Many people come to me because they see my name and face and assume that I somehow represent Hinduism and Vedic astrology.
Nothing can be further from the truth as I do not resonate with how it translates into actual practice – and how its ideas are used to justify the status quo.
These are not new ideas for me, but rather the penning down of instinctual responses I had even as a child – without any prompting from external sources. Adulthood has helped me find words to that inner knowing.
As a spiritualist, I explore many religious traditions and beliefs. I have had the most experience and personal connection with Hinduism through years of intense searching, seeking, observation, and ethnographic research.
‘I’ am sharing some details of that journey to establish context and narrative. The ‘I’ that I reference here is less who I am now and more who that constellation of consciousness and energy was in the body that is seen as ‘ Bairavee. ‘ What I am now and am increasingly becoming, I have no words for. Please bear that in mind.
My journey has led to secret, sacred spaces forgotten to seekers but for small footnotes in history – to the major sites of worship and belief to change fate – to the smaller shrines in the nooks and crannies of a busy city, or left untouched in a shrine by a rice paddy.
I have felt and heard the whispers of suppressed history through stone walls, confronting the dominant narratives of place, space, time, and ritual. It took me over the Himalayas and down to the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent where the three oceans meet.
It has been countless hours of prayers, fervent devotion, and listening to the land and its story, guided consistently through visions or instincts that cannot be dismissed as mere luck or coincidence.
Or the sudden appearance of animals like eagles, dogs, cats, cows, peacocks, and snakes at key moments of the journey.
It has been guidance from beings that have transcended the matrix-construct that has led me further and deeper. Some of which Hinduism has attempted to identify as ‘ one of their own ‘ but … in practice .. they go beyond.
My view does not arise or originate from Western-influenced intellectual frameworks or critique. If anything – it is only a language to express what I have felt from the depths of my being from the time of my birth.
My views are my own and what conclusion you come to is your own.
My soul has led me to similar journeys with the Christian and Judaistic faith. The commentary can easily be applied to other belief systems as they are also deeply entrenched in the patriarchy – but Hinduism is what I have the most personal experience with thus far.
The Disconnect Between Rhetoric and Practice
The lofty, universalist principles of Hinduism are elegant and beautiful as ideal-principles. However, there is a great dissonance between them and what you see in daily life.
When questioned, proponents of the system allow you to gloss anything under the rubric of ‘ divine play, ” karma, ‘or ‘ illusion ‘ – whilst of course, asserting the importance of ‘ order.’
Spiritual rhetoric is then used to construct a moral pedestal that justifies hierarchies that thrive on the subjugation of certain genders, castes, classes, and other groups of people.
As a particular version of Vedic Hinduism is being exported globally to a Western audience hungry for connection to spirituality, it becomes even more critical to have this conversation. Keen observers have noted how this uncritical mapping of ideology has created greater spiritual bypassing and reproduced similar inequalities.
There is also a deeply embedded and disturbing conflation of the narrative of Aryan supremacy as espoused through Vedic Hinduism being adopted by Neo-Nazis (again). This is not the first time that Hindu belief systems have found their way to Europe or the Americas.
Moreover, it is not the first time it has propped up ideologies that do not have anything to do with acceptance and compassion.
Also, there is this idea that Vedic Hinduism is somehow the ‘ original ‘ worship system of India. No, it is not indigenous.
Yes, it represents the product of early waves of colonization and cultural assimilation. It just happened a long time ago, but the fault-lines of it all remain in the land.
You have to sit there and be willing to listen. You need to want to go beyond the glamour and mystery of the ‘ exotic ‘ Orient. You need to want to see it as more than a magical cure to the West’s spiritual and cultural fragmentation.
That is when you begin to challenge cultural hegemony and monolithic interpretations of text, ritual, and cultural norms that have acted to uphold deeply problematic systems.
