Let’s talk about the “alt-right”

Oh boy, this is a topic that is a potential can of worms. But, let’s about about the so called alt-right.

The alt-right, which came into mainstream prominence after Hillary mentioned them at a speech last year, is a very divisive entity in and of itself. Go anywhere online and you will find threads upon threads of the dankest of memes (and pepe) in support of some alt-right cause. Or, you will see mainstream progressives rail against how evil and racist the alt-right is; making it the new political boogeyman in this current internet age. When one thinks about it, it doesn’t seem too far off. Sites like the Daily Stormer and people like Richard Spencer, both of which express nationalist (white or otherwise) views, either claim to be alt-right or are attributed to being a part of the alt-right. Milo Yiannopoulos, who has been seen by some as a face of the alt-right for about the past year-ish or so, is a person of immense controversy. Usually he is just protested, but about a week ago a riot broke out at UC Berkeleycourtesy of everyone’s favorite “anti-fascists” ANTIFA. Anytime anything remotely resembling western nationalism rises its head, it’s almost a necessity that the alt-right will be brought up and be a source of scorn and vitriol.

However, what if I told you that the alt-right isn’t a real thing?

good-night-alt-right

What did Pepe do to deserve this, mang?

Okay, it’s “real” in that there are people who identify as alt-right, but unlike virtually any other political entity in the US, there is no structure, no consistent political platform, and no real organization. The term “alt-right” was coined by a guy named Paul Gottfried (not Richard Spencer) who in 2008, called for an alternative right as an antithesis to what he saw as a neo-conservative stronghold on the American right.

That, quite literally, is it. At its core, all the alt-right is, is someone (or something) that is vaguely right wing and doesn’t identify with the mainstream American right. Aka, neo-conservatives and the majority of the Republican party.

With such a vague base, and no actual core organization, this can apply to literally anyone that isn’t a NeoCon Republican. This can apply to many people and ideologies, including but not limited to: Fascists, National Socialists, Libertarians. Anarcho-Capitalists, Paleo-Conservatives, Monarchists, Theocrats, Neo-Reactionaries, Classical Conservatives, right leaning Populists, Far-right militarists, and your run of the mill center-right independents.

What about the nationalism that is so often equated with the alt-right? Even that isn’t unified or necessarily shared by all, but I will concede that it is probably the one thing in common that many people who identify as alt-right share. Vague as it may be. At best, it may be a mild form of western or American nationalism were everyone, regardless of race, gender, or sexuality are a part of it. At worst, it is full blown white supremacy. With no real ideological unity, it’s a free for all with who is a “real” alt-righter.

Although I don’t carry the title of “alt-right”, I technically could be considered one. I’m fairly conservative minded, I absolutely hate the neo-conservative mentality and foreign policy that has been core to American conservatism in the past few decades, I’m pro-western values, pro-western education, and I believe that all people regardless of their race, nationality, religion, gender, or sexuality can be accepted as “western” so long as they accept such values. Yet, I am against racism, white nationalism, and recognize that most people (on the internet at least) who identify as alt-right are provocateurs, meme-tastic college students, or reactionaries. There is no real power in what they do, say, or promote. There is no organization, no real platform, no core connection. All they have are perceived numbers and, despite what the mainstream will tell you, they aren’t a real threat. At all.

In a way, this is a shame because in all honesty, there should be a legitimate alternative right in the United States. As well as an alternative left. Both mainstream political parties are just husks of their former selves and are truly not that different from one another. Both are out of touch with the common person and both are bedfellows with corporations and their own self-interests. People are sick of being jerked around my these two entities and want another way. Yet, the continuous cycle of these two parties is something that people just can’t seem to break. I truly believe that if viable alternatives came around, real change could begin it’s initial stages.

Maybe one day this will happen. I just don’t think it’ll happen with the likes of Richard Spencer being paraded around or with badly drawn, post-ironic memes. As funny and dank as they are.

