Khalid Hussain (khalid_hussain) wrote,
Khalid Hussain


On and off I find myself returning in my mind to the brief time I spent in London in April of 2011. I was there for an international symposium on the composer on whom I had written my dissertation, but I also had a bit of quality time hanging out with myself. Maybe this has come back to me because I made a similar trip to Montreal last month and had some similar experiences there. There seems to be a way that I conduct myself when I'm out of town--and particularly when I'm out of the country for academic conferences--that is about slipping out of sight as much as possible. It seems that I want to capitalize on my freedom from the typical demands of day-to-day life to tap into something internal, and to preserve the essence of that experience so that I can recall it later when needed.

During that academic year my partner had returned to school to pursue his Master's degree (while still working full time). That was an event that led to my distancing myself from the Amma org even more than I had already done. I just couldn't see the point of running off to satsang every Saturday evening since, because of his classes and coursework, we were seeing even less of one another than usual.

I think this is one of those cases where a decision has been made, i.e. my decision to leave the org, whose significance only comes into view gradually. Whereas my involvement with the org and its personnel (friends, as well as semi-official and official personnel) initially appeared to signal an opening into previously obscured aspects of myself, there are things about the org than can become extremely limiting over time. For one, the org is profoundly anti-intellectual, so it is not possible to grow into a deeper awareness of traditions within Hinduism through it directly: it is necessary to pursue this end through independent study and/or to take on the burden of secondary (or even tertiary) involvements with other teachers and organizations in the attempt to turn that into a reality. In my case, there was the time I spent at the Hindu temple, with the local Kali puja organization, and with the work of Peter Wilberg, Shambhavi Chopra, and others. For another, it seems that, in order to keep growing experientially within the org, it is necessary to devote increasing amounts of time and financial resources to travel (programs, retreats, ashram stays) and to increase one's volunteer activities. Essentially, this means draining resources away from one's other relationships as well as one's academic and/or vocational pursuits. (When one's vocation is academic, this means essentially sacrificing all of one's supposedly "free" or "spare" time and money, i.e. the resources that need to be devoted to essentially unpaid research labor, without which one might as well plan on being a failure professionally). So, with my partner's return to school, I also found myself rededicating myself to my work.

Another temporal marker came in the form of my visit to my mother's columbarium in September 2010. I remember that, by that time, I had lost a sense of purpose in my daily Hindu spiritual practices, and had temporarily resumed the practice of salat. This continued through my time in London in 2011, when I was reading Janja Lalich's book, Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships. I also recall a plaque on the building in which I was staying, indicating that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan had resided there for a time. It only occurred to me recently that it had taken a second attempt to re-establish salat, beginning this past January, to begin to "take back my life" on a deeper level than I had been able to do in 2010-11. This is not something that I could accomplish through psychologizing or through secularizing alone, although each of those pursuits has played a role in my attempts to reconstruct my life.

To return to the topic of the Amma org for a moment, another thing that began to bother me was that the opportunities to participate more fully in the org turned out to be class-based: essentially, only those with more dispensable income than I could afford the travel to the Indian ashram, the trips to the November retreats in Michigan, etc. And, outside of those "enhanced experiences" of time with Amma, the mentality of the people that I knew in the org seemed to remain superficially liberal (for the most part), but ultimately very attached to a class-based status quo. Meanwhile, on FB and elsewhere, I saw Muslim friends and public figures working to challenge conventional assumptions on a number of different fronts, and I came to realize that I ultimately identified more with the things that they were pursuing than with the mindset of people within the Amma org, around whom I felt increasingly silenced and alienated. It isn't as if I didn't raise questions or objections within the org, but when I did I was met with various attempts to restore a status quo that began to seem less and less relevant to my life as I was coming to understand it.

OK, well, my father is here and he is getting out of the shower and about to have breakfast, so I'll sign off for now.



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