Category Archives: India

THE AFRICAN PRESENCE IN INDIA, SAMBO/Shambo The Black GOD & Africans In Asia

By Runoko Rashidi

We are already aware… based on recent scientific studies of DNA, that modern humanity originated in Africa, that African people are the world’s aboriginal people and that all modern humans can ultimately trace their ancestral roots back to Africa. If not for the primordial migrations of early African people, humanity would have remained physically Africoid, and the rest of the world outside of the African continent absent of human life. This is our starting point.

Since the first modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) were of African birth, the African presence globally can be demonstrated through the history of the Black populations that have inhabited the world within the span of recent humanity. Not only are African people the aboriginal people of the planet, however, there is abundant evidence to show that Black people created and sustained many of the world’s earliest and most enduring civilizations. Such was the case in India.

The questions we pose here are simply these: Who are the African people of India? What is their significance in the annals of history? Precisely what have they done and what are they doing now? These are extremely serious questions that warrant serious and fundamental answers.

ANCIENT AFRICA AND EARLY INDIA

Exceptionally valuable writings reflecting close relationships between Africa and early India have existed for more than two thousand years. In the first century B.C.E., for example, the famous Greek historian Diodorus Siculus penned that, 

“From Ethiopia he (Osiris) passed through Arabia, bordering upon the Red Sea as far as India…. He built many cities in India, one of which he called Nysa, willing to have remembrance of that (Nysa) in Egypt, where he was brought up.”

INDIA’S EARLIEST CIVILIZATION

In Greater India, more than a thousand years before the foundations of Greece and Rome, proud and industrious Black men and women known as Dravidians erected a powerful civilization. We are referring here to the Indus Valley civilization- -India’s earliest high-culture, with major cities spread out along the course of the Indus River. The Indus Valley civilization was at its height from about 2200 B.C.E. to 1700 B.C.E. This phase of its history is called the Harappan, the name being derived from Harappa, one of the earliest known Indus Valley cities.

In 1922, about 350 miles northeast of Harappa, another large Indus city, Mohenjo-daro (the Mound of the Dead) was identified. Mohenjo-daro and Harappa were apparently the chief administrative centers of the Indus Valley complex, and since their identification, several additional cities, including Chanhu-daro, Kalibangan, Quetta and Lothal have been excavated.

The Indus cities possessed multiple level houses enhanced by sophisticated wells, drainage systems and bathrooms with flushing toilets. A recognized scholar on the Indus Valley civilization, Dr. Walter Fairservis, states that the “Harappans cultivated cotton and perhaps rice, domesticated the chicken and may have invented the game of chess and one of the two great early sources of nonmuscle power: the windmill.”

The decline and fall of the Indus Valley civilization has been linked to several factors, the most important of which were the increasingly frequent incursions of the White people known in history as Aryans–violent Indo-European tribes initially from central Eurasia and later Iran. Indeed, the name Iran means the “land of the Aryan.”

APARTHEID IN INDIA

The White tribes that invaded India and disrupted Black civilization there are known as Aryans. The Aryans were not necessarily superior warriors to the Blacks but they were aggressive, developed sophisticated military technologies and glorified military virtues. After hundreds of years of intense martial conflict the Aryans succeeded in subjugating most of northern India. Throughout the vanquished territories a rigid, caste-segmented social order was established with the masses of conquered Blacks (called Shudras) essentially reduced to slaves to the Whites and imposed upon for service in any capacity required by their White conquerors. This vicious new world order was cold-bloodily racist, with the Whites on top, the mixed races in the middle, and the overwhelming majority of Black people on the very bottom. In fact, the Aryan term varna, denoting one’s societal status and used interchangeably with caste, literally means color or complexion and reflects a prevalent racial hierarchy. Truly, India is still a racist country. White supremacist David Duke claimed “that his 1970′s visit to India was a turning point in his views on the superiority of the White race.”

Caste law in India, based originally on race, regulated all aspects of life, including marriage, diet, education, place of residence and occupation. This is not to deny that there were certain elements of the Black aristocracy that managed to gain prominence in the dominant White social structure. The masses of conquered Black people, however, were regarded by the Whites as Untruth itself. The Whites claimed to have emerged from the mouth of God; the Blacks, on the other hand, were said to have emerged from the feet of God. This was the ugly reality for the Black masses in conquered India. It was written that:

“A Sudra [Black] who intentionally reviles twice-born men [Whites] by criminal abuse, or criminally assaults them with blows, shall be deprived of the limb with which he offends. If he has criminal intercourse with an Aryan woman, his organ shall be cut off, and all his property confiscated. If the woman has a protector, the Sudra shall be executed. If he listens intentionally to a recitation of the Veda [a traditional Hindu religious text], his tongue shall be cut out. If he commits them to memory his body shall be split in half.”

Servitude to Whites became the basis of the lives of the Black people of India for generation after generation after generation. With the passage of time, this brutally harsh, color-oriented, racially-based caste system became the foundation of the religion that is now practiced throughout all India. This is the religion known as Hinduism.

THE BUDDHA AND BUDDHISM IN INDIA

African Black Buddha

Buddhism appeared in India during the sixth century B.C.E. and came in the form of a protest against Hinduism. Buddhism opposed the arrogance of caste, and preached tolerance. It should not be surprising, then, that it developed a large and rapid following in the regions of India where the Blacks had survived in substantial numbers. On the emergence of Buddhism in India, Diop has suggested that:

“It would seem that Buddha was an Egyptian priest, chased from Memphis by the persecution of Cambyses. This tradition would justify the portrayal of Buddha with woolly hair. Historical documents do not invalidate this tradition…There is general agreement today on placing in the sixth century not only Buddha but the whole religious and philosophical movement in Asia with Confucius in China, Zoroaster in Iran. This would confirm the hypothesis of a dispersion of Egyptian priests at that time spreading their doctrine in Asia.”

Dr. Vulindlela Wobogo, another African-centric scholar, has observed that:

“Manifestations of the Buddha in Asia are Black with woolly hair. They all appear to be Egypto-Nubian priests who fled Egypt…The priests carried their spiritual knowledge but lost much of the scientific knowledge for obvious reasons. The well-known aspects of Buddhism and its companion, yoga, are all simply Egypto-Nubian priesthood practices, meditation, and…the belief that one could attain a god-like state if the soul was liberated from the body through knowledge and denial.”

In a monumental two volume work entitled A Book of the Beginnings, originally published in 1881, Gerald Massey recorded that:

“It is not necessary to show that the first colonisers of India were Black, but it is certain that the Black Buddha of India was imaged in the Africoid type. In the Black [African] god, whether called Buddha or Sut-Nahsi, we have a datum. they carry in their color the proof of their origin. The people who first fashioned and worshipped the divine image in the Africoid mold of humanity must, according to all knowledge of human nature, have been Africans themselves. For the Blackness is not merely mystical, the features and the hair of Buddha belong to the Black race.”

In the first volume of his massive text Anacalypsis, Godfrey Higgins wrote that:

“The religion of Buddha, of India, is well known to have been very ancient. In the most ancient temples scattered through Asia, where his worship is yet continued, he is found black as jet, with the flat face, thick lips and curly hair of the African.”

DALIT: THE BLACK UNTOUCHABLES OF INDIA

Possibly the most substantial percentage of Asia’s Blacks can be identified among India’s 160 million “Untouchables” or “Dalits.” Frequently they are called “Outcasts.” Indian nationalist leader and devout Hindu Mohandas K. Gandhi called them “Harijans,” meaning “children of god.” The official name given them in India’s constitution (1951) is “Scheduled Castes.” “Dalit,” meaning “crushed and broken,” is a name that has come into prominence only within the last four decades. “Dalit” reflects a radically different response to oppression.

The Dalit are demonstrating a rapidly expanding awareness of their African ancestry and their relationship to the struggle of Black people throughout the world. They seem particularly enamored of African-Americans. African-Americans, in general, seem almost idolized by the Dalit, and the Black Panther Party, in particular, is virtually revered. In April 1972, for example, the Dalit Panther Party was formed in Bombay, India. This organization takes its pride and inspiration directly from the Black Panther Party of the United States. This is a highly important development due to the fact that the Untouchables have historically been so systematically terrorized that many of them, even today, live in a perpetual state of extreme fear of their upper caste oppressors. This is especially evident in the villages. The formation of the Dalit Panthers and the corresponding philosophy that accompanies it signals a fundamental change in the annals of resistance, and Dalit Panther organizations have subsequently spread to other parts of India. In August 1972, the Dalit Panthers announced that the 25th anniversary of Indian independence would be celebrated as a day of mourning. In 1981, in Bangalore, India Dravidian journalist V.T. Rajshekar published the first issue of Dalit Voice–the major English journal of the Black Untouchables. In a 1987 publication entitled the African Presence in Early Asia, Rajshekar stated that:

“The African-Americans also must know that their liberation struggle cannot be complete as long as their own blood-brothers and sisters living in far off Asia are suffering. It is true that African-Americans are also suffering, but our people here today are where African-Americans were two hundred years ago.

