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Ardhanari

January 2010

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ronaroll in glbt_hindus

Introduction

Om Namah Shivaya

Thank you, medusaowl, for starting this group. I found this group yesterday and have read through the previous posts and comments. I am particularly impressed with spiritofnow's comments and background.

I'm a 45 y.o. WM in a 23-year relationship with a 44 y.o. WM. I was raised Roman Catholic but began to feel uncomfortable with that religious identity at about the same time that I began to come out in college. I have consciously been on a search that has combined psychology and spirituality ever since that time.

Beginning in 1985, I began attending psychic groups and was introduced to A Course in Miracles, other channeled teachings, and the writings of Ken Keyes (The Handbook to Higher Consciousness). Through a friend of the friend who introduced me to the Course I first heard of Sufism. From that point on I became interested in spiritual paths that had historical and cultural roots that seemed to reach deeper than the New Age ideas I had been exposed to up to that point. I became interested in Sufism, Gnosticism, and Hindu mysticism.

My first social contact with a mystical tradition came in 1992, when I met the Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order and was initiated by him. I tried to build an Islamic foundation to my spiritual practice, with limited success. Later that same year, I read Mark Thompson's Gay Spirit and learned that Christopher Isherwood (author of the Berlin Stories that formed the basis for the show and film Cabaret) had been a disciple of Swami Prabhavananda of the Ramakrishna Order in Hollywood. I was intrigued to learn that Ramakrishna had been a Bengali saint who sometimes dressed in women's clothing as part of his religious ceremonies and who seemed to show quite a bit of favor toward his male disciples. It also turned out that an American Sufi shaykh named Lex Hixon had just published a book on Ramakrishna that same year. From that time forward I continued to practice Sufism, but my heart was also drawn toward Ramakrishna. I visited the Ramakrishna Center in NYC and the swami there was very welcoming to me, but I couldn't quite find the intensity of devotion and ecstasy there that I had found in the Sufi order. A couple of years later I met Lex Hixon at the Sufi mosque where he was shaykh and I discussed my spiritual background and my interest in Ramakrishna with him. 

I relocated in 1996 and, in early 1998 I began to go online from home for the first time. I discovered the emerging presence of gay Muslims online at that time and eventually met a young gay Muslim of Indian descent in the city in which I was living. I began to attend prayers with him at the mosque and at the university where he attended. It was a pretty intense experience, and I gradually came to love it. A couple of years later I met a Sufi teacher who had been a student of Lex Hixon and attended zikrs (Sufi ceremonies) regularly at his home. It was the first time I had really become integrated into a spiritual community where I felt comfortable being out. I also co-founded a Yahoo group for GLBTQ Sufis. Through my gay Muslim friend I became involved in Al-Fatiha, an organization for GLBTQ Muslims.

In 2002 I relocated again and, although I tried to maintain my ties to Sufism and (mainstream) Islam, I found it more difficult to do than I had anticipated. In 2003 I met a gay devotee of Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) and immediately entered into prolonged states of profound spiritual and personal insight. I met Amma that summer and had a really profound experience. I maintained my Sufi practices for another year, but received a mantra from Amma in the summer of 2004 and established daily spiritual practices within the Divine Mother tradition. Since then I have joined a local satsang and have gone through some ups and downs with other gay devotee friends.

My partner has been to see Amma in 2006 and 2007, and this year we will attend one of her retreats together for the first time. He was raised Protestant, but entered the Catholic church as an adult in 2002 and has been very active in a local Franciscan parish that is known for its gay and lesbian ministries. He has also been involved in servant leadership and has recently completed an internship in spiritual direction.

I seem to need a social and emotional component to my spirituality in order for it to achieve the fullness of expression that I look for. But I''m a professional academic and I have a need for an active intellectual life as well. I often feel frustrated with devotees who seem to plateau at a certain level in their practice, but don't seem interested in trying to integrate their spirituality as deeply into their lives as I try to do. Either that, or their devotional practices and attitudes seem to constitute a lifestyle unto themselves, but without the continuing philosophical and psychological inquiry that I'm drawn to. I would love to have more spiritual friends to hang out with and to have long, deep conversations with. :-) My most recent friend, however, is busy with his work these days, so we don't see each other as much as we used to. He's also planning to move across the country before long. I love him very much, and I'll miss him when he goes, but I feel that now is a good time to be open to beginning new friendships.

