Monday, 9 March 2015

Religious Diversity II

SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003).

My Gods! By Agni and Indra! When I posted about "Religious Diversity," I did not know the half of it. Buddhists are at last mentioned on p. 384 although this is a historical reference because, of course, the Buddha Dharma had "...faded from..." the land of its origin.

However, Stirling imagines some strange developments in his Angrezi Raj. (Poul Anderson has an alternative mythology in a potential timeline of the Time Patrol universe.) First, there is a temple to a goddess who was invented as a fictional deity in "...a kinematograph play..." (p. 358). A French Catholic is astounded that, "'...people of a veracity believe in this goddess?'" (p. 359) Alan Moore said in conversation that "Religions are higher fictions." One of Poul and Karen Anderson's Ysans says that his people, unlike Christians, do not believe that their myths are literally true. A man showing me around the Hindu Temple in Preston paused before Ganesh and said, "There are different versions of the story..."

Next, Stirling's Angrezi interact with Hinduism:

Princess Sita tells the Frenchman Henri that Anglo-Indian religion is flexible;
sahibs frequently invoke Indian deities or the Ten Thousand Faces of God;
Sita accepts the Established Church but also makes offerings to Saraswati, wife of Brahma;
the Biblical God is too active post-Creation to be identified with Brahma but could be Vishnu or Shiva;
there is theological controversy as to whether Christ is Vishnu's son or one of His incarnations.

Personal observations:

we can appreciate the Mahabharata and the Ramayana as we appreciate the Iliad and the Odyssey;

however, Indian meditation and philosophy transcend stories and rituals;

I suggest that the Christian Trinity corresponds not to the Hindu Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva (Creator, Preserver, Destroyer) but to the threefold characterization of Brahman as Existence-Knowledge-Joy or Being-Awareness-Bliss;

this characterization describes a transcendent human experience even if not also a transcendent metaphysical reality.

Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus!

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