Tag Archives: shiva

My Latest Poem…

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I am pleased to say that one of my latest poems “The White Deer” has been published in “American Vedantist,” if you would like to read it or comment, follow this link:

http://americanvedantist.org/2018/poems/the-white-deer/

Thank you,
Justine Mara Andersen

The White Deer

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The White Deer
by Justine Mara Andersen

Why, red cardinal, do you stare silently from the tangles,
Of dirt and roots that tell of how the mighty fall,
Are you silenced by what I have seen this morning,
Or is silence the only song that speaks of all we know?

Why eagle do you sit so low in the bowers and the branches,
So near that I now know the name and weight of your form,
So still that when you go I know the might of your flight,
I ask why do my feet remain solid in the sand and dust?

Why cardinal of the forest do you stare at me from the twigs,
As I contemplate all I am reading from the shady place,
That overlooks the lake reflecting every rising orange moon,
Are there secrets I will see only through your black eyes?

And wasn’t it just this morning as I crossed the lake,
Just this morning as I tended to the feeding of my body,
That I looked up and saw what I took for a wooly white goat,
But why a goat where the deer and turkeys come to feed?

My heart and every step did stop, and I forgot to breathe,
This was no goat before me, not standing with the timid doe,
This too was a doe, though luminous, white as the camphor,
The camphor I burn before the altar of my beloved Mahadev.

As it goes with wisdom, once I saw you for what you are,
You turned from me, white deer, and leapt into the forest,
Leaving nothing of you but a white ghost and many questions,
Leaving me with nothing in hand beyond what I had seen.

Today I saw the red cardinal from the roots of the fallen tree,
And I saw the great eagle perched amidst the bowers,
And I saw the silent cardinal stand forever in the twigs,
And I saw the white deer standing outside my forest room.

And today I read of the play of Parvati’s and Siva’s maya,
And though the words were wondrous and full of godly wisdom,
Their truth remains to me as elusive as the smoke of camphor,
Fleeting as the snow-white doe which I beheld but for a moment.

As with ecstasy, my wisdom vanishes like the smoke of incense,
As with wisdom the white deer only allowed me but a glimpse,
And a holy longing that one day I might run through the forest,
Alive in the camphor of His company, resolved fully in truth.

Aghori Baba Circling Back

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Aghori Baba Circling Back
by Justine Mara Andersen

Having bowed under one, a dozen blew in on the wind,
Dancing dispassionate circles in the sky.

Some see you as ugly, grim, inauspicious and turn away,
I see truth in the center of your soaring.

Circling high, circling low, black winged Babas all,
In all they are, they teach all that we are.

Into their bellies then high above the thriving trees,
Wrinkled red-faced Gurus carry death like Gods.

Above samsara my Aghori Babas circle as all must circle,
Earth to death, birth to sky, sky to earth.

All that dissolves is destroyed by Mahadev’s dancing,
All that dances is destroyed as it is doing.

All that dies is reborn through Mahadev’s destruction,
All that falls must rise again to the dancing.

So why fear losing that which is released into flight,
Only once dissolved in bellies and destruction.

What greater victory over fear than bowing to vultures,
Jai Jai Shiva Shankar! Jai Jai Shiva Shambho,

What greater victory over death than red and black Babas,
Who fly the rot of death in their bellies.

Jai! To carry death above the trees! I bow in devotion,
Har Har Mahadev! Har Har Mahadev!

When Shiva Whispers

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When Shiva Whispers

When Shiva Whispers

When Shiva Whispers
by Barefoot Justine

When solitude comes to me as its lonely worst,
A cloud of suffering mists my mornings.

When solitude comes to me as the breath of Shiva,
my vision is awash with shimmering saffron.

When I am she alone battling in my darkest hollows,
With a soured stomach I long for silence.

When all and one purr like twin tigers in my heart,
Silence flows clear as crystal springs.

When I alone am bloodied by demoniac struggles,
I see no path to virtue or release.

When I alone am one with all and one with truth,
I have no desire for the songs of men.

When Shiva seems to me but paint and fragile plaster,
No wisp of peace wafts from stillness.

When Shiva’s whispers warm my ears full of grace,
I melt into him with tearful trembles.

When maya barks its verses to me the virgin Mara,
I cannot hear the wisdom of the shlokas.

But when I wander quietly the lush green forest,
Every tree drops leaves of grace and wisdom.

Jai, jai! Every tree drops leaves of grace and wisdom.
Har Har Mahadev! Har Har Mahadev!

