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Thread: Next Step

  1. #1
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    Next Step

    Thank you again for all the useful information that was given to me in my previous post. I read all of them carefully and have been reading daily. This of course leads to more questions. I saw a video and pictures of worship services and all the people sit crosslegged on the floor. I have had 5 knee reconstructions and I am about as flexable as a 2X4. I am already going to stick out and this would further complicate things. I don't want them to think I am being disrespectful, any suggestions?

    Through my journeys I have acquired a few tattoos, what does the community think about this?

    Is there anyone out there that I could correspond with that would be a mentor to me?

    What is a proper gretting? Remember I want to seem genuine and not like I am on a research project.

    Weird question but it has been bothering me. How should I pray? Can I just speak with Lord Ganesha from my heart or is there a set way to pray? How do you end a prayer?

    When I attend a worship service, will it be in English or a mixture of languages?

    I am really nervous to meet other Hindu's and what they will think of the Western white guy. It's not going to be an easy journey since so much of this unknown to me.

    Thank you in advance!

  2. #2
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    Re: Next Step

    Vannakkam Humble Student:

    Hey, I'm a western 'white guy' and I've been accepted so it can't be all that bad. There are several others here as well. Eventually, that mental constraint wanes away, although I must admit that some people notice it more than others, on both sides. I notice it more when I go to a temple in the west I've never been to before. Not so much that I notice, in that I notice that others notice me. But since I always dress and look Hindu it goes over well. In Omaha, a newcomer to that temple actually came up to me to ask questions about that temple, yet there were some 30 Indian people around.

    Many temples, even the most traditional will have a few seats for the elderly scattered about. We're a pretty loving lot, and if you give a brief explanation, we'd understand. By law in most states and provinces, temples are wheelchair accessible.

    The tattoos will probably be covered unless you have them on your head. There is no set rule against them in Hindu culture. If someone reacts, it's their business, not yours. We also have a forgive and forget attitude towards such things. Although if you have certain violent or sexually explicit tattoos, some might take more offense.

    The proper greeting is to place hands together in front of you, and say 'Namaste' (Vannakkam') in Tamil, 'Namaskaram' in Sanskrit. I'd stick with Namaste' until you observe what others are doing. Temple congregations in the west often vary linguistically. You can also just do the momentary hands in front and a little brotherly nod of recognition without saying a word.

    Pray from your heart in clear well worded sincere American English for now. Perhaps you can learn some Sanskrit later, if you desire. It it is a particularly strong mystical temple, He'll notice you anyway.

    In South Indian temples, there is no lecture or 'service' by a pundit or priest. In the North Indian style ones, often a pundit will give a brief lecture in Hindi referring to Sanskrit scriptures. In the South Indian ones, the priest will simply go about doing his job performing the rituals, and you will follow along with other devotees until the end of the service when prasadam and sacraments are distributed. You will be lucky if the priest talks to you at all. Its not his job. His job is to lift the vibration and call the Gods to attend.

    When I was at the Salt Lake temple, there were a few other western Hindus. Ironically, I never did get the chance to chat with them as I spent all my time chatting with the Indian people and the priest. Some temples have more than others.

    In South Indian temples, one way to get more 'into' it is to purchase what is called an archana. The priest will chant your name and nakshatra (birth sign) in front of the deity and sort of introduce you mystically.

    Check a temple website for guidance. Some even offer tours or guides to help you out. You can email them for instructions.

    Best wishes with it all. Once you decide, if you let us know which temple, someone may be able to help out more specifically, or perhaps there is even an HDF member in that city.

    Aum Namasivaya

  3. #3

    Re: Next Step

    I'm a white Hindu too.
    I know how you feel, I felt the same way at first and was very nervous about it.
    The first time I went to a temple I really had no idea what to do, and I know now that I did several things wrong, but no one seemed to notice at all.
    The second time I went I asked to go with a Hindu friend of mine and I went with her whole family.

