1. Introduction

            The following paper relates the experiences of a Hindu colleague from a previous workplace. As listed in the appendix, open-ended questions are presented through the advanced inquiries, focusing on not providing any leading questions. The goal is not to convince or advance Christianity to the responder but to gain insights into their religion and culture. The responder began life as a Hindu but has since converted to Christianity.

2. Interview

            a. Spiritual view

The questioning began with a description of the types of questions that would be advanced, along with the assurance that the responder would remain anonymous. I assured her I would use an alias when referring to her name. The responder’s alias will be Siri.

The questions began with do you find comfort or joy in your religion? Siri responded that while Hindu, she enjoyed the rituals and extravagance of the festivities enjoyed during holidays. There were always brightly colored decorations, food, and a sense of joy and belonging, but she did not find any spiritual fulfillment since these experiences were young. Her parents educated her on the fundamentals appropriate for her age regarding Hinduism and were very responsive to any questions. So while there was comfort in participating in the holidays and joy experienced through the celebrations’ tangible aspects, there was no absolute spiritual joy.

The following question was, how do you express your devotion to your religion? Siri responded that prayer and offerings are made to Ganesha and Shiva in her family. Additionally, other deities are invited or invoked depending on the occasion.

The following question was, how closely do you hold to the tenets of your religion? Siri responds that her elder family members are more devout toward Hinduism than her. She relates this is no doubt from their lives lived with Hinduism at the core of their identity. Her Americanized parents still feature statues of deities, but they are no longer worshipped or presented with offerings.

            The discussion next led to how often you pray or meditate to observe your religion? She said that she devotes at least 15-30 minutes a day to meditation and prayer since she is now Christian. This includes Bible study, but when her family practiced Hinduism, she occasionally observed prayer and devotion.

            Does the following question regard how Hinduism regard monotheism or a single deity? Siri responded that Hinduism’s worldview is complex in that many forces and powers in a hierarchy receive worship. Therefore, to conceive of God to a Hindu would be a vast oversimplification of the observed natural order. While Hindus accept other religions without prejudice, their worldview is that many gods are necessary to account for the state of the universe.

            The subject of tithing is advanced, do Hindus give to their temples, and how often? She responded that Hindus are not required to tithe out of obligation. To give generously is a virtue but must not be done for public approval. There exists a principle to give one-tenth of one’s harvest or income to charity, and this pledge can be one-time or for a lifetime. Since her family has converted, they donate to their local church and tithe with their family to India for the poor.

            The final question for the interview is how Hindus regard reward and punishment. Siri’s response addresses the concept of karma. Hindus believe that all right and wrong action comes back to the individual either in this life or the next. She had difficulty accepting the karmic idea as it is sometimes expressed as the justification for the caste system. The idea that the poor should remain so due to past life transgressions is anathema to Siri.

            b. Family influence

The following question was, had she been Hindu her entire life? Her response was no; she had been Hindu until seven when her parents converted to Christianity. Their conversion was not to better fit into western society as they had been in the U.S. for over ten years and had emigrated from a large urban center where western culture is prevalent. Her parents had friends in the U.S. that introduced them to Christian doctrine, and over time they converted.

As the interviewer, I desired to know what her Hindu relatives thought of Jesus and the resurrection. Siri said that the concept of resurrection is not difficult for Hindus to understand or agree with. It is known that the gods can act as Avatars in this life. However, the distinction remains that none of the Hindu panthea is considered supreme, not even Devi, the amalgamation of all goddesses.

            c. Western cultural influence

            Although Catholicism is practiced (albeit in the minority) in India, the restrictive nature of the doctrines and concept of Papal succession remain the primary barrier to acceptance. The Indian persona is more accepting of a less stringent set of principles. The Christian effect on India’s culture is significant, “Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, was profoundly influenced by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.[1]” Particularly the topic of non-violence and the Christian concept of Imago Dei, which provides intrinsic value to human life. To many Hindus, central to their worldview is “dharma samanvaya, ” meaning “the harmony of religions” or religious pluralism.[2]” In that, all religions can be a path to truth.

3. Insights

            Siri’s perspective on spirituality is personally distinctive but not unique. As a second-generation daughter of Indian immigrants, she has matured with a hybrid of Hindu and Christian influences. Her parents grew up in the Hindu religion but eventually converted to Christianity. The resultant combination of effects left Siri a practicing Christian like her parents and some extended family members. Still, the integration of Christianity was not a simple process for some family members.

            Due to the tradition of acceptance among Hindu people, there is little resistance or objection to her family members that continue to practice the Hindu religion. At this point, it’s essential to distinguish the terms used in the interview. The ruling definition of “religion” used in the questions finds definition in the paper by Maria Carillo in “Religion” will refer to organized and institutionalized popular forms of belief, for example, Catholicism or Christianity, and the customs associated with it.[3]” While the interpretation of religion and belief remains subjective to the individual, the framework of this interview will include the traditional or colloquial use of common terminology.

Notes

Follow-up questions will drill down for more detail on the querent’s daily living in the practice of Hinduism. Additional questioning on family life and how practicing Hinduism affects her extended family will provide insight. The exploration of any prejudices or perceived hindrances in daily life will receive a further examination.

Appendix

1. The Interview Questions

            a. Does your religion bring you comfort or joy frequently? Why or why not?

            b. Have you practiced your religion all your life?

            c. How do you express your devotion to your religion?

            d. How closely do you observe the tenets of your religion?

            e. Do you dedicate time regularly to pray or meditate? What is the primary method used        to show spiritual devotion in your religion?

            f. How would you describe your religion’s concept of God or a supreme deity?

            g. Does your religion require you to tithe? How is the place of worship supported by its         adherents?

            h. What does your religion believe about the eternal concepts of reward and punishment?


              [1] Joseph I. Fernando, “Asian Heritage and the Future of Christianity,” Prajñā Vihāra 6, no. 2 (2005), 8

              [2] Jeffery D. Long, “One Life/Many Lives: An Internal Hindu-Christian Dialogue,” Religions 9, no. 4 (2018), 104, accessed June 9, 2021, http://www.proquest.com/religion/docview/2040734509/abstract/E892539F71534693PQ/12.

              [3] Maria Casas Carrillo, “Student, Religion, and Academia,” ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (M.A., California State University, Fullerton, 2011), 12