Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Finding my Dharmic Path....

(Artist Unknow)

  I embraced Sanatana Dharma nearly two years ago, and I will not say it has been an easy road. For those of you who do not know I am a former member of the Mormon church. In the eyes of the Mormon church I am still a member as I have not had my name removed from the records of the church...I grew up as a very devout Mormon, whereas my husband was a convert. We raised our children as Mormons. The church played front and center in our lives for many years. If I were to say that my Mormon faith defined me as a person, I would not be exaggerating. My husband and I both left the church nearly three years ago. The first year after leaving the church was excruciating to say the least. I had essentially lost my identity as I had always known it. You may wonder why I left in the first place if it played such a big part in my life. I will explain this to the best of my ability, frankly it is more complex than even I realized at the time.
    For the last five years or so before leaving the church I had grown increasingly dissatisfied with my Mormon life. One thing I have never done or never will do is blame the church for my choice to leave...It was in the Mormon faith where I truly learned to love God and develop a deep spirituality. I also made lasting and loving friendships there. My children had good lives within the structure of the Mormon youth program. It was a good life, but over the years it felt more and more as if we were constantly trying to please the church and less and less on giving to our family. For anyone who knows about the Mormon faith, service is everything, service in the form of callings. These callings are considered to be direct calls from God so we were encouraged to accept them because we were doing what the Lord wanted us to do. There were times when these callings consumed every bit of our time and energy. My husband worked many hours and then gave what little time he had left to his callings. I will not speak for my husband here as this is my perspective.
      For some time I began to feel as if I were just going through the motions and with what was expected as a devout member I constantly felt that I was falling short and would put a tremendous amount of guilt on myself for this. Unlike my spiritual path now, Mormons are taught to essentially accept all of its doctrine and not question...Well they are told to pray about whether its doctrine is true, but if you did not get an answer in the affirmative you were just not praying long enough and if you did not feel that something was true you were not listening to the holy ghost/spirit. Just as in most orthodox religions, you are not suppose to question the authority of the church, as in its teachings, scripture or prophets. Some may call this blind faith, as in you are expected to believe without direct experience. The Mormon church does believe itself to be the one and only true Abrahamic faith on the earth. So it was expected of one to believe in every teaching, no matter how small. So I did what every other good Mormon did, I accepted all teachings as divine revelation directly from God.
     One Sunday I woke up and decided I would not attend church, and just like that I never went back. I struggled mightily for the first year. I felt such intense guilt that I thought God would strike me down or that terrible things would happen to me. The only terrible things to happen was of my own making, and yes I created a massive amount of pain and suffering in my life of which I will not get into here. God did not punish me in any way....But I sure did punish myself. After about a year I began to look into other religions and spiritual paths. When I left the church I had decided, as did my husband, that we would leave Christianity altogether. For those of you who do not believe that Mormons are Christians, Jesus Christ is the center pinnacle of the Mormon faith. We did all things in his name. He was my personal Savior as in my sins could not be forgiven but through him, if I were willing to repent.

(Picture of my Alter  early is still a work in progress)

     I studied paganism for a while, but just could not relate with it. I looked at Buddism, but it felt so impersonal...then one day I began reading about Sanatana Dharma. At first I could not wrap my mind around the idea of reincarnation, as that went against anything I had ever been taught. Also my concept of God was of a loving Father in Heaven who was watching over me from above. I read more, but became overwhelmed with the Hindu teachings, so I put it aside for a while....but I would again find myself being pulled toward it. I would see Indian Hindus in town or would come across articles online about India and Hinduism. Once again I would find myself reading, with even more intensity than before. I felt so isolated in my studies as I did not know any Hindus or even how to go about meeting them, but this did not deter me. I continued reading, and I began to meditate and eventually created a sacred space in my home where I would go and do devotions. I seemed to be drawn to the aspect of the Divine Mother more than any other. I chalked this up to the fact that I grew up in a very patriarchal church where men essential did the majority of governing and my personal God was male. At first it was a bit unnerving to talk to Deity in the aspect of Mother, but with time it became quite natural...and now I just love talking to my Mother and giving devotions to her. It gives me this sense of empowerment as a woman myself to know that shakti is feminine in power and that I could tap into that.
     I cannot say I have exactly found my place in Sanatana Dharma as of yet. There are so many paths within  Hinduism and there is a wealth of scriptural texts in Sanskrit...and although most of the texts have been translated to English, it is not that simple to know who's translations are correct. There is no main authoritative center in Hinduism. There are countless Spiritual Masters, gurus and teachers. I have read and studies voraciously and have finally come to what I would say is my own personal belief. I wholeheartedly believe in the principles of Karma and Reincarnation. These concepts make absolute perfect sense to me. Although I do devote myself to the worship of the Divine Mother, I always include the masculine aspect of Divinity in my worship, mostly in the form of of Shiva. My logical mind and deepest intuition has led me to the path of Advaita Vedanta. It resonates with me more than any other thing I have every been taught in my life. I still as of yet have never been to any Hindu Temple other than the ISKCON temple once. For now I practice my path on my own. My family support me in my journey, most especially my dear husband. He is on his own spiritual journey and I try very hard to support him with that as well.
     I look forward to the day that I can attend a Hindu Temple and receive blessings there. I hope to one day actually make Hindu friends in person. This is not an easy path...Where Buddhism has become very popular in the West, Hinduism is still trying to take a hold. It can be very intimidating for a Westerner to attend a temple where they may be a total minority. I hope that I will be received with kindness. I have a profound respect for this faith and cannot imagine my life without it now...I am learning and growing in it every day and feel that I am truly following my Dharmic Path. Somehow I know that the Divine Mother is guiding me every step of the way. Tat Tvam Asi...I AM THAT.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti,