    Eastern Mind is correct that a Hindu temple there is no service or anything like that you just go to visit one of the many forms of God.
    A puja is a ritual where you ask God to take the form that you have chosen so that you can treat him/her/it as an honored guest.
    That's why you see offerings of food and flowers in front of a deity, just as you would do to a very honored guest who comes to your house.

    Since we don't really know how God looks, we choose a form we are drawn to it's called Ishta Devata. It can be very powerful.

    If you go to an Ashram, there will most likely be a reading or teachings after chanting and meditation.

    Maya

  4. #4

    Re: Next Step

    Some more input from me.

    You asked about prayer, my teachers teach that praying is more for us to raise our own vibration so that we can feel God and prepare us for meditation.
    It's not so much about praying TO God, it's really for YOU, so that you can reach God or feel your true Self which is really God.

    One way of doing this is to chant mantra's it's excellent to do this before you meditate and also after.

    If you are drawn to Ganesha you might want to use a mala, there are 108 beads on each and you say one Mantra for each bead.
    OM Gam Ganapataye Namah is simple and really nice (Ganapataye is another name for Ganesha).
    You can find out more on line about Japa (chanting with a mala)
    One round of 108 beads can be a lot if you don't have time, or have trouble concentrating in the beginning. Although this might be controversial to some, you might tie a thread around each 9th bead and do rounds of nine. (the reason for the thread is so that you can feel where you are at and don't have to open your eyes) Never end a round in the middle of a section of nine, always finish 9.

    Once you get used to this, you might decide to take the threads off and do all 108. But I was taught that it's better to start of slowly, it can seem overwhelming in the beginning.

    If you don't want to do Japa, you can definitely pray just from the heart, whatever feels right.
    It's really about YOUR personal journey.
    One of the good things with Hinduism is that we realize that God will hear you however you pray.
    The Gita says this in chapter 9: "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it."

    Forgot to tell you that if you go to an Ashram all the readings and Scripture Study etc will be in English (and in Sanskrit with translations). I assume it's similar to all Ashrams in the west (?)

    If you feel intimidated visiting a Temple for Darshan you might want to see if the have Scripture study groups and join one of them first. Then you can talk to people who can help you and show you around.

    Keep us posted

    Maya

  5. #5
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    Re: Next Step

    Thank you for the thoughtful replies. I will definitely look into Japa, it sounds like an excellent way to concentrate on Ganesha. I have been asking him to remove barriers that would keep me from getting closer to him. To illuminate my path, let me kind, understanding and patient for the day. I want Ganesha to be as real to me as the floor I am standing on. I have been reading the book "How to become a Hindu" and it speaks many times about changing your name. I am very concerned about this part and feel that it would cause a lot of tension in my family and with my wife. I am hoping that this will not be a deal breaking road block. Unfortunately there are no temples in my city, the closest one is 250 miles from here. I am going to visit one and have been sending emails to see if I can set up a time to meet someone and go over the basics. Can you please tell me phonetically how to pronounce a few words?

    Ishta Devata

    OM Gam Ganapataye Namah

    Namaste

    Thank you for being such a caring group of people.

  6. #6
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    Re: Next Step

    Vannakkam Humble Student: Certainly there is no need to change your name, although it may have its advantages. This post and several others around it discusses conversions.


    http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/sho...33&postcount=4

    I tried to find an English transliteration sight for you but was unable. Perhaps someone else might be able to help. One basic rule many miss is that 'e' in the universal transliteration pronunciation stands for the log a sound. You commonly here Ganesha misprunounced. It is Gan ay shu. actually with the first and last syllables being the schwa sound, but I don't know how to type phonetic English.

    Best wishes.

    Aum Namasivaya
    Last edited by Eastern Mind; 26 November 2010 at 08:49 AM.

  7. #7

    Re: Next Step

    No need to change your name. I have not changed mine (Maya is actually just an internet name I picked, I feel that I want to be somewhat anonymous on internet boards)

    I don't see the need to change my name, my parents gave it to me and I want to respect that. I like my name too and see no need to change it.

