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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

scattered shoes | Caseykate | caseykate | Flickr

 

You can tell you're entering a temple by the shoes.

Men's shoes, women's shoes. Adult shoes, children's shoes. Sandals, brogues, sneakers: even a few dress boots. All scattered, higgledy-piggledy, across the floor of the entryway. Metaphor meets reality: to reach the holy, you have to dodge the profane.

In a standing temple, the doorway would be lined with wooden shelves to hold the shoes, but this is a temporary temple: a Lutheran church lent (with a generosity and hospitality that I find, in this time of bitter division, deeply moving) to the local Hindus for their holiday celebration.

(Back in the old country, there would be a mosquito-cloud of shoe-wallahs hovering around the door: young boys who, for a small consideration, will guarantee that your shoes are still there waiting for you at your worship's end. Here in well-fed America—let us acknowledge the fact with all due gratitude— they're not needed.)

For some, taking off your shoes before you enter a holy place might be about cleanness and uncleanness—think “ritually fit” if that language makes you uncomfortable—but for me, it's a simple matter of touch. For me, a pagan—a guest at a sister community's celebration—Earth, the ground of all being, is also the source of all sanctity, and shoes come between us and her.

After the midnight worship, my friend and host—himself a temple member—retrieve, on our way out, the sandals that we'd earlier left in a corner.

(Having arrived early to help with set up, we'd managed that prime stashing-place; we'd kicked them off because those fortunate enough to carry the god-images to the altar need to be barefoot. The pujari—priest—preceded the god each time, ringing tiny cymbals and chanting a praise-song as we went. Music accompanies gods wherever they go.)

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    In general terms, bare feet as a religious practice seems to be more characteristic of Semitic-speaking, rather than Indo-European
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    God said, 'Come no nearer; take of your sandals; the place where you are standing is Holy ground.' Exodus 3:5 When did that cus

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

My friend Ramkishor and I have spent many fruitful (and pleasurable) hours discussing religious observance and practice. From him, and from his tradition, I have learned much over the years. To cite only one example: here in the West, our traditions of temple worship were lost long ago; as we rebuild the temples of the West, we need to start somewhere as we relearn what we need to know.

Nonetheless, when he invited me over to discuss the scripture on which his iteration of "Hinduism"—in this case, the Srimad Bhagavatam (he worships Krishna)—I had to respectfully decline.

“I'm a pagan,” I told him. “Pagans have a profound distrust of Scripture.”

I did not tell him that I think that Book religions are inherently baneful.

I did not.

Collections of hymns: that's where pagan religions draw the line. The Homeric hymns, the Rig Veda: fine. The Vedic religion, which the hymns of the Rig Veda articulate, is pagan. The dharmic religions that ultimately grew out of it—"Hinduism", of course, being a (colonial) term of convenience for the kindred but differing religious traditions of the Subcontinent—is not.

(In my opinion, the Hinduisms ceased to be pagan during the Upanishadic period, when they became world-denying, but that's by the by.)

Book religions have perpetrated much wrong in the world. Indubitably they have spread homophobia to places where it never existed before. Why, one might ask, are Book religions so destructive?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Surreal.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    In "Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms" Gerard Russell mentions a Mandaean demon named Dinanukht who is half man and half book and "sits

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Curse You, Narendra Modi

Curse you, Narendra Modi.

You're shooting all my nice, simplistic binaries to bloody red rags.

Monotheism = narrow-minded, intolerant, exclusionist.

Polytheism = broad-minded, accepting, inclusionist.

Here's a nice, pat example of Binary-Think that I suspect many pagans are familiar with. History provides us with just enough buttressing examples to make it look almost convincing.

Then along comes bloody-minded Indian premier Narendra Modi with his anti-Muslim Hindutva-Think, thus proving—insofar, at least, as Hinduism may be said to be polytheistic—that polytheists are just as capable of narrow, intolerant, exclusionary thinking (and behavior) as any monotheist.

As if we didn't already know as much from our own community.

Of course, we could make excuses.

We could say: Hinduism isn't really polytheist.

We could say: Hindutva isn't Hinduism, it's a misuse of Hinduism.

We could say: They're not real Hindus.

These, of course, are the same lame, unsatisfying excuses that everyone else makes when their co-religionists act badly.

Or, with a little more thought, we could say: In the policies of the Indian Right we see polytheism aping monotheism at its worst.

We could say: Here we see polytheism reconceived monotheistically.

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Pagan News Beagle: Faithful Friday, August 18 2017

What would Jesus think of modern Christians? A look at the role "surrender" plays in Hinduism. And talking about Buddhism with the writer behind Dear White People. It's Faithful Friday, our segment on news about faiths and religious communities around the world! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Pagan News Beagle: Faithful Friday, May 26 2017

Taoism finds an unexpected appeal among young people. A look at the revolutionary spirit of Sikhism. And how a Muslim victim of abuse is making her voice heard. It's Faithful Friday, our news segment about faiths and religious communities around the world! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Pagan News Beagle: Faithful Friday, April 7 2017

An updated count on the world's religious population and where it's headed in the future. A consideration of the racial culture surrounding the Christian holiday of Lent in the United States. And a look at how America's Evangelical community perceives itself versus how it perceives others. It's Faithful Friday, our news segment on faiths and religious communities from around the world. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Pagan News Beagle: Faithful Friday, March 24 2017

A look at ancient traditions surviving into modern China. Lessons from the Bodhisattva path of Mahayana Buddhism. And Jainism's philosophy on death and dying. It's Faithful Friday, our segment on news about faiths and religious communities from around the world. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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