My path towards Hinduism

I don’t know if you would call me a hindu or not; I don’t even know whether I to class myself as a hindu. Shiva as the form of God that I show devotion to, I believe the term is “ishta devata”. I try to meditate and recite the aum namah shivaya mantra daily, and I am a vegetarian, and believe in reincarnation and the pursuit of spiritual purity. I have an alter area in my house with a Nataraja and a Ganesh murti, but I am not really connected with any Hindu groups.


My life so far seems to have been a very slow spiritual journey. I am English and I was brought up as an Anglican Christian, though I was never really involved with the Church since leaving my parent’s home about 25 years ago. For as long as I remember I have had difficulty with the Christian ideas that salvation is “only through Christ” and that good people of other religions would be condemned to hell, whereas even a very bad Christian would go straight to heaven. I could say quite a lot more about the absurdities of this, but I expect you can see that this gives a very strange view of God. I also have a great distaste for the way that many Christian sects claim that they are “the one true church”, and even followers of other Christian churches are condemned to eternal punishment. I know people who really live in fear because of this, worried that they might not be “real believers” and “among the chosen”, and I cannot believe that God wants people put in fear because of him.


A few years ago I started attending a Unitarian Church. British Unitarian churches have a belief of universal acceptance, that there is value in all beliefs. There are a lot of good people in the Unitarian movement but I believe that it has somehow lost its way. They are so keen not to offend anyone’s belief, even those who don’t believe in God that there is almost a feeling of embarrassment at the mention of God, and in general a lack of any passion about belief.


have always felt a strong affinity for Hinduism. A few months ago, on impulse I brought a Nataraja. I saw one on ebay and it struck a chord with me. I looked up the symbolism and then I had a sort of realisation of the beauty of it. The image of Lord Siva in the eternal dance, constantly creating and destroying just says to me “I am God” at a spiritual level. Whenever I pass this image of Shiva a bow and say “thank you for all that is”.



I have been reading on Hinduism and the paths of Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga sound right to me, though Raja Yoga in particular makes me realise that I have at most taken a small step onto a long path that may take many lifetimes to complete.


There is a Hindu temple in the city that I live in, and I feel that at some time I will visit it. It is something that I would like to do, but am also worried about. I think “what will the reaction of the ‘real Hindus’ be to some white guy turning up who knows so little”. Anyway, that is where I am today!




The Christian Church is not one united community

Christian Missionaries often try to give the impression that there single Christian church. All you have to do is join this Church to be saved. In fact there are many denominations, each one seeing itself as the “true church”. Many Christians would claim that by following one group of missionaries you are not saved, you should join their church instead, they are the true Christians.

The two largest Christian denomination are the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church. The Catholic church will only give sacrament to Anglicans under extreme circumstances. The leaflet “conditions allowing non-Catholics to receive sacrament from a Catholic Minister” lays down strict conditions under which sacrament can be given. Catholics are also forbidden from receiving sacraments from other Christian denominations. Most churches within the Anglican church have an “open communion, allowing other Christians (though not those of other faiths) to receive communion.

In parts of the world there is conflict between the Catholic and Anglican Churches, particularly in Northern Ireland. In Scotland there is also hostility between these churches. It has to be said that neither church supports this type of open hostility.

The disagreement between the two major denominations is nothing compared to that between minor churches. Many of these are evangelical churches who support conversion at any cost. The CARM site has a whole section saying why catholicism is incorrect. There are sites claiming that “catholicism is a sure road to hell“, reflecting another common Christian belief, that not only do you have to be a Christian to avoid hell, but in the group of “real Christians”. A Scottish Church excommunicated (expelled) a member for attending a funeral of close friends:

Perhaps best remembered for an incident when Mackay, who was an elder of the Free Church, had attended the funeral masses for two close Roman Catholic friends. This was considered a ‘crime’ by the Free Church authorities and he was excommunicated, bringing about a split and the formation of Associated Presbyterian Church (1989).

At the extreme, some Christian denominations rejoice in their belief that others are destined for hell. One site says:

The Amish children from Pennsylvania are even now in hell. Stop spreading the lie that they were innocent. They were just as degenerate and deserving of hell as the pervert who killed them.

This site, referring to a brutal murder is not typical of Christians by any means. Most Christians would disagree with the site.

There are also liberal Christians, who believe that there are many paths to God, and that Jesus is just one of them. Of course they are not the ones sending out the missionaries.


The Father, the Son, and the Donkey

donkeyA young man, returning home from French school with many diplomas, thought he knew everything. His father said, “My son, come with me. I’ll teach you about life.”

