“In India, our religions will never at any time take root; the ancient wisdom of the human race will not be supplanted by the events in Galilee. On the contrary, Indian wisdom flows back to Europe, and will produce a fundamental change in our knowledge and thought.” **
I learned Hinduism first drinking at the fountain of academia and not while sitting on the lap of my grandmother. Academia taught me the classical forms of ancient Hinduism. Only much later did I learn the modern forms of Hindu culture through contact with real people, a congregation. The Hinduism of today and the Hinduism of ancient India would scarcely recognize one another. Anna, If you met a modern Indian Hindu priest, you would find that he probably falls into the mold of what you expect a priest to be more than what you find in me as you read these entries. I did not grow up in India, and so as you read these writings, I ask you to remove all conventional notions of what you think a priest is or what a priest should be, for I am no ordinary priest.
Anna, did you know that that the Hinduism of today is more a reflection of the monotheistic traditions of the middle east projected through the lens of Islam and nineteen century European culture than the ancient Hinduism that I first learned? Indeed, most of the people with whom I deal in my present congregation are more Islamic and Christian in their outlook than truly Hindu. They hold the ethics and moral values of Islam and Victorian Britain and not of true Hinduism. They speak of heaven and hell, of good and evil, and of the soul and God in Christian and Islamic terms, not in the terms of their Aryan forefathers. And they do not even realize it! On the towers of the ancient temples that you still find in south India you can find our gods and goddesses performing all kinds of explicit sexual acts. Such images are carved right into the entrance ways for all to see. In ancient India sexuality was celebrated as a divine gift, for without sexuality there could be no life. These depictions are life affirming, not pornographic representations as Christians and Muslims interpret them. But it is impossible to imagine building a temple with these images anywhere in the world today? This could not be done even within India for India has lost its aryan roots.
In general I find modern Hinduism to be uninteresting, boring and cartoonish. It is a bastardization of its former self. Modern Hinduism has been stripped of its power by foreign monotheism. It now lacks pith. But my gods and goddesses still have life. Did you ever consider who the gods are? They are nothing less than the projections of the world around us and even of our own inner desires. The sun, the wind, the rain, and the wind are but gods all around us. Our lust, our desire for power and even our thirst for knowledge are divinities. They live in our hearts and mind and it is we who projection them onto the outer world. The Greeks had Cupid. The Hindus have Kamadeva. The Greeks had Athena, the Hindus have Sarasvati. Both cultures had much in common. In fact, most ancient cultures had gods and goddess, the Nordic peoples, the Romans, and the ancient Chinese. Even the ancient Europeans had their gods and goddesses before they were consumed by the monotheism of the middle east.
A few years ago our temple community, which is mainly composed of north Indians, joined ranks with a south Indian community. South Indian Hinduism is interesting. It is more representative of its ancient sanskritic roots, the real Hinduism, because it was much less influenced by conquering Islam. The ancient Hinduism of north India was utterly destroyed by Islam. It is exciting to see a glimmer of the true Hinduism that still shines in this south community. As a priest I get to see the south Indian images of gods and goddess undressed. They embody extreme sexual beauty! Strong broad shoulders and thighs for the gods and large
round breasts, thin waists and broad hips for the goddesses! All bodily parts are there. Occasionally I perform the weddings of our gods and goddesses. The ancient practice of polygamy is still a part of these south Indian traditions. We perform elaborate weddings with multiple wives. Such ceremonies reflect a completely different value system before it was ruined by the Muslims and the British.
And so if I do not appear to conform to how you think a priest should be, it is because I have a different religious model in my minds. The way I think and act is perfectly within the bounds of the way I see the world and my role as a priest within that world. I celebrate the glory of ancient India.
* Photograph by Aditya Kolli taken from http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/40-stunning-photos-of-beautiful-clouds/
*** Photograph by Malati Marvin
Image sources: http://www.saisathyasai.com/india_hinduism_gods_goddesses/