How to Become a Hindu

Author’s Introduction

Granthakāra Bhūmikā

ग्रन्थकार भूमिका

THOSE WHO KNOW HISTORY KNOW THAT THE CONCEPT OF CHANGING ONE’S FAITH IS NOTHING NEW TO HINDUISM. LONG BEFORE ISLAM OR CHRISTIANITY had even begun, Jainism and Buddhism contended with the Sanātana Dharma for the allegiance of India’s masses. Great Hindu saints, such as Ādi Śaṅkara (788-820), Appar (ca 700) and Sundarar (ca 800), gained fame in large part through their opposition to these nascent religions—an opposition so aggressive and so successful as to practically abolish both in the land of their birth. The other edge of conversion’s sword figured when South Indian kings colonized Cambodia, Bali and other parts of Southeast Asia, for in those days the way of things was the way of kings: the religion of the ruler was the religion of his subjects. The Indian kings who dominated regions like Indonesia brought their new subjects into Śaivite Hinduism.§

While Hindus today are worried about Christian efforts to “save the Pagans,” millions in the West are quietly adopting Hinduism in a remarkable and little-discussed silent conversion, a conversion no less powerful and far more extensive than in the past. Sincere seekers in Europe, Africa and the Americas are starting to call themselves Hindu and seek formal entrance into the faith. They are the result of 150 years of Hindu philosophy surging out from India in several waves: first as scriptural translations, then itinerant holy men such as Swāmī Vivekānanda, and most recently as part of the diaspora of Hindus out of India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, and the resulting establishment of temples and āśramas in nearly every country of the world. The central Hindu concepts of karma, dharma, reincarnation and the presence of the Divine in all things are now understood by tens of millions not born in the faith but exposed to it through music, film and television, and even commercial advertising.§

To the born-Hindu of today, the question of entering Hinduism may seem unnecessary, for by one common definition Hinduism is a way of life, a culture, both religious and secular. The Hindu is not accustomed to thinking of his religion as a clearly defined system, distinct and different from other systems, for it fills his every experience. It encompasses all of life. This pure, simple view has to do, in part, with Hinduism’s all-embracing quality, to accept so many variations of belief and practice into itself. But this view ignores the true distinctions between this way of life and the ways of the world’s other great religions. There is no denying that Hinduism is also a distinct world religion, and to hold otherwise in today’s world is fraught with risk.§

If Hinduism is not a religion, as many Western academics and nonreligious Indians still assert, then it is not entitled to the same rights and protections given to religion by the nations of the world. As just one example, in colonial Trinidad, Hinduism was not recognized as a religion, Hindu marriages were therefore considered illegal, Hindu children illegitimate and unqualified to inherit property. A great deal of Hindu ancestral property was forfeited to the colonial Christian government. The claim that Hinduism is “not a religion” weakens its position socially and legally with respect to other religions in the world community.§

Among Hinduism’s four major denominations—Vaishnavism, Śaivism, Śaktism and Smārtism—only certain Smārta lineages, those represented by the Śaṅkarāchāryas of Sringeri and Puri, do not accept converts. Smārta priests serving in American temples have consistently refused to perform the nāmakaraṇa saṁskāra, the name-giving ceremony for non-Hindus by which they could enter the religion. But the spiritual leaders and priests of the remaining sects—representing perhaps 85 percent of Hindus—actively engage today in conversion rites.§

The hundreds of Hindu swāmīs, pandits and lay persons who regularly travel outside India are a relatively passive band, offering a reasoned presentation of beliefs that listeners are only expected to consider and accept or reject. There is no proselytizing, no tearing down of other faiths and no active attempt to gain new followers. Hindu philosophy is free from the missionary compulsion to bring the whole world into its fold in a kind of spiritual colonialism and cultural invasion. This latter form of conversion, which has gone on in India for centuries, ever since Muslims and Christians discovered the subcontinent, has seriously disrupted communities, turned son against father, wife against husband, friend against friend. Coupled with the enticement of material gain and destruction of ancient traditions, it has destroyed lives. The Hindu form of preaching does none of this, and ironically this nonintrusive attitude itself is bringing many toward Hinduism.§