  1. I think you should Read Dancing with Sivaya Subramanyam Swami...and How to become a better Hindu...

    HInduism consider every person is born as need to recognize a true Hindu in yourself...Recognize your Dharma and follow it..That is Sanatan Dharma(Eternal Dharma)..People come close to Santan Dharma the day they start questioning...The Holy Text Geeta is all about Questioning......

    I believe that you should start going to your nearest Hindu Temple...I don't know your
    location but I am here at Nashville,TN...There i can see during weekends a lot of Western Hindus come over there...Last Month they too participated in Ganesh Visarjan.....

    For a Hindu his faith is very personal to him because emphasize is on Your Dharma(righteous duty)..No Heaven for granted...Only thing that will decide is your "Karma" ... Hinduism/SantanDharma is NOT a salesman kind of religion so there No one will be fooling and forcing onceto convert ..but once you reach at the door of will always be embraced with open arms..

  2. Thank you so much for your reply Prabhat...Your words are very encouraging!...I actually had started reading Dancing with Shiva a while back and plan to visit the Himalayan Monestery on Kauai. I live on Oahu, but it is just a quick plane ride over there. I have a facebook friend who lives in Nashville named Brooke...she attends a Hindu temple there, maybe you know her:) Thank you again for the great advice...I will certainly take it to heart!

    Happy Deepavli to you as well!

  3. Your Welcome Nirvani...Actually our friend group is also planning to visit Kauai Monestary..lets see may be during thanksgiving ..Actually I recently shifted to Nashville..Before that I was at Kansas City,MO..So I am Not so familiar with people at Nashville...but yes I see many western Hindus at temple and last month we guys have lots of fun during Ganpati Visarjan......So I feel that you should Not Shy away from attending a temple...May be this is your First time so you are feeling nervous ...however I suggest just go there .observe things over there....I used to go temple every week I just go there and mediate for some time..It is calming experience...Best time is around 9 am or 11 am -12 pm as these are aarti timings.It is best time to visit temple these days as Deepavli celebrations are going in temple so it will be a Nice experience...

  4. What a beautiful and personal post! The happiness with your path just radiates off the page. I am so glad that you have a loving supportive family. That can be the most difficult part of breaking out of our expected life paths and pursuing what truly calls to us.
    Blessed Be.

  5. Thank you so much Sarah for your lovely compliment! So true! I feel very blessed indeed! Have a beautiful day!

    Om Shanti!

  6. Nirvani, WOW I am so happy to "meet" you online and so very glad you left a comment on my blog today. Having been raised a strict Catholic (13 years in Catholic school!) I fell in love with Sanatana Dharma three years ago after some very strong signs led me to it on the very week my mom passed away. My life has changed completely since then and is still in the process of upheaval and change. My first time in a temple was on this recent three week trip to India and in fact we spent most of our time in India visiting temples, big and small. We were welcomed with open arms, and there was never, ever the feeling that we did not belong there as non-Indians. In terms of being open and accepting Hindus definitely proved to us that they practice what they preach ; )
    And Prabhat is right, Dancing with Shiva is a wonderful book and I've also read Merging with Shiva and this winter will tackle Loving Ganesha, as he has so clearly won my heart.

  7. What a lovely personal sharing, Nirvani!

    I resonate with much of your journey. I was raised mainstream Christian, then became a fundamentalist Christian for several years. And in 1987 left the faith and started my exploration of other paths. Went into New Age Metaphysics for a few years. Then started exploring Buddhism - which like you, felt too "impersonal" - for me a little too practical with the emphasis on "mind training," although I love Buddhist wisdom. I've also explored Non-Duality teachings, both advaita and contemporary. I love to listen to Ram Das, but never felt the pull to become Hindu. In fact, after being reared in the strong patriarchal dogma of Christianity, with it's strong sense of right and wrong, etc., I find it hard to define myself, or identify with any particular religion. Which is probably why I feel like a "Meandering Mystic." :) I do feel a resonance with "The Divine Mother" - not the Virgin Mary, or the Hindu Mother, but more the Cosmic Mother, and pray to her often. Currently I am exploring mystical Sufism.

