Guan Yu: Pagan reverence of anything awesome

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I went to a smog test shop, but had forgotten my wallet. There I noted an obviously cared for statue of Guan Yu, a chinese deity, who I later learned to be:

  • Essentially a deified very loyal and honorable general from 2k years back.
  • An equivalent of mitra or varuNa, in his care for righteousness.
  • Highly revered by business folk.
  • Revered even by even mongols and manchus.
  • Accepted by multiple streams of chinese reverence (made a buddhist guardian by a zen master according to one tradition, a Taoist deity, etc..)

This process of deification of extraordinary mortals is quite concordant to my hindu self which daily adores its pitR-s/ ancestors and historical heroes (esp. shivAjI, hammIra and rAjasimha) through rites and mantra-s. But, I had not found an adequate expression of this phenomenon in hindu thought, until I read Dr. G L Krishna’s appendix E here.

kRShNa says in the bhagavad-gItA : “यद्यद्विभूतिमत्सत्त्वं श्रीमदूर्जितमेव वा । तत्तदेवावगच्छ त्वं मम तेजोंऽशसम्भवम् ॥ ४१ ॥” – “All that is endowed with glory, grace, grandeur, has sprung from a mere flare of my radiance”

  • To paraphrase GL kRShNa: The adoration of awesomeness includes adoration of glorious characters in our legends, the celebration of natural geography (the great rivers, the great mountains, etc. as centres of pilgrimage) and the adoration of sages (from Vyasa-Vishwamitra to Ramana-Ramakrishna).

The benefits of this are obvious, and I’ve considered them in detail elsewhere. But it reminds me of the sage of mAnasatarangiNI quoting socrates, and rjrasva@ quoting a bAlinese hindu on the topic:

  • Socrates on the use of myth here: “I accept what is customarily believed concerning them, and, as I was saying, I look not into them but into my own self: Am I a beast more complicated and savage than Typhon, or am I a tamer, simpler animal with a share in a divine and gentle nature?”.
  • In this conversation between a bAlinese hindu and a German christian about the historicity of rAMa, the pestered hindu asks: “Do you want to know whether the story is true, or merely whether it occurred?” [Orientalism and Religion: Post-Colonial Theory, India and “The Mystic East” By Richard King, pp. 39-40].
  • The high priest of Ásatrúarfélagið, the norse temple : “I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet,” Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, told Reuters. “We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.” … The priest said the gods are viewed as mystical and symbolic. Most modern worshipers don’t consider them to be living beings that are capable of flying down from the clouds. … The Asatru religion might describe itself as poetic–but if some Christians, especially those in the Western hemisphere, were to take a literal look at the new altar to pagan gods they might consider it satanic. (DailyBeast)

Well, Guan Yu/ varuNa was kind to me that day – the Hispanic tech (who identified the statue upon asking) allowed me to take my car home and return with my wallet.

 

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