Let’s talk about something complicated. Something I hardly ever talk or write about. A conversation with one of my dearest friends made me think that it might be a good idea to address something that in the past few months has taken root in my mind. Religion.
I was raised Christian although my parents never were very strict or fanatic about it. Actually they left the church because as my father used to say they didn’t mind God or anything but his ground staff is so inadequete. And they were probably quite right about that. Christian religion has in many centuries proven to be a Janus’ head. On the one side bringing a lot of good things to the world but on the other side also responsible for an enormous amount of suffering to people all over the world in the name of the Christian God. That evil obviously being done to others by people in God’s flock. The great herdsman in the sky might not have meant it that way but it certainly has happened. So my parents left church and I was raised mainly secular since puberty.
Later in my life I returned to the church, became active as a church member and even became a member of a number of local dioceses. I worked for the world diocese which in the protestant church is mostly connected with charities to aid people in less fortunate areas on the globe. Mainly Africa and Asia. South America being the undisputed working ground for the Catholics obviously made the Protestants look for other areas like Africa and Asia. I did that for a couple of years but when my own life turned bad and I had to confront my fellow church members with the fact that I’m transgender they fairly quickly turned away and in the end the whole church left my life. And I lost every sense for religion as a by effect. The reality distortion ended.
In the last ten years I had an enormous struggle in my life transitioning from physical male to physical female and adjusting to societies gender bias on transgenders and woman. Me being both was quite a challenge and if any help was there it most certainly did not come from the church that I had sacrificed years of my life to. I was disregarded and left alone. They simply never cared. I ended up breaking away from religion and as I look at things now that was mainly due to my personal disappointment of what my father warned me for. God’s ground staff that is in many if not a majority of cases a bunch of hypocrits. I still feel that way.
But I never realized that religion – which is a western word to describe any conviction of a power or combination of powers that are stronger than man – is a concept that can have other angles to look at. The last two years changed my views and feelings about that.
Since about one and a half year I am involved in working with Bhutanese exiles and Nepalese people. Most of them Hindu. Of course Buddhism is in the region where I work also of great importance but also something that is at least affiliated with the sort of Hinduism that’s out there. As a writer and film maker I have learned to observe and to learn from what I see, hear and experience and that is why I got an interest in the soul of Hinduism. It’s also the reason why I denounce Buddhism as it is in my view one of the most selfish ways of life aiming strictly at the higher self where I prefer to lift the other and not primarly myself. And although I am juvenile in my knowledge of Hinduism I learned some essential things. One of the most important is that the label religion is indeed a western culturally coded label for something that is an integral part of daily life in a manner that goes way beyond what from a Christian perspective can be seen as religion. Hinduism as I see it now is much more a way of life than anything else. And quite honestly I am slowly learning the importance of visualizing human characteristics, emotions and life tasks into for humans mentally manageable images. And after some time I realized that what a lot of Hindu’s seem to be doing is selecting these characteristics, emotions and life tasks that are related to them individually as the ones they visualize, honor and transform in deities. Recognizable immortal beings that are holy and represent them. A Goddess for wellbeing, a God for manlyhood, a Goddess for femininity, a combined God for combined manlyhood and femininity, a God of war and struggle, a Goddess of revenge, a God of prosperity and reproduction, a Goddess of education and so on and so forth. The beauty of it being the ability of any man or woman to choose which visualitzations are most relevant for him or herself and making them the ones to honor. Therebye honoring their own desires, strengths, weaknesses, joys and fears.
I think I understand that or at least I recognize the need for some sort of visualization of my own characteristics, hopes and fears, desires and axieties. So I made a list. A list of Hindu Gods that, studying the old Hindu tales, relate to me as a person. In who I am and what I do. For me that’s a combination of Shiva and Parvaati being Ardhanarishvara. Which is pretty obvious as it depicts the inseperability of masculin and feminine energies being the stem where everything grows from and is being created from. Not a strange choice for someone who is a transgender woman and an artist. But there are more on the list that are close to me. Funny enough Lakshmi is not there for me as I do not strive for personal (financial) wealth. The other one is the dancing Shiva or Nataraja depicting the God as creator and destructor and thus recreating good and beauty after destruction of ignorance and evil. Another thing that is close to my heart being an ever changing individual who doesn’t feel comfortable in an environment that doesn’t handle change. Myself being change in person.
So there I am, my little house temple where I do puja in mornings and evenings shows both Nataraja and Ardhanarishvara as the two most important Godly visualizations of what matters most in my life. And so in honoring them I honor myself and in loving the puja rite that I am actively learning helps me in strengthening myself.
For most westerners this might be gobbledygook and for most Asians this might be a very primitive way of looking at Hinduism and I suppose they are both right. From their perspective. But it’s only my own perspective that counts in this matter. I am still not overly religious and I am certainly not a Hindu. But I feel much more confortable with the hindu elements and Gods in my life helping me through the bigger challenges of life and the sometimes dark of the day and night. It helps me to be more attached to the daily rhythm by doing both morning and evening puja and although I certainly am not completely familiair with the exact rites I am studying them and slowly allowing myself to exercise. It’s good to read the Vedian books. It’s good to read the eastern wisdom in the old Hindu tales. Good because I learn from them. And maybe that is all what it is about. A form, format or visualization that allows me again to look at the meaning of my existence and my challenges from a fresh perspective. And maybe I end up being half a Hindu. I don’t mind that. At all. I do hope that my more educated Hindu friends do not mind my simplification of what my relationship with Hinduism is developing into.
After all ‘the art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe in’ as Gustave Flaubert once wrote.
Alice © 2012