How One Enters Hinduism§

A direct result of hundreds of swāmīs and yogīs coming to the West, and of tens of thousands of Westerners journeying to India, is the desire by some non-Hindus to enter Hinduism. This is an issue I began facing five decades ago.§

In answer to the question, “Gurudeva, how did you become a Hindu?” I would answer that it wasn’t a dramatically awesome, big experience for me to enter the oldest religion in the world. I grew up in Hinduism. As with many Americans, I had no prior religion, though I was raised by those who had lived long in India and were enamored of its culture and worldview. Hinduism was, therefore, my first faith. A very dear friend of our family, a graduate of Stanford University in California, had the opportunity to be the guest of the Mahārāja of Mysore for five years. There she learned Indian art, dance, culture and the Śaiva religion. When my mother passed on, when I was nine years of age, she assisted my father in raising me, and from that moment on India was a vital part of my life.§

I knew at ten years of age how to wear a dhotī, how a turban should be wrapped, how women drape a sārī, how the dance of Śiva Naṭarāja should be danced, how incense should used to purify the atmosphere of the home and how Indian food should be eaten. My father passed on when I was eleven, and the drama continued.§

Thus, 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 presentations to the public on the beauty and glory of Indian culture. At that time there were only five or six Hindu families living in the Northern California area. So what she had to offer was very welcome to the western people. At youth summer camps held at her beautiful chalet on Fallen Leaf Lake, near Lake Tahoe, I learned the worship of Lord Śiva Naṭarāja. At the beginning of my teens, this was very important to me, and it led me into the Vedānta philosophy, which I pursued through listening to lectures of Indian swāmīs at the Vedānta Society in San Francisco and in reading books. I was most inspired by the life of Swāmī Vivekānanda and his four small volumes: Rāja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Inspired Talks. I was especially impressed by his masterful poem, “The Song of the Sannyāsin.” Only years later would I discover that my satguru, Yogaswāmī, as a young man about my same age, had been inspired by a personal encounter with Swāmī Vivekānanda when the Indian monk visited Colombo on his way back from America to India.§

So, following the path of charyā, which leads into kriyā which leads into yoga—the culture, the protocols and philosophy, which lead into practice—I started learning yoga: diaphragmatic breathing, concentration, meditation. Then I was told,” Now 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 twenty years of age, I took the first ship to leave for India after the Second World War and celebrated my twenty-first birthday days before going ashore and walking through the grand Gateway to India in Mumbai. Traveling by train to Chennai and then to Sri Lanka was a remarkable and remarkably hot experience.§

During my first year in Sri Lanka, everyone wanted me: the Muslims, the Buddhists and the Christians. I felt very, very special, being appreciated by so many people. Being an orphan, you are not often wanted. But I found that their way of thinking, their protocols and their philosophy didn’t compare with what I had learned of Indian culture, art and the philosophy of Vedānta.§

After I was in Sri Lanka for about a year, Satguru Śiva Yogaswāmī sent one of his closest disciples to Colombo from Jaffna, in the northern part of the island, to fetch me, an elegant gentleman from the vaiśya caste, the Chettiar community. Kandiah Chettiar began taking me to the Hindu temples. For the first time, I experienced how Śaivites worship the Gods, about pūjā and the priests, about the mysteries of the temples and their connection to the inner worlds. Now the pattern was complete. I had been taken into the Tamil Hindu community and was preparing myself to formally enter Hinduism when the timing was auspicious.§

Kandiah Chettiar finally took me to Jaffna to prepare me to meet my satguru, whom Chettiar called “a living God.” This was the very last increment to this adventure. When we finally met in 1949, I asked Satguru Śiva Yogaswāmī, “Please bring me into the Hindu religion, fully and formally.” And he did just that, giving me the name Subramuniya through the nāmakaraṇa saṁskāra, name-giving sacrament. That’s how I became a Hindu. I also later received my dīkshā as a sannyāsin from the great saint of Sri Lanka, who instructed me to “build a bridge between East and West” for all his devotees to the lands beyond Sri Lankan shores—Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Europe, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries—preparing the way for the visarjana, the diaspora, of the Sri Lankan Tamil people forced by the great civil war that started in 1983. Until his departure he communicated with me, year after year, through Kandiah Chettiar. Upon returning to the US, the first thing I did was to change my name legally to my new Śaivite Hindu Name. The judge took it in stride and quickly granted the request. In 1957, at age thirty, I began my public teaching mission in San Francisco.§

