Archives For Hindu

January 14th in India marked the beginning of the Kumbh Mela, the largest religious gathering in the world. Held in full every 12 years, it is an integral festival within Hinduism, one focused on prayer, purification, and spiritual awakening.

“Kumbh is the confluence of all our cultures. It is the symbol of spiritual awakening. It is the eternal flow of humanity. It is the surge of rivers, forests and the ancient wisdom of the sages. It is the flow of life itself. It is the symbol of the confluence of nature and humanity. Kumbh is the source of all energy. Kumbh makes humankind realize this world and the other, sins and blessings, wisdom and ignorance, darkness and light. Holy rivers are the symbols of the lyrical flow of humanity. Rivers are indicators of the flow of water of life in the human body itself. In the human body that is an embodiment of home, nothing is possible without the five elements. The elements – fire, wind, water, earth and sky – symbolize the human body.”

Patrick McCollum in India

Patrick McCollum in India

Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum has been invited to the 2013 Kumbh Mela, and will participate in ritual activities at the event’s center. The Patrick McCollum Foundation has been posting updates from Patrick in India, and his first Kumbh Mela-centered post is up now.

“I just had the incredible experience of participating in the first blessing of the Kumbh Mela with a small group of India’s foremost saints. I got to sit right in the very front right behind Puja Swami Saraswati on the water’s edge, at the exact point where the worlds most sacred rivers meet at the Sangam.  I had the exquisite honor to bless the first rose petals offered to the river and then participated in each successive blessing.

To grasp the magnitude of this, one needs to understand that of the millions and millions of pilgrims present and of the thousands of spiritual leaders from across the world attending the Kumbh, only our small group were allowed at the actual Sangam.  The millions of other pilgrims as far as you could see, were held back a mile at the closest.  The press used a miniature television camera on a remote control helicopter hovering above us, to film and transmit the sacred moment.

As I entered the river, the swirling waters reflected the light of candles and lanterns residing both on boats and on the ancient Red Fort built by Achabar on the opposite distant shore.

The water was cool but not cold, and the sense of the auspicious moment shot through me as I shared blessings for all humanity and asked for peace between all the peoples of the earth.  And I also shared a blessing for our tired planet itself, praying for rejuvenation and a rebalancing of its resources.”

The 2013 Kumbh Mela will last for 55 days, and is highlighted by a series of ritual baths. That a modern Pagan has been so honored at this event, and is participating directly, is exciting. A moment that will hopefully lead to ever-greater interactions and solidarity between Hindus and modern Pagans in years ahead. You can read all of Patrick McCollum’s updates from India, here. You may also follow the Patrick McCollum Foundation on Facebook. For more background on the Kumbh Mela, the documentary film “Short Cut to Nirvana” gives a sense of the scope and importance of this festival.

We’ll keep you posted with further developments from Patrick McCollum’s trip.

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.