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The curse of "converts"

Nyingjé Tso

Previously Jayabholenath
Vannakkam,

Well first of all, would like to say that use the word "convert", even if don't like it. To me, it means more "Hindus that practiced/explored another religion before".

Often newcomers have a very difficult start in their path to become Hindu. Those difficulties are very diverse and often necessary, in a way: mostly those you can see starting to attend regularly at the temple or engaging in activities kinda passed the "curiosity test". I've seen a lot going to the temple, only to briefly stay and never come back. Or others starting to sincerely explore the scriptures, or any other aspect, only to drop it after some time or make it his own flavor of syncretism.

And to that, will say: it's totally okay. No sweat.

Others will become then... What will conveniently call "convert hindus" (gawd, hate this word so much).

They are firmly established in worship, community, in a sampraday or not. And yet... Often, see many restless.
For us who came from the west, it is our curse: this endless spiral of questions and doubts even though we are firmly established in practice and thinking, even though we are ""Hindu"".

What is this curse ? Our everyday since our birth, suppose. It happened to me too, for a good while, and Gods how awful it was. To illustrate the point, let's take a look at this good old learning curve :

721LearningCurve.png


The first part is when we start the path. We learn A LOT, very quickly, glomping books and websites and speeches and everything that can help us learn the practices, thinking, customs, etc... It's the first approach, and this is what is thrilling for those who persevere in the Hindu way: a whole different world of knowledge and new stuff opens, and we are eager to learn, learn learn more and try things.
The danger of this part: to get lost. Too much scriptures, too much confusion, too much different and sometimes contradictory ideas... For a Hindu it is completely normal, for someone that has not yet established his/her mind in the religion, it's inacceptable to have contradictory principles in the same practice. One of them HAS to be the right, true, virtuous one among all the others right ? Right ?

The second part is when you are settled in practice. You have a steady sadhana, learning from a sampraday or going on without denomination, you go to the temple or get involved with community stuff... You have some knowledge, feel accepted, knows how to practice. All is good as long as you keep on your way, to be honest. And yet, some feel like something is wrong:
There is the danger of this part: the learning curve drastically slows down at this moment, you don't learn new things or master new stuff as quickly as before. You start to worry. Maybe to even feel boredom. There is a risk to drop out, or to go back to your previous religion and distance yourself from being Hindu.
But there is also the curse: We grew up in a whole society that was built on a certain way to think or to do things. Even if we are firmly established in practice and thinking, even if we are following advice or regular in our sadhana, we STILL have occurences of this "mindset" we grew up with. Many say that they feel like "Bad Hindus", "not good enough", that they are "doing wrong things" and sometimes will feel terrible remorse because they feel incredibly guilty for not being "good Hindus" for whatever reason.
've seen people driven to self doubt, anger, even depression because they were late for their sadhana, because there was chicken in their lunch salad, because they don't go everyday to the temple, because they don't bow enough to whatever guru they are following...

And to all those, wish just to say those very simple and wise words :

Seriously just chill the **** out.
Really.
Just... Just chill.
This is, to my eyes, pure leftovers of abrahamic mindset. It's either black or white. It's either right or wrong. It's either virtue or sin. There is nothing in between.
Don't forget it is, for a great part, a religion of thinking. A great guru will never give you orders about what to do/what not to do, you are not supposed to take every scripture literally as words of law, you are NOT supposed to FEAR punishment from your Ishta, you are not supposed to FEAR for your soul.

This is the best way to be paralysed both in thinking and in practice.

Explore, think, experiment, reflect. You have everything to loose in not trying anything. It's a vast umbrella of a lot of faiths and practices and cultures, all in one religion, and it's all supposed to make you happy and to give you the means, both spiritually and physically, to elevate yourself in a variety of manners. Some Hindus are vegetarians, others are not. Some Hindus go to the temple everyday, others are not. Some Hindus worship Ganesha, others aren't. Some Hindus do puja at home everyday, some don't. There is no right way, no wrong way, there is the WAY. It's here. You are on it. Why are you complicating things so much ? Stop, take a breath, look around you: not a single thing look the same. You are making yourself depressed and sad, not because you are a "bad Hindu" but because you are still driven to these leftovers in your mind, this is our curse and you can go through it, just stop and THINK. REFLECT.

