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A Post-Modern Demand for Historic Accuracy

Michael Parker

In any investigation one must use evidence. The evidence can come from many sources, but a conscientious investigator is not swayed by the various prejudices and biases, that he or she will be confronted with. The present state of world history, as taught in a majority of schools, is fraught with theories, assumptions and outright cultural and racial prejudices. This is especially clear in the current field of Indian historical studies.

Many of the current theories find their roots in the 19th century, a time of European world domination. From the genocidal doctrine of America's 'Manifest Destiny' to the British colonial and Christian missionaries' 'Theory of White Man's Burden', one can clearly see the unworthy and unstable foundations upon which Western historical research stands. The fact is that the expansionist agendas of the 19th century European/American nations were enthusiastically supported by many of the intellectual elite, who devoted volumes of the books to the scholarly rationalization of European world domination. This fact alone not only damages the validity of their opinions, but actually discredits them. If presented in a legal setting, this so-called scholarly evidence would be thrown out of court.

Another Western misconception is the supposed anti-women bias of Vedic culture. The truth is the Vedic culture promotes the greatest potential of femininity, whereas Western culture perceives equality to mean the masculinization of woman.

Another fallacy of the modem theorists is the assumption that humanity has always been driven by animalistic drives such as lust, greed, jealousy, etc. The problem is compounded by their attempts to measure past human events by comparing them with current trends in human affairs. With such an unscientific approach to historical research, the need for an accurate and objective revision is extreme.

It is obvious that the Aryan/Indo-European theories evolved out of the colonial era's expansionist mold. With these theories now exposed false, there are many questions that remain 'officially' unanswered. Many aspects of ancient Indian history demand to be reviewed, researched and, in many cases, revised.

For example, 'Alexander the Great's' ambiguous retreat from India. Why would his victorious armies mutiny on the threshold of reaching their goal of India? Mysteriously, after allegedly defeating the powerful king Puru (Poros), the Greeks decided to mutiny and march back to Persia. These inconsistencies are analyzed by H.C. Seth in his paper, 'Was Poros the victor at the battle of Jhelum?' Also the ancient Ethiopic Text covering the life of Alexander(edited and translated by E.A.W. Badge) reveals a picture of defeated Alexander.

Manu finds common usage in cultures, as in the Vedic Manu, the Teutonic Manus, the first Egyptian king Menes, the Polynesian Menehune, etc. Danu is a Vedic progenitor goddess and in Celtic tradition Danu is also a progenitor goddess, as in 'Tuata te Dannan', or 'Children of Danu'. The word Arya is found in many cultures, as in the Ayar founders of the Incas, or in the Polynesian word Ari'i, meaning 'chief or 'noble.' We also have the 'Eire' of Ireland, and the word 'aristocrat' also has its roots in the word Arya. In Sumerian we have the word Ara meaning 'lofty', and some say the name Sumeria comes from the Sanskrit 'Soma-Arya'.

In a book called 'India in Greece', author Pococke suggests many clues connecting ancient Greece with ancient India. Although somewhat speculative, many of the author's points make much more sense than many of the presently accepted theories. For example, the first Greek king is said to have come from Gaia. If this is read as Greek, he would be thought of as coming from the earth. However, if read as Sanskrit, Gaia becomes Gaya, the famous holy city in India. Instead of coming out of the earth, it makes sense for him to have come from a historical place. Pococke also points out that the major mountain chain of Greece is called Othrys, and an ancient name of the Himalayas is the Adhri. In the Nordic tradition heaven is called Himmel, very close to the word Himalayas, the location of Kailash. In his book 'Art and Culture of India and Egypt' author S.M. El-Mansori proves the ancient connections between these cultures. This is a very important field of research that has not been given the attention it deserves.

The world-wide prevalence of Swastikas has also not been adequately explained, nor has the prevalence of the name Rama. Rama is found in the Vedic culture, in Egyptian history, Assyrian, Native Americans, notably amongst Incas, in Europe, Arabia, etc. We find the name and word Rama to have the same divine and auspicious connotations wherever it is used. Also there is some question as to the true location of 'Lanka'. Was it located in the present Sri Lanka or was it located at the equator in and around the Chagos lsland area? Some have also questioned the authenticity of Emperor Ashoka's Buddhism and see his 'Dharma-Vijaya' to be the 'righteous conquest' of Vedic emperors like Sri Rama, King Prithu, and Maharaja Yudhisthira (Glimpses of the Vedic Nation by Balshastri Hardas). If this is a fact, the implications are enormous. India's history has been so distorted that it appears every era of its history needs to be reviewed. Amongst all this, glaringly obvious is the Vedic civilization evidenced by the Sarasvati-Indus civilization.

Frawley's paradox has exposed the falsity of the supposed Pre-Vedic basis of this culture. The amazing thing about all this is that the evidences of common Vedic World heritage are so prevalent that it obviously took a calculated effort to distort the truth. A real historian or a sincere student can never be satisfied with distorted truths. In the investigative search for historical facts, we obviously cannot rely on biased and misguided views. This is especially true for Indian historical researches. To get to the truth, we must access the ancient truths as recorded in the ancient scriptures of ancient India. We must replace the biased and unscientific fallacies of current mainstream Indian studies with a scientific fact-finding approach, measured with a healthy dose of respect for the grand achievements of the ancients. The greatness of the ancients is self-evident from their monolithic structures to the amazing oral preservation of the Vedic literature. We can read in these achievements the character and noble quality of these people and their culture. The modern theories which make every grand structure a tomb or place of human sacrifice, that portray every divine doctrine as an experiment in social engineering or a form of tyranny, lack credibility and border on the fantastic. Like the idea that the presumed Vedic authors, while crediting Vyasadev for it all, ingeniously and accurately noted the astronomical, geographical and scientific realities of a bygone era, all in the name of perpetuating a hoax.

The modern historians/theorists, being emotionally attached to their beliefs, reject revisionism, though revision is a necessary part of most endeavors. The truth is that an investigator of facts immediately forfeits his ability to gather facts, by rejecting evidences in an off-hand way. In the same way, a historian who is unwilling to weigh historical evidence on the scale of objective science and logic, forfeits the ability to be an accurate historian. History is a field of study that should rise above the emotions, prejudices, and agendas of a current era. History seeks to be a window into the past. To color or taint historical past events with present day ideologies is unscientific, to say the least. A real historian must have the facts, in order to offer a true account of the past. The wonderful thing about truth is that it cannot be altered. The truth in history is solid and immutable, even in the face of many distortions. We are reminded here of the Vedic proverb SATYAM EVA JAYATE - TRUTH ALONE PREVAILS.

