How I became a Hindu – part two

Continued from How I became a Hindu – part one.

Multicultural Britain

Having been brought up in a small town that was almost exclusively white and Christian, at University I met a number of people from all over the world and of all religions. In fact I have lived in ethnically diverse cities since then.

A mela in the UK

This in itself had a major impact on my understanding of Christianity as “the only way to salvation”. One of my closest friends at University was a Sikh, and whereas it is one thing to theoretically hear that people you don’t know will be destined for hell, it is quite different if you know this is talking about friends, fellow students, work colleagues, etc. It is obvious to anyone who meets people from many different religions and cultures that if God is loving, then it can’t be true that only those from one particular religion will be saved.

The strength of atheists’ arguments

I also met many articulate atheists. These were in general sincere, people of integrity and they had very logical arguments. Nobody should doubt that the atheist worldview is consistant and logical. It is based on certain assumptions on what makes a valid predicate, but given those assumptions then the logical conclusion is atheism, or to be more accurate extremely sceptical agnosticism.

Many of the arguments that Christianity uses against atheism are really weak. Pascal’s wager only works if there are two options: Christianity or atheism. The Prime mover argument really hasn’t been valid since Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is expanding.I know now that these are rolled out because mainstream Christianity misses the point. They look for physical proofs because there is a mistrust of spirituality, they say that “revelation is sealed”.

These arguments, combined with the lack of practical significance of Christianity to me, lead to a period of agnosticism. Sometimes I felt that atheism swung the argument, sometimes theism – but for most of the time I just did not think of religion at all. This lasted for many years, my beliefs swung between atheism and theism but it did not seem to be of much practical importance. I did attend church again briefly for a while, but by that time I was beginning to realise that my beliefs were no longer Christian.

A seed is planted

From a seed life emerges

From a seed life emerges

Recently a work colleague asked me what had first made me consider Hinduism, was it something that someone had said to me. This made me think, and I remembered something that at the time had seemed insignificant. I was at a friend’s house and their young daughter had a Hindu friend visiting, and they were discussing RE (religious education) lessons. My friend’s daughter was saying how each religion thought that it was the “true way”, Christians thought that they were right and others would go to hell, Muslims thought that they were right and others would go to hell, and so on. The Hindu girl said “no, it’s not like that at all. God loves everyone and gives people chances to know him in different forms. Those who don’t get things right in this life will get another chance later“. This probably planted a seed.

I started to read more about reincarnation years later after a relative married a Buddhist. One day I realised that I believed in reincarnation! Not completely, it was more of a case that when I was weighing up atheism and theism it was between a theism that included reincarnation, the concept of eternal hell was just too ludicrous to anyone who believed in a good God rather than a devil being in charge.

I think that the idea of eternal hell can only make sense to people who have no concept of vastness or infinity. Even a lifetime of a century is a fleeting instant from this perspective. Judging for eternity on the basis of a single life would be like releasing mice in the middle of a room and looking at the direction of the very first step they took. Those that stepped right would be given rewards for the rest of their life. Those that stepped forwards, left or backwards would be taken and tortured for the rest of their lives.

Universalism

I realised that my beliefs were no longer Christian. At this time my wife was still a mainstream Christian, and we thought that attending a Unitarian congregation could be a good way of worshiping together. I also rather naively thought that universalism would provide some sort of meta-belief, being able to take what is good from each different religion and ignore the rest.

Now there are some very good people who are Unitarians, but it became apparent that Unitarianism in the UK was plagued by internal politics. There were the Christian Unitarians, some of whom said that those who did not have a bible-based faith should be expelled. There were the Atheist-Humanist Unitarians who seemed concerned by not being offended by others using the word “God”. And there were other groups like the “earth spirit” network.

The result of this was that many services were a sort of secular collection of hymns, not really saying anything about any particular belief out of fear of offending anybody. There was a lack of any passion or feeling about belief, and I think that when it was shown it was frowned upon. I remember someone saying that they “hoped everyone had passed the childish stage of a belief in a personal God”.