    You can look for the chant on youtube or ITunes to get a feel for it, there will be several versions pick one that speaks to you.
    God will not get upset if you pronounce it wrong, but it's great energetically (Sanskrit is a vibrational language) if you can pronounce it the best you can.
    But don't worry, you'll get it.

    Maya

  8. #8

    Re: Next Step

    Namaste HumbleStudent,

    The book "How to Become a Hindu" is written from the perspective of the Saiva Siddhanta Church. They place a very strong emphasis on cutting ties with your old religion and changing your name in order to convert. It is not necessary at all to change your name, although if you're planning to join the Saiva Siddhanta Church then you will need to. I have read the book as well, and although it is written primarily from that perspective, it still gives great insights and I can imagine it would be very helpful for anyone looking to convert to Hinduism.

    I would also highly recommend reading "What is Hinduism?". It is also from the Himalayan Academy, but this one is written from a very non-sectarian perspective and is filled with knowledge and insights into Hinduism for newcomers and experienced Hindus alike.

    Here is a video from Youtube that has 98 repetitions of "Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_h2rFVPCSPE

    Good luck on your journey and keep us updated.

    Jai Sri Krishna

  9. #9

    Re: Next Step

    Quote Originally Posted by Ramakrishna View Post
    Namaste HumbleStudent,

    The book "How to Become a Hindu" is written from the perspective of the Saiva Siddhanta Church. They place a very strong emphasis on cutting ties with your old religion and changing your name in order to convert. It is not necessary at all to change your name, although if you're planning to join the Saiva Siddhanta Church then you will need to. I have read the book as well, and although it is written primarily from that perspective, it still gives great insights and I can imagine it would be very helpful for anyone looking to convert to Hinduism.
    Im curious, why is it called Church?
    I have never heard of any Hindu organisation calling itself church.

    Maya

  10. #10
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    Re: Next Step

    Vannakkam Maya et al:

    The term 'church' is used in the sense of an organisation, as in the Catholic Church, or Mormon Church, not to be confused with the more common term of a building. So it is synonymous with 'fellowship' or other such words. In the west, the term fits. However this hasn't been without confusion as you alluded to as people often only know the term in the way associated with Christianity.

    Also, although there is certainly no need to change one's name, I have no problem or course with someone who does, as I myself did. There have been several advantages I feel this has created for me over the years. I'll go over a few.

    1) I feel I'm taken seriously by other Hindus and westerners alike. "You changed your name? Wow!" and you can feel the person thinking, "This chap must be serious."

    2) Every single time someone uses my name whether in the secular world or in the Hindu world, it serves as a constant reminder of who I am. That goes with my first name as well as my last.

    3) In traveling in India and for entrance to certain Hindu temples, having the Hindu name on my passport has been advantageous.

    4) When a fellow pilgrim introduces themselves, and I say my name, there is an opening up, "Hey, you're my brother in spirit."

    After 30 some years now, I have no regrets whatsoever. Hindus have Hindu names. Moslems have Islamic names. Christians have Christian names. When conversion happens to those religions, in India by coercion, or in the west by choice as in the cases of the former Cassius Clay, Lew Alcindor, or Cat Stevens, the name change goes with it. In India the people affected are baptised and given new names, just as the Catholics did here in North America. The most common Metis name in Canada is 'Cardinal' What does that say?

    So although I would never suggest that someone must change their name, I certainly wouldn't discourage anyone who felt like taking that step either.

    As far as giving up your previous belief system, an in depth analysis is a good idea just to make sure. But chances are if you think you're a Hindu you have already given up most of any previous belief system. What we don't want is confusion. That's never good. You can't believe in heaven/hell and reincarnation at the same time.

    Aum Namasivaya
    Last edited by Eastern Mind; 27 November 2010 at 09:14 AM.

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