One of the easiest ways to suppress the truth of that perspective is to claim that everything came out of time immemorial and stop archeological digs that would invalidate that narrative. Look to linguistic, genetic, and archeological research that challenges this narrative, and you are likely to find something closer to the truth.
At a much milder level: You see very stereotyped (or even lobotomized) versions of the Feminine coming through archetypes like Parvati, Lakshmi, and Kali. Whilst there is a deep meaning to each, the way each story is diluted and re-produced re-creates old hierarchies. I get more into it in the video, but here’s a summary.
The Lobotomized, Typecast Feminine
Kali is essentially launched into battle and has to be ‘ calmed down ‘ by having her husband lie down on the battleground, and her awareness return once she has stepped on him.
Alternatively, the ‘ Batuk ‘ or child form is deployed, and her maternal instincts are supposed to override the bloodlust she experiences from consuming the blood of the demons she is slaying.
Please tell me how the poster being for female empowerment is not being straight-jacketed back into defined limits of feminine expression? Or how her anger is an instrument of the status quo, ready to be put back in a box once it has outlived its use or begins to attack the system itself?
Let’s not forget just how she is ‘powered-down’: with the reminder of motherhood and domesticity.
There are alternate paths in the Hindu tradition such as Shri Vidya that do not see the need to locate the Goddess as part of a Union or even a child’s mother.
I find these paths more honest in their treatment of the Feminine – and they are the ones that require the strictest discipline.
You will not get the essence of them by chanting a sloka or reading about them online: as they take real work.
I could write a book on deconstructing the patriarchy embedded in the myths around Mahakali alone.
But let’s get to the others.
What about Parvati? The Himalayan princess is expected to give up her life of comfort to tend to her life in the forest. Where her husband often goes off to meditate, take recreational drugs (look up bhaang in the context of Shiva worship), and hang out with his ganas.
The child she makes for herself has his head chopped off by her husband – and though he becomes a god, you have to ask yourself if this is the model of womanhood, motherhood, and marriage that you want.
Please note that this same woman gets cursed into multiple human births, at which point she must suffer because she ‘ closed her husband’s eyes playfully ‘ thus blocking his view of the Universe.
I have been to so many temples where she sits in ardent prayer and tapas so that she will be accepted by him again. This narrative of the impure or immature woman who requires purification to be accepted by the Lord perpetuates a different version of the Fall of the Feminine. It’s very, very, close to Eve.
Let’s not even get into Sati’s story and how her corpse was cut into multiple pieces, creating significant sites of Sati worship. Sati was Shiva’s first wife.
Or Lakshmi, who exists as the antipode to her sister Alakshmi. Lakshmi is associated with wealth, beauty, and all the riches one seeks to have in life and is a fixture in every Hindu home and business.
Her sister, seen as dark, unlucky, a divorcee, messy and unkempt, is excluded from that system. I view it as a cultural lobotomy as only one half of Feminine experience is considered valuable, worthwhile, and useful, and the other half is discarded.
Most Hindus themselves would have no idea about her because the belief system is taught hides these erasures and suppressions in text and practice.
I could go on – because I’ve been at this for years. Pick any of them.
Draupadi – who was as powerful as Krishna but still did not protect herself when she was dishonored in full view of the royal court.
Because it was allegedly her husbands’ role to do so, the one polyandrous figure that echoes a remnant of matriarchal traditions is unwilling to protect her honor. Of course, this is the trigger event of the Mahabharata.
(By the way, for those of you watching those theological soap operas from India .. go back to scripture. Draupadi was supposed to be an incredibly beautiful, dark, skinned woman. Her representations are almost the exact opposite, i.e., they’re poster girls for ‘ Fair and Lovely ‘).
What about Renuka? She was born through the worship of fire by a sage and married to another sage with breathtaking anger management issues. Her husband gets pissed off at the fact she’s noticed the beauty of another being and lost her focus in drawing the water for his prayers.