The accuracy of the Vedic sciences, such as Sulbasutras, is evidenced in the book by Rajarama, 'The Politics of History'. It is a self-evident truth relating to matters, both mundane and spiritual. Its continuity throughout the ages, points to an organic culture that synchronizes with the natural laws of the universe.

The Aryan/Indo-European race invasion/migration theories were invented to fulfill colonial designs. But now with these theories proven false, we are left with a vacuum. Only the historical truths of the Vedic scriptures and traditions can justly and accurately fill the void. The implications of this demand a complete review of the current theories of not only ancient Indian history, but also the ancient history of the entire world.

Cross-cultural traces of Vedic civilization

by Sadaputa Dasa Back to Godhead magazine, May/June 1991

The ancient Greek writer Aratos tells the following story about the constellation Virgo, or the virgin. Virgo, he says, may have belonged to the star race, the forefathers of the ancient stars. In primeval times, in the golden age, she lived among mankind as Justice personified and would exhort people to adhere to the truth. At this time people lived peacefully, without hypocrisy or quarrel. Later, in the age of silver, she hid herself in the mountains, but occasionally she came down to berate people for their evil ways. Finally the age of bronze came. People invented the sword, and "they tasted the meat of cows, the first who did it." At this point Virgo "flew away to the sphere"; that is, she departed for the celestial realm.[1]

The Vedic literature of India gives an elaborate description of the universe as a cosmos - a harmonious, ordered system created according to an intelligent plan as a habitation for living beings. The modern view of the universe is so different from the Vedic view that the latter is presently difficult to comprehend. In ancient times, however, cosmogonies similar to the Vedic system were widespread among people all over the world. Educated people of today tend to immediately dismiss these systems of thought as mythology, pointing to their diversity and their strange ideas as proof that they are all simply products of the imagination.

If we do this, however, we may be overlooking important information that could shed light on the vast forgotten period that precedes the brief span of recorded human history. There is certainly much evidence of independent storytelling in the traditions of various cultures, but there are also many common themes. Some of these themes are found in highly developed form in the Vedic literature. Their presence in cultures throughout the world is consistent with the idea that in the distant past, Vedic culture exerted worldwide influence.

In this article we will give some examples of Vedic ideas concerning time and human longevity that appear repeatedly in different traditions. First we will examine some of these ideas, and then we will discuss some questions about what they imply and how they should be interpreted.

In the Vedic literature time is regarded as a manifestation of Krsna, the Supreme Being. As such, time is a controlling force that regulates the lives of living beings in accordance with a cosmic plan. This plan involves repeating cycles of creation and destruction of varying durations. The smallest and most important of these repeating cycles consists of four yugas, or ages, called Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali. In these successive ages mankind gradually descends from a high spiritual platform to a degenerated state. Then, with the beginning of a new Satya-yuga, the original state of purity is restored, and the cycle begins again.

The story of Virgo illustrates that in the ancient Mediterranean world there was widespread belief in a similar succession of four ages, known there as the ages of gold, silver, bronze, and iron. In this system humanity also starts out in the first age in an advanced state of consciousness and gradually becomes degraded. Here also, the progressive developments in human society are not simply evolving by physical processes, but are superintended by a higher controlling intelligence.

It is noteworthy that Aratos' story specifies the eating of cows as a sinful act that cut mankind off from direct contact with celestial beings. This detail fits in nicely with the ancient Indian traditions of cow protection, but it is unexpected in the context of Greek or European culture.

One explanation for similarities between ideas found in different cultures is that people everywhere have essentially the same psychological makeup, and so they tend to come up independently with similar notions. However, details such as the point about cow-killing suggest that we are dealing here with common traditions rather than independent inventions.

Another example of similarities between cultures can be found among the natives of North America. The Sioux Indians say that their ancestors were visited by a celestial woman who gave them their system of religion. She pointed out to them that there are four ages, and that there is a sacred buffalo that loses one leg during each age. At present we are in the last age, an age of degradation, and the buffalo has one leg.[2]

This story is a close parallel to the account in the Srimad Bhagavatam of the encounter between Maharaja Pariksit and the bull of Dharma. There, Dharma is said to lose one leg with each successive yuga, leaving it with one leg in the present Age of Kali.

According to the Vedic system, the lengths of the Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali yugas are 4, 3, 2, and 1 times an interval of 432,000 years. Within these immense periods of time the human life span decreases from 100,000 years in the Satya-yuga to 10,000 years in the Treta-yuga, 1,000 years in the Dvapara-yuga, and finally 100 years in the Kali-yuga.

Of course, this idea is strongly at odds with the modern evolutionary view of the past. In the ancient Mediterranean world, however, it was widely believed that human history had extended over extremely long periods of time. For example, according to old historical records, Porphyry (c. 300 A.D.) said that Callisthenes, a companion of Alexander in the Persian war, dispatched to Aristotle Babylonian records of eclipses and that these records covered 31,000 years. Likewise, Iamblicus (fourth century) said on the authority of the ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus that the Assyrians had made observations for 270,000 years and had kept records of the return of all seven planets to the same position.[3] Finally, the Babylonian historian Berosus assigned 432,000 years to the total span of the reigns of the Babylonian kings before the Flood.[4]

We do not wish to suggest that these statements are true (or that they are false). The point here is that people in the old Mediterranean civilization evidently had a much different view of the past than the dominant view today. And this view was broadly consistent with Vedic chronology.

Although the Bible is well known for advocating a very short time-span for human history, it is interesting to note that it contains information indicating that people at one time lived for about 1,000 years. In the Old Testament the following ages are listed for people living before the Biblical Flood: Adam, 930; Seth, 912; Enos, 905; Kenan, 910; Mahaleel, 895; Jared, 962; Enoch, 365; Methusaleh, 969; Lamech, 777; and Noah, 950. If we exclude Enoch (who was said to have been taken up to heaven in his own body), these persons lived an average of 912 years.[5]

After the Flood, however, the following ages were recorded: Shem, 600; Arphachshad, 438; Selah, 433; Eber, 464; Peleg, 239; Reu, 239; Serug, 230; Nahor, 148; Terah, 205; Abraham, 175; Issac, 180; Job, 210; Jacob, 147; Levi, 137; Kohath, 133; Amaram, 137; Moses, 120; and Joshua, 110. These ages show a gradual decline to about 100 years, similar to what must have happened after the beginning of Kali-yuga, according to the Vedic system.

