Why Western Women Converting to Hinduism
Converting to Hinduism Finds More Appeal Amongst Western Women
Since many years, more and more of the influential Western women have been converting to Hinduism. This is because of the fact that people get inspired by Hinduism and their life style.
Some of the people inspired by the mantle of Hindu Dharma became great spiritual leaders, swaminis, and gurus as keepers and vanguards of this ancient culture in India. There are many western women who are converting to Hinduism. Today one can witness thousands of Western women turning vegetarian, practicing meditation, and are prominently seen in the public life as the preacher of Hinduism. It is now also a common sight to see them carrying yoga in Yogic mats or a Hindu follower moving on public transport or walking on the street.
Many practitioners follow Yoga purely for fitness, many still adorn their homes with Hindu shrines, altars, and deities, while expounding on the deep philosophies of dharma, karma and reincarnation; Hindu Religion thus becoming an integral part of their daily lives, with Dharma becoming a powerful force in the West. This is influencing more and more people for converting to Hinduism.
Even though the most ancient of the world’s religions, Hinduism has always had an evolutionary matrix which offers an integral mode of living and being- from mere diet and traditions to practical philosophies of yogic attainment and integral knowledge, to creativity and values of freedom, free-thinking and universality, which constantly inspire growth and development of consciousness.
This philosophy has increasingly inspired the western women in converting to Hinduism.
Another popular aspect of Hinduism that has attracted the Western woman has been the long prevailing respect and practices that adhere to the Goddess, which guides self-realization and development by invoking and incorporating the natural forces of Shakti. Therefore they find themselves as an integral part of these natural forces of creation. In no way, it means that you should be just converting to Hinduism.
Some of the great women in the past (who deserve mention) who took up Converting to Hinduism and became great leaders, charting out the way for others, were from the Western world itself.
Mirra Alfassa, born a Jew, came to be known as the “Mother” and became a great Hindu spiritual leader and sage in India, who expounded on Aurobindo’s teachings of the Veda and the Gita.
In his article on “How a Proselytized Secular Jew Became a Hindu Spiritual Leader”, Shelomo Alfassa (a distant relative), said that ‘Mirra had once said that in 1904, at age 26, she met during a dream, a dark Asiatic figure whom she called Krishna.
She said that Krishna guided her in her inner journey. She came to have total implicit faith in Krishna and was hoping to meet him one day in real life. She returned to France where she expanded her study on various Hindu practices and soon would give over her life to the study. She is quoted as saying about Judaism, that God is basically “depicted as the Judge of mankind and not its Lover as in Hinduism.”
Apart from the creation of Auroville in Pondicherry, which propagates the teachings of the ancient dharma-culture of Hindu Religion, Mirra also went on to establish the Sri Aurobindo International University. She did so after converting to Hinduism faith.
Another great scholar who was greatly influenced by Hinduism and later preferred converting to Hinduism was Annie Wood Besant. She was known as a woman’s rights activist and was a prominent leader of India’s freedom movement, apart from being the President of the Theosophical Society; she was regarded by George Bernard Shaw- as the “greatest woman public speaker of her time”.
She strongly believed that India was a victim of the mischief brought by Christian missionaries and she attempted to lead Indians back to their own gods and arouse their sense of self-respect and pride in the greatness of their religions.
Regarding Hinduism, she said: “After a study of some forty years and more of the great religions of the world, I find none so perfect, none so scientific, none so philosophic, and none so spiritual as the great religion known by the name of Hinduism. The more you know it, the more you will love it; the more you try to understand it, the more deeply you will value it. Make no mistake; without Hindu Religion, India has no future.”
