How I essentially 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:

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.

 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

PS: It seems a troll has discovered my blog. In future I will not post comments that are abusive and try to create friction, like the first comment to this article by madhug.

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141 comments

  1. Acceptance or denial of the existence of God is a compulsive obsession, because it is only an idea or knowledge given to us by our teachers and elders. The problem is not with such ideas or knowledge. It is the ‘dependence or conditioning’ of the I or intelligence that is bothering mankind.

    Discovering the principle, structure and operation of the human mind inevitably liberates man. See the link; http://t.co/LR6xIDGTNh

    1. vasuerfolg · · Reply

      I see that you are an author and you are promoting your book. You are claiming that human intelligence and the “I” feeling are one and the same. Even without reading your book, I can say with 200% confidence that you premise is wrong. What you are stating has been contradicted and disproved in all the Vedic literature and the Upanishads. I suggest you take up a serious learning and reading, under the guidance of a traditional Guru, at least one of the Upanishads or at the very least, the Srimad Bhagawad Geetha, to understand these concepts. Then, hopefully, you will write another book disowning the theory you have propounded in your current book. Good Luck.

      1. OK TO DISCOVER UR OWN ANSWERS.
        Maria Writh is a great lady. She is a better Hindu than many born Hindus. Please do not mock her interpretation. V R indeed honored to have her in our midst. Her writings have inspired may a lost soul.

  2. I was looking to reply to a completely nonsensical comment by one Mradula but I see that this comment has (perhaps) been deleted. Good work.

  3. Vanamali · · Reply

    Love your thoughts – esp how you became a Hindu. It amazes me that in this day and age when it comes to religion people lose their brain cells. Nothing is proven, any fool can make amazing claims of a magic kingdom just waiting for one after death and the forcing religion on a person – people don’t seem to see or want to see that Heaven is but a Ponzi Scheme. Heaven is but a metaphor – for the past, childhood – a time when we were happy, had few worries, everything was magical, we led a sheltered life – does that not describe Heaven perfectly. The ancient Hindus saw this as an attempt to escape dealing with reality, real life and so they came up with the idea of Reincarnation – there is no magic land to run away to, no magic Sugar Daddy to keep you in comfort – what you are seeing is all there is – up there is but death, choose Life. Life has been so harsh for so long, religions gained eager followers by promising them the moon, the easy life to be had by building castles in the air. Naturally some people stood up and asked where is the evidence for all these tall claims and the ponzi-schemers reacted the way any swindler would, by attacking those who doubted as evil, heretics.
    Reincarnation asks to love Life – to me Life is a Great Gift from God – as a Hindu i get to savor it over and over again. I do not want it to ever end and thank God i will not

  4. In India also lot of people believe that there is no God. I am one of them.

    1. Maria Lozano · · Reply

      For a Hindu, “God” is not a matter of belief. It is a matter of experience. This is one of the many differences between any of the Abrahamic religions and Sanatana Dharma.

      1. Agree wholeheartedly.

    2. God in not a person but godliness is a character.
      Atheism is very much valid in Hinduism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism_in_Hinduism

    3. And that is completely fine with sanatana dharma. You can ‘not believe’ as much as you want

    4. U dont get it. U can be an atheist and a Hindu. I M one. Hindu has cultural manifestations and teachings that can give u a better life without belief in God. Good luck.

    5. Vijit Dutta · · Reply

      Wonderful, and the best part is one can still be a aethist and a Hindu.

  5. Hinduism is a path you follow. You cannot acquire it by reading or being born in it.. You can only be a Hindu by following it. Though Good and Bad are very subjective terms, but a true follower of Hinduism will be a conscious soul taking the path that will get him/her closer to GOD.

    Madhu – you have been stating all sorts of things and condemning Maria of being a Christian, well even if we assume she is a Christian, what bad can she do? Shes reading about Hinduism and just putting it out there in her words.
    If Madhu you are soo upset about Maria writing it all wrong and infiltrating Hinduism, may be you should start your own blog and write what according to you is Hinduism. Why are you fighting Madhu and stooping soo low? If you are a believer and soo learned ( as you claim) maybe you should put that knowledge to use!!