Here we should mention in passing that the Biblical Flood is traditionally said to have taken place in the second or third millennium B.C., and the traditional date in India for the beginning of Kali-yuga is February 18, 3102 B.C. This very date is cited as the time of the Flood in various Persian, Islamic, and European writings from the sixth to the fourteenth centuries A.D.[6] How did the middle-eastern Flood come to be associated with the start of Kali-yuga? The only comment we can make is that this story shows how little we really know about the past.

In support of the Biblical story of very long human life-spans in ancient times, the Roman historian Flavius Josephus cited many historical works that were available in his time:

Now when Noah had lived 350 years after the Flood, and all that time happily, he died, having the number of 950 years, but let no one, upon comparing the lives of the ancients with our lives... make the shortness of our lives at present an argument that neither did they attain so long a duration of life....

Now I have for witnesses to what I have said all those that have written Antiquities, both among the Greeks and barbarians, for even Manehto, who wrote the Egyptian history, and Berosus, who collected the Chaldean monuments, and Mochus, and Hestiaeus, and beside these, Hieronymus the Egyptian, and those who composed the Phoenician history, agree with what I here say: Hesiod also, and Hecataeus, Hellanicaus, and Acuzilaus, and besides Ephorus and Nicolaus relate that the ancients lived a thousand years: but as to these matters, let everyone look upon them as he sees fit.[7]

Unfortunately, practically none of the works referred to by Josephus are still existing, and this again shows how little we know of the past. But in existing Norse sagas it is said that people in ancient times lived for many centuries. In addition, the Norse sagas describe a progression of ages, including an age of peace, an age when different social orders were introduced, an age of increasing violence, and a degraded "knife-age and axe-age with cloven shields."[8] The latter is followed by a period of annihilation, called Ragnarok, after which the world is restored to goodness.

The Norse Ragnarok involves the destruction of the earth and the abodes of the Norse demigods (called Asgard), and thus it corresponds in Vedic chronology to the annihilation of the three worlds that follows 1,000 yuga cycles, or one day of Brahma. It is said that during Ragnarok the world is destroyed with flames by a being called Surt, who lives beneath the lower world (appropriately called Hel) and was involved in the world's creation. By comparison, the Srimad Bhagavatam (3.11.30) states that at the end of Brahma's day, "the devastation takes place due to the fire emanating from the mouth of Sankarsana." Sankarsana is a plenary expansion of Krsna who is "seated at the bottom of the universe" (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.8.3), beneath the lower planetary systems.

There are many similarities between the Norse and Vedic cosmologies, but there are also great differences. One key difference is that in the Srimad Bhagavatam, all beings and phenomena within the universe are clearly understood as part of the divine plan of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In contrast, in the Norse mythology God is conspicuously absent, and the origin and purpose of the major players in the cosmic drama are very obscure. Surt, in particular, is a "fire giant" whose origins and motives are unclear even to experts in the Norse literature.[9]

One might ask, If Vedic themes appear in many different societies, how can one conclude that they derive from an ancient Vedic civilization? Perhaps they were created in many places independently, or perhaps they descend from an unknown culture that is also ancestral to what we call Vedic culture. Thus parallels between the accounts of Surt and Sankarsana may be coincidental, or perhaps the Vedic account derives from a story similar to that of Surt.

Our answer to this question is that available empirical evidence will not be sufficient to prove the hypothesis of descent from an ancient Vedic culture, for all empirical evidence is imperfect and subject to various interpretations. But we can decide whether or not the evidence is consistent this hypothesis.

If there was an ancient Vedic world civilization, we would expect to find traces of it in many cultures around the world. We do seem to find such traces, and many agree with Vedic accounts in specific details (such as the location of Surt's abode or the sacred buffalo's loss of one leg per world age). Since this civilization began to lose its influence thousands of years ago, at the beginning of Kali-yuga, we would expect many of these traces to be fragmentary and overlain by many later additions, and this we also see. Thus the available evidence seems to be consistent with the hypothesis of a Vedic origin.

REFERENCES

  • [1] E. C. Sachau, trans., Alberuni's India (Delhi: S. Chand & Co., 1964), pp. 383-4.
  • [2] J. E. Brown, ed., The Sacred Pipe (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1971), p. 9.
  • [3] D. Neugebauer, History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1975), pp. 608-9.
  • [4] J. D. North, "Chronology & the Age of the World," in Cosmology, History & Theology, eds. Wolfgang Yourgrau and A. D. Breck (N. Y.: Plenum Press, 1977), p. 315.
  • [5] D. W. Patten and P. A. Patten, "A Comprehensive Theory on Aging, Gigantism & Longevity," Catastrophism & Ancient History, Vol. 2, Part 1 (Aug. 1979), p. 24.
  • [6] J. D. North, Ibid., p. 316-7.
  • [7] D. W. Patten, Ibid., p. 29.
  • [8] V. Rydberg, Teutonic Mythology, R. B. Anderson, trans. (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1889), pp. 88,94.
  • [9] Ibid., pp. 448-9.

Hindus and Neo-Paganism

Koenraad Elst

The late Ram Swarup (1920-98), definitely one of the most important Hindu philosophers of independent India's first half-century, liked to point out that other cultures had traditions similar to Hinduism before Christianity or Islam wiped them out. As he put it in his path-breaking study of polytheism, The Word as Revelation (1980):

"There was a time when the old Pagan Gods were pretty fulfilling and they inspired the best of men and women to acts of greatness, love, nobility, sacrifice and heroism. It is, therefore, a good thing to turn to them in thought and pay them our homage. We know pilgrimage, as ordinarily understood, as wayfaring to visit a shrine or a holy place. But there can also be a pilgrimage in time and we can journey back and make our offerings of the heart to those Names and Forms and Forces which once incarnated and expressed man's higher life. (...) The peoples of Egypt, Persia, Greece, Germany and the Scandinavian countries are no less ancient than the peoples of India; but they lost their Gods, and therefore they lost their sense of historical continuity and identity. (...) What is true of Europe is also true of Africa and South America. The countries of these continents have recently gained political freedom of a sort, but (...) if they wish to rise in a deeper sense, they must recover their soul, their Gods (...) If they do enough self-churning, then their own Gods will put forth new meanings in response to their new needs. (...) If there is sufficient aspiration, invoking and soliciting, there is no doubt that even Gods apparently lost could come back again. They are there all the time." (p.131-133)

The cultural process of self-rediscovery after centuries of Christianity is already in full swing in many parts of Europe and North America (I have only little information about other continents and will leave them outside the scope of this article). In Europe, two organizations try to unite the various national groups: the England-based Pagan Federation and the Lithuania-based World Congress of Ethnic Religions. Both have made a brief acquaintance with Hinduism. Leading Pagan thinker Prudence Jones had a correspondence with Ram Swarup, whose articles on polytheism have also been published in other Pagan media, e.g. in the California- based Church of All Worlds' magazine Green Egg. The opening conference of the WCER (Vilnius 1998 was attended by three NRI Hindus; one of them was present again this year, and a delegation from India itself was on its way but couldn't make it because of Lithuania's slowness in handling the visa applications. The WCER's leading ideologues Jonas Trinkunas (Lithuania) and Denis Dornoy (French, living in Denmark) also sent a message to the Dharma Sansad, the "religious parliament", in February 1999:

To the delegates at the Dharma Sansad, Ahmedabad, 5-8 February 1999:

Respectful greetings,

As workers for the revival of the religion of our ancestors, and as convenors of the World Congress of Ethnic Religions, we are happy and honoured to communicate with the representatives of the world's largest surviving ancient religion, the Sanatana Dharma. We want to pay our respect to the people who have kept alight the Vedic fire for thousands of years, even when besieged by hostile forces, and who are currently guiding Hindu society through the challenges of the modern age.

We wish to draw the attention of the Hindu leaders to the efforts currently made to maintain the ancestral religions of the Native Americans, Africans, and other "Pagan" peoples in the face of the subversion of their cultures and aggression against their dharmic practices by agents of self-righteous missionary religions. We support the peaceful efforts of all nations to safeguard their cultural and spiritual heritage against subversion and destruction. We also wish to draw your attention to the efforts to revive or reconstruct the ancestral religions of those nations who were overwhelmed by Christianization or Islamization in the past. By common origin or simply by a common inspiration, these ancient religions share a lot with the Sanatana Dharma, in both its tribal and its Sanskritic manifestations. We therefore wish to express our hope and intention of establishing a friendly cooperation.

Clearly, there is a measure of common ground between Hinduism and Pagan revivalism, both typologically (as non-Abrahamic religions) and strategically. At Ram Swarup's suggestion, I have done some participant observation of this movement, or spectrum of movements, in the last couple of years. I have made many friends in these circles, and I sympathize with the whole idea of the revival of the wrongfully eliminated ancestral religions. That said, I do have mixed feelings about the actual performance of this fledgling new incarnation of the old religion, which suffers of some serious childhood diseases. In particular, I would like to draw attention at present to a few problems in the encounter and budding cooperation between Hinduism and Pagan revivalism.

Lifestyle

One thing which is bound to strike Hindu newcomers in certain neo- Pagan circles as uncomfortable, is the seeming predominance of what Indians know all too well as hippyism, the kind of loose and undisciplined behaviour which Western rucksack travellers have displayed while sojourning in India. Wiccas (neo-witches) dancing naked in the moonlight may not be the Shankaracharya's idea of Dharma. And while nakedness as such need not be immoral in any way, the fact is that the looser morality which Asians tend to identify as typically modern-Western is entirely the norm in most neo-Pagan circles. As Fred Lamond candidly admits in his must-read introduction Religion without Beliefs, Essays in Pantheist Theology, Comparative Religion and Ethics (Janus Publ., London 1997, p.111): "Our practical ethics are 90% the same" as those of established religions, but "the only area where our principles differ sharply from theirs is in sexual ethics. To Pagans, sexual intimacy before marriage is neither sinful nor immoral (...) we regard shared sexual passion under most circumstances as a sacrament which, far from harming our souls, can be a gateway to self- transcendence and unity with the divine."

The Church of All Worlds even promotes "polyamory" as an alternative to the monogamous household. The Germanic-oriented neo-Pagans (Odinism, Asatru/"loyalty to the gods") are more mainstream in this regard, partly because they recruit more among working-class people, who are less attracted to artistic variations in lifestyle; nonetheless, one of their most gifted ideologues in the 1980s, Stephen Flowers a.k.a. Edred Thorsson, subsequently outed himself as - in Freudian terms - a zealous polymorphous pervert. Hindus in India, and perhaps even more the overseas Hindus who have experienced a close-knit family structure and the concomitant "family values" as a great asset in their professional success (Margaret Thatcher's "model immigrant community"), would probably feel closer to the prudish morality of Evangelicals than to the libertine neo-Pagans.

Other Hindu taboos, as on beef-eating or meat-eating in general, are equally foreign to Western neo-Pagans. Though vegetarianism is a major trend in some circles, others celebrate hunting and do-it-yourself slaughtering of your next meal as part of the return to a more natural way of life. Even among the vegetarians, the motive is more often health and ecology (meat production requiring a much larger land surface than the production of vegetable food with the same nutritional value) rather than Hindu considerations such as compassion with all sentient beings and the taboo on touching, let alone digesting, animal tissue in a state of decomposition.

From an orthodox Hindu viewpoint, most neo-Pagan groups would have a status similar to the tribals of forested Central India. Though the tribals are recognized as Indian fellow-Pagans, Hindus by Savarkar's definition, they are nonetheless commonly perceived as savages because of their disregard for certain taboos and because of their not so strict morality (as in the common youth dormitories where sexual experimentation is encouraged). The city jungles of the West have somehow spawned a lifestyle similar to that of the tiger-infested and snake-haunted jungles of India.

Absence of a yogic tradition

Another point which neo-Pagans have in common with the Indian tribals as compared with the literate Hindu-Buddhist mainstream, is that they do not have an established tradition of yoga. One of the most important fruits of civilization is a system of techniques allowing man to reach beyond the ordinary, world-absorbed (c.q. dream-absorbed) consciousness. This does create an inequality within the broad category of non-Abrahamic or "Pagan" religions. I am aware that this is bound to put some readers off as being elitist, but there is a real difference between the systematically developed techniques of consciousness as practiced in Hindu and Buddhist monasteries (and by laymen every morning and evening), on the one hand, and the whole spectrum of ordinary religious experience on the other: ritual, celebration, devotional practices, even erratic mystical experiences as anyone may have in exceptional moments (from first love to near-death experiences). The best way to realize this difference is to meet an accomplished yogi: the quality of profound peace he radiates is unlike anything else. This doesn't mean that other activities, religious and secular, are somehow bad and to be shunned. Not at all: whereas Western adepts of yoga often deride "organized religion" with its rituals, I have never heard of an Indian or East-Asian practitioner who did not observe some calendar of rituals (e.g. Zen as a tradition of meditation is heavily ritualized). Advanced students of yogic techniques don't set themselves against the surrounding folk religion, but adapt to it and add their own insights to it as a jewel to the crown. Both in Chinese Taoism and in Hinduism, we see how folk religion gets transformed by having the spiritual tradition as a point of reference in its midst. Contrary to what early Orientalists imagined, 99% of the people in the Orient are not sages; yet, they are aware of the existence and nearness of such a class of seers, and this infuses their religion with a quality absent in the purely naturalistic Pagan religions.

