My soul honors your soul.
I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides.
I honor the light, love, truth, beauty and peace within you because it is also within me.
In sharing these things we are united, we are the same, we are one
When I was younger, I didn’t realize or understand what it meant to be religious. The idea of God just didn’t make sense to me. But the concept of religion was instilled in me since I was a little girl. My father and his side of the family are Jains while my mom and her side of the family are Hindus. Since we were living closer to my dad’s side of the family, I grew up practicing Jainism.
My mom put me in Sunday school and through the temple, I went on a religious trip to other temples. To be completely honest, I didn’t like it one bit because I think I didn’t really comprehend what was going on. If anything, it made me feel like an American more than ever. Being an Indian growing up in the United States of America, all I wanted to be was just like the other kids. In doing so, I rejected everything that made me Indian just so I could fit in and that included religion. Looking back now, I regret rejecting religion because it is a connection to where I came from. I always knew that there was something or someone out there watching over me but I just didn’t know what or whom. I guess you could say that I was spiritual in one way or another.
Jainism: Being with “My People”
So in an effort to get back on the holy path, I decided to try again. I went to a convention in Washington D.C. for young Jains. You didn’t have to know anything about the religion and it was a way for me to make new friends, Indian friends. I thought, “Why not? What’s the worst that could happen?” Although I was nervous as hell because I didn’t know what to expect and because I didn’t know one person there, the whole experience didn’t end up being as bad as I thought it would. I ended up making a few friends that I kept in touch with after the convention was over and I learned more about Jainism. But something inside me felt that this wasn’t me. It was as if I couldn’t connect with what was being taught to me. I felt so distant while being around so many people who were supposedly “my people”. Now, I didn’t reject what Jainism teaches. That’s not it because I could understand why certain things were being taught and practiced. For example, being vegetarian is a huge part of being Jain because it constitutes the principle of being non-violent towards all things, including animals. Some will also avoid consuming root vegetables, dairy products and avoid eating after sunset.
In Between Two Religions
After that convention, I felt like I was in limbo. It was as if I was in between two worlds. I stayed straddling that fence between being secular and being spiritual. But it wasn’t until four years later that I decided that enough was enough. I was going to explore Hinduism and what it means to be a Hindu. I contacted a family friend who I knew was a devout Hindu and could easily answer any of my questions. Literally, the first thing I told her was “I have never been that religious growing up, but I have this feeling inside me telling me that if I start now then it will somehow make things clearer for me. The thing is that I have no idea where to begin or how to start.”
“You can not believe in God until you believe in yourself” – Swami Vivekananda
What she told me (and I’ll never forget this) was that the feeling inside me was a calling. A calling from God for me to rediscover my faith not only in Him but in me as well.
If I was told years ago that I would get a calling from God to rediscover my faith, I wouldn’t have believed it because I didn’t believe callings were a thing. But on that day, I believed it. Maybe she was right. So she told me the very basics about Hinduism beginning with the Gods. There is one supreme God named Brahman that is not fully understood or known but that there are certain characteristics of Him that come in the form of different Gods. The Trinity of Gods are Bhrama, Shiva, and Visnu – the creator, destroyer and protector. The monkey deity, Lord Hanuman, characterizes what we can do in our lives to become pure devotees to God, aligning ourselves with the forces of good, helping the weak, with self-control, unconditional faith and total surrender. The elephant deity, Lord Ganesha, is the Lord of Good Fortune who provides prosperity, fortune and success as well-being the Lord of Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles of both material and spiritual kinds.
She gave me these prayer beads along with some mantras to say. Her words of wisdom to me was to try to say it at least once a day and to say it from the heart. That is the way that God will truly hear you and answer your prayers.
On being Hindu
“If I were asked to define the Hindu creed, I should simply say: Search for the truth through non-violent means. A man may not believe in God but still call himself a Hindu. Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after truth. Hinduism is the religion of truth. Truth is God. Denial of God we have known. Denial of truth we have not known.” –Mahatma Gandhi
Hinduism is the world’s largest religion with over a billion followers. It is not just a religion but a way of life with the four basic tenants: dharma (ethics and duties), samsara (rebirth), karma (right action) and moksha (the liberation of samsara). I could go on and on about what Hinduism is through dictionary and scholarly definitions but to be completely honest with you, it’s so complex and I’m still trying to learn it all myself. All in all, for right now at this point in life, being a Hindu is a way of life that teaches non-violence, acceptance and tolerance as well as teaches me to be strong in the face of any obstacle that comes in my path with such grace that I can overcome anything to be the best person I can be in this life that I am given. Swami Vivekananda says it well.
“I am proud to belong to a religion that which has taught the world tolerance, and universal acceptance. We not only believe in universal toleration but we accept all religions as true” – Swami Vivekananda