African-American leaders can give our struggle tremendous support by bringing forth knowledge of the existence of such a huge chunk of Asian Blacks to the notice of both the American Black masses and the Black masses who dwell within the African continent itself.”

Dravidian man of India

HABSHIS AND SIDDIS: AFRICAN DYNASTIES IN INDIA

India also received its share of African bondsmen, of whom the most famous was the celebrated Malik Ambar (1550-1626). Ambar, like a number of Africans in medieval India, elevated himself to a position of great authority. Malik Ambar, whose original name was Shambu, was born around 1550 in Harar, Ethiopia. After his arrival in India Ambar was able to raise a formidable army and achieve great power in the west Indian realm of Ahmadnagar. Ambar was a brilliant diplomat and administrator. He encouraged manufactures and built canals and mosques. He gave pensions to poets and scholars, established a postal service, and ultimately became one of the most famous men in India. 

In a collective form, however, and in respect to long term influence, the African sailors known as Siddis stand out. Certainly, Siddi kingdoms were established in western India in Janjira and Jaffrabad as early as 1100 AD. After their conversion to Islam, the African freedmen of India, originally called Habshi from the Arabic, called themselves Sayyad (descendants of Muhammad) and were consequently called Siddis. Indeed, the island Janjira was formerly called Habshan, meaning Habshan’s or African’s land. Siddi signifies lord or prince. It is further said that Siddi is an expression of respectful address commonly used in North Africa, like Sahib in India. Specifically, it is said to be an honorific title given to the descendants of African natives in the west of India, some of whom were distinguished military officers and administrators of the Muslim princes of the Deccan.

In the second decade of the sixteenth century a European traveler named Armando Cortesao noted that:

“The people who govern the kingdom [Bengal] are Abyssinians [Ethiopians]. These men are looked upon as knights; they are greatly esteemed; they wait on the kings in their apartments. The chief among them are eunuchs and these come to be kings and great lords in the kingdom. Those who are not eunuchs are the fighting men. After the king, it is to this people that the kingdom is obedient from fear.”

The Siddis were a tightly knit group, highly aggressive, and even ferocious in battle. They were employed largely as security forces for Muslim fleets in the Indian Ocean, a position they maintained for centuries. The Siddi commanders were titled Admirals of the Mughal Empire, and received an annual salary of 300,000 rupees. According to Ibn Battuta (1304-1377), the noted Muslim writer who journeyed through both Africa and Asia, the Siddis “are the guarantors of safety on the Indian Ocean; let there be but one of them on a ship and it will be avoided by the Indian pirates and idolaters.”

Siddi people of India

Leonard Howell – The First Rasta

Leonard Howell (6/16 1898 – 2/25 1981)

The Founder of the rastafari movement from Clarendon, Jamaica. On November 2, 1930, High Serra Xiii was crowned by the emperor of Ethiopia. Howell interpreted that Marcus Pride is the “prophecy” reality that he said in the 1920’s.

In 1933, Howell founded Rastafari movement in Jamaica with Joseph -, Arch Bold Dunk and others. Howell was accused of sedition due to this activity, and was captured by police authorities for 2 years, but even after prison, he fought with the power of Jamaica and developed Rastafari movement.

[Early life]

Howell was born on June 16, 1898 in May Crawle village in the Bull Head mountain district of upper Clarendon in Jamaica. He was the eldest of a family of ten children. Charles Theophilus Howell, his father, worked as peasant cultivator and tailor. Clementina Bennett, his mother, worked as an agricultural laborer.

During the First World War, Howell worked as a seaman and served as part of a Jamaican contingent sent to Panama. Before temporarily settling in Panama in 1918, he travelled back and forth between New York City and Panama several times. While in New York he became a member of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) after being confronted with his identity as a black man in Harlem for the first time and meeting Garvey, the revolutionary UNIA leader, in person.

Howell lived abroad for a total of some twenty years in his early life, during which time he was arrested and jailed for his involvement with the UNIA because the organization’s pro-black messages were viewed as threatening. After migrating to Panama and the United States, he eventually returned home in December 1932 at the age of 34 after being deported from the US. He was deported because of his involvement with the UNIA, which was perceived as threatening by the US government, due to the organization’s messages of black power and anti-colonialism. Upon returning to his homeland, he decided to leave his family home and spread the word about Rastafarianism. This decision to break away from his home was due to a conflict between Howell and his family, presumably because of his controversial belief in the divine nature of Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.

[Rastafari evangelism]

Howell’s first public articulation of the divinity of Haile Selassie occurred in January 1933. This first open deification, which proclaimed the Emperor of Ethiopia to be the incarnation of God, took place at “Redemption Ground” in Kingston but was not successful in gaining converts.

In February 1933, Howell relocated his meeting to a southeastern parish of St. Thomas and two months later, on April 18, he addressed about two hundred people at a meeting in Trinity Ville, St. Thomas. During this meeting, police were present to monitor and control the event, which they deemed to be of a “seditious nature.” Despite concerns, authorities chose not to press charges against Howell so as not to draw extra attention to his movement and decided instead to closely monitor him.

According to Howell and his followers, Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia was the “Black Messiah” – an incarnation of God predicted by biblical prophecy. Howell believed that the grand coronation of Haile Selassie (who was widely traditionally claimed to be the descendant of King David, King Solomon, and the Queen of Sheba, in part due to the medieval Ethiopian text Kebra Nagast), was the realization of a prophecy. The grandness of the emperor’s ascension to power appeared to validate Howell’s imperative claim.

Howell’s teachings often began with background information about the people, land, and sovereignty of Ethiopia as an unchanged land populated by original, primitive Christian people who were under direct rule of a king who was a direct descendant of King David. He idealized Ethiopia in his preaching, calling the country a land with unmatched people and a perfect language, the sole uncorrupted language on Earth. Howell emphasized the coming of a new civilization based upon and founded in the glory and power of Haile Selassie, the “Supreme Black King.” He instructed his followers to adore the Ethiopian emperor as the supreme God over all of humanity. In Howell’s view, it was through Ethiopia that the truths of good character, social order, manhood and womanhood were preserved and were unfolding for all to see. Howell preached that Ethiopian culture was re-emerging to overtake hegemonic Anglo-Saxon forces that had kept Africans enslaved.

[Core values, leadership, and social network]

Among his followers, Howell preferred being called Gangunguru Maragh or G.G. Maragh to distinguish his ritual, mystical personality from his secular identity. Howell’s ritual name is thought to be a combination of three Hindi words – gyan (wisdom), gun (virtue or talent), and guru (teacher). In Hindi, Maragh means “great kings” or “king of kings.” Howell used this name as a pseudonym when he published The Promised Key.

In a meeting at Port Mortant, St. Thomas, on September 1933, it is recorded that Howell held a meeting that began with the singing of hymns. Then, Howell reportedly taunted clergymen of other religious denominations at the gathering and discouraged people from attending church because “ministers were liars.”[11] He also spoke critically of slavery, claiming that “the White man stole Africa from the Africans, and that Black people should think that Africa is their home, not Jamaica”.

Howell’s message of praise for Emperor Haile Selassie also came with an open call for black supremacy as a way to combat colonialism and reject oppression by whites. At times, Howell would ask his congregants to join together and sing “God Save the King” – the king being Haile Selassie. Howell’s central doctrine acted as a force against white colonial ideology due to his placement of blackness as morally superior to whiteness, as is explained in his widely read publication, The Promised Key.

Howell is remembered as being a charismatic and authoritarian leader who sincerely cared about the wellbeing of his followers. In 1937, Howell founded the Ethiopian Salvation Society (ESS) whose objective was to use collective savings to better its members. A secondary purpose of the ESS was to help spread the good news about salvation and Christianity and underscore the value of self-help and good citizenship. These secondary purposes were expressly stated so as to shield the organization from suspicion that it was promoting sedition. Nevertheless, in 1940 the Jamaican governor responded to pressure from the colonial secretary and the labor leadership by officially banning a meeting of the ESS due to the resentment the organization was creating as well as its internationalization.

In addition to his leadership role in the ESS, Howell served as a role model and father figure for the growing Rastafarian community. His audacious, generous personality, combined with his well-travelled background, made early Rastafarians particularly receptive to his messages. Howell brought “the hope of a new generation, one which was inspired by the magnificence of the new Ethiopian emperor.”

To expand Howell’s Rastafarian network, he formed relationships with other black groups such as the Afro-Athlican Constructive Gaathly and the UNIA. Additionally he collaborated closely with other icons of the Rastafarian movement such as Marcus Garvey and George Padmore, a Trinidadian journalist.