Did such a spiritual tradition exist within the pre-Christian religions of Europe? In Greek and Hellenistic culture, we certainly see traces of it, but they are usually attributed to Egyptian or Asian influence. The Druids are usually credited with such a tradition, but as far as we can see, their central claim to honour within Celtic society was their memorization of a whole library of mythological and historical narratives. This was similar to the Brahmins learning the Vedas and other classics by heart, which is part of their *karmakanda*, "ritualism", distinct from the *jnanakanda*, the search for absolute knowledge developed in the younger layers of the Vedas, the Upanishads. Moreover, as a serious blemish on their reputation as dreamy sages, the Druids were also officiants at bloody sacrifices, allegedly even human sacrifice, which even the robust Romans found repulsive and barbaric. In the development of Vedic religion, we see animal sacrifice phased out in favour of symbolic replacement sacrifices (coconuts etc.), but Druidic religion was prevented from making such progress from barbarity to civilization because it was killed by Roman armies and Christian missionaries. When the neo-Druids in organizations like OBOD, the "Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids", practise an altogether more peaceful religion, they can justify that (e.g. when The Times derided them on 22 June 1998 as "milk-and-water Pagans" for not even sacrificing human virgins on Summer Solstice in Stonehenge) by explaining that they supply the evolution which Druidry would have gone through, had it survived through the last two thousand years.

At any rate, a perusal of the remaining (often distorted) Pagan literature of the Celts and also of the Germanic peoples shows a lot of celebration of life, of courage and passion, and some insightful meditations on the mysteries of life and death, but nothing like a yogic tradition. Neo-Pagans who understand that something is missing make up for it by borrowing heavily from the living traditions of Asia. Thus, the OBOD has imported a lot of Hindu-Buddhist lore into its curriculum as a substitute for the unknown and irretrievable doctrines which the ancient Druids must have taught. To some extent, this is historically justified because European and Asian Pagan traditions did have certain doctrines in common, e.g. the belief in reincarnation is well-attested by Greco-Roman observers of the Druidic tradition, in Virgil's Aeneis and other European Pagan sources. But to some extent, it may be just fantasy: it is really possible that our Celtic and Germanic ancestors did miss out on some philosophical developments which were taking place in more civilized parts of the world. And whatever they did know and teach has largely been lost, or only been registered by Christian monks who didn't understand much of it anymore. So, either way, neo-Pagans trying to supply the innermost teachings to a tradition of which folklore and scanty surviving texts have only preserved a skeleton, have no choice but to look to surviving traditions like Hinduism.

Xenophobia

Alternatively, some neo-Pagan ideologues reject any input from Asian or other traditions. In the Netherlands, the late Noud van den Eerenbeemt, a Germanic heathen, used to teach something he called "Runic yoga", meaning a series of body postures imitating the shapes of the old-Germanic alphabet signs or Runes. I think this was a bit silly, as Hatha-yogic postures are designed to produce certain effects in the energetics of the body, not to impersonate certain visual shapes. However, some heathens rejected it for a wholly different reason: yoga is a non-European invention, hence "unfit for European people". They were apparently unaware that the Runic alphabet itself was once imported from the south, and that the Indo- European languages themselves, and the religious lore they carried, were once imported from the East: at least from Russia, according to the dominant theory, or perhaps even from Afghanistan or India.

Those are the people who reject Christianity on grounds of its foreign origin: an "Asian religion unfit for Europeans", just like Hinduism. That is wholly mistaken: if Christianity was an erroneous belief system, it was erroneous even for people in its countries of origin, just as Islam was initially rejected even by the compatriots of the Prophet, the Arabs. Conversely, if Christianity is true, it stands to reason that we should all drop our ancestral religion and embrace Christianity, just like Paul did, and Constantine, and Clovis, and Vladimir.

Hindus stand warned that a minoritarian but activist strand within the Pagan reawakening is motivated by such xenophobia, which is largely based on ignorance or at least on the insufficient realization of the syncretic nature of even their own ancestral religions. Often they are people who care little about religion and more about ethnicity, using religion only to give some colour to their assertion of ethnic identity. My impression is that in the Odinist movement in the USA, with its increasing racial polarization, this "white pride" tendency is not just an embarrassing fringe, as it is in Europe, but may well represent the mainstream. And if it isn't that yet, it will become predominant in the near future: as whites slip into minority status in the USA, those whites who are on the receiving end of the social changes (remember that Odinists are largely working-class) will probably lose their current inhibitions about racial self-identification on the African-American model. Whereas Christians have their own variety of white racism (KKK, Christian Identity), the large floating mass of secularized white Americans will increasingly find a cultural rallying-point in European, esp. Germanic neo-Paganism. Those Odinists who take their distances from such development will soon find themselves outnumbered by the new recruits for whom colour is more important than religious experiences.

In Europe too we see that purely secular nationalist or racist circles affect Pagan terminology (the Flemish group Odal, the Austrian periodical Ostarra, the German periodical Sleipnir, the widespread use of the Celtic Cross by Euro-nationalists), but because of the more thorough secularization of European culture, this remains more purely a political code which does not interfere with the actual revival of ancestral religion. Most neo-Pagan including Odinist groups in Europe statutorily exclude neo-Nazis, Satanists and other such fringe characters.

In efforts at cooperation, Hindus will not much come into contact with the xenophobic faction among the Pagan revivalists, precisely because the latter are not interested in brown immigrants, except negatively. And except for the identification of Hinduism with the caste system, which in turn has been identified with a kind of racial apartheid system. As you can check in David Duke's book My Awakening, the Bible of the racialist Right in the USA, the Hindu caste system is widely understood as a system imposed by the "Aryan invaders" on the "dark-skinned natives" to preserve their racial purity. That the Indo-Aryans didn't succeed in the alleged endeavour of race preservation and ended up brown-skinned themselves is another matter; fact is that the Vedas are regarded by ignorant Westerners as a description of the subjugation of the browns by the whites, and as an injunction to racial self-preservation.

