I've been wondering more and more about the Hearth culture I should take for my ADF studies recently. I was heading towards focusing on Roman hearth (with some light dual vedic hearth for Saraswati) but when I was at my shrine earlier in the day before my initiation as a full member of Three Cranes Grove last month I felt Saraswati very strongly. I also felt that she was taking particular interest and making herself known. So now I'm thinking on making Vedic culture my primary hearth which fits rather well with my current mismash.
Saraswati is one of my primary patrons though really I came into contact with her though one of my other primary patrons the Shinto Kami Inari. To explain how I came into contact with a Vedic goddess by way of Japan let me first explain a few things: Saraswati came to Japan with the coming of Buddhism (her most common Japanese name being Benzaiten). What popularized her veneration was the Golden Light Sutra (specifically Chapter 8). In time she became rather popular to the point that when Buddhism and Shinto were separated during the Meiji era Saraswati was given Shinto rites, Shinto Shrines, and more or less naturalized into Japan's native religion Shinto. I could go into a long discussion on the adoption of Indian deities into Japan but that would make this entry go well off track. If you're interested I would recommend Upendra Thakur's India and Japan: A Study in Interaction During 5th Cent.-14th Cent. A.D. as a decent introduction to the topic. Though it is interesting to note that some Vedic deities attained positions of honor they did not attain in Post-Vedic India or anywhere else where Buddhism spread.
Anyways in some versions of Japanese beliefs Saraswati/Benzaiten and Inari are forms of one another, in some others she is hir consort, but in any case they are often associated and their shrines will often be close together.
I've had a number of mind-blowing encounters with Saraswati - the greatest when I went on a religious studies class trip to the Bharatiya Hindu Temple in 2007 where I felt her presence very strongly and her statue seemed to be animated with a smile forming on her face. One of her arms seemed to be moving and her fingers were advancing her mala.
With a rather close connection with Saraswati and her appearance in the Shinto & Buddhism systems that form part of my personal practice it seems obvious that she would make a good guide and bridge to ease into an ADF hearth culture.
However my main obstacle with looking into a Vedic hearth culture are my issues with "Vedic Reconstructionism". One issue that I see which is rife in "Vedic Reconstructionism" is a undercurrent of almost outright hostility to Hinduism. One event left some bad tastes in my mouth that I remember seeing an old BeliefNet thread where a VR was arguing in a rather nasty fashion with a Hindu Brahmin that the Brahmin's traditions were illegitimate & corrupt and that he, the VR, was the true Brahmin. This and similar arguments are very much the worst kind of cultural appropriation and imperialism - pure and simple.
Buddhism, Jainism, and the various forms of Hinduism may all differ from Vedism but they all bear its stamp - they are like cuttings from the fallen tree of the Vedic religion. Sure the religions of India changed greatly at the end of the Vedic period - for that matter changes were occurring during the Vedic Period for that matter with the Upanishads and the works of the Forest Sages. It is from the Upanishads and commentaries the Forest Sages that a lot of the ideas and concepts that form pillars of Hindu thought first appear. In many cases Vedic rituals were reinterpreted in the various forms of Hinduism. I may be wrong here but I always assumed the most important qualifier here was Othopraxy not Orthodoxy. Also while forms of Hinduism may be Monist in philosophy on the level of ritual they are often Polytheist - again is Othopraxy or Orthodoxy the change? Also do modern 'Neo-Pagan' have much ground to criticize the reinterpretation and updating of an ancient ritual?
One great insight which Algernon Sidney Crapsey's The Ways of the Gods had was the Wax and Wane of the popularity of Deities & Saints according to conditions and needs of the people at the time. The end of the Vedic era was a time of great transition and from that transition the Vedic religion split off into Buddhism, Jainism, and various forms of 'Hinduism'. Because religion of the peoples of India changed over time to new conditions and some deities became far less important means that the tradition is 'illegitimate' and utterly divorced from its roots in Vedism? Also what of the still living Śrauta tradition?
So given these issues I have some trepidation with taking a Vedic hearth culture for my ADF studies. I still intend to learn especially now with Saraswati nudging me down that road.
Also just a cavet - I'm more familar with Buddhism and forms of Hinduism than Vedism proper. My main issue is not how 'Vedic' Hinduism is - my issue is the current that seems to almost demonize Hinduism and claim Vedic traditions while denying the validity of later Indian religions and their traditions as having a root in this source. In essence it's spiritual imperialism and doing spiritually what the British Empire did physically to the Indian Subcontinent.
Now that I've probably pissed off a bunch of people with my possibly ill-conceived rant I'm going to get off this soap box. I was tiredish when I wrote this so please excuse the typos and other possible errors.
Tags: adf, buddhism, hinduism, paganism, vedism
Current Location: 34 W. Weber
Current Mood: thoughtful
Current Music: Maa Saraswati - Saraswati Aarti