Howell’s appeal for identification with Africa was in opposition to concurrent movements in Jamaica promoting a Jamaican creole nationalism. Howell positioned himself as an opponent of the labor nationalists Bustamante and Manley who had gained a substantial following among the working class. Howell preached to both the working class and the peasantry in Jamaica, attempting to unite disenfranchised black people to overcome colonial oppression. Jamaica’s independence in 1962 (which nevertheless maintained social, political and economic ties between Jamaica and Great Britain) was largely a disappointment for Howell, who had called for the complete severance of relations with imperial Britain.

[Trials and punishments]

In January 1934, Howell and Robert Hinds, another pioneer of the Rastafarian movement, were arrested and charged with sedition due to their gatherings and speeches at a meeting of 300 people at Seaforth, St Thomas, on December 10, 1933.

Howell was put on trial for sedition on March 13, 1934, and pleaded not guilty to openly expressing hatred and contempt for the Jamaican government and the King in addition to disturbing public peace on the island. Howell defended himself in court, using a photograph of Haile Selassie as evidence. During this historic trial, Howell is remembered as being the first person to declare that Haile Selassie was “the Messiah returned to earth.” Ultimately he was sentenced to two years in jail for sedition by the Jamaican chief justice, Robert William Lyall-Grant.

Later, in 1938, Howell was sent to a mental asylum in Kingston called the Bellevue Aslyum after being certified as insane for the inflammatory statements he published in his book The Promised Key. In this publication, which was released while Howell was still incarcerated, he labeled the Roman Catholic Pope as “Satan the Devil” and created the impression that war was being declared against colonialism and white supremacy – which Howell asserted should be replaced with “Black supremacy.” Furthermore, he openly objected to locally created religious systems like Revivalism and Obeah, a Jamaican folk practice. Although small, the book was powerful and very popular to the dismay of the Jamaican government.

As one of the most charismatic and outspoken of Rastafarian leaders, Howell was incarcerated at notably higher rates than other pioneers of the Rastafarian movement, such as Joseph Nathaniel Hibbert and Hinds. Described as “the most persecuted Rastafarian to date,” Howell suffered considerably under constant state surveillance because of his Rastafarian teachings. Due to his repeated imprisonment and persecution, he suffered the blow of being absent during Haile Selassie’s 1966 visit to Jamaica.

Especially threatening to the powers that be was his prophetic call for people to destroy the legitimacy and might of the British empire and international white supremacy, a message that caused people to reconsider their for identity, agency, and socio-political mobilization in Jamaica and elsewhere.

[Creation of Pinnacle Community]

Following his release from prison for his teachings of black power and denunciation of colonial rule, Howell created the first Rastafarian village in Jamaica at Sligoville, St. Catherine in 1940. The settlement was called “Pinnacle” due to its high hilltop elevation and was symbolically located in the first free village established to house former slaves in Jamaica. Pinnacle was one of the country’s first self-sustaining communities, its community members were able to meet their needs without dependence on outside resources. Some refer to Pinnacle as a commune, in which Howell’s form of socialism was practiced. Soon after its foundation, other similar Rastafarian communities were established across the country. Pinnacle was especially known for the cultivation of ganja (marijuana) that has religious significance for Rastafarians.

In efforts to shut down Howell and his followers, police raided Howell’s community of Pinnacle multiple times and labeled the community a “communist experiment” in 1941. Just one year after the creation of the settlement, government forces infiltrated and arrested many of Howell’s followers. After escaping immediate arrest, Howell was eventually arrested and tried once again for sedition and consequently was faced with two more years behind bars. Upon his release in 1943, he returned to Pinnacle once again. Howell hired guards and brought in watch dogs to protect Pinnacle from future attacks.

The police raided Pinnacle several more times in the 1950s. In 1954, militia invaded the community and almost completely destroyed the village. Even after this mass destruction, settlers returned, though the settlement was never restored to its previous thriving state. During a final raid in 1958, the police cleared out the remaining residents completely. Despite its ultimate destruction, the impact of the settlement made it legendary among other settlements around the country, who were observed to have been “miniature Pinnacles.”

[Alleged disappearance and ongoing legacy]

Some claim that Howell disappeared from public sight between 1958 and 1960, completely dropping out of his role as a Rastafarian leader. Accounts that he was neither heard from nor interacted with between this period and his death in 1981 have been challenged by historians who examined his life, however. Even after the final major raid of Pinnacle and Howell’s confinement in a mental asylum, he reportedly continued in his leadership of the Pinnacle community and as a Rastafari foundational role model, as evidenced by his role as a defendant in several cases at the Home Circuit Court, Kingston, regarding disputes about his ownership of Pinnacle.

Today Howell is remembered as a pioneer of the Rastafarian movement. Additionally, in honor of his values and persistent fight against colonial authority, he is seen as a leader of Pan-Africanism. To fight for his remembrance, the Leonard P Howell Foundation was created to “perpetuate and honor the memory of Leonard P Howell.” The Foundation calls for the restoration of a portion of the Pinnacle Property so that it can become a UNESCO world heritage site, an international Rastafarian worship and research center, and a monument in tribute to the vision and leadership of Leonard Percival Howell.

Is ‘Raca’ a racial slur used in the time of Jesus Christ?

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment’: But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be in danger of the judgment : and whosoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca’ shall be in danger of the council : but whoever shall say, ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:21-22)

Raca : a derogatory term in Aramaic (literally, “I spit on you”) conveying extreme contempt.

Raça Negra : Portuguese for “Black Race”

Seems possible that in Jesus’ time Raca was a racial slur against black peoples.. could it have been equivalent to the N-word at the time?

Ethiopian painting of The Sermon on the Mount

Jesus spoke out against injustices, this verse is one clear example. He ministered to the sick and outcasted and to prostitutes and forgotten ones.. legends of him going to India say he spoke out against the caste system there and was met with fury by the ruling priestly elites..

“Jesus makes another point in these verses : Words are very potent vibratory actions, affecting favorably or adversely the one who uttered them and also the one to whom they are directed. To express contempt to any individual (“say to his brother, ‘Raca’”) is spiritually libelous against that individual’s soul, which is ever perfect regardless of how loathsome his egoistic expression. By scorning a fellow being, one demeans his own soul’s forbearing nature and subjects himself to the scrutiny of the tribunal of his conscience and its records of his many regrettable failings. It would be a humbling, if not horrific, experience if one had to face an archival reading of the shames in all of his past incarnations. The merciful God has forgiven so much in every man who is consciously struggling toward the light of wisdom; it is the awakening nobility of the soul that likewise feels patience rather than contempt for others whose actions show no such awakening.

Further, anyone who calls another a “fool” shall himself suffer from the fire of ignorance. Ignorance is hell, as it engenders all manner of evil and burns away wisdom. True knowledge and wisdom are the source of salvation from the miseries of the human condition. To inhibit the potential unfoldment of anyone’s soul wisdom by a strong suggestion of ineptness is to do them a great wrong. Negating anyone’s will and branding the subconscious mind with defeatist thoughts of inferior abilities is reprehensible. To foster in anyone an attitude of surrender to ignorance sets in motion the lawful principle that to pull down another human being is a sin that puts oneself “in danger of hell fire” – the fire of ignorance that consumes one’s own spiritual merit in the act of willfully demoralizing, humiliating, or denigrating another person.

It is plain that Jesus spoke figuratively in his reference to hellfire*. He did not mean that the omnipresent God of love has created leaping tongues of fire in a hell at some point of space to burn the disembodied souls of sinners, rife with bad karma. The Heavenly Spirit who is the Father of all human children could not possibly roast them alive forever because they made some temporary mistakes during their sojourn on earth.”

-Paramhansa Yogananda (The Second Coming of Christ)

*The concept of eternal damnation in hellfire, as in orthodox interpretations, is not supported in this verse or elsewhere in the New Testament. The word used for “hell” in the original Greek of the Gospel is : Gehenna, from Hebrew : Ge Hinnom, the valley of Hinnom southwest of Jerusalem, where children were formally burned as living sacrifices to the Ammonite god Moloch (2 Chronicles 28:3; Jeremiah 7:31-21). In Jesus’ time, according to Biblical historians, the valley was used as a dump for the filth of the city, where continual fires were kept to consume it – “a place,” according to commentator John Gill, “whose fire was never quenched; and in which they burned the bones of any thing that was unclean, and dead carcasses, and other pollutions.” The name was thus commonly used by the Jews to denote the after-death realm of punishment. Encyclopedia Britannica states about Gehenna : “Mentioned several times in the New Testament (e.g., Matthew, Mark, Luke, and James) as a place in which fire will destroy the wicked, it also is noted in the Talmud, a compendium of Jewish law, lore, and commentary, as a place of purification, after which one is released from further torture.”

Note that the valley of Gehenna/Hinnom, where these fires were perpetuating burning in Jesus’ time sound very similar to the burning ghats of India, where dead bodies are burned ceremonially, as a spiritual purification and their souls are thus freed from bodily consciousness.

