Anna is now Shiva Setep-en Het-Heru. What does “following Sanatana Dharma” mean?

The laketi kamaat blog

The laketi blog

I received a message from Anna, who was the author of the Divya jñāna blog. She said that she is no longer practising  Sanatana Dharma, though she is still a devotee of Shiva. She is now using the name Śivā Setep-en Het-Heru, which for convenience I will shorten to Shivheru (this seems etymologically correct, it is combining the name Shiva with Heru).

She did not know whether I would want to remove her blog now that she was following an eclectic path rather than a purely Hindu one. Her Divya jñāna blog now directs followers to her new blog, Laketi. I have not decided whether to remove her blog, but this raises the broader question, what is “following Sanatana Dharma”?

Looking at the Laketi blog it is clear that Shivheru is still strongly devoted to Shiva. Her currently most recent post is an analysis of a Shiva Mantra. She clearly understands the basic meaning in a Hindu sense.

Altar to Shiva and Bast

In another post Shivheru  describes  her alter to both Shiva and Bast. While this may seem eclectic and alien to Hinduism at first, I believe that the symbolism of this combination is actually very familiar to Hindus.

Though Bast most often seen as represented as a cat, she was originally depicted as a lioness, and was the sometimes-fierce protector of her people. Bast is sometimes seen as the ancient Egyptian understanding/representation of Durga. Shiva and Durga are often worshipped together by Hindus.

It seems to me that Shivheru is still following Sanatana Dharma, though by a non-orthodox path. Hinduism has always been open to allowing other influences, from Ramakrishna having images of Jesus and Mary on his altar to the Arya Samaj not allowing depictions of God. It is certainly possible to include Egyptian, Celtic, or other deities into the practice of Hinduism in exactly the same way that village deities can be added to the traditional Gods.

I see parallels between Shivheru’s spiritual journey and that of myownashram, who carried out a spiritual experiment which involved following several religions or practicess (Hinduism, Feri tradition, Christianity, and “place”) for a fixed period. Though myownashram never intended to follow Hinduism as a life path, she has certainly taken something of it away with her, as her recent post on Guru Purnima shows.

However, I don’t want to give the impression that anyone who includes some Hindu practices into their beliefs is a Hindu. I see a wide continuum from the orthodox Hindus to those which include aspects of other beliefs, and if someone on this continuum wants to call themselves a Hindu then I am happy with that. I am also happy if they want to say that they are influenced by Hinduism rather than being Hindus, the self-chosen title reflects a person’s spiritual outlook.

As soon as someone departs from the universal principles of Hinduism then I see them as no longer followers of Sanatana Dharma. If you say “this teaching is the only way to salvation”, claim that all others are evil and wrong, or say that belief is more important than practice – then you are not a Hindu.

15 responses to “Anna is now Shiva Setep-en Het-Heru. What does “following Sanatana Dharma” mean?

  1. This post raises a difficult question with which I’ve struggled myself; I always enjoy your balanced inquiries into such issues and the fairness with which you explore them. And while I’m not yet sure where I stand on this particular issue, I do very much agree with your final paragraph!

    A gentle suggestion: I notice that this post is tagged “Horus.” But if that’s because of Anna’s name, I believe that “Het-Heru” actually refers to the Lady known as “Hathor.” (Who is sometimes depicted with cow ears! :) )

  2. I do not say I am a Hindu – because I’m not! And I don’t want to disrespect the tradition and its followers. But I do say I have a Hindu practice. I continue to study, chant, and follow my devotions. I continue to work on my yoga practice. Ganesha is the ‘patron’ of our home, and we do incorporate some Hindu practices. For example, I don’t eat beef two days a week in observance of the sacred animal. Things like that.

    • Yes, I understand that. It raises the interesting possibility that two people could be following outwardly similar practices but inwardly one would see themselves as a Hindu incorporating other deities, and the other as following wicca or paganism but following some Hindu practices. This is what I had in mind when I said that someone’s self-chosen title reflects a their spiritual outlook.

      The interesting question is how this would affect their spiritual development, how far would the paths diverge.

      • I think if I were near a Hindu community and could be more involved communally I might claim dual-observance and call myself a Hindu. For now I am a Pagan, with a Hindu practice. My hope is not to appropriate a tradition, but to be a conscientious student and participant of it as best as I can be, at this time.

  3. Thanks for posting this. The main reason I sent you the email is my understanding the purpose of the list and not wanting to state that I’m a follower of Sanatana Dharma when my path has become eclectic. I’m looking forward to reading the comments. If someone feels that I shouldn’t remain on the list, I won’t be offended as I understand that the list is for those Westerners following SD.

  4. Historically the two proselytizing faiths, namely Islam and Christianity, have dealt with a very traumatizing blow to Hinduism. These faiths are not seen as friendly with their ongoing antihindu activity even today. Therefore, as a result so long as one doesn’t get mixed up with these two maurading belief systems, hindus wont distance themselves from those who call themselves hindus. Moreover , they will be welcomed to take some wisdom from our theology and make a sadhana schedule of their own that they are comfortable with. No need to call themselves as hindus if they so choose, but we love it when they do so. Dharma and Karma based doctrinology are central to Hinduism with mukti or moksha as the final goal.

