Project Conversion: Hinduism:Conclusion

This is it; Project Conversion’s last day of its first month. For 31 days, I have lived and breathed 24-hours a day, seven days a week as a Hindu (Saivite to be exact). The Rig Veda declares that “Truth is One, though the wise call it many names.” This wasn’t an easy road to begin with, as there was much to learn and acclimate myself to, but I did my best and made discoveries about both Sanatana Dharma and myself that will last a lifetime.

I would like to present a short video which captures some of the highlights and footage during my month with this faith. Call it a “Month in Review.” One such video will be featured at the end of each month so that you might glean some of what I’ve committed myself to. I’m no film expert, so be easy on me here. I hope you enjoy this production as much as I did in producing its content.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoMDZfxamM8

So there you have it. So many people were involved in the making the first month of Project Conversion a success. Indeed, the remaining months have big shoes to fill, however I have faith that all will be just as enlightening, just as dynamic. As I’ve said before, my goal isn’t an attempt to teach you everything there is to know about any given faith. People spend lifetimes and still come short of the subtleties and nuances of their religion. No, my goal is to pique your interests, to get you hungry to learn more.

Remember, Project Conversion’s motivations aren’t limited to only religious applications. I want to inspire you to look beyond yourself in all walks of life. This is an encouragement–a call to arms against ignorance. Need some examples of how to apply my day-in-the-life-of-another strategy? How about you get to know someone before you spread rumors? Chances are if you make their acquaintance, you’ll be less likely to slander them. Or how about you get to know your political candidates before voting a straight ticket? This practice can be used with anything, and will change how you see everything and everyone. Soon, you’ll no longer be able to ignore that homeless guy asking for change as you walk by, aloof to his plight, and slurp down your seven-dollar gourmet coffee. From now on, you’ll stick up for the ”new girl” at the office with a red dot on her forehead that everyone is gossiping about. It’s about getting to know one another and being slow to draw conclusions.

While attending the local Hindu temple, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a class of teenagers. Toward the end of my last Sunday School session with them, they shared some of the misconceptions about the Hindu faith and Indians in general. Here are but a few to think about. Ask yourself: have you ever thought in this way?

  • There are many who believe that Hindus worship cows and tease them accordingly. This is not true. Hindus honor cows and hold them to be sacred because they symbolize sustenance, health, and God’s nourishment. Many Hindus are teased due to this misconception. Think of how Americans honor the bald eagle.
  • The red spot between the eyes (bindi) is a tilak (sacred mark) which identifies the location of the ajna chakra (third eye of spiritual wisdom). One of the ladies at the temple told me that she has often been asked if the mark was burned into the forehead of Hindus. Please think before asking such questions.
  • No, not all people who come from India are poor. Though there is a high population of poor in India, it is unfair to stereotype any group.
  • Indians are NOT Native Americans.

I hope you’ve learned something about the Hindu faith this month. As I spend the last hours of this last day in the faith, I encourage you to look over the site at some of the post to review what I’ve shared. What were your favorite discoveries, what serendipitous discoveries have you made on your own? What misconceptions have been put to rest, and if you’ve developed more questions (I hope so!), have you taken the time to have them answered?

I’d love to hear from you regarding these questions. So as I prepare to depart from this beautiful faith in preparation for a new one (Baha’i) remember that indeed that Truth is one, and like many streams flow into one river which leads to the ocean, so are the avenues toward the divine equally beautiful and full of wonderous adventure.

Now, Lord Shiva begins his dance for me, the Tandava, and the fires of death and rebirth ignite as he prepares to reduce my attachment to Hinduism to ashes. From these ashes I will rise with a new skin, new eyes, and new hymns on my breath as a Baha’i.

Thank you, Sanatana Dharma. I will never forget your lessons. And thanks to all of you who have joined me in this journey so far.

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  • hymissy

    Andrew, why didn’t you include one month of Christianity? It seems like a glaring oversight to me. How can you say you have experienced the major religions when you leave out one of the most inportant?

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for checking out the site!

      You question is interesting, as I’m sure our Catholic and Mormon friends might find offense in not being considered Christian. That in mind, I believe you are referring to the Protestant denominations. Fair enough. Project Conversion is about stepping outside of our comfort zones to explore/get to know traditions and ideals from other perspectives. I grew up in the Protestant tradition and left that faith in college, so for me, setting up a month to explore something I’m already familiar with doesn’t make much sense. On the other hand, for someone who was raised in another faith or none at all it would be a perfect addition to their individual journey.

      Thanks again,

      Andrew

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DYMQ74VK55RPNRARHMDV5UNFEE V2Blast

        Just wondering, what religion did you relate to most before you started this project, if any? (Or did you consider yourself an atheist or agnostic?)

        • Anonymous

          Probably more agnostic with a lean toward atheism.

        • Anonymous

          Probably more agnostic with a lean toward atheism.

  • http://twitter.com/kalonami Kayla Harward

    Hey Andrew, I stumbled across your site a few days ago and just finished the last of your January posts. I just wanted to let you know that I think what you’re doing is a wonderful and very inspiring project. I’m a pretty committed Christian (United Methodist), but I belive that respecting and dialoguing with people of other cultures and faiths is becoming more and more important as our world becomes ‘smaller.’ Thank you for being a leader in the movement encouraging respect for all people. That’s one of the things this world needs most. I’m looking forward to catching up on February and following you ‘real time’ for the rest of the year!

