The Guru Mantra

   गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णुः The source of creation is my teacher, living is my teacher.
   गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः The death that comes for everyone is my teacher.
   गुरुःसाक्षात् परब्रह्म I am my teacher. My highest consciousness is my transcendent self.
   तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नम: Before these and all others who illuminate the darkness in my life, I bow.


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My spiritual journey has been a long, strange, trip. One I'm still on. In 2021 during my 200 hour yoga teacher training I learned a lot about what Hinduism is really about. Ever since I was a child I hava had a strong, personal, conviction that everything is one. A universal oversoul in which each of us is like a single molecule. How aware is the molecule of the whole being? We can't be sure, but it doesn't seem like they're aware at all. Obviously there have been times when I questioned that feeling, especially when presented with religions or spiritual philosophies that said otherwise when I was young. That conviction is what led me to paganism, where such beliefs aren't rejected by any of the many diverse practices and belief systems that fall under the pagan umbrella. Hinduism, though, is based on the singular principle that my lifelong belief is how God works.

Saying that discovery changed my entire perspective is an understatement. My sense of recognition was so strong I was intitially confused. I feel awkward saying I became a Hindu. Hinduism itself does not believe in conversion. All I can really say is that in the fall of 2021 I became a practicing Hindu. Unfortunately, I haven't found a lineage or congregation to join, or a human I would call my guru. I have the scriptures I can get good translations of, I have the tiny pockets of community online of Hindus that share similiar philosophies, and I have my faith. So far that has been guru enough. I'm forming a relationship with Maa Kali, including her many other forms. Lakshmi has been very present in my life recently, and it has been so needed.

One of the more surprising things in this transformation has been realizing how much I didn't know about what Hinduism actually is, and in doing that I realized some things I thought I understood were not only massively insulting to Hindus, but moreso massively insulting to anyone who is part of Indian culture. I really can't overstate how much of our ideas about India and Hinduism are remnants of British Colonial narratives. They were never meant to inform anyone of the truth. On the other hand the inherently fascistic Hindu nationalist movements that have periodically formed in resistance to colonial forces also aren't interested in the truth any more than the American GOP or the German Nazi Party. They're interested in things like ownership, purity, and dubious historical 'proof' for their ideas. Those world views have no place for someone like me in them. If you've ever wondered why some people take fascism so personally, that's why.




Anyway, here's a quick run down of some misconceptions most people have about India and/or Hinduism.


Hindus do not worship cows, in fact there are more meat-eaters than vegetarians in India these days. More and more Hindus are eating meat, and growing non-Hindu populations of Athiests, Agnostics, Muslims, and Buddhists all have varying beliefs about eating meat. This thought process is involved with one of the larger sects of Hinduism in the modern era. Followers of Vishnu and his avatars, which includes the popular Krishna incarnation, have a special affinity for cows and are more strict in their vegetarian practices. Another misconception is that Hindus worship numerous gods, or at the very least expansive pantheons similar to the Olympians of Ancient Greece but larger and more complex. Most Hindus in the modern world believe in one absolutely singular force in the universe that would fit the Western criteria for the word 'God'. They interact with a face of that deity that appeals to them (in my case, Kali) but only that 'version' of the divine. If they interact with others they are distinctly seen as different appearances of their 'real' God. Ideally that means that Hindus who follow different faces of the universal divine can all respect that the only difference between them is a personal 'vibe' for a different god, but religions, historically, are not super ideal. Those are just some glaring examples and they barely scratch the surface. Some of our misonceptions are three or four layers of misinformation deep.

On top of all that, the few things westerners do know have been so appropriated by other cultures that we often don't even know that they're related to Hinduism or Indian culture. Reincarnation, a universal omniscient omnipresent unconditionally loving God, chakras, meditation, mindfullness. Other things like karma and yoga are pervasively and stubbornly misunderstood by westerners. The few other crumbs that slip trhough are attributed to Buddhism. Once you know it becomes incredibly glaring.