In terms of deities, I have been most drawn to Kali, and also to Shiva. In terms of my spiritual/philosophical orientation, the most appropriate label would be tantric. I need to qualify that, because I'm not drawn toward specifically sexual techniques or "magick" as part of my practice. But I am definitely drawn toward a wide range of moods and toward intense, palpable energetic states.

I enjoy reading both traditional spiritual material and material that helps me to synthesize my various interests. Lately I've been reading some teachings of Amma, contained in a series entitled Upadeshamritam, a book on the Lalita Sahasranama (Thousand Names of the Divine Mother), and the Qur'an. I've also been drawn to the writings of the contemporary thinker Peter Wilberg, whose work may be found at www.thenewyoga.org as well as other places that may be linked to from that site. His work provides some keys that are opening up subtle understandings of many facets of my spiritual practice and life in general.

So, that's a bit about how I went from being a gay ex-Catholic to being a gay Hindu. I look forward to reading more here. Anyone who is interested in my personal blog, please join my LJ friends list. I'm in Connecticut and would enjoy meeting others who are in the area.

Om Amriteshwaryai Namaha (that's Amma's mantra),

Ron

Comments

(Anonymous)

The Handbook to Higher Consciousness is by Ken Keyes, Jr. NOT Ken Kesey. Kesey would'nt have written such things.
I'll use the edit function to fix the typo.
Ron, welcome!

I am very intrigued by your journey (I myself am an ex-Muslim from Pakistan and presently a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother). I would love to hear more about your conflicts with Islam and/or Sufism. Well, many Sufi teachers and Sufi Orders that I know of (the Nimatullahi, Nur Ashki Jerrahi and Inayati orders come to mind) couldn't care less if you're gay or not, but obviously mainstream Islam and Muslims are almost totally unaccepting of it. A new documentary called "A Jihad for Love" has recently come out -- it's by a gay Muslim named Parvez Sharma, but I haven't watched it yet. On the whole though, this is not an issue the Islamic world is ready to give a fair hearing to at this point.

By contrast, I find that even more literalist Hindus are at the very least tolerant if not totally accepting of queerness (at least for now; who knows, the situation in the Islamic world may change).

In any event, even though I follow the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother now, I maintain cordial ties with some Sufi Orders, and I still find Sufism to be a good source for bhakti and heart-centered devotion.
Btw Lex Hixon's "The Heart of the Quran" is a fantastic book. I've always sensed a great purity in some Sufi teachers. But on the whole I found it very difficult to reconcile my sexuality with most Muslim friends as they are usually not willing to examine their own views on this subject.
Hi, spiritofnow!

Thank you for your comments.

I mentioned the Nimatullahi above, but my longest and most personal involvement was with the Nur Ashki Jerrahi. Within NAJ in particular, queerness was not an issue. One of the reasons why I found it difficult to maintain a satisfying experience of Sufism in my current location is that there isn't the kind of vibrant and varied Muslim culture here that there was in the more urban environments in which I have lived.

As I mentioned, I was involved in Al-Fatiha and through that met queer Muslims from a variety of cultural and theological backgrounds. By mentioning Sufism on what was then the main Gay Muslims discussion list, I found myself in some interesting off-list discussions with list members. From there I had the idea of getting together with these friends and creating a Sufi-specific list, for general discussion and also to compare notes about what Sufi orders might be open and accepting of queer people.

Through my involvement in Al-Fatiha, I participated in SF Pride in 2000, which featured a contingent of queer Muslims for the first time. There was quite a backlash in Muslim newspapers around the country. I attended jumah the following week at the local mosque and the khutbah ("sermon" for those who might not know) was blistering. Afterward my friends and I compared our experiences of it.

So, there was this strange mixture of participating in something exciting and historical and increasing my awareness of the depth of the queer Muslim struggle on the one hand, and then being in open and accepting, mystically-oriented environments on the other hand. Those environments could be comforting but could also sometimes be unfocused and almost in a complacent kind of denial about the reality of the struggles that some people face.

But after I moved away from the city where I had been living, I couldn't bring the various elements together again in a satisfying way. You mentioned the quality of bhakti you find in some Sufi environments. That's mainly what was attractive to me as well. Conversely, it is customary for members of NAJ to attend Amma's programs when she visits NYC.

