No Turning Back

by Tapati

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Tapati’s altar
I was asked recently if I felt there was any hope that I might someday renew my desire to serve and unite with Krishna and engage in kirtan with others of a like mind in a non-denominational, low pressure environment. Following that, I was asked what I missed about the Hare Krishna Movement. Others wondered why I kept my initiated name, Tapati and made it my legal name.

I can imagine that my spiritual path seems confusing. From outside it might look like I have worshiped more than one God in my life: The Trinity of Catholicism, Krishna, myriad Goddesses, and Kuan Yin.

What I have been doing from my perspective is sorting through different cultural viewpoints while maintaining a relationship with the same entity all along. The one that I prayed to as a small child, as a troubled 13-year old, a troubled 15-year old, surrendered to at the temple, and lit candles to when my son was in a coma, it was all the same person in my mind.

While I don’t literally believe in any one cultural view of God, whether that is a Blue Cowherd Boy or is expressed as a Trinity, I believe that this Divine Presence can appear as any of these visions in order to enable the worshiper to relate.

So I can go to a temple and see the Deities and relate to the Divine Essence They represent. I can see a picture of Jesus and respectfully acknowledge the truths he was trying to convey. I can hear prayers to Allah and again, appreciate that they refer to the same Person I am trying to serve.

But I can no longer relate to the Indian vision enough to want to take up that form of worship again (too much emotional baggage for me personally) or want to be part of a group in any leadership capacity. I don’t want to impose my vision of spirit on others in any way. I trust that each person is capable of making those choices.

That’s not to say if some alliance of independent folks who are non-preaching-oriented were to throw a kirtan or festival, no pressures, I wouldn’t participate on a case by case basis. I love the music. I love the food. I love the Deities. I just don’t want to be preached to or pressured to conform. If I hear the word maya or karmi again I am likely to flee.

As for my name, I have used it since 1977 and prefer it to my birth name. It has a beautiful story attached, and people misspell it less often because they listen when I tell them how it is spelled. With my former name, Terilyn, I could be telling someone letter-by-letter and they insisted on adding extra Rs or Ns or splitting it in two.

Literally, Tapati means “warming” and she was the daughter of the Sun god and Moon goddess in Vedic literature. (I use lower-case “god” because in Vaishnavism they were viewed as demi-gods, sort of administrative servants of the Supreme God, Krishna.) She gave birth to Kuru, head of the dynasty in which Arjuna of the Bhagavad Gita later appeared.

I was originally named for two cousins, Teresa and Carolyn. They haven’t been on speaking terms with me for nearly twenty years now. I don’t really want to reclaim a name that relates to them. For a long time I have taken my mother’s former position as black sheep of the family. Asserting my own identity is one way of coping with that.

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Tapati McDaniels is a freelance writer who started a forum designed to meet the needs of former Hare Krishna devotees at http://www.gaudiya-repercussions.com.

She is working on a memoir and her personal blog can be found at http://tapati.livejournal.com

Be sure to read Tapati’s NLQ series: “Patriarchy Across Cultures.”

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Patriarchy Across Cultures by Tapati: