Can Westerners Gain Enlightenment?

I know I’m always saying that in any given country or population, probably 95% of people aren’t going to be strongly spiritual. I’m guessing at that number, but it seems that in the Kali Yuga very few feel the pull to chase down the mystery of what life means.

So that means that in every religion and non-religion (in other words, atheists included) there are some who ask themselves the big questions about what our lives mean and others who aren’t bothered by those questions. I don’t think it’s a matter of a right or a wrong way to be. Just how it is. I happen to be someone who is religious-minded and spiritual but if you’re not that’snot something I judge you on.

Even though I’ve always figured that each country has roughly the same percentage of people pursuing the divine, this question struck me when I was in India this time.

I started to wonder, why is it that so many non-Indians travel to India in search of spiritual meaning? And even more to the point, why are there reports of enlightened holy men in India that we never hear in America or UK (that I know of)?

It sounds prosperous to say that maybe non-Indians are less likely to achieve Moksha. Yet I’m starting to think that the western culture may seriously impede progress towards this goal.

IMG_0508

For example, my tendency to see Moksha as something that has to be “attained” and striven for, a problem to be solved, something I need to gain rather than something that is already true within me. That is deeply rooted in my American culture.

And even though there are many fake gurus who prey on people’s faith to make a quick buck, there are also a surprising number of legitimate gurus and other holy men in India. Have I ever met an enlightened soul in America? Perhaps I did but I didn’t know it? Despite years of practice and study and striving and meditating, there is so much in life in America to distract you from religious life.

What really brought this question into focus in my mind was when I was on the plane back to the U.S. and I was sitting next to nice young lady who, as we got to chatting, I found out is a childhood friend of the student who is now in line to become the next Shankaracharya at Sringeri Math. Quite an incredible coincidence! And I got to find out a little more about him from a human angle. She told me he was always interested in spiritual matters and chose Veda study over anything else he could be doing every day.

And it occurred to me that when this young man started to show interest in spiritual matters, there was an outlet ready for him. There was a place for him to go to further his understanding and be guided towards enlightenment.

If my child were to show such proclivities, where could I take him? Where in America does one get that opportunity?

Yet maybe this is just a matter of my perspective. In America we do have the priesthood of various Christian sects and perhaps that is where many of our seekers end up. It’s not the priesthood’s fault that I don’t see my understanding of Truth reflected there.

Again when we were at Ramana Maharshi’s ashram in Tiruvannamalai this question sharpened even further as I saw how many western seekers there were doing spiritual retreats there: learning Sanskrit, meditating, yoga, listening to chanting, etc. This place seemed to draw people who were searching for the Truth.

Even if, as with any place, the majority of Indians aren’t particularly spiritually-minded, there may still be something about the culture and atmosphere in India that make Moksha more possible than anywhere else.

 

 

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  • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

    Ambaa, you’ve hit on an important point. Western culture is very different from Indic Culture in not only what the goals in religious life are, but also how to get there. What solid enlightenment for Westerners towards the Indic direction would most likely entail is reading information from Rajiv Malhotra and whiteness studies before even getting into Dharma studies, in order to properly frame the culture they are coming from, so that they don’t subconsciously “import” Dharma, or map Dharma onto a western framework and then do a U-turn back into their culture, eliminating the rest that they can’t go along with. This is what digestion is, and we have to be careful about that. At the least, the Westerners you see in India hopefully have an interest in Indic culture (though you have to be careful to watch for those wearing Indian clothes who are actually proselytizing for their foreign churches).

    I’ve had to make myself go through this kind of reading before even getting into Sanaatana Dharma itself, because I see some books on SD out there, and it feels like they are “westernized” for westerners, like using terms like salvation, heaven, surrendering yourself to god and abandoning worldly affairs. It is said by another viewpoint that such thoughts lead to certain perceptions about Advaita being very different from its original spirit. It seems to be that the perception of Advaita as dismissing the world and seeing worldly affairs as an illusion would lead to escapism, a sense that one is greater than others because of the “work” done, and that everything is the same. It is believed that this is a result of the degeneration of the jñana marga into intellectual exercises that are boring. Consider this: https://sites.google.com/site/bodhihangout/dharma

    ——————————-
    Acharya has made immense contributions in multiple fronts that include –
    1. Reinforcing the understanding of the vedic school of thought by writing
    commentaries on prasthana thraya (Upanishads, Brahma sutra and Bhagavad
    Gita).
    2. Establishing his school of thought through
    arguments to diminish the influence of antithetic schools of thought and
    in turn establishing vedic way of life.
    3. Established Peethas to guide the society to foster Adhyayana of veda, vedanga and shasthras as well as develop Tapasya.
    The above contributions are widely known. But, his other contributions that are less noticed but are equally important are
    4. Establishing many paths of yoga. Many yoga schools today including
    famous ones such as Art of Living, Mahesh Yogi’s Tanscendental
    Meditation claim lineage to Shankaracharya.
    5. Established new hallmark temples and renovated many old temples. Rejuvenated temple worship practice.
    6. Composed innumerable stotras in praise of various devathas and fostered
    Bhakthi. One has to listen to rendering of these stotras (by say, MS
    Subbulakshmi) to fully appreciate their beauty, technicality and
    richness.