    Maria – the first article I read ” WHY THIS FOCUS ON ’RAPES IN INDIA’ BY WORLD MEDIA?”
    and I cannot explain you how much i am touched . Its amazing how all of us and our minds are getting manufactured by Media, how a few people in power are behind all this.
    Looking forward to reading & learning a lot more from you…

    1. THIS IS REQUEST MARIA WIRTH NOT TO BLOCK TROLLS. We R with U Mariaji and will deal with them. Use trolls to clean the mirror U r showing to Hindus.

  6. vasuerfolg · · Reply

    @ Rajendra Salokhe – I have no issues if you say there is no GOD. But just curious to know, what kind of GOD is it that you deny? Can you define the GOD that you say does not exist?

    @Vanamali, whatever you have written about “Heaven is but a metaphor – for the past, childhood – a time when we were happy… … The ancient Hindus saw this as an attempt to escape dealing with reality, real life and so they came up with the idea of Reincarnation – Reincarnation asks to love Life – to me Life is a Great Gift from God ” etc. etc. is just your own imagination of what you think Hindu philosophy teaches. This is not authentic Vedic / Vedantic teaching. You need to go back and learn your scriptures properly before touting these as authentic Hindu tenets.

    In general, I see that people who consider themselves Hindus just because they are born into a Hindu family, think they know everything there is to know about our tradition, when in fact they are as ignorant as a non-Hindu when it comes to some basic tenets of our great ancient tradition. Educating Hindus about the Hindu tenets is the need of the hour.

    1. Veerabhadra · · Reply

      I fully agree that most Hindus including me are ignorant about Vedas & upanishads. May be no interests or do not know the taste of them. There is a dire need to educate Hindus about these in a simple & interesting way by adopting some innovative methods.

  7. Michael · · Reply

    Namaskar Maria ji.

    It gives me tremendous joy to read about your wonderful journey of becoming a Hindu. Your articles are quite inspirational and enriched with spirituality. I am a Hindu, who left India as a child and have lived abroad for over 40 years, and your articles reassures me of my good fortune to read Bhagawat Geeta for all my spiritual queries.

    Keep up the wonderful work. Your devotion to Omnipresent – Brahma, Vishnu & Mahesh and service to mankind is immensely appreciated.

    Best wishes.

    Michael from Canada

  8. Yogendran G · · Reply

    Good article Sister. To each his religion. While I appreciate your wonderful writing on the beauty of Hinduism I am afraid it shouldn’t be at the cost of another religion. The minute you start criticising another religion you are being less of a Hindu and more of a past hateful-of-past-life convert… No offence sister but just a friendly reminder. If only the people of the world could realise the inherent beauty of every religion – renounce fundamentalism and cherish God then earth would be that elusive heaven. Jai Sri Ram. May the mother’s blessings always be with you.

    1. Why being so afraid of pointing out serious faults? Adi Shankara challenged Buddhists, in ancient times there were debates, Hindu Dharma is about truth, isn’t it?
      but since 2000 years we have to deal with two “religions’ (what is the definition of religion?) that claim to be the one and only truth and whoever does not believe it and subscribe to their group, will burn eternally in hell. Moreover, their truth is based only on a claim. No discussion allowed.
      I grew up in it and know the disadvantages. Many in Europe do. Please see some more articles on the blog. It may get clearer
      Maria Wirth

      1. eezhavan · ·

        In ancient India we are told everyone was a philosopher. The Tamil saints in the South too challenged various other sects on their philosophies and helped refine the culture. This was the way Hinduism enriched itself in the past. In that ancient milieu where cutting edge philosophical ideas were debated and discarded, Abrahamic dogmatic religions would not have had a chance to survive. It is a pity that, probably because of the colonial suppression of the Indian psyche, learned scholars and sages of today are shying away from taking centre stage, to keep that tradition alive, to drive away the cancer of bad ideas that are so detrimental to the world community. Thanks to a lovable and admirable “foreigner” like you, truth may remain uncovered for all to see.

