Why I Am a Hindu

We’ve spoken before about what makes someone a Hindu. With Hinduism really being a name for a vast variety of practices and beliefs, it is almost defined by not being anything else! As many people will tell you, it is not so much a religion as a way of life. It is who you are, not just what you do.

Patheos has challenged me with another question. Why am I a Hindu?

It’s difficult to parse out the reasons behind something that I feel blossomed from within me. It’s like the story about the sculptor  who carved away anything that was not the statue. When I carved away the illusions and misinformation in life, I found within the block of stone Hinduism’s spectacular, joyful, colorful presence.

Here are some of my favorite things about Hinduism:

  • There will never be a point at which it is too late for you. There is infinite time to find peace and happiness. It isn’t just one short chance to get it right or you’ll be punished for all of eternity. There is an abundance of time and a beautiful world to explore. You’ll find the answers when you need them.
  • It is a deeply tolerant belief. Hindus can enjoy their way of life without feeling they need to change anyone else’s. Whatever makes you feel close to God is good. Whether it’s a lucky penny, a crystal aura, or the name of Jesus. It’s all wonderful. God is everywhere and in everything. It doesn’t matter what you call Him.
  • There is room for everyone. Whether you are someone who feels connected when praying and adoring God or someone who likes to ponder and study or someone who finds peace when caring for others, there is a place in Hinduism for every approach.
  • It is one of the oldest belief systems in the world and has a long history of insightful philosophers and hard thinking people. It encourages thinking, questioning, and wondering. It never tries to contain the world, making it smaller or less magnificent than its chaotic fullness.
  • It tells us that we are enough. As we are, what we have within us is everything that we need.

Being the child of a scientist, it is important to me to observe the world and how it behaves and try to come up with a theory of why from that observation rather than trying to force the world to behave as I  think it should based on what my religious leaders have told me. From all the religions I have studied and all the observation I have done in the world, Hinduism’s explanations for things make the most sense to me. They fit the evidence the best from my perspective.

When I look within, I feel the spark of divinity and there is no more powerful knowing than when you discover something for yourself. We are able to find Truth for ourselves. We don’t need to trust someone else to spoon feed it to us.

And it is selling ourselves short as human beings to believe that we are anything less than God incarnate.


Here are some quotes about Hinduism:

“If I were asked to define the Hindu creed, I should simply say: Search after truth through non-violent means. A man may not believe in God and still call himself a Hindu. Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after truth… Hinduism is the religion of truth. Truth is God. Denial of God we have known. Denial of truth we have not known.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

“When a chunk of salt is thrown into water, it dissolves into that very water, and it cannot be picked up in any way. Yet, from whatever place one may take a sip, the salt is there! In the same way, this Immense Being has no limit or boundary and is a single mass of perception.” — Upanishads, 2.4.12

“Hinduism has proven much more open than any other religion to new ideas, scientific thought, and social experimentation. Many concepts like reincarnation, meditation, yoga and others have found worldwide acceptance. It would not be surprising to find Hinduism the dominant religion of the twenty-first century. It would be a religion that doctrinally is less clear-cut than mainstream Christianity, politically less determined than Islam, ethically less heroic than Buddhism, but it would offer something to everybody. It will appear idealistic to those who look for idealism, pragmatic to the pragmatists, spiritual to the seekers, sensual to the here-and-now generation. Hinduism, by virtue of its lack of an ideology and its reliance on intuition, will appear to be more plausible than those religions whose doctrinal positions petrified a thousand years ago.” -Klaus L. Klostermaier, Professer Religious Studies at the University of Manitoba, former director of Oxford Centre of Hindu Studies

“Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.”
― Alan Wilson Watts, The Essential Alan Watts

“The Bhagavad-Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value to mankind. It is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed; hence its enduring value is subject not only to India but to all of humanity.” ― Aldous Huxley

“Religious faith in the case of the Hindus has never been allowed to run counter to scientific laws, moreover the former is never made a condition for the knowledge they teach, but there are always scrupulously careful to take into consideration the possibility that by reason both the agnostic and atheist may attain truth in their own way. Such tolerance may be surprising to religious believers in the West, but it is an integral part of Vedantic belief.” -Romain Rolland

“Compared to Islam and Christianity, Hinduism’s doctrines are extraordinarily fluid, and multiform. India deals in images and metaphors. Restless, subtle and argumentative as Hindu thought is, it is less prone than European theology to the vice of distorting transcendental ideas by too stringent definition. It adumbrates the indescribable by metaphors and figures. It is not afraid of inconsistencies which may illustrate different aspects of the infinite, but it rarely tries to cramp the divine within the limits of a logical phrase.” -Sir Charles Eliot

Here are some books I can recommend for learning more:

Am I a Hindu? The Hinduism Primer

How to Become a Hindu

Stay in touch! Like Patheos Hindu on Facebook:

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About Ambaa Choate

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

    I mentioned in another post of yours that I see three parts of my reality: my core self, which only I and/or god sees (this one, I’m unable to describe because at the same time it is not separately me and god as separate entities, it is not exactly god and I as the one and same, because there is something keeping this whole thing running, and yet, I’m here in this body trying to stay alive, out of trouble, and safe); my body, which everyone sees; and the world around me. It seems to me that not even my knowledge, memories, experiences, preferences, etc. define my borders. No, the essence, the awareness of the things around me is what defines the border around me. So, the knowledge, memories, experiences, preferences, etc. are really external to my core self and not really a part of my core self, if that makes sense. I use those things to control what my body does, like do something that brings me joy, get away from something unpleasant, do things that have to be done, etc. Those things make up the mental interface that I use to control the physical interface in order to interact with the world around me. When I die, all those things external to me dies, and I go where I came from. I guess the question for me is, “How long after physical death do those things external to me die, after I have reviewed those things in addition to my spiritually-restored memories of past lives, or do they not die (this would have to be the case for me to even remember that I had past lives, maybe even how many I’ve had)?”

    It is possible that I am looking at this wrong, and that those things that make up the mental interface are indeed part of me, like being at one renaissance faire playing a particular character in the faire cast, and then adopting another character in a different cast at another faire across the country. You remember everything about each experience, which is different in a different setting with different people in a different role.

    For that to be possible, some sort of phenomenon of dampening the memories of past lives or especially who we really are HAS to occur in order for the experiences of life on Earth as a human to be able to “start over” and seem fresh, new, wondrous, exciting, and scary sometimes. This is like the perfect answer to the conundrum that spirits who have been alive forever in the spiritual, or ex-mortal state have. They know everything, and are probably bored because there isn’t anything else to learn, to experience, and so on. A way to temporarily forget everything during this life, and yet infinitely add to what you’ve known for essentially forever. Even if you live as 5 million gurus over the span of 300 million years, you will still not exhaust all the possibilities of things that can happen. Even if you do, somehow, all you have to do is forget during that lifetime that you know everything. Just forget. This one time, you can be a man, another, a woman. This time, you’re black, another, you’re Native American, and so on. You will have no idea that anything is remiss…

    Problem is, I can’t tell if I’m on the right track: which one is right; or I simply have an amazing imagination. This was a very good design, to make it impossible to find out for sure. I feel like I’m right, but I can’t prove nor disprove… A lot of thought was put into this world, for sure.

  • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

    Ambaa, I believe you’re on the right track. I struggle with this because we use a linear method of communication to try to convey an experience that is nonlinear, and that is why I feel such a huge void when I sense what I experience and try to put it in words. I don’t even know how to describe what that is really like. Sure, it feels empty, but WHAT does THAT feel like? Frustrating!

  • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

    Sandesh, I am learning about all of this after working through all this stuff on my own for over 30 years. Andrea and Ambaa pointed out in different places that there are three paths to “god,” if you will (since my position on devotion looks similar to yours), and I feel like I would rather go the path of service first before determining if someone like me, who’s been on the outside of EVERYTHING for nearly 50 years, has ANY say of being able to embark on the path of knowledge (you can say what is necessary, Ambaa).

    Yes, if your heart lies in service to people in the way you can approach Sanatana Dharma, than you are a Hindu.

  • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

    I forgot to comment on this quote – “However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.” ”

    That just blew my skull cap off, so I need help finding it before I die from exposure… I’ve a confession to make. Hello… I’m god. This is terrible… How selfish I have been to want to live life as a human for a few thousand years and abdicating my responsibility as a god to ensure a positive experience for every living thing on Earth. The reason all these terrible things have happened is because I have been absent all these years. I can’t rule or run things in absentia, I’ve found that out. I’ve also found out just what it’s really like to live life on Earth as a human. Maybe when I go back, I can redesign the body to make it run better for longer with much less diseases, and do something about the brain’s design and its faults (hint; from early humanoids to Neanderthals to modern humans – it’s called upgrading bodies, working undesirable traits out of the design prior to implementation of the next iteration of humans).

    Seriously, do the same thing among Christians, and you may never walk the streets freely again.

  • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

    Ambaa, I read an article about “Westernized Hinduism,” and I can’t seem to find it, but here is another article, though it doesn’t go into details.


    Is it true that Advaita Vedanta is westernized Hinduism? I have a real concern about learning something that is not really Hinduism, but something that was changed to suit the mentality of westernized Europeans, and I don’t want that. Please advise. Dhanyavaad

  • Kayli Martin

    So basically, we are all our own form of God? If Hinduism can be made into anything you want the religion to be, then I feel like the person we are actually worshipping is ourselves…

    • Ambaa

      Yes. The important thing to remember though is it is not just worshiping our Selves but also everyone else’s Self.

      It sounds egotistical and ridiculous to say I am going to worship myself as God but that is because we assume that that means I am the only God and I will worship myself above everyone else. But no, all human beings, all life forms, all life in the universe are part of the One God. We cannot worship our own Selves more than someone else’s Self. They are all equally God.