My name is Stephanie Ellison. I am a Sanātani (Hindu) and have been for many years at varying levels. I first became exposed to it when I was studying to be a Natural Hygienist in Austin, Texas in 1994-95. Natural Hygiene has many of the elements of taking care of your health in a wholistic manner as opposed to an allopathic manner as is common in Western civilization. It teaches ahiṃsa, respect for all nature, respect for other people and living beings, appropriate dietary for humans and animals, and living appropriately in terms of vital energy conservation. I wasn’t yet aware of some links to Sanātana Dharma (Hinduism) from this course, but the very basic dietary path was laid down for me and made the process of waking up a “direct connect-up” to Sanātana Dharma. I’ll explain as follows.
About 10 years ago, while doing underground financial research in my spare time (an area where I learned exactly how the financial enforcement arm of the banking class within Western civilization works), I had stumbled upon an article series about India’s love for gold and how it plays a role in many levels in Dharmic society.
This work led me to see how I have some similarities between practicing Sanātanis and myself. This was the first indication that I had seen that there might be something to the connection between myself and Sanātana Dharma. In the following years up until about a year and a half ago, I kept finding articles here and there about Sanātana Dharma and India, and I kept feeling myself being pulled closer and closer in a spiral to Sanātana Dharma.
Finally, about a year and a half ago, I had decided to jump in and do detailed research ABOUT Sanātana Dharma rather than Sanātana Dharma ITSELF. I took this position because I felt it was important to do “White Studies” on myself, to understand where I am coming from as a white woman of European stock, and how our European past has affected me, entailing privilege and especially worldview positioning from a western perspective, arising from history. I wanted to know how I was going to get tripped up by my biases upon studying Sanātana Dharma scriptures and sacred writings.
My bias isn’t so much a Christian, fully-western perspective, though the latter is a bit of influence on me, but rather an Ancient perspective. I remember when I was past eight years old when I first learned about religion, but first, I ought to explain something. I am deaf and 50 years old, so this gives you an idea of how something like this could happen, in the ’60s and early ‘70s. I was not diagnosed to be profoundly deaf until I was seven and a half years old.
What happened as a result of my deafness is what I call a “reset,” in that whatever “progress” that was supposed to be made in the context of civilizing of children from generation to generation was temporarily stopped. I spent a year learning to lip-read, speak, and read/write English. By that time, I was exposed to my Catholic nanny’s ways at eight and half years old. By then, it was too late. My Self is just too strong. Explained further, this “reset” I experienced affected the “color” of three lenses that we all see through:
1. Language – this affects what you read, what language you use to make sense of the religious experience, and the medium of talking you use to share this experience.
2. Socialization – this affects how you share the experience with others, whether it’s that of a woman who may or may not share more intimately with another woman the religious experience than with a man she is not married to, or maybe you proselytize people or not.
3. Religion – the experience itself within. This affects how you see the world, life, etc., whether with a history-centric view, how you see chaos versus order, what God or something else looks like to you, and all of the details that entail a particular religion.
The three lenses combine together to create people of many ways, whether it be an American Christian who speaks English, a French Catholic speaking French, or an Indian Sanātani who speaks a variety of Indic languages. The country, the language, and the cultural setting can all vary independently.
It was a very difficult place for me, because I am originally Native, or an Ancient. I was one without a recognized spiritual path. My Old Way is Native Human (not Native American) living in modern civilization, and I have carried intact to this day this worldview, which I’m unable to explain because there are no words for it, as I didn’t learn to speak English until I was fitted with hearing aids during the seventh summer (I was born in January). I called this perspective “Ancient,” as in I am an Ancient. I felt like I was a Sampradāya of ONE for a long time, and this sampradāya would die with the end of this present life. The struggle I have had was not successfully assimilating into anything, because of my Native status, even if I tried to assimilate into traditional Cherokee beliefs. I found myself pulling back and staying where I had been inside all my life.
It wasn’t until I had done enough research on Sanātana Dharma that I began to realize that because of my Natural Hygiene background and my ongoing, occasional research into Sanātana Dharma, that this basis and my Ancient perspective gave way as a direct connect-up to Sanātana Dharma. As I did not grow up Christian (because I could not accept it and resisted vigorously with many questions in Bible Study camp one summer – my stepmother had to pull me out early, to her consternation), I did not have the usual issues of radically changing my perspective from a Christian perspective of God to a Dharmi perspective of Brahman and the manifold manifestations (Brahman, Īshvara, avatāras, mūrtis, iśta-devatā, etc.). It was familiar to me, and I understood it right away. It felt like I was aware of Brahman Nirākā, Saguṇa (formless Brahman, but with qualities) from the earliest time I can remember.
A little over a year ago, I had stumbled across Rajiv Malhotra’s web site, and this was where I began to critically look at what is depicted as “Hinduism” in the US (because I’ve been around the Christian style of thinking enough to be able to see it even in Hindu garb, and this would set off red flags). I have read several different books by different authors that explain the misconceptions about Sanātana Dharma arising from the educational monopoly of Western Academics as well as historical rewriting or obfuscation that hides and changes important information that everyone needs to know regarding the true nature of Sanātana Dharma, Western Abrahamic hegemony, and the true history of origination of knowledge from India and how it was disseminated across Central and Western Asia before arriving in Europe centuries later.
My desire for joining Rajiv Malhotra’s work is to ENSURE that Sanātana Dharma not only survives, but also THRIVES in today’s circumstances, which seem very dark unless changes are made regarding how one lives as a civilized human being. Today, in western civilization, we are faced with many problems, especially of an existential nature. It may not be too long before we don’t have anything to discuss because we become too busy trying to survive, protect our families, and ensure their survival in dire circumstances. It must be realized, as certain people have proposed, that while there is Capitalism as one economic system and Communism as another economic system, both of them are NOT viable in the long run because of structural problems in terms of varṇāśramadharma, or the 4 occupational divisions of society as well as the four stages in a person’s life, in addition to the four goals of life (artha, dharma, kāma, and mokṣa).
A third economic model is offered, that of varṇāśramadharma as found in the context of saṃskṛti. This is a model that needs to be considered by many other countries in the attempt to rebalance themselves, because this offers a way to introduce Inner Science through Dharma to help balance out what has been Western civilization’s destructive tendencies as far as employees, employers, customers, and the environment is concerned. What we see is the case of western civilization greatly advancing its materialistic sciences and technologies, but without the Inner Science development that needs to occur, commensurate with the heavy responsibilities it entails towards all the people and the environment.
There are two options as solutions, and they both will not work; that of going all the way back to the time when invaders from the northwest starting coming into India, or dropping everything that is Bhārata and adopting Western civilization. Instead, the sensible thing to do, in my opinion is to combine the scientific knowledge from the West (which is the useful part) with the Inner Science of the East (which is NECESSARY for personal and civilizational development and refinement). I want to give my support to make this a reality for everyone.
Praṇāma Stephanie Ellison
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency of HHR