How I became a Hindu

“Can you imagine – in Europe there are people who believe there is no Bhagawan (God)!” Baba Ramdev, a highly popular yogi, said this to a sea of thousands of Indian schoolchildren with an expression of genuine wonderment on his face. I saw it on TV and it made me smile.

He is right. In Europe there are people who believe there is no God and I almost had become one of them. It is quite normal there. Yet for most Indians this is unbelievable: ‘Don’t these Europeans have any reasoning power? Can’t they come to the conclusion that there must be an invisible power and intelligence at the base of this vast universe and actually in our own bodies made up of billions of intelligent cells, as well? ‘They certainly have a point.

However, most Indians are not aware why many westerners believe there is no God. The reason is that we in the west have, if I may say so, a different God. Right from childhood we are ‘taught’ about the Christian God who is declared to be the only true God: a male, superman-like entity, watching over us from an unknown place, who is greatly favouring Christians, is jealous of other gods and actually quite unfair, because he sends all those who don’t join his Church, eternally to hell. Eternally! Already as a teenager, I lost faith in this God and together with it, thankfully, the fear of hell.

In 1980 I stopped over in India on my way to Australia. At least, that was what I thought. I did not break my journey in India for spiritual reasons, as I did not associate Hinduism with anything worthwhile. In school I had learnt that Hinduism is about an unjust caste system and plenty of (false, since Christianity has the true one) gods, and not knowing better, I had believed it.  However, during this stopover, I stumbled on India’s ancient tradition and was amazed at its depth. I appreciated that intelligence was used in trying to establish the truth about this universe and no unverifiable dogmas were imposed. Swami Vivekananda’s “Jnana Yoga” was the first book I read. He stands in a long line of Rishis who have dedicated themselves since time immemorial to an intensive, disciplined, inner search for what is essentially true. Their findings don’t contradict modern science.

All forms and names are like waves on the ocean

The basis of every appearance in this universe, including our own person, is the same one Essence or Presence – real, infinite, eternal, formless and nameless. All forms and names are like waves on the ocean. The waves may think that they are separate from the ocean. They may not even see the ocean but only other waves. They may cling to their (temporary) form and be terrified to lose it, but ultimately all waves are nothing but the ocean and nothing is lost when their form subsides. Similarly, though we may consider ourselves as separate from the whole and cling to our impermanent person, our essence is pure, limitless awareness and nothing of substance is lost when form and name are lost.

The purpose of life and its fulfillment is to discover who we really are, the rishis declared.

This knowledge made immediately sense to me and was actually a source for great joy. It was in tune with my vague intuition that, if there is a God, he must be the basis of everything and not a separate entity.

Early during my stay in India, I met Devaraha Baba and Anandamayi Ma, two renowned saints of that time. I had never met persons like them. There seemed to be nobody there behind their eyes and their presence felt beneficial. “It is because they are enlightened”, someone explained to me. “God shines clearly through their form, because there is no ego to block that.”

“God”- this word had been missing in my vocabulary for long, but it comes up frequently in India among those who speak English, young and old, and strangely, here I did not sense any hypocrisy as I did in Germany. Indians use “God’ for the many different Sanskrit terms because it is the English term for the creator of the universe and they generally don’t realize that the Abrahamic God is different and requires believing in unverifiable dogmas. In India, the concept of God is much vaster and based on a genuine enquiry. The outcome of this enquiry is that God and one’s Self are basically the same. ‘This Atman (Self) is Brahman (God)’, declare the Vedas. It all made sense. The question however was now how to feel or experience this truth as real.

Anandamayi Ma, a saintly woman from Bengal who died in 1982, advocated Bhakti – love for the Divine and asked us to be always – 24 hours a day – aware of His (‘His’ does not imply ‘male’) Presence. “You are always in His loving embrace”, she said. It sounded authentic; however I was also drawn to Jnana, (knowledge), to Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism.

I genuinely tried to be aware of my innermost Being and to develop love for it. In the morning I resolved to be ‘the whole day’ aware, and while brushing my teeth, I had already forgotten about it. It was not that easy. The rishis knew that and gave many helpful tips – tips that are often missing in the western new age scene, which has heavily borrowed from the Hindu tradition, often without acknowledging it.

Refinement of one’s character

 One important point is the refinement of one’s character. To be able to sense these subtle, yet very real realms of awareness, the mind and intellect have to be refined. The term “Arya” in the Vedas is not referring to a race. It means ‘noble”. Whoever lives a noble life is an Arya. “Let noble thoughts come to us from all corners” is a prayer from the ancient Veda. And further, “Brahman permeates the biggest and the smallest”. “See God in everyone.”  “Respect nature”, and so on.