It became apparent that rather than a meta belief learning from others there was a sort of “lowest common denominator” belief, everyone not wanting to offend others. Since then I have seen that this is not the way to respect other beliefs. There is more respect of different beliefs every day in our Mandir then I ever saw by Unitarians. The Vishnava will pray to Krishna or Rama alongside the Shaiva worshiping Shiva and the Vedantist looking for enlightenment within. All respect each other’s views because they are totally dedicated to their own path.

Anyway, both my wife and I found Unitarianism unsatisfactory. We really just became disengaged with it over time, especially after I (and later my wife) started on the path of Hinduism.

Continued in How I became a Hindu – part three.

17 responses to “How I became a Hindu – part two

  1. Pingback: How I became a Hindu - part one « Western Hindu

  2. Dear friend,

    Thanks for your interest to become a Hindu.

    To be Hindu is very easy.
    To refrain from all evils, to do what is good, to purify the mind- these are the teaching of Hindus. You can say ‘OM’ -‘OM’- ‘OM’

    To be good Hindu, this is a behaving. High thinking & Simple living is the way of Hindu. Hindu never hate the other religion.

    To take Tika before forehead is the Sign of Hindus.

    You know about Nalson Mandela also wants to be Hindu.
    He says- ‘
    ‘Hinduism is the sum and substance of the traditional humane cordiality. The African leader Nelson Mandella was impressed from Vedas, legends and Upanishads. He wanted to be converted Hindu for that purpose he wanted to perform penance or provide donation if necessary. He would be gratified and feel fortunate’

    So, your interest is same.

    Nepal is the origin of Hindus & Buddhas. The Hindu religion is the world’s most liberal and tolerant religion. Nepal despite being a Hindu is the most liberal and tolerant non-secular country in the world. Hindu means ‘Hi’= Sun, ‘Indu’= moon. Nepalese national flag is also mentioned- Sun & Moon. So, why the Maoists are going to abolition the originatity of Nepal. Lord Pashupatinath & Shoyambhunath is the symbol of Hindu. A Nepali Scholar Mr. Dinbandhu Aryal expains– ‘Hindus are inclusive. ‘H’- stands for humanity, ‘I’- stands for individual righteousness , ‘N’-for nationalism, justice, economic freedom, ‘D’- for divine virtue and ‘U’-for universal peace and co-operation. The word Hindu is formed in the full sense.’
    Thank you.
    Dirgha Raj Prasai

  3. Pingback: How I became a Hindu - part three « Western Hindu

  4. Dear, I read both parts of your article.
    Welcome to Sanatan Dharma, the hindu way of life. Observing your wandering for search of truth come constructive referrals are essential, especially to help you shorten the span of bewilderness.The cognition of the very conscience of being a Hindu, denotes to the tolerance and the liberal view beneath diversities in sects and religions,being explanations through the minds which in turn is bound by the limits of concepualisation, the people have been following in India, is a direct repercussion of millennial long realization of the Cosmic Unity, Tat tvam asi (that thou art)or Aham Brahmaasmi(I am the Devine), by we Indians or better say, Bharatiya, .To find traces of this fact, one, be it an Indian or a foreigner, does not need to go for some theological course. If one has his “eyes open”, and if one is “sensitive enough”, he or she can observe in the day to day behaviour of common people in India. It is so deeply rooted and thoroughly immersed in the psyche of people, that every act of people goes unconsciously or without any deliberate intention.

    What we call Dharma, is in fact the “Order within Cosmic Unity”. This cosmic order is governed by the ordering principle ” which keeps on working”, which is that by which the universe is upheld (Dharyate),without Dharma it would dissolve into nothingness. But this is not possible, for though there is Disorder (Adharma), it exists, and can exist only locally, for a time, and in particular parts of the whole. Order however will and, from the nature of things, must ultimately assert itself. And this is the meaning of the saying that Righteousness or Dharma prevails. Dharma is not a law imposed from without by the Ukase of some Celestial Czar. It is the nature of things; that which constitutes them what they are (Svalakshana-dharanat Dharma).
    It is the expression of their true being and can only cease to be, when they themselves cease to be. Belief in righteousness is then in something not arbitrarily imposed from without by a Lawgiver, but belief in a Principle of Reason which all men can recognize for themselves if they will. Again Dharma is not only the law of each being but necessarily also of the whole, and expresses the right relations of each part to the whole.

