I will try to keep this general, but I'm also curious for me specifically.

I have read Sri Bhagavad Gītā and have begun listening to an audio version of the Mahābhārata. I connect with the concepts of advaita and māyā at a fundamental level. That is, nothing needed to convince me: I already felt these truths and Hinduism has confirmed my biases. I find jñāna yoga most appealing, but not necessarily to the exclusion of other yogas. I am interested in reading other scriptures and am not sure what to read next. However, I also recognize there are limitations to what I can gain from reading alone.

I like what I know about the philosophy of the Smārta tradition, but am not sure how one follows that path.

I can also appreciate what I know from Śaivam & Śāktaḥ and am particularly fond of the concept of Ardhanārīśwara. For me they are personifications of the apparent opposites and their actual unity, much as the Chinese tàijí represents the actual unity of yang & yin. However, I don't feel any bhaktí toward these manifestations—perhaps because I only see them as representational.

Also, I say/sing some mantra because they sound & feel nice.

With consideration to the above, how should someone living distant from a Hindu community begin developing their practice of Sanātana Dharma?

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    The number #1 item is to find your guru. Pray to God to help you find your guru. Not once, not daily, constantly. If you are sincere in your prayers, your guru will come to you. If you take one step towards God, He will run towards you. Have faith. If you are sincere, it must happen. Apr 27, 2018 at 7:27
  • @SwamiVishwananda I see. "Not once, not daily, constantly." This is what I am not doing. Thank you. Apr 27, 2018 at 13:23
  • This conversation has been moved to chat.
    – The Destroyer
    Apr 27, 2018 at 13:38
  • You can simply practice bhakthi Apr 30, 2018 at 13:09

5 Answers 5


A foreigner inclined to the path of knowledge after getting acquainted with Bhagwat Geeta may step into following three aspects to further acceletare his/her illumination.

  1. Theoretical - Read Advaita philosophies like Kashmiri Shaivism or Advait Vedanta. If one is more inclined to Shiva-Shakti then better to inclined to Kashmiri Shaivism.
  2. Practical - Once one starts Advaita philosophies (primarily Kashmiri Shaivism) one can use the knowledge derived from the theories to raise one's consciousness. There are three types of classes of spiritual practices under which any spiritual practice falls named as Shambhvopaye, Shaktopaye & Anovopaye. For wide range of the practices which fall under these classes you can refer Vijnanabhairava Tantra.
  3. Devotional - Devotion is a result of grace. One would have real devotion only according to the intensity of grace. But initial pushes are needed for devotion, based on one's devotion one is gifted with more devotion - it works like that. To develop devotion, one can start reading stories, Suktas, Bhajans or so forth of your favorite god/godess.

But there is one more way which is the path of surrender. In surrender one accepts one's incapability of Moksha (in general of anything) and surrender one's life, decisions, desires etc unto God, In surrender one doesn't impose one's will unto one's favorite god/godess not even will of Moksha. One totally surrender intellectually, spiritually, emotionally or physcially unto one's favorite God.

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    I agree about surrender. My life has been a gradual surrendering of my ego thoughts and desires. I also plan less for the future and do not pray for favors—I know what I want, but it is rarely what I need. Thank you. Apr 27, 2018 at 13:29
  • Having thought about this answer some more, I recognize that I don't see Gods as personal or anthropomorphic, and thus wonder if such views would cause conflict in practicing Kashmiri Shaivism? May 3, 2018 at 4:04
  • @RubelliteYakṣī Such views won't cause conflict. Shiva is impersonal. Read here about Moksha here May 3, 2018 at 8:08
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    @RubelliteYakṣī the ideology of Kashmiri Shaivism Not doing acts like punishing oneself. God wont be happy if you torture your body because body is temple of god. Many people harm themselves in name of religion because they are full of guilt and they feel that self torture will reduce their bad karmas. Hence Long fasting or difficult pilgrimage and sanyasa etc is not recommended. So practicing Kashmiri Shaivism path is simple .. live with freedom and without fears and dogmas. :-)
    – TheLittleNaruto
    May 3, 2018 at 11:33
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    Those who have need for the Infinite Mother as She is, not in any Form but in Herself, seek directly the Adorable One in whom is the essence of all which is of finite worth. The gist of a high form of Kulasadhana is given in the following verse from the Hymn of Mahakalarudra Himself to Mahakali: "I torture not my body with penances." "But I strive to attain Thy two sacred Feet."
    – TheLittleNaruto
    May 3, 2018 at 11:37

First one should get oneself initiated from a Guru that's coming from one's preferred tradition (Paramapara) of choice. Only then he/she will be qualified to practice Sanatana Dharma Or Hinduism

Now, Vedic initiation (the Upanayana) is not possible for a foreigner if we follow the scriptures. So he have the only choice of an Agamic initiation for him from the Sampradaya Guru of his choice.