I became quite naturally a vegetarian. I could not partake anymore in this colossal bloodbath all over the globe, hidden from our eyes, but very real for each one of those poor creatures that are slaughtered without mercy. I tried to get up early, though I usually fell short by a couple of hours from the time, one gets up in ashrams – 4 a.m. I practised yoga and meditation, and tried to catch any negative thought/ emotion before it could lodge itself in my mind. Wishing well for everyone and doing what feels right, was the basic motto for my life. I enjoyed singing bhajans and even more listening to and reciting myself Vedic shlokas. I tried to follow for us westerners rather unusual rules, like ‘the freer you give from what you have (knowledge, wealth, etc.) the more you will receive’. I stopped being overly concerned about ‘fulfilling my desires’ that – so we were taught in psychology class in Europe – was paramount for mental health. I trusted Indian wisdom more than western psychology. There were times when all this was easy and many unbelievable coincidences happened, indicating that there is indeed a ‘God’ making his caring Presence felt.  There were also many dry times, when it was difficult and I almost despaired at being neither here (immersed in worldly matters) nor there (knowing the truth).

Meanwhile 33 years have passed in India and I still have not been in Australia. I feel at home in Hindu Dharma. When somebody asks me, “are you Christian?” (which happens frequently), my answer is, “I am Hindu”. Have I discovered that underlying Presence that is claimed to be our essence?

Yes and no. Yes, because I had glimpses of a different state of awareness that feels special and yet completely natural. When this state occurs, life is immensely worthwhile, never mind whether pleasant or unpleasant things happen on the outside.

No, because shifting into this state and remaining in it, is not in my control. It is only occasionally ‘granted’.

Apart from discovering that there is indeed a different, blessed way of being, there are many other benefits that India granted. Death lost its sting to a great extent. I released that belief in rebirth is more than a belief – it is logical and scientific research supports it, too. The law of Karma also makes much more sense when it is stretched over many lives and it helps to accept one’s present situation and the differences between humans. This acceptance is not fatalism. It is in fact helpful in bringing about a change in the situation, if so needed. Thoughts lost their power to a certain extent, as there is a witness at the back watching them, though their flow has not stopped and so far, does not even seem to be stoppable. The most important aspect however is: I developed great trust in That what upholds me and everyone or should I say, trust in Bhagawan?  Actually, I could not imagine living without it.

I am very grateful to India’s wisdom. It is all-inclusive of every human being without putting any prior conditions. “The whole world is one family”, it declares. It does not straight-jacket the mind by demanding belief in incredible dogmas, it does not require a membership card to be saved, and it gives great support for a happy life. Hindu Dharma is not a belief system but is based on natural, universal laws and in my view clearly the best option mankind has for living together in peace and harmony.

By Maria Wirth



  1. Jayashree · · Reply

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Most Hindus are not aware of a lot of things you mentioned. I realised ‘his’ presence from many situations that we were made to go through.
    One of aunty is a disciple of Ma Anandamayi Ma

  2. Respected ma’am, you have gained this knowledge because you explored the things in a practical way with a broad mind. Actually, Hinduism is not only the most ancient way of life, but the most inclusive and practical way of life. I’m stunned sometimes when I see that some ambitious people try to twist the real interpretation of Hinduism for fulfilling their own worldly desires. I am a Post Graduate in Law and I have interest in research of these topics. I’ll feel myself fortunate if I could ever have your “Darshan”. Thank you.

  3. Rahul Bhan · · Reply

    It was enlightening, thanks !

  4. Pradeepkumar Kathavi · · Reply

    Mam, your “Prarabdha Karma” has made you come back to Hindu Way Of Life. Your Past Karma has written your ‘today’. Again doing good will land you in ‘Moksha’.
    Good wishes, God Bless.

  5. How blessed are you (and me), not because you are a Hindu, but because how close you are to true-self. That oneness realisation and acceptance is the essence and you got it. Makes you yet another enlightened life, as you saw it in other two, you mentioned. After reading your blog it feels like I cleaned my inner self today yet again, and that’s what of our inner realised God (‘antratma-permatma’) does, through pure ‘Gyan’ 🙂

    Respect – Because you see Bhagwan. ‘Seey-Ram may sab jag jani, karahun pranam jori jug pani’.
    Bhagwan – Everywhere, Everyone-Everything, Every-time. Sarvbhaumik, Sarvatra aur saman bhi. (Hari vyapak sarvatra samana, prem te pragat hoy mai jana’)


  6. Hemant Tulpule · · Reply

    Thank you ma’am for this blog. I am sure, you discovered this truth due to (inherited) past “samskars”. Your “annodak” (food+water)is here in India, how fortune you are! You will be free of bondage, sooner. My respectful 🙏

  7. Suresh K · · Reply

    In a sense, even the seemingly different positions of Advaita, Vishistadvaita, Dvaita and others all appeal to different minds at different levels of understanding and awareness. Bhagavan also having a name and form as Krishna says that He appears to each One in the form each one wants to see Him. A child sees the father, wife sees the husband, the servant sees the master, he sees himself as a son..But the person is same for the one who observes all these roles. Likewise, Krishna is same but people see him in the way they relate to.

