Over the past 3-ish years, I have started and restarted blogs with varying degrees of (non) success. Each one reflecting what I, at varying times, felt accurately related to my spiritual or ideological beliefs.
The first time around as a left-leaning Buddhist.
The second time around as an Advaita Hindu.
Now, as a center right-ish Vadakalai Hindu.
How did I get to this point? What is it that I believe now and how does it differ from even a year ago.
Like I had mentioned in my previous post , in 2014 I began the initiation process of formally coming into Hinduism. Specifically as a Vadakalai Sri Vaishnava. I received Upanayana (the sacred thread) into studying the Vedas and learning rituals. I was at a bit of a disadvantage in this, because this happened when I was 23. Boys who get this in India, historically, got it when they were much younger. Additionally, they grew up surrounded by the culture and experience it fully. I would be lying if I said I didn’t struggle (or still struggle) with my spiritual life since receiving the thread, but I pushed forward for the first year and marched on.
Photo by Biswarup Ganguly via Wikimedia Commons
In March of this year, I went through a massive crisis of faith; so much so that there were a couple of points where I was seriously considering if I even belonged in Hinduism at all. I was looking at different churches (namely Catholic and Anglican) and synagogues and speaking with religious leaders about the thought of converting. All of this was punctuated by the fact that a former God Brother of mine had already done such a thing. Leaving behind Hinduism and embracing his Christian roots. If he, someone who had been practicing for far longer than I, couldn’t make it, what makes me think I could?
A big thing was that I felt like I couldn’t keep with with what was required of me post-initiation. I’m terrible at doing personal rituals (aside from chanting or reading scriptures), while I’m vegetarian I still indulge in onion and garlic on occasion, and I suck at fasting on Ekadashi. Yet, with that said, the biggest thing that was gnawing at me was that I was beginning to view God much less in a masculine way, and more as the Divine Feminine. From God the Father, to God our Mother essentially. This began a search into Shaktism and it’s practices.
Through the months and months of searching and looking, I eventually made my way back to Vadakalai Sri Vaishnavism, but still see God at Feminine (in this case as Sri Lakshmi). When I started out, the vast majority of my devotion went to Vishnu and His avataras. Yet, deep down, I always felt a pull and adoration towards Devi. Since I was initiated into Vadakalai, this wouldn’t be an issue. Vadakalai Vaishnavas see Lakshmi and Vishnu as being equals; as 2 parts of a singular entity. You can’t have one without the other and you can pray to either for guidance, devotion, and to be granted moksha. This is in contrast with a lot of other Vaishnavas who solely rely on Vishnu or Krishna, with Devi being given a much less significant role. Or even being virtually non-existent
I was assured that me giving primary devotion to Lakshmi wouldn’t put me on the fringes of Sri Vaishnavism and that there were entire scriptures, philosophies, and rituals with Lakshmi and her incarnations being the focus of devotion. While I’m still learning scripture and rituals, I’m now learning them at a much more comfortable pace. Where I don’t feel overwhelmed or as if I am less than adequate at taking up such a big effort. I still need to work on my bhakti and personal sadhana, but that is something that comes with time.
In the course of almost two years, I have gone from trying to force myself into a hardline, orthodox, and purely Vaishnava mindset to feeling far more comfortable with worshiping Lakshmi at my own pace.
I no longer feel massive guilt at not keeping a sattvic (no onion, garlic, or egg) vegetarian diet, but understand how it is needed for spiritual progression.
I no longer feel lesser for not always doing the rituals in which I’ve been prescribed, but know that I must eventually move on with them.
While I will always hold Krishna and Narasimha close to my heart, things are far more natural for me to worship God as female. By Her grace and mercy, I will make it through this lifetime and experience the internal transformation that comes with a spiritually centered life.
ॐ श्रीम महालक्ष्मिये नमः