Take the example of Sir John Woodruffe. He was a Britisher. And he was initiated into Shaktism by one great Bengali Guru of that time.

As a result he became a practicing Hindu. And, not only that, he did some great work too in preserving some of the Tantrik scriptures.

Besides him there can be many more examples of foreigners who became likewise practicing Hindus after initiation (Diksha). So, Diksha is the key here.

Note that the Agamic initiation is open to all regardless of caste, gender like issues.

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    I am intrigued by Shaivism and Shaktism, but I do not feel love or devotion to them. I have some effigies, but I do not pray to them. I feel they are not powerful because they represent higher power; they are symbols of divine essences, not the essences proper. So, I don't think I could practice bhakti sincerely. Is there such thing as initiation into a Smarta tradition? Apr 27, 2018 at 13:38
  • @RubelliteFae Haha, what you feel is not necessarily be true. :P Apr 27, 2018 at 13:47
  • I have not understood some parts of ur comment.. but I have not asked anyone to find Guru from Shaivism or Shaktism. You must be having a favorite god then choose the tradition that is related to that particular God. The choice depends on you. As regards Sir John Woodroff, then I took his name as an example to clarify my point. Without initiation into Hinduism one can't practice it. This is the essence of my answer. @RubelliteFae
    – Rickross
    Apr 27, 2018 at 13:52
  • @Rohit. This is why I try to be clear about what I feel, what I think, and what I know. For example, I know the ego can pretend to be the Self in order to deceive, so I do not always trust my intuition in important matters such as these. That is why I ask questions, to verify that I have listened properly. If I look at an image, I can take in the beauty the artist has laid down, but—for me—it is only symbolic of true reality. Apr 27, 2018 at 13:53
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    It is not good to indulge into sectarianism before initiation.I didn't know anything about it when I was initiated for the first time. If we are getting a good Sampradaya Guru (whichever it is) then we should consider ourselves lucky. Adi Shankara's followers are called the Smarta. To be initiated from them u have contact the Shankara Mutts. Everyone as a favorite God, in most cases we can know by ourselves adept astrologers can also easily predict from the horoscopes.. If u are serious about initiation you can contact them too.@Rubell
    – Rickross
    Apr 27, 2018 at 16:17

I suggest you contact some Hindu organization and ask for their advice. Here is how you can contact the Ramakrishna Vedanta organization in the West: http://vedanta.org/contact/

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    Is promotion allowed on this site ?
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Apr 27, 2018 at 11:37
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    This is not a promotion but a help. Others are free to give their choice. How can one help a foreigner living outside India and who knows nothng about Hindus and their organization unless some concrete example is given? Apr 27, 2018 at 11:43
  • Well expectation was just "Yes" or "No".
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Apr 27, 2018 at 15:32

Short answer is constant "seeking" and getting initiated by a Guru in a practice.

Hinduism is an integrity (not faith based) based religion which evolves around a Guru (defined as per Sanskrit, not english). Gurus are typically realized beings and interpret the "Shrutis" for the current context so that practitioners get a consciousness breakthrough.

Different Gurus give different paths to follow depending on context, specific purpose and surroundings. Due to this nature of constant evolution / reinterpretation Hinduism is a self-liberating religion. And is not bound by rigidity of "morality".

If you want to pursue the path of Jnana Yoga, then a living Guru is an absolute essential to get initiated.


  1. "the deployment of the delectable Mani-pravala language-blend" https://youtu.be/RaN5bYPWtX8?t=2736 from minute 45 onwards, there is a description of various paths in Hinduism depending on different "conditions"

  2. "Hinduism and the Future of Science, Rajiv Malhotra Interviews Paramahamsa Nithyananda" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0JftnvuwSU ... this is a good summary on 'seeking and practice' in Hinduism


There are qualities that we need to develop to become more peaceful at heart and then become worthy of receiving the ultimate gnana about one god everyone has to attain.

The following qualities are to be developed gradually in life as per Mahabharata

Sacrifices, Gift, Asceticism, the Vedas, and Truth--these five holy things are ever present in conduct that is called virtuous.