Religious Romanticism: rationality need not apply

“One of the most irrational of all the conventions of modern society is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected. …[This] convention protects them, and so they proceed with their blather unwhipped and almost unmolested, to the great damage of common sense and common decency. that they should have this immunity is an outrage. There is nothing in religious ideas, as a class, to lift them above other ideas. On the contrary, they are always dubious and often quite silly. Nor is there any visible intellectual dignity in theologians. Few of them know anything that is worth knowing, and not many of them are even honest.”
– H.L. Mencken, American Journalist and cultural critic
“In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagvat Geeta, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial; and I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our conceptions. I lay down the book and go to my well for water, and lo! there I meet the servant of the Bramin, priest of Brahma and Vishnu and Indra, who still sits in his temple on the Ganges reading the Vedas, or dwells at the root of a tree with his crust and water jug. I meet his servant come to draw water for his master, and our buckets as it were grate together in the same well. The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden 

When I was a freshman in high school (around 2005-06), the “New Atheist” movement was beginning to take hold on the internet and in real life. For those who may not know, New Atheism approximately began with Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion and soon snow balled into many more authors with many of their own books and ideas. Along with Dawkins, the other big authors included the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. Now, atheists (as we define them today) have existed since organized religion and theology began, and non-religious rationalism really took hold during the Age of Enlightenment; but what differentiated the New Atheists from the non-believers of centuries past was their approach to religious belief. No longer was there to be any respect or mutual understanding between relgiious and non-religious world views. Instead, religion was outdated, barbaric, and those who adhered to it were stuck in the dark ages. Non-belief in religion was a sign of a superior intellect and essentially should be the next stage in human cultural and social evolution.  While these ideas still exist to this day, I’d say that the prevalence of New Atheist ideals, by in large, fizzled out from the mainstream around 2011-12.

I bring this up, because in high school I was the quintessential angry teenage atheist. Angry at God for being cruel. Angry at Christians for being anti-gay, anti-woman, and anti-science. Above all else, I was angry at the irrationality of religion and couldn’t understand how people could still believe in all of that in the then current year of 2006. When Richard Dawkins and New Atheism at large came onto the scene, it was a field day for me. “Yeah, this will show them how stupid their beliefs are!”

Lo and behold, nearly 10 years later and I now know that is not at all true. There is a deep history and study of scholasticism in the western religious traditions (Thomas Aquinas comes into mind) and the great Acharyas of India made debate and logic into an art form in and of themselves. Religion and theology aren’t just something which exist for stupid people to blindly follow. There’s a deep philosophy at their core and profoundly deep reasons as to why some theologies stuck around and others faded away. Does this mean that blind faith doesn’t exist? Of course not, but it certainly flies into the face of the idea that religion is inherently irrational.

sankara-debating

I’d love to see Adi Sankara and Dawkins debate. Pay money, even. 

 

Yet with that said, a question comes to mind: Why is it so bad if religion is potentially irrational?

I don’t mean that scholasticism and scholars of religion shouldn’t exist and do their jobs. In this day and age, experts of religion are still very much needed. But in the actual practice of religion, why is it bad that the beliefs themselves “don’t make sense?”

The average person isn’t a scholar. Regardless if they follow the same religion in which they were raised or converted to another, the majority of people know why they believe, but can’t define it by logic or empirical means. For many atheists, this is a point of contention in which religion becomes mute. Yet you know who would probably agree with me? The great mystics and saints of the past and now. For these great men and women, despite the reality of the world, there was an undeniable essence behind it all. Many of whom went against the norms of their age to transcend the boundaries and reach the Divine in any way they can. They were, at best, highly “irrational” in their beliefs and perspectives. However, they still were challenging the very notions of what faith, God, love, and theology mean. Many of whom are still big influences in this day and age  (Teresa of AvilaIgnatius of LoyolaChaitanya Mahaprabhu, and Ramakrishna). In their irrationality of belief, the world suddenly makes sense.

I’d make the argument that theology has a scholastic postulate, but faith in and of itself is at its core romantic. We can argue ’til we’re blue in the face as to how God can exist or the importance of certain theological points. But in the end, for the average believer, it’s the “why” that trumps the “how.” Emotion and love which trumps the mind and the objective. Besides, there are plenty of irrational things which exist in this world, yet are often lauded and celebrated. Art, love, poetry, and philosophy are what immediately come to mind.

Art and poetry are so subjective and can greatly challenge the norms of a given time. Love has brought great men and even empires to it’s knees, and often the only thing it can promise is a broken heart. Yet, love is something that most people yearn for and crave more than anything else. Philosophy, one of the bedrocks of western civilization, starting all the way back in ancient Greece, asks questions which can never be truly answered, yet people can and will accept them without question. Who the hell knows if there truly are multiple universes or if all matter is only made of one substance?