So they bought a donkey and both got on to ride. As they approach a village, they saw a crowd gathering. “Those two heartless riders are going to crush that poor beast of burden.”

“Hear that, son?” asked the father. When they had left the village, he got off and pulled the donkey by the reins, with his son still on it.

At a second village, they heard murmurs. “What a rude little boy … why won’t he let his poor old father ride?” So the son climbed down and his father got on.

At a third village, a fat woman blocked their path, yelling, “Lazy old man! How dare you force a little boy to walk in the burning sun?” So the father got off, and he walked with his son alongside the donkey.

At the last village, they were met with whispers. “Are these two crazy or what? They’re walking alongside a perfectly strong animal!”

A little farther on, they stopped in the shade of a big tree. The father says, “Well, my son, have you been paying attention? People will always have something to say about what we do. But do what you must. That’s life.” From that day on, the son understood that he had a lot to learn.

“Ken menul def lu neex nep.”
You can’t please everyone.

Taken from Palette Website, appears to be public domain.

My first visit to a Hindu temple

I wrote before that I was worried about visiting a Hindu temple, because I did not know what the “real Hindus” would think . Well, thanks to Deepak on the Orkut site, I finally got the courage to visit. Deepak reminded me of the story of the father, the son and the donkey. This story reminded me that if we always worry about what others think we will end up doing nothing.

Anyway, I need not have worried. I arrived at the temple at a quiet time and the only person there was a priest who was looking through some papers. I performed a namaste to the deities and then sat down and meditated for a while. The priest finished his papers and asked whether he could help me. I asked him about some of the deities that I did not recognise and he told me about them. He then offered me prashad and some holy water, which I took. A younger man came in and told me that they were preparing for a function so the priest could not talk to me for long. The priest said that he was going to perform a short puja before the function and asked whether I would like to stay. During this time several other people came an went, and all greeted me in a friendly manner.

What struck me was how I really felt at home in this place, there was an atmosphere of holiness, peace and friendliness. As I left the priest asked me if I would come again, and I told him that I would. He said that he would tell me more about Hinduism but would also learn from me. He was a very approachable, peaceful and humble man, I know from the website that he has a Phd. and he still said that he wanted to learn from me. And to think that I was worried about being thought of as an ignorant non-Hindu!

What Hinduism has to Offer

What attracts me to Hinduism more than to other religions? Well there are several things. Firstly Hinduism is consistent with the goodness, mercy and love of God in a way other religions are not. Some religions claim that God is good and loving, but then say that only those who believe their particular religion (or even sect within a religion) will be saved. All others, no matter how good they are will be condemned to eternal punishment. I cannot see how this can be if God is good and merciful.

Also Hinduism acknowledges that spiritual progress is our own responsibility. I know that all major religions encourage leading a good life and spiritual awareness, but in some religions this has nothing to do with your spiritual destination. In these other religions a good person of another faith is condemned, whereas a believer will be forgiven no matter what kind of debaucheries they commit. How can heaven remain heaven if there are murderers, thieves and so on? Surely only the spiritually pure can go to heaven, and this must involve some change of self.

Hinduism gives practical ways of increasing spiritual purity and becoming closer to God. Also, it acknowledges that at heart we are pure and good. In this context spiritual progress is self realisation. In contrast some other religions see us as evil at heart, tainted with original sin. This means that spiritual progress is seen as a denial of the true self.

Some religions see themselves as incidental to every day life. People turn up for services and to receive forgiveness, then go on their way. My wife pointed out to me that Hinduism encourages spirituality as an integral part of life. Bhakti yoga in sees this as the main path to enlightenment.

Finally, Hinduism sees validity in all religions. All are seen as possible paths to God. This does not mean that Hinduism is purely relativistic. Hinduism is the original pure religion. Other religions started when prophets were not fully understood. The “Sermon on the mount according to Vedanta” illustrates how Hinduism can show the true messge from Jesus.

Julian of Norwich – Revelations of Divine Love

There have been mystics outside of Hinduism who have seen revelations that reflect Hindu beliefs. Indeed often their writings would seem to be more like Hindu writings than those of their own religion. One of those is Julian of Norwich, 1342 to 1423. In Revelations of Divine Love she wrote:

“HE [God] ALSO SHOWED ME a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand. It was as round as a ball, as it seemed to me. I looked at it with the eyes of my understanding and thought, “What can this be?” My question was answered in general terms in this fashion: “It is everything that is made.” I marveled at how this could be, for it seemed to me that it might suddenly fall into nothingness, it was so small. An answer for this was given to my understanding: “It lasts, and ever shall last, because God loves it. And in this fashion all things have their being by the grace of God…. It is necessary for us to know the littleness of creatures in order to reduce them to nothingness in our judgment, so that we may love and have the uncreated God. The reason we are not fully at ease in heart and soul is because we seek rest within them, and pay no attention to our God, who is Almighty, All-wise, All-good and the only real rest.”