She further adds, “Hinduism is the soil into which India’s roots are struck, and torn off that she will inevitably wither, as a tree torn out from its place. Many are the religions and many are the races flourishing in India, but none of them stretches back into the far dawn of her past, nor are they necessary for her endurance as a nation. Everyone might pass away as they came and India would still remain. But let Hinduism vanish and what is she? A geographical expression of the past, a dim memory of a perished glory, her literature, her art, her monuments, all have Hinduism written across them. And if Hindus do not maintain Hinduism, who shall save it? If India’s own children do not cling to her faith, who shall guard it? India alone can save India, and India and Hinduism are one.”
Sister Nivedita, born Margaret Noble, an Irish school teacher, moved to India in 1898, after having met Swami Vivekananda following his iconic speech on Hinduism at the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions at Chicago. Horrified later by the conditions that had besmirched India after the alien rule, she took up the cause of Woman’s Education in order to awaken the Hindu Nation. She probed into the heart of Indian womanhood and reflected in her eloquent prose the natural simplicity and spiritual fervor of the women of India. Women, she contended, are the embodiment and repository of the ancient wisdom of the East. Regarding Hinduism, she said:
“Hinduism would not be eternal were it not constantly growing and spreading, and taking in new areas of experience. Precisely because it has this power of self-addition and re-adaptation, in a greater degree than any other religion that the world has even seen, we believe it to be the one immortal faith.”
Nivedita’s school influenced patriots, revolutionaries, scientists, artists, and journalists, engaging them deeply in India’s freedom struggle. After converting to Hinduism, she wrote a book “Aggressive Hinduism,” and spoke of the aggression and victory of character and ‘spiritual power’ over human frailties and mundane interests, making the world a better place to live in. “This is the doctrine of the ‘Gita’ repeated again and again… Not the withdrawn, but the transfigured life, radiant, with power and energy, triumphant in its selflessness, is religion. ‘Arise!’ thunders the voice of Sri Krishna, ‘and be thou an apparent cause!’, she said. Her Cradle Tales of Hinduism is a gentle rendering of Hinduism’s classic stories, and in her visions, it is said, she saw Mother India guiding the destiny of a world.
In the final moments of her death on October 13, at about 7:00 am, Nivedita, it was said, chanted the Upanishads, “Lead us from the unreal to the Real. Lead us from darkness to Light. Lead us from death to Immortality,” and breathed her last.
Queen Fredericka of Greece, who was the wife of King Paul, had also come to visit India during her reign and was largely influenced by the teachings of the Vedanta, which became her philosophy of life and science. It was in fact her advanced research in Physics which brought her to the doorstep of Hinduism. Science, said Frederika, has yet to catch up with what the seers in India had already understood over 2500 years ago. She is also quoted to have said to the Rajmata at that time,
“You are fortunate to inherit such knowledge. I envy you. While Greece is the country of my birth, India is the country of my soul.”
In more recent times, 31-year old Iraq war veteran, Tulsi Gabbard, became the first Hindu American Congresswoman who took her ceremonial oath in Congress on the Bhagavad Gita. Proud of her Hindu religion, Gabbard is not Indian.
She was born in American Samoa to a Catholic father and a Hindu mother. She moved to Hawaii and after converting to Hinduism as a teenager she got well-versed in the Hindu scriptures. She now practices Bhakti-Yoga and Karm-Yoga along with her routine works of day to day life.
“I chose to take the oath of office with my personal copy of the Bhagavad-Gita because its teachings have inspired me to strive to be a servant-leader, dedicating my life in the service of others and to my country,” said Gabbard, who served in the Iraq War, after the swearing-in. “My Gita has been a tremendous source of inner peace and strength through many tough challenges in life, including being in the midst of death and turmoil while serving our country in the Middle East.”
Today Gabbard has become not just a strong political voice but an inspirational icon and role-model for Indian American youths.
Another great personality and Academy Award-winning actress, Julia Roberts, who after converting to Hinduism, confessed that she has become interested in the spirituality of the Hindu faith because it is more than a “mere religion.” She told The Times of India, that: “Ever since I developed my liking and fondness for Hinduism, I have been attracted and deeply fascinated by many facets of the multi dimensional Hinduism… spirituality in it transcends many barriers of mere religion… opting for Hinduism is not a religious gimmick.