    These contributions imply that Adi Shankaracharya took THIS WORLD seriously. He did not have anything to gain materially or spiritually as he was a Sanyasi and was already enlightened and yet he did so much work. He was never lost in his spiritual experiences alone (It is not wrong for yogis to be unto themselves!! The Acharya could simply have been blissful and stayed in Akarma; but he did not do so and instead worked hard) and never rejected the world or relinquish duties. Instead, he could strike a good balance between his spiritual side and worldly work and pursued his work with zest and diligence. He fought relentlessly for restoration of Vedic way of life and succeeded. He was the very opposite of escapism.
    —————————-

    This is something we have to consider for as westerners, to try to learn this as though we have literally died and been reborn as an Indian today, as hard as that might be, to learn it as children do.

    I have an easier time of this because I’m not Christianized and have a fluid understanding of moving between cultures and adapting to one framework or another. I am very much this way when speaking. Though I can only communicate fluently in English, I have accents that come from being exposed to different people from around the world, because I have had speech therapy as a child to catch me up to my grade-school peers. It gives me flexibility in being able to say Mēxico instead of Mexico, España instead of Spain, repeating Buddhist/SD terms as close to their native pronunciation as I know. I have a need to pronounce things as they are in their native language if at all possible, like “International Language” or something. Sometimes, you hear me changing up the way I speak mid-sentence because I’m using words outside of English proper.

    Having said that, I notice that most people are stuck in their native speech patterns. Even I am stuck to a certain extent, but nowhere near what the average hearing person is. I would think that in many cases, the mental plasticity in such situations is reflected in their speech and even comprehension of speech outside the norm of their native language. I even have had one person say, “What did you say?” I said “Iran.” “Oh, you mean IRan. That’s not proper English speech. You need to work on that.” “Uh, excuse me? That is how they pronounce it when they speak to me.” “You have to speak proper English so people can understand you.” To that I would say, “Uh, you have to open up your language capabilities and step up, otherwise, you’re getting left behind, because that is where I’m going. The ability to use words the way they are used natively. It also shows sensitivity to their culture, that you’ve taken the time to get to know something about them rather than holding it at arms’ length as an Imperialist Westerner whose position in the world is assured.” In other words, if you are the imperialist, you really don’t have to learn these things about people “underneath” you. Everyone else ends up doing double or triple work just to stand in an equal place, and even then the playing field is not level (having to learn multiple languages to live and work successfully in many places, whereas the white academic/corporatist may have an interpreter on staff to help with things that everyone else seems to do on their own; the glass ceiling). This is what I’m trying to show to the person who says that my speech is not proper English. It is the best I can do in light of limited access to language learning skills.

    This is why I’m very concerned for Western civilization. The idea that we all billions of people can have western lifestyles, with the resources that go into it, the destruction of our habitat and cultures, with no inner science to balance it out, is simply unsustainable. It is really like a primitive culture having gotten ahold of technology before they were MENTALLY ready to use it responsibly and instead wreaking havoc upon the world. This is exactly what happened. Think about it – England imported manufacturing technology from INDIA during the colonial period. They also shut the factories in India down, even made it illegal to do manufacturing there. That is where the poverty came from, the colonial efforts. See, India was mature and able to handle the responsibility of such technology, however, Anglo society was not. They ended up shorting out the cultural/social development that they needed and still need today.

    How to go about moving from a westernized frame of mind to an Indic one is a concern of mine. We need to, for the sake of our existence.

    • HARRY

      Sanatan Dharma does not ask an apple to become an orange. Wide grin :)

      • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

        Indeed. It can be confusing if one doesn’t know where s/he stands.

    • Ambaa

      I continue to hope that India and America can share their best aspects with one another. There is good in American culture. There is good in Indian culture. If only we could take the good parts of both. Unfortunately we often seem to take the worst parts of both.

      • HARRY

        I think you end up creating a Frankensteins monster. This is same as a woman who gets a botox to look like some one else and end up looking like a freaky version of the other.

        • Ambaa

          Hahaha. You may have a point there!

      • aam

        Truth is the inherent purity or quality of human responses or behavior, hence it can’t exist alone or separately. It is like the taste of a sweet dish. A dish is necessary to carry the taste of sweet. Can you pass on only ‘taste of sweet’.without the dish?

        Similarly, There can be a True Thought, True speech or True Action, but not isolated Truth. Non duality is the state of mind, in which True Thoughts, speech and actions automatically follow.

        The inborn state of non-duality in children is lost in the growing years of the brain, due to an error in upbringing caused unknowingly and involuntarily by parents or elders. Just by merely avoiding the error, we humans can raise poised, cool and rational individuals.

        The difference between the west and east or Developed and Developing societies is in this area of raising children only. Though disturbed children are at both regions, ‘less disturbed or undisturbed and rational people are comparatively more in the west.

        In lighter vain it can be explained as ‘people in Developed countries enjoy sweets (truth) in daily life, while people in developing countries carry the recipe (literature) in their back packs and go on improving upon it, without ever tasting it.

        It may be wrong to say that the last word on ‘non-duality’ has already been said. It was J Krishnamurti, who advanced the concept of non-duality further, and my research work may be in furtherance to his. And others should do more.

