My uncle just blew my mind with Hindu doctrine. Specifically we talked about the “bindi” or the red (or other colored) dots that Hindu women generally wear on their foreheads. Believe it or not, but this seemingly innocuous “red dot” adornment may hold the key that will allow humanity to shift paradigms towards complete inclusion, across all cultures and societies.
The crux of this matter boils down to the “red dot”. Why do we wear it? What does it symbolize?
According to Hindu philosophy, human beings have a physical Body, a Mind (our life force and will), and an internal Soul. So, all humans have three “structures” to work with. Whether we believe in Hinduism or not, or whether we even believe that religion is man-made or not, people of faith across the world agree that religion is a vehicle to elevate our Souls closer to God (in whatever form/name we worship Him/Her/It). This elevation transcends the physical nature and characteristics that define our human bodies. Yet this enlightenment process can only be achieved through our physical bodies, over the course of our lifetimes, by gaining knowledge and wisdom, and by reducing the ignorance that we are born with. While it is in a somewhat newly packaged nutshell, this has always been a fundamental premise of Hinduism and several other major world religions.
When we take the Body and the Soul into account, all human beings also have THREE eyes. We have two visible eyes that are vital organs of our physical bodies. They help us “see” and learn the world around us. Through our eyes we see the objects around us, and we see other people’s weights, heights, skin colors, mannerisms, defects, dangers, threats, assets, strengths and weaknesses. We then use this information to make judgments on how we should relate to any situation at hand. In a sense, we use our eyes to react to the various stimuli we receive from the environment around us.
Metaphysically, we also have an inner, invisible third eye. This third eye does not look at the physical limits that restrain people and the world around us. It is the Eye of the Heart and Soul. It identifies the UNIVERSAL Soul in others. It identifies that part of humanity which truly transcends any geographical, societal, national, cultural and biological boundaries. Through this eye, we don’t see black, white, brown, male, female, Christian, Muslim or Hindu. We see Soul – the resonance of the core that is common in all of humankind. With a tremendous amount of patience and practice, it is said that we can train our Third Eye to consistently and accurately look past all the illusions of our physical life to recognize the Oneness of every human being’s Soul. This third eye is thought to exist in the middle of our forehead, just slightly above the brow line. This is why Hindus wear Bindis (traditionally, red dots) in that spot. Wearing a Bindi is simply a way to practice training our inner eye.
Wearing a bindi serves multiple purposes:
1. It constantly reminds the person wearing it to look beyond physical, artificial restraints which serve only to separate us from each other. It reminds us to reach deep within our Soul to find our commonalities with fellow humans.
2. It reminds other people to look within themselves for their own Soul, and to recognize the inherent Sameness of all human Souls. It increases our grasp of the wisdom that is transferable from everyone around us.
3. It equalizes our interactions with other people by reducing the distractions and illusions wrought upon us by our physical world. It reminds us that judgments based on physical trivialities are often misguided and inaccurate, they often come from a place of ignorance, and they are not a good way to get to know and/or understand the essence of someone. Essentially, the Bindi eliminates all socially discriminating “-isms” by making them completely irrelevant to the empathetic connection of the Soul.
So, this then begs the question of why only Hindu women wear it. As it turns out, it is not just married (non-widowed) Hindu women who used to wear it, or who are supposed to wear it. Traditionally, everyone – male, female, transgender, queer, adult, child – wore it. Over time, with changing fashion trends, with global migrations and the subsequent discrimination of Bindi wearing people in new societies, this practice changed. So, now, who should wear it? Well, everyone. Whether we are Hindu or not. Whether we even believe in Hinduism or not. Wearing a Bindi does not convert you automatically to Hinduism (in fact, we have no conversions, but that is an entirely different topic). Wearing a Bindi is not even a statement of any particular religion. It is a statement about the similarities of the people that make up the Human culture. It is a philosophy that espouses love, acceptance, compassion and lack of judgment or violence.
Given current social and political conflicts around the world, and especially within America, a lot of us agree that historical problems of race, ethnicity, religion, gender and so on and so forth, seem to have become more insidious and more rampant in our communities. The problems seem to have gotten bigger and badder in our lifetimes. We are reduced to putting out the fires of unrest and discontent at a breakneck pace never seen before, and there are always more fires burning. Peace, tolerance and compassion almost seem like fleeting fantasies from another universe, ideologies that aren’t possible for us in our lifetimes.
In these circumstances, our very survival as a people depends on us working together towards healthy, sustainable solutions based on empathy, inclusion and peace. There may be other symbols of inclusion out there, but I cannot find one more poignant and beautiful than the simple red dot (I admit to a bit of personal bias in this opinion). When this dot teaches us to be responsible for our thoughts and actions towards all of humanity, then we have to consider that it is a great starting point of a journey towards complete inclusion. Since this dot reminds us to look past our own ignorance and biases to connect with the people around us, we would be amiss to not consider the possibilities towards peace that this simple practice opens up for us.
When I was younger, I would get really angry when I saw Madonna, Gwen Stefani, or some other momentary celebrity wearing Bindis. I would feel that they were making a mockery of my culture by misappropriating a religious/cultural symbol that has been a part of my cultural heritage for over 2,000 years. I was completely wrong! Whether these unreachable celebrities wore them as a fashion statement, or because they were dating someone from the Hindu culture, or because they just wanted to be different, I now understand that I need to look past these frivolities to the gist of the matter – they are human beings who were expressing our interconnectedness in a beautiful and peaceful way.
I believe that we, as a species, are edging closer and closer to the point of no return on societal conflicts and violence. Yet, neither anarchy nor a police state would satisfy our ideals of liberty and justice. We have been searching desperately for solutions in every corner of the world, when the answer has been right in front of us all along: Wear a dot on your forehead. Recognize the Sameness of those around you. Look past the physical to connect with the real needs and desires of our fellow humans.
So, in that spirit, I am going to resume wearing a Bindi all the time. Sometimes it might be a small enough sticker that you might think its a mole or a birthmark. Other times, I will probably use hypoallergenic body to conjure up an elaborate design over my forehead. I will get creative with it, I’m sure. But, at the end of the day, regardless of whatever style I chose to sport for the day, I can guarantee that I will be thinking more about what makes us all the same, and not about what makes us all so different from each other.