Also note that the valley of Gehenna/Hinnom was previously the place where children were offered as living sacrifices to the god Moloch. Thus, the place was defiled and came to be known as a symbolic ‘hell’.

Ancient cult offering living children as human sacrifices to god Moloch

Today, there still exists a Satanic cult to Moloch that sacrifices children and operates in elite levels of politics, government, Vatican, Hollywood, ect.. notice how these same corrupt people, corporations and special interest groups use racism to continually & systematically downpress and suppress the people of God. Especially the black peoples of the earth. Jesus was black, maybe the Jewish and Roman elites even called him ‘Raca’??

🤔🤔

One of the oldest paintings of Yahshua the Christ

Hindu Influences on Rastafari

There is only one Jah, one God with Infinite Names.

Aristotle referred to the Ethiopians as a people of both Kush (Africa) & Sind (India).. Queen of Sheba ruled over the land of Sheba/Shiva/Saba.. the indigenous traditions of the Sabians was ancient African Shiva & Shakti worship.

To overstand the issue with iconography verses idolatry one must know the difference between a graven image & sacred murti, the ancient Egyptians had a similar practice as Hindus when they would designate specific icons for temple worship and a ritual is performed where the breath of God/Life is breathed into the icon and thus the image becomes a living deity… that being said.. when Yeshua went to India, he learned about the sacred science behind murtis, mandalas, Hindu & Buddhist symbolism and yantras, mantras and pujas BUT he also saw the corruption of the caste system & how the elite class of Brahman priests and people in general would worship and lavish great riches and honor to their stone icons but treat their fellow brothers & sisters like animals or worse.. thus Yeshua preached a razor edge distinction regarding this.. and emphasized to the people that the real deity to be worshipped is within the heart of all living beings.. the so-called low caste folks (Dravidians aka Lost Tribes of Israel) loved Saint Issa, as they called him in the East, but the elites didn’t like what he was preaching at all (threatening their hierarchy of power), and the story goes that then Yeshu had to flee from some of these areas of India to the Himalayas and stay with some Buddhist monks whom agreed with his teachings on rejecting the caste system. These stories can be found in The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, The Christ of India & various other manuscripts that have been hidden & repressed for centuries. The secret archives of the Vatican has several of these various manuscripts as well as ancient icons/murtis of these connections and sadly many of these manuscripts were destroyed in the 2 worst literary holocausts in history.. the burning of the library of Alexandria & the burning of the Saint Thomas Christian’s library in India, both burned down by the Roman Catholic Church.

When Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia was gifted with a Ramayana by an Indian sannyasi, he smiled, and said they were all descendants of Lord Rama. He explained how the Ethiopians are called as Cushites, or coming down from Kusha, a son of Rama. The country is called Kushadwip, or the land of the son of Rama.

Ethiopians admit their ancestor as Kush, and they quote the Biblical story of Cush being a son of Ham (a phonetic misnomer of Ram). This only confirms to the widespread influence of Ramayana, even in a land that is 3000 miles away from the mainland of India.

Kemetic Yoga is the OG Sanatan Dharma brought from Ancient Kush (Ethiopia) to Ancient Sind (India) by the Dravidians in the first major human migrations out of Africa, and they founded the Indus Valley Culture & city of Harappan (Hara is a name of Shiva & Pan is an archetypal god often linked to Shiva) which was one of the most advanced in the ancient world, later it was the Aryans from the north that brought in many new ideas and later subjugated the Dravidians with the caste system. The Dravidians were mostly agricultural people who worshipped the Mother Goddess & Pushupati (Lords of the Animals) aka Shakti & Shiva in their indigenous African-Dravidian forms similar to the ancient traditions of the land of Kush/Saba/Sheba/Shiva but the Aryans were hunter/gatherers & would invade and conquer wherever they went, their pantheon was more War gods & Sky Gods like Indra and Surya.. these two traditions were eventually synthesized / merged to form modern Hindu religion. But the true mystical path of Sanatan Dharma is what the Sadhus (Holy Men) & Rastafari trod.. the lifestyle and consciousness of the Natural Mystic as Buddha, Krishna & Yahshua the Christ taught us.

Watch Yogiraj speak on his rare meeting with Haile Selassie I after his supposed death :

Read about the how the Ancient Hebrews worshipped Shiva here.

Leonard Howell also known as Gong Gang Guru Maharaj aka The First Rasta

Read this thesis paper on the “Hindu Influences on Rastafari” for more relevant information about Leonard Howell’s influences on Rastafari and his connection to Hindu ideas and traditions.

Blessed are the Peacemakers commentary by Paramhansa Yogananda

Blessed are the peacemakers : for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

They are the real peacemakers who generate peace from their devotional practice of daily meditation. Peace is the first manifestation of God’s response in meditation. Those who know God as Peace in the inner temple of silence, and who worship that Peace-God therein, are by this relationship of divine communion His true children.

Having felt the nature of God as inner peace, devotees want the Peace-God to be always manifest in their home, in the neighborhood, in the nation, among all nationalities and races. Anyone who brings peace to an inharmonious family has established God there. Anyone who removes the misunderstanding between souls has united them in God’s peace. Anyone who, forsaking national greed and selfishness, works to create peace amidst warring nations, is establishing God in the heart of those nations. The initiators and facilitators of peace manifest the unifying Christ-love that identifies a soul as a child of God.

“Son of God” consciousness makes one feel love for all beings. Those who are God’s true children cannot feel any difference between an Indian, American, or any other nationality or race. For a little while immortal souls are garbed in white, black, brown, red, or olive-colored bodies. Are people looked upon as variously foreign when they wear different colored clothes? No matter what one’s nationality or the color of his body, all of God’s children are souls. The Father recognizes no man-made designation; He loves all, and His children must learn to live in that same consciousness. When man confines his identity to his clannish human nature, it gives rise to unending evils and the specter of war.

Human beings have been given potentially limitless power, to prove that they are indeed the children of God. In such technologies as the atomic bomb we see that unless man uses his powers rightly, he will destroy himself. The Lord could incinerate this earth in a second if He lost patience with His erring children, be He doesn’t. And as He would never misuse His omnipotence, so we, being made in His image, must also behave like gods and conquer hearts with the power of love, or humanity as we know it will surely perish. Man’s power to make war is increasing; so must his ability to make peace. The best deterrent against the threat of war is brotherhood, the realization that as God’s children we are one family.

Anyone who stirs up strife among brother nations under the guise of patriotism is a traitor to his divine family – a faithless child of God. Anyone who keeps family members, neighbor, or friends fighting through fostering falsehoods and gossip, or who is in any way a maker of disturbance, is a desecrator of God’s temple of harmony.

Christ and the great ones have given the recipe for peace within and among individuals and nations. How long man has lived in the darkness of misunderstanding and ignorance of those ideals. The true Christ-method of living can banish human conflicts and the horror of war and bring about peace and understanding on earth; all prejudices and enmities must fall away. That is the challenge placed before those who would be the peacemakers of God.

-The Second Coming of Christ by Paramhansa Yogananda

(Read the entire chapter for the complete commentary of the entire Beatitudes of Christ)

Jesus in India?

The spiritual training of Jesus

In India the masters initiated Jesus into yoga and the highest spiritual life, giving him the spiritual name “Isha,” which means Lord, Master, or Ruler, a descriptive title often applied to God. It is also a title of Shiva. The masters also instructed Jesus in the form his spiritual teachings should take and the specific yogic practices that should be given to his disciples. It was also decided that one of those disciples should be sent to India for the identical spiritual empowerment and instruction that was being imparted to Jesus. For some time Jesus meditated in a cave north of the present-day city of Rishikesh, one of the most sacred locales of India. In the years He spent in the Himalayas, He attained the supreme heights of realization. To augment the teachings he had received in the Himalayas, Jesus was sent to live in Benares, the sacred city of Shiva.

The worship of Shiva centered in the form of the natural elliptical stone known as the Shiva Linga (Symbol of Shiva) was a part of the spiritual heritage of Jesus, for His ancestor Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation, was a worshipper of that form. The Linga which he worshipped is today enshrined in Mecca within the Kaaba. The stone, which is black in color, is said to have been given to Abraham by the Archangel Gabriel, who instructed him in its worship. Such worship did not end with Abraham, but was practiced by his grandson Jacob, as is shown in the twenty-eighth chapter of Genesis. Unwittingly, because of the dark, Jacob used a Shiva Linga for a pillow and consequently had a vision of Shiva standing above the Linga which was symbolically seen as a ladder to heaven by means of which devas (shining ones) were coming and going. Recalling the devotion of Abraham and Isaac, Shiva spoke to Jacob and blessed him to be an ancestor of the Messiah. Upon awakening, Jacob declared that God was in that place though he had not realized it. The light of dawn revealed to him that his pillow had been a Shiva Linga, so he set it upright and worshipped it with an oil bath, as is traditional in the worship of Shiva, naming it (not the place) Bethel: the Dwelling of God. (In another account in the thirty-fifth chapter, it is said that Jacob “poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.” This, too, is a traditional form of worship and offering.) From thenceforth that place became a place of pilgrimage and worship of Shiva in the form of the Linga stone. Later Jacob had another vision of Shiva, Who told him: “I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me” (Genesis 31:13). A perusal of the Old Testament will reveal that Bethel was the spiritual center for the descendants of Jacob, even above Jerusalem.

