Below are some of our more frequently asked questions. However, if you do not find what you are looking for here, you are also welcome to e-mail us your queries. We'd love to hear from you in any case!
For more FAQ on our Daughters of Kali page, click here.
What does SHARANYA do? What is your work?
We function on multiple levels to meet the needs of our community and to serve the overall mission and vision of the organization. Briefly, we are dedicated to:
- Offering worship services and fulfilling the spiritual needs of community
- Co-creating the Sha'can tradition as a spiritual evolution of eastern and western thought, the(a)ology, experience, and devotion
- Making the Divine Feminine in all Her guises, but particularly those of South Asian lineage honored by the Shakta Tantrick path, accessible to westerners
- Informing about South Asian culture and religion
- Offering rites of passage and life ceremonies
- Facilitating transformation for young girls and women in peer-to-peer circles and mentorship programs in order to promote self-esteem and empowerment
- Providing spiritual pilgrimage opportunities and educational materials
- Promoting projects engaged in interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural awareness
What does it mean that you're a "devi mandir?"
Legally, our organization is a non-profit religious corporation. We have public charity status under IRS ruling 501(c)3 as a church and this means that we are exempt from federal (and state) tax. It also means that we are publicly supported and may receive tax-deductible donations in order to continue our work in the world. However, since the word "church" is both legal jargon and also has very specific connotations, and since ours is an organization wishing to transcend those limitations, we use the Sanskrit word mandir in our materials to describe our spiritual nature. Specifically, devi mandir means "goddess temple."
Does that mean that you can legally perform weddings and the like?
Yes. If you are looking for an alternative wedding ceremony, we can help you. Our Rashani (ministers) are rigorously trained and highly qualified, as well as legally certified, to perform state-recognized marriages. We specialize in helping you to create life event ceremonies that will be special and unique for you, including weddings and handfastings. We want to help create a beautiful and memorable ceremony for you and your beloved. We also offer blessingways (new baby blessings), funerals, menarche and croning rituals, rebirth rituals, and many other kinds of ceremonies. We do not discriminate, and are happy to perform ceremonies for those of any race, religion, gender, age, or sexual orientation.
What are your worship services like?
Truly, they must be experienced. Our services bring authentic ritual from both the Eastern and Western traditions, with an emphasis on interactive and participatory activities, with an equal voice for all. We offer open services (also called "circles") on the last Sunday of every month, unless otherwise specified. We also hold services for holy days and other rites. Contact us for the logistical particulars. We can tell you though that the worship is participatory (by individual choice and discretion), moving, celebratory, meaningful, and fun. Click here to read a bit about what the ceremony is like. Led by one of our clergy (Rashani is our term for minister or priestess of the faith), attendees bring the divine to life, pray, chant, meditate, and have an overall experience of community. You are kindly asked to R.S.V.P. if you wish to attend; and do visit our Temple Etiquette page to learn more about what to expect when you join us.
Why can't I wear black to your puja?
Please take a look at our blog entry for Wednesday, March 14th on this very topic! Click here (and scroll down).
Are you a Hindu organization?
No. Our spiritual path is called Sha'can. While we carry a lineage in the Shakta Tantra tradition of the Hindu faith, ours is a path of devotion applicable to the western condition and appropriate to this context. In its organization, SHARANYA brings a deep reverence and respect for Hinduism, as well as academic rigor regarding culture and sacred texts of the faith, to bear on the creation of ritual and ceremony. However, as our founder is an initiated lineage holder in Shakta Tantra as well as The Craft, we strive in our efforts to bridge the worlds of east and west in our honoring of the Divine. We welcome all in our community to equally add their voices and backgrounds to the creation of the tradition. Devotion of the Divine is what most concerns our community. Our mission and vision as well as our initiation and ordination rites follow from this premise.
If I become part of your community, will I need to pledge myself to a guru?
No. Sha'can is a life-affirming path that honors the Divine Feminine, particularly in her most powerful forms. While we respect Eastern traditions, as well as the wisdom teachings of gurus and teachers past and present, and while we bring an authentic lineage from India, Sha'can neither asks nor requires any pledge to a guru. Our founder and Rashani serve as teachers and guides, but in an egalitarian context. They are trained to lead ritual, but see themselves as valued neither above nor below any other member of the community. In our community, wisdom is shared amongst groups, and each is seen as having an equal and important voice. By taking on an apprenticeship, or taking an oath to the tradition, you are making a personal commitment to your own path - not to any one person or organization. We believe in a life-affirming path based on personal choice and responsibility, and each of us brings an important and valuable, individual voice to the community as a whole.
How does one become involved in the community?
There are many avenues one may explore, and we welcome new community participation in all of our endeavors. As a spiritual seeker, you are invited to attend our services and to speak to any of our elders about worship practices. If you are curious about more formal education and/or other experiences with us, we offer a variety of approaches, including our year-long introductory apprenticeship training, the Daughters of Kali™ program, which teaches the history, philosophy and practices of the Eastern and Western traditions that provide the basis Sha'can. Visit our Calendar of Events page for more information about some of our programs and services, or contact us to speak to someone individually about your interests.
I am a Westerner, and feel a little strange worshiping Hindu gods and goddesses outside of strict Hinduism, since it’s a living tradition that seems so intimately tied to being Indian and Hindu. Given this, can I come to know Maa appropriately with respect for Her origins? How can SHARANYA help?
Our Indian teachers have formally invited you to join SHARANYA in “Mother Worship,” guiding us to help bring Her to the West. Of course, we are careful to respectfully preserve the tradition entrusted to us, and treat our lineage, authentic teachings, and the Indian religio-cultural heritage with honor, respect, and care in all we do. Our practices and worship weave this commitment together within a Western-based spiritual framework that enables those born outside of India and/or Hinduism (or even Western-born Hindus who want to learn more about a syncretism of faith given their spiritual and cultural backgrounds) to more easily approach the vast Hindu and Tantric traditions. To learn more, you may be interested in an article in which SHARANYA is featured from PanGaia, here.
In addition, there is great precedent for bringing Indian traditions to the West, with Swami Vivekananda’s spurring of the Vedanta Society here being the most famous example. Certainly, Hinduism itself is historically a great assimilating force and birther of traditions, with Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism being examples of new religions being created from Hindu roots.
Finally, it is not necessary to be Indian or Hindu to love our Mother. For instance, at the Kamakhya Temple in Assam, where we lead a pilgrimage each year, worship is open to everyone, regardless of who they are and where they come from. No one is excluded from honoring Maa! All are joyously welcomed at the temple. The reason is simple: our Mother is the Mother of All. How can humans discriminate or determine for themselves who is worthy of approaching Her or in what way that should be done?
Know that all that is required to appropriately honor Maa is devotion, respect, and a sincere spiritual yearning. If you wish to know or do more, SHARANYA can help teach you particular methods of worship through Sha'can...both a new way and also a way deeply resonant with how She has been worshiped continuously for thousands of years.
My personal spiritual journey is guiding me to visit India. Can you help?
Absolutely, in a number of ways. We offer small and affordable sacred pilgrimages to India once a year. These are led by our founder and typically last two weeks. During this time, you will acclimate in New Delhi and then visit the eastern states of West Bengal, Orissa and Assam to see numerous ancient goddess sites, shakta pithas and other important temples. Each step of the journey is a veritable spiritual experience with the group learning and doing ritual appropriate to each visited site. Individual devotional practice will augment the group process and sharing time, so participants are encouraged to bring a small travel altar or item of ritual significance and a journal with them.
We are also happy to assist with your itinerary if you are interested in traveling to visit the major centers of goddess devotion on your own. Please contact us for more information about sites, appropriate temple etiquette and some recommended guidelines for women travelers.
I am interested in going to other sacred sites around the world, not just India. Do you have other options?
Yes! In addition to our annual India pilgrimage, we lead annual journeys to France, the home of the Black Madonna. In addition to visiting Her images in beautiful cathedrals, we travel to Provence for the Sara-la-Kali festival, the sacred mother of the Gypsies. These trips are affordable, and typically last about two weeks. Like the India trip, ritual and devotional practice is encouraged, and there is plenty of time for personal reflection, as well as exploring the glorious French culture and cuisine.
Beginning in 2006, we will be offering additional journeys to other sacred sites, such as Britain's West Country, considered by many to be the mystical capital of Europe.
I'm a college/graduate student, and I would love to go on one of your journeys and get credit for it at school. Is this possible?
Yes. Our founder holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy & Religion, with a focus on Asian & Comparative Studies, and is qualified to supervise your independent study on the journey. Depending on the school, you may arrange for an Independent Study, which may require additional fees. In addition, there may be a small additional course fee to cover the extra individual attention given to your studies on the journey.
Do you help young girls and women?
SHARANYA is dedicated to improving girls' and women's self-esteem and sense of empowerment by leading rites of passage, facilitating peer-to-peer groups, and by creating safe spaces in which to learn about what it means to be a woman in today's world. Our year-long apprenticeship program, Daughters of Kali™, helps by mentoring and educating about women's mysteries from Eastern and Western spiritual traditions. If you are interested in helping your daughter or a special loved one through the passage of menarche, or if you are interested in motherhood or croning rituals, we will help you design and implement your own ritual, or you may choose to participate in a unique and personally-created ritual in our lovely Sanctuary space.