We are all going to the same place. We have all the time in the universe to achieve it. Knowing that, you should feel peace and go on a steady pace, not drowning in self doubt and rushing to "salvation" or "100% pure sattvik living for the good of mah soul" or even "I have to completely destroy and remove my ego to be a good hindu" because you are most likely to just destroy yourself in the process. And that's not the goal of it all.

It's really sad and sick to me to see those fellow brothers and sisters like this. Seen many have no problem parroting whatever book or guru taught them: "the soul is undying, unborn" then why do you fear for it ? "God is everything: all attributes yet none at the same time" then why do you feel the need to roll on the floor and cry because you ate a piece of chicken in your salad ? "Ishta/guru is merciful and gives shelter to everyone who seek his blessings" then why do you apologise for everything that you are or everything that you do when you sincerely try ?

This universe is a goddamn ocean of every shade that are impossible to even imagine. It's all of these, yet absolutely nothing, at the same time. It's huge, immense, impossible to fully understand, without beginning and without end. It encompasses all the outcomes and the possibilities, the black and white/sin and virtue/good and bad mindset you're drowning into are just tiny crumbs of dust pieces in this vastness. You're choking on those tiny crumbs of dust, you, who have the potential to realize fully that you are a part of this whole immensity, you who have a chance to be a part of it, whatever your/your sampraday's aim is.

You can force yourself to go on like that, but you will never be able to reach the third part of the curve with this mindset. Even if you spend 6 months, 3 years or a whole lifetime on it.

You will never be "not hindu enough", you will never be a "bad Hindu". Stop. Stop it. You're hurting yourself.

Fortunate ones who got out of this curse or grew up directly in India or in Hinduism: please, don't let fellow brothers and sisters like that. Drop them a PM, get them out for some chai. Have a nice chat, divert them from those feelings and prevent isolation. It really don't take much of our time and energy, it is part of our duty to prevent this suffering. Some are first ones to jump to save cows, to save trees, to save dogs, but many forget to also care for fellow human beings.
And Gods know how hard it is to be and to find a decent one in those dark times. Become one and treasure those you meet on your way.

Also here is a kitten to make this stupid rambling more cute:
KittenRescue_KittenCareHandbook.jpg


Aum Namah Shivaya
 

Terese

Mangalam Pundarikakshah
Staff member
Premium Member
Lovely rant @JayaBholenath, i've learnt to relax myself from the "Bad Hindu" mentality, because, just as you said, it does nothing but make you distance yourself from everything or less enjoyable. Sriman Narayana is infinitely merciful, and this birth of ours is just one of many. Relax, take it easy, love your Ishta because you want to, not because you have to. We'll be alright in the end :)
 

Vinayaka

devotee
Premium Member
It can take years to unravel. Fortunately we have lifetimes.

For those in the mood of 'beating themselves up' feeling totally unworthy, and all that, I once asked my (current) Guru about that. He suggested to reflect on what got you to this point. You must have been to a Hindu temple, read some positive books, had positive experiences, etc., or you wouldn't be here at all.
 

Viraja

Jaya Jagannatha!
Nice, if anybody lives near the Boston area or will be visiting there from the RF Hindu forum, I would be glad to show them the Lakshmi Temple and to invite them home for some 'vegetable puff pastry' and tea.
 

Vinayaka

devotee
Premium Member
Nice, if anybody lives near the Boston area or will be visiting there from the RF Hindu forum, I would be glad to show them the Lakshmi Temple and to invite them home for some 'vegetable puff pastry' and tea.
On the bucket list. Same goes for anyone coming to Edmonton area.
 

Aupmanyav

Be your own guru
Beatiful, Jai Bholenath. I must bring this to the notice of Lord Shiva when I meet him in the evening. He is meditating at the moment. :D
 

Jainarayan

ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
Staff member
Premium Member
Information overload and contradictory advice is a big problem. It hit me very hard, and as time goes on I see it in other "newbies" too. It was only over time that I was able to resolve most of the cognitive dissonance it caused.

One example of cognitive dissonance I wrestle with is having a shrine and doing a daily sadhana. Or rather, not doing one. I don't do one because I don't have the privacy I'd like. Therefore I wonder at times why I even have a shrine. Yet as a Hindu I should, and want to. There's the cognitive dissonance, being influenced by those who say what it takes to be a good Hindu.