    Am looking forward to reading your blog!

  8. Thank you so much Uma and Christine! Uma I have been following you for some time now and I found your blog Christine though hers and you both are two of my absolute favorite blogs! I am thrilled to hear from both of you:) I can identify with both of you on many levels. I am feeling more emboldened now to attend a Hindu temple...not that there are many to choose from here on Oahu. I did have a lovely experience visiting the Krishna temple here. I wrote about it in one of my blog posts and took some lovely pictures of the property. But I just am not drawn to the ISKCON movement. It feels a little too evangelical to me:)I hear there is a Shaivite sect here on my island but I have yet to find them. I don't believe there is an actual temple here. Kauai is just a quick plane ride away and my husband said he would love to go with me so we are planning a trip over for a weekend to visit the Himalayan Monastery. Uma, I would so love to chat more with you about your experiences with we seem to have that very much in common...Not just that but I know you are into Ayurveda and I am studying it myself:)

    Christine, I too have been reading up on Sufism! I just love love love the beautiful spirit it brings. I have listened to all of Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee's videos on Youtube:) If you have not heard of him, he is a modern day Sufi Mystic and is an amazing man! I would love to know your thoughts on Sufism:)

    Thank you again ladies for replying here:) I really need to make more of an effort to post on blogs I love... I can be a bit shy about that, but I am always reading and digesting..hehehe

    Om Shanti,

    1. Hi Nirvani :) Oh, Yes I have read Llewellyn's latest book: Fragments of a Love Story, and fell in love! :) Actually it was Uma who told me about the book! :) Although I don't know the history of Sufism, there are certain aspects of Sufism, as I'm discovering, that still seem very steeped in patriarchal religious lineage, with a lot of rules, etc., not the freedom of the Heart that Lllewellyn talks of, which I am sure is true of any religious structure with a mystical side (like in Christianity for instance). I have also seen his videos on You Tube. I was smitten by the Truth of his words in his book and videos. :) But in terms of actually "studying" Sufism, I have not done that, and probably won't, as I have no desire to *become* a Sufi. It is not my path, but being a "Mystic" I love exploring the Truth in the mystical paths of others. Right now reading The Essential Rumi - loving it :)

      Aren't you just loving Uma's travels in India on her post now!!?

      Namaste :)

    2. Hello Nirvana and thanks so much!

      Wow, now I wish that you, me and Christine could sit down and have a good chat! I agree with you about ISKCON. In the beginning of my investigations into Sanatana Dharma I listened to many, many podcasts by Charu Das, and while I think much of what he says is absolutely wonderful, ISKCON reminded me very much of Catholicism.

      I would love to visit the Himalayan Monastery someday. Their books and the information on their website are wonderful resources and I enjoy watching Satguru Veylanswami on their video podcasts.

      Are you studying Ayurveda on your own or more formally? I am once again setting my sites on the program in NM but in the meantime I'm thinking about taking Dr. Frawley's "Yoga Therapy, Ayurveda, Mantra and Meditation" 300 hour correspondence course since I seem to have nothing but time at the moment. First I have to look over some of his books. I must admit to being so preferential to Dr. L's teachings that I've managed to ignore everyone else's, but perhaps that's not the most well-rounded approach, lol. I did take the correspondence course offerred through the Institute as well. It's a good foundation but doesn't provide you with any official certification at the end. I don't know, ultimately, how meaningful these various certifications are in light of such an ancient, rich and complicated could study it for many, many lifetimes.

      I think my email is on the sidebar of my blog if you ever want to email me privately about Hinduism. It sometimes takes me a day or two to respond to emails (just ask Christine, she knows!) but I do, eventually, write back.

      Love and Light,

  9. How did I miss this wonderful post?

    I left my church about 12 years ago. I am sure you can understand how much it turned my life upside down. My marriage had just ended and I had NO support from my church friends. If I walked by them they would look the other direction. There were a handful of people who still would talk to me and for that I was so grateful. These are the people who (in my opinion) truly understand the gospel.
    After leaving I started questioning. Actually I questioned before that but was rebuked for my curiosity and lack of understanding. At one point the leadership of the church came to my home and tried to cast demons from me.
    Anyway, it is a very, very long story. I still do believe in Jesus and He is my Lord and Saviour. However, I am very drawn to Sikhism. I love the "treasures" of Compassion, Truth, Contentment, Humility and Love. Though I now consider myself a liberal Quaker I am open to listening to what others believe. Sometimes I hear something and it doesn't work for me but other times I will think on it. According to "Christianity" I am going to hell for that. That makes me sad but I have to live what is true in my heart.

  10. .As a hindu I can only say ' welcome into the journey of self discovery'. I believe when we question who am i and why am here? we have just begun the most beautiful journey described by Sanatana Dharma.