Project Conversion: Hinduism/Day 22

Namaste everyone, and welcome back to Project Conversion. It’s hard to believe that we are in the final week of Project Conversion’s first month! As stated in the “About” page, each week of every month is split into the following categories:

Week One: Religious Practices, Worship, and Ritual

Week Two: Culture and Art

Week Three: Social Issues/Conflicts

Week Four: Personal Reflection on the Month

In week one I showed everyone how I lived day-to-day religiously as a Hindu, which includes vegetarianism, recitation (japa) of Shiva’s name, mantras, puja (ritual worship), reading of scripture (Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, etc.), and yoga. Week two was all about different artistic and cultural aspects of the faith. This was shown with interviews of yoga instructor/writer/musician Meeta Gajjar Parker, as well as articles on the use of sacred markings called tilak and artistic expressions of Shiva through paintings and sculpture. In week three we explored a few of the social issues challenging the Hindu community today. Professor Bharat Gajjar was kind enough to offer his experience and insight into the world of religious conflict in the form of competitive and epidemic conversions within India and abroad. We also talked about the controversial caste system.

Week four (which begins today) is where I soak in everything I’ve experienced and learned throughout the month and reflect upon the results. What have I learned? What new perspectives have I gained? Is there anything I would change if I could start over? What are my impressions of the faith now compared to the beginning of the month? What (if anything) will I take from the faith into the next month, or even the rest of my life?

These are questions that I will explore over the next few days as we wrap up our month on Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma). The answers to those questions will come toward the beginning of the week, followed a few days later by a short film I’ve compiled with interesting footage and images I’ve gathered during my journey into this ancient, colorful, and dynamic religious/philosophical tradition.

As always, I encourage all of you to express your views, comments, questions, and suggestions along the way. This isn’t just my journey, but one for all of us.

Namaste and I’ll see you soon! 

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  • Patty in NC

    Andrew, one of my personal struggles is how to teach my young children about religion and about God… My husband and I both believe there are many paths to God, and that they are all right. We believe that God is in everything, and in all of us, and that when we die, we just rejoin the collective energy that is God – or the Universe – or the all-being energy (I could call it many things) when we pass from this life. My children are very young, and to date, haven’t gotten any religious “training” yet… besides simple parenting lessons like showing gratitude, being kind, etc. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think about it, and stress about “getting them started.” I want them to know the basics about Christianity, but don’t necessarily want to attend a Christian church because we find it a bit too limiting. We just want to teach them to love God in the way that makes sense to them. One of the things we’ve thought about is going to different services throughout the month to expose them to different points of view….Methodist one week, Unitarian one week, Buddhist Temple one week, but we don’t want to confuse them. I am curious what you think about this, and wanted to ask that if you gain any further insight about it during your journey, to please share your thoughts. Thanks!!

    • Anonymous

      Namaste Patty!

      Thank you so much for visiting Project Conversion. It sounds like you and your husband are on a spiritual journey of your own. Because you do not personally have a religious “base” (not really a bad thing), I think it would be difficult to guide your child spiritually within the context of an organized tradition. If you wanted to bring up your child in an organized tradition, I would recommend realigning your focus to yourselves first. Children learn by example, and therefore the act of exploration by yourself and your husband becomes a teaching opportunity for your child. From there they learn to be critical (positive), objective, responsive to those of different perspectives, and to have an open mind. Make this journey a family one. Indeed, visit different locations, but don’t expect your child to absorb it all. You probably won’t either ; ) Religious practice is a life-long trip. Once you and your husband pick a faith (you might not), then it will be easier to guide your child through that faith and even help them learn about others without the child feeling threatened or nervous about going outside of the family tradition.

      Hope this helps!

      • Patty in NC

        Thank you for your insight, Andrew!