It is similar to Patsy of Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. We share a common aspect of finding peace and tranquility of mind in Hinduism, one of the oldest and respected religions of civilization”. The entire family, she reveals, goes to the temple together to “chant and pray and celebrate. “I’m definitely a practicing Hindu,” she says and thinks the whole world should celebrate Diwali because it celebrates “humanity, peace, and prosperity.” She said: “Diwali should be celebrated unanimously throughout the world as a gesture of goodwill.
Also Read: Indian Culture is the Art of Living
It not only belongs to Hinduism but is universal in nature and in its essence too. Diwali ignites the values of self-confidence, love for humanity, peace, prosperity and above all eternity which goes beyond all mortal factors.”
Twenty-two-year-old German actress-supermodel-singer, Claudia Ciesla, is another fan who is reported to have said, “I love Hinduism`s tolerance and peaceful thinking. I have visited many temples and prayed, which is helping me by way of hope and new energy.” She carries an idol of Hindu Lord Ganesha presented by her Vedic astrologer, which she claimed brought her good luck. She has been quoted as saying: “I think I am very close to my way of thinking and my living philosophy to be a Hindu… and I am sure I would like to be a Hindu when I have all the knowledge about it.”
So what is this undying allure of Hinduism that continues to attract women from all over the world and enticing them in converting to Hinduism? What is it about this ancient dharma-culture that continues to inspire thousands of extraordinary women even today across the western spectrum to become great leaders and role models?
While in India progress and modernity are defined as disowning one’s ancient roots from its Hindu culture and instead aping the West blindly, this comes across as both artificial and laughable, in the monstrous chimera, it creates by that aforementioned process of deracination.
Nevertheless, however comical it may make you look, for such deracinated individuals who are ashamed of the oldest civilization which gave birth to them, in the real west Hinduism is actually flourishing especially among liberated western women who are eager to cut off from the mental prison shaped by centuries of monotheist narrative. That is perhaps the supreme irony in all this.
This article throws light on the journey of many other extraordinary women who have taken up the mantle of Dharma, forging their own sacred bond. It regards their connections with Hinduism and endeavors of converting to Hinduism. In the following paragraphs we will talk about many of the western luminaries who have appreciated Hinduism and in fact, many of them joined it by converting to Hinduism.
In 1980 I stopped over in India on my way to Australia. At least, that was what I thought. I did not break my journey in India for spiritual reasons, as I did not associate Hinduism with anything worthwhile. However, during this stopover, I stumbled on India’s ancient tradition and was amazed at its depth. I appreciated that intelligence was used in trying to establish the truth about this universe and no unverifiable dogmas were imposed. Swami Vivekananda’s “Jnana Yoga” was the first book I read.
This knowledge made immediate sense to me and was actually a source of great joy. It was in tune with my vague intuition that, if there is a God, he must be the basis of everything and not a separate entity. Early during my stay in India, I met Devaraha Baba and Anandamayi Ma, two renowned saints of that time. Meanwhile, 33 years have passed in India since then and I still have not been in Australia. I feel at home in Hindu Dharma. When somebody asks me, “Are you Christian?” (which happens frequently), my answer is, “I am Hindu”. Yes, I have embraced it after converting to Hinduism.
Stephanie Chateau :
There are many reasons I decided Hindu teachings make the most sense to me both philosophically and religiously. It was some personal spiritual experiences revolving around dreams of Vishnu’s avatars followed by a series of signs and synchronicities that first drew me to learn more but as I studied the material I began to feel it made sense philosophically and on many levels scientifically as well. I was raised in a household where a lot of emphases was put on both Christian values and feminist values. This would create a lot of confusion for me when studying the Bible because of how women were portrayed. How could I be both.. correctly? I ended up rejecting both once I realized there was an alternative that made more sense to me.