Shiva, The Eagle and I

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Shiva, The Eagle and I
by Justine Mara Andersen

Sister eagle as you fly,
I hear the wind in your wings,
As though they are mine,
For are they not?

Mother rain as you fall,
I breathe in your rising mist,
And take it all in me,
As I rise and fall.

Hunter hawk of my woods,
I come to join you,
Together we stand,
And you allow it.

And wild turkeys beyond,
Still as the mighty hawk,
Steady is our stance,
We four are one.

White skull of the deer,
Mounted above my window,
Eagle, hawk, turkey and I
Will be bone too.

Lord Shiva in my eyes,
Show me that bones and ash,
Are nothing but rain,
For we are all as you.

Om Shivoham.

Om Shivoham.

Om Shivoham.

The Monstrous Has Become Mundane (a ramble in the key of A minor)

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“The scouts report that you’ve been seen down the river,
They say you sleep with one eye open, one eye dreaming,
Did they tell you madness passes? Did they tell you?
There’s no such thing as passing madness,
The monstrous has become mundane,
Routine takes the place of pain,
Voici le temps des assassins,
You’re addicted to revolution,
Addiction is no revolution.”

Paul Kelly “The Execution” 1987

And nothing’s changed. Well it has, these lyrics now seem more like personal and political prophecy than a warm voice from the past. What do you do when the monstrous has become mundane?

I do lots of things, for one I go down to the river as often as possible, and always (always) keep one eye dreaming. Mainly I try and make it warmer and wiser within my sphere of influence, but personally, I try to let it go. If this is the reality everyone wants going into 2018, welcome to it. No one consulted me, so I guess it’s time to go deeper within. Yeah.

Om Shivoham.

” I remember I remember,
I go leaps and bounds,
I remember everything.”

Paul Kelly “I Remember”

I first heard Paul Kelly in 1987. Paul Kelly, shoulda been a household name… but in 1987, at 21 I thought I was gonna be a household name.

What a dumb ambition. It was bondage… and not the fun kind.

When I was 21, man, there were so many things pushing and pulling on me. I was dizzy, spinning, and hadn’t yet attained the courage or wisdom to know I could blow it all away in a puff of sweet smoke, let alone go deeper into letting go through meditation. With fire in the belly I wanted this and that, but whatever this or that I wanted, my family wanted anything but that and no part of this. This wasn’t their collective fault, it was just the way of things. I was headed off their path, hell, was already way out and way off their path, but I hadn’t beaten any of my own paths through the underbrush and thorns yet. Lost in the woods, like a fairy tale with stupid-looking cars and MTV. Whatever path I was on, I was the only one who thought I could make it, even lost as I was. I had teachers telling me I didn’t have what it took. Well, neither did they, but what they lacked was something I had in spades…. vision!

For all the people who told me “no,” and for all the confusion, I had a fire in the belly that drove me on. Maybe I wasn’t as lost as many, I don’t know, but knew what I wanted. If I was lost it wasn’t for ambition or dreams that had to be fulfilled, I was lost in knowing how to go about making anything happen. I mean, adults had it all figured out, right? That was what I thought as a kid, if I could just grow up it would all make sense.

It doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. Trump, progressives, “reality” television, Facebook, extremism, superhero movies, relentless war, still poor, painfully lonely, barefoot and walking the same tightrope. I was wrong, adults never had it figured out. In some ways I wish I could sit that young skinny Justine down in the grass and tell her that. Might have saved her a lot of suffering. But that’s just it, I’ve realized, she wasn’t after the answers, she was in mid-adventure. Think about it, is “The Hobbit” all about how Bilbo got home and put his ring on the mantle, knowing deep in his heart who he was, or is that story about the fucking journey!

The journey, damn straight! Being changed and bigger is grand, but how you get there is where the stories lie.

I bought a turntable this week. You know, I’ve always been passionate about music, but I prefer Country over Rock, McCartney over Lennon, and Nat King Cole over almost anyone else, but I’ve forgotten how much fun music is. Fucking CD’s and Youtube… oh and Amazon. Yep, there it is, most anything you want. But who cares? This turntable has changed my life. ALBUMS! VINYL! Fucking albums. CD’s are a bummer. I haven’t enjoyed buying music since all the people “in the know” (you know the same guys that think they’re too hip for McCartney), peer pressured me into giving up on albums to buy CD’s. But this whole thing, a return to flipping through records, checking for scratches, finding stuff from the DEEP catalog rather than the surface of the top ten, the size, the heft, the art, is bringing me back to what fun it used to be to shop for music. When you hold an album in your hand, 12 inches of glorious vinyl and cardboard, you know you’re really holding a THING, an object worthy of your time!

