Pagans and Hindus Together: One Billion Strong

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 9, 2012 — 20 Comments

In addition to the ongoing dialog over gender that has defined PantheaCon 2012 for many, there were several other amazing talks, presentations, rituals, and panels that were important to our community, and deserve wider reporting. One of those was a panel discussion between modern Pagans and members of the Hindu American Foundation entitled “Pagans and Hindus Together: One Billion Strong.”

“This panel will discuss ideals held in common by Pagans and Hindus. Panelists will include Patrick McCollum, T. Thorn Coyle, Mihir Meghani and Raman Khanna. Moderated by Amadea. Topics will include: The Sacredness of Nature, The Divine Mother, Advancing Pluralism, and Shared Social Action.”

Author, teacher, and activist T. Thorn Coyle has posted audio of the entire panel at her Elemental Castings podcast page, and I encourage everyone to head over there and download the show. Due to the fact that Patrick McCollum was in India, he couldn’t attend the panel, so I was honored to step in and contribute, weighing in on shared social action between Pagans and Hindus.

Pagans and Hindus Panel. Photo: PNC Bay Area

Pagans and Hindus Panel. Photo: PNC Bay Area

During the panel, I noted several instances where the interests of Hindus and Pagans have coincided, spoke briefly about the 20+ year history of Hindu-Pagan interfaith interactions, and made recommendations as to where our relationship could go in the future. I proposed that perhaps the time had come for our dialog and alliance to take the next step into working directly together in a organization that focused on the rights and concerns of minority religions in the United States. I think that Hindu and Pagans, working with other pluralistic, like-minded, faiths, can create a unique synergy that would enrich both of our communities.

Panelist Mihir Meghani, M.D.; Board Member & Co-Founder of the Hindu American Foundation, touched on our shared commitment to pluralism during the panel, and I think it would be appropriate to quote from some of the guest-post he wrote for The Wild Hunt last year.

“Most importantly, we need to work together more closely. Tremendous challenges loom – the decline in pluralism over thousands of years will take decades if not hundreds of years to reverse. However, challenges present opportunities. The Hindu American Foundation has made pluralism part of its motto “promoting understanding, tolerance and pluralism,” and pluralism is one of the defining characteristics of Hindu and Pagan traditions. Hindus and Pagans can make a lasting contribution to the world by once again promoting pluralism as a core value of society and its individuals – something evidently lacking in the world today in which intolerance is so prominent. We need to challenge ourselves to make pluralism a value similar in respect to values such as honesty and charity. People should be proud to proclaim that they are pluralist – that they revel in and respect the diversity around them. Children should be raised with this value. For the survival of not only our traditions but humanity altogether, we must move from the motto of, “I will tolerate you though you are wrong,” to a true commitment to pluralism.”

These Hindu-Pagan panels at PantheaCon are an important part of building a lasting alliance. I hope that next year we will see even more discussion on concrete moves forward, shared initiatives to make the Hindu voice, and the Pagan voice, heard. I’d like to thank Amadea for inviting to fill Patrick McCollum’s shoes, and my fellow panelists, Thorn, Mihir, and Raman, for an engaging and productive panel. Again, I encourage everyone to download audio of the panel from the Elemental Castings podcast page. There’s so much more there than what I’ve briefly talked about, and it deserves to be heard by any Pagan interested in the future of Hindu-Pagan relations.

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  • Ryan

    As a Hindu who is friends with(and husband of) and feels great affinity with many Pagans, I must say, bravo. Modern Pagans and non-western ones all ought to be interfacing, working together and dialoguing.
    I would like to see more of this kind of thing going on.

    • Ryan

      I should amend that to say I am the husband of a Pagan, not many. Friends with many, husband of one. You get the idea.

      • http://sonneillon-v.livejournal.com/ Sonneillon

        Well, geez, there goes MY kinky fantasy. Way to be a buzzkill, Ryan. ;P

  • http://sonneillon-v.livejournal.com/ Sonneillon

    Pagans and Hindus Together: One Billion Strong

    I love to see us working together, but this phrase seems a little… I dunno. It’s kind of like Goliath putting David on his shoulders and declaring “Together, we’re ten feet tall!” That may be true, but most of that height is Goliath’s. XD

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    The idea of Hindus and Pagans forging an alliance (along with with other “minority” faiths) to protect and extend freedom of religion is a beautiful idea. So mote it be.

