Surprisingly, mostly to me, I seem to have found a happy peace with my path, which is probably the reason that posts here have been sporadic. I’m really okay with that.
I visited a local saree shop, run by a woman who has built it from scratch, against social and familial pressures, into a very respectable, fine place to purchase high-end fashions. She caters to the discerning bridal crowd. Occasionally I go in to buy shoes, since her selection of juti and chappals is better than pretty much anybody else in the city, and she’s a lovely person at that. We’ve been slowly building a friendship. She remembers when I last came in, and doesn’t care too much that I can’t afford most of what she sells. This past weekend, I finally screwed up enough courage to ask her which temple she goes to, as a sort of sideways attempt to see if I could go with her sometime. This opened the floodgates, and she invited me to go with her to the Sai Baba temple “any time,” told me about the supper Sunday program that the local ISKCON temple puts on weekly, and invited me to Holi at the Sai Baba temple. I may just take her up on her invitations (sadly, though, not this weekend, since I’ve got much to do and cannot afford the extra time). At any rate, I look forward to nurturing a friendship with her, since she’s a lovely individual. I’m getting more comfortable talking about Hinduism with other Hindus.
I’ve found a comfortable place with my personal practice, as well. I have no idea (nor do I care particularly much) if my daily devotions are strictly “right.” I don’t burn ghee lamps, because my cats think they’re the tastiest thing on the planet. I was appalled the first time I found little lick marks on the unburned portion of the wick after a morning’s puja, but only briefly, because I imagine that God has a sense of humor, and the cats are as much of that great beautiful oneness as the rest of us, so perhaps the blessing of that little bit of ghee did them good.
I’ve also been able to understand one of the things that previously baffled me the most about Hindu belief. I had made a post earlier (way at the beginning of my blogging) in which I did not understand what a person was supposed to do about human suffering, while still respecting each person’s individual path and karma. Were we supposed to just let them be, so they could learn the lessons they were born into this lifetime to learn? How could a good person let someone suffer? How could this path I’d chosen let people suffer in the name of karma.
Clearly at the time I did not understand karma. That’s okay. Nobody is expected to know everything all at once. That’s the beauty of learning.
Much of this confusion came from a fairly typical source – pop culture. I had watched the film Delhi 6 (a fantastic film, by the way) and the main character’s grandmother had responded to suffering of others by saying that it was their fate to suffer, and that she couldn’t do anything about it. At the time I took that to be the entirety of Hindu belief. And that bothered me, because it didn’t match up with the other things I knew about Sanatana Dharma as a path. How can you let someone suffer if your belief system tells you that God exists within them, the same as you? If you see God in that other person, how can you stand by and not help them, if you can?
Some time after that I learned about the different forms of yoga, and particularly seva yoga. I learned that a form of seva is service to your fellow human beings, because in serving others you are serving God. Suddenly the dilemma was solved. Sure, there are people out there who live lives that are not as privileged as mine, or as easy as mine. But there are many different kinds of suffering, and many ways of learning and growing. The choices I make are what affects my own karma. So presumably, if I am here in this lifetime to learn about the Self, recognizing and honoring the Self in others is a logical extension of that. And if someone sees true kindness, perhaps they will be able to share that with another person.