Another example is vegetarianism. I am opposed to eating animals, and the way they are raised distresses me. However, I haven't made the leap yet. I'm still stuck at poultry, fish and eggs. In a world of family and coworkers (I have no friends... really) that are unabashed carnivores, I am the lone wolf (pun fully intended) who doesn't eat anything with fur, hair or nipples. It's been at least several months since I stopped eating anything with fur or nipples. Yet again, there's that listening to others as to what constitutes a "good Hindu" v. what I am able to do now.

I can't agree more with @JayaBholenath in saying "just chill the **** out, already!", and with @Vinayaka's guru.
 

Jainarayan

ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
Staff member
Premium Member
And that kitten is adorable. I could just eat him up.

Oh wait... fur and nipples. o_O

:D
 

Aupmanyav

Be your own guru
We have a puja enclosure, lots of idols and images. On most days, I do not even look inside. I carry my deities with me in my heart.

I commend other Hindus who are vegetarians. Cruelty to animals is wrong. I am not a voracious non-vegetarian, but I do like a bite once in a while. My community is traditionally non-vegetarian (I will perforce be a vegetarian during the month of Shravana, thanks to my wife).

I have never felt that I am cheating Hinduism. Like Jai said, just chill.
 

Moody Giraffe

New Member
This is such an important message to remember, thank you for posting it! :smile:
One thing that I always beat myself up over is whether I'm doing enough with my worship. I just started taking the Himalayan Academy's Master Course and they describe a pretty elaborate puja (that they call simple!). My first thought was, "Well...there's no way I'll be able to say all these non-english words or perform all these steps." And my initial reaction was to think it made me a crappy Hindu. But I've come to accept that that kind of thinking is a bunch of bullcrap. We do what we can, and the Gods understand that. It's about doing what feels right, not what someone else tells you is supposed to be right.
 

sayak83

Veteran Member
Staff member
Premium Member
Vannakkam,

Well first of all, would like to say that use the word "convert", even if don't like it. To me, it means more "Hindus that practiced/explored another religion before".

Often newcomers have a very difficult start in their path to become Hindu. Those difficulties are very diverse and often necessary, in a way: mostly those you can see starting to attend regularly at the temple or engaging in activities kinda passed the "curiosity test". I've seen a lot going to the temple, only to briefly stay and never come back. Or others starting to sincerely explore the scriptures, or any other aspect, only to drop it after some time or make it his own flavor of syncretism.

And to that, will say: it's totally okay. No sweat.

Others will become then... What will conveniently call "convert hindus" (gawd, hate this word so much).

They are firmly established in worship, community, in a sampraday or not. And yet... Often, see many restless.
For us who came from the west, it is our curse: this endless spiral of questions and doubts even though we are firmly established in practice and thinking, even though we are ""Hindu"".

What is this curse ? Our everyday since our birth, suppose. It happened to me too, for a good while, and Gods how awful it was. To illustrate the point, let's take a look at this good old learning curve :

721LearningCurve.png


The first part is when we start the path. We learn A LOT, very quickly, glomping books and websites and speeches and everything that can help us learn the practices, thinking, customs, etc... It's the first approach, and this is what is thrilling for those who persevere in the Hindu way: a whole different world of knowledge and new stuff opens, and we are eager to learn, learn learn more and try things.
The danger of this part: to get lost. Too much scriptures, too much confusion, too much different and sometimes contradictory ideas... For a Hindu it is completely normal, for someone that has not yet established his/her mind in the religion, it's inacceptable to have contradictory principles in the same practice. One of them HAS to be the right, true, virtuous one among all the others right ? Right ?

The second part is when you are settled in practice. You have a steady sadhana, learning from a sampraday or going on without denomination, you go to the temple or get involved with community stuff... You have some knowledge, feel accepted, knows how to practice. All is good as long as you keep on your way, to be honest. And yet, some feel like something is wrong:
There is the danger of this part: the learning curve drastically slows down at this moment, you don't learn new things or master new stuff as quickly as before. You start to worry. Maybe to even feel boredom. There is a risk to drop out, or to go back to your previous religion and distance yourself from being Hindu.
But there is also the curse: We grew up in a whole society that was built on a certain way to think or to do things. Even if we are firmly established in practice and thinking, even if we are following advice or regular in our sadhana, we STILL have occurences of this "mindset" we grew up with. Many say that they feel like "Bad Hindus", "not good enough", that they are "doing wrong things" and sometimes will feel terrible remorse because they feel incredibly guilty for not being "good Hindus" for whatever reason.
've seen people driven to self doubt, anger, even depression because they were late for their sadhana, because there was chicken in their lunch salad, because they don't go everyday to the temple, because they don't bow enough to whatever guru they are following...

