on a study course with my teacher, that I voiced some concern about all this. I told Swamiji that I felt I might be seen as fickle or unserious if anyone found out that, yet again, I found myself on another spiritual path. Her answer was immediate and simple, and she said it was something her own guru, Swami Vekatesananda, had said to her years ago:

“This is not fickleness. This is persistence.”

And with that I felt at ease. I found that –- quite by accident –- I was a Hindu. The Sanātana Dharma was the natural dharma of my soul. It had always been so. I just didn’t know it until later in life.

I have no regrets about the various paths and faiths I studied and accepted along the way. I was on a search to name and become part of the natural conduit for my feelings and my understanding of the universe and how life worked. I finally knew where I was, and the spiritual ‘ground beneath my feet’ felt so natural that I had not noticed the exact moment I began to walk on this path. I just found myself there. Found myself at home.

 


So this blog will be about things that come to my mind on this path. I have been reading other blogs about being a Western Hindu [Also Hindu, The White Hindu, The Anglo Hindu, White Indian Housewife, Western Hindu, White Girl Coming Out of Sari Closet, Western Sanātana Dharma, Yatra, The Shaktona… among others], and I feel I have something to add to this on-going conversation.

Unlike all of the other bloggers I am reading now, I am a black Hindu, not a white one. I am a woman, West Indian-born, live in England now, where there is of course a large Indian-Hindu community all around. And while I know of several other people of African descent who are Hindu, I have not yet read a blog or article that addresses being Hindu from that perspective. So maybe I’ll have something to add there. Not sure what just yet, but there’s got to be something! Hopefully, it will be interesting.

But in general, it’s just going to be me chatting from time to time about things that you might like reading about… and I hope you will dive in and comment a lot and get a conversation going. I look forward to that!




29 comments:

  1. Namashkar TAH,
    This looks like the start of a really interesting blog. I have added it to my <a href="http://western-hindu.org/westerners-following-hinduism/>list of blogs by Westerners following Hinduism</a>. I am interested to hear that you know other people of African descent who are Hindu. The people who attend the temple that I go to are almost all of Indian descent - apart from my family I hardly see any other white Hindus. The only time I have seen a black Hindu there is when we had a large group from ISKCON visiting us. They were almost all white with a couple of people of Indian descent and one of African descent.

    I look forward to hearing more from your blog.
    Aum

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  2. Thanks, Tāṇḍava! So nice of you to be my first ever commenter :)

    Yes, I have noticed the same kind of trend over the years as you have and am giving thought to a blog post on this soon. It's interesting to note that many years ago, before embracing Hinduism, I came across more black Hindus than I do now. Now sure if that is a reflection of living in a new country? or no longer living in a university town? or what? It'll be interesting to think on it and ask others to share their experiences and then write about it.

    And thank you for the kind comments on this first post. I hope to write another soon and keep things lively here.

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  3. Dear TAH,

    Beautiful first essay! Certainly, an earnest longing found its wellspring.

    To life and blessings!

    Much love,

    Toni

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  4. Thank you, Toni, as always, for your loving support! xoxo

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  5. Dear T.A.H.,
    Wow, you never fail to impress me with your beautiful writing. I look forward to reading more.

    Martina

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  6. Martina,

    Thanks so much for the support and kind words -- you're so great! And everyone reading should make sure to pop on over to Martina's "Adventures in Veganism" blog. Great things to read there: http://ad-veg.blogspot.com/

    I will be blogging about diet and faith soon. I've been reading many books on Hinduism, yoga, satvic eating and finding my own way through... lots to say on this topic. More to come soon :)

    xoxo

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  7. Namaste T.A.H.,
    It was a pleasure reading your first post! I can't wait to read more about you.

    With regard to being a Hindu of African descent, I think I can kind of relate. I am Latino (Puerto Rican to be exact), raised Catholic, and converted to Hinduism a few years ago. It's not something I think about a whole lot, but sometimes I do wish I knew others like me in the Hindu community...I know they're there, because I always smile when I see people praising Lord Shiva or Lord Krishna in Spanish online, lol... In the end, the color of our skin doesn't truly matter, it's our devotion and our actions, though. Anyway, happy blogging! Hope to read another entry of yours soon!
    Peace
    Ricky

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  8. This is a fascinating beginning, and I look forward to reading more.
    Namaste-
    Alicia.