Although this tradition of Shiva [Linga] worship has faded from the memory of the Jews and Christians, in the nineteenth century it was evidenced in the life of the stigmatic Anna Catherine Emmerich, an Augustinian Roman Catholic nun. On several occasions when she was deathly ill, angelic beings brought her crystal Shiva Lingas which they had her worship by pouring water over them. When she drank that water she would be perfectly cured. Furthermore, on major Christian holy days she would have out-of-body experience in which she would be taken to Hardwar, a city sacred to Shiva in the foothills of the Himalayas, and from there to Mount Kailash, the traditional abode of Shiva, which she said was the spiritual heart of the world.

– See more at: http://www.ocoy.org/original-christianity/the-christ-of-india/#sthash.jU1uzwSk.dpuf

Many Faces Many Names (Official Music Video)

Backstory: We wrote and released this song over 11 years ago.. it became and continues to be one of our fans and friends favorites. Recently, B-Still and I were together in Bloomington, Indiana where we met and originally wrote and recorded the song.. and decided to shoot a video for our underground classic. We selected several spiritual destinations in “Btown” and Gabriel Lantz shot the footage. Yamily Creative Company edited the video and Chip Reardin, the original producer of the song, Re-Mastered the track as well. Enjoy! Namaste!


I am the One with Many Faces & Many Many Names,

God & Goddess in the hearts that flame,

The rain, the sun, the stars and the moon,

The earth and universe, the song and the tune.

(Verse 1 – Sakshi Zion)

I Am That I Am, the light, shining bright tonight

Like the fire of Yahweh before Moses at Sinai

The burning bush, Ganja, Holy Marijuana

There’s a natural mystic blowing thru the air, Oh Jah

Heartbeats of freedom, Buddha, Bodhisattva Zen,

I’mma climbin Jacob’s ladder to the highest heaven,

to the palace within, I sip the chalice again,

on my flyin carpet Iyah soar Himalayan Mountains

(Chorus)

(Verse 2 – B-Still)

They call me Buddha when they know that money isn’t true worth,

they call me the Great Spirit when they can feel me from the earth,

they call me Apollo when they follow me to the west,

call me Jesus in the Middle East, that’s where you know me best,

call me the effect of drugs, when they only feel me shroomin,

call me their soulmate when they see me in a human,

call me the Self of all things when you see things clearly..

It don’t matter what you call me, as long as you can hear me.

(Verse 3 – Sakshi Zion)

I am the one in Kailash, where I smoke ganja

With my coiled dreadlocks dat dem call Jata

They call me Shiva, in Meditation,

I have been that I Am from Creation,

to the zenith of the One, all my relations,

Aho Mitakyasin to all the nations

They call me Krishna Kokopeli with the magic flute

The Kabbalic Tree of Life, with everlasting fruits

They call me Bacchus, Dionysus, got the wine of bliss,

intoxicated circle dance with the flower goddesses,

they call me Isis, Mother Mary, the Magdalene,

the Queen, Triple Goddess, Gaia Earth so Green,

they call me Allah, the Great and Powerful Source,

Kundalini Shakti coiling serpent force,

they call me Rastafari, the King of Kings

Bhakti Yoga is the path, see me dance and sing ahhh

(Chorus & instrumental solo)

(Verse 4 – B-Still)

If I came as a blind man, would you hold my hand?

If I came as animal, would you protect my land?

If I came as the tree, would you cut me down?

And if I came as the rain, would you thank me now?

I come in Rainbows, not jus one single color

So when I come in another race, will you still see me as your brother?

If I said it was you, would you stop searching for me?

I’m what you close your eyes and feel, not what you think you see

They call me 99 names cause you can only describe me,

said I had 1000 yes, Infinity you’ll find me,

call me Keeli-Ana-Kulu-Kulu if you a Zulu

Under the Bodhi tree, like the Buddha I school you

(Verse 5 – Sakshi Zion)

I Am the Omkar, The Primordial Sound

Look Around, I Surround, You’re on Holy Ground

They call me Shanti, Shalom, Pax & Peace

Zion Temple of Love, I Am the High Priest

Emmanuel, Melchizedek, Avilokateshwar

Medicine Buddha and the Green Tara

I Am the whisper of the wind and the ocean’s wave

Jah Redemption call, knowledge of Self that saves

Yeshua Kristos, Haile Selassie I

I Am the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Baraka Kirtan – The Art of Spirituality

Baraka Kirtan – The Art of Spirituality (revised)

by Antonya Wallace (Anth-E200) 12/7/2010

Introduction: Baraka: a blessing, the essence of life, soul power. It’s a Thursday night, and while most people are headed out to the bars, I’m making my way across town to Sakshi’s house to sit in during a Baraka Kirtan performance. Kirtan is an ancient Indian tradition based on Bhakti Yoga, which uses music and chanting as an avenue to spiritual enlightenment. As I enter the house the smell of roasting vegetables, marijuana, and halava fills my nose. I later learned that food is almost always present and sanctified so that it can be offered to God. They believe that when one eats sanctified food, that the food purifies the soul. Since Kirtan has roots in India there isn’t any beef (or any meat for that matter) being served, due to their animals sacred role in India. Yet, not all Kirtankars (one who practices/performs Kirtan) are vegetarian. It just happened that everyone in attendance tonight was. Another thing that everyone shares is the use of marijuana, which is smiled upon, as it is believed to promote enlightenment, drive the music, and as an added benefit, make the food taste even more divine. Smoking was also used socially to bring everyone together to prepare for the beginning of the ceremony. I was only there to observe so I did not enhance my chances of enlightenment.

I thought it was important to note that as I entered the room; warm faces, hugs, and a plate of food greeted me. That hospitality was due in part because Sakshi used to be my neighbor and he was the first person I met when I moved to Bloomington. But the royal treatment wasn’t reserved just for ex-neighbors. As I sat watching I noticed that the Kirtan community is open and loving to everyone. As each person entered Sakshi’s house they were greeted by first name, a hug, food, and an offer to play music. I decided that I would not participate in the event so that I could have an etic point of view. I pulled up a chair slightly to the side of the group and began my observations. The heavy smell of incense being burned drowned out the colorful smells of food and ganja.

I really enjoyed the scent of the incense so after the event I asked what it was. To my astonishment it was part of another practice that I was completely oblivious to. “Agnihotra is a Vedic yajna and involves the burning of cow dung and ghee butter in an inverted copper pyramid at dusk and dawn precisely, while chanting Vedic mantras. Properly performed, this ritual according to the Vedic tradition brings about enormous healing and purification of the environment. The Agnihotra is a powerful yajna that in my experience brings about a deep sense of peace. This 5-minute process feels like coming out of an hour of meditation. It’s a grounding practices and assists in uncovering the real Self, hidden underneath all of the mental chatter. The fact that the dung of the cow is such an important part of this process is really significant given the way this culture brutalizes and tortures these sacred creatures” (ecovillage.wordpress.com). It seems that this practice speaks to the Kirtan community’s “love-all” mentality.

I learned that it was a good practice to do the Agnihotra before the real ceremony began, so that everything is cleansed. I learned, “The rites of the Morning-Agnihotra are almost the same as the rites of the Evening-Agnithotra; but, in many instances, the formulas uttered by the Adhvaryu or the Sacrificer are different” (Paul-Emile Dumont). I was only there for the evening Agnihotra so I cannot compare the differences with the morning ritual.

As the musicians began to take their seats, they ditched their shoes and sat in a semi-circle. The audience comprised the other half of the circle, therefore creating an atmosphere for the call and response style of the music. The simple act of sitting on the ground in a circle is an example of universal primitive behavior. Speaking generally, almost all ancient human groups have sat communally in circles during gatherings. Circular shaped atmospheres bring the listeners directly into the experience. They stop being just listeners, and become participants. The circle encourages each person to look into another’s eyes as they are beckoned to respond to the singer’s calls.

Each “Baba” grabbed their respective instrument; Sakshi Gopal Das on the harmonium, Arun Baba on the bansuri (a type of wooden flute), Zen-G on the guitar, and Ras D Hanubaba on percussion instruments, including the tabla, mridanga, djembe, and kartals. Kirtan events can be played in any musical style with any instrumentation. Baraka Kirtan chooses to stick with more traditional instrumentation on most nights. They also perform many different styles on their CD. Some of those styles include non-traditional instruments such as, electric guitars, bass, drums sets, and digital voice alterations. The style that they choose for each performance is generally based off of their mood that day.

