After the first two Interviews with non-Indian Hindu bloggers, here is the third one. Ambaa writes on her blog “The White Hindu”. She had a grounding in her childhood when she grew listening to Mahabharat stories and read up on Gita and the Upanishads in her pre-teen years. Her take is her own and unique one.
1. How did you know for the first time that you were a “Hindu”? What did it mean?
When I was in graduate school I decided to go to a puja at the Hindu Student’s Association. Listening to them and reading their material, I was surprised to discover that everything they said was already what I believed. I had grown up with a lot of Indian philosophy, but I hadn’t been told its source. When I went to college I had taken time to examine my beliefs and those of my parents to figure out what really made sense to me. What I was left with, I discovered a few years later, was Advaitic Hinduism. Hinduism had been calling to me for a long time, as it turned out.
2. Beyond all the ideological stuff, what is it about Hinduism that appeals to you?
Well, the philosophical is the most important draw for me, of course. Every belief I have, everything I feel I know in the deepest part of my soul is connected to Hinduism. However, the richness of the tradition also appeals to me. The color and noise and taste and sound, the way the senses are dragged into a larger-than-life experience during Hindu ritual.
3. Since everyone can have a God of his/her own making (out of the 330 million already articulated), people find Hinduism to be a maze. A confusing amalgam of “stuff”. How do you make sense of it all?
Small steps. One little step at a time. My mother read to me from the Mahabharata when I was a child, and I had a comic book about the birth of Krishna. I didn’t really connect those things to Hinduism, that was just my life. In high school I was in a New Age shop and a statue of the Nataraja seemed to call out to me. I felt drawn to its eyes. I bought the murti and carried it with me to college, just knowing that looking at it calmed and centered me. I began to study and to learn one bit at a time. My cousin married an Indian man and moved to India. I began to learn more from her. Each piece came into my life just as I needed it. I now have a very complex understanding of Hinduism and its vastness, but it started out small and grew over years.
4. In your spiritual journey, what is it that you look forward to? If you had all the time, will, health and resources, what would you like to do?
I look forward to being able to maintain a view of life as a game, designed for fun. I feel that sometimes in a very deep way, but then sometimes I get caught up in the drama and feel sorry for myself or upset about the details of my current life. I look forward to being able to always hold onto the memory that this life is not reality and there is never a reason to be unhappy. My dreams for my life are pretty simple. I want to marry and have a family and teach children about the beauty of life and its amazing unity. At the moment I can’t see past that desire.
5. In the world of evangelists and Islamists, how can and should Hinduism hold its own?
I don’t believe that Hinduism should become like the evangelists. Their underhanded tactics and rude behavior are not what religion is about. Hinduism will always survive no matter what the tactics of others. It will survive because it has a profound truth in it that people are hungry for. As long as one single person is getting a benefit from being a Hindu, it will not die. Fear is anti-Hindu, I believe. Fear causes us to act from our most base nature, while love causes us to act from our God-nature.
6. Given that you have come to Hinduism from “outside”, what would be your advise to Indian Hindus?
Remember that being a Hindu is more than just doing it because your family did it. People who believe and practice Hinduism should be welcomed and the variety will only add to Hinduism’s greatness. Be careful of assumptions. Something I struggle with is Indians who try to educate me about things that I’ve know. They look at my skin color and assume that they need to teach me all about my own religion. It’s insulting. Now, many people do want to learn and be educated, so I would suggest that you ask about a person’s background before assuming that you know more than they do.