Traveling -any sustained detour from the daily routine- is an effective tool for evaluating one’s practice and core beliefs. What elements of practice are vital? What do I make space for when my regular patterns are disrupted? What do I crave? What is essential for stability? What is so loosely tethered in me that I forget about it completely when out of my routine?
I am at my inlaws and all is well. Our trip across the Atlantic was uneventful, although my husband and I (with two kids and bags) had to run for our plane. It was a long day of travel: 6 hours in the car, airport shuttle, security, and a 10 hour plane ride. We invoked Ganesh in the morning, while driving, and while running for our flight. Jai Ganesha!
I am only today getting a grip on what day it is. I think jet lag has run its course. Getting up at 5am in the mornings is wonderful for getting in yoga and meditation. I don’t have a space to do puja or devotions. I brought my shiva lingam and my icon of Kali, and I bow to them every morning and before climbing into bed. That’s about the extent of it.
I have forgotten what day is Monday and what is Friday so observing those days as devotion to Shiva and Kali has fallen by the wayside a little. I’m trying to get back to that. I hope to visit the Vedic Cultural and Spiritual Center of San Diego at least once while here. I don’t think I’ll be able to make any classes or events, as getting around here is a huge challenge, and the kids need to be in bed in the early evenings. Still, I’d love to go see a real temple and offer up my prayers there. Say a formal hello, as it were. I also hope to attend an actual yoga class while here as well.
Two things I’ve been reading:
First, I saw this article this morning on Hinduism and modernity in the Huffington Post. I’ll be honest, the only part that interested me was his three paragraphs on feminism. He addresses one of the main criticisms of Hindusim from a feminist perspecitve, that of sati, the ritual immolation of the wife upon her husband’s death. According to this article, only 10% of the population ever observed this. As if that’s not a big deal. I am not well read in the history of India or its customs and culture, but I agree with the author that British colonialism only complicated matters. The author also mentions that having goddesses and a concept of Shakti counters patriarchal attitudes by seeing the divine in all women. I don’t want to wax all scholarly in my blog, but I will say I think he is wrong. There is no correlation between recognizing a divine female and treating women well or fairly. See Roman Catholicism and the Virgin Mary. See also the issues with women in India. Great theory does not always lead to liberating practice. I will talk a lot more about this when I get to my Christian quarter.However, Pankaj Jain (Phd) raises an excellent point in his last paragraph on the subject:
“Women who were given the sole responsibility to run a home are now being over-loaded to earn money also. In the modern world of judging everything by financial and materialistic rewards, are we reducing our mothers and wives also into moneymaking machines? And is that the only criteria for their freedom?” [Emphasis mine.]
Mainstream feminism struggles with these questions. Is it really liberating to gain power in the context of the status quo? Is capitalism liberating at all? How do we balance the need and/or desire to earn money with the responsibilities as mothers (if we are one)? I would also like to point out the problem with reducing the identity of women to only those of mothers and wives. I am both and I don’t think these roles are necessarily confining, but can women not be women if they are not wives or mothers? I am certain Jain means wives in the context of heteronormative marriage. What about women outside that context? Hinduism itself might not be the limiting factor, but culturally there are clearly places with room to grow.
The second bit of reading I’m doing is a series of devotionals, Living with Siva, from the Himalayan Academy. I rather like the daily musings. They help me gain focus and give me something to ponder as we drive around (and in Southern California there is A LOT of driving). As I read through some of the materials I find that there is more of the ‘by men, about men, for men’ style of writing. Women are wives. End of story. Clearly the Himalayan Academy is not the church for me. However, there is much wisdom to be gained from Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami. I take what I like, and leave the rest.