To learn about the concept of Shakti has been very empowering for me as both a woman and as an artist. The Goddess does not have to be like a man to show that she is strong. She can be if she wants as Lakshmi’s Satyabhama avatar teaches us or if she prefers she may use a force that appears more subtle but is overwhelmingly powerful to anyone who has felt it.
The power of love and nurturing that entices, hypnotizes, soothes and engulfs all who experience it. I find myself constantly breaking free of limiting mental constructs imposed by society with concepts such as these. I also have taken note that even though I am still learning and have not perfected the recommended practices in Sanatan Dharma that everyday more scientific evidence pours out about the benefits of yoga and meditation and have experienced the benefits personally as well.
Self Employed: Germany
I was raised Atheistic and later during my school time I started the search for God. During communist regime in East Germany Christianity was the only option one could choose. So I became Christian. But too many questions still were not answered: if God is love how can he send to hell for eternity? Why are babies born sinful? How come someone has to die for my salvation? Etc pp. One day I met an Indian. We had long discussions about Religion in General and compared how our respective religions answer certain questions.
One day he suggested reading Bhagavad Gita. I did. I started with “Bhagavad Gita – a walk through for Western people”. What I read instantly resonated with me. All my questions were suddenly answered. I felt I came home. Still, it took a good deal of time to study and understand the basics of Hinduism. But good friends were always on my side to teach me and patiently answer my million questions. I always felt Religion should be all embracing and not exclusive. And as more and more I learned, I loved Sanatan Dharma. One day I decided to adopt it by converting to Hinduism as my official religion and since then I walk my path.
Professional Yogini and Singer: USA
So it began one day when I was thinking of redecorating my apartment. I had always loved Indian furniture and textiles, etc.. I decided to go and visit this lovely very large Indian furniture store, which was owned by two devotees of Satguru Sivaya Subramuniaswamiji( Founder of Kauai’s Hindu monastery).
To make a long story short, I had spotted this beautiful colorful quilt with Ganesa on it. I really like it but could not buy it at that time.
Let me jump ahead a year now. It was a few days before my birthday and I just happen to be in the mode of changing up my apartment and I was also ending a 5-year relationship. Side note; my partner had given me a very small quarter sized Ganesa which I had always had since the beginning of the relationship. Meaning Ganesa was always around but I did not know him yet! So anyway the thought of that lovely Ganesa quilt just somehow popped into my head again after a year!, and I thought “no way is that quilt still at that shop” but anyway I wanted to go to the shop again just to look at other things.
That day I went to the Indian shop I went straight back to where they had their bedding and textile area, a very small room mind you. I’m glancing through the mostly earthy tones and then! what do I see but those same bright colors that were on the Ganesa quilt!
So, I pulled it out and there he was! Here is where it gets mystical thought. I had to call to the sales lady because the quilt had no price on it. When I showed the lady the quilt, she gave me the strangest look, she said ” where did you find that, I had just straightened out this room” I said “well it was right here on the bottom” She says ok, then we both looked at each other, sort of stunned, her more than I!. Then she says I’ll have to call the owner and asked how much it is, she did not know the price. So she comes back and tells me it a $100 donation and the money goes to the building of a Siva temple on the Island of Kauai. I said how lovely.
On the quilt also is a silk screen of Ganesa and Gurudeva and then the other side is hand stitched with many different Om’s. On the silk screen side, I notice a book by the Lords’ feet on a small stool, and on this book a Swastika. I had not known at the time what the swastika truly meant, only knew how the Nazi’s used it.
