Timed perfectly with the finishing of Gurudeva's new book, "How I Became A Hindu," Gurudeva tells tellingly of how he became a Hindu, of his early training in the US, of his travel to India and Sri Lanka and the bestowing of his Hindu name from his Satguru, Sage Yogaswami of Jaffna.
We have just finished a book, which is called, "How I became a Hindu" and a question from a cyberspace participant is, "Gurudeva, how did you become a Hindu?"
It wasn't a dramatically awesome, big experience for me to become a Hindu. It was like I grew up in Hinduism. A very dear friend of our family, graduate of Sanskrit University, had the opportunity to be the guest of the Maharaja of Mysore for 5 years. She learned Indian art, (and) dance, (and) culture and the Saiva religion.
When my mother passed on, at 9 years of age, she took over the chore of helping my father raise me. I knew at 10 years of age how to drape a dhoti, how a saree should be draped, how a turban should be wrapped, how the dance of Siva should be danced, (and) how incense should be used to purify the atmosphere of the home and how food should be eaten. My father passed on at 11 years of age, and the drama continued.
I was brought up in Hinduism first through culture, music, art, drama, dance and all the protocols of Indian life. This remarkable person lectured and gave demonstrations to the public, in the presentation of the beauty and glory of India. At that time, there were only, maybe 5 or 6 Hindu families, within the California area. So, what she had to offer was very welcome. At summer camps at her beautiful chalet at Fallen Leaf Lake near Lake Tahoe, I learned the worship of Nataraja.
(And,)It was at the beginning of the teens, it was very important to me. It led into the Vedanta philosophy. Through listening to lectures at the Vedanta Society in San Francisco, reading books, and I was most inspired by the life of Swami Vivekananda and his books on Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga and inspired talks.
So, following the path of charya which leads into kriya which leads into yoga, the culture and the protocols and the philosophy, which leads into practice, I started learning Yoga - diaphragmatic breathing, concentration, meditation. Then, I was told, "Well, you need to find your Guru. This is the next step. You need to find your Guru and your Guru is in Sri Lanka."
At 20 years of age, I took the first ship, leaving after the World War for Sri Lanka. (And)Had, my 21st birthday, going through the entrance to India, at the grand Gateway of India, Mumbai. During the first year in Sri Lanka, everyone wanted me. The Muslims, the Buddhists, and the Christians. I felt very, very special being wanted by so many people. Being an orphan, you are often not wanted by anyone. But, I found their way of thinking and their protocols and philosophy didn't compare with what I had learnt in Vedanta.
Satguru Siva Yogaswami sent one of his first disciples to Colombo from the other part of the island, to fetch me. An elegant gentleman from the Vaishya caste, the Chettiar community, began to take me to the Hindu temple. For the first time, I learned worship. Now the pattern was complete.
So, we can see, (by )step by step by step, how I became a Hindu. One very last increment to this adventure was needed. (And when I asked)When I had finally met Satguru Siva Yogaswami, I asked, "Bring me into the Hindu religion, fully and formally." (And,) He did just that. Gave the namakarana samskara, the name giving sacrament and that is how I am able to say, "I became a Hindu."