        If anyone is interested my blog is at gmybird.wordpress.com

    • Malai

      ” What solid enlightenment for Westerners towards the Indic direction
      would most likely entail is reading information from Rajiv Malhotra and
      whiteness studies”

      Whiteness studies, you say? Foo-foo courses come and go all the time in American “academia”. http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/30/has-whiteness-studies-run-its-course-at-colleges/

      And Malhotra, despite making some good points, is also not without flaw and without bias in his interpretations. For example his issue with “other worldliness”. Hinduism or “Dharma” as he is fond of saying, provides huge space for the vairagi. Materialistic Indians like Rajiv (a multi-millionaire living in a posh gated community in the US) have never liked that fact.

      “in order to properly frame the culture they are coming from, so that
      they don’t subconsciously “import” Dharma, or map Dharma onto a western
      framework and then do a U-turn back into their culture”

      U-turn, fu-turn! Converting to a particular Hindu sect does not mean adopting “Indian culture” wholesale and rejecting one’s own native culture wholesale. There are a lot of bad things in “Indian culture” and there is a lot of good to be found in non-Indian cultures too.

      • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

        What you say about academia is simply not true. I know, because I went to college and graduated with a master’s degree, and I’m familiar with how they pitch the superiority of western civilization. At the time, I believed it, but the more I read about Indic civilization, the more I realize how badly westerners have screwed things up. You said that Malhotra is not flawed. Thank you. Do you have proof that he lives in a posh, gated community.

        You misunderstand what Malhotra is talking about. What he IS talking about is cultural arson, where a Christian learns things about another culture, appropriates the knowledge and incorporates that knowledge into his framework, teaches as though he or his Anglo predecessor came up with this knowledge. Consider Carl Jung, for instance. The last step in this u-turn process is deleting the source of this knowledge, essentially wiping out in people’s minds the originating culture, and eventually, destroying the culture the knowledge came from. Check out Native American history. I have Native American ancestry, and because of this process, little is actually known about my own Nation’s belief system. Who knows what their belief system was like prior to Contact. This is exactly the thing I don’t want to see happen to culture in India.

        You also fail to understand that a lot of what we see in Indian culture on the bad side comes from the effects of colonization by the British. We need to examine more closely these factors, root them out, and then see what is left to work on. You also do not realize that Malhotra does not advocate for a return to the way things were prior to colonization, as it would be impossible to do so. Instead, he advocates a position of looking at both east and west and taking the good of both to combine them. Combine the outer knowledge of sciences from the west and east (modern science and traditional knowledge systems, respectively) with the “inner science” of the east to create a civilization that we can only dream of now.

        • Malai

          “What you say about academia is simply not true.”

          You’re saying that foo-foo courses do not come and go in American academia? Because that was my claim. Most universities list their course schedules online now. You can see for yourself. Whiteness Studies seems to have come and gone with nary a blip on the radar but there are plenty of other “leftist” (or has Malhotra would label them “Marxist”) type foo-foo classes still available. See for yourself.

          “You misunderstand what Malhotra is talking about. What he IS talking
          about is cultural arson, where a Christian learns things about another
          culture, appropriates the knowledge and incorporates that knowledge into
          his framework, teaches as though he or his Anglo predecessor came up
          with this knowledge. ”

          No I don’t misunderstand the man at all. He also takes issue with those who DO clearly and respectfully list their Indian origin sources. The experience that many of us have had with Raju Uncle (Rajiv Malhotra) is that he is not satisfied until and unless someone does things HIS way.

          “Check out Native American history. I have Native American ancestry, and
          because of this process, little is actually known about my own Nation’s
          belief system. Who knows what their belief system was like prior to
          Contact. This is exactly the thing I don’t want to see happen to
          culture in India.”

          Apples and oranges. There is absolutely no possibility of Christians killing us off with disease or guns or breaking up our families, taking our kids away from us and putting them in boarding schools. We Hindus, Indian and non-Indian combined, hover at around 1 billion and we are growing. We have survived for thousands of years and faced the Mughal Empire, British Empire, Communism, Corporatism, Democracy, pan-global Christianity and more combined and we are still here not only surviving, but thriving and leading the way!

          “You also fail to understand that a lot of what we see in Indian culture
          on the bad side comes from the effects of colonization by the British. ”

          Please! I am Indian. First come to India and “see” as you say, for yourself the “bad side” of Indian culture before you attribute most of it to colonization.

          “You said that Malhotra is not flawed. Thank you.”

          It was a typo. I meant not without flaw. But why would you say “thank you” to that?

          ” Do you have proof that he lives in a posh, gated community.”

          Been to his neighborhood several times. Our ex-pat circles overlap. But since you don’t appear to know him here’s something from the news;

          “Among those arrested were NYU grad student Yasmin Malhotra, 25, a
          former intern for Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and the United Nations.

          Malhotra — daughter of wealthy Princeton philanthropist and public
          speaker Rajiv Malhotra — was nabbed in SoHo in her car after she
          allegedly agreed to sell an undercover cop 20 Xanax pills for $100.

          There was evidence she had numerous customers, a source added.

          Her dad, outside his Princeton, NJ, mansion yesterday denied that his daughter was a drug dealer.

          “That’s something I haven’t heard,” he said.

          http://nypost.com/2012/10/12/mom-pop-rx/

          • Ambaa

            Thank you, Malai, for your insight! It is so helpful to have the perspective of someone with direct experience! I can’t thank you enough for bringing your point of view to the discussions.

