The Syncretic Significance of Indian Spirituality: Reflections on Working with Seekers in the West

Long have the boundaries been blurred between “adopters” and “inheritors” of Indian tradition. On the one hand, there are white practitioners, for example, who are born into modern Hindu movements such as ISKCON. Conversely, there exist Western-trained, secularly-minded religious skeptics from Hindu homes who only come to embrace/re-embrace Indic thought and practice in adulthood. Probing this tension of insiders, outsiders, and everything in between, this talk examines the ways in which Indian traditions nourish spiritual seekers in the West, whether they are of Indic origin or otherwise. Drawing from his work teaching adult lifelong learners and life-coaching, Dr. Raj Balkaran shares insight into the lives of spiritual seekers in the West (from Hindu homes or otherwise) who come to engage traditional “Hindu” teachings and practices in adulthood as part of their personal, spiritual journeys. While these seekers variously identify as “secular,” “religious,” and “spiritual but not religious,” they are united in adopting a “both/and” rather than “either/or” approach to “Indian spirituality,” which allows them to integrate elements thereof into their lives. Core religious ideas, values and practices of ancient India therefore permeate the paths of modern Western spiritual seekers by virtue of this elastic, syncretic stance towards Indian spirituality.