The music begins and the first song (always) is Hare Krishna. Hare is the feminine energy of God, and Krishna means “all attractive one”. During the opening song, “a simple melody is repeated many times at continuously faster tempos and greater volumes until a climax is reached, at which point the whole process may begin again with either the same or a new melody…commonly a line of melody was first sung responsorily four times – leader, chorus, leader, chorus – before proceeding to the next line of the melody… [then] the whole procedure would start over…but at an increased tempo” (Slawek 80). Tonight’s leader, Sakshi sang,

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna

Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama

Rama Rama Hare Hare

The, the audience, some with eyes closed, some staring, some praying, would all participate on during the response. Everyone was completely indulged in their own self-awareness and spiritual being. The sound of all the voices in unison had a surprisingly rich tone. It was nice to be at a ceremony where everyone felt the freedom of creativity and experimented with harmonies, and adding their own flares to each response. The allowance of creativity offers everyone a unique personal experience for his or her spirituality. In some instances if the audience is really enjoying the performance, “The chorus of talkaris (kirtan) often interrupts the kirtankar’s sermon with the singing of a topically relevant abhanga and may take over the performance of a song that a kirtankar has begun. In fact, a warkari kirtankar can easily deliver an entire kirtan and only sing a few solo lines of the song” (Shultz 309). Since Indiana doesn’t have a very large Hare Krishna movement going on underground…Sakshi was more than welcome to solo until the cows (who weren’t eaten J) came home.

Main Argument: While I sat there watching everyone divulge all their energy into devotion through song, I found myself wondering why a genre of music that provides so much peace to people is not more mainstream. In fact, I can’t recall a time that I’ve ever heard Kirtan music on the radio, except when Sakshi would call me and tell me to tune it to Bloomington’s public radio station when Baraka Kirtan was playing.

Sakshi said that Kirtan is actually becoming a new genre in popular music, whereas before it was seated in the world music category. It seems that Kirtan’s growing popularity is due to its message of love, peace, and self-awareness; which can be contrasted by the mind numbingly idiotic music blaring on B97.7 day and day out.

I don’t want to come across as a racist person but I did notice that everyone in attendance (with the exception of me) was Caucasian, and none of us were from India. So my research question would have to be, How did an Indian tradition that’s not very well known, become a subculture in the United States? What makes this music more popular than other forms of world music?

Theory: Those who practice Kirtan disregard arbitrary attributes such as gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion. Kirtan is a catalyst to deeper spiritual awakening. People are instantly drawn to the ideology of togetherness that Kirtan offers. While most religions in our society offer a “Get Saved or Burn for Eternity” methodology, Kirtan’s job is to improve each person’s relationship with their own spiritual power.

Unlike most organized religions in the world, which ask you to abandon any other religious beliefs that may conflict with their doctrines, Kirtan lets you keep any, and all your beliefs. The point of Kirtan is to deepen your own spiritual awareness, in order to facilitate a deeper understanding of the spirit, self, and even other religions. It seems that since Kirtan offers such a contrast to more popular well-known religions like Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, etc…that people are also attracted just to get a taste of something new. Kirtan differs from other world religions in that they have never gone on some “convert or die” crusade. Instead of seeking out new members, they let the members seek them out, and then welcome them into their community with open arms. This method of gaining followers actually appears to have gained more devoted participants because each person is expected to find their own path into the Kirtan realm. If you want to become a part of the Kirtan community you have to make an effort to do so, unlike getting saved at a Baptist church which could be likened to going through a “McSalvation” drive through. Literally, anyone could walk into a church at any time and get saved, as many times as they want…without any real impact on their spiritual receptiveness.

Kirtan offers a tailored experience to each person. The natural feel of Kirtan takes away the hierarchal feel of organized religion. For example, the musicians take off their shoes before they play, everyone sits on the floor together, and shares food. It seems that those actions level the playing field between audience and performer, devotee and sit in, old and young, etc. Other factors that attract people to Kirtan are their love of the environment and preservation of ancient practices.

In the days when going to church has become “the thing to do” and if you don’t then you’re damned, people miss out on a real and physical connection with their spirit. From what I’ve seen many people just go to church to maintain their reputation, or they go but don’t practice what is preached. Churches have become kind of like fast food chains, in that they cater to the masses instead of the individual. The strength of major world religions seems to lie solely in the number of followers as opposed to the devotional strength of said followers. To see devoted followers, head over to a Kirtan event. Before going to the event I had no clue why it was growing, but now I understand that the personalized feel and unique musical styles is driving it to become a more prevalent part of our society (and most likely, many others).

Methodology: Being in such a laid back atmosphere, I thought it most appropriate to just jot down a few notes here and there, and casually start conversations. I began by asking Sakshi what Kirtan means to him. I used the genealogical method in a very loose sense so that I could get a grasp on which he learned from, since he was not born into the community. He actually mentioned that he thought it was a bit funny that here are four Caucasian men observing an Indian tradition, and really using it as a way of life. They have at times been misunderstood, but they simply just want to respect and enjoy the aspects of another culture.

I only observed during the event so as to remain neutral to my experience. We also met at Laughing Planet one day so that he could clarify the words of the songs for me. After talking to an insider, I thought I would interview someone who had no previous knowledge of Kirtan. I talked to Samy Estrada, who gave me her brief thoughts on the atmosphere and preaching of Kirtan. Since she was unable to actually attend the event with me, I asked her to watch one of Baraka Kirtan’s online performances. Since she is also a dancer I asked her to describe the music. She said, “the instrumentation was really unique, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought that it might be kind of lame because it was just acoustic instruments; but toward the end when they picked up the tempo it really got funky! They have a really cool message too” (Estrada)!

The rest of my research was done on www.BarakaVision.com, the band’s official website. I used this page to access the band member’s bios, mission statement, and preferred instruments. I also read a few articles on www.jstor.org so that I could read about Kirtan from an Ethnomusicologist’s and Ethnographer’s point of view. These pages gave me insight into more of the cultural implications and history than I could have gained in personal interviews. I couldn’t find much information about Agnihotra so I used www.google.com which led me to a brief review on ecovillage.wordpress.com about the book “How to Save the World”, by Peter Proctor, a biodynamic farmer.

Data Analysis: First, I needed to satisfy my curiosity about how Sakshi even got involved with the Hare Krishna movement. He said, “I was attracted to it years ago due to its instrumentation; especially the sound of the harmonium (which looks like a Dr. Seuss instrument), the message, and the ancient prayers which made me feel in tune with my ancestors” (Sakshi). I accessed his biography on his webpage for more insight on his background. “he lived and studied with many Elders and Mystics (including Ras Pidow, Dr. James E Mumford, Srila Turiya Das Mahasaya and more). Lived and studied at several Ashrams, Temples, and Binghi Camps across North America, Jamaica, Hawaii, and India. In the summers of 2002 and 2003 he traveled across N. America with a traveling cultural festival called “The Festival of India” in which he was a main contributor of set-up and break-down, cultural plays, food distribution, chariot-parading, and sacred chanting. He has been in several musical projects, including: Baraka Kirtan, Santos and the Saints, The Nyahbinghi Livity Choir, Indiana University African American Choral Ensemble, Kuru Dynasty, La Onda, Roots Groundation Family, Parrhesia and more” (BarakaVision.com). I thought that his eclectic musical diversity alone spoke to his openness to new cultures and creativity. If we use Sakshi as an example of the average practitioner of Kirtan, we can see how interesting and appealing the community is. As a side note, he also told me that he does not adhere to any organized religion. But he also does not judge or discriminate anyone based on his or her personal religious choices. His opinion is that people have their own path to embark on to find spiritual peace.

What Sakshi and the Kirtan movement do not do is tell people that they need to submit to their code or way of life. Their message is one of understanding and compassion. In Kirtan, God appears in many forms and usually his/her appearance is different to each person, because God can have an infinite amount of forms. In Kirtan, God can manifest as any deity such as, Krishna, Ram, Shiva, Ganesha, Kali, and many more. These deities share similarities with, and are usually connected to Catholic Saints. To communicate with the deities, they use music, which can be in any genre, just like God can appear in any shape. The musical style creates an openness, connectedness, and receptiveness, among each person’s spirit as they sit in the circle. Just like the participants, each song as a different flavor and mood. To connect with the gods they try to achieve spiritual awakening. Though the Kirtan spiritual awakening may be called different things, spirit of devotion, divine connection, right brained experience, or spiritual openness, these things seem to be held as a common intention to the band members.