Funny story, McCartney knew what was worthy of his time. Back in ’67 at the time “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was about to come out it was decided that the time had come to use cheaper thinner cardboard for the record covers. It wasn’t “spokesman” Lennon or “cool” Harrison that took on that, it was McCartney. He went to the top, arguing with record company executives for the thicker cardboard. McCartney knew, always did, still does, what was worth his time. Holding that album in his and in our hands was worthy of his time.

I’m holding Paul Kelly and the Messengers, “Gossip” in my hands!

As the needle hit the vinyl I laid back on the bed, the album beside me, feet up, feeling herbally “groovy,” and listening to Paul Kelly and the Messengers, it got me to thinking, thinking back, and ultimately churning the sea of milk for the nectar of life. Back in 1987 I was handed that album at Kent State, and I thought, “What the hell is this?” I wasn’t that into the lousy crap that passed for music in the eighties, and the good stuff that was out there I recognized as good, but it just didn’t grab me. God damn that wretched brittle mechanistic eighties drum snap, those grating keyboards, to say nothing of the eighties metal guitar sound. Shit. So here I was handed this album by some eighties guy I’d never heard of because I answered a trivia question at some event I was unintentionally passing through between classes, hell, I was probably skipping classes back then, and definitely barefoot.

Once upon a time I was a lousy student, but I became a brilliant one once I grew up a little. Actually, funnily enough, I did less homework, study and class attending when I consistently made the Dean’s list than I had when I was getting C’s and D’s. See, THAT I’d figured out, go to class and take as much of an active interest in the subject as possible and I’d remember it all since I had been so interested. A genuine interest in a thing will earn better grades than suffering long anxious study sessions. I soared through college… but never could apply that active interest wisdom to Algebra, I guess some things are just to evil to be conquered with wisdom.

I still don’t give a shit what X plus Y equals, and I have NEVER needed to know, either. They tried to con me into thinking that in some abstract way I’d need to know algebra… well I didn’t! What a waste of time and anxiety, all that mathematics.

Take that math!

So there I was earlier today, bringing it all back around. In the bliss of flipping through albums, of all things, there was the album I least expected to see, hell an album I hadn’t even thought of in ages. Yeah, there it was, Paul Kelly and the Messengers, “Gossip.” Funny, though that first copy was free, I had to buy this one. The difference is, now I know what that albums all about. Back in ’87, with low expectations, I put the record on and it fucking blew my mind! Christ… how come no one I knew knew how good this guy, these guys, were!

Today, fucking 30 years later, and the album held more surprises for me… for one, it sounds as fresh and stunning in 2017 as it did in 1987. In fact, it sounds BETTER now than it did then.

And I ask again… how come no one seems to know how good these guys were… or are? I mean, I’ve never really heard anyone talking about him around these parts. But looking him up, it seems he’s quite beloved and famous after all.

Is it just me? I hope so, I’d like to think he’s wildly famous and I somehow missed it.

It’s New Year today, gonna be 2018 when I wake up, how ironic that I would discover Paul Kelly again on the 30th anniversary of the album. Synchronicity is Shiva… there are NO coincidences.

And now, it doesn’t just sound good in this moment… it takes me back and forth through a single 30 year continuity, and I can see it all so much more clearly now. Paul Kelly, the message is, THAT young Justine had a lot of bad karma to create, she had a lot of anger and confusion to work through, and she had a lot of life, adventures, dreams, breakdowns, blood and gore, drawings, friends, drinking, surprises and a life of barefoot ecstasies ahead of her. Though that little Justine eventually conquered most of her fears and accomplished all her dreams, not a damn one of them turned out the way she’d expected.

Not a damn one!

It was perverse how not a bit of anything came out anything like she’d thought it would, but it was always far more crappy and far more sensational than any of her fantasies about how everything would turn out. Did I think one day I’d be performing Carter Music songs before Buddhist monks in the mountains of South Korea, or the same songs in a bar full of johns and prostitutes in the Philippines?–And by the way, is “johns” capitalized in that usage? But I digress. Did I think one day I’d be talked about by Paul McCartney, running barefoot through the swamps, or bowing before Lord Shiv? No, she couldn’t have imagined a bit of it, but she had imagined changing the world with her art. Christ, how absurd!

