What Makes a Hindu?

by Aranyakananda

If you follow the Western-Hindu.org blog you will know that its author, Tandava, while very well-versed in Hinduism, often posts on the exploits of other bloggers. By that I mean the blog often simply introduces new and interesting Hindu blogs to the blogosphere. Several months ago, one such blog was one written by a woman called Anna. You can access that link here Divya Jnana.

Well very recently the author of this blog has altered her spiritual path. She now is a devotee to the Egyptian deity Bast, while still maintaining an equal devotion to Lord Shiva. Her new blog is called “Laketi.”

I should say first off, that I have a hard time differentiating what I know to be different faces of the one Brahman, by saying “the Egyptian deity, Bast,” but it is what it is.

So anyway, Western-Hindu.org recently posted on this change here:


I was going to simply post my opinions in a comment, but I thought I’d just post on it myself since I may get wordy. And I want to give the subject proper coverage.

The main question raised by Western-Hindu seems to be whether Laketi should be on his blogroll given the format change of the latter, and, more complex, what constitutes a Hindu? The thing about it is Western-Hindu is a blog about Hinduism, not necessarily Hindus. So whether or not Anna still considers herself a Hindu, she still holds devotion toward Shiva, which – you’d be hard-pressed to argue – is a Hindu practice. Hence her blog will still involve Hinduism to a great degree. Hinduism goes beyond the jivans pursuing its path.

Western-Hindu.org is sub-titled “A blog about how I as a westerner embraced Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Way of Hinduism.”

Hinduism is often referred to as “Sanatana-Dharma.” I myself have often used to two terms interchangebly, but I am not sure that is accurate. I am open to debate on this topic, but my feeling is that Sanatana-Dharma is a philosophical system whereby all paths are equally valid as a way to reach moksha/salvation/nirvana, what have you. Hinduism is a religion (or more accurately, a large family of religions) which happens to most openly embrace the philosophy of Sanatana-Dharma. Having embraced this philosophy myself, I found that to embrace Hinduism was the only reasonable thing to do. Once I embraced it, it engulfed me in its waves I could not be a “Christian who embraces some Hindu practices.” But that was just me To each his/her own.

A person in the 21st Century North America embracing an ancient Egyptian religion is so overwhelmingly in the spirit of Sanatana-Dharma, in my opinion. Especially one who also recognizes the aspect of God which Hindus know as Shiva. Given that her current chosen deity is Bast, who is often compared with Kali, Anna could still very easily be considered a Shakti Hindu.

However, Anna herself wrote Tandava and told him she was no longer pursuing Sanatana-Dharma, which I feel was meant to mean “I would no longer consider myself a Hindu” given the general understanding of the term. So hearing it straight from her, it is not an issue. As Tandava wrote, “The self-chosen title reflects a person’s spiritual outlook.” Though I would strongly encourage Tandava to keep her new weblog on his blogroll, if nothing else then in the spirit of what I have offered as a definition of Sanatana-Dharma.

But it raises the qustion, What makes a Hindu?

Tandava points out that Hinduism has always been open to other paths, mentioning Ramakrishna’s reverence of Jesus and Mary, for example. That is indeed one of the most attractive aspects of Hinduism. Though in my experience I have come up against a few naysayers who have told me I was not a Hindu because of this very openness. Since I have never been to India I don’t know how prevalent it is for one Indian to tell another Indian “you’re not a Hindu, and here’s why……” I know in recent years it has become fashionable for certain Evangelical Christians, while not necessarily directly saying “You are not a Christian”, to tell others that they are not eligible for Christian Heaven. Particularly, the story of a good friend of mine who was told to leave his church because he is homosexual, comes to mind.

Tandava is certainly accurate to say that there is a “wide continuum between orthodox Hinduism” and one who simply includes some Hindu practices in their spiritual journey. Just like Ramakrishna-ji’s reverence for the Christ and the Madonna did not make him a Christian. But he did include some Christian-related devotions, and nobody would argue that Ramakrishna was a Hindu. So it is not an all-or-nothing game. So is it a matter of degree? Is it a matter of the percentage of, just as an example, Christian vs. Hindu practices in one’s life that makes one title more appropriate over the other?

Again, Tandava said “The self-chosen title reflects a person’s spiritual outlook” and I could not agree more. Nobody has a right to tell anyone what they can or cannot call themselves, not knowing what is in their heart.

Jai Shankaranarayana Aum

This entry was posted in American Hindus, Avatars of Shiva, blogging, Comparitive Religion, current events, Dharma religions, Dharmic Faiths, Durga, Eastern Philosophy, editorial, faith, God, Hindu Sects, Hinduism, inspiration, Jesus, New Age, News, opinion, philosophy, pluralism, polytheism, religion, religious conversion, Sanatana Dharma, Shakti, Shaktism, Shiva, social commentary, spirituality, Uncategorized, Web site review, Western Hinduism, White Hindus and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What Makes a Hindu?

  1. Namaste,

    The main reason I chose the term “eclectic” over Hindu is because of the Hindu (Shiva), Kemetic/Egyptian (Bast and Het-Heru/Hathor) and African Traditional Religious (Oshun) mixture I have going on. Out of respect to those who solely follow Sanatana Dharma, I felt it was only right to let Tandava know of the change. I respect everything he’s done to bring western followers together and wasn’t sure how everyone felt about my remaining on the list.

    All of the feedback I’ve received has been positive. It’s nice to be a part of a community that’s welcoming.

    Em Hotep!

  2. Pingback: Hinduism – a way of Living Life – (short story) | pagulwar - in pursuit of origin, the way of living life, and its relation to business world

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