I’m so pleased to be setting up my little space on the Internet here at Patheos.
Let me tell you a little about myself.
My name is Ambaa and I’m a Hindu, but I’m not Indian. My family background is Irish Catholic.
As you may have guessed, Ambaa is not the name given to me by my parents. Rather, it’s the name that I’ve become known as within my faith community and on the Internet where I’ve been blogging for the last three years (rather irregularly) at whitehindu.blogspot.com. It’s not a name that I selected myself. I was given it by my mother’s Sanskrit teacher when I was taking one of his classes. He wanted the students to all have Sanskrit names for the purposes of the class and he gave me mine because I asked a question about the meaning of the name.
You see, Ambaa is a character in one of the most amazing stories ever told: The Mahabhrata. It is a great epic poem, written thousands of years ago in India. It contains within it the spiritual text, The Bhagavad Gita (the song of the Lord), and has many other moments of amazing philosophy and parables. Ambaa’s story is a sad one and I’ll tell it to you one day soon.
But first I bet you’re wondering about my mother having a Sanskrit teacher.
I come to Hinduism in a somewhat unusual way. It is not a religion that one usually converts to. It is an ethnicity and more of a way of life than a religion that one picks up and does. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot there to discuss and that’s one of the things that this blog will do.
Like the author of Eat, Pray, Love, there have for centuries been Westerners who become fascinated with Eastern religion and start practicing meditation, yoga, Buddhism and sometimes even Hinduism. That’s kind of me. But actually, it was my parents who started the journey.
In the 1970s my father discovered an organization that was teaching meditation and philosophy that was based on ancient Vedic traditions, but had been modified for the west. My mother joined shortly after they were married, and by the time I was born they had been practicing it for five years. My brother and I grew up with Hindu philosophy mixed into our every day lives. While we still went to a Unitarian church, we were also initiated into transcendental meditation as teenagers and chanted Sanskrit before meals.
This being what I had always known, it didn’t seem the least bit strange to me.
I was always an introspective and serious child, interested in death, eternity, the meaning of life. It only grew stronger as I left home and went to college. Once I got there I quickly realized that my religious beliefs did not fit in with my peers. I went to a Christian group, thinking I was a Christian. I had never had exposure to any Christianity that wasn’t UUs. This prompted me to start examining the core of my beliefs and what I discovered was that I had always been a Hindu.
I joined a Hindu group by graduate school and fit in much better there. Except for my blindingly pale skin.
There have been a lot of issues, questions, and experiences that I’ve gone through in the last several years as I identify as a Hindu while also being an American of European ancestery. This blog will be about teasing apart some of the questions, confusion, and assumptions surrounding choosing to practice Hinduism. It will do lots of other things too. I want to show you inside of my life and how I worship and understand the divine. I also want to explore what it means to be Hindu and some of the history and tradition. I’ll be looking at questions of whether one needs a guru, whether conversion to Hinduism is possible, what the meaning of cultural appropriation is, and so much more.
Even in this introduction I have at least five more subjects that need to be posts of their own! So there is a lot of rich territory to explore.
I can’t wait to meet you and share this journey with you.