How does a seeker get his right guru? How to seek him? How to approach him? How will you know that he is the right guru?

For some people, Guru comes on his own in their life. They are blessed. They have done their homework in their previous births!

Others tend to search for a Guru. They may finally find a Guru of their liking, but only time can tell whether they have ended at the right place, or it is only a temporary shelter till they find the permanent one. The reality is that when the search is earnest, the right Guru actually finds them, sooner or later, in first attempt or later attempts!

A serious seeker, intentionally and consciously searching for a Guru should sincerely answer many queries.

Each of us have different tastes, temperaments, capacity of intake w.r.t. religion and spirituality.

  • How much of spirituality do you want?
  • How much of worldly life do you still want to enjoy?
  • Is your search of a guru or a saint simply for finding solutions to your current worldly problems and to get His blessings to escape from them?
  • Or is it higher and more purposeful to understand the goal of life and just not materialistic?
  • If you want both, how much of balance between the two is acceptable to you?
  • How much of sacrifice are you prepared to do to acquire real spiritual knowledge?
  • What is your mental inclination towards Bhakti? What is our taste towards Jnyana? Are you attracted by yoga?
  • If you have bhakti, are you confined to a specific God form or sect only (like emotional bonding to Shiva/ Vishu/ Shakti and tend to think other Gods as lesser Gods?).
  • Would you be more comfortable and content to follow rituals, do formal worships, chant slokas and so on as a devotee rather than read scriptures and break your head with matters like soul, Atman, Brahman, Nirvikalpa Samadhi and so on?
  • Do you have a family Guru by tradition? Do you have liking and respect for him? Would you be contented to follow him or you want something better?
  • What is your exposure to spiritual books? How much of exposure do you have towards our scriptures in general? Have you read Ramayana and Mahabharata reasonably well?
  • Have you read Bhagavad Gita? Do you find its teachings making an impression in you or having an influence on you?
  • Have you got any idea about the Hindus ideologies like Advaita, Vishistadvaita and Dvaita?
  • Have you got exposed to any of the life and teachings of Avatara Purushas, Mahatmas and saints like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda, Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, Kanchi Maha Periyaval, Shirdi Saibaba, Satya Saibaba, Ma Anandamayi, Swami Shivananda, Papa Ramadas, Swami Chinmayananda, Shringeri Shankaracharyas, Nisarga Datta Maharaj, Mata Amritanandamayi or any such saints of recent history?
  • Do you feel highly attracted or influenced by any of their lives and teachings? Do you feel like surrendering and seeking their guidance (even if they are no longer alive)?
  • Would you be happy to follow the living disciples of any of the above Gurus who are not alive now? Or do you wish for a living Sadguru’s guidance only?
  • Do you know the difference between a Guru, Acharya and a Sadguru?

If you earnestly get the answers to these queries from your heart, you will at least know where you stand and what you expect.

If you seek help and suggestions from people who already have gurus, you will invariably end up listening to a sales-promotion talk recommending their Guru for you too! It is exactly like people offering free medical advice when you tell them about some ailment you are having!

In olden days, people were less informed, had better humility, faith and sense of surrender. Spiritual knowledge or ideas were not freely available. Like arranged marriages, people easily accepted their traditional Gurus and got better. Only earnest Mumukshus (ardent seekers of Moksha – liberation) went around searching for Gurus. But times have changed now.

It is better to acquire some spiritual basis by reading books or listening to their talks/ videos unless you are blessed with a Guru who comes on his own in your life. Personally, I got my spiritual fundamentals firmed up by reading books. I was immensely influenced by reading Deivaththin Kural (Tamil, from Kanchi Paramacharya), The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Life and teachings of Ramana Maharshi, Swami Shivananda, Exposition of vedanta from Swami Chinmayananda and so on.

The more and more I read them, the more I got a clearer picture of my own mental leanings, tastes, strengths and weaknesses, idiosyncrasies and limitations. And I would say divine grace started working on me to guide me to seek my Guru. I found my life being lead from one step to another to lead me to my Sadguru.

I am just sharing what happened to me. Divine grace is the real thing and it acts differently in different people. I know that there are umpteen ways and inscrutable happenings through which so many others have come and landed at the feet of my Sadguru.

The same is true for those who have found their own living Gurus in the present and in the past.

Bhagwan Ramana with his western disciple Sadhu Arunachala

If you get a feeling that such-and-such person could be potentially your Guru, visit him and offer yourself there with humility. He may or may not be your final Guru. Sri Ramamaharshi gives one indication – If your mind finds total peace when you are at the sannadhi of the Guru, he is most likely to be your Guru.

If disturbances and doubts are there, perhaps he is not your Guru. May be his grace will guide you further to end up at your right Guru’s feet. May be he could still be your Guru, too but your time has not arrived!

 

 

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

You don’t have to break your head too much on the correctness of your judgment. The earnestness and humility are the vital needs. Sri Ramakrishna used to say “Suppose a person goes on a pilgrimage to Puri by walk from his village; he is not familiar with the directions and roads; somewhere he might have turned a wrong direction and missed his path. But as he inquires, somebody will always correct his mistake and redirect him to the right path. Quickly or belatedly he is sure to end up in Puri. Don’t worry”.

Search – earnestness – humility – surrender –grace . This is the working reality of getting the right guru.

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How to convert to Hinduism – Is there really a way for converting?

No single, universally acceptable procedure ever exists for getting converted to Hinduism – this is the basic truth. Why? Hinduism, in absolute reality, is not a religion, but “sanatana Dharma” – the righteous way of living; it encompasses the entire creation; it is not a religion founded by any one messiah.