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So I asked her “why does he have a swastika” she then says ” Oh you don’t know Lord Ganesa yet”! She then proceeds to pull out the book “Loving Ganesa” written by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniya Swami. She flipped through it and showed how it explains all his tools and forms. I was fascinated and knew that I wanted the quilt and the book! I had her put the quilt on hold for me until the next day. I left the store and once I was home I called the local metaphysical book store in my town. I asked them “do you carry this book Loving Ganesa”? They said let me check. They did carry it but they were out of stock, but then a second later, the sales person says “oh wait! there is one, after all, the person never picked up the book, so you are in luck” I said great, please hold it for me. Ganesa had it all worked out for me, he was invited through to my spiritual path. Jai Ganesa! (he removed obstacles at this juncture).
So I got the book and the beautiful quilt, which I had my first real darshan of Ganesa. Brought him home, opened up the quilt and immediately burst into tears! I had no idea why, but just felt so much love from him!
From there on out, I did a pilgrimage to Kauai’s Hindu monastery, bought an amazing Ganesa murti and began doing his puja. He opened the door for me to be on this most beautiful and rich path of the Sanatana Dharma! Only he can do such magic for a person, he truly is the gate keeper and my Ishta devata! I’m not talking about converting to Hinduism, but I’m just talking the philosphy of Sanatana Dharma and its mesmerising effect on us.
House Holder: USA
In thinking of how to describe my path to Hinduism, I consider the details of my particular experiences far less significant than the knowledge I’ve been privileged to receive from guides along the way. My teacher, Hari-kirtan das, expressed the connection between faith and knowledge in this way in a blog post he wrote: “We go where our hearts take us. According to the disposition of our heart, we develop a particular kind of faith.”
I was brought to Hinduism through my experiences with Yoga, a path that has been happily (and equally) illuminating and humbling, and has deepened my faith in ways that seem many times inexplicable. Hari-kirtan continues:
“The experience of yoga is both an evolution of consciousness and a softening of the heart. When the heart is receptive to the possibility of the evolution of consciousness the potential for that evolution awakens within the heart. When the potential for evolution awakens within the heart we feel inspired to work towards the realization of that evolution and with steady practice, our evolution is realized. Faith unlocks the potential for knowledge, the potential for knowledge inspires our practice, our practice kindles the fire of realized knowledge, and the illumination radiating from that fire deepens our faith; the process comes full circle. Yoga invites your faith in the possibility of the attaining the highest knowledge: knowledge of your own true nature.”
Sanatana Dharma is unique among world-views and religions — and especially distinct from the Abrahamic varieties. It allows individuals many paths to open to their true nature: a nature that does not depend on externally-constructed dualities, does not sit on a dyadic foundation, does not reinforce exclusivism and opposition in order to achieve its goals. Rather, it is open to everyone and reveals knowledge that sustains us on our unique paths toward truth. I am thus less inclined to say that I came to Hinduism — but rather evolved as to recognize the path it illuminated before me and follow it inward and onward with faith.
Poet and blogger: USA
MY JOURNEY TO HINDUISM I have always been a spiritual seeker. Throughout my life, I’ve had a strong desire to know God more intimately, and to develop deeper wisdom and spiritual insight. I was raised in Southern California, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, i.e. “Mormons.” In my youth, I was taught that God is a separate and distinct being and that his son Jesus Christ was my personal Savior.
I was very diligent in my service to the Church. Though I loved my affiliation with my religious faith, as I grew older, I began to feel that something was missing. I stopped going to church altogether and felt completely lost spiritually. I suppose you could say I went through a dark night of the soul. As middle age approached, I began to explore other faith traditions, particularly eastern philosophies, and those experiences opened up an entirely new paradigm of spiritual awareness. The more I learned about Hinduism, the more it resonated with me.
The teachings of Sanatan Dharma struck a chord in my soul and I felt this amazing expansion in my mind and heart. When I read the Upanishads for the first time, I felt a true spiritual clarity that I had never experienced before. Having been raised in a highly structured, rigid, and male-dominated hierarchical faith system, I was enchanted to learn that there are various aspects of Deity, particularly the Divine Feminine that pervades Hinduism.