            “he is not satisfied until and unless someone does things HIS way.” This was what I also observed. It’s sad to me that some people want to narrow Hinduism down to a single view point when one of its great strengths is its variety!

          • aam

            It is not clear, what inaccuracy was found in Rajiv Malhotra’s works of scholarship. How can one find fault with a girl student and later pin the blame to his father? Even son of Gandhiji was often found drunk and fallen in gutters. Can that become a disqualification for recognizing his academic excellence?

            If there is adulteration of serious consequences, it is in grossly polluted information in India, possibly planted by vested interests. It is a different matter, if Rajiv Malhotra can’t succeed in his mission of liberating Indians from their present mindset, by giving them the knowledge, however accurate it may be.

            Whole problem of mankind is the human responses or behavior. This human behavior is like a horse cart that has two parts or components. 1. The horse ( dynamic intelligence) and 2. the cart (static or recorded knowledge).

            Instead of treating the limping horse, Rajiv is trying to organize or correct the knowledge in memory or the cart. Though the knowledge is necessary as the fodder of consumption for intelligence, still it can’t enhance the inner quality of intelligence, which is the primary user of that knowledge.

            Aren’t others also doing the same mistake?

            Examples aren’t substitutes for Truth. Only to help understand the issue, examples may be used. Cells need proteins, as they are made up of that. Carbohydrates are consumables that are necessary for the working of the cells.

            When cells are weak, due to lack of proteins, they can’t utilize carbo-hydrates resulting in excess sugar in blood. Vehicles need both Engine Oil and Gas. One can’t substitute for the other. Examples are not accurate, but pl try to read the intended meaning rather than words itself.

          • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

            Ambaa, if you read all of Rajiv’s articles, you will realize that this is NOT his position that Hinduism is narrowed down to a single view point. In fact, he talks of the variety. You are a white woman, like me. It really, really does pay to read those articles NOW and not put off facing your own past, dealing with it, and then resolving to determine how to go about being part of the solution to improve civilization. I see where western civilization is going, and it is NOT a good place.

            I have become resigned to the possibility that if things go into a tailspin in American, India is where I would want to go. I know there’s a lot of problems there, especially being next-door neighbors to countries like Pakistan with its nuclear capability, but India is not in the position that America is in. America is just asking to be nuked any day now. Many of its policies in regards to international affairs and individual freedoms domestically and abroad is simply taking things too far. Also, I realize that the Islamic/Christian/Marxist nexus (Forum of Inquilabi Leftists) is very much in operation there to ultimately tangle up Indic civilization to the point it can’t come back, and that’s a real threat right now.

          • Ambaa

            It may not be his official position but it’s hard to escape that conclusion when you hear him tear down anyone who doesn’t express Hinduism exactly the same way he does. And I’m not talking about myself.

            I have read his writing, I have been to hear him talk. I do know what he says. I agree with huge amounts of it! But I also know the impression that I get from seeing how he treats Hindus who have ideas different from his.

            I too feel a strong temptation to move to India. No place is perfect, of course, but if things got really unlivable for me here, that’s the first place I would go.

          • HARRY

            Why would she be selling drugs for 100 bucks if she lived in gated community? 100 bucks is nothing, if it was for a million dollars then I can understand.

            Nothing is free in US and if you can afford to live in a gated community then you have to earn it.

            I live in a similar house and believe me I work 15 plus hours everyday to be there.

            I don’t like malotra but when someone who you know is telling something that you know then it’s not a roket science is it.

          • Malai

            “Why would she be selling drugs for 100 bucks if she lived in gated community?”

            Who said Yasmin was living in a gated community? At the time she was a student in Manhattan. Anyway, the article was not linked to because of her. Stef asked “how do you know Rajiv lives in a gated community” and I linked the article stating HE lives in a mansion in Princeton.

          • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

            Namaste Malai. I was away for surgery earlier in the week, as I had surgery. I am recovering at home. Now, I get to reply.

            What I said about the “foo-foo course” issue is that we need to see the big picture of academia. Yes, courses come and go, but what does NOT come and go is the overall strategic thrust of western education – the spreading and survival of western civilization hegemony over that of every other kind of civilization bar none.

            I said thank you to your “flawed statement.” Sometimes, it pays to edit your posts before making a post. I knew that was a mistake, but I had to take you up on it.

            “Please! I am Indian. First come to India and “see” as you say, for yourself the “bad side” of Indian culture before you attribute most of it to colonization.” Too late for that now. The British colonization has already occurred.

            What would life in India be like if the British had never been a warlike society bent on controlling everyone else? That is a question we can’t answer now, but I accept the fact that Indic society was far more advanced than European society in many areas at the time the British colonizers came to India for the first time. Your ancestors were already building very large sailing ships for the ocean, knew how to navigate on the oceans, knew how to have magnificent crop yields even compared to present-day American crop yields, had mathematics that the Arabs picked up and transmitted to Europe centuries, if not thousands of years later. During that time, MY ancestors were still barbarians, invading one another, living as the “burn up wood” mentality instead of the “growing and making flower garlands” kind of civilization.

            That is why I realize I need to learn Sanskrit as soon as I can, because I want to be able to read the documents and see what was going on, what civilization was like before the British occupation.