I may not have changed the world, but I’ve done alright in mine. Paul Kelly’s done alright too.

Here and now “Darling It Hurts” is snarling through the speakers, heavy fucking guitar, raw and perfect. As I sat there with my feet up I felt a sudden end to all the suffering I had been allowing myself to fall into the past few weeks. It just drained down from my toes and out the top of my head to stream across the bed to the floor and out the window into the swamp. It came to me… I was still that young 21 year-old Justine, and if I could just drop the neurotic bullshit, I could be in bliss. A few weeks ago I had realized how since the physiological symptoms of stress and delighted excitement are the same, and it’s me who decides which to feel, that all I had to do was stop choosing compulsively and start choosing consciously how to feel in reaction to such sensations.

Flip the switch. Bliss!

My toes tingled as they bounced to the music, below or above them (as my feet were up, which is which?) and I sunk into that 21 year-old Justine. That which is really me was there then, is here now, and will be here later. That which never changes is all that is. I am that Justine… if I am Justine at all, which I am not, but I am having a “Barefoot Justine” experience. Not bad, someone’s gotta do it.

And you know what, young Justine, it was all worth it, the hard hard work, had knocks, hard times in Korea, the poverty, the mugging, the cancer, nearly drowning SCUBA diving in Thailand, the bankruptcy, the foreclosure, the divorce, the loss of faith and family, the disillusionment, because it all led to Shiva, and because it’s not about sitting at home with my ring on the mantlepiece, it is and was about surviving the revelation that nothing is ever like it seems. But everything is alright just as it is. I was and will always be about realization… even when I didn’t know that. I’ve been working off vasanas, conquering fears, seeing the patterns, and am ever seeking.

And that, is Shiva! That is Brahman, yeah? At the very least, it is Satvic thought, and baby I need it now.

“Baby I look so fine but I feel so low,” sings Paul Kelly as I type. Now, I’m not feeling so low.

But that’s it, I think I know now that if I had the chance to talk to young Justine, I think I’d just smile and give her a thumbs up and a wink. On your way, babe, live it out, that’s your dharma.

Would I trade places with young Justine? No, because I know what she really was looking for. I know through all the shit, the adventures, the boredom, the madness, joys and disappointment, the ecstasy, stoned or sober, she was looking for liberation!

“Listening to these stories of me,” sings Paul Kelly.

Well, Paul, let me tell you some stories of me.

What Is A Western Hindu?

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Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva

My daily walk through the forest has become an important part of my devotional and meditative practices. I live in the midst of a State Park, and the swamp and forest are thick, dense, green and jungle like. It is not difficult to picture Bagheera in many of the dramatic live oaks set deep in the green.

Mein junglee ladhki hai! Which, if I remember right (or spelled it right), means “I am a jungle girl” in Hindi. Or, loosely translated, “I am a wild girl.” I set off into the forest knowing that it was likely to rain. Frankly, I’ve never seen so much rain. Sure enough, it began raining shortly into my walk, and like most people I instinctively turned to head home, but I got to a point where I realized that I was already wet, so what I was doing, running to my car to get home, was an unconscious act. It was a compulsion that made no sense. I was not the one making a B-line for the car, my conditioning, social and cultural norms and brainwashing compelled me to unconsciously, compulsively, head for the car. I got to the point on the trail where I could have gone straight to get to the car, or I could turn left and go deeper into the forest, following a path I do not know. I chose, consciously, to stop obeying an automatic and predictable compulsion to head for my car, and instead head off down a path that was unfamiliar to me.

And that was Shiva.

Choosing the path I did not know helped me pay attention to the new scenery as the rain slowly dripped on me. It was turning out to be a good walk, and I could feel the ecstasy of a realization coming on. For those of you who perhaps do not understand realizations, it goes like this. A realization written down is nothing you haven’t heard a hundred times before, a thousand if you are a seeker. Realizations are when the teachings we intellectually understand suddenly internalize, and the firsthand knowledge of a thing at the Godhead level can bring about an ecstatic state that can sometimes become close to orgasmic, though not sexual. This, is why, Shiva’s phallus is seen as erect in many of the ancient images. It is a symbol of being in a state of awareness so intense it can be hard to bear until you get the hang of it.

Soon, I had circled back to a familiar trail with the intention of heading back to the car, though this time consciously. I came around to the trailhead off the forest road and started up the path towards the car, satisfied with the long contemplative hike, all the way the rain falling. I thought about how I was a drop of rain, no different. It was the perfect realization to keep me company as I walked towards the car.