It later became clear to me that I was a Hindu in my last life and that I was born in the West to perform the mission that I am performing now. I learned about the mission that I am doing now from psychics when I was 17 or 18 years of age. I am performing it now. I have a Western body, an American passport and free transportation from India to the US, with the natural sequence of events.§

In my life, I went from charyā, to kriyā, to yoga, to jñāna, following dharma’s progressive path, which we must remember is a progressive path. It begins with finding out what the path is in the charya stage, then living the path through sādhana in the kriyā stage, then going in and realizing the Self in the yoga stage, which culminates in the jñāna stage of bringing out what you have realized. Some people think, “When you get to the yoga stage, you don’t have to do the worship, you don’t have to do the service. You just do the yoga.” In our Saiva Siddhanta philosophy, when you get to the yoga stage and the jñāna stage, you still enjoy the worship, you still enjoy the service. These are dear and intricate parts of your life.§

While in Sri Lanka, I was taken to Christian gatherings, to Catholic gatherings, to Islamic gatherings, to Parsi gatherings, and I found them all very nice people. But at that time I was on the yoga path, and those religions did not include the yoga mārga. They did not encourage meditation and Self Realization, which was my particular path that I got started on very early in life—seeking full identity of my own inner Self. Having been orphaned at a young age, I was independent and free. I didn’t have to answer to anyone, except myself. So, I was on the path to find the Self to answer to. Finding the Self within, which is solid, immovable, which is the same year after year as the mind fluctuates and goes around it, was a great realization, a great stability.§

Also, these other religions didn’t have the understanding of reincarnation and karma, which provided me a logical explanation of so many things that happen in life. I did meet wonderful people, though, from the Islamic, the Christian, the Protestant, the Catholic and the Buddhist communities. I would say Buddhism influenced me most in the monastic path, because I visited and lived in many Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. I was received by the monks there. I saw how they lived, saw how they dressed, and that influenced in a very strict way the monastic protocols that we later put into action in our own monastic order. I was being prepared to go to the northern part of the country, the Tamil Hindu area which was quite strict at that particular time, very orthodox.§

Formalizing the Process§

The experience of my own entrance into Hinduism in my twenties set the pattern for my ministry in the years to come, when I worked to apply the same pattern for others who wished to fully enter Hinduism through self-conversion. I ultimately developed a six-step pattern of ethical conversion that results in a sincere and lasting commitment to the Hindu faith, or any faith for that matter. I found it useful to distinguish between the convert, a person with clearly defined prior commitments to another faith, and the adoptive, a person with no prior religious affiliations, who is free, without severance formalities, to embrace and enter the faith of his or her choice.§

The most innovative step in this form of ethical conversion—and what truly makes it ethical—is the mandatory severance from any former faiths. The devotee is asked to go back to his prior religious leader, priest, rabbi, minister, imam, etc., and explain his change of belief, culture, etc., in a face-to-face meeting. Typically, the leader may attempt to talk the devotee out of his intention, though some will immediately honor the depth of his new commitment and understanding.§

It was in 1977 that I imposed the strict conversion/adoption edict that stands in place to this day among my congregation. Only as full-fledged Hindus, committed 100 percent to the Hindu religion, with no other religious obligations inhibiting their participation in the culture, philosophy and lifestyle, could they settle at last into the religion of their soul. Anything less, and they would remain half-Hindus. Only in completely entering the Hindu fold, I perceived, would followers be able to pass the fullness of our teachings on to their children. Many, I realized, had lived as Hindus in past lives, and now, born in the West, were merely rediscovering the religion of their soul. Having found it, they would be content with no other religion. To not provide a way for formal entrance to Hinduism would be to leave them between religions, stranded, in a sense, with no religion at all.§