    The moment a “person” begins to exist at the time of conception, becomes bound by this cosmic order. It has nothing to do with the “faith” or method of worship, commonly referred to as religion that the new person would follow in his or her life after taking an independent biological life of its own. Thus the ordering law of cosmic unity is entirely independent of the path of worship one chooses.

    [Religion, therefore, which etymologically means that which obliges or binds together, is in its most fundamental sense the recognition that the world is an Order, of which each man, being, and thing, is a part, and to which each man stands in a definite, established relation; together with action based on, and consistent with, such recognition, and in harmony with the whole cosmic activity.]
    “The situation is analogous to the Indic position on religious salvation—that a human being has access to it not by virtue of belonging to this or that religion—but by the mere fact of being a human being.”

    The fact of matter is that the duality inherent in our own reasoning makes it more convincing to believe in all those things which are consequences of duality. And the process goes on, leading to very many interpretation and consequent uses and abuses by those superior in power, be it intellectual power, or physical might and wealth. It is due to this fact, for centuries deliberate interpretations have been made by power brokers to satisfy their vested-interests.

    Like Mr. Tully, Kerry Brown observes, “… the culture that we know now as Hinduism and that the Indian ones call Sanaatana Dharma – the Law Eternal – precedes this name by thousands of years. This is more than a religion, more than the theological direction in which the west understands religion. One can believe in all divinities or in no divinity and remain Hindu. This is a manner to living.”

    It is due to this prevalent undercurrent, Mr. Mark Tully observes that Indian secularism does respect all religions and rejoices in the diversity of faiths we Indians follow but, “the Western world and the Indian elite who imitate it ignore the genius of the Indian mind. They want to write a full stop in the land where there are no full stops.” This is why he writes, “for thousands of years, in changing historical circumstances, in different countries, and cultures and climates, people had experienced what appears to be the same reality, although describing that reality differently, I saw that a universal God made far more sense rationally than one who limited his activities to Christians.”

    We have the moral responsibility and for we must strive and work hard to check various misinterpretations of the words like secularism and identification of Sanaatan as religion and to clear minds of the people from any pre seated misunderstanding.
    Hope I succeed in providing the indicators.
    yours
    Sati Shankar
    New Delhi

    • The earth is reported to be 4.59 billions years old by scientist and it is not surprising to note that according to hindu beliefs each cycle of the earth lasts for 4.32 billion years! Also note that the universe is around 155 trillion years according to hindu beliefs.

      Also, the sequence of the principal avatars of god, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashavatara) clearly show evolution of life forms on earth. Starting from aquatic matsya (fish), amphibious kurma (tortoise), small land based wild boar (varaha), half-man-half-wild-animal-lion (narasimha), dwarf man (vamana), angry-man (Parashurama), ideal-ruler following morality and virtuousness (Rama), pragmatic and wise man who gave the Gita (Krishna).

  5. Nicholas Kazanas is an prolific writer and a reasearch scholar currently living in Athens. Please google and read his works on vedas. He adopted an unique way of tracing the origins of Rigveda and Mahabharata, he times their origins sometime before 3500 BC.

  6. Pingback: The Guru and the path of freedom; a contradiction? | Western Hindu

  7. Why talk about shaiva ,vaishnava brotherhood. There was a time when there were bhakts or devotees for all 33crore gods and all lived happily here in the Bharat Varsha.

  8. And its true we arent taught wrong thngs in any religion. Here pseudo -secular people teach what is wrong in hinduism. And majority believe all are right.

  9. Very erudite discussion by knowledgeable people. Long comments are written, in very explanatory manners. I am not sure, “What could I call myself having been born in Hindu high class family in the eyes of the society. I hasten to deny my own feelings about it in this manner.

    I am neither a Sanskrit scholar nor a literary genius; just a simple medical man trained in Western medicine and surgery. Having said that, I have been fascinated lately by this ongoing mainstream controversy of everybody’s business with no domicile.