And to all those, wish just to say those very simple and wise words :

Seriously just chill the **** out.
Really.
Just... Just chill.
This is, to my eyes, pure leftovers of abrahamic mindset. It's either black or white. It's either right or wrong. It's either virtue or sin. There is nothing in between.
Don't forget it is, for a great part, a religion of thinking. A great guru will never give you orders about what to do/what not to do, you are not supposed to take every scripture literally as words of law, you are NOT supposed to FEAR punishment from your Ishta, you are not supposed to FEAR for your soul.

This is the best way to be paralysed both in thinking and in practice.

Explore, think, experiment, reflect. You have everything to loose in not trying anything. It's a vast umbrella of a lot of faiths and practices and cultures, all in one religion, and it's all supposed to make you happy and to give you the means, both spiritually and physically, to elevate yourself in a variety of manners. Some Hindus are vegetarians, others are not. Some Hindus go to the temple everyday, others are not. Some Hindus worship Ganesha, others aren't. Some Hindus do puja at home everyday, some don't. There is no right way, no wrong way, there is the WAY. It's here. You are on it. Why are you complicating things so much ? Stop, take a breath, look around you: not a single thing look the same. You are making yourself depressed and sad, not because you are a "bad Hindu" but because you are still driven to these leftovers in your mind, this is our curse and you can go through it, just stop and THINK. REFLECT.

We are all going to the same place. We have all the time in the universe to achieve it. Knowing that, you should feel peace and go on a steady pace, not drowning in self doubt and rushing to "salvation" or "100% pure sattvik living for the good of mah soul" or even "I have to completely destroy and remove my ego to be a good hindu" because you are most likely to just destroy yourself in the process. And that's not the goal of it all.

It's really sad and sick to me to see those fellow brothers and sisters like this. Seen many have no problem parroting whatever book or guru taught them: "the soul is undying, unborn" then why do you fear for it ? "God is everything: all attributes yet none at the same time" then why do you feel the need to roll on the floor and cry because you ate a piece of chicken in your salad ? "Ishta/guru is merciful and gives shelter to everyone who seek his blessings" then why do you apologise for everything that you are or everything that you do when you sincerely try ?

This universe is a goddamn ocean of every shade that are impossible to even imagine. It's all of these, yet absolutely nothing, at the same time. It's huge, immense, impossible to fully understand, without beginning and without end. It encompasses all the outcomes and the possibilities, the black and white/sin and virtue/good and bad mindset you're drowning into are just tiny crumbs of dust pieces in this vastness. You're choking on those tiny crumbs of dust, you, who have the potential to realize fully that you are a part of this whole immensity, you who have a chance to be a part of it, whatever your/your sampraday's aim is.

You can force yourself to go on like that, but you will never be able to reach the third part of the curve with this mindset. Even if you spend 6 months, 3 years or a whole lifetime on it.

You will never be "not hindu enough", you will never be a "bad Hindu". Stop. Stop it. You're hurting yourself.

Fortunate ones who got out of this curse or grew up directly in India or in Hinduism: please, don't let fellow brothers and sisters like that. Drop them a PM, get them out for some chai. Have a nice chat, divert them from those feelings and prevent isolation. It really don't take much of our time and energy, it is part of our duty to prevent this suffering. Some are first ones to jump to save cows, to save trees, to save dogs, but many forget to also care for fellow human beings.
And Gods know how hard it is to be and to find a decent one in those dark times. Become one and treasure those you meet on your way.