Research began, and it was soon discovered that, indeed, Hinduism does and always has accepted newcomers, though the issue is generally handled discreetly. Formal entry is accomplished through a simple ceremony, no different that the naming of a young Hindu child. The procedure was formalized and performed in our Kadavul Hindu Temple on the Garden Island of Kauai. Each devotee repeated a verbal oath before God, Gods and guru and gathered devotees, promising to be eternally faithful to the principles of the Sanātana Dharma as he entered the Śaivite Hindu religion through this “sacramental name-giving.” I asked that a certificate be issued which devotees could use later for the legal name-change, and which also proved useful for entering strict temples in India when on pilgrimage.§

The pattern was set, and hundreds entered Śaivite Hinduism in this way, joyously bringing their children into Hinduism in the same manner thereafter and raising them as orthodox Hindus. The process continues to this day. Soon a new generation of born Hindu children emerged from these converted and adoptive Hindu parents. A new gotra, or spiritual clan, was quick to form in the West, called the Subramuniya Gotra.§

Entrance into Hinduism was simpler for those who had little early training in the religion of their parents. This group made up the majority of the clan, which continues to be the case. For those confirmed or baptized or deeply indoctrinated in a non-Hindu religion or philosophical system, the transition was more involved. I established a counseling office at our Himālayan Academy in San Francisco to assist aspirants in identifying their religious loyalties and convictions. Many students chose not to take this serious step and drifted away. Thus, the Śaivite souls, as I call those who are inwardly destined to follow Śiva, were distinguished from those who had yet another path to follow.§

After 1977, only those who formally entered the religion were accepted as my śishyas, though non-Hindus were and are availed an introductory study of Śaivism through the Academy’s Master Course study programs. Students with predominant non-Hindu backgrounds who wished to enter Hinduism, having completed Book One of The Master Course, were advised of the requirement to first sever their prior religious commitments. This generally meant returning to the religious institution of their childhood, there to obtain a severance through convincing their former religious leader that they had embraced the Śaivite Hindu religion and intended to enter it formally. This severance was also documented in writing, in most cases through a letter from that institution. It soon became clear that this honest approach, with the burden of severance falling entirely on the devotee, was a vital step in the personal spiritual unfoldment of these individuals, resolving long-standing subconscious conflicts between the old faith and the new.§

In cases of deep former commitment devotees were asked to study their former faith so as to prepare a point-counterpoint of its beliefs and those of Śaivite Hinduism. They were also asked participate in the activities of their former faith, attend services and share in social events with the congregation. In several instances, devotees became reinspired with their original religion and changed their minds about converting to Śaivism. We were happy for all who rediscovered their path in life in this way, having reawakened their spiritual/religious nature through their participation in the vibrant and compellingly uplifting ceremonies of Hinduism. It was not a surprise to us, for Hinduism has such a power, such a magic, being the oldest living tradition, being so full of the divine, having never put their Gods into exile, as did most other ancient faiths when they encountered the newer religions. Hinduism kept the original path intact, pure and unashamed, rich and bold in its ways, colorful and so profound. No wonder some souls upon seeing and experiencing this were reinspired inwardly and returned to their born religion with a new hope and vision.§

Among those who have entered Hinduism in recent years in the West are former Jews, Taoists, Buddhists, Christians of all denominations, Muslims, atheists, existentialists, agnostics, materialists, new age seekers and others. Nāmakaraṇa saṁskāras are now performed in the West by many qualified Indian priests—Śaivites, Śāktas, Vaishṇavites and Smārtas—each performing the name-giving for adults and their children as is traditionally done for each Hindu child.§

In the early eighties, when Hindu devotees of other lineages, such as Smārtaism, Vaishṇavism and Śaktism, began seeking admittance to Śaiva Siddhānta Church, I established similar procedures to help them make the transition to Śaivite Hinduism. This was found necessary, for while the great Hindu lineages share many common beliefs, each is also different and distinct enough to be considered a separate religion in its own right. Devotees who had been initiated by other gurus were not allowed initiation from me unless they obtained a formal release from their former initiator. Those with strong non-Śaivite backgrounds were required to study the differences in belief between those school and the Advaita Śaiva Siddhānta of my Church so that they could make the necessary inner adjustments to becoming a good Śaivite, all based on the principle that former commitments must be dissolved before new ones can be made.§