Here are the ideas of Advaita Vedanta (God in everything), the illusion of Evil and the distraction of May from someone who had never heard of Hinduism. Note also that there is no Judgement day, the world lasts for ever. Surely this is proof of the universality of revelation and the ultimate truths in Hinduism.

The Village Pump and the Well

Many years ago a traveller arrived at the village of Gotham. He had been travelling all day and was in need of food, drink and rest. He was pleased to see a comfortable and reasonably priced inn, where he stayed the night.

The next morning he felt terrible! The meal from the night before had disagreed with him, and he was really quite sick. The owner of the inn was not surprised. “For some reason people around here just get ill a lot”, He said.

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Quantum Theory and Vishnu

I have been thinking about a conversation between two work colleagues. One of them I will call Allan believes that everything has a natural cause. S is what you would call a committed atheist. Another colleague who I will call Bill pointed out that quantum theory suggests that a reality will only exist when observed by a consciousness, which causes a collapse of the wave function. This implies that there must have been consciousness at the beginning of the Universe. Bill believed that this consciousness came into existence at the same time as the universe as a property of matter, a sort of panpsychism. The theory also fits in very well with the idea of the conscious of Vishnu and the ultimate reality of Brahman being all that surviving between universes, and the cyclic ending of old universes and beginnings of new ones.

It is amusing that the Abrahamic religions go out of their way to distort science to make it fit their creation story. Dharmic religions do not do this, there is no reason why we should expect truths at a spiritual level to predict what we observer in Maya. Even so, the existence of a very old cyclic universe fits in much better with Hinduism’s teachings than with that of the Abrahamic religions!

Quakers, Ahimsa and Pennsylvania

I am reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi”, and in it he relates a discussion with Mahatma Ghandi. Ghandi discusses the virtues and effectiveness of ahimsa and non violence.

Ghandi told the Paramahansa that an early example of the effectiveness of non violence was in the settling of the state of Pennsylvania, where the settlers had no soldiers or forts but did not suffer from attacks by the (Native American) Indians that other settlers did. I had not heard of this and decided to look up and see if it was a historical fact. A small amount of research shows that it is basically true.

Pennsylvania was formed by William Penn, who was a Quaker, as were the first colonists. As a Quaker they believed in non violence and fairness. He allowed complete freedom of religion for people of all faiths, and insisted on fairness in dealing with Native Americans. Land was purchased from them at a fair price rather than been taken by force as happened elsewhere. Penn introduced laws saying that if a European did an Indian wrong, there would be a fair trial, with an equal number of people from both groups deciding the matter. Eventually under a perceived threat from the Spanish and the French the people of Pennsylvania (who were no longer mostly Quakers) did vote to form a militia, but for a time Pennsylvania was a model of peaceful cooperation.

Quakers, or the “Religious Society of Friends” were formed by George Fox, who believed that “everyone can see God directly”, and that it is possible to see God in everyone. This was referred to as “the inner light” or “truth” or “the pure principle”. He believed that the message from God within was more important than creeds or the bible.

Quakers have a history of being persecuted by the main Christian denominations. It seems to me that George Fox was one of those people who have had no contact with Hinduism but through spiritual awareness have come to know some of the truth of Sanatana Dharma (the eternal truth of Hinduism).

Thoughts on "Labyrinth", By Kate Mosse

The book Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse is at one level an intellectualised cross between Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone and The Da Vinci Code, with magic to extend lifespans and secrets that the church must suppress. It is, however a much better book than either of these and is very thought provoking, especially for those with an interest in Hinduism.

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The Cathars from a Hindu perspective

In my post Thoughts on Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse I mentioned the Cathars. The Cathars were a sect who lived in Southern France from the 11th Century to the 14th century.

Cathars were were almost vegetarian (but did eat fish) and believed in reincarnation and were pacifist. They also believed that people have the divine spark within them, and are essentialy holy beings. They believed that men had to escape the bonds to the physical world (which they saw as corrupt) by purity and faith. These beliefs have obvious similarities with Hinduism, (the atman, ahimsa, and liberation through moksha).

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Scientific Study of effects of Religious Belief

The 1st September 2007 issue of the New Scientist magazine has an article about a scientific study into religion. This article has some interesting results, which have some relevance to Hinduism.

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