Fearing for her life, she stays away from home, only to be misled by the sage who created her. She returns, thinking it is safe, and gets her head chopped off by her ‘ dutiful ‘ son, who obeys his father’s wishes. As a gift to him, she is resurrected but as the serpent goddess.
Sita was forced into exile and raised Rama’s sons alone before returning to the Earth from whence she came. All this because people did not believe she was chaste and pure after her time spent in Ravana’s kingdom despite passing the test of fire (agni pariksha).
I remember the land and the priests’ greed at the temple in Gaya where Sita was said to have cursed the Falguni river, the Tulsi plant, the cow, and the priests when they bore false witness against her. (In the video, I reference a few of the psychic phenomena I encountered during my visits to temples – much of which echo the stories).
The water did not run, the priests kept interrupting my prayers for money, and the land just felt unhappy. The story is that Rama wanted to offer tarpanam / offerings to the soul of his father. Rama had a feast planned, but by the time he got it all together – his father’s soul had come and gone.
The soul was happy with Sita’s far simpler fare (offerings of sand/clay), and his son could not believe it. Four out of five witnesses present (except for the banyan tree) bore false witness against her – and so she cursed them.
It seems like people did not want to believe what she said—until the end of her life.
These myths and ideas live on the natural and spiritual landscape of the world for those with the eyes to see.
Unfortunately, they reproduce the same co-dependent dynamics that if you saw your daughter, sister or girlfriend emulate … you’d ask them to think twice.
And there are so many others in the pantheon that could merit the same discussion: Kannagi, Menaka, Mandhodri, etc.
Of course, there are exceptions, such as Avvaiyar, Karaikal Ammaiyar, and Akka Mahadevi. But they are not the norm.
Without proper analysis and context of scripture, the meaning of chants, the story behind the myth, many people turn to Hinduism to find liberation from patriarchy without realizing that they are falling into the same thing.
The more rhetorical back-flips you use to justify inequity in the name of universal truth and love, the more open and suggestible your energy field is to invasion.
The same applies to mantras, poojas, and chants that people reproduce without reflection because they take a very particular meaning or version taught to them.
Go back to the original Sanskrit text and look up the oldest translations you can find. You will learn more about what you are reproducing at the energetic level.
You will find verses that sexualize and objectify the feminine body and the pleasure derived from it.
One reference that threw me off in the Mahishasura Mardini Stotram is when the devotee prays to derive the same pleasure that Indra does when fondling the breasts of his wife, Suchi – as he worships the Goddess. Unfiltered versions of the text show the Devi engaged in a little flirtation with the powerful Buffalo Demon, Mahishasura.
The same is found in other slokas and texts.
But this was the one that really got me thinking.
Go back to your original reference materials and read them for yourselves. There are some very elegant conceptual back-flips done to try and erase the erotic narrative.
You can tell what gender and sexual orientation the text assumes the devotee to have.
Subsequent translations have tried to interpret this creatively, but let’s not forget the actual, hypersexualized, and intensely erotic representations of divinity in the temple statues themselves.
Huge boobs, tiny waists, and wide hips. You’ll find that art form perfected in the Chola sculptures in particular. But it does tell you which ‘ assets ‘ are being emphasized here.
Is it that much of a stretch to look at just how problematic India’s relationship is with public safety for women, gender discrimination, female foeticide, gang-rapes of women and girls with how they are already objectified in scripture, sculpture, and the practices that link the two?
It doesn’t even have to be that extreme. Just look at the pressures felt by increasingly educated women with a greater scope of social mobility. They feel constrained by culture’s expectations and confused by their own ideals and aspirations as they clash with what they are told to venerate. And therein comes a strange space of cognitive dissonance.
Goddesses are role models for women. And even in their most assertive form, patriarchy still exerts its force in establishing the boundary of acceptable degrees of anger – and what is not.
Your belief system and the ideology that underpins it – and whatever rituals you follow – are reproduced at the astral level. This then enables that which is being worshipped to shape fate, which is then re-interpreted as ‘ fixed destiny.’