Why Is a Formal Process Needed?§

In 1966, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a prestigious, multi-million member Hindu organization, issued this definition: “Hindu means a person believing in, following or respecting the eternal values of life, ethical and spiritual, which have sprung up in Bharatkhand [India] and includes any person calling himself a Hindu.” While self-declaration remains the basic way to enter the faith, the VHP’s 1998 Dharma Samsad, an annual meeting of Hindu spiritual leaders held that year in America, called for the development of “a process for accepting willing non-Hindus into the Hindu fold, which is an important concern among Hindus living in America.” Those concerns include intermarriage, including the need for a non-Hindu spouse to adopt the religion of his or her mate and for the couple to raise their children in a purely Hindu home. These are some of the reasons a formal process is needed.§

Another reason is the standing policy of most Indian swāmīs in the West to not formally convert their devotees to Hinduism. They generally give an informal Hindu first name only, and thereby create what may be called an ardha-Hindu—“half-Hindu”—who finds himself separated from his old faith by newfound beliefs and practice, but not fully embraced by his new one. The situation gets especially precarious when it comes to raising children. Are they Hindus, Christians, Jews? The practical outcome I have observed in the last twenty years is that such offspring are raised with no formal religion at all and are left adrift to fend for themselves in an unforgiving world.§

Also, by setting a standard of ethical conversion, Hindus can help alter the oftentimes predatory nature of religious conversion. Applying this idea to another faith, if every Hindu who wanted to become a Christian went successfully through an ethical conversion, there would be no claims by Hindus that he had been bribed, coerced, enticed or otherwise forced into the change. Of course, there would also be fewer conversions! Finally, at this time in history religions are looking for ways to get along better and work for humanity’s common spiritual good rather that fight over followers. Unfortunately, the continuing disruptive conversion tactics of the aggressive Abrahamic missionary religions are rarely on the agenda at global conferences. By advocating ethical conversion, Hindus can help the world overcome the single greatest obstacle to interfaith harmony.§

Entering Hinduism has traditionally required little more than accepting and living the beliefs and codes of Hindus. This remains the basic factor of conversion or adoption, although there are, and always have been, formal ceremonies recognizing an individual’s entrance into the religion. The most obvious sign of the adoptive is the Hindu name. People can feel uneasy about changing their name, but a look into Western names reveals them to be remarkably fluid, frequently changed as the result of minor circumstances. Those names which are not descriptive of one’s occupation or family are most frequently derived from the Christian Bible and signify a follower of Christianity. An individual who rejects belief in the doctrines of Christianity must also reject the name given him under that religion, for reasons that we will explain later.§

The Audience of This Book§

If you are a student of comparative religions, a truth-seeker, an onlooker or a devout Hindu, you will enjoy this book. Perhaps you have studied Hinduism and now feel it is your religion. If this is the case, as it has been for so many who have been exposed to Eastern thought and beliefs, and if you are of another religion and sincerely wish to become a Hindu formally, you will be happy to know that it is possible to do so. The process is not at all difficult, and though each situation is unique, it generally follows the pattern outlined herein. Should you be a born Hindu, especially if you were educated in a Catholic or Protestant Christian school or studied existentialism or secular humanism in a university, this book will certainly broaden and enhance your understanding of religious loyalty and belief and inspire you to rededicate yourself consciously and subconsciously to the Hindu dharma. This book is designed to serve three audiences: first, non-Hindus interested in entering the Hindu religion; second, Hindus changing from one Hindu sect or denomination to another; and third, mature Hindu elders who can help converts and adoptives make the necessary adjustments for full entrance into the community; as well as derive inspiration about their own faith and deepen their own spiritual life. To some, the mention of the last purpose may seem out of place, but let it be known that everyone’s faith can be strengthened and self-conversion even applies to those born to the religion, spiritually speaking.§

Yes, I am referring to “bringing Hindus into Hinduism.” It is another well kept secret that I have been bringing Hindus into Hinduism most of my life. Hindus by and large don’t understand the basics, let alone the depths, of their religion. For those seeking deeper waters, soul-searching, education and steps toward severance may be required to pave the way for a clear understanding of their born faith, leading to a happier future. Many Hindus, though born into the religion, have grown up attending Catholic schools. But if you ask them about the effects, they generally say, “I really didn’t pay much attention to what the nuns and fathers were saying.” We know from experience that this is impossible. Because of such influence and other programming, many Hindus are Hindus in name only.§