  9. Dr Himanshu Kumar · · Reply

    Dear Maria ji ,your life is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Bhavisya purana that when the Malechas i.e the beef eaters will take to vedas that the vedanta will be revived in whole world.i will give you that verse of Bhavisya Purana later.Do remember that the vedas guarantee that any for which have sacrificed everything of your life ,the same goal will you pursue in your other lives till you get the divine form in Goloka

  10. […] Original article : https://mariawirthblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/how-i-essentially-became-a-hindu/ […]

  11. Here is website of American Hindu
    http://metaphysicalmusing.com/

  12. vasudha · · Reply

    wow!Your story is so inspirational. I wish I could meet you and talk lots and lots about Hinduism. I’m really very impressed.

  13. We write about the great Hindu temples in our website http://www.columbuslost.com. Please have a look and let us know your thoughts.

  14. Happens with me too many times:-
    “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).”

    Excellent write-up 🙂

  15. Reblogged this on Ribhu Vashishtha and commented:
    Vedanta wisdom:-

  16. Sunil Godbole · · Reply

    Pranams Dear Maria,
    I loved reading your Life narrative of evolution and transformation to the ONE ~ ADVAITA
    It is indeed a incredible journey for a person born Christian to have become nearly a hardcore atheist, to have come to India during a stop over and then to have stayed on ever since. Your open heart enquiry and the realization of the SATCHIDANANDA.

    I hope at least a few of my friends who consider themselves as non-belivers draw an inspiration to make a genuine enquiry and put the immense spiritual knowledge to trial,……………
    and hence I would love to share your blog.
    Regards.
    Dr.Sunil Godbole.
    drgodboles@gmail.com
    09960096857

  17. Is it fair to continue allowing idol worship & Hinduism in India when the constitution explicitly says promote scientific temper?

    Let me ask you one question: IS THERE ANY RELIGION WHICH IS SCIENTIFIC? (except may be Scientology) In fact the core of Sanatan dharma is probably more scientific than most other religions. (Not talking about rituals)…. Then why isolate Only Idol Wor…

  18. Gopaal Dhussa · · Reply

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful thought in so simple words.
    God bless you.

  19. […] Source: How I essentially became a Hindu […]

  20. A great article. Frankly, while there is a small faith at the back of my mind that Sanatana dharma will survive in India, I feel that only the westerners who have a more open and scientific temperament and have realised the shallowness of Christianity, will carry forward its torches. Modern India looks too tamasic to do anything. The money and aggression of the abrahamic religions, the dangerous games being played by media, and the tacit support from the weak political class is a big cause for concern. india is the only nation where the indigenous culture is still intact despite a 700 year brutal rule by the Muslims. All other cultures have vanished. Whether the money power and the pseudo secularism can cause its destruction remains to be seen.

    As you have Highlighted, it takes years of practice to achieve even a small progress in spiritual matters, as the old habits die hard. And Sanatana dharma is a very experiential system, where you can experiment with your own life with full freedom. Other religions take a very easy, lazy, faith-based approach, where if you simply believe God is great, that is enough to give you salvation. A very simplistic point of view. But men want simplistic catchy terms. Even spiritual giants like Ramakrishna and Sri Aurobindo spent years in their Sadhana, and the followers of the abrahamic faith think that a few simple principles can make them reach heaven. How much difference is there between the outlook. Except for rare cases, when someone is devoutly Christian and devoutly Muslim, and observes all the practices, instead of love for all human beings it is more hatred towards the pagans and heathens. So a lifetime of study and simplistic practices has not changed their nature at all.

    Of course, we naturally born Hindus 🙂 also chase western values and deride our own culture. But on a positive note, the Hindu religion allows you to question everything and not accept anything blindly. But this modern contempt for anything Hindu is not because of original questioning – just the missionary power, and the full support from everyone in the political class.

