“There’s no such thing as conversion in Hinduism, you are already Hindu.”

5383516-word-cloud-concept-illustration-of-hinduism-religion-glowing-light-effectI go back and forth on whether I call myself a convert, sometimes depending on the circumstance. The truth is that I am a weird hybrid where I grew up on stories from The Mahabharata, chanting Sanskrit prayers, practicing transendental meditation, and reading the Gita. At the same time, I didn’t identify those things as Hindu things. Despite all these things, I figured I was Christian because that’s what everyone else around who looked like me was. I never had a Christian worldview, as I discovered when I spend more time among actual Christians!

But even though I sometimes make the argument that I was born Hindu, I have the thoughts, fears, questions, concerns, and experiences of a convert. Because no matter what religion someone is leaving or going to, there seem to be some really universal experiences that converts have.

It seems I am not the only one who has observed that converts seem to go through some particular phases. It’s a bit like the stages of grief; stages of a convert. And like thestages of grief, one might get caught at one stage for a long time or bounce back and forth between them. It’s helpful to know about this, to see where you might be on the path. This is one reason why I dislike when people say “There’s no such thing as conversion in Hinduism, you are already Hindu.” I appreciate that sentiment, but it dismisses the unique problems that converts often face.

Here are the stages as I have observed them:

Something Is Missing

Whatever you grew up with, it just isn’t satisfying you. Maybe you feel like you didn’t grow up with anything spiritual. Maybe the rituals of your childhood feel empty and meaningless. You can’t connect with God or you just have a sense that there’s a hole in your life. (Some people have divided this part into several stages)

Rose Colored Glasses

You are introduced to a religion that seems so much better than what you grew up with. It’s the Truth, it’s perfect, why isn’t everyone doing this? Its dogma makes so much sense. The people who practice it are so holy and you know you would be too if you followed those guidelines.

Zeal and Devotion

You dive into the new religion head first. You soak up every rule and every obscure doctrine you can find. You’re relieved to have finally found something to fill that hole, to satisfy your longing. You want everyone to feel the joy that you’re feeling. You can’t understand why the whole world doesn’t practice this religion. Every new rule you take on makes you feel more holy and closer to perfection. You just know God is pleased with you. You’re making up for lost time, trying to catch up with the years you didn’t know about this path.

Proving Yourself

You’re painfully aware that you stick out. You give yourself away by messing something up or by not knowing something or just by knowing way more than a native to the religion would. Or your ethnicity is different and you look different.

You’re frustrated that you haven’t grown up with these wonderful riches and jealous of those who have, stunned that they don’t appreciate it. Why are the natives practitioners so lazy with it? Why does it seem like they’re rolling their eyes at you?

You want to prove how serious you are, how dedicated you are. You don’t want people to think or say that this is just a phase and you don’t know the reality of the religion. You wish you could fit in and be accepted fully. You want to make yourself ethnically like the natives of your religion. No matter how impossible that is, you do it anyway.

This is a time when a convert is particularly vulnerable to manipulation. In trying to prove ourselves, we’ll do almost anything to be accepted and to feel like we belong.

Holier Than Thou

You do it all. You follow every rule and can’t help but look down on those who aren’t showing the same dedication, whether natives or fellow converts. You’ve dedicated your whole life to your new religion. What else is there? Nothing matters but the goal of that religion (moksha, heaven, nirvana, enlightenment, etc.). You live it and breath it. You dress according to your religion (maybe even following rules and dress traditions that haven’t been actively practiced in centuries). You eat according to your religion. You plan your social life according to your religion.


The rose colored glasses have come off. You’re starting to see the problems and issues within your new religion. You’re also run ragged from being so dedicated to every single rule and trying to show everyone else how dedicated you are. You just can’t keep it all up.

You wonder if you made a mistake. You wonder why it doesn’t feel quite as perfect as it did at first. You are disappointed in the bad behavior of some of the people who also identify as being your religion. You long for the joyous certainty of earlier stages.

Your practice dwindles from an all-or-nothing feeling that you’ve been giving so much of yourself and you completely pull back and try to find your self again. You still identify with your new religion but feel guilty about how little you’re actually practicing it.

Settling In (Or Giving Up)

This is the point where you most resemble a native. You know which parts are most important to you and which things to let go. The religion is more integrated in your life and your entire life has gone back to a balance where it’s not all religion all the time. If you still stick out you tend to just shrug and accept that you can’t control other people’s reaction to you.

Either that or you panic and think you made the wrong choice, becoming enamored of a different religion and starting the whole thing over again.

Sound familiar?

I’ve seen variations of this play out in all different types of conversion/reversion: people becoming Jewish, people becoming Christian, people becoming Muslim, people becoming Hindu, people becoming Buddhist, people becoming Pagans. It’s common for all converts to and from all religions, whether they commonly accept converts or not. Pretty remarkable, I think!

Here are some other people who have observed similar effects (and I’ve seen many more over the years, but couldn’t dig up every blog post I’ve ever read that made me think about this!)

Source: Patheos