When serious Hindu seekers discover the path, and the more esoteric, metaphysical aspects of their born religion, they must face and deal with the dragons that may lurk in their subconscious. You will discover a wonderful example of this in the Chapter One story of our friend Sri Sita Ram Goel, one of India’s greatest living thinkers. Though born in a Hindu family, He became an atheist and a communist in his youth, a disbeliever and a heretic to his father’s faith. Yet, due to his sincerity and intelligence, one experience led to another and he, too, became a Hindu, after fully reconciling with his former mentors.§

Again, a few may inquire whether such emphasis is necessary, whether it may be more efficient to focus solely on matters of spiritual discipline, sādhana and philosophy and avoid these technical tangents. Our answer is that these matters are really not so tangential as they might seem. For those once involved in another religion, the subject of this book is a most crucial one. What is being discussed is commitment, and commitment precedes the practice of deeper spiritual disciplines and meditations. By commitment I mean fully embracing one’s religion, fully practicing one’s religion, fully serving one’s religion. Only in this way will the spiritual disciplines, sādhana and philosophy take hold and produce lasting results. Only in this way, no longer as an onlooker, will the convert or adoptive become an intrinsic part of an ever-growing international community constituting one sixth of the human race.§

Are You a Hindu?§

Belief is the keynote of religious conviction, and beliefs vary greatly among the different religions of the world. Psychologically speaking, what we believe forms our attitudes, shapes our lives, defines our culture and molds our destiny. To choose our beliefs is to choose our religion. Compare your beliefs to the beliefs of Sanātana Dharma. If you find yourself at home with Hindu beliefs, the attitudes they produce and the culture that is lived by a billion-plus souls, then obviously you are a Hindu. It is that easy.§

But formally entering any new religion is a serious commitment, one which must certainly be considered deeply. This book outlines the purpose and the requirements of that auspicious and important step. It is a most individual experience, often joyful, sometimes painful and always challenging, especially for those severing from other loyalties. That is as it should be. Severance from a former religion or philosophy should be a memorable experience, sharp, clean-cut, with no ragged edges left. Then entrance into Hinduism is clear and completely positive.§

Entrance to Hinduism should not be sought because friends are doing it or because this is the next step in a course of study. It must come from the heart, from a deep, inner sense, an inner knowing that this is the natural dharma of your soul. This book records the conclusions of over fifty years of work and research in the field of personal belief and religious conviction which occasionally culminates in the need to transcend the boundaries of one’s born faith and seek solace in another. How to Become a Hindu is thus a practical manual to help guide those seeking to ratify their self-declared commitment to the Sanātana Dharma in all its dimensions: spiritual, social, cultural, economic and educational. It’s a package deal.§

How do you know if you are a Hindu deep inside? If an elder, your guru or a friend has given you a Hindu name? If you have met a swāmī or yogi, pandit or satguru who speaks out the truths you always knew to be the way of the universe? If you feel in your heart of hearts that no other religion suits you better, expresses your native spirituality more profoundly, offers you a way to personally know the Divine within you?§

Let’s analyze and through the process of elimination find out. If you believe, as your guru does, in the existence of God everywhere and in all things, you are certainly not a Christian, Muslim or Jew. If you believe in one Supreme God and many Gods, you are certainly not a Christian, Muslim, Jew or Buddhist. The Buddhists, like the Jains, don’t believe in a personal God. They don’t like to use the word God. They don’t feel the concept of God is part of their deepest understanding. They do not accept a creator, or a knowing God who guides His creation. I was deeply impressed at hearing the Dalai Lama and the head of a Japanese Buddhist tradition make a strong and articulate point of this to several hundred spiritual leaders at the Presidents’ Assembly at the Parliament of the World’s Religions’ 1993 centennial in Chicago, where they appealed to the other religions to please not include the use of the word God in a key declaration, called “Toward a Global Ethic,” that all faith leaders were asked to affirm and to sign. Significantly, the word God was left in that document.§