  • Penny Green

    @ Patty and Andrew – Great insights from both of you. I had a similar dilemma when my children were younger. I am a Baha’i but my husband is not, so he did not want them going to Baha’i children’s classes and I did not want to limit their worldview to just Christianity. I felt that a spiritual education was very important however, and he agreed to my teaching them a little bit about the Prophets/Founders of all the main world religions. So, one week I would teach them a story about the Buddha, another week about Abraham, and so forth. I have found that the conflicting doctrines and dogma between (and even within) different religions can be very confusing and non-productive, even for adults, so I wanted to stick with the basics – prayer, living a good life, et. If you want to email me at I can share with you some of my resources. I did a lot of researching through reading books about religions, but it can become pretty overwhelming. The Virtues Project by Dan Popov, Linda Kavelin Popov and John Kavelin is an excellent resource for the spiritual education of children. They published a book called “The Family Virtues Guide” which contains material from many faiths and was recognized for its excellence by the United Nations during the Year of the Family. You might also find assistance in this matter by contacting your nearest Baha’i community. The Baha’i community now offers a wonderful spiritual education program for children of any faith background, plus Baha’is are often involved in interfaith groups and might be able to help you research other religions. You both are doing a great service, and I wish you much success in your endeavours.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for sharing this, Penny. It’s true that interfaith relationships can be just as socially difficult and taboo as interracial ones once were and in some cases, still are. My household is a “mixed” one spiritually, however we get around the awkward arena specific religion by teaching our children stories and principles that guide their character instead of their faith. Their spiritual journey will be their own, however a positive character is something that transcends any particular faith.

      • Penny Green

        Thanks Andrew. Character development was what I focused on with our kids, and this is also the focus of The Virtues Project and of Baha’i spiritual education classes for children. Both emphasize teaching kids (and adults) about the virtues – the gems within them – which are a common element in all religious scriptures. Unfortunately, character development (one of the primary purposes of religion in my view) often seems to be forgotten when religions place so much emphasis on their particular belief system being the “right” one, in opposition to other belief systems. A pity, since the light of truth shines in all religions.

        “The purpose of religion as revealed from the heaven of God’s holy Will is to establish unity and concord amongst the peoples of the world; make it not the cause of dissension and strife.” – Baha’u'llah

        Thank you so much Andrew for embarking on this spiritual journey and sharing it with the rest of us. I didn’t find out about your project until about the second week of February, so I have been “catching up” on your month with Hinduism.

        I learned a lot during the time that I researched different religions for my kids’ classes, and found something in each religion that assisted me on my own spiritual journey. The Hindu explanation of the different yogas or pathways to God was one of the most useful things that I learned from Hinduism. It helped me reconcile to the fact that different people can experience their connection to the Divine in very different ways, and that the path of action is just as valid as the path of mysticism. This was particularly reassuring for me, as I am not too successful at the mystical and devotional practices of religion, but I am capable of service. Something for everybody!

        I particularly enjoyed your explanation of the caste system in Hinduism. I always felt that there had to be some original logical basis for this teaching, and your article on the varnas helped me make sense of it. I also enjoyed the article on vegetarianism and the explanation of how the eating of meat can be necessary and acceptable in certain situations. Despite the crazy interpretations and additions that human beings have tacked onto them, I still find that religious teachings in their purest form are imminently sensible.

        I notice that you have set aside the month of June for a number of “Fringe” religions. Have you given any thought to perhaps including some First Nations teachings during your year of spiritual exploration? Although not what I’d call a “Fringe” religion, and not something a person would “convert” to, the spiritual teachings of aboriginal peoples contain much profound wisdom that could be of benefit in dealing with the material and spiritual challenges currently facing humanity at this stage in our development.

        Thanks again for this project. I look forward to learning more during the months ahead!

        • Anonymous

          Excellent observations and questions here. In fact, I used your Baha’u'laah quote in a presentation about Project Conversion today. So thanks!

          Fringe simply means outside of, or on the edge. So I’ll explore very briefly some faith elements that some may not know about. I am of Native American blood, so that is something I’ve considered.