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.
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.