Yet it is wrong to think
that people cannot formally become Hindus, regardless of their land
of birth. This requires preliminary preparation including study and
meditation as well as following a particular life-style and ethical
discipline. It is usually not given instantaneously or overnight.
Once these preliminaries are fulfilled a simple ceremony called
Shuddhi is performed which makes one into a Hindu. There are a
number of groups in India and the West who do this, though they
seldom advertise or wave a flag about it.
Shuddhi means purification,
not conversion. According to Hinduism we cannot be converted to
anything, just as we cannot change our nature. It is not a question
of becoming converted from one identity to another but of
discovering what our real identity has always been. To become a
Hindu all that we need to do is purify our minds and hearts so that
we can recognize our Eternal Being. This is not to assume a new
identity but to discover the Divine within us. Such conversion does
not require denying any truth. It only requires giving up exclusive
beliefs that cloud our perception.
Today Hindu spiritual
teachers travel all over the world to share their knowledge and have
disciples of all backgrounds and religions. They have not insisted
that people formally convert to Hinduism in order to benefit from
their teachings or follow its practices. Many Westerners practice
Yoga and meditation, chant Om and other Hindu mantras, and visit
sacred sites in India but have not had to become Hindus to do this.
This is because Hindu teachers see more value in sharing spiritual
practices than in getting people to assume different identities.