Does this mean that religion is off limits from criticism? Of course not. There are plenty of things about religion which have been rightly criticized and reformed over the years. However, when keeping that in mind, perhaps it’s those in power who have used religion to harm others that is the problem. Not the mere belief of the average citizen just trying to make it in life.

A Hindu attraction to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name. And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations. He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.”
– The Magnificat of Mary, Book of Common prayer

I was raised Southern Baptist. A denomination so iconoclastic that even evangelicals would tell them to clam down. Growing up, I was told that anything even remotely resembling Catholicism was perverting the truth of Christs gospel. Never mind Catholics themselves, who were pretty much the epitome of evil. I had no idea of the Saints, Sacraments, the mass, the many devotionals, the rosary, mortal or venial sin, or the varying religious orders. All I knew was that they were all a bunch of “Mary Worshippers.” Now that I’m Hindu, I have no attraction towards Jesus, the church, or the Bible (not anymore, at least).

Yet, try as I might, I cannot shake my strong, almost obsessive, attraction to the Blessed Virgin Mary. More specifically to Our Lady of Seven Sorrows.

our-lady-of-sorrows

How can something so morbid be so spiritually beautiful? 

Like I said, I have absolutely no attraction to Jesus or to many other parts of Christianity. Yet, I cannot deny that I feel a burning love for his mother. So much so, that I find myself going to Catholic churches on her feast days or just to light a candle on one of her altars. I have a couple of rosaries and am even considering purchasing a small statue of her. However, make no mistake, this isn’t me syncretizing Christianity with Hinduism. I do not hold the Bible as authoritative or believe Jesus to be God. If this is the case, then why do I have such a deep love for Mary?

I honestly do not know. I was not raised Catholic, so I don’t have a nostalgic fondness for her. I don’t believe her to be an incarnation of Devi, but have no problem having her alongside Durga, Lakshmi, or Kali. When I look into her eyes, I see a love for her son and for the world that is as intense as those from Hinduism. The love of a mother, who grieves for the suffering of the world. Who prays for us and wants us to turn to her for comfort. In my times of sorrow, I turn to the Divine Mother (in her many forms) and know that I am not alone. Mary is just another one of those mothers.

I know very well that this isn’t a part of traditional Hinduism. Those who are more orthodox will see this kind of devotion as outside of what is normative or even “watering down” Hinduism. Yet at the same time, this isn’t as uncommon as one might think. Regardless of this, Hinduism has a history of existing alongside other religions and in many cases mixed and intermingled with other practices. How else do you think Hinduism moved from a Vedic to a predominately more Puranic/Bhakti practice? Mary is not going to be considered a goddess in our religion any time soon. And rest assured, she is not going to take over or replace the many other goddesses. Our religion isn’t going to be destroyed if some people venerate a figure outside of its traditions. 

Hail Mary, full of grace. Pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.

A Christ-Krishna connection? Hardly.

You know what is something I hate? Blatantly wrong information being propagated with absolutely no credible sources or any semblance of fact checking. You know what is something related to that that makes me rage even more? Those dumb “Jesus is really these many pagan gods” memes that became popular after films like Zeitgeist and Bill Mahr’s painfully unfunny Religulous. You know what is the crème de la crème of all this rage? When people say that Jesus Christ is really just a rip off of Krishna. After all, Christ sounds vaguely similar to Krishna!

jesus-krishna

Take THAT, Christians! Where’s your god now?!?

But in all seriousness, it’s really painful to see these memes still being taken seriously; even after a decade of people debunking these kinds of claims. No credible scholar in their field takes the idea that somehow Jesus is a rip off of Horus or Mithra seriously. Granted, there are actual claims to be made against the divinity of Christ, but a kind of divine copyright infringement ain’t one of them. Now, since I’m no scholar or historian of any kind, I can’t talk about Horus, Mithra, or Dionysus’ “similarities” to Jesus. However, as a practitioner of Hinduism, I can talk about the alleged Christ-Krishna connections and show that, at best, they’re superficial. At worst, down right false. I won’t go over every “similarity”, but I will go over the ones most propagated.

