By Rohan Narine
My fiancé told me when I got ready to write my personal statement for graduate school that, "You know, when you get ready to write your statement, every word should count. It's got to be powerful." This post, written without proofreading, copying and pasting from MS Word, or sourced for hyperlinks, comes at a time when I meditate on what Sadhana stands for. At the beginning of every Sadhana meeting, which takes place at Sunita's loving home in Brooklyn, she would allow me to be me. I would lead off by telling a story. This is one of the stories I told.
Imagine you're staying in a fancy hotel, and you pull up to it in a Lincoln Town Car. The concierge opens the door and takes out your luggage from the trunk. The two of you take the elevator to your suite, and he graciously places your luggage on the floor. He kindly asks you if you would like any coffee, tea, or anything else to drink. You politely decline. He then asks you if you would like to order anything from the menu, but again, you politely decline. He eerily remains in the room, waiting for something. Now, let's restart. Imagine you pull up to your fancy hotel chauffeured in a Lincoln Town Car. Instead of a concierge opening the door, it's Lord Krishna, or, it's Jesus Christ, or whomever you believe you'll see when you breathe your last. Imagine the ecstasy, the awe, the fright. Will you let your God take your luggage to your suite? Yet, the Lord does so anyway. The Lord graciously takes the elevator with you, walks you to your room, and places your luggage on the floor beside your bed. Will He ever ask you for tea, coffee, or something from the menu? Wouldn't it be you that desires to remain there instead? The moral of this story is to see the Lord in everyone. See each person you meet as the Lord, and be as inquisitive towards each person just as you would the Lord.
While I was telling this story I could see the person sitting across from me beginning to cry. I looked at her and for that eternal second, her eyes told me that she was so happy. It was all the validation I needed to know that I had a gift, and it was Sunita that saw that gift in me and allowed me to be me. After that, the meeting was, as usual, a wonderful one. We ate, laughed, exchanged ideas, and learned. That was in 2012, before the picture for this post was taken. Today, out of the five people in the rectangular boxes, three are no longer with Sadhana. Things change. They changed because we, like any fledging organization, are growing. Yet with growth comes different ideas of how that should happen. Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, is at a juncture where those differing ideas have led to no more stories being told at the beginning of meetings. Today, sadly, the one board member expressing the most dissatisfaction, unfortunately, is me.
In between juggling an internship, organizing a youth camp at my local Mandir, writing weekly for my local paper, and taking a summer class twice a week, I lost the one thing I did best: meditation. I lost my place in my own Self. I stopped practicing what I preached. In addition to this, my dad, the best God damn father I know, secretly told me one evening that he's deciding who should succeed him as President of the Mandir of which he founded 14 years ago. The conservative base it supports is in many ways not yet ready for the Sadhana Coalition. Or, at least, I'm not fully knowledgable about how to accept the confluence of these two. How do I balance the spur of Progressive Hinduism, which brings to the forefront issues such as what it means to be a gay Hindu living in America, to addressing domestic violence amongst Indo-Caribbean Hindus in Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, to a three year old at my father's Mandir who just wants to chant a mantra to Lord Ram and Lord Krishna, and nothing more? Who do I call out to for the answer? Who will hear?
In November, I'll be thirty. I say to myself often now, "S**t, can you believe that Rohan? Your ass isn't in your late twenties anymore." With that, I've been strangely attracted to Atheism. I just have to admit, for the record, Christopher Hitchens is the best damn debater I ever saw. He had no equal, and in my opinion never will. His colleagues Sam Harris and Lawrence Krauss are also great debaters too, and together they've made me think of so many things that I never used to question within myself. "Is Lord Rama really God? Am I really going to see the thousand-armed, hundred-headed form of Lord Krishna that Arjuna saw in chapter eleven of the Bhagavad Gita? Does it really matter?" I don't know if the youth in my Mandir are ready to listen to these questions, or is this exactly what being a Progressive Hindu is all about?
There's another blog post on this site written by Sethu Nair. She brilliantly says in her opening that she feels that she doesn't even need to explain what God means to her. It's such a beautiful yet haunting sentence to me. I think about that so often. I questioned my friend's "Hindu-ness" at a recent meeting, almost hiding the fact that I myself have been doing the same for almost a year now. Did I pander to conservatism in attacking my friend's deeply held religious beliefs? Did I misjudge them even if they, like me, have delved into Atheism? I say yes, I did pander, and I am sorry for doing so. I wrongly made accusations that I myself have queried within, and feeling torn, decided the only way to let it out is to write about it. I guess the million dollar question is then, "What Does It Mean To Be A Progressive Hindu?"
In my opinion, being a Progressive Hindu, as my old friend Vijay Balakrishnan said, is "To lose the faith, come around the bend, find the answers you were searching for, and return to what you once lost." It is my intention to do just that. With that, I bid farewell. I bid farewell to the old me that once thought that simply identifying as Hindu would solve everything. I bid farewell to the old me that never questioned the true origins of the Rig Veda, or if Lord Ram was ever a God. I bid farewell to the old me that would never dare say, "Is all this s**t just made up?"
However, on the brink of thirty, I say hello. I say hello to the Rohan that doesn't think too much about the future anymore. I say hello to the Rohan that treats everyone as the Lord, even Atheists. I say hello to the questions. I say hello the meditations on them, and to my fiancé, I say thank you.