            Now, I did look up your claim about Malhotra’s daughter, which was posted online at the New York Post. I suspect character assassination (refer to Harry’s comment below), and even if my theory is wrong, it doesn’t matter. That involves Ms. Malhotra, not Rajiv himself. That is called guilt by association. Obviously, the woman is an adult. This means that she is of sufficient sound mind to be able to function in society such that she can drive, communicate with people, understand things in general. This means that she is able to make decisions on her own. This means that things can happen to cause a child to go against the teachings of her parent. For some reason, the lure of money and doing something “illegal” was strong enough to get her to do it, in spite of the consequences of her actions. No parent is perfect, and I don’t profess to know the man enough to say, “Well, that was her choice” or “Oh, well, I see why she was compelled to do it.”

            If anything, the drug story would be all the evidence I need to say, “Get out, get out of America! Save yourselves before we successfully destroy ourselves,” just as an aware German would have told Jewish friends to save themselves before they got rounded up for concentration camps. That German would also have immigrated to another country before it was impossible to get out. I have realized for a long time that there is a lot wrong with western civilization, but until the last 10 years, I just didn’t realize HOW BAD it is to the health and welfare of everyone.

          • Malai

            “Your ancestors were already building very large sailing ships for the
            ocean, knew how to navigate on the oceans, knew how to have magnificent
            crop yields even compared to present-day American crop yields, had
            mathematics that the Arabs picked up and transmitted to Europe
            centuries, if not thousands of years later. During that time, MY
            ancestors were still barbarians, invading one another, living as the
            “burn up wood” mentality instead of the “growing and making flower
            garlands” kind of civilization.”

            – Right. And that is why I said to you on another thread that Hinduism is under no threat of disappearing like your ancestral civilization was.

            “Now, I did look up your claim about Malhotra’s daughter, which was
            posted online at the New York Post. I suspect character assassination
            (refer to Harry’s comment below), and even if my theory is wrong, it
            doesn’t matter. That involves Ms. Malhotra, not Rajiv himself. That is
            called guilt by association.”

            – What the heck? You asked me how I knew Malhotra was living in a gated community and I linked to the article and quoted the section in which the reporter wrote about his “mansion” and his Princeton neighborhood as proof.

            “If anything, the drug story would be all the evidence I need to say,
            “Get out, get out of America! Save yourselves before we successfully
            destroy ourselves,”

            – Again, the “drug story” has nothing to do with anything discussed here. Nevertheless, there might be a chance that Yasmin may want to move to India, being that she was born and raised in the USA, but there is NO CHANCE, that Rajiv will ever want to move back here because he was already born and raised here and later chose to move to the USA and chose to renounce his Indian citizenship to become a full-fledged American citizen.

            He’s made it known loud and clear which country he prefers to call home.

          • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

            Namaste Malai,

            It is my sincere hope that Sanātana Dharma doesn’t ever disappear like many of the Native American Nations did.

            Regarding Rajiv’s residence, I saw that in the article I read. I’m curious as to why Rajiv would not want to move back to India. It’s my understanding that when Rajiv came to the US decades ago, he was like an English-educated Indian unaware of what had happened, and it wasn’t until the last 20 years that he’s realized what is happening. It may be that his ties are too strong where he lives now and may be out of touch with people back in India, though he may maintain electronic contact with them. It may also be that it’s not safe for him to go back home because he definitely would be a high-value target in the eyes of Muslims, Christians, and Marxists. You’ve seen what can happen there. That may be why leaders of sides in battles in the middle east keep dying, because they operate very close, if not in the battle fields of conflicts. I’m sure that he would probably admit that it was a mistake to make some of the choices he made earlier in his life.

            As for the drug case, mentioning his name was not needed. He is not central to or a part of the case as far as I know. That’s called name-dropping as well, still.

          • Malai

            ” It may also be that it’s not safe for him to go back home because he
            definitely would be a high-value target in the eyes of Muslims,
            Christians, and Marxists.”

            Please. The overwhelming majority of Muslims, Christians and Marxists in India don’t even know who he is. He loves living in the US and has no intention of ever revoking his US citizenship and becoming an Indian citizenship. He purposely chose to raise his daughter in the US and very much wanted her to be a natural born US citizen. He is a hypocrite on many issues. That’s why I have never and will never spend even one paisa on any of his books or events, though I have read some of his literature for free and attended some of his speaking events for free. Like I said before, he has some good points and other points that I disagree with entirely. Beyond that, I don’t like the way he takes advantage of “volunteers” and refuses to pay people despite being a multi-millionaire. Its unethical.

          • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

            I wasn’t talking about these three groups in general. I was more specifically talking about the Forum of Inquilabi Leftist, (FOIL). My apologies for not spelling that out clearly.

      • HARRY

        From what you are saying is that the grass is always greener on the other side, if that is what you are saying then that’s your opinion. Still it’s not a real fact.

        • Malai

          There’s green grass on both sides, just in different areas. And a lot of bull sh*t too. Tred carefully, no matter which side you are on, you don’t want to step in sh*t!

          • HARRY

            I know where I am treding but do you know where you are treding? Or is this a winning contest for you at any price, including trampling over the history at the expense of the victims of the past.

