Monday, June 28, 2010

Hinduism: "The best surviving of the great Pagan traditions"

David Frawley is founder and director of the American Insitute of Vedic Studies. Though American born, in India he is recognized not only as a Vedacharya (Vedic teacher), but also as a Vaidya (Ayurvedic doctor and teacher), Jyotishi (Vedic astrologer), Puranic (Vedic historian), a Hindu acharya (Hindu religious teacher) and a Yogi.

Dr. Frawley is the author of numerous books, including Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses (a book on the Hindu Goddesses known as the Mahavidyas), Awaken Bharata: A Call For India's Rebirth, and How I Became a Hindu.

Frawley's vision of Hinduism is expansive and inclusive while being solidly rooted in Vedic tradition. He is one of the most articulate proponents of the view that Hinduism and Paganism share a very real and deep kinship. The following is from a new essay by Dr. Frawley: A Universal Vision: Hinduism's Path to Unity (just published online at the website -- go to the link to read the whole thing!):
Hinduism is probably the oldest continually practiced religious and spiritual tradition on the planet, with its roots going back over 5,000 years. In fact Hinduism has no specific point of origin or end. The basis of Hinduism can be found not in a particular prophet or prophets or in a single book but in the eternal, in the cosmic mind itself, accepting a variety of great teachers and teachings over the long course of time and the different types of human cultures. Hinduism has never rejected any aspect of human religious aspiration, whether it is the use of images, a variety of rituals, or many techniques and approaches to meditation.

Hinduism is the third largest of the world's major religions, with over a billion adherents worldwide. It is the largest of the non-biblical traditions. It is the largest of the pagan traditions and the best surviving of the great pagan traditions that once dominated the world and traces of which remain everywhere. It is the largest of the native or indigenous traditions being rooted in the land and life of its peoples. Hinduism is firmly rooted in nature and honors all aspects of the natural world as sacred. Its holy places are not simply sites of important human religious activity but sacred mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, and flowers.

Yet perhaps most importantly Hinduism is the largest of the world's ‘pluralistic' traditions. It does not emphasize one formulation of divinity, one prophet or savior, or one holy book for all. It honors a variety of great gurus and their various books and teachings. Under its vast scope it can embrace a great variety of religious views and practices. This makes Hinduism the largest of the world's non-proselytizing religions. Hinduism does not seek to convert the world to a single belief but holds that we should honor the unique divine expression in each person and in each culture. It gives people the freedom to follow whatever spiritual path they find valuable. Hinduism can even accept atheists as part of its honoring of freedom of thought and inquiry.

For more on the relationship between Hinduism and Paganism see: Hindus and Pagans: "A Return to the Time of the Gods".

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