    • Boris

      Indonesia hat only five recognized religions, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism-Taoism. Quite recently, Indonesian Hindus have accepted animism from Kalimantan (Borneo) as a form of Hinduism, to to protect animists against pressure to convert to Islam or Christianity.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        That’s a wonderful story. I hope the Pagan media will pick it up and run with it.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        Something similar used to go on in South Korea, where until recently Shamanism was not officially recognized as a religion in its own right. This meant that Shamans could only establish a temple officially if they claimed to be something else, and so they claimed to be Buddhists. There was no explicit arrangement for this, but the Buddhists did not object and the Shamans were able to get away with it. But at the same time, Shamans lobbied for their own separate, officially recognized status, which they now have.

  • Tara

    This is wonderful.

  • Kilmrnock

    I find this to be an interesting concept . This would work quite well for both groups . The whole strenth in numbers bit .And we both have alot in common , a joint effort between us will be quite intersting and i believe a wonderful idea.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    When you think about it, or at least when I think about it, the question arises: why stop at merely one billion?

    A glance at the World Religions Pie Chart shows that Buddhists and followers of “Chinese Traditional Religion” (a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism with far more ancient polytheistic/shamanic traditions) make up about 12% of humanity, which when combined with Hinduism’s estimated 14%, comes to over 1/4 of humanity which is getting close to 2B.

    And if you then throw in the “Primal/Indigenous” group, that’s another 6%, and then add in the 8% of humanity that is “theistic but non-religious”, we are now up to 40% of the human race, and 40% of 7B is 2.8B. And all of these other groups are, like Hindus, well represented by their own distinct communities in the US (and other parts of the West).

    • Tara

      That pie chart doesn’t give a percentage for “other”…or am I just not seeing it?

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        This page gives more of an explanation of the categories and numbers:
        http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html

        But even there I didn’t find an explanation of the “other” category.

        It’s important to note that there is a strong underlying bias in the very idea of religion pie chart, because by definition such a chart defines religions as discrete and neatly separable categories, and this is a peculiar view of monotheists not shared by other religions.

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    • Malaz

      SPAM!!

  • Michael Strmiska

    The general trend of Pagan-Hindu cooperation is certainly positive for the survival of Pagan traditions, as fellowship with the much larger Hindu community can only provide strength to the far smaller Pagan communities. However, a note of caution is also in order. From my own past experiences in the WCER (World Congress of Ethnic Religions) which has fostered a good deal of Pagan-Hindu collaboration, there is some danger of right-wing, vehemently anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, ethno-nationalist type Pagans looking to make common cause with right-wing, Hindu-nationalists in India with an equally vociferous opposition to Christianity and Islam. I don’t mean to exaggerate the significance of this, but to note that it is a part of the overall picture of Hindu-Pagan relations.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      What specifically is the “danger” here? It sounds like you are saying that there is a “danger” of people you disapprove of doing things that you disapprove of. But why is that “dangerous”?

      • Anonymous

        Dr. Strmiska has managed to make himself persona non grata in the northeast Asatru community (possibly the most mainstream, politically moderate if not liberal, Asatru community in the US) by making himself a kind of witchsmeller pursuivant, sniffing out evil fascists and their unholy ilk wherever they may, or more often may not, happen to lurk. It comes as no surprise to those who have come to know him that he should find something dark and unwholesome behind this entirely positive development.

        • Rombald

          Although I don’t think Strmiska’s concerns are 100% misplaced, I donf’t think they’re that important.

          I actually think a bigger issue with Pagan-Hindu cooperation is the attitude to sex. OK, I’m pretty vanilla heterosexual monogamous myself, but Pagans (in my experience) seem to be heavily into sexual diversity, and get angry about any questioning of this. Hindus (again, in my experience) tend to have values closer to Evangelical Christianity.

  • Michael Strmiska

    To add to my earlier comment, let me mention that I have discussed Pagan-Hindu interaction in a recent publication, the chapter “Romuva Looks East: Indian Inspiration in Lithuanian Paganism,” by Michael Strmiska (me!) in Milda Ališauskienė and Ingo W. Schröder (eds) Religious Diversity in Post-Soviet Society: Ethnographies of Catholic Hegemony and the New Pluralism in Lithuania, 125-150. Ashgate, 2012. It may already be available at a library near you!