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Again, I would level this same critique of any form of organized, patriarchal religion. None of them have a decent track record when it comes to the Feminine.
There are paths like Shri Vidya that appear to be far more aligned to the Feminine, but they take rigorous discipline and work to follow. In a different vein, the path of Bhakti (intense love and devotion) can open a person to genuinely sacred experiences.
Even then, you have to be very careful of the transposition of patriarchial energies onto the system – and boy are they able to transport a seeker to states they identify as ‘ bliss.’
Someone who can tell the difference can see right through it instantly.
I’ve found that people who have been co-opted on their search for truth have the most need of my work face the most significant hurdles in being allowed to meet. The farther they stray, the harder the resistance is to meet with me. When they eventually push through, they see why.
I have seen the same behavior at temples.
Devotees and priests at times will go out of their way to make me feel unwelcome, especially when I began to connect with Spirit in even deeper ways. All I have to do is sit there and something will come along to try and disrupt my meditation.
More often than not, I tended to end up doing energetic work on these places, as guided by the land. Sometimes, you see the results in shifts that happen around that complex, even if it takes a few years.
The way Spirit guided me to interpret the stars stands in stark contrast to what is expected or offered to a seeker, especially if she is a woman.
Gurus, who have managed to cross a threshold of awareness, have sent their students my way because they know I am a safe person to work with.
They know my respect for the pure energy that still exists beyond the structures that suppress and occlude. But you need to be at a space where you can see that difference.
For the sake of clarity: Please note that my critique can be applied to just about any form of organized religion. I am speaking of Hinduism, as that is what I have had the longest journey with. It started for me as a child.
I was not looking to critique it, but something about it did not work for me, no matter how hard I tried. I kept trying until I realized that the metaphysical basis of the belief system – and what I was doing in the world – could not work together unless that collective structure was allowed to evolve.
Which brings me to Vedic astrology and divination.
Why I am Not a Vedic Astrologer
Despite being raised with it and having dozens of Vedic readings throughout my life … it never fit me (and yes, the time of birth was accurate).
It did not explain who I was, what I felt, what I aspired to do in the world, or what happened to me through my life cycle. There was always a disconnect between the women being read for and my own experiences.
I looked for alternate sources of guidance, including divination / prophetic readings by soothsayers and those who write fates on dried palm leaves (olaichodi).
There was a particular ‘ plan ‘ written out for me where I would marry a specific person, have a child, and spend most of my time communicating with Gods at temples and developing psychic gifts that would make me some tremendous international figure that made tonnes of money.
I was to become a Master / Guru in my next birth as a Brahmin boy and achieve great ‘ enlightenment.’
These were not kooks. As far as India goes, these guys were the real deal. In case you are wondering, this was not a gimmick they sold to everyone.
The same prophecy just kept coming back again and again and again. Something about it all just seemed too glossy; I felt like I was being handed a glib sales pitch – and it did not fit my experience of life.
There was psychic energy in those readings, which I have – over time – realized is simply India’s version of the false light phenomenon. It is a vast energetic network powered by beliefs that hold reality, power, sex, caste, and gender in a particular configuration.
The fact that people cannot yet see through that veil is at the heart of the disconnect between the ideals of Hinduism and actual inequality in lived experience.
The thing that finally did it in for me was one aspect of the readings. This prophecy kept coming up as a consistent message and identified a particular individual as my life partner, etc.
The part of me that accesses different planes of reality as part of my work cautioned me against it. Had I come to myself as a client, I would have said: Honey, run! This ain’t for you!
I was trying to be loyal to my culture and to respect the messages of the elders.
I was trying to force myself into a particular mould to feel connected with what I thought was the land, religion, tradition, and culture. I felt I had to belong somewhere to be someone in this world and was willing to sacrifice my instincts for a broader identity.