Claim: Krishna was born of a Virgin, just like Jesus

Fact: If one just reads Hindu scriptures, this one is obviously false. Krishna’s birth mother, Devaki, had 7 other children before giving birth to Krishna. His adoptive mother, Yashoda, had at least one other child. So neither of his maternal figures were virgins when he was born or raised. Hell, one can make the claim that Krishna wasn’t even “born”. Vishnu appeared for a minute and then Krishna was there.

Not to mention, there are debates as to what the Greek word παρθένος (parthenos) means in relation to Mary. More traditional scholars say it’s virgin, while others debate that it just means a young, unmarried woman.

Claim: Jesus and Krishna were called both a God/Son of God

Fact: Yes, Krishna is considered God, but he was never once considered to be the “son” of God. In fact, the only time he ever really revealed his true nature (in words) was in the Bhagavad Gita to his friend Arjuna.

“I am the source of all. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this serve Me with all their hearts. With minds absorbed in Me and lives surrendered to Me, they enlighten one another and find deep satisfaction in speaking of Me always, tasting transcendental bliss. To those always absorbed in serving Me with love, I give the understanding that leads to Me. Out of compassion for them, dwelling in their hearts, I destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.” – Bhagavad Gita; Chapter 10, verses 8-11

Also, unlike Christ, Krishna is only considered to have a human-like form. He is 100% God, not divine and man at the same time. Furthermore, just to nip this in the bud, there really isn’t a concept of a “trinity” in Hinduism. Yes, some try to say that there is a Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva trinity, but only Universalist Hindus seem to follow it. More traditional Hindus generally don’t.

Claim: Krishna’s father was a carpenter.

Fact: No, his “father” was a king. His adoptive father’s occupation is never really revealed, but it can be inferred that he’s a cow herder or farmer.

Claim: Both were visited at birth by wise men/shepherds. There was also a star in the eastern sky.

Not true. When Krishna was born, his earth father took him across a river guided by a multi-headed snake named Adi-shesha. This was to save him from a certain death. There were no wise men or star involved.

Also, he was not born on December 25th.

Claim: Angels issued a warning that the local dictator planned to kill the baby and had issued a decree for his assassination. The parents fled. Mary and Joseph stayed in Muturea; Krishna’s parents stayed in Mathura

Fact: Oh my God.

No angels came to Krishna’s parents. God himself decreed that a child would be born that would overthrow Kamsa (his Earth mother’s brother). Later, Durga came to warn Kamsa, but no angels were involved. Also, Krishna’s parents never escaped. They stayed in prison in Mathura until their son came back. There is no evidence of a place called Muturea (?) that Mary and Joseph escaped to.

Claim: Both performed miracles. Krishna even healed the sick and raised the dead

Fact: This is technically false. Not once did Krishna heal any sick or raise the dead. In fact, he didn’t even really perform “miracles”. His were more like feats of strength by defeating demons. The only real miracle that happened (and this is admittedly reaching) is that his adoptive mother, Yashoda, saw the universe in the baby Krishna’s mouth. That’s it.

Claim: They were both crucified and resurrected on the third day

Fact: Krishna was shot by an arrow and died in a tree. Aside from dying slightly elevated from the ground, his and Jesus’ deaths were not the same in any way.

Like I said, there are a lot more examples that are propagated as being true, but if one just takes the time to actually research the doctrines, scriptures and histories of these two figures, people would see that they really don’t have much in common. Of course, don’t just take my word for it. Take some time to look into it yourselves. There is a plethora of scholarship out there that disproves these memes. Maybe one day, religious literacy will move beyond blurry pics and spelling/grammar errors smashing millennia old religions. Until that day comes, fight the good fight and remember that Zeitgeist sucks.

A Mother’s pain.

Oh Devaki, Queen of Vasudeva.
Mother of the most beautiful one.
How your heart must have sank in the wake of your son’s deaths.
Child after child, taken by the dreadful Kamsa,
Innocents who did not deserve their fate.
Child after child not knowing what to do,
until one day He came.

He is Lord Vishnu; Narayana on earth.
One day he will be your liberator.
But until that day,
Your baby boy must go away.
Across the river He will leave,
guided by Adi-Shesha.
Raised by another, until you are free.
Until then, cry your tears of pain and joy,
Awaiting His return.