In continental Europe too, there is a movement of so-called Traditionalists, inspired by Rene' Gue'non and Julius Evola, who take a similar view of the caste system, and who see it as part of the Indo-European heritage, hence relevant also for the European branches of the great Indo-European family. Obviously, these aren't the friends you need, and if such people approach you, do patiently explain to them that the basis of modern science was laid by dark- skinned people like the Harappans: mathematics, astronomy, writing etc. Perhaps that will change their outlook on racial and cultural differences.

Monotheism vs. polytheism

A very minor philosophical point of disagreement concerns the notion of polytheism. To many Western neo-Pagans, this is the central point of difference with the Abrahamic religions, and so they brandish their polytheism as the defining trait of their religion. Thus, the Belgian periodical Antaios calls itself a medium for "polytheist studies". While most Hindus have no problem with polytheism, they will find the issue in itself less important: depending how you define "god", something can be said for both monotheism and polytheism. The ancient Greek philosophers, though undoubtedly Pagan, nonetheless sought for a unifying principle underlying the whole of creation. It is only because of the Judeo-Christo-Islamic crusade against polytheism that this has become such a crucial issue for Westerners trying to revive their Pagan roots. As Ram Swarup puts it:

"And yet the birth of Many Gods will not herald the death of One God; on the other hand, it will enrich and deepen our understanding of both. For One God and Many Gods are spiritually one. (...) A purely monotheistic unity fails to represent the living unity of the Spirit and expresses merely the intellect's love of the uniform and the general. Similarly, purely polytheistic Gods without any principle of unity amongst them lose their inner coherence. (...) The Vedic approach is probably the best. It gives unity without sacrificing diversity. (...) Monotheism is not saved by polytheism, nor polytheism by monotheism, but both are saved by going deep into the life of the soul. (...) Depending on the cultures in which they were born, mystics have given monotheistic as well as polytheistic renderings and interpretations of their inner life and experiences." (The Word as Revelation: Names of Gods, 1980, p.128-133)

Is Hinduism an ethnic religion?

When the WCER constituted itself, there was a lot of discussion about how to formulate its Pagan identity. The term Pagan or Heathen was avoided because members, esp. from Eastern Europe, said that the term had come to sound so negative after centuries of Christian indoctrination, that it simply carried the wrong connotations: immorality, violence, backwardness. The term "polytheistic" was also not acceptable, because Paganism admits also of pantheistic and even atheistic viewpoints, and within polytheistic frameworks we find that religious practice often takes the form of henotheism, i.e. worship of a single god chosen from among many (what Hindus call the ishta devata, the "chosen deity"). Another proposal was the "old religion" or the "ancestral religion", terms already used by some Pagan revivalist groups, esp. in Scandinavia (e.g. Forn Sidr, "the earlier customs"). Personally, I think that would have been the best, as it describes exactly the status of the religion being revived, regardless of its being polytheistic or pantheistic or whatever. It would also be similar to the Sanskrit term Sanatana Dharma, "the eternal mores/duty/order".

The founding conference settled for the term "ethnic", indeed a Greek term by which the Hellenized Jews and first Christians designated the Pagans. Note, however, that as the equivalent of Hebrew Goyim, "the nations", it would nonetheless include Judaism itself, this being the ethnic religion par excellence. The founding declaration of the WCER (see www.wcer.org) makes it unambiguously clear that no narrow ethnic exclusivism is meant, it puts the ethnic religions in the framework of "universalism". This will prove necessary, for the term "ethnic" all by itself may well attract all kinds of cranky political ethnicists who will need to be educated about the interwovenness of Pagan religions across ethnic frontiers. Thus, Germanic religion is at the very least composed of the pre- Indo-European native religion of northern Europe plus the religion of the incoming Indo-Europeans, the latter having lots in common with the neighbouring Baltic and Slavic religions, and even with the more distant Greek, Roman, and Hindu religions. When we study the ancient religions, we find that they have lots in common, e.g. their focus on the starry sky as the manifest locus of the gods at play.

For Hindus, the question should be faced whether Hinduism qualifies as an "ethnic" religion. Historically, that description has a point, yet Hinduism has, starting from the riverine plains of northern India, spread to the farthest corners of the south and the inland hills and forests, assimilating ever new tribes or ethnic groups. It has also spread to Central and Southeast Asia. Today, it is spreading in the West, both by migration and by attracting spontaneous Western converts. So, that is something to think about.

Conclusion

Hindus should welcome the revival of the pre-Christian religions of the West, often cognate religions through the common Indo-European origins, otherwise at least typologically related religions which are not based on a monopolistic prophet or scripture. At the same time, they should be watchful for impure motives and degenerative trends, or for phenomena which may be acceptable in a multicultural framework but with which they need not involve themselves. The ancestral religions of Europe are at present in a formative stage, a stage of groping in the dark, of gradual rediscovery or self- reconstitution. At this stage they attract people with a variety of motives and divergent levels of knowledge and understanding. Still immature, these religions often look to Hinduism for guidance.

Kum Kum: Proof of the Ancient Global Vedic Presence

by Vrin Parker

There is another fascinating link between India, Egypt, China and the Ancient Americans. It is Kum Kum or vermilion powder.

Archeologists are currently puzzled because nearly every ancient tomb they uncover has Kum Kum powder drenched all over the interiors of these sites. Whether its in China, Peru, Mexico or Egypt the use of vermilion/Kum Kum is used.

The question asked is, "What significance did the red vermilion powder have to the ancient cultures around the world?"

Of course the western scholars have a lot of speculation to offer, but to my knowledge not once have any of these so-called experts publicly considered the fact that nearly a billion people are still using vermilion powder on a daily basis.

Just perhaps these billion people might have some information as to the significance of Kum Kum Powder in the current era and by tracing its use we may come to the obvious conclusion that India's Modern Hindu Civilization is the only civilization that has maintained an unbroken link with the ancient world. This fact, once accepted, will allow the world's academia to begin to come up with accurate theories that actually make sense and can be easily verified by the ongoing practical and applicable realities of everyday life. In other words, an ancient potters wheel has the same use as a modern one, and it is easy to deduce its applicable usefulness even thousands of years later. The same method can be applied to Kum Kum.

If the archeologists really want to know why the ancient Chinese, Egyptians and Americans used vermilion powder they need to ask the Modern Hindus of India. Its only logical to learn from the people who have used it for thousands of years and are still using it. I am truly amazed at at the value given to the many ignorant theories about India that have been created without any input of those living the culture. Prejudiced theories can surely have no more value than the wholistic theories that take into account the traditional versions of a culture along with modern scientific research techniques. Only when these two are united can we ever cross over the tyranny of politicized academia.