I gave it a whirl. I performed all the prayers required at the sites of ‘ penance ‘ – which turned about to be all about making me a sweet, Parvati-esque being. And it just did not work. But I kept at it, wanting to see if this was my road. The intended other had to do prayers to make him a better ‘ Shiva ‘ counterpart. We went through the whole rigmarole.
Since then I have become a happily divorced woman! Catering to a narcissist for the rest of my life and being ‘ a good woman and wife ‘ really does not appeal to my psyche. Nor does it align with what it is that I do here.
Plus, any enlightened state that I can attain only by being born as an ‘ upper-caste ‘ male is not worth having.
Since then, I have met more people of Indian origin who have had similarly baffling experiences. They are almost always naturally aligned with Aquarian energies and waves of new consciousness coming in. They are the least likely to be actively seeking psychic or spiritual powers or gifts as they come naturally to them. They are usually not very religious (only because of the experiences they have had).
Like me, they have struggled hard against the conditioning and found much relief in discovering people who have walked the same path. When you are walking it alone, it seems a lot more confusing.
The people who have not had problems – which is the vast majority – are happy with Piscean-era control methods. As long as the spiritual technologies of prayer work for them, they are not interested in the agenda or moral compass of the energy behind what powers it.
When you visit the astrological / Navagraha temples with a consciousness that is not Piscean – you’ll know it! My ancestors had a hand in building some of the more famous ones – so my connection to them is multi-layered.
What people forget with Vedic astrology is that it’s not just an intellectual exercise.
You are ritually organizing your life into a system of energetic worship and invocation that coalesces into a three-by-three grid built on black granite, with representations of planetary deities that exclude the Feminine ENTIRELY. It is absolutely a representation of the control matrix and one that is far more rigidly bound.
Does the system work? Sure.But you have to look at the energy that is powering it.And the patriarchal values associated with the rituals, the myths, the names, the chants, and the interpretations given.And the very socio-cultural milieu of the temple experience.
Let me acknowledge that it is privilege that has helped me find that middle distance from the sanctum sanctorum to look ahead and behind me to view a social order of inequality being sanctioned by ‘ Divine Mandate. ‘ The temple experience is a microcosm of Hindu social order: Who was allowed on the grounds, who was kept away, and how money was handed out to close the distance.
You don’t get to think about any of this if you have to work many hours of labor a day and don’t know when your next meal will be or whether you will be able to pay off your debts and hold onto your land. Remember that the preservation of scripture was supposed to be limited to a specific caste group: it was not meant to be a public exercise.
No matter how much you could pay, though, there would always be a little distance between you and the male Brahmin priest that begrudgingly drops you sacred ash from a few inches above your palm as touching a non-Brahmin would be considered pollution.
Most of the time, it is the land around the temples that has sent me a gift instead of the sanctum sanctorum.
The reproduction of that hierarchy at the point where you, the devotee, are supposed to surrender to God … is just something I have never been able to stomach.
Nor is the commercialism of the temple complex, especially in the larger structures. Sometimes, the land has come to shower blessings one I walk out of a temple that has been unethical in its practice.
I remember being asked to speak about the morality of Hinduism when I was 15, and someone handed me a microphone. It was a civics class, and I raised the issue of caste.
Students got so triggered that they printed posters about me at college, and I had to ‘ apologize ‘ to the Hindus and ‘acknowledge’ that there were no older Indian expressions of civilization.
I was stunned, but in retrospect, what spoke through me was a lot older – a little advance notice would have been welcomed – I would have rather quit the program in retrospect.
Eighteen years later, I’m still here and saying the same thing, this time to a vaster global audience. Let’s hope people have come around.
Writing this has taken a weight off I’ve carried for years now.
Let’s hope it opens people’s eyes—more context in the video below, beginning from 6:08 onwards.
Dr BairaveeThe Sky Priestess
© Bairavee Balasubramaniam, 2020. All rights reserved for human, 3-D legal purposes.