I was born to Hindu parents & raised a Hindu. But it’s only now that I am irresistibly drawn to my birth religion. I was actually baptised in a Protestant Church before college. Converted to Roman Catholicism during college. Learnt about Jehovah's witnesses after college.
Looking back, i can hazard three reasons why I was a religious vagabond. One, I went to a school run by Protestant Christian missionaries. The Sunday Bible classes, retreats & daily prayers influenced me & before i knew it, I had taken the holy dip, "cleansed" all my sins & become a “born again Christian” with a Christian name “Sandra”. Two, a practical foresight. I was in a serious, aimed-at-marriage relationship with a Malayalee Roman Catholic Christian in college. The conversion to Roman Catholicism was going to be a necessity someday as we were planning a Church wedding.
Festivals were more times of merry making & school holidays than anything else for a child growing up in a remote village with access to no other entertainment in life. Dress up, eat nice desserts, visit relatives’ homes – this summed up our view of festivals. We never looked at it as a “religious” “Hindu” celebration. As adults, we negated the festivities as mindless rituals. Once in the city, we further removed ourselves from all native traditions claiming they had no relevance in a no-time-to-stop-for-anything metropolitan life. We became mechanical followers of a belief system that had its origin thousands of years ago & actually branched out into three more religious sects - Jainism, Sikhism & Budhism - but was lost out on us because we cared not to accept it, we cared not to own it.
We Hindus go to Christian schools & recite prayer after prayer, forcibly or otherwise. We learn their scriptures & their Gods. Since weekly Friday or Sunday attendance in temples is not mandatory, we choose not to go on any day. And then, remain ignorant of the good values of our own faith because we don’t really have first hand knowledge of our religious texts. Worse still, in the garb of pseudo intellectualism, some of us condemn our religion, with our half-baked theories & ill-informed minds.
Hindus need to be “taught” the tenets of Sanathan Dharma. We need to be “taught” the Vedas & the Upanishads, which are a storehouse of knowledge & spiritual truths. We need to be “taught” Sanskrit in schools, like Arabic is. We follow the priests & their chants in Sanskrit, the vedic language, without understanding it & lose out on the richness of the language & the beauty of our religion. Yoga & pranayama techniques are potent tools to widen our consciousness beyond the ordinary sense of time & space. But none of these Sanatana Dharma marvels are compulsory in schools, unlike the Bible in Christian & the Quran in Muslim institutions.
We Indians take pride in our roots only once the West has embraced it. Yoga is a classic example. As David Frawley said in his book “How I became a Hindu”, “There is no more only one true religion for everyone than there is only one true race, language or way of life. As a pluralistic system, Hinduism does not require that we hold to a single belief or savior.” Hinduism is not only a religion, but a culture, a spiritual path.