    Hinduism as we tend to accept for discriptive purposes, can be verily summarised in two statements in my opinion. One is simplified for a simpleton. The entire essence of Vedic teachings has been condenced in one word, “OM”. This is said to be condensation of the Gayatri Mantra, that in turn is said to be condensation of Geeta, which is said to be the core of the teachings of Vedas/Upanishads. Hence it has been made easy from the most erudite Sanskrit scholar to a novice and completely illiterate who can easily pronounce “OM”.

    Again its essence can be summarised into four base words, Deham Naham; Koham; Soham. I think if one can dwell deeper into these four words, it will tell the entire Hindu concept. Isvar Sarva Bhutanam, i.e. Isvar or the Consciousness Supreme dwells inside every living being. Further according to Hindu philosophy, there is nothing called non living.

    God bless

  10. Again its essence can be summarised into four base words, Deham Naham; Koham; Soham. I think if one can dwell deeper into these four words

    That’s interesting because it is very similar to how Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami starts the very first teaching in “Dancing with Shiva”:

    Rishis proclaim that we are not our body, mind or emotions. We are divine souls on a wondrous journey. We came from God, live in God and are evolving into oneness with God. We are, in truth, the Truth we seek. Aum.

    • And “Truth” is “Consciousness” that abides by in each of us. Once I finish my next article, on Who Am I?, you may be kind enough to visit it on my blog. I have already written the philosophical aspect, next I hope to corroborate it with the modern scientific evidence. It is all consciousness but nothing else.
      God bless

    • Nataraj murti is a wonderful cöncept really.
      Carl sagan , in one of his books, explains how Sanatan dharma is the only dharma which explains creation of world in tune with modern cosmos and einstein’s findings.

  11. syamukamath,
    You are right about Carl Sagan. He is one of the first environmentalist scientist I heard earliest on the global warming. Einstein’s findings hold much of its ground and have led to a lotr more recent researches. He was a great scientist and humanitarian as well as a philosopher.

    Now more and more newer findings being built on the edifice of his earlier work e.g. speed of light vis-a-vis his Theories of Relativity and the physics and its role in Consciousness etc. Einsteen was one of a very few scientists with this blend of virtues. May be his Jewish birth in Germany and the Hitler’s persecutions may be instrumental in this blend? God bless

  12. Very good article about hinduism.u are in the right way.yoga reincarnation have great impact in the people of world.om namah shivay

  13. Pingback: A Wedding | Western Hindu

  14. Volume 1,Addresses at The Parliament of ReligionsSource: http://en.wikisource…Why_we_disagree
    I will tell you a little story. You have heard the eloquent speaker who has just finished say, ” Let us cease from abusing each other, ” and he was very sorry that there should be always so much variance.
    But I think I should tell you a story which would illustrate the cause of this variance. A frog lived in a well. It had lived there for a long time. It was born there and brought up there, and yet was a little, small frog. Of course the evolutionists were not there then to tell us whether the frog lost its eyes or not, but, for our story’s sake, we must take it for granted that it had its eyes, and that it every day cleansed the water of all the worms and bacilli that lived in it with an energy that would do credit to our modern bacteriologists. In this way it went on and became a little sleek and fat. Well, one day another frog that lived in the sea came and fell into the well.
    ” Where are you from? ” ” I am from the sea. ” ” The sea! How big is that? Is it as big as my well? ” and he took a leap from one side of the well to the other. ” My friend, ” said the frog of the sea, ” how do you compare the sea with your little well?”
    Then the frog took another leap and asked, ” Is your sea so big? ” ” What nonsense you speak, to compare the sea with your well! ” ” Well, then, ” said the frog of the well, ” nothing can be bigger than my well; there can be nothing bigger than this; this fellow is a liar, so turn him out. ”
    That has been the difficulty all the while.I am a Hindu. I am sitting in my own little well and thinking that the whole world is my little well. The Christian sits in his little well and thinks the whole world is his well. The Mohammedan sits in his little well and thinks that is the whole world. I have to thank you of America for the great attempt you are making to break down the barriers of this little world of ours, and hope that, in the future, the Lord will help you to accomplish your purpose.
    — Love And Love Alone
    Om Namo Bhagavate Sri RamanayaPrasanth Jalasutram
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    source http://www.indiadivine.org/content/topic/1395906-swami-vivekananda-tells-story-of-frog-and-well/

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