A Stranger’s Sahasranama

Vasuḥ: One in whom all beings dwell and one who dwells in all beings. (Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram, 104)

Aprameyātmā: One whose nature cannot be grasped by any of the means of knowledge. (Vishnu Sahasranama Strotram, 248)

I’ve noticed I always begin these blog posts with a quote, a text to reflect on, though rarely is it a religious text. In fact rarely do I find religion in the outwardly religious. Faith is a walk in the dark, Dean Hill said a few Sundays ago, and I believe him. Faith is learning as much as it is unlearning. Peeling layers of culture from religion, self determination from survival, to understand the core of a thing. It’s a tricky, visceral affair. Is religion taught or is it learned? Does the act of learning imply a simultaneous act of teaching? It’s the diasporic instinct, hurtling us forward: I think often of diaspora as a liminal space, an identity translated through space and time, a being and unbeing. Learning and unlearning. My beliefs are patchwork at best.

That’s okay. I’ve come to find peace in the rootlessness, restlessness, a drive to seek out but not necessarily to find. I believe faith is a walk in the dark, Dean Hill, and also that we are always walking in the dark, faith or no faith, as a consequence of the human condition, the pervasiveness of unknowing. We live surprised by What Comes Next. It is dark, and there is always a desire to see. The time is nearing where I must place myself within a tradition, a history…It is in the exploration of the great debates of the Christian faith that I shall find my home,” Demarius Walker wrote in September 2013 and though I never knew him, have no perception of him other than sifting through these blog posts while procrastinating on writing my own, this resonates with me. (It takes some strange ego for me to dissect the words of a person I never knew and take them for my own. So my apologies in advance, Demarius, if we ever cross paths.)

  1. On placing: The business of rootlessness is displacement. Not untethered, but a rejection of tether. (This is also the business of diaspora, I think.) Perpetually a stranger in a foreign land, a dark land, and the darkness is familiar, since we’re all struck with it. We create tradition as much as we place ourselves within it. Forging through: it’s instinctual. It’s a realization. Stagnancy is impossible; even if we do not know what comes next it will come.
  2. On finding: Home is in the exploration. In the intersection, that beautiful and terrible intersection of finding and choosing, of self determination and survival, of faith and contingency. Sit and stitch them together. I love my patchwork beliefs. I carry them with me as I walk. Sometimes they are too heavy and sometimes they are too light. I believe that is not inauthentic to grow any more than it is to find.

Recently I have been carrying with me the thousand names of Vishnu, the sahasranama. They express a sense of movement and indelibility. To ground and to set free. I’ve also realized recently that the fact of god(s) having a gender makes me uncomfortable, so I appreciate that most verses in the sahasranama say merely One. I appreciate the way they feel when I carry them and the way they guide me forward, encouraging both the seeking and the finding. It’s a learning, and it’s also a choosing.

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