  • HARRY

    The answer to your question is, yes it’s possible but it’s also very difficult because we live in a cesspool of maya which makes this process a difficult journey. Especially you with all your attraction with games lol. And me with other things and I not telling you what I like. lol. :)

  • M Raghavan

    The West may not have religion or a search for moksha, but it has an important quality called Sousilyam in Sanskrit. Affection and respect for individuals as individuals which I, as an Indian, have been striving to learn for most of my 50 years of life in the USA. It is instinctual to the Western society, learning to not judge someone based on skin color, race, education, religion, or sexual preference. This rare quality, embodied by Sri Rama in Hindu history, allows people to get along, and support each other in times of joy and sorrow.

    We Hindus divide ourselves in so many ways, first as HIndu versus non-Hindu, then as Brahmin versus non-Brahmin, then as one subcaste versus another, and then whether or not we support our subgroup or not. It is not one world, or one country, but a convergence of many, something which our own Dharma sastras forbid.

    India has an extraordinary sense of resiliency, which has allowed its temples and traditions to flourish, despite these prejudiced views. One can only imagine – and leave it to the imagination – to how wondrous our magical motherland would be if we were truly one people.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you for pointing out the positives on the western side! It can be too easy for me to see only our faults!

    • Malai

      “The West may not have religion or a search for moksha, but it has an
      important quality called Sousilyam in Sanskrit. Affection and respect
      for individuals as individuals which I, as an Indian, have been striving
      to learn for most of my 50 years of life in the USA.”

      The West has religion. It has always had it and its still huge in many parts of the West today. India also has sousilyam – affection and respect for individuals. Its just that these things take different shapes and forms as they are filtered through different cultures. On some things India has MORE respect for individuality then many western cultures. On some other things it doesn’t.

  • http://florforhillary.blogspot.com/ Eddie Bryan

    Oh, I know the problem so well. Or perhaps I do not. I do know it is very difficult to sustain vegetarianism in the U.S. Even those who are atheists or agnostics have difficulty calling anything theist but right wing Christianity. I watched TV for years, Amba, hoping to see a spiritual master appear thereon. I just didn’t get this thing about Her being in your Heart. I was having a lot of Heart difficulty then but I have learned from D. R. Butler to not dwell upon those bad feelings and thoughts, ugly memories. Continue to focus on the POSITIVE and on the DIVINE and a school or teacher will arise. I think I found my teacher in Gurumayi Chidvilasananda. I can’t point to extraordinary experiences but I am just getting some of the intense philosophy taught in her Siddha Yoga. Thou Art That is one. I was happy after many years to learn that That was Consciousness and recently with the help of reading Gurumayi’s Guru Swami Muktananda’s books I am coming to understand Oneness or Unity. Baba says and this may have its origin in Yoga Vasistha, there is no difference between an object and the perceiver of the object. That just clinched Oneness for me. I have been looking into a fellow who also followed Baba called Master Charles Cannon. He gives some video talks that greet us with “I welcome you all in recognition of our Oneness.” Recently I have read of Master Charles having been at a terrible tragedy in Mumbai when a hotel was attacked by terrorists. I had learned about this attack from my TV viewing but of course TV viewing is a worldly activity. I learned of Master Charles from a video I saw on Netflix which was a summary of some consciousness activity in the U.S. In Siddha Yoga they speak of the most ordinary people being Siddhas. For instance I have learned of butchers and prostitutes who were enlightened. We cannot tell they are Siddhas because of their profession. It reminds me of Kabir’s saying about announcing that you are renounced and indeed there must be many false sannyasis out there who wear the garb but are not truly aware of the Oneness. There are many arguments out there (in America and I presume India, too) about duality and monism and even materialism. It was disappointing to me to find so many of the rock and rollers were more devoted to sex and drugs than they could be to meditation. I was happy recently though to learn of Arlo Guthrie’s association with Ma Satya Bhagavati. Tina Turner, too, has done some work in Buddhism and I found a YouTube of her chanting some Buddhist mantras. I am sure there is more out there than we can see but remember it is all inside. It is our own consciousness and our own karma. Karma and dharma as I read in D. R. Butler’s latest lesson. Mine is about maya currently. I started out with a great thirst for the divine experience back when I was in my 20’s. I’m now 61 and soon to be 62 but that’s all maya. I am not this body. I Am That. I am Consciousness and Bliss as are You and all that You and I perceive. This bliss has become distorted by samskaras and karmas of the past or our dwelling on the negative in our mind. I know it is hard to be the eternal optimist. It does not appear to be very intellectual but the more positive you remain the more positive shall experience be says the sage Vasishtha.

    • Malai

      “Oh, I know the problem so well. Or perhaps I do not. I do know it is very difficult to sustain vegetarianism in the U.S.”

      How so? I found even more variety in the US in fruits and veggies than in my area of India.

      • Ambaa

        I’ve actually struggled with this too. It’s getting better, there are more and more restaurants with vegetarian choices. And of course one doesn’t have to eat out, but there’s a lot of meat around you in the U.S. (I can’t speak to India, having only visited there for two weeks at a time). I know for me, having grown up not Veg, that there is temptation all around me in America! The veg choices when one goes out to eat or goes to friends houses is usually an after thought and not as appealing as the meat courses. I have a friend who grew up veg and to her it is not a temptation, but I know what I’m missing!

        • Malai

          ” I know for me, having grown up not Veg,”

          I thought you grew up Hindu – the vegetarian kind.