But after I met Amma, what I experienced around her was so profound that I couldn't see myself being another NAJ who does a bit of yearly spiritual tourism around her. I wanted to honor the depth and richness of experience I had around her more fully. Also, I kept getting drawn back to Hindu scriptures and philosophy and that seemed to be a better fit for me.

So, ultimately, my separation from Sufism as my primary spiritual path wasn't about issues of sexuality per se: it was mainly a response to a depth of experience I began having in my contact with Amma and her devotees (as well as whatever reading I was doing on my own).

Along the way I've learned some things about queer spiritual seekers. Some are wonderful, but there are some who are very wounded, and very wounding of others (including other queer spiritual seekers). I guess it's just like anywhere else.

I'd like to know more about your devotion to Sri Aurobindo and Mother. Is it mainly an individual response to their writings, or is there a social/organizational component as well? (Feel free to refer me to your blog if necessary.)

Om Namah Shivaya,

r
Thanks for sharing your journey, Ron.

My own story is a little different. I grew up Muslim but stopped being Muslim simply because I stopped being religious and became a rationalist secular humanist (in fact at that time I hadn't even confronted my sexuality). After a long period of dealing with many things I had some spiritual experiences that led me to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. So there was nothing intellectual about my choices per se -- it was just that out of the blue I had these experiences, and I've been devoted to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother ever since.

This is my blog, if you're interested:
http://naqsh.org/ned/

Here is a description of the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother:
http://naqsh.org/ned/?page_id=170
I guess I am still trying to reconcile my Islamic past with my present and future as a follower of the integral yoga. My parents as you can imagine don't know that I am even in this yoga, nor could they possibly understand -- either this or the fact that I'm gay. It's a constant struggle for me. The Muslim world doesn't seem to be ready to face these things.

I'd love to see your notes though, about which Sufi Orders are more progressive on this subject. I've attended the NAJ Order and met Shaykha Fariha, who is a wonderful soul. And yeah the NAJ folks have openly supported the gay struggle as far as I know. The Inayati Order has no problems initiating gay people as ministers, and friends in the Nimatullahi Order tell me that their spiritual teacher also doesn't care about these things. Still, I am not sure if my parents would even consider these Sufis as Muslim!

Well, would love to hear more. My e-mail btw is ned (at) naqsh (dot) org if you want to get into an offlist discussion.

And I must quickly thank medusasowl for creating this group as I think it's attracted some wonderful people!
I'd like to know more about your devotion to Sri Aurobindo and Mother. Is it mainly an individual response to their writings, or is there a social/organizational component as well? (Feel free to refer me to your blog if necessary.)

Forgot to reply to this: yes, I'm involved in the integral yoga community, but it just started off as a spontaneous spiritual experience that led me to them. I was an atheist, and frankly, I wasn't even looking for anything in particular. I was dealing with issues of sexuality and sexual abuse, and, well, it just happened. The whole story is on my blog if you're interested, under the "Personal Journey" category.

Om Sri Aurobindo Mira!
Thanks. I was wondering whether it was mainly a personal/individual devotion or whether there were also active integral yoga groups.

Thanks for the blog references and email. It probably would better to continue discussion of the Islamic/Sufi issues offlist.

Peace,

Ron
Hey Ron,

Can I get your e-mail address?

Thanks!

Best,
Ned.
Along the way I've learned some things about queer spiritual seekers. Some are wonderful, but there are some who are very wounded, and very wounding of others (including other queer spiritual seekers). I guess it's just like anywhere else.

Yep, yep, I hear you.

We're all wounded and healing is an ongoing process. But I feel our wounds are a gift that will ultimately bring us closer to the Divine and give us the courage to do the right thing.

Personally I am averse to terms like "queer spirituality" or "gay spirituality" as I think spirituality is something universal and I don't want to be divisive in any way. But I understand that these phrases can be uplifting for others who are still tending wounds and I certainly appreciate the need for queer-centered spirituality in many contexts.
Namaste Ron! I know this is an old post, and I am so sorry for just getting to it now! Life has been very hectic recently and I'm now catching up with everything. And for some reason, the entries don't always show up on my flist. I fully intend to be a better mod now that I'm more settled again. :) This comm means a lot to me, even when it is very quiet.

Ramakrishna has a special place in my heart too, and that's so wonderful about Amma! I greatly admire and respect her, and hope to perhaps get to be in her presence someday. That's quite a journey you've been on! And continue on, really, because the journey is always ongoing isn't it? ;)