Hinduism is quite different from Christianity or Islam from the point of view of its vastness in the scope of practice and perception. The concept of one supreme God, who is amenable for worship in multitudes of names and forms, is one major aspect of religion that sets Hinduism apart from other religions. This has resulted in numerous sects and sub-sects in Hinduism. Further, Hinduism as practiced at the grass root level and as comprehended at the elevated spiritual and philosophical level has a vast difference in between.

Thus, Hinduism is a multifaceted religion; it is like a pyramid with multiple faces at the bottom, culminating at a single point at the top. Obviously, there is no “single point of entry” available to the religion which is amenable and acceptable one to all. This being the reality, let us now see how one can “convert” to Hinduism for all practical purposes.

For that, one basic question must be answered. What is the motive of one to adopt Hinduism?

Adopt to Hinduism purely on spiritual motive

For some non-Hindus, Hindu’s way of worshiping a personal God with a name and form and choosing the path of Bhakti (devotion) as a way to God realization may be very appealing. For such of them, the social need of a formal conversion need not exist. For them, nothing can really hinder their choice of the personal God, method of worship, following the traditional Hindu dress codes (like wearing a Sari or Dhoti) wearing kumkum or any such religious marks at the forehead. It is up to them to seek a Guru of the particular sect of their liking and even get a “Mantra Diksha ” of the specific God form (i.e. getting initiation of the sacred name of the God for chanting and Japa).

One bhakti movement of Hinduism very popular amongst westerners is ISKCON (International Society of Krishna Consciousness), where Lord Krishna is worshiped as the prime deity.

                       Westerners singing and dancing the glory of Lord Krishna – ISCKON movement

For some other non-Hindus, the exalted spiritual truths expounded in Upanishad s (Vedanta ), Bhagavat Gita , etc. may be very appealing. At this level, the need for a personal God is non-existent. Great spiritual masters of Hinduism are of the firm opinion that the purpose of human birth is to attain Brahman or realize one’s atman, which are one and the same, viewed from two different perspectives.

This is the ultimate goal to be attained and it is varyingly termed as God realization, self-realization, attaining the knowledge of Brahman, attaining birthlessness/deathlessness (“Moksha”, “Mukthi”, “samadhi”, “nirvana”). It is this class of spiritualism that attracts quite a lot of westerners to Hinduism.

For some others, the Yoga (Kundalini Yoga, Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga) may be attractive.

For such earnest seekers, the best advice is to seek a Guru or rather a Satguru (a guru of the highest order who has attained the truth by self-experience), surrender to him and seek his guidance. Religious organizations like Sri Ramakrishna MathVedanta Society (belonging to Ramakrishna Math), Mata Amritanandamyi MathDivine Life Society, Anandashram, Ramanashramam, etc. can be of help to them.

A typical Hindu Homam (fire ceremony)

Convert to Hinduism based on worldly, social and legal motive

For example, you belong to some other religion (you could be an Indian or a foreign national) but you love a boy or a girl belonging to Hindu religion. Your in-laws are very particular that you should be (become) a Hindu; perhaps you too would love to become a Hindu or at least you have no objections to becoming a Hindu. You want to settle in India along with your spouse; you want to make sure that your religious conversion is perceived as valid, and that your marriage is valid as per laws under the Hindu Marriage Act, so that you won’t have any legal disputes whatsoever related to your marital relationship or the shared properties with your Hindu spouse.

In this case, Arya Samaj, a religious organization founded by Swami Dhayananda Saraswati (1824-1883) could offer help. This organization offers service for procedural conversion to Hinduism. This conversion practice was originally started by the founder as early as in 1877 to bring back such of those Hindus who had been converted to some other religion by choice or by coercion, who were subsequently willing to come back to Hinduism.

The procedure involves a vedic purification ceremony Called “Shuddhi Karma”.

One who wants to convert to Hinduism can approach AryaSamajTemple (existing at several places in India), make a written application along with an affidavit stating that he/she is agreeing for the conversion based on his/her free will, along with proof of age and residence signed by the applicant along with 2 witnesses.

The Shuddhi Karma (purification ceremony) involves conducting a “homam” (a typical Hindu ritual done in front of fire) involving chanting of certain Hymns from the Vedas by the applicant, as guided by a priest. It may take about one to one-and-a-half hours to complete the ceremony. After the purification ceremony, a Certificate of Conversion to Hinduism is issued to the applicant.

It is said that the conversion certificate issued by Arya Samaj is legally valid based on Indian Government Order dated March 19, 1985.

With this certificate in hand, the converted Hindu can marry the Hindu man/woman in Arya SamajTemple as per traditional Hindu marriage rites. For the marriage too, the couple has to give an application with proof of age, place of residence, etc. and an affidavit for consenting for marriage out of free will. The application must be signed and supported by 2/3 witnesses. After completion of marriage ceremony, A certificate of Marriage will be issued by Arya Samaj.

The Marriage certificate from Arya Samaj is a perfect legal document (Arya Samaj Marriage Validation Act, 1937 & Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Sections 2(a) and subsection (c) of the explanation to Section 2).

For the purpose of getting a passport, immigration, Visa. etc. a formal marriage registration with the Registrar Office will be required, which can also be done by submitting the Arya Samaj Marriage Certificate.

A few words of caution

(1) Though “Indian Government Order dated March 19, 1985” is mentioned above, it is based on other sources at Internet. This author has not personally verified the statement, nor could he locate the specific document’s contents or details on this Government Order in other Internet sources. Perhaps it has to be verified outside the web.

(2) In Hindu society, caste system is a practical and sociological reality. Certain castes in Hinduism considered backward get privileged reservation in educational institutions and Government jobs; Arya Samaj Certification will not help in the caste orientation of the converted Hindu.

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