Also here is a kitten to make this stupid rambling more cute:
KittenRescue_KittenCareHandbook.jpg


Aum Namah Shivaya
This should be a sticky. It's difficult for people like me grown up in Hinduism to understand what's going on for a newcomer. It often looks to me that newcomers are over active and over zealous, something like this
images


Your advice and insight is greatly appreciated. :)
 

Jainarayan

ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
Staff member
Premium Member
This should be a sticky. It's difficult for people like me grown up in Hinduism to understand what's going on for a newcomer. It often looks to me that newcomers are over active and over zealous, something like this
images


Your advice and insight is greatly appreciated. :)

That is very true. I've been told by born-Hindus that I know more than they do, having grown up with it, not studying it. They say it with amazement and approval, not disdain. Sometimes we laugh about it. A secondary not-so-amusing effect of this curse I think is possible is that if the convert is not careful, he or she can come off as a know-it-all.
 

Vinayaka

devotee
Premium Member
This is such an important message to remember, thank you for posting it! :smile:
One thing that I always beat myself up over is whether I'm doing enough with my worship. I just started taking the Himalayan Academy's Master Course and they describe a pretty elaborate puja (that they call simple!). My first thought was, "Well...there's no way I'll be able to say all these non-english words or perform all these steps." And my initial reaction was to think it made me a crappy Hindu. But I've come to accept that that kind of thinking is a bunch of bullcrap. We do what we can, and the Gods understand that. It's about doing what feels right, not what someone else tells you is supposed to be right.

I do that puja daily, maybe a bit more complicated. It took me maybe a year to learn it. With puja learning, just be patient. it does take time. At least that one has an on-line correct pronunciation guide. If you use transliterated Sanskrit on it's own, it can come out really really bad, unrecognisable.

When they say simple, it's all relative. If you go to a temple with well trained Indian priests, a 'simple' puja can last 3 hours, lol.
 

Vinayaka

devotee
Premium Member
That is very true. I've been told by born-Hindus that I know more than they do, having grown up with it, not studying it. They say it with amazement and approval, not disdain. Sometimes we laugh about it. A secondary not-so-amusing effect of this curse I think is possible is that if the convert is not careful, he or she can come off as a know-it-all.

Varies from person to person, on both sides a lot. On one hand, we're sort of forced to learn stuff, just to be able to get along or understand anything at all. The born Hindu, although it sinks in by osmosis, often doesn't have the same drive to learn stuff. I've met some who know a ton, and others, not so much. The opposite is true too.

Then there is the question of knowing about, versus knowing well. Some folks are well versed in one sampradaya, or one area of life, but ignoramuses on the rest of it.
 

Vinayaka

devotee
Premium Member
This should be a sticky. It's difficult for people like me grown up in Hinduism to understand what's going on for a newcomer. It often looks to me that newcomers are over active and over zealous, something like this
images


Your advice and insight is greatly appreciated. :)
Out of curiousity, Sayak where are you? How much exposure have you had to converts?
 

sayak83

Veteran Member
Staff member
Premium Member
Many born Hindus are a bit too complacent though. A bit like the bull cows of Varanasi. :)
 

Vinayaka

devotee
Premium Member
California for now.
Not all converts. But some.

You're probably in a pretty good place for it, I would guess. Here, besides the 5 or so regulars, we get very few. According to my Guru, who gets invited to quite a few Hindu temples to speak, Salt Lake City Ganesha temple gets more than normal, at least from His experience.

Are you the kind of person that might approach a 'convert' to talk, or are you more an observer?

I no longer 'feel' like a convert at all, so if anybody comes along (converts and born Hindus alike) who seem new to our temple, I'll approach, and just say, 'First time here?" It's often pilgrims, or people on their way to the mountains just passing through.
 

sayak83

Veteran Member
Staff member
Premium Member
You're probably in a pretty good place for it, I would guess. Here, besides the 5 or so regulars, we get very few. According to my Guru, who gets invited to quite a few Hindu temples to speak, Salt Lake City Ganesha temple gets more than normal, at least from His experience.

Are you the kind of person that might approach a 'convert' to talk, or are you more an observer?

I no longer 'feel' like a convert at all, so if anybody comes along (converts and born Hindus alike) who seem new to our temple, I'll approach, and just say, 'First time here?" It's often pilgrims, or people on their way to the mountains just passing through.
No you have mastered it. The blue zone. It shows.

I have often wondered that the very Indian based narratives and iconography acts as a barrier or not. As Hinduism goes global, all lands should have sacred sites and stories associated with it.

My interaction with Hindu converts have been in conjunction with various Hindu discussion groups that I have attended from time to time. I am a good converser I such settings, but not so much during a large puja in a temple.
 
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