It was so exciting for me to see God in this light, and also frightening at the same time. For the first time, I felt spiritually empowered as a woman and drawn to this richly complex and unusual religion. As I continue to study and explore the vast reservoir of Hindu scripture and other sources each day, I continually encounter new truths and insights.
My Hindu brothers and sisters have welcomed me with open arms, but I sometimes still feel like an outsider, looking in. However, as I search out the ancient truths of Sanatan Dharma, those moments of disconnection have become far less frequent. Through meditation and sacred spiritual practices, such as Japa mantra, which is one of my favorite practices, I have come to know God/Goddess in a way that my old religion could never give me.
It would be incorrect to state that I chose to become a Hindu after converting to Hinduism. The truth is that Hinduism chose me. Through Sanatan Dharma, I have learned that God exists within me, and within everyone. I am intertwined with the Divine Feminine; She is me, and I am Her. I feel like I have been given the greatest of riches on earth, the knowledge that will take me home to who I really I am. Sanatan Dharma IS the Eternal Way.
Parama Karuna Devi
Swamini: Italy /India
I was born in the 1950s, and nobody in my family and environment knew anything about India o Hinduism. Yet, from my early childhood, I refused to eat meat out of ethical conscience and I told people about reincarnation and the unity of all life.
When I finally came across some books on Hinduism, I was ecstatic because I could finally give a technical name to define my certainties. The more I read, the more it made sense.
I officially after converting to Hinduism in 1978, I dedicated myself full time to religion and spirituality, eagerly continuing its study and soon starting to teach about it.
Hinduism is very deep and scientific, and therefore it is more difficult to understand and apply than other more superficial and dogmatic religions, but the more genuinely “Hindu” you become, the better person you will be. It is like becoming a “fundamentalist” in honesty, ethical conscience, intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, happiness, love, and freedom.
However, the beauty of Hinduism is also in the graduality of approaches. Anyone can participate easily without too much strain, as there are so many different levels to personalize one’s dedication in a genuine way and so many aspects of God to choose as one’s ‘Ista devata’.
I have been traveling all around India from 1984 and moved my residence permanently in India in 1994, without depending on, or referring to any group, organization or institution, but simply living as a Hindu among Hindus. In the course of years, I have found more and more jewels of knowledge and realization, and I am always eager for more. Of course, my personal experience of Hinduism is mainly based on the original Vedic scriptures and knowledge.
I call myself an “orthodox Hindu”, after converting to Hinduism with the original dictionary meaning of the word “orthodox”. I have performed all the required rituals of prayascitta, suddhi, and vrata and other Samksaras under the tutelage of universally recognized and respected traditional Sasana Brahmanas in Orissa, including the Seula Purohita of the Sri Mandir, who personally conducted the yajna.
I am not saying that all those who consider themselves or those after converting to Hinduism, constitute a perfect example of the wonderful knowledge and tradition that I have chosen to follow. Quite the contrary, I am very well aware of the shortcomings of many individuals, including a number of those who occupy a prominent political position on the scene of “Hindu religion”. But the answers and the solutions are there, clear and perfect and totally practical, in the original Shastra.
In the last years, I have modified my sadhana in this direction and I am dedicating myself to the effort of bringing the wealth of Vedic scriptures and knowledge to the largest public. I founded the Jagannatha Vallabha Vedic Research center and started to produce and publish books for this purpose, and my only concern is that I will be able to complete as much work as possible, as well as assisting others to commit to this great work.
In cooperation with other Hindu friends, I am now organizing a Mahakarya Institute, that will promote and conduct Courses and Seminars on many subjects in order to facilitate the practical application of Vedic knowledge and ethics (Vidya and dharma) to everyday’s life at individual and collective level, also producing textbooks in sociology, economy, strategy, education and similar fields. Everyone is invited to participate.
Lastly, you can watch this video where Ms. Danielle Riordan after converting to Hinduism and being named Gauri Maheshwari speak about Hindu Religion at length.