Durga Worship in Ancient Britain, China, Mexico, Peru and Inca

Decoding Indus Valley script

TIMES NEWS NETWORK [WEDNESDAY, JUNE 19, 2002]

ALLAHABAD: Director, Robertson Medical Institute and Ayurveda Ratna Gopalji Agarwal on Tuesday said he had deciphered the much-elusive Indus script which, he claimed, would prove historic in the realm of world history and civilization.

In his latest discovery Mysteries of the world history unfolded, Agarwal told Times News Network that deciphering the Indus script would lead to genetic and radical changes in the current world history books.

He said his discovery had brought to surface mysteries shrouding Indus archaeological finds. He said interpretation of all these ruins had all along gone in wrong direction for the past 4,000 years.

Agarwal affirmed that these ruins were full-fledged architecture of ziggurat, a rectangular stepped-up platform built up by bricks having blocks and graven iconic Indus script-based lexigrams of mother goddess Tirka or Durga, used as temple complex for worshiping by Indus people. This iconic culture of Tirka or Durga worship was the original religion of Indus and India.

Agarwal also revealed that this deciphering of Indus script, the linkage and location of Indus like religion and civilization had been unfolded to encompass almost all countries of the world. Even Britain, Latin American, China, Mexico, Peru and Inca religions and civilizations were Indus like iconic and these people worshiped mother goddess Durga and Tirka.

The Polynesians - A Link to the Prehistoric India

by Shanti S. Clancy

A number of researchers are working on the origin of Polynesian people. Archaeologists and linguists are using sophisticated tools of science, including DNA, to racially place the origin of these people. However, the modern Polynesian population is so racially mixed that it will not be easy to determine their original racial origin. Modern science of DNA from the point of view of mitochondria only sheds light on the origin of the people by the genetic makeup of the female. What about the origin of most of the men, who mostly migrated one place to another without a large group of their women? In fact prehistoric navigators of the Southern Seas would be all men!

There are two current theories about origin of Polynesians. One theory states that their original homeland was Southern China making them to be of Mongolian origin. The other theory states that their original homeland was South Asia, which is India and beyond. The Polynesians brought with them the rudiments of early Neolithic culture such as astronomy, navigation skills, a rich oral literature of chants, boat building and a well organized early class or caste structure in their society. In view of all of the above theories, I have noticed prehistoric connection with India.

This paper will point in the direction of archaic Vedic beginning. The studies have drawn on the work of specialists from various scientific disciplines such as anthropology, archaeology. Linguistics, botany, and literary comparisons. I have used oral knowledge from my ancestors and my late-distinguished father who had a working knowledge of languages especially in the area of South and Southeast Asia.

Vedic Ion Engine

By Bhalchandra Patwardhan

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was planning a rendezvous with Haley's comet in the 1980s. They planned to use a space probe powered by an Ion Engine. This Engine used a stream of high-velocity electrified particles instead of a blast of hot gases. The theory of the Ion Engine has been credited to Robert Goddard, long recognized as the father of Liquid-fuel Rocketry. It is claimed that in 1906, long before Goddard launched his first modern rocket, his imagination had conceived the idea of an Ion rocket; however, in light of new evidence, the story could be entirely different.

In 1895 on a beach in the city of Mumbai (Bombay, Maharashtra, India), Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, a Sanskrit scholar, proved that heavier-than-air flight was indeed possible. This demonstration was attended by eminent citizens including, among others, His Highness Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwand of Baroda and Mr. Justice Ranade, and was reported in "The Kesari" a leading Marathi daily newspaper. Readers might note that this occurred a full eight years before the Wright Brothers' "First" flight at Kitty hawk, North Carolina, USA. An even more astonishing feature of Talpade's craft was the power source he used- An Ion Engine."

Certain verses in the 10th chapter of the Rig-Veda make reference to the Art of Flight. The great Rishi Bharadvaja has written a commentary on this in his book "Yantra Vidya" (Science of Machines). Bharadvaja elucidates the mechanism that provides the impulse needed for propulsion. It involves the combination of eight sub-assemblies and uses the interaction of principally Solar energy and Mercury. Talpade put his knowledge of Sanskrit at the disposal of his creative intellect and CONSTRUCTED AN AIRCRAFT ACCORDING TO THE DESCRIPTION GIVEN IN THE RIG-VEDA. IT IS REPORTED THAT THIS FLYING MACHINE GAINED AN ALTITUDE OF 1500 FT. MOST APTLY, HE CALLED HIS AIRCRAFT THE "MARUTSAKHA" - FRIEND OF THE WIND.

The engine now being developed for future use by NASA, by some strange coincidence, also uses mercury bombardment units powered by solar cells. Interestingly, the impulse is generated in seven stages. The mercury propellant is first vaporized, fed into the thruster discharge chamber, ionized, converted into plasma by a combination with electrons, broken down electrically, and then accelerated through small openings in a screen to pass out of the engine at velocities between 20,000 and 50,000 meters per second.

Although minute details of the Vedic engine would be available only after great research, the resemblance of the "modern" engine to it is totally indisputable. The Ion Engine developed by NASA is capable of producing, at best, about one pound of thrust- a thrust which is virtually useless for lifting an object of any practical mass off the earth. Talpade's engine, on the other hand, was entirely capable of lifting his aircraft 1500 feet into the air, over 100 years ago.

Several important considerations emerge from the foregoing discussion. First, Wilbur and Orville Wright were not the pioneers of modern flight. Secondly, not only had the idea of an Ion Engine been conceived long before Dr Goddard, but it had also been materialized in the form of Talpade's Marutsakha Aircraft. I do not wish to denigrate those inventors, whose contributions are invaluable, but I think it is now time to review the history of science and recognize the achievements of the previous civilizations. The question of the exaltation or diminution of any country or civilization's contribution does not arise. My only contention is that if scientific thought began in Vedic civilization earlier than in the West, we should not ignore that fact in our narration of the history of science.

(Reproduced from ANCIENT SKIES, BI-monthly published by the ANCIENT ASTRONAUT SOCIETY, 192 St. Johns Ave. Highland Park, Illinois 60035 USA.)

Notes on antiquity and spread of Vedic culture

(These are just hints about the antiquity and spread of Vedic civilization and need proper evaluation. They come from different sources.)

The present-day Sri Lanka is named in the Ramayana as Trikotagiri. It was part of the Indian subcontinental landmass during Ramayana times.