          • Ambaa

            Well, it’s complicated. :)

            My parents are mostly veg. Very occasionally they eat some meat particularly when it means not upsetting family (but they don’t eat beef).

            However, they didn’t raise my brother and me veg. There’s a feeling in America that it’s depriving your kids and unfair for them not to have the option of meat (I guess there’s this thing about having the enzymes to digest meat?) So we did eat meat. My brother introduced me to McDonald’s :(

          • Malai

            Interesting. Most American vegetarians I’ve met are very strict about it, and most of them are not Hindus or Buddhists or even particularly spiritual. And then there are vegans who are even stricter. I’m actually surprised to hear that there are American vegetarians who raise their kids non-veg.

            I’m also interested in what organization your parents belonged to.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/gatheringnectar/ Deepika Birks

    I do think that Westerners have achieved enlightenment through Christianity — in convents and monasteries, traditionally. Those are not so common nowadays (though they still exist). I have known a woman (who has since passed on) who was truly genuinely self-realized and whose religion was Pentecostal Christianity. It’s not that enlightenment is not possible in Western religions but it’s sad that Western religions don’t demand it of their leaders. Why have so few of the Catholic saints been priests and so few priests become saints? Even the Pope doesn’t attain his position through self-realization. But who even aspires to sainthood anymore? Most people are following pop stars, not gurus.

    • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

      How is this possible, considering the Eternal Damnation, but only the Christian god, Dominionist, exclusivist religion mindset of the Abrahamic family of religions? It is responsible for all that we see in this world today. Please consider reading ALL of this, because one needs to be aware that all religions are NOT the same – http://rajivmalhotra.com/complete-list-rajiv-malhotra-articles/ – this is ABSOLUTELY necessary to understand the Western impact on religion. I keep seeing people in Sanaatana Dharma getting tripped up by Abrahamic concepts of religion.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/gatheringnectar/ Deepika Birks

        People are not religions. There are saints and mystics in all religions regardless of what the official teachings are/were. Hildegard of Bingen wasn’t Fred Phelps. Rumi wasn’t ISIS. Regardless of what your religion/culture teaches, some of the people within it will still find enlightenment. It is available to all even within cultures that place extra obstacles in the way.

        • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

          Do you believe that all religions are the same, or ultimately lead to the same summit on the mountain via different paths?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/gatheringnectar/ Deepika Birks

            Religions are certainly not all the same. They not only don’t have the same answers, they don’t even ask the same questions. Seeking salvation is not the same as seeking moksha.

            But enlightenment is available to people regardless of their culture and the official beliefs of their religions. It’s something that arises from within and not something you learn. That’s why Ramakrishna, who had already found it within, could try Christianity this week and Islam next and claim he’d found it there too; they don’t teach it, he already found it within (the only place it can be found).

            Do you believe only people on the subcontinent have ever found Truth?

          • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

            To answer your question, no, but it would be VERY difficult to do so living under Abrahamic religions.

            Since seeking salvation is not the same as seeking moksha, how can you say that a person is enlightened if they believe that there is a heaven and a hell, and you live only once, living under very difficult social conditions (maybe you are born to a gangster family and participate in dangerous illegal activities with no way out because leaving the underworld implies leaving the family, thusly leaving life on earth if you try to get out, yet you go to church faithfully every Sunday, living what would be an adharmic life)? Plus, under the principle of Dominionism, you have the right to take land away from non-Christians (look at the Keystone pipeline), and you have the right to “own” slaves and animals in any way you wish. How can anyone with these imperialist ideas be enlightened?

            The point I want to make is that western religions as structured don’t contribute to this state of enlightenment that you speak of. Why would ALL faithful Christians reach their version of Moksha after one lifetime, whereas many Hindus will take many lifetimes to reach that stage of Self, keeping in mind that Hindus would live a much more Dharmic life than Christians can, given the above paragraph? Looking at this from a Dharmic perspective, many Christians fail, and thusly are Eternally Damned, with no redemption possible after physical death. I don’t know how Christians where you live think, but this is how the people I know and live near think. They are homophobic among other phobias, they think that their religion is the one right way and will beat your head with a bible. What does this say about the Christians who are in your home country RIGHT NOW, attempting and doing forced conversions or conversions through fear. This is all part and parcel of Dominionism of Christianity. Remember that shruti is collapsed into smrti within the bible, leading to a frozen text that is Prophesy-based, History Centric. It is my belief that you are to arrive at enlightenment in the way that you can, How can you do that based upon a “heard” experience from 2000 years ago and living the ways of today, which doesn’t reflect the smrti of the times these books were written? I have seen too many Christians, as judgmental as they are, with the imperialistic, narrow views they have about people and life in general to even begin to think that these people would possibly reach the Christian equivalent of Moksha (if there would be a such a thing). It begs the question; why can Christians reach salvation in one lifetime, whereas Hindus typically need many lifetimes to reach that? To me, that puts down Sanaatanis as being less able to reach that stage of enlightenment than Christians. As though Christians were naturally superior.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/gatheringnectar/ Deepika Birks

            You are right that it would be more difficult under an Abrahamic framework. It’s like sunlight. It’s freely available to all. It’s easier if you live in a culture with beaches, but even if your culture encouraged staying indoors with the curtains drawn, some of the people would still find sunlight.

