4 a.m.’s in the prayer room.
I’d be trying to stay awake while folded up in an uncomfortable lotus-style seating position next to my devoted grandparents.
The smell of camphor and incense sticks either put me in a dreamy daze or might have made me high. I haven’t quite determined which – did the camphor and incense sticks set up the atmosphere necessary for hallucinations or spiritual awakenings?
As my grandparents arranged fresh garden flowers upon the statutes of Siva, Ganesh and the Goddess Lakshmi, I found myself in and out of consciousness. When they noticed, I’d pep up and chant a verse or two of their morning devotionals with them. When their eyes were closed in prayer, I would be in a deep slumber.
From the earliest days of childhood through growing up in Northern California, with daily home prayers and pujas, regular visits to temples that were no closer than a 6-hour drive away by car and two Sunday school classes (nope, not just on Sunday’s either) I grew up in a strong Hindu family with a strong faith.
You grow up with your family’s religion.
Similar to your favorite foods and political views, you most likely practice the religion of your family.
Your eating preferences, life-style, health habits, and ‘eccentric’ personality were probably all shaped by your immediate family or loved one.
Now, if you grew up soaking in the Talmud and spent all your after-school hours playing chess at the synagogue, you’re most like a practicing Jew.
If you grew up with rosary-chanting grandparents, daily Mass attendance and spent a good portion of the year sacrificing hard liquor, horse betting or Cappuccinos , you’re most likely a practicing Catholic today. Or at least, go to Mass on Christmas eve 🙂 and call in your prayers when Notre Dame takes on the Wolverines every year on the football field.
What if the religion you grew up with doesn’t fit you?
We grow up with the faith and religious traditions of our families but they may not necessarily be yours.
Once you start confronting your faith and resolving if it’s a right fit for you, like those high school jeans you still try to fit into but have clearly outgrown, you wonder if the religion of your parents is the one for you.
Does the God and tradition of your faith resonate with you? Are you going to find enlightenment here? Do the scriptures seem palatable to you?
Experiment your way to your faith.
While your parents and family may think this practice I’m about to suggest is bizarre or blasphemous and I’m anticipating bans of this blog by most major world religions – why not give other traditions and religious practices a fair shake?
1) Visit other houses of worship. If you’re not familiar with church-hopping, I highly recommend you give it a try. Not just a church, but maybe a temple, synagogue or gudwara. And of course this is only for those of you not practicing your faith, may not believe in or have lingering questions about your faith.
2) Take other friends with you who can explain their faiths and traditions to you. I started going to church with friends who were familiar with the traditions and the practices. That’s the main reason I didn’t take money out of the tithing plates or ask for a second glass of wine at Mass. You need to attend the new place of worship with someone who can lead the way.
3) Use opportunities you meet with leaders and practicing members of other faiths to question (cross-examine) them. If you see folks wearing robes of other religious traditions, like Buddhist monks or Jain priests, do not, I repeat do not, call Homeland Security. Instead, befriend them and ask about their faith, practice and beliefs. You can determine once and for all, if they’re in la la land or they’re sitting on ancient truths and wisdom you should look into yourself.
4) Start practicing and attending their regular worships. If you find a faith that interests you, start going regularly and try to find out if this is some kind of secret cult or your quickest path to salvation. If they ask you to stand upside your head, empty your wallets and money and hand out bottles of Ciroc Vodka, you’re likely in the wrong place.
5) Read their books and scriptures. No better way to get the lowdown on a religion than see what their prophets, devotees, or spiritual leaders had to say. If the book puts you to sleep, put the religion down and move ten feet back. If the good book transforms your life, you may have the found a religion that fits.
If you’re looking for salvation or just peace of mind and devotion, don’t give up. If the faith you grew up with doesn’t resonate with you, be open to learning about other faiths and beliefs.
Hindu philosophy says get with the God that makes you holler. Not exactly in those words but you get what I’m saying.
Christianity says let the holy spirit win over your soul. Again not exact words, but who’s keeping track here?
You may feel like you’re back-stabbing your family and abandoning your faith but are you really? Aren’t you finding the practice that suits you better? Unearthing the short-cut to the G.O.D?
While your parents may include scotch and liquerish chocolates in their regular diet, don’t you have your preferences in regards to wine, men and dairy-free organic chocolates?
Our mind often seeks what is familiar to us, my friend Tim Brownson regularly points out and even wrote a book about it, but your faith doesn’t have to operate by familiarity – it’s a choice.
Find the God, scripture and traditions which suit you.
Jesus is making a big play for my heart and soul. The scripture, the poetic Psalms and His life sacrifice have brought me to the pews of the Church.
While I wait for the holy spirit to instruct me further, I ask you friends – are you ready for a conversion?
Ok, fine, are you willing to give another religion a shot? Are you happy in your faith? Was it because of your parents and traditions or did your faith grow out of your own choosing?
Let me know in the comments below.