Why I am a Quindu [Quaker + Hindu]

Mahanth is Editor

Well, the main reason I chose this name for a particularly niche spiritual path for myself is because it sounded better than Hindaker [Hindu + Quaker]. Just kidding. But in all seriousness, Hindaker Quindu just might be the most perfect name for the protagonist of the Next Great American Novel?

I don’t often reveal my deeper thoughts about spirituality on this site, but I thought this personal journey might be interesting enough for some of you, to publicly share, especially Hindus and Quakers. To be honest I knew very little to nothing about the Quakers as of December 2022, the main association in my mind actually being with this famous smiling guy. Surely I can’t be the only one:

via Kmart.com

I’m a bit ashamed to reveal I in fact thought for most of my life, incorrectly, that the Quakers were a type of American offshoot of Christianity who avoided modern technology, gave lectures full of fire and brimstone, and aggressively converted people through missionary work. These would not be my cup of tea, no offense to anyone. I must have confused them with other brands. I now know those notions were inaccurate based on basic research and my own personal experience over just the last few months.

It all started towards the end of 2022, when I was discussing with many people I know in the Madison area my desire to join a regular organized meditation group, with denominational versions not even being on my radar. There are indeed many options, this being Madison. I have practiced meditation alone on and off since high school, and find it beneficial if practiced regularly with discipline- which was the big challenge. I also knew that practicing in a group can offer a higher dimension, like any activity in a circular setting, and having a set weekly space and time would be motivational, as I’m a person who needs programmatic, pre-planned time management. My cousin mentioned something I did not know, that for years in both Indiana and Wisconsin he had spent Sunday mornings with the Friends Meeting of the Quakers, and there was a pleasant setting for informal, personal forms of unguided group meditation at these gatherings, followed by participants speaking up about anything that came to mind if they wanted to. It sounded very non-hierarchical in a good way. And he told me he took a pause during the pandemic but would be game to rejoin the habit.

Knowing him well, this came as a bit of a surprise strictly because of my half-baked preconceived notions about Quakers. And it sounded interesting, and more or less the organized but accepting structure I was seeking on my journey and conversations. This led me to go down the YouTube and ChatGPT rabbit holes to learn more about the Quakers, and their long history of success and struggle. While I had thorough familiarity with Christianity, especially from attending Catholic school (and weekly mass) in 8th grade and America’s first Jesuit university, Georgetown, I knew little to nothing about the Quakers. Apparently the oatmeal wasn’t even a core business of the religious group as I had simply assumed for decades, and they were dramatically different enough from other branches of Christianity to suggest question about their belonging to that fold.

While there are distinct offshoots in the global Quaker movement, I will focus here on the Friends group like the one I began attending in Madison. We convene at a building that is simple but comfortable, with the seating hall for meditation and extemporaneous speaking having no pulpit, cross, unleavened bread, candles or hierarchy. It’s not about impressing or intimidating the guest, like the grand opulent structures to be found around the world in proud religious traditions that show off wealth and power. You won’t find lecturing by priests or ministers every Sunday morning, or babes being baptized. There’s no choirs or bands. Benches are arranged in a rectangle roughly facing the center of the hall, with a large screen showing members joining from home or elsewhere via Zoom. Anyone who wants to simply comes to the hall, sits down, and closes their eyes in a quiet personal style of meditation for an hour with the rest of those in attendance, and then towards the end folks stand up if the spirit moves them to say something, anything. This could include personal struggles with career or health, heartbreak over war or climate change, a philosophical quote, or to share some good news and joy. Finally everyone shakes hands, socializes, and discusses housekeeping before going on their way. There are also various extracurricular activities at other times I have not gotten to yet.

On my first foray to the Friends group I immediately enjoyed the whole setup from the moment I arrived, especially the minimal structure. I felt welcome at the outset. I have identified as a Hindu my entire life, and in fact am a descendant of a very long line of professional Brahmin priests who managed major Hindu temples in South India spanning back many generations and centuries. The Joishys are well-known for this family background in coastal Karnataka state, and it’s a heritage I’m proud of. Hinduism itself is a complex monolith of over one billion people with a wide array of competing and competitive traditions. Hinduism has attracted me with its moral philosophies and glorious fine art, especially in sculpture, music, and paintings since a young age. However, I always disliked the intense focus on rituals and structure in the Hindu traditions of my motherland: repeating Sanskrit mantras we never knew the meaning of, throwing various items into sacred fires, smearing pastes on the face and body, treating idols in highly specific ways, circling around the temple exactly the same way, etc. I have even harbored a strong distaste for Hindu temples in the United States, which in addition to ritual focus are severely bogged down by internal gossip and politics, often centered around conflicts about where the budget goes, which language group (of many) would be in control, how attractive the jewelry on display is, which idols and architecture from which part of India would get the priority, and which priests from which specific tradition would be hired and flown over.

Because organized Hinduism in the United States never connected with me, despite options in most of the American towns where I’ve lived, I never programmed going to a temple in my spiritual life. The journey has been a solo, if rewarding one focused on meditation in the comfort of my own home, whenever I wanted to- akin to working out with weights, kettle bell, pull-up bar or punching bag in my house whenever I feel like doing some exercise. I can burn incense and think about the mysteries of the universe, or read passages of my favorite spiritual tome Autobiography of a Yogi on my own time.

But as an extremely social person, who felt severe loneliness like many others throughout the pandemic period, a time when I could not wait to go back to the office and be around other humans when every Sunday night came around, something has been missing in my life. As the pandemic was retreating steadily, so was my yearning for a group to join as part of my spiritual journey. Not a group that spent time on rituals, sermons, and internal politics, but one about a free style of meditation and its therapeutic effects.

The Madison Friends Meeting also by coincidence, destiny, or some combination thereof also fulfill other goals that I have long held sacred. They are welcoming and non-judgmental. They overtly care about being stewards of the natural environment, and in taking action on this topic and other problems facing the world. I’ve always thought that showing up to a church, temple, mosque, or synagogue every week while not engaging the collective power of the congregation for action is a wasted opportunity, and admired those religious organizations that perform community service and charity as a core part of the belief system.

Happily and appropriately, a group of my friends in Madison unexpectedly decided to give the local Friends a try and join my cousin and I at the same time we did at the beginning of 2023. This welcome bonus has added motivation for me to continue attending every Sunday that I am in town. It’s a reunion of new friends and old friends. The beauty is that neither Hinduism nor the Friends need to be exclusive of each other or any other tradition. They can be two parts of the same whole. For an Indian-American like me who identifies strongly with both the United States and India, as the name of this site launched in 2012 would imply, I have as of early 2023 tapped into two unique spiritual traditions, one originating from each.

I wouldn’t claim that these choices would work for anyone else, but they have certainly worked out for me, which I am grateful for, and in the spirit of sharing thought it worth putting down in writing today. Who knows what the future brings, and I have much to learn, but for now I am content with the way my spiritual journey has unfolded in 2023.

Photo credit: thoughtco.com



  1. Mahanth: Thanks for the interesting article. I have visited the Friends meeting house and fondly remember their hospitality and tolerance. In fact, out of curiosity, I came to this webpage after reading your “best veggie burger” article. You see, I was the AV guy at the Kiwanis meeting where you regaled us with your ambitious plans for the City fleet. Relative to meditation, I suggest trying out “HU” as a springboard to spiritual understanding and purpose. It is a gift to the world from my chosen path, Eckankar, where we practice viewing ourselves and others as Souls living in the lower planes to gain experience to become valued citizens of the higher worlds above duality. Good luck in your many pursuits.

    Liked by 1 person

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