“The drop in the ocean, everyone knows
The ocean in the drop, A rare one does”

Kabir

I am a drop of rain, no different. And I am the frightened deer in the distance, the wetness in the ground, the mightiest tree and the old dead willow, and I am Shiva. Though this metaphor has been said a thousand times, this time I knew what it meant to say: “I am a drop of rain,” and I knew as the raindrops fell to tickle through my hair, that there was no separation between the rain and I. And that like each drop of rain, I form from the mist of Atman to manifest, to become physical, then act as the raindrop which falls to the ground to expire, wetting the soil to nourish life, evaporate, then rise and fall again and again and again, mired in Samsara (the cycle of death and rebirth). Until, of course, I get tired of the forming, falling and perishing and realize the pain of Samsara.

I am a raindrop that has become aware of the pain of falling. I want to evaporate and merge with Brahman, never to fall again.

As I pondered this realization of oft-heard wisdom (remember what I said about “realizations,” you’ve heard their wisdom so many times before, to where they sound like cliches, the realization is what changes that cliche to a vibration so powerful it becomes existentially experiential), I began to realize I did not know where I was. I was not headed for my car. A moment later I realized I had accidentally doubled back and gone in a loop around the same unfamiliar trail. Like the raindrop in my realization, I had been literally and physically going around in circles! Just as in Samsara! I was physically moving through samsara as I was realizing its nature through the drops of rain. I thanked Shiva, and soon got my bearings, took the right path and found my way back to the car.

This time, this drop of rain is falling in the form of a “Western Hindu.”

“Is it not true that a nation is, in reality, first and foremost perhaps a subconscious construct? You imagine the nation before it exists, and so it exists.”

Hindol Sengupta

I’ll tell you what a Western Hindu is… sometimes an honored guest, sometimes a curiosity, and sometimes sniggered at. There are some Indians who are amused by us, but privately dismiss us. Other Indians are delighted to meet Westerners who are so engaged in their culture and spirituality. We are, however, surprisingly spoken of with derision even by white male leaders of the American Vedanta movement as white women in saris with dots on their heads. Worst of all, many Western Hindus like to wallow in the “white guilt” gutter and try and be overly magnanimous and humble and dismissively shit upon themselves. But the sad truth is, what is the root religion of “the white man” in America? Well, being on American soil, should we be practicing the religions of the Cherokee? Should we take up the desert religion of the Old and New Testament? Face it, though some paths are seen as more acceptable for and among whites, none of the things we turn to come from our white caucasian heritage. Simply put, any religion a white person takes on is a robe designed and weaved by other people, usually in other lands.

And let’s just take the dismissive attitude of those few Indians and Americans, who will not entirely accept us, after all, we were not born South of the Indus river. Even one of my many white Vedanta teachers was sharing concern over how they are treated or thought of by Indians. Anyone who has gotten outside of mainstream white culture and has experienced other cultures knows that racism is not a one way street heading from light to dark. I have been a minority in a lot of situations (take 2 years living in Asia for a start), and I’ll tell you what… a minority is a minority no matter what the color of the skin.

It is often snobbishly said that it is impossible for anyone not from India to ever truly be a Hindu. But anyone believing that… is clearly not a Hindu, or at least, knows nothing about what Hinduism teaches. Yet, it’s only natural for a white woman to ask… then what am I? What is a “Western Hindu?”

I will say this, anyone who thinks a white person cannot really be a “Hindu,” in the spiritual sense, has completely misunderstood the core concept of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism).

“That which is in us, the pure consciousness that observes all our senses. emotions and the ego and is beyond it all is what we really are. And that pure consciousness is common to every living thing on earth. It is an idea that inevitably stops you in your tracks. It is an idea to end all ideas: in essence, every living thing is the same.”

Hindol Sengupta, “Being Hindu”

Shiva is, and is as much for a white person as He is for an Indian.

We are all Atman, white or Indian. If you cannot accept that, you have not accepted Shiva.

We are all souls caught on the wheel of samasara, slowly rising towards liberation. ALL OF US!

In other words, to my dear skeptical and derisive friends, I ask, is it so that all the wisdom of the Hindu scriptures applies only to people born in India? Is it so, then, that only Indians can know God? Is it true that only Indians can meditate? Is it so that ONLY Indians are Brahman? Is it so that we are all in maya, that we are all manifestations of Atman… or is that only true for people born below a particular river?

And, is it not said again and again in “The Siva Purana” that Lord Shiva takes on many forms? Shiva takes on whatever form he chooses, and those forms are not limited to the borders or gene pool of India.