  • Sacrifices are generally taken as things done by people belonging to a sect or subsect. There is a greater meaning to this. Sacrifice is a behaviour pattern change and thinking that everything that you are able to accomplish in life is due to getting energy from things that are arranged for you by mother nature and the results of work either it be getting good name or money has to be again submitted to nature. Being humble can be developed by sacrifice. It does not mean that we need to relinquish all our money to welfare of society. Just do things that are in your capacity and give things back to mother nature.
  • Gift -- Ability to help people in need whether it be for their education, daily needs based on your circumstances.
  • Asceticism -- Avoiding over indulgence in sensual pleasures and having self discipline
  • Vedas -- Get essence of Dharma from vedas by reading translations available or asking questions about things you do not understand without disrespecting. If it is not possible to read them then atleast believing things you heard or read about vedas as being the ultimate truth will suffice.
  • Truth -- Always speaking truth and also seeking the ultimate reality of becoming one with God.

The above discussed five are the basics you need to follow before diving deep into developing other qualities. The following words of fowler to Kausika will solidify the concepts that we discussed above.

Having subjugated lust and wrath pride avarice, and crookedness, they that take pleasure in virtue because it is virtue, are regarded as really virtuous and worthy of the approbation of persons that are virtuous. They follow only the practices of the honest and the good. This indeed, is the second attribute of the virtuous. Waiting upon superiors, Truth, Freedom from anger, and Gift, these four, O Brahmana, are inseparably connected with behaviour that is virtuous.

The essence of the Vedas is Truth: the essence of Truth is self-control, and the essence of self-control is abstention from the pleasures of the world. These all are to be noticed in behaviour that is virtuous. Lust and temptation are even like sharks in the river of life; the waters are the five senses. Do thou cross over to the other side of this river in the boat of patience and resignation, avoiding the shoals of corporeal existence (repeated births in this world). The supreme virtue consisting in the exercise of the intelligent principle and abstraction, when gradually super-added to virtuous conduct, becomes beautiful like dye on white fabrics.Truthfulness and abstention from doing injury to any one, are virtues highly beneficial to all creatures. Of these, that latter is a cardinal virtue, and is based on truth.

Those who are not swayed by anger, pride, haughtiness and envy, and those who are quiet and straight-forward, are men of virtuous conduct. And virtuous conduct is indicated by acquisition of knowledge, pilgrimage to sacred places, truthfulness, forbearance, purity and straight-forwardness. Virtuous men are always kind to all creatures, and well-disposed towards regenerate men. They abstain from doing injury to any creature, and are never rude in speech. Those good men who know well the consequences of the fruition of their good and evil deeds, are commended by virtuous men. Those who are just and good-natured, and endowed with virtue, who wish well of all creatures, who are steadfast in the path of virtue, and have conquered heaven, who are charitable, unselfish and of unblemished character, who succour the afflicted, and are learned and respected by all, who practise austerities, and are kind to all creatures, are commended as such by the virtuous.

—Mahābhārata Book 3, Section CCVI (emphasis added)

Please note that whenever any of the puranas say men while describing something it is not being bias. Purusha is a term used for humans which includes everyone born as human. So there is no bias in that.

For further reading of this wonderful akhyana you can go to Aaranya parva

If you develop the qualities prescribed by vedas and live your life adhering to them then you will be considered a follower of sanatana dharma even if you are not able to physically be present in land where this is followed and are unable to read all the books of knowledge related to the same. Hope this helps you on your journey and welcome to the world of Dharma.

  • Thanks for your answer! I have emphasized a portion of your quote to call attention to virtuous goals in addition to the virtuous conduct you explained. Can you please also note what text, chapter, and verse you quoted right below the quote? May 2, 2018 at 15:07
  • I would like to add that my understanding of sacrifice is not "(begrudgingly) giving up that which you hold dear." Rather, through understanding, one begins desiring fewer & fewer things. This loss of desire naturally leads to non-participation in those particular desires. In this way, unhealthy practices are given up as a "side-effect" of wisdom rather than by actively striving to deny oneself. I mention this because in the West (where I am from) there is a (mis)conception that sacrifice must hurt if it is to heal; there is a (false) notion that painful renunciation is holy. May 2, 2018 at 15:15
  • So, I would argue, that sacrifice, gift, and asceticism are natural results of understanding Vedas/Truth. Therefore, a practitioner should first work toward understanding of Vedas/Truth before attempting sacrifice, gift, and asceticism. This prevents performing virtuous actions with an unvirtuous mindset. May 2, 2018 at 15:18
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    Yes you are correct about understanding vedas first to get the qualities desired. Only problem is lot of people will not have opportunity to study vedas whetger it be time, place or any other reason. So that is the reason why if we try to build qualities mentioned in vedas then that would be great even if we do not have opportunity to learn or study vedas. I added a link to section of aranya parva where this conversation happens. The whole page of aranya parva link has discussion on these qualities.
    – Tej
    May 2, 2018 at 20:10

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