Q5. If you could travel anywhere on pilgrimage where would it be and what would you do?

This is an easy one. India. Definitely India.

I teach yoga, and I teach anatomy at a yoga teacher training program which has a strong philosophical/spiritual emphasis. The polytheism of India fascinates me, and I have something of a connection with Shiva, but the type of Hinduism that comes to the West is not the Hinduism that has much of anything to say to me. I have no interest in the All-One pantheism of Vedanta, or the baffling disgust which the Hare Krishnas have for sex and the body (um, Krishna, really?), or any distant intellectual/philosophical conception of the gods. I don’t object to the conservatism, but it leaves very little place for me. I can’t get on board with the “off this horrid wheel of incarnation at all costs” goal of so many of the traditions. But still, there is something about Hinduism that really calls to me, and I would love an opportunity to explore that in more depth.

So if I could go on pilgrimage somewhere, it would be to Varanasi, to see the Aghori and whatever other disreputable holy men I could find, to learn about a Hinduism which is not wedded to purity, and celibacy, and disgust at these living breathing oozing stinking bodies of ours.

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3 Comments

  1. Yeah, that’s the problem with the term “Hinduism”. It’s a category, not a religion. It’s just what the English called any Non-Abrahamic religious traditions they observed when they took over India. -E-

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  2. Yeah, I remember some religious scholar saying that the term “Hinduism” makes less of a theologically cohesive category than if you took all variants of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and called them all “Jordanism”. But it gets presented in the West as some uniform monolithic thing, and the version presented via yoga-related-stuff (Vedanta, primarily) is about as far from my polytheistic Paganism as you can get. So I’d love to see, in person, the full diversity of living, breathing Hinduism in its native context.

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    • I actually refer regularly to Abrahamic Religion, because there IS significant cohesion there, but yeah. Just what little I’ve gleaned from the class I took on Hindu religions is enough to make me think trying to sort it all out is a lifetime of work in itself. There’s a whole lot of culture there. -E-

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