If you believe in the law of karma, action receiving its comparable just due, you might be a Buddhist, but then you have the personal God problem. But you are certainly not a Christian, Jew or Muslim, because their doctrines do not include karma. If you believe in reincarnation, punarjanma, “being born again and again,” you might be a Buddhist or a Jain, but then there is the God problem again. But again, you are not a Christian, Jew or Muslim, because they adamantly reject these Vedic revelations, though Hasidic Jews do attest to reincarnation.§

In summary, your religion is the group that you are the most comfortable with, those who think like you, share the same ideals, according to their similar philosophies. Another point: if you are attracted to Hindu temples, well then certainly you are not a Christian, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Jew or Muslim. The 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions brought all these faiths together, and it became very clear to me that the religions of the world are happy to be different, unique, not the same. They celebrated these differences, while also affirming an inner oneness. As one of the three presidents of Hinduism at the Presidents’ Assembly, along with Swāmī Chidānanda Sarasvatī and Māta Amṛitānandamāyī, I can say that each one of the leaders of the world’s religions knows who the others are and is not about to change. The whole idea that all religions are one may be true in spirit, but in actuality, no. One path or another must be chosen and then lived fully. We don’t hear born Hindus saying much anymore, “I’m a Christian; I’m a Muslim; I’m a Jew,” as they used to proclaim in the ‘70s. Today they are proudly saying, “I am a Smārta, a Vaishṇavite, a Śakta or a Śaivite.” Much of this change is due to the courageous stand that Hindu leaders of all denominations and traditions have taken.§

If truly you find you are the Hindu an elder, friend or guru saw in you by giving you a Hindu name—they usually give Ananda, Shanti or Jyoti for starters—then take the next step and accept the culture, the conventions the fullness of the world’s oldest spiritual tradition, with its yogas and its multitudinous wisdoms. Carefully choose the sect within the Sanātana Dharma, the old Sanskrit name for Hinduism, that you will devote your life to following.§

Entrance Procedures§

It is important to know that one cannot simply enter “the Hindu religion.” That is not possible. It is necessary to enter one of Hinduism’s specific sects or denominations. Even in these tempestuous times, the subtle differences of Hindu lineages are clearly and methodically demarcated by our priesthoods. After mind searching, soul searching and study, having assured yourself beyond question that yes, indeed, you are a devout follower of the Sanātana Dharma, go with your Hindu friends to a Hindu priest in a temple of your choice and arrange for the name-giving sacrament, nāmakaraṇa saṁskāra. Your beliefs and way of life have affirmed your inner decision to become a Hindu. This ceremony brings you formally into the Hindu community, recognizing and ratifying your proclamation of loyalty and wholehearted commitment to the Sanātana Dharma and validating, now and forever, your Hindu first and last name on all legal documents.§

Chapter seven describes all the steps in detail. Included there is a model nāmakaraṇa certificate that you can photocopy or re-typeset to document the event, signed by the priest and several witnesses, especially members of the community you are entering, who will share your joy in becoming a full-fledged Hindu. Then have your new name made legal on your passport, social security or ID card, credit cards, insurance documents, driver’s license, telephone listing and more. More information on arranging for the nāmakaraṇa saṁskāra and other matters can be found on our Website at§

We call upon Hindu religious leaders to welcome and embrace adoptive and converts and not say they disqualify for one reason or another. Leaders, priests, heads of aadheenams, maṭhas and āśramas, pandits, managers of temples and devotees, make it your duty to bring in those who were Hindus in their last life, those who are brand new to Hinduism but have a deep interest in it and those who were born into the religion but drifted away and now seek to return, who want to know in their aspiring hearts, “How can I enter Hinduism?”§

Now we have the overview of what is to come. Travel with me through this documentary book about full and formal entrance into my beloved Hindu faith, the oldest spiritual tradition on Earth, the divine family that is over a billion strong and growing. You are interested, I know you are, as you have read this far. Read on, read on. You will never look back and regret that you did.§

Love and blessings from this and inner worlds.§


Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami§

162nd Jagadāchārya of the Nandinātha
Sampradāya’s Kailāsa Paramparā
Guru Mahāsannidhānam
Kauai Aadheenam, Hawaii, USA
Satguru Pūrṇimā, July 15, 2000
Hindu year Vikrama, 5102