  8. You are a real Sadhvi and a realised soul. Your exploration of your real self through the philosophy of Hinduism is in real sense needs to be emulated. I don’t say this as a born Hindu but as a soul who continues to be in quest of real purpose of life and to give it back to the society and environment which sustains us.

  9. “Hindu Dharma is not a belief system but is based on natural, universal laws” – This sums it up for me. Being a Hindu, I always tell many that Hinduism is not about beliefs. Everything in Hinduism is/was followed for a reason which was applicable in the ancient times. We have lost the reasons in the modern world. Hopefully we’ll find them all again to bring more meaning to Hinduism even in the eyes of the general public.

  10. Shiva prasad · · Reply

    Om shanti shanti shantihi.

  11. Sarala Jagannathan · · Reply

    It’s always a pleasure reading your posts. You must have been Indian, and most probably a Hindu, in your past birth. Those samskaras brought you back here. The soul matters and not the place where one is born or the religion one follows. If we are aware that we are Divine, that’s enough. As a follower of Advaita and Sri Ramana Maharishi I believe that there is only One Reality that manifests as many due to Maya. Ekam Sath. Once we realize that there would be no difference and dispute. Thanks again Ms. Wirth for a wonderful post.

    1. SHRIKANT MAHAJAN · · Reply

      Upon death we loose identity with present world,incl religion what one carries forward is essence in the form of impression (created on our mind the actions & thoughts on various happenings/unfulfilled wishes from his past life/lives, & based on that we take our next birth in such family. Liberation we should strive for to rid off birth death cycle.

  12. Very nice write up; gives one a warm feeling. Thanks for the encouragement for Hindus. I live in the Middle East, and meet a lot of patients every day. One behavior trait of Hindus strikes me: most of the time, they’re meek, often unnecessarily so. Those who are not, appear as aggressive as Arabs or Peacefuls from other regions. Westerners most of the time appear confident, respectfully, smart – but never meek. I feel this meekness of Hindus is because of the prolonged persecution they have been going through; they feel disenfranchised everywhere. I wish we could change that: one only needs to be meek before the Creator; with other human beings, one should be confident.

  13. […] I described my experience. “essentially” means, i didn’t take any official step to “become” a Hindu, […]

  14. NK Balakrishnan · · Reply

    The views of the auther reflects her understanding of the Advita philosophy to a greater extent. However I would like to add a few lines here. The whole philosophy is based on Sanatana Dharma which is the bundle of knowledge existed from time immemorial. It’s evolution is much older than all the religions. Since it originated in this part of the world and since the people here followed it, in due course it became an identity of people lived here. It was a time when on earth there was no religion at all.
    In the flow of time, in order to discipline the way of life of human beings various thoughts developed across the globe which gave birth to other semantic religions.
    When those who followed such other religions came to India, the already existing people on this geographies started knowing as Hindus and others according to their beliefs like Christians Muslims etc.
    But actually the thoughts of Sanatana Dharma is all inclusive, which advocates the whole stuff in the universe as part of the Super Power or Parabrahman and naturally all individual lives and millions of independent intelligent cells in each object living or non living.
    The first line of Easavasyopanishad is sufficient enough to explain it “easavasyamidam sarvam” meaning the whole matter (perceivable or non perceivable including space) has the presence of the one and only,The Supreme That is, the whole unity is God. It includes everything in it and not restricting it’s believers or the humans or the flora and fauna,but the whole matter and space (quantum physics says all matters are compressed form of space) See how noble a thought! It is impossible to have a better thought or concience for the humanity for ever!
    And it is not a simple belief, but a scientific fact. Even if you think in a pure materialistic perspective, if we look back to our origine even beyond the sperm and egg of our parents, we understand that it is generated in their body from the food, water and air they consumed from the Nature. In due course the embryo grows from the food ,water, air and the emotions and thoughts of the mother, takes birth and thereafter fed by the mother with her breast milk generated from the food,water, air and emotions. As the child grows further, it starts to draw food etc independently from the Nature. In due course he recreates,extending his body and life to new offsprings and at last merges the left over portion of the body into the same Nature where from he evolved. This means we are all evolved from the Nature and finally merges back into it. Now if you forget this life span which is negligible in the infinite stretch of time, nothing is created or distroyed in the Nature except continuous change of forms. Just like a bubble formed and remerged with the vast ocean! A truth scientifically proved by Einstein in his theory of relativity. “Energy can neither be created nor be distroyed. ”
    Every single (apparent) object is a form of kinetic or potential energy and what we see in birth, death and other events are all only a change of form or metamorphosis. This is what is meant by “Aham Brahmasmi” (it is me which is present in everything, I am the Brahman, there is nothing other than Brahman)and it believes in “Loka sanastha Sukhino Bhavanthu”

  15. vimalwakhlu123 · · Reply

    Very inspiring!Thank you for sharing this writeup. It is good Karmas from your past births which put you on this track! All the best to you!

    1. Thank you

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