While I was in Katmandu recently I noticed the huge number of religious symbols that exist for various different reasons and beliefs. A huge number if you compare it with most of Europe for instance, particularly the UK and France where secularization and political correctness now exist to a point where religious symbols are severely frowned upon and in some cases, banned in public.
I have a relatively limited knowledge of the Hindu religion and only a little more of the Buddhist religion, which I was told firmly by many Hindus in Nepal is actually considered by them to be more of a philosophy rather than a religion. I found it so intriguing that whenever you ask the Nepalese people about the religious structure of Nepal you get a different answer. A Tibetan taxi driver I met told me that there are 40% Hindus and 40 % Buddhists in Nepal, 20% other. I have a very funny story to recount about his views on the world and religions which I will have to write about in another post, because it opens up a whole new topic! Another guy I met called Rama, a Hindu of Indian origin who guided me around Durbar Square and explained the history of all the temples and the palace. He also gave me a quick rundown of the key beliefs in Hinduism so I could make sense of all the carvings and symbols. They were so intricate and numerous that even he joked that he didn’t know the meaning of every single one. He remarked that there were indeed a lot of symbols and they all had some specific interpretation most of which he enlightened me with. So Rama’s view on the religiosity of Nepal was 60% Hindu and 30% Buddhist 10% other denominations.
Later I met Krishna, a Hindu shopkeeper who introduced me to Siddhartha, which I bought and read the same day on his recommendation. We had a very interesting conversation and he introduced me to the notion of Hindu practices with a very strong Buddhist philosophy. He also had some very interesting views about life, love and all the rest of it, and as did Rama, made a clear distinction between his religion and his philosophy. His estimate of the number of Hindus to Buddhists was roughly the same.
I found it fascinating that Hindu and Buddhist temples were as one in Kathmandu. Often both religions pray in exactly the same place. As I continued around the city the presence of the Hindu religion was ultimately the strongest, particularly in terms of symbols that you see all over the city.
I also noticed that many of these symbols have been borrowed and used in the Occult and various other religious/spiritual practices. Of course, as I touched on in the last post, Hitler notoriously took the previously Hindu swastika, turned it around, and gave it a meaning entirely of his own making.
I started to question why symbols had been so readily borrowed from this religion in particular. On researching I found lots of information that I’m yet to fully analyse and understand, as it’s pretty complex. I don’t feel I have enough knowledge as yet to give a detailed analysis but the two easiest and most general assumptions I can come to are 1) it’s such an old religion and hence had a lot of influence over those that followed and 2) Paganism and occult practices existed long before the revelation and establishment of the monotheistic religions. Perhaps it’s because Hinduism is a polytheistic religion and it’s on this basis that a lot of occult and pagan practices can find common ground to borrow ideas and base their practices on.
Helena Blavatsky (see previous post) was reknowned and cited for using Hindu teachings in her development of the Occult.
“ Narrowly defined, modern New Age teachings can be linked to the transplantation of Hindu philosophy through the Theosophical Society founded by Helena Blavatsky in the latter part of the nineteenth century in the United States, and to the psychic medium Edgar Cayce, whose prophecies scholars now consider foundational to its birth and development. Madame Blavatsky, as she was known, promoted Spiritism, séances, and basic Hindu philosophy while manifesting a distinct antagonism to biblical Christianity.”
The Kingdom of the Occult By Walter Martin, Jill Martin Rische, Kurt Van Gorden