This has been fermenting in my consciousness ever since my recent voyage to India. I found in India I did not relate at all to Indian people and their ways, and surprisingly the Hindus. After visiting many Hindu ashrams and talking to many Hindu pundits and swamis, and socializing with many Hindus, I realized just how repulsive I found it all. Today, this is a culture steeped in superstition, blind faith, dogma, dead traditions and hypocrisy. I will give some examples.
I approached a Siddha Yogi(the Yogis with dreadlocks) to learn Yoga. He had a board up saying he taught classes. When I inquired about taking his classes, he rudely said to me, “You must fulfill my conditions you must shave your head, cook and clean for me, and go to the streets and beg for food” Needless to say, I did not accept his conditions. Later, he granted me some time to talk to him and ask questions. I asked him, “I want to be a yogi like you, gain mastery of my mind and body” He replied, “To do this you must stop eating” I said, “If I stop eating I will die” he replied, “Exactly, this is why it impossible for you to gain control of your mind and body” I then pointed out the vegetables lying besides him, saying, “Well, even you have to eat” He replied, “Exactly, I cannot control my mind and body” I then said, “Well, then if we cannot control the mind and body completely, we must do whatever we can to gain as much control as we can” He replied it was impossible, “Everything is polluted, food, water, air, light” and then proceeded to tell me how were all doomed and next year “Shiva’s third eye is going to open” I asked him what he will be doing next, he said, “I will go and beg, and when the season changes, I will go elsewhere and beg”
I met a Hindu pandit at an ashram, who took an interest in me and started to preach at me. He asked me whether I was married or not. I told him I was not interested in getting married yet or maybe ever. He was dismayed, “No, you must get married, because without marriage you will be not able to attain liberation in this life, it is an obligation you must fulfill” He then proceeded to tell me a mythological story from the Puranas how a celibate man was forced to reincarnate again to fulfill his martial duties before he could get liberation(he was also punished by the gods for not doing his duties) He then told me If I really wanted to be Hindu I would have to learn how to speak Hindi or Sanskrit, wear Indian clothes(dhoti) and have a pony tail and abide by my caste. He then created my astrological chart and started to interpret it for me, and basically got everything wrong about me.
I attended a Durga festival(divine mother festival, on the eve of Dushera) During a devotional hymn, a woman holding a baby seemed to lose it, she started whirling around violently and psychotically, bumping into everybody around her. Everybody moved back to give her space and she proceeded to do her dance of destruction as if the divine mother had possessed her. Eventually somebody was able to take the baby off her, so the baby was not hurt fortunately. The priest there then consecrated her with holy water and basically fed her delusion. When the hymn ended, the woman ran away, and a few people ran after her.
At the same festival a little boy dressed like Ganesha was bought in ritually, and then crowds of people thronged to the boy and put money at his feet. People pushed and shoved each other just so they can get to the little boy to get his blessings.
I decided to go to a Krishna temple I was meaning to go to for a while. I participated in the devotional ceremony where we danced, sung some hymns together and then ritually walked around the temple. Then when it ended we prostrated before the Krishna idol with her heads down for a long time, whilst repeating a prayer together. An old monk behind me used that has a chance to take my music player outside of my pocket. Fortunately, a boy had seen him take it out, so I was able to get it back. I did not create a scene.
I went to a traditional Vedanta ashram in Utterkashi to learn Vedanta. They promised they would give me instruction in Vedanta in English and were going to arrange classes for me, meanwhile I was expected to attend the daily routine(morning wake up and prayer, Vedanta class, evening wake up and prayer) The first thing I noticed was how pretentious it all was, I had monks coming up to me to preach at me all the time, not to have a discussion with me, but preach their knowledge to me as if they were trying to convince themselves more than me. When I told them I already had some knowledge in Vedanta and had read English translations of most of the core texts, I was told none of my knowledge was valid, because it was learned not from an authorized Vedanta guru and in Sanskrit. In the Vedanta class, it was amusing to watch how everybody was trying to look cleverer than the next person, and I personally witnessed some nasty gossiping. I felt sorry for this woman who was being bullied by her peers, they kept on laughing under their breath whenever she said something.
I also met an American yogi there, who told me how he was discriminated against by the Vedanta community because he was non-Indian, and because he was a Yogi. He told me has been actively persecuted and harassed by the monks.
In Gangotri I went to a traditional Krishna ashram run by a Sadhu. I met an Australian seeker there who was on a spiritual journey and was doing karma yoga at the ashram. He was young and naive and was horribly exploited by the Sadhus there. They made him do everything, even clean their own dishes, they asked him for money all the time to get groceries(in addition to rent) They would laugh and ridicule him in front of him in Hindu. When he finally ran out of money they asked him to leave. They passed most of their day doing cannabis and other drugs, and were high most of the time.
At another Krishna Yoga ashram in Rishikesh, the Yoga guru who was also a monk and devotee of Krishna, made a sexual advance on one of his female pupils in private. She was so traumatized, scared and then decided to leave the ashram. I then find out that the Yoga guru had also tried it with his other female pupils.
I went to another Vedanta ashram where Vedanta classes were taking place every morning. The head Vedanta teacher was an arrogant South Indian man, and loved the sound of his own voice. I did not get on well with him, and I once asked a few legitimate questions in class and he silenced me. He preferred lengthy monologues and hardly ever answered anybodies question. He walked proudly and arrogantly(he believed he was god) and never smiled. I later found from long time students that they did not like him. They complained how the ashram was falling apart and revealed there were many power struggles going on in the ashram. The management was rude, they did not even make eye contact with me when I talked to them for information on courses etc.
Something sinister almost took place with me when a Sadhu approached me at a festival. I was just standing on my own, minding my own business, when a Sadhu beckoned me. He spoke to me in English(he had obviously guessed I am foreign) He then tried to charm me, “Something has made me talk to you, I need to tell you something” He then told me “You have a pure heart, people like you are rare.” He then invited me to meet him at 4am in the morning besides the Ganga in a remote place, he was going to summon his deity with a ritual then and teach me some Yoga exercises that I needed to know. Suffice it to say I did not go, but I do wonder what could have happened if I did! I saw him again at another time, he seemed to be high on drugs.
I met a Vedic studies scholar and was seeing him for a few weeks. Initially, I was very impressed with his scholarly knowledge of Hindu scriptures and grasp of his knowledge. Later I realised he was just a bookworm, classes with him became tedious, and ridiculous when he started to tell me blatantly unscientific facts from the Puranas, “It is impossible to leave the solar system, we will never be able to leave it” or “You must give ritual offerings to the sun in the morning, because the offering of the water goes to the sun” and I must perform the ritual of offering to my dead forefathers, otherwise I will incur sin.
He then proceeded to rigidly define my behavior “You must only eat once in the day, you must wake up at 3am the morning, you must get out and pray to your deity, and put your right foot forward first, you must eat facing such and direction” It was a long list of DO’a and DONT’s.
It can be argued that I have had some bad experiences, encountered some bad apples, but I say not so. These experiences were very common and I have experienced them both at the higher stratras and lower stratras of Hinduism.
If this is Hinduism, I don’t want to be Hindu.