Fauna described in the Ramayana includes pachyderms with four tusks. They are especially mentioned among animals found in Ravana's capital Lanka. According to modern paleontology they became extinct about a million years ago.

The underwater remains of the ancient Dvaraka were discovered.

Seals and weights of Indus Valley civilization were found in Oman, Arabia.

Biblical story of Noah comes from the Sumerian epos of Gilgamesh which in turn closely resembles the story of king Satyavrata, later Vaivasvata Manu, being saved from the flood by Matsya-avatara.

Sundaravarman was a Tamil king who settled Singapore. He had 3 sons: one went to Malaysia, one to Cambodia and one to Thailand. The last son was named Premavarman; even today Prema is a common Thai name. Thai script is the old Tamil script. (The South-east Asian countries like Siam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Laos whose culture is entirely Vedic are left out from this compilation.)

In Cambodia there is famous Angkor Vat (literally "sprout of banyan tree") and its surrounding area is still called Aranya Pradesh. Ruins of this prosperous city spread over an area of 100 kilometers. There are sculptures of Brahma- Visnu-Siva, scenes from the Churning of the Milk Ocean, etc. In the ruins have been found numerous deities and inscriptions with the names and exploits of Indian kings like Suryavarma and Jayavarma who ruled over the region.

Sites of archaeological and historical interest from Malaysia to Korea have been illustrated in the book "Glimpses of Malayan History" by Brahmachari Kailasam.

In Mongolia days of the week retain their Sanskrit roots as Adiya (Sunday), Somiya, Angarakh, Budhiya, Sookar and Sanchir (Saturday). The traditional medical system prevalent throughout Mongolia even today is the Ayurveda. The Indian system of astrology is practiced there. Ancient Sanskrit treatises on astrology, medicine, prosody and grammar, rarely found in India are still treasured and taught in Mongolia. Mongolians also store and worship Ganges water. They study ancient Indian scriptures connected with King Bhoj, Lord Krsna and the Hitopadesa. Their history starts with Manu. The Indian eagle is the guardian deity of the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator.

The Japanese monarchy - also about 2600 years old like that of Iran - claims descent from the Sun as do the Indian ksatriyas. Shinto (could be a corrupt form of "Sindhu"?) is a Vedic way of life which still flourishes in Japanese life side by side with later introduced Buddhism. The ancestor worship as well as cremation are parts of Shinto tradition. In the most important Shinto shrine, Isa (in Nagoya), there are preserved three articles given by goddess Amaterasu to the first Japanese emperor Jimmu (cca 400 BC). The Japanese wrestling style sumo with the wrestlers wearing only a loincloth and the self-defense style called Jujutsu (similar to "yuyutsavah" in BG 1.1) are probably of Indian origin.

In the English translation of the Mahabharata by M.N. Dutt (Santi Parva, pp. 535-6, 538-40, 542, 548-9 and 566-8) appears a description of two expeditions conducted by ancient Indians to the Arctic region. Dr. Abinash Chandra Dass in his book "Rigvedic India" discusses the Vedic references to Arctic geography.

All over Russia are found Vedic cultural centers (viharas). Their latest use was that of Buddhist missionaries.

In Finland there is a lake called Hel (Hell?) around which are situated villages called Atala, Sutala, Vitala (maybe more).

In Kenya is a holy mountain (a volcano) called Meru. The Massai tribe from that region is from the anthropological point of view very different from local tribes. Its members have much more fair skin and their features look very Caucasian. They keep large herds of cattle which are the center of their lifestyle and a symbol of wealth. They are feared as vigorous fighters. In Swahili the word for a lion is simba (cf. Sanskrit "simha").

In Mexico deities Ganesa and Surya have been discovered.

During rebuilding the destroyed areas in London after the WWII a deity of Mitra (sun) was found buried under the foundation of an old building. It was said that the Romans introduced sun worship in Britain. This shows that ancient Vedic culture had traveled to England at least via Greece and Rome. It could be also brought by Vedic Indians themselves.

In the whole Europe and Asia are to be found forms of a female deity carved in a black stone. They are supposed to originally represent the goddess Astarte and in Christian context they became known as "Black Madonnas". Originally they are, however, the murtis of Durga. There are many stories and legends associated with them and in many places there are many pilgrims coming to worship them to get the blessings like wealth, health etc. (e.g. Czestochowa in Poland, Mariatal in Austria, Czech Republic, Spain etc.)

Rabbit-Moon connection

There are such Sanskrit names of the moon as "sasa-bindu", meaning "the hare-spotted one", or "sasa-bhrt", meaning "the hare bearer", or sasi, "hare-like" or "rabbit-like". These names do indicate that "the mark of a rabbit" is a common notion in the Upanishads, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. The idea is that sometimes one can see spots, (bindu), on the moon, which vaguely resemble a rabbit.

A clue to the answer is found within the paintings and fables of artists and storytellers of the Far East. These artists often painted the moon with rabbits racing across its face. The Chinese, in particular, have represented the moon as a rabbit pounding rice in a mortar.

The rabbit's association with the moon is partly explained by two stories. In one Buddha places him there as payment for a favor in which Rabbit voluntarily gave himself as food for one of Buddha's hungry friends. In another, a rabbit, with nothing else to offer a hungry, weary Indra, jumps into a fire, cooking himself for the deity (a timeless example of humankind's self-serving fables). Out of gratitude, Indra placed the rabbit in the moon.

If we consider the phases of the moon in its waxing (masculine) and waning (feminine), and accept the notion that the moon at full intensity is the Destroyer of Darkness or, as Hillard says, "sign of new life and the messenger of immortality"; we can appreciate the honored position to which the rabbit has ascended.

A number of explanations account for this hare/moon symbiosis. One is that the hare is nocturnal and feeds by night; another is that the hare's gestation period is one month long. And, it was believed that a rabbit could change its sex - like the moon. Other stories in Sanskrit and Hindu connect the rabbit to the spots on the moon (related to the story above); to stories of hares dwelling upon the shores of the moon; and as mortal enemy of the lion (sun).

The shadows on the surface of the full moon can serve as a sort of cultural ink-blot test. In the US, we talk about "the man in the moon". But when the Maya looked at the same shades of dark and light, they saw a pattern that resembled a leaping rabbit. The Moon Goddess was often portrayed holding her special pet, a large rabbit, in her arms.

Sometimes, when I stare at the full moon, I can still see the Moon Goddess' rabbit running across the sky.

(based on The Easter Hare by Katharine Hillard, The Atlantic Monthly, May, 1890)


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