No, I haven’t figured that out. Far from it, actually. I mean, obviously it’s to learn from life experiences and progress toward an eventual state of detachment and enlightenment, but that’s the macro version of the answer. On a micro level, I really have no clue.
I talked to my mother about this (she’s my ever-patient sounding board) and she helped me make sense of the frustration I feel at times about not knowing. Basically, when I was younger I was possessed of the opinion that above all, I was successful if I got someone to be accepted into the Episcopal church. This actually happened once, about a year before I left the church and started following Sanatana Dharma, and I recall feeling very proud, even if the person was already Christian. The pride really came from the sense that I had to teach people about the “best” path or the “best” philosophy in order to be a “good” Christian.
After I stopped going to Church and acknowledged that I didn’t really believe in Christ the way the Christian church teaches me to (Jesus and Buddha and Mohammed are kind of similar figures, as far as I’m concerned), I went through a period of feeling deeply guilty and confused about my “duty,” both to the Church and to humanity in general. I felt as though I’d let someone down, because I had considered it to be my duty to show others that Christians could be really awesome people, and that we weren’t all crazy bigots like the most vocal people out there tend to be. Now that I didn’t consider myself to be a Christian any longer, I tried to fit Sanatana Dharma into that sense of duty. I tried to reconcile the fact that I’d abandoned the Church with the new, deeper, truer spiritual path I’d adopted, and it was seriously stressing me out.
That’s where the conversation with my mom came in. I explained this to her. I said, “Mom, what do I do? I felt that my duty was to teach people that Christians can be kind and accepting, and now I’m not a Christian any more. What do I do now? Am I supposed to show them that Hindus can be anybody? To teach them the truth?” And she said something very wise. “That’s not the point,” she told me, “You can’t worry about what other think of you and your path. You’re getting sidetracked.”
And she is right. The point of all of this is to learn to live with each other and treat each other as God, regardless of faiths or cultures or backgrounds. It doesn’t matter if someone sees me as a good Hindu or good Christian. As long as they see me as a good person, that’s really what matters.