Blessed Mary, Queen of Heaven,
What a joy it is to hold God in your arms.
But also what pain it must be,
to know what will befall Him.
You know what must happen,
for humanity to be rejoined with Him,
But the pain still remains.

Continue to hold Him.
Love Him and protect Him.
One day He will feed the people,
and preach the Kingdom of God to all.
He will be hated, despised, loved and admired.
A victim, a leader, the one who will lead all.
As you hold Him now, so shall you at the foot of the cross.
Cry, oh most Holy Lady,
The sorrows for Your son running down your face.

      Photo via Google                                            Photo by me taken at Socorro Mission

One foot in each world.

Over the past year and a half, a lot has happened in regards to LGBT rights in the United States. Namely that same-sex marriage was federally legalized. However, there are new challenges that have come up. Specifically in regards to Transpeople and a seemingly new wave of violence against LGBT. I myself, while being gay, tend to be politically moderate and stay out of queer identify politics and act mostly as an observer. In doing that, I realized something about myself.

As a gay man who is also Hindu, I occupy a strange place. While I exist and navigate both worlds, a part of me knows that I may not fully be “a part of” each community either.

Let me go further into detail.

On the gay side, there is a lot of confusion as to why someone who is gay would ever believe in God or belong to a religious community. There is a lot of hurt that LGBT people have faced from religion, and in the US, non-Abrahamic religions aren’t really well known; or there are a lot of misconceptions about them. It doesn’t matter that I don’t believe in hell, or that Devi/God thinks I’m evil. Religion is still religion and religion hates LGBT. Furthermore, since I don’t show off my sexuality or wear it on my sleeve, I’ve been called “self-hating” who “wants to go back in the closet” and “live a life of heteronormative privilege” (whatever that is). When Hinduism is talked about, more often times than not it is seen as a very conservative faith that doesn’t celebrate sexuality (and in a lot cases that is kind of true).

 
On the flipside, I can never really be “open” in the Hindu world. I know that there are many opened minded Hindus, and that temple isn’t really a place for “showing off” ones personal life, but it would be amazing to bring my future husband and not have it be a general issue. Or, even better, to have a big, stereotypical South Indian wedding in a big temple with all of the traditional pomp and circumstance. Of course, such weddings exist, but they are still met with contention from a lot of people. Even the reaction to my friend’s viral engagment was generally mixed.

In this, I find myself occupying a kind of limbo. Almost like a representative for both sides when the circumstance calls for it. On the LGBT side it’s to show that, even though I’m fairly religious, that I’m not some self-hating homophobe who worships snakes or cows. On the Hindu side, for those who know I’m gay anyway, it’s to show that I’m not an evil person who is out to “destroy Hindu culture” or only engages in “illicit relations”.

Yet, at the same time, I only really have one foot in each world. I don’t need affirmation in either my sexuality or faith, but they are still a part of my being and while I have no internal issue with either, trying to navigate through both communities can be uneventful at best or daunting at worst. In a way, perhaps it’s a blessing and not so much a curse. I know where I stand and am building a strong foundation which doesn’t need constant adulation from others (the irony of making this post not being lost on me).

I know who I am and that’s all one can really ask for.

Sri Vaishnavism in a nutshell (or, a more detailed description of my beliefs).

In this post, I went over what is that I believed and how it was a combination of months of doubt and personal searching. This time, I want to get into some of the personal details about the specifics of my beliefs. Some of which are perfectly in line with Vadakalai orthodoxy; and some of which are my own understanding or interpretation. Some things I can’t talk about, as they are strictly between guru and shishya (student), but I can talk about quite a few aspects of my faith which can easily be found in one’s own research.

Like I mentioned last time, I was initiated as a Sri Vaishnava. Sri Vaishnavism is a form of Vaishnavism most commonly found in southern India. It’s the oldest of the 4 established Vaishnava Samparadayas (with the other 3 being the Madhva, Nimbarka, and Vallabha sampradaya) and it considers Narayana as the Supreme God. Alongside the Vedas, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, and various Puranas are some of the central scriptures. However, one of the defining scriptural characteristics of Sri Vaishnavism are the devotional poems of the Alwars; which are collected in in what is known as the Divya Prabhandham.