  21. Sudeshna bhattacharya · · Reply

    Hinduism in its truest form explains theory of this universe,galaxy, cause & effect & beyond. Sincerely appreciate the fact how you being from a foreign land felt & realised the essence of our religion.its just a wish of the Lord Himself that he wanted you to realise Him..stay blessed maria..jai shree krishna

  22. […] Source: How I essentially became a Hindu […]

  23. Loved reading your article, welcome to the Hindu fold, essentially peaceful.. Hinduism you to pursue spirituality at your own pace, in your own form..you can choose to practice or not practice, you can follow strict scriptures or design your methods for realise I ng God in any form… Hinduism is a way of life.
    I hope you will allow me to repost your article on my blog with your name as the author ofcourse.

    1. of course you can repost it.

  24. Thank you for the lucidity of your thoughts.. Hinduism is an all expansive way of life, get rid of dogmas and all you have is an ocean of knowledge that guides you towards self realisation with compassion for fellow beings, to lead a good and just life, we don’t have concept of Satan in Hinduism, we are not taught to fear our God..We are taught God is in every molecule of our being and walks with us.. there is no barbarism involved… no belittling of other religions.. we are not taught it is Sin to accept pious food from Mosque and churches.. we have deep inbuilt confidence in our faith and hence can stand of a mosque and church and pray to God in those forms without any fear of angering our Gods… the other day on a Mumbai local a lady practicing another religion exclaimed loudly you know yoga is good but it is a sin for us to practice yoga!!!! It showed the level of ignorance and indoctrination that has gone to fill her mind with so much fear about a form of beneficial exercise!!! And all the other ladies predominantly Hindu choose to ignore her comment and buried themselves in their mobiles… but sometimes i wonder too much complacency and non reactive stance is probably what is becoming our undoing… today our freedom and way of life is under threat.. more and more we find people practising beliefs alien to this land.. answering to calls from foreign lands..

    the only thing to fear is bad karma which if we accumulate has to be redeemed through several births like a bad loan..Hinduism doesn’t fear apostasy, teaches to embrace all religions as just another path to realize the God inside..but probably that is why it is seen as a weakreligion.A close Hindu friend career banker married to a catholic Christian is still not fully accepted by her inlaws after twenty two years of marriage why cause she refused to be baptised! So till date she hears curses from her in-laws that cause of her adamant stance their son will never be accepted in heaven!!!l how do u rationalise with this king of brainwashed mindsets when even educated people whose traceable ancestors were Hindus talk in this manner..Hindus are free to choose any form of God that appeals to us and I am grateful for that freedom being a very lazy Hindu myself..Hinduism teaches to lead to our own inner light which ultimately is the light of God..India today stands as an Island of freedom and calm , however the time bombs have been planted inside and on the borders and it is ticking away..time for the lazy complacent Hindu majority Indian to speak up and protect this way of life.

    1. thank u, very well expressed…

  25. Loved reading your article. It gave me newer perspective of hinduism.

    I see a lot of people are explaining to u what true hinduism really is.

    Find it funny cuz I Donot think u need any explanation. U became a hindu long before I was born or most of them commenting were born (considering most of the post is from the younger generation)

  26. That Book of Swami Vivekananda, ‘Jnana Yoga’ is unarguably the most scientific book on religion [specifically spirituality]. I read it and almost all of my questions were answered to the satisfaction. The description of time cause and space is clear enough. Glad to know that Swami ji keep inspiring the world even now.

  27. Shrikant · · Reply

    Very good understanding which must have come after due (inner) experience at feeling level, as mere text/ thoughts developed upon reading thereof, may not grant it.
    Grateful !
    May I suggest reading my Master’s essays on Religion, Goal of Life & Spiritual Training from Reality at Dawn book uploaded on http://www.sriramchandra.org

  28. Vishwas Londhe · · Reply

    Dear Maria,
    You are more aware about Hinduism (to borrow a western term) than an average Hindu, as is natural for the one who adopts to it than for the one who gets it by default.
    I could not find so far any misunderstanding in your writing about it.
    My best wishes.

  29. Utkarsh Aditya Dwivedi · · Reply

    Substantial

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