Joining the Hindu Community: My Saiva Name

You all may have noticed a name change on my profile: Purnacandra Sivarupa. This is my chosen Saiva name. I’m not going to force everybody to switch to using it all at once (at least not the folks I know in person!), but I’d appreciate it if my friends at least started to accustom themselves to it. I’ll be happy to let anybody know exact pronunciation when convenient. And, yes, I will be making this legal. I’m going to give it a bit of a “feeling-out”, to make sure that it seems to fit where I’m at. If, as with English names, “Purnacandra” is a bit long for common address, and you feel the need to shorten it, “Candra” is my preferred “nickname”, as that is the deity name at the heart of it. (“C” in Sanskrit is pronounced like “ch” in English.)

“Purnachandra” means “Full Moon”; “Sivarupa” means “form of Siva”. The name took a lot of time for me to decide upon, after much research, prayer, and meditation, and is very meaningful to me in this current place along my spiritual journey. Thanks, everybody, for being patient with the process. Aum Santih Santih Santih

Joining the Hindu Community: Names

I’m at the stage of trying to decide upon my Saivite name. I will then start using it, “feeling it out”, as it were, and will eventually have my name legally changed leading up to a formal name-giving ceremony with a priest. This will surely be an interesting process. I know some very open-minded people, and have a loving family, so I know I’ll get through this, but I also feel like I’ll lose a few along the way.

Joining the Hindu Community: Some Early Observations

It has been nearly two months, now, since I began trying to discover and interact with the local Hindu community. I live in the area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so the Hindu community is fairly large and diverse. The Sri Venkaeswara Temple, the Hindu Jain Temple, and Chinmaya Mission Pittsburgh, among others, mostly in the suburban Monroeville and Penn Hills area, serve the community as religious and cultural centers in many capacities. For example, I recently took a seven-week workshop in spoken Sanskrit generously hosted by Chinmaya Mission Pittsburgh.My immediate impression is not that of an insular community trying hard to keep the tide of filthy Western influence out, as I had been taught in high school cultural geography class, but rather of an extended family who recognize earnest efforts to learn their ways when they see them and welcome, with open hearts and warm smiles, anybody who truly loves God and Gods regardless of ethnic, cultural, or religious background. Hinduism is neither closed to dedicated seekers, nor even to those just innocently curious. I’m not positive where the myth of Hinduism being “closed” came from, but I have read it in even the most scholarly of books on the topic from authors whom I respect deeply for their otherwise broad and deep religious knowledge. Great authorities within Hinduism itself, however, make clear that Hinduism is not only just now open to newcomers, but always has been throughout its history; otherwise, how could people as diverse as Sri Lankans, Nepalese, and Alexander’s Greeks have made their way into Sanātana Dharma long before me?

I don’t mean to make this sound like a dispassionate study in anthropology. My interest is direct and specific: to gain entry to the mysteries of Dharma. And, to do so, I must also learn to integrate this same multifarious dharma into all the many areas and aspects of life. And I have some truly wonderful individual human beings to thank for what little progress I have made in this process. I have been recognized, without any prompting on my part, as a Śiva-bhakta by  temple priests and teachers of Vedanta, welcomed to kirtans, and brought in to participate in the Diwali Lakshmi puja and stotara. No, this isn’t because I am special and they can see it; it is because they are special. In a world so often characterized by walls and “No Trespassing” signs, Hindus have been those to open doors, smile, and pass me a plate of hot food.

Aum Shantiḥ Shantiḥ Shantiḥ