One complaint that people sometimes have trying to get started in Hinduism is not feeling welcome. Feeling ignored, in fact.
I’ve come to understand that most Hindu temples and organizations are just not at all used to people showing up who aren’t intimately familiar with what to do.
And I’ve also found that there’s a real advantage to that. You can show up and have deep private time with God without anyone bothering you. You set the pace of your worship.
Also if you are outgoing, friendly, and say hello then most people are very welcoming and friendly. They just often don’t quite know how to respond to you but if you make the first move you quickly find how friendly most people are.
In the west we are used to churches that have a very intense and set way of welcoming new comers. There will be a greeting table, brochures, name tags, newsletter sign ups, all sorts of things. A lot of churches you can’t walk in the door without this huge welcome and a lot of guidance. Churches also almost always have programs that tell you exactly what will happen in the service and how to follow along.
However, not all churches are welcoming.
A couple weeks ago I went to a Catholic church service (I’ll talk more about that soon). An usher guided me in and gave me a hymnal that we didn’t really end up using at all. At the point where other people got up to take communion (non-Catholics are not allowed to take communion so I stayed sitting) the usher leaned over to whisper at me, “I didn’t see all that when you came in.” And she pointed to my chest!
I ran out of there afterwards. I wasn’t greeted, I wasn’t welcomed, I felt very unwanted! So that can happen in churches.
We were also recently at a ISKCON gathering and I was impressed by how welcome they made us feel. They greeted and guided people effortlessly. I commented to Brad about how they had the greeting thing down as well as the UUs. He said they’ve had a lot of practice with outreach to westerners.
Still, I’m happy to be able to slip quietly into a temple and sit in communion with God without anyone getting in the way.
And if you want to get connected to the temple leaders and/or get a tour, it’s easy to set up an appointment through temple websites or phone numbers. You always have that option.