Another common intention among the band members is to maintain old practices, like call and response. Samy’s reaction to the call and response aspect of the event was that it was reminiscent of tribal chanting (the band’s desired affect). She also thought the music was calming and soft, until the tempo picked up and it got intense. But this particular event that she saw was calmer than others because it did not use any electric instruments, which are more stimulating to the listener than acoustic ones. She also noticed that each person seemed to be in their own world, yet at the same time connected to everyone in the room. It was almost like Sakshi’s calls put everyone in to a trance, and they could only come out of it by singing the response.

I found that their website was extremely useful for bios and band info. I chose to focus primarily on Sakshi because he is my closest friend out of all the band members. But I did make sure to look at everyone else’s bio and they proved to each have completely different yet extraordinarily interesting backgrounds. It’s compelling to see that people from such different roads can all meet in the middle and work toward a common goal of harmony. Some of the ways that the band members spread peace when they’re not performing is Story Time Yoga, a group started by Sakshi, which incorporates yoga into fairy tales. Ras D likes to change the environment by teaching sustainable farming to Bloomington’s Community. With Kirtan the sky is the limit on creatively spreading the word of peace, harmony, and love.

Conclusion: Unlike other world religions Kirtan offers more than just a guide for living which can be summed up by the golden rule. The Hare Krishna movement brings entire communities of varied people together to function as one spritual entity. Kirtan allows each person to find their own path and use Kirtan as a means to help them spread love and harmony in whatever way they choose. For example, Sakshi’s yoga, and Ras D’s farming; they are each doing what they love to do, while weaving in Kirtan to spread a message.

The beauty of Kirtan is that while it is a deeply personal experience it is also very communal. The participation of the person sitting next to you, chanting, and playing music will directly affect your experience, and vice versa. The “primitiveness” of it makes the participants feel as though they have just relived something that their ancestors probably did long ago. As the tempo speeds up, so does the heart beato f all those involved. The music literally seems to pull your body toward the instruments. Everyone in the room seems to into a spiritual trance, as they slowly forget all the hardships in life outside the Kirtan room. When I was there, I wasn’t even participating but I found that instead of thinking about my bills, homework, exams, or life drama, I was just focused on the rhythm of the drums pulsating through my body. It was as if my brain turned off, and I didn’t have a choice, it was time to meditate.

Kirtan offers an authentic feeling of togethness that people usually do not get from day to day living. After the event eveyone kind of looks around smiling, like “now what?”. In such a short time they ate, smoked, chanted, blessed, meditated, and laughed together. I can truly say that I understand now why Kirtan is becoming so popular. It is a message that can virtually be played with any instruments, in and setting, and any time. Most importantly I found out that it can be played by anyone of any color or creed, etc…as long as they embody the message of love.

Since Kirtan is so musically amorphous it appeals to a broad audience of musical tastes and can easily become a tool for social change. “[It] is an especially effective meduim for the propegation of nationalist ideas because of its devotionalized context and Kirtan music’s potential for group participation, experiences of emboiment, and multiple interpretive possibilites” (Shultz 307).

After doing this Project I think that I have learned that Kirtan has the potential to create strong and loving leaders, who don’t adhere to social convictions of discrimination. In Kirtan you can come from any background because the importance rests in the spiritual world instead of the physical. Hopefully the Hare Kirshna movement will continue to spread, and add much needed harmony to the crazy world we’re all living in.

Works Cited :

Hindu Nationalism, Music, and Embodiment in Marathi Rāshṭrīya Kīrtan

Anna Schultz

Ethnomusicology

Vol. 46, No. 2 (Spring – Summer, 2002), pp. 307-322

Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of Society for Ethnomusicology

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/852784

Moi. “Cow Dung and It’s Many Wonderful Properties « EARTHKEEPIN.” EARTHKEEPIN. 27 Sept. 2007. Web. 02 Dec. 2010. <http://ecovillagelife.wordpress.com/2007/09/27/cow-dung-and-its-many-wonderful-properties/>.

The Agnihotra (Or Fire-God Oblation) in the Taittirīya-Brāhmaṇa: The First Prapāṭhaka of the Second Kāṇḍa of the Taittirīya-Brāhmaṇa with Translation

Paul-Emile Dumont

Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society

Vol. 108, No. 4 (Aug. 27, 1964), pp. 337-353

Published by: American Philosophical Society

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/985912

Popular Kīrtan in Benares: Some ‘Great’ Aspects of a Little Tradition

Stephen M. Slawek

Ethnomusicology

Vol. 32, No. 2 (Spring – Summer, 1988), pp. 77-92

Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of Society for Ethnomusicology

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/852037

Wind, Arun B., Sakshi G. Das, Ras D. Hanubaba, and Zen G. “Divine Music”. Baraka Kirtan – Divine Music. DigitalNature, 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 04 Nov. 2010.

Baraka : From the Experiential to the Analytical

Baraka : From the Experiential to the Analytical

by Aaron Pollitt, (IU Folk 450) 4/23/10

It has often been the case that an ethnographer with the intention of developing their analytical and academic understanding will enter and immerse themselves within a culture, in order to gain an experience of it from the inside. In my case this is rather the opposite. I am a member of the band Baraka, and for the past year or so I have been the flamboyant, joyous, flute player and member of this band. I have immersed myself in a melting pot of ecstatic chanting, cultural co-creation, divine connections, and holistic exploration. I have traveled with this group to many interesting places, made many amazing friends, and felt an awesome sense of spiritual development within myself. This has been a profound and wonderful experience in my life, and my desire to enhance my abilities and participation within it has steadily been growing. In the creation of this document, I have set myself to the task of gaining a deeper understanding of this experience of Baraka. I am stepping out of the role of band member and friend, and taking on the role of the researcher and ethnographer. I am looking back at this band with my analytical mind, from a prospective that I had up until now, largely left alone. Through interviews with the band members and its affiliates, and comparisons to other studies of spiritual music and culture, I attempt to develop an understanding of what Baraka is, what effect the music has on its listeners and members, how Baraka fits in to the greater American culture, what Baraka and its members hold as their intention, and why they are using the methods they are. After answering these questions, I hope to step back into the role of band member with a greater ability to both experience this musical cultural process and participate in this co-creation.

The official members of Baraka consist of 4 young white males, native to Indiana. The members have all come from a relatively mainstream American upbringing, which is a stark contrast to the identity and style which they are now embodying. The band comes together to form a kind of spiritual and cultural anomaly, or phenomena within a greater culture. It acts as a bridge between mainstream America and an ancient Vedic tradition reaching back some 3000 years ago in India. “Yes, were all white and American, but we look for our identity outside of our culture. We are privileged, so we have the opportunity to do this. We happen to be white, but we are trying to represent different cultures.” (Ras-D, interview). The band Baraka is a bit hard to classify, as it is rather dynamic in its identity. The main musical style of the band is known as Kirtan. Kirtan is a form of devotional communal chanting sung in Sanskrit to the Hindu gods and goddesses. Along with this however, the band also plays Reggae, Nyabinghi chants, Hip Hop, Rock, New Age spiritual folk songs, improvisational instrumentals, and many fusions of these different styles. With all these different possibilities for style one may think that the band would be very scattered, but interestingly the underlying feeling and direction of their performance seems to be relatively the same. “Baraka is a hard working band that is unified in its intent of artistic effort towards a spiritual end.” (Bamboo Steve, Interview). The performance of this band is held as highly valuable and important to the band members. The development of this performance is given great attention during practices and shows for a few reasons. Certainly it seems to be the selling point of the band, the reason that they are seen as valuable to potential listeners and venues, but the band also takes a great deal of pride in their ability to create a very attractive performance. “This is largely about co-creation of a story, immersing people in another world that they aren’t used to or aware of, it’s the mythic and the mystic, it’s the the foreign, the colorful and the ancient” (Sakshi Interview). This development and structuring of the performance is very specific. It’s not everything all at once but rather carefully selected stories and styles used to create an atmosphere that is most attractive, and immersive to those listening. “It’s like getting into these epic stories of where things all came from. Taking ourselves back to a very simple time. These songs are so simple and often we don’t even understand most of the lyrics. It brings us into a Turning off of our analytical minds.“ (Zen –G, interview). “This is very primordial, many of these elements have been with humanity forever, communal chanting, deities, sacramentals, and ritual are part of our human story, but it’s very new and fresh, to our American culture” (Sakshi, interview). The band gives focus to connecting to that which is part of human history, trying to recreate a feeling of the lifestyle from long ago. This seems to connect with people on what might be considered an instinctual or intrinsic level, building off the universal similarities in primitive human cultures, and in doing so creating a very natural and welcoming feeling to the performance. In a normal performance the band often takes their shoes off and sits on the ground facing one another. The simple act of sitting on the ground in a circle is an example of this universal primitive human behavior. Most all ancient human groups have sat communally in circles on the earth. Creating this a part of the structure of the performance adds to the intended ancient mystic atmosphere, and brings the listeners directly into that experience so they are more than just listeners, they are participants. The instruments themselves are largely all authentic and traditional in style. They act as center pieces to the performance creating what appears to be an alter on the ground in front of the performers, often decorated by the band members with small figures, gems, feathers, and colorful cloth. The instruments, draw a lot of attention, and are marveled at by the participants. “These is a community of humans that exists across time, These instruments have been worked on over generations for thousands of years, and have been handed down through time and culture to us, they carry in them all this artistry and care and intent” (Bamboo Steve, Interview). Because of this the instruments are seen as having something of a mystical power within themselves much like the instruments described by Sue Carole DeVale in her writing, Power and Meaning in Musical Instruments.