    -Kayla

  • pennygreen

    Wow Andrew, what can I say? Wow! I just finished your last entry on Hinduism and I have learned so much good stuff that I started a new Note on my FB page to help me remember some of the highlights. Perhaps it will help me inform others and dispel some of their misconceptions about people of other faiths/cultures.

    I love what you’re doing, and I love that you include the arts and photographs/videos of what you’re are doing and experiencing. That really helps bring things from the cerebral level to the real. I also love that you are including glimpses into your own personal experience of this project. A year is a long commitment and spiritual journeys are typically difficult, but I am sure that you will encounter more good than bad as you go. I am especially excited about your vision in doing this project – this isn’t just about religion, it’s about life and how we treat each other….which is what religion at its core is truly about, isn’t it?

    Looking forward to reading the rest of your entries on the Baha’i Faith, which is the path that I follow, and hoping to stay current for March with Zoroastrianism.

    Namaste.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Penny. The arts and culture–as well as social issues–bring about a complete veiw of any faith. Some folks forget that and you’re right, once you explore the communities of a certain religion, it all comes to life and is that much more meaningful.

  • Geetali

    Enjoying your journey through my faith immensely. Just one aspect that deserves to be highlighted – which you have yourself brought out at different points in your month’s brush with Hinduism: there are no prescriptions and individualism is allowed full play. This is why I am deeply disturbed to hear of ”prayer meetings” and “Sunday schools” being run for Hindu children, especially outside India. I am sure the idea is to introduce young people to the faith. But I think they should come to this faith by choice, not be prescription – and this is happening more in India than abroad!
    One last thing, I am a member of a travel forum, and you know how these operate: your identity is a ‘handle’ which doesn’t reveal your age, gender, faith or nationality. At some point, I mentioned I was an Indian. Oh, asked a forum member, native American? No, I answered, dots, not feathers!

    • Anonymous

      “Dots, not feathers!” That’s a good one.

      The Hindu temple I attended was pretty open, as our aarti and prasad honored a large assembly of gods and godesses. I suppose I was lucky…

  • http://profiles.google.com/joseph.simonowich Joseph Simonowich

    I know this is a little late for a comment on this, however I just wanted you to know I am very intrigued by what you are doing. It takes a lot of commitment and an open mind. This is what we need to see more of this day and time! I heard about your project on the Interfaith Voices podcast interview you did. I immediately found your blog and subscribed to it on google reader and am now playing catch-up. While I too am more of an agnostic, I found your first month of Hinduism very interesting.

    Oddly enough, the one thing that intrigued me most were the bits on the Hindu diet with respect to animals. I am a life-long meat eater. But I feel that may be getting ready to change for me. One statement you made, “An animal raised for food often leads a painful, short, and terrified life of darkness and torment.” has really affected me for some reason. In addition, the whole of the religion is very beautiful. It has definitely opened my eyes.

    • Anonymous

      Shalom Joseph!
      It’s never too late to jump aboard. I’m glad you’re enjoying the site and finding much to explore. Indeed, the Hindu experience left an impression on my attitude toward meat consumption and I can say that I’ll never look at an animal the same way again.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/projectconversion/2011/01/project-conversion-hinduismconclusion.html#comments JainGirl

    Having experienced both Hinduism and Jainism, I personally don’t see where there is too much difference. I personally do not feel that there is a personal God so that right there makes me an atheist, I would say. I appreciate the Jain concept of liberated being (God men). I also felt more of the divinity as a Jain than a Hindu, having experienced it with a living master here in the U.S. The Siddhyatan Ashram which is considered a Hindu-Jain temple, I experienced yoga, both the physical and the spiritual aspects and deep meditation. There are workshops you can attend and have hands on experience from a true living master. There is debate on which faith is older.

    Hinduism says it’s older, but Jainsim predates Hinduism. Mahavair was the 24th. Tirthankara, which means that there were 23 before him. You will also find in the Bahagavita that it mentions these tirthankaras in it’s scriputure. Even though during the time of early Jainism there was no written language, it can’t be recorded as to how old it really it. Facts show that Jainism predates recorded history. Both are ancient and worthy of respect.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Vijaya Pant

    Shri Andrew Bowen has indeed lived as a Sanatani -the real word for Hindu.But after having lived as a Hindu how can he state at the conclusion of his article that he bids goodbye to this ultimate way of life.
    Once Truth has been found the search has ended.One can understand the rest and also ‘empathise’ with other faiths!
    This type of interfaith voicing leads people nowhere!
    Someone -a simple vegetable vendor remarked that we are all born as Hindus and then later on become X-tians,Mohammedans etc.that is where heavy missionary ‘conversion’ activities as of today in India comes into play!
    Such innocent and pure wisdom of the highest order can be found only in the sacred land of Bharat-where no agendas are attached to actions and where actions are dedicated to the ALMIGHTY as stated in the BHAGAVAD GEETA.

    • abowen

      Vijaya,

      Thank you for reading. Please understand that my year living among the various faiths of the world was not a personal quest for truth, but my way of reconnecting with a humanity I once judged and scorned. I still study on the Hindu scriptures today and practice the meditation I learned during my time with the Eternal Dharma. Remember Lord Krishna when he said that all paths of devotion lead to him, and that selfless service and compassion are the truest paths to spiritual union. I am simply following my dharma.