Sri Ramanuja is considered to be the most important earthly figure of this school and he propagated what is known as Visishtadvaita. Visishtadvaita, like the more commonly known Advaita, is a form of non-dualism. However, unlike Advaita, it states that we are both similar to and different from God. Like how the sun’s rays are of the same essence, but have their own unique characteristics. This is what’s commonly known as “qualified non-dualism”, which the closest western equivalent would probably be Panentheism.

 

There are two major philosophical schools in Sri Vaishnavism: Thenkalai and Vadakalai. Both are similar in a lot of ways, but both do have some major differences.

In the most simplest of examples:

 

Thenkalai:

  • Follow the teachings of Pillai Lolacharya and Manavala Mamunigal, in addition to Ramanuja.
  • Place almost exclusive devotion on Vishnu, believing Lakshmi to be a Maha-Jiva; only being evaluated to her status because of Narayana.
  • Place great emphasis of the poetry and works of the Alwars. So much so that their devotional works are used extensively in rites, puja, and other liturgies. The Vedas, Upanishads, Gita, etc. are still important, but the Alwars are given great importance.
  • Saranagati (surrender to God) is not only the ultimate goal, but it’s the only “whole” way to worship God.
  • God’s grace is likened to a mother cat carrying her kitten: we are wholly dependent on God for Moksha and nothing else.

Vadakalai

  • Follow the teachings of Vedanta Desika, in addition to Ramanuja.
  • Place equal devotion to Lakshmi and Vishnu, believing her to be as important in the process of creation as Narayana.
  • While the Alwars and their works are important, Sanskrit texts (like the Vedas, Upanishads, etc.) are extensively used.
  • Saranagati is the ultimate goal, but yogas like Bhakti, Karma, and Jnana can aid people in their process to surrender.
  • God’s grace is like a monkey carrying her baby: while we are dependent, we also have to put in our effort and hold on tight.

 

I was initiated Vadakalai and have recently come full circle back to it after looking into the more esoteric forms of Shaktism. 

I still believe that Narayana is Brahman, but that Shakti (Lakshmi) is what animates the process of creation, preservation, and destruction. Simply put, without Shakti, God has no means to do His processes. Just like how if a body doesn’t have a soul (or brain activity), it is not alive. Because of this, my devotion has gone to primarily Lakshmi, her incarnations, and towards the Hindu Goddesses in general. Including those whose presence is generally lacking in Vadakalai (like Durga).

I’ve incorporated a lot more Shakta scriptures into my practice and hold them in as high regard as solely Vaishnava scriptures. I can just as readily read the Devi Mahatmya as I would the Bhagavad Gita. A key scripture to my understanding of Sri and Narayana as the absolute is the Lakshmi Tantra.

I’ve stopped trying to be such a hardline traditionalist and have allowed myself some breathing room in my practice. One of my problems was that I always compared myself spiritually to others. If I saw someone who did everything that they were supposed to, and then see how frankly lazy I often am, I felt lesser in my spirituality. Which in turn caused a downward spiral of guilt and shame. It also doesn’t help that, in the past few weeks, I’ve come to the realization that this is very much a westerner issue when it comes to Hinduism. That is, compartmentalizing what is “right and wrong” and viewing such a foreign way of doing things through a very western lens. It’s one of my many issues with ISKCON, actually.

Which brings me to a point of contention with many other Sri Vaishnavas: I don’t necessarily believe in doing things just for the sake of doing them. I’m supposed to chant and do a ritual called Sandhyavadanam everyday, but I don’t always. I at least try to chant, but I don’t always do the prescribed ritual. Rituals and tradition are important, but if they are being done for the sake of being done and without good faith, then what is ultimately the point? As I make my way to Saranagati, I can only hope that the want and need to do these rituals comes. But for now, I can’t force myself to do these things without feeling that I’m doing them for a false reason.

Overall, I’m not a very good initiate, but doing so has brought some big changes in my life. I finally went vegetarian, I learned more about what it is I believe and why I believe, and I’m always looking forward to when I can be in association with a Hindu community (the town where i do to school doesn’t have a temple for at least an hour and a half away). Did I rush into formally joining a tradition? Yes, absolutely, but it is something that I don’t regret. It just means that there is an entire lifetime of learning, mistakes, trials, and triumphs to experience.