            I don’t think for one minute that “most”Christians attain enlightenment in one lifetime, much less that they go to eternal hell if they fail too. I think (and I base this on my understanding of Krishna’s words in the Gita) that the devout go to a heavenly realm for a time and are then reincarnated.

            I also think the Bible resembles the Puranas in structure and that some people are at that level. I forget the Sanskrit word, but we are each at different levels and can understand different teachings. That’s why Vyasa wrote the Mahabharata for those who could not grasp the Vedas and Upanishads. That’s why there are even simpler Hindu scriptures that amount to: “Do good not bad. If you are bad, you will go to hell and then come back with a hard life.” These are not the highest teachings but they are appropriate for some seekers, who are not close to moksha but can at least earn punya.

          • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

            Thank you, Deepika, for helping me to understand better your position. I agree with the first two paragraphs, and I admit insufficient knowledge on my part to fully understand the last paragraph in regards to the intended purposes of the traditional scripts. I did not realize the relationship of the Mahābhārata to the Vedas, the Purāṇas, and the Upaniṣads. It almost sounds like to me that Christians will indeed go to a heaven, but they’re going to be disappointed to find themselves there only for a short time and back in another body. Could this be why babies cry when they first come to this world? They have to start over again, and they have NO IDEA what is going to happen this time.

          • HARRY

            This is fine in theory but if I wasn’t seeking than how is it possible that I will find this realization because no Abrahamic faith tells you that you have to seek this, if you see what I am saying and same thing that Stephanie Ellison is also asking you.

          • HARRY

            If you are saying that bible is same as a puran then you are making a mistake and if you have read a copy of one which is same as a puran then I have not yet come across one and if you know one then let me know because I would love to read it.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/gatheringnectar/ Deepika Birks

            I didn’t say the Bible is the same as a Purana. I said the Bible resembles the Puranas in structure. I am not at all making a mistake. It’s not similar to, say, the Upanishads but is, in fact, similar to the Puranas.

            Puranas contains elements like: the creation of the universe, a secondary creation after dissolution (both of these things are in Genesis). They contain stories about the origin of humans (again, see Genesis). They contain genealogies of kings and their stories (see the entire rest of the Hebrew Scriptures: from Genesis through, especially Numbers, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles). Puranas have stories about how things got so adharmic that the gods had to descend and clean up the mess (see the Gospels). Some Puranas have stories about the next avatar (see Revelation). Sometimes they contains huge lists of laws (see Leviticus).

            They are clearly the same type of literature, like Twilight is a series of YA fantasy novels even though it’s not the same as the Harry Potter series of YA fantasy novels. Same genre, not the same series.

          • HARRY

            Why would you put Leviticus in same line. This book justifies rape as ok thing to do as long as you paid the owner of the woman in question. It also States that you can take the non believers wife and daughters and do what you want with them and then dispose them after when you get tired of them. Last time when I looked at it this, I don’t think our puran tell you to do this and says it’s ok.

            Note: when I have used the word owner above is because according to the book you are a property and not an individual in your own right. I think you need to study them intensively to know what it really is trying to say.

            By giving some of these examples it’s same as you have given your house keys the thief.

          • Uma

            Religion and spirituality is entirely different. Spirituality is your path to GOD/universal consciousness/energy. Religions cannot offer you that. They tend to make you cling on to material forms. You are trying to be modest when you say Bible resembles puranas. Where is the resemblance. Puranas through their narration of events/stories tell about each aspect of code of conduct a man practises in life. But I rarely find any such in Bible

          • Ambaa

            Well said, Deepika. I think this is what I’ve been trying to articulate. While I don’t think all religions are the same or lead to the same ends, I do think the Truth is within us all and some people are able to access that even from within a system that doesn’t teach it. They are then able to see that Truth through the lens of the religion they have. (I have an obvious bias here about what Truth is, of course).

          • HARRY

            A true goldsmith will always find a gem valuable or not and will be able to use it for its purpose that does not mean it’s same value as a diamond. Only an Expert knows this

    • HARRY

      What do you mean when you say that this person was enlighten or realized. Just curious? What comparison have you used coming to this conclusion?

  • IaMJ

    Western people have got enlightenment. Robert Adams is one good example. He was a follower of Sri Ramana Maharishi.

    But it seems that their numbers are less compared to people in the subcontinent.

    • Ambaa

      Yes, the numbers seem less. I guess that’s what I’m noticing!

  • Malai

    Yes westerners can gain enlightenment. I actually find a lot of Indians to be more attached and more materialistic than many western people. That being said it is wonderful how in India we still have a place in society for the ordinary vairagi. I think as Buddhism and Hinduism increase in the west, there will be more cultural space made for them there as well.

  • Shriram Bhandari

    Hello Mrs Amba,

    In the article you mentioned that Westerners feel Moksha is something to be attained. But you must understand that many Hindus also feel the same. As per Madhavacharya the proponent of the Dvaita school Moksha is going to Vaikunta. As per Ramanuja a person attains Saroopya Mukti which means that on Mukt a person attains the form of Lord Vishnu. This is just to show that many Hindus do have the idea of attaining Moksha. Whether a westerner can have enlightenment. I would like to put it in a Zen way viz we are all enlightened we just don’t realize it. Enlightenment has nothing to do with culture or regions since everyone is already Sat Chit Ananda. But people are fundamentally seeking Sat Chit Ananda but do not realize.