  5. Pingback: What Makes a Hindu? | Rolling with Vishnu

  6. I love that everyone is on such a very personal path, truly suited to our own individual goal. It just shows the wheels of Dharma are truly functioning the way they should. Years ago, i always used the word pagan as my all encompassing beliefs…but over the past twelve years i have come to accept that i am Hindu, i am life after life…no matter how far you throw this stone it always seems to find its way back to the ocean. Hari Om<3

  7. Interesting to read this post. I have been a hindu from the birth ( brought up in an orthodox environment) and after being too much into it one thing I have felt, it is full of principles which let you explore. I don’t think it even preaches non-violence as the basic one or tolerance as the way of life. It does not enforce any rules or practices to be called a hindu. Only thing it tells you is how to live your life fully to realize what you want. This is the most beautiful part and everybody enjoys to deserve that

    Happy to see this site and keep it up

    • I don’t think it even preaches non-violence as the basic one or tolerance as the way of life. It does not enforce any rules or practices to be called a hindu.

      There are many Hindu sects, and though there are always exceptions all the major sects do teach ahimsa or non-violence as a way of life. Though wealth, love, and power are all valid goals at certain stages of spiritual evolution, they should not be attained at the expense of harming others, lying, cheating, etc.

    • @Ram, you wrote “I don’t think it even preaches non-violence as the basic one or tolerance as the way of life”
      Well friend, have you read Yamas and niyamas at all (google ). Ahimsa and tolerance is at the very core of hindu philosophy, please read and get enlightened. Why do you see so many animals accompany hindu divilities, it is a synbolic presentation of cause of animals. Hinduism preaches against senseless killing of any sentient beings. Read abridged versions of upanishads when time permits .

      • here is an excerpt explaining the above from Himalayan Academy’s (please google) book DANCING WITH SIVA:

        What Are the Ten Classical Restraints?

        Hinduism’s ethical restraints are contained in ten simple precepts called yamas. They define the codes of conduct by which we harness our instinctive forces and cultivate the innate, pristine qualities of our soul. Aum.

        Bhashya

        The yamas and niyamas are scriptural injunctions for all aspects of thought and behavior. They are advice and simple guidelines, not commandments. The ten yamas, defining the ideals of charya, are: 1) ahimsa, “noninjury,” do not harm others by thought, word or deed; 2) satya, “truthfulness,” refrain from lying and betraying promises; 3) asteya, “nonstealing,” neither steal nor covet nor enter into debt; 4) brahmacharya, “divine conduct,” control lust by remaining celibate when single, leading to faithfulness in marriage; 5) kshama, “patience,” restrain intolerance with people and impatience with circumstances; 6) dhriti, “steadfastness,” overcome nonperseverance, fear, indecision and changeableness; 7) daya, “compassion,” conquer callous, cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings; 8) arjava, “honesty,” renounce deception and wrongdoing; 9) mitahara, “moderate appetite,” neither eat too much, nor consume meat, fish, fowl or eggs; 10) shaucha, “purity,” avoid impurity in body, mind and speech. The Vedas proclaim, “To them belongs yon stainless Brahma world in whom there is no crookedness and falsehood, nor trickery.” Aum Namah Sivaya.

  8. And here are the NIYAMAs for you ready reference from same above source
    What Are the Ten Classical Observances?

    Hinduism’s religious tenets are contained in ten terse precepts called niyamas. They summarize the essential practices that we observe and the soulful virtues and qualities we strive daily to perfect. Aum Namah Sivaya.

    Bhashya

    Good conduct is a combination of avoiding unethical behavior and performing virtuous, spiritualizing acts. The accumulated wisdom of thousands of years of Hindu culture has evolved ten niyamas, or religious observances. These precepts defining the ideals of kriya are: 1) hri, “remorse,” be modest and show shame for misdeeds; 2) santosha, “contentment,” seek joy and serenity in life; 3) dana, “giving,” tithe and give creatively without thought of reward; 4) astikya, “faith,” believe firmly in God, Gods, guru and the path to enlightenment; 5) Ishvarapujana, “worship,” cultivate devotion through daily puja and meditation; 6) siddhanta shravana, “scriptural listening,” study the teachings and listen to the wise of one’s lineage; 7) mati, “cognition,” develop a spiritual will and intellect with a guru’s guidance; 8) vrata, “sacred vows,” fulfill religious vows, rules and observances faithfully; 9) japa, “recitation,” chant holy mantras daily; 10) tapas, “austerity,” perform sadhana, penance, tapas and sacrifice. The Vedas state, “They indeed possess that Brahma world who possess austerity and chastity, and in whom the truth is established.” Aum Namah Sivaya.

  9. As an Indian Hindu – I dont think that following an eclectic mix is against the principles of Eternal religion… I think that is the beauty of it, the freedom to explore what fits you…One of the greatest principles of Sanatana Dharma is “Tat Tvam Asi” – a realization that God is you or in you.. The ability to see the divine power, whatever form it takes, has been a strong message in many Hindu mythological stories… And the Hindu concept of Gods – without restraining it to 1 single entity but allowing a choice of following your path, is a way to explore your individual paths..
    What I think is key to being a Hindu is –
    -> the eternal quest for jnana or Knowledge, both inside and outside
    -> the understanding that you’re a part of this cosmos and connected to everything in it
    -> the idea that every karma or action has a consequence, so to be aware and mould your life in a way that it gives peace and happiness to you and everyone around you…
    In its core essence, Sanatana Dharma is what you are as a human being, irrespective of where you’re born, to what religion…how you follow it, is left to you to discover… it may take 1 birth, many births to achieve what is meant to achieve,.. the path and the goal remains secret…

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