Over the years I’ve mentored a good number of single people who have embraced the dharma as adults. This usually means leaving the tradition of their birth, family and social circles. For those who come to us already married, they either decide to make the move together, or come singly, having reached an understanding with a spouse that this is a journey which needs to be taken. Obviously, an arrangement like that requires patience and balance from both parties. But for those who are not currently in a relationship and are open to one, I like to explain what they might expect.
WHEN I MOVED FROM MY FORMER CHRISTIAN LIFE INTO HINDUISM I had never been married but actively dated, certainly hoping that I would find a life partner. I was already in my mid-30s. At this point I was quite willing to compartmentalize my life. Here’s where I engage in spiritual practice; here’s where I enjoy dinner and a movie with a lovely young lady who has no interest whatsoever in that aspect of my life. I could live with that.
At least that’s what I thought in the beginning. But as I became more invested in the Hindu dharma, this manner of living was getting old. Also, around this time I started noticing couples who were walking a Hindu path together. I knew right away that marriage to a woman who would just “tolerate” my proclivities would be unfulfilling . I saw relationships like that, and yes, some of them were quite successful by many metrics. But it wasn’t what I wanted.
DEMOGRAPHICS WORKING AGAINST ME
I do know wonderful married (or otherwise committed) couples where one person is a non-Indian “convert” and the other is ethnically Indian. I certainly could have been persuaded to go that route. The problem was that at this time the demographics of the Hindu Indian community in my city just weren’t cooperating. Almost every female who was ethnically Indian was either 12 or 50. In all of the gatherings (Diwali, pujas, meditations, etc.) I attended in those years; I don’t believe I met one woman who was anywhere near my age. Over the years that has changed, but back then it was as I describe.
At this point, I continued to engage with women socially, and don’t get me wrong. Plenty of good times were had. But as far as a long-term commitment was concerned, nothing would move me from my desire to have a life with a fellow dharmi. And something else occurred to me. While marrying into an Indian family would certainly have its rewards, my guess would be that I would not have the ability to connect with them on certain levels. The culture of my life that included the TV, films, music, etc. would not be their culture. So, it became clear to me that I needed to find someone raised in a similar fashion. That is, an ex-Catholic-turned-Hindu.
I specify “ex-Catholic” because as one who was raised in this faith, and have 15 years of Catholic education (including college) under my belt, I knew that I would fit quite well into a family that shared that culture. Of course, there were plenty of other points on the wish list that needed to be met as well. The older one gets, the more selective one tends to be. I was quite firm on all my important needs.
Both Teresa and I were very active in the local theatre community. We met at a party one night, and would occasionally bump into one another over the next year. Then I was cast by her in play she was to direct. Over the rehearsal and production process I did take a shine to her. After we closed the show, I did pursue her. I assumed that if we did begin a dating relationship that it would be just like the others. But as invested as I was in the Sanatana Dharma, I wasn’t motivated to take sannyasin vows. I needed feminine companionship in my life. She seemed like a great lady to hang with.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
We did begin dating. As a matter of fact, she broke off a 3-year very toxic relationship with an alcoholic to do so. And much to my surprise, she exhibited great interest in discussing all things philosophical/theological. Yes, while she would still self-identify as Catholic, she wasn’t practicing. And during one discussion early on, when I mentioned how Hinduism acknowledges divinity as both male and female (and ultimately beyond gender) she cried. Like a baby. The concept was as foreign to her as it was welcome.
To be brief, of her own accord, with no nudging from me, she began her own studies and after some time, embraced the Dharma as I had years before. Not only do we share the Hindu path in general, but our particular Vedantic/Yogic path in particular. Next year we’ll celebrate 30 years of marriage.
Yes, this did go the way I had hoped. But in my counseling and mentoring I do not shy away from sharing the loneliness and frustration I felt for quite some time. And those to whom I speak find out sooner or later that swimming against the majoritarian tide isn’t easy. And not every story ends in a perfect match.
AND IN THE END…
If you are contemplating exploring the depths of the Dharma, you will find riches beyond compare. And those who might be attracted to a life of solitude (formally or otherwise) might not have to deal with this issue. And of course, the proliferation of dating apps such as Dharma Match certainly expands the options. But the dating pool will always be smaller for you than others. And y’know, even with everything I experienced, that’s not a bad thing.