To think less of us, to dismiss us, to treat us as novelties, to turn us away from temples… is to deny Shiva, is to to live in ignorance… it is a sin!

A Western Hindu is a Hindu, if “Hindu” is a term used to describe a person who follows the specific sets of spiritual concepts laid out by the sages. Was Shankara ONLY talking to Indians? Was the vision of the sages limited ONLY to people from India… or are those truths universal?

OK, this is not debatable, those truths are universal! A Western Hindu is a Hindu. I will say this proudly (EGO), I have probably read many more of the core scriptures than most Indians at the Temples I visit. How many India-born Hindus have read “The Siva Purana?” I have read about 6 books to prepare for it and am well over halfway through the 2,200 pages! I have read many translations of “The Bhagavad Gita.” Geographic accidents of birth are as irrelevant as the ego itself.

An Indian friend of mine corrected me on concerning myself with what to call myself or what a “Western Hindu” is by saying that it might help if I stop thinking of myself as “converting to Hinduism” and simply think of myself as a sisya, as a seeker, and to drop the word “Hindu” and go with “Sanatana Dharma.”

To be honest, most of my encounters with Indians have been overwhelmingly warm and welcoming (in fact, most Indians are more welcoming to me than other whites), and they have proven to be wholly open to the things I say… and they treat me like an equal, like a seeker. This piece is written for those few who would refuse us entry into temples, and who would dismiss or deride us in the quiet of their own minds. It is written for the whites who crumble into apologetics and shameful self flagellation. Sadly, it is written primarily for my own myself, to my own weaknesses, for when I sometimes do not entirely accept that a white woman can be a Hindu either!

At last I had returned to my car soaking wet and sat for a moment with my thoughts and questions. Maybe it is so that it is almost impossible for a person from a Western background to truly understand the complexities of the Indian mind, culture, and spirituality… but that does not mean Shiva will choose to speak to an Indian over a white Northerner transplanted to the South. It does not mean that I have less a chance of attaining Samadhi, or of becoming realized.

If our physical births are births into maya. if our bodies are the gross layer, if the Atman is our true self, then surely the bit of dirt we were born upon is less significant an attachment than a child’s attachment to her favorite rattle. Those who think only one born in India can be a Hindu are living under the spell of Shiva’s maya! They are deluded, still attached to materialism. They believe that the matter from which we came, the land from which we emerged, makes us more or less Atman, more or less Hindu, more or less human. They are in darkness, in ignorance, and that is the only real sin in Sanatana Dharma.

Could I not have been an Indian in a previous birth? Could I not have been a spiritually advanced person who has reincarnated as a devoted seeker challenged and tested by her birth in the West? Isn’t gender, political ideology, financial status, nation of birth, aren’t all those things aspects of maya, of the material world? If a Hindu does not identify with the trappings of the material world, then why would geography be the only material trapping that would decide whether or not one attains moksha? Shiva (Krishna, Vishnu, Durga) chooses his followers, and he does not take gender, wealth, or nation of birth into account.

But it is so, due to my Western birth, I am not steeped in a culture that was founded on and inherently understands the juicy complexities and ultimate simplicity of Hinduism. It’s a challenge to take on this belief system from the West, but, as I intimated, perhaps that is one of the things I am to overcome. Is it fair to suggest I cannot overcome the country of my birth or the color of my skin? All aspects of our material manifestation are to be overcome. And while I’m at it… ultimately isn’t this sort of bias against “Western Hindus” just another form of bigotry?

Let’s consider also that the word “Hindu” was originally a derogatory word (Hindoo) used by the British. The term many so-called Hindus prefer is Sanatana Dharma. The word “Hindu” was meant to describe people from a geographic location, not a people who followed a specific spiritual school of thought. And what is the specific school of thought that makes up “Hindusim?” There is as much, if not more, diversity of thought within Hinduism than what exists outside it within the multiple faiths that are not Hindu.

Once it is analyzed, perhaps there are no “Hindus,” not in the spiritual sense. There are only seekers.

So, perhaps I do have this all wrong after all. Maybe I am not a Hindu, but Shiva has made his presence known to me as both nirguna and saguna, Mother has sent me signs, Ganesh has cared for me. I have trembled in the ecstasy of realization. I have seen a higher self. I know I am on the wheel of samsara, and I want off. I want to stop circling, to stop falling.

Maybe I am not a Hindu.

But I am a drop of rain.

No different.