Once the stage is set and the instruments are in place the stories and songs can be brought in to the performance “in the energy of the great figures, be it Yahshua, Krishna, Jah, Buddha, Ganesha, or Bob Marley. These are characters and deities are symbols.” (Sakshi-I interview). These are all highly praised mythic characters, that the band is singing to and telling stories of. They are surrounded in symbology and ritual, some of them are deeply meaningful to of the participants on a very spiritual level, as they may likely have had or a profound connection with such a figure in the past, or at least know of someone who has. The characters most commonly brought up by the band are the Hindu deities. This atmosphere of mystery, story, symbolism and ritual, develops a very spiritually conducive mindset in the listeners. “Baraka makes the Kirtan so delicious that people really do stop. And intentionally or unintentionally become more receptive spiritual entities because of it.” (Bamboo steve, interview). The music has a certain quality about it that causes the listeners to go into a kind of trance, to allow their analytical mind to turn off and for them in that moment to sink into the experience and co creative flow of the music. This seems to be where the greatest power for the band is held, and perhaps their greatest intention. “The Sanskrit term rasa… rasa is a religious sense, a feeling of unity with the world beyond oneself, a transcendental experience induced by an artistic event. From the invoking of indigenous.” (Judith Becker, Tantrism, Rasa, and Javanese Gamelan Music) this Sanskrit concept of rasa seems to have carried over through this musical form and still holds true in this new context of modern day America. This trance like, unified, transcendental state seems to be a common side effect of the Baraka performance. “It’s about the spirit of devotion, unity, the love of story, the love of diversity,” (Sakshi, interview). “The divine connection transcending religious boundaries, coming together as one spirit in celebration, with common intention of co-creation through sound. “ (Ras-D, interview). “The underlying mission of our music is to get us into a Right brained experience, losing ourselves in the joy of creation” (Zen-G, interview). “We play to get ourselves and our listeners into a more spiritually open, receptive, connected state of being.” (Arun Baba, interview). Though it may be called different things, spirit of devotion, divine connection, right brained experience, or spiritual openness, these things seem to be held as a common intention to the band members, and understood that they are using music as vehicle to bring them and the participants into this state of being. “Each song has a different flavor, a different mood. The musical style creates this openness, connection, receptiveness, but the content is what is being opened up to, connected with and received. For example we chant a song to this elephant deity Ganesha, this figure represents beginning, good luck and overcoming obstacles, That is the kind of energy that we open up to and really are able to take in. Kind of like summoning the power of this deity to aide us.” (Arun Baba, interview) The band sees these different deities as symbols of different energies, and chanting their song will bring them that type of energy. There seems to be 2 ways that this is seen. One side sees this as an inwardly psychological change brought on by the action of focusing on a type of energy. The other side sees this as a more outwardly calling of energy, that through focusing on a symbol the associated energy will blessed to them from without. Though these 2 different viewpoints on chanting seem to exist within the band and its following, outcome seems to be entirely the same. Both seem to see the creation of this music as forming a personal relationship with the divine, weather the divine exist within them or without them seems unimportant. “Like trying to join the divine in heavenly song, in a mystical sense, trying create a personal relationship with the divine“ (Bamboo Steve interview). This concept of personal relationship and moving towards union with god seems to be a common on, and is very similar to many Sufi practices as described in the writings of Regula Burckhardt Qureshi, in the article, Sufi music of India and Pakistan.

The experience of Baraka seems to be received with such appreciation and relief by so many of its listeners and participants, as though the experience is greatly healing to them. “There is a need for this in our culture, the simplicity and spiritual drone of this music is something which is obviously missing. Our culture is such like a drive up window culture now now now. There is a profound loss of connection in it.” (Bamboo Steve, Interview). The type of mindset that this music brings about seems to be one that is highly uncommon in the society in which this band exists. The exercise of playing this music is such a contrast to the normal American life that those who practice it seem to do it as a way of healing and balancing themselves. “It’s a daily challenge to get into that. We come from a very the left brained society. How do I bring out my heart, my soul, my spirit, this whole other side of me? I think that’s part of our venture as a band; to strike balance between the analytical and the experiential.” (Zen-G, interview). “Even what we are doing right now (in this interview) is intellectualizing about this, and at a certain point you just have to shut all that off and just experience something. That raw experience is totally different from the concept and its way more fulfilling.” (Zen-G, interview). Some of the band members and followers see the society that they live in as being very spiritually immature, as though it has actually been trying to get rid of spirituality within it’s citizens. “this band is my spiritual outlet, to help me with my emotions, with maintaining my peaceful life, as a way for me to release pent up energy, as a way of healing. (Ras –D, interview). Many see this as something that is actually very rare and difficult to find in this society, so the band members are taking it upon themselves to create it. Though this style of music is relatively unique the intention seems to be very much connected to a broader movement. One of spiritual connection, community, and celebration of diversity, “It’s part of the spiritual consciousness movement, we are trying to embody, and set an example of a healthy, holistic, conscious lifestyle.” (Sakshi, interview) different manifestations of this commonly held intention seem to be popping up everywhere and secretly this is one of the fastest growing social movements there is.” (Arun Baba, interview)

Though the band’s intention seems to be pretty clearly that of creating right brained spiritual experience and connection, they seem to have another very important intention in their music. Through observation and much questioning of the members it seems clear that one of the most foundational concepts that this band bases itself on is the celebration of diversity, and love of culture. It seems that a mission of this group is to aid in breaking down the social boundaries and walls. “Baraka is trying to bridge 2 cultures with art. White American young people backgrounds and playing devotional chant form India. The way it’s played is a fusion, not the music itself, but the place they are playing it. It’s like a translation, Translating Kirtan into American, and making the underlying message accessible to American people.” (Bamboo Steve, Interview) The band sees itself as a cultural bridge, as carrying across valuable cultural experiences and presenting them to the people of this culture, in a way that can be easily understood and accepted. “I love to be able to opens people minds, this is a very mind opening band, open to how other people do things. Cross cultural collision; this is a big part of our country. We represent the essence of this collision, we as a band embrace many cultural elements, and are hoping to embrace more.” (Zen-G, interview) “We want to connect with other cultures and learn from them and share with them, we go in humbleness, We see so much beauty in diversity in other cultures, and we’ll share what we have, but we want to represent these wonderful and powerful stories and styles in an honorable way.” (Sakshi interview). Baraka has a commonly held view point that they are embodying a cultural openness, that diversity is beautiful and ought to be celebrated. Though at first glance Baraka may seem to have the identity of a purely Hindu group, they see themselves as being centered in the celebration of diversity, rather than the celebration of one culture. They believe that it is one of their greatest missions to aid the world in opening its heart and mind to the beauty of diversity, not to hide from it, or try to destroy it, but to celebrate it.

“We are about the essence of life within all religions. The spirit that inspires man to create a religion, people get caught up in the secular and dogmatic, but this is transcendental. We may have leanings towards one or another on a personal level, but this is about the mystical energy, whatever it is. Reggae and Kirtan are our means and they work great, they are beautiful forms of music, but it could be any style and I bet that it will be.” (Sakshi interview) “This is a universal thing, of coming together as community and howling at the moon, just coming together and chanting, is like a universal language. It’s not about which story is true; we accept all these different stories, it’s about the experience of sharing these stories through music.” (Zen- G, interview). This concept that no one story is the true story, that the act of experiencing the stories is what is really important, is at the heart of this band and the movement that they see themselves as being part of. These young men have found the vehicle of music to be the best way for them to spread this message, as it is so present, so mold-able and expressive, it can spread their message of celebration of diversity far and wide while at the same time actually manifesting it in what they are doing.

After a my time of immersion in this experience, and having a vague and dreamy concept of what we are doing as this band, it has been refreshing to take a different prospective on it. I myself I feel much more balanced now in my relationship to Baraka, having fulfilled both my right brains need to experience, and now my left brains need to develop an analytical understanding. I think that I can safely say that I have come to a much more clear understanding. Baraka’s intentions seem clear to me now, spiritual connection, and celebration of diversity through music. We use Kirtan and Reggae as our means because that is what we have come to know, and they seem to do the job very well. We are filling a profound and important niche with our culture and within ourselves. I’m sure there is far more for me to learn and reflect on regarding what this band is and my experience of it. Now with the clarity that I have found I hope to return to this multi-cultural musical conversation, with