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  9. I am an African American Hindu--not a follower of ISKON--I know exactly what you mean--I went through Christianity, Buddhism, Bahai, and settled on Hinduism--originally devotee to Krishna, now to Shiva....thank you for the blog--I am thinking of starting my own. I think most people of African descent feel most accepted within Christianity and Islam. Indians are not the most inclusive people and so that in itself may steer those of African descent away.

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  10. Sanatan Dharma has nothing to do with skin color because we come in all colors, shape and size.

    In South India people are very dark because sun light is direct.

    In middle part of India, they are a little less dark.

    In Northern they are brownish, and in the Himalayan region people have a whitish completion due to higher altitude!

    Knowledge has nothing to do with looks!

    Augadha

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  11. Druv,

    So lovely to wake up to your kind comments. Thank you!

    And, yes, you are absolutely right -- knowledge has nothing to do with looks, faith has nothing to do with skin colour, and all the blogs I have been reading by western-born Hindus are in total agreement with you.

    From listening to people in places like the US & the UK, I'm coming to understand (and starting to experience for myself) the need to raise awareness, among varying segments of the population, that there are non-Indian Hindus of varying outer appearances who want to be known for who they are 'inside' and respected as sincere in their beliefs. I am pleased to have found all these blogs and to be able to share in this lively conversation.

    Again, thanks so much for commenting, and I will be following your own link and reading that blog with interest as well.

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  12. Hello Anonymous (at 4 Nov 22:01),

    So glad you found my blog, and I certainly look forward to reading yours -- your background sounds fascinating (and so much of it familiar), that I am sure to be keenly interested in whatever you write in a blog, if you do choose to set it up. I think the greater the variety of voices out there sharing our experiences, the better.

    Please do come back here and post a link when your blog is up and running!

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  13. Namaste, Alicia -- and thanks for reading.... and, everyone, please do go on over and read around in Alicia's blog: http://westernsanatanadharma.blogspot.com/

    (... I only wish I were that eloquent, independent of thought and 'deep' when I was in high school!)

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  14. Hi Ricky,

    Thanks for finding your way to my blog -- I have so enjoyed reading yours!

    And, yes, you are right, Latino/a and Caribbean-born Hindus are also 'few on the ground' and not present in people's consciousness when thining of 'who is a Hindu' -- again, just glad we are all writing our blogs and engaging in this really great on-going discussion. And as you say, "the color of our skin doesn't truly matter, it's our devotion and our actions."

    Everyone, Ricky's blog "Yatra" is at http://shivayatra.wordpress.com/ -- well worth the read!

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  15. I'm not a Hindu - I started life as a Roman Catholic but have ended up as a humanist with spiritual overtones (more an agnostic). But I have a great interest in the Hindu religion because of its eclecticism and its wonderful mythology and art. I'm a strong believer in the power of mythology to help humans understand what makes them human, and that comes out in the science fiction novels I'm in the process of publishing. And some of my aliens are giant birds, which led me to discover and fall in love with Garuda!

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  16. Lorinda -- yes, I know where you are coming from when you speak of the power of mythology. I actually plan a post along similar lines, in relation to why (some? many?) human beings are drawn to mythology and symbology in this day and age -- why they still stir something deep within us.

    And I have seen your blog -- it's fascinating. I am a sci-fi & fantasty fan, myself, so was very impressed. I look forward to reading more of the 'Shshi' and other of your ideas and creations.

    But for now -- thank you so much for reading here. Much appreciated.

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  17. Dear TAH
    As a Hindu in India I welcome u to spiritual ocean Hinduism.While other religions are like a pond. They have only few books to follow their religion. At your 1st posting you have got 4 followers and no.of comments. May Lord Shiva bless you and give spiritual experiences. Practice to get up early in the morning 4.00 to 5.00 am. Please chant Om Namasivaya at all times. This will uplift your life. If possible visit holy places, temples in India.

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  18. Dear Paattivaithiyam,

    Thank you so much for your kind words and beautiful blessing.

    Namaste :)

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  19. Hi,I am Sita from India,hopping over from Tandava's blog.Thanks for deciding to share your experience,for that will help us all grow.

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  20. Thanks for reading my blog! I'm looking to attract more female SF fans because "The Termite Queen" is a strong love story as well as dealing with an alien insect people. I don't want women to be turned off by the gut reaction of "Ugh - nasty giant bugs!" I also don't want men to be repelled by the idea of a love story in SF. I'm really writing kind of a hybrid.

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  21. Sita -- thanks so much for hopping on over. It's brilliant of Tandava to help me get the word out about this new endeavour. Please do come back for more :) -- I'll be posting again soon and hope you'll be here to be part of the conversation.

    Lorinda -- well, I'm your gal, LOL. And now that your comments section is active, I'll be sure to go on over and read more about the Termite Queen and am sure to have something to say. I've got another blog on which I've written about my two favourite women SF writers (I'll get you a link to that somehow).

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  22. Namaste TAH,

    I am Ranjith from India. I stumbled upon Accidental Hindu blog accidently. However, I learned after going through the articles that that was a sweet accident. With great respect I welcome you to Sanatana Dharma. As a follower of Sanatana Dharma, we are free to choose our own path (any of Karma, Bhakti or Gjaana). I can gauge from your writings that you have enough exposure in Sanatana Dharama, so I’m not here to advise but to welcome you to the Eternal Natural Way of Living. Your articles are interesting and inspiring and I’m sure to return to read more.
    Pranaam
    Hari Aum

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  23. Hello Ranjith,

    Namaste. And thank you so much for reading and for the lovely welcome :). I appreciate you saying you'll come back to read more, and I hope to have more for your to read very soon.

    Again, thank you so much,

    TAH

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  24. NAMASTE TAH
    how are you can you give answer to one question
    do you believe in destiny or one own karma define one's fate.

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  25. Hello Anonymous,

    Well, the short answer would be karma. But I hesitate to let it sit at that, because I find that, even within Hinduism, the definitions of karma and issues such as fate and destiny vary greatly.

    For instance karma, as I believe, is bound up with one's free will (not one's abdication of free will) and with responsibility towards others (rather than an abdication of responsibility towards others).

    Below I will paste a story about karma that my teacher, Swami Ambikananda Saraswati, shared about her own guru, Swami Venkatesananda, who was himself a disciple of the saint, Swami Sivananda. I love the story, because it sums things up very well about one's own actions and one's own responsibilities:

    ---

    A TEACHING ON KARMA
    From Swami Venkatesanandaji, Himalayan Sannyasin,
    Sanskrit Scholar, first translator of The Yoga Vashishtha, Peripatetic teacher of Vedic philosophy to thousands.

    It happened when I was seated in the back of a car, behind Swamiji who was sitting in the front passenger seat. He had taught us many times about the philosophy of karma – its divisions into Sanchita, Prarabdha, Kriyamana Karma,etc., but that day would be a stunningly practical lesson.

    We had visited a wealthy home in the morning and that afternoon gone to lunch at an ‘orphanage’ – really the home of a young couple who, seeing the starving children of apartheid South Africa around them, had opened their home as a feeding station. It was at once uplifting and heart-breaking. So as we left, in the back of the car, the tears rand down my face. The kindly woman sitting next to me touched my arm and said, “My dear, you must accept, it is also their karma”.

    Swamiji swung around in his seat, his eyes flashed. “You may NEVER use karma in that way,” he said quickly. Then he settled back into his seat and continued, “You may not apply this philosophy of karma to another, only to yourself. When you see wrong or see suffering, know it is your karma to do something about it. That is the only way you may use the philosophy of karma.”

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  26. Hi:P Just wanted to say that this is a very sweet blog. This sounds so wonderfully familiar to many, including my own. Each of these wonderful twists has given you such a blessed perspective of this realm...and such a wealth of experience<3

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  27. Hi L.E. -- and thank you so much. And I've been reading over at your own "Hilltop Anthology" blog. Lovely! And so completely interesting, your life: "Mommy to eight beautiful children. I live on a green hill in Kentucky where I pray, sing, write and most importantly...love and am loved. Om Namah Shivaya" -- wow! 8 kids! ... what a big, beautiful, loving family you have :)

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  28. hello i have a doubt actually it is true story i want to narrate it to you and want some answer from you .can i?

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  29. Hi Anonymous, Im not sure I understand your question exactly. But, yes, please do narrate your story.

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