Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Paganism and Hinduism by Michael F. Strmiska

Paganism and Hinduism

If Nazi Aryan discourse and racially orientated forms of modern Paganism represent a xenophobic and racist response to scholarly research into ancient Into-European commonalities, other Pagans have been inspired in a quite different manner. Conscious of the linkages that scholars have made between pre-Christian Pagan Europeans and ancient Hindu Indians, some modern Pagans have come to view modern Indians as their long-lost cousins and to regard the religion of Hinduism as their oldest spiritual relative. This thinking is based on the dating of the earliest Hindu texts, the Vedas, to somewhere in the range of 1500-1200 BCE by most scholars. The Vedas were written in a language, Vedic, that is an early form of Sanskrit, with
identifiable linguistic parallels to Greek, Latin, Lithuanian, and other European tongues. Many scholars of the Vedas believe that the authors of the texts were migrants or invaders who went to India from the Indo-European homeland between 2000 and 1500 BCE, following the collapse of the native Harappan/Indus Valley civilization in an area that straddles what today is northwest India and eastern Pakistan.
          Because Hinduism has never been supplanted by any other religion in India, despite the efforts of Muslim conquerors and Christian colonizers, and has thereby remained the religious tradition of more than 800 million Indians, it is of special interest to European and North American Pagans. They look on Hinduism as the only Indo-European, Pagan religion to survive into modern times as the majority faith of an entire nation, despite the geographic and cultural distance that divides India from Europe and North America. For this reason, a number of modern Pagan movements pay a great deal of attention to parallels between Hindu myths, practices, and beliefs and those of their own particular regional traditions.
           To give one example, The Pagan Path, a 1995 book giving an overview of Pagan religious movements in the United States and beyond, contains a section comparing healing practices in various Pagan traditions; the authors compare the Hindu chakra system of a hierarchical series of energy centres in the human body to the Norse notion of a World Tree with nine levels. Anticipating that some may object to the identification of Hindu and Norse religious concepts, the authors commented, “There is a common saying among occultists that you should not mix traditions, particularly the Western and Eastern mystery traditions. We would like to point out to people who feel that this system does not belong in Western Pagan practice, that if they look closely they will find that most of our traditions are of common Indo-European heritage” (Farrar, Farrar, and Bone 1995, 78).
           To give another example, one of the international organizations dedicated to modern Paganism, the aforementioned World Congress of Ethnic Religions, has had increasing contact with representatives of Hindu sects in India. In February 2003, members of the Lithuanian organization Romuva and other WCER-affiliated groups attended the First International Conference and Gathering of the Elders in Mumbai (Bombay), India, which was followed by an “Indo-Romuva” conference in New Jersey in the autumn of 2003, further solidifying the links established between Romuva and Hindu organizations during the earlier meetings. Such interactions indicate that cooperation and mutual support between modern Hindus and Pagans seem likely to continue, bringing Indo-European religion out of the realm of purely scholarly investigation and into the domain of modern experience and activity.

- Michael F. Strmiska, Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives (Religion in Contemporary Cultures), p. 27-29. 2005. 
 
Transcribed by Nikarev Leshy.

Michael F. Strmiska holds an MA in Religions of India from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a PhD in Religious Studies from Boston University in the United States. He has taught Comparative Religion and World History at universities in the United States, Japan, and Lithuania. Dr. Strmiska has published articles on Scandinavia and Baltic Paganism in the journal Nova Religio and elsewhere. He is a founding member of the World Congress for Ethnic Religions and serves on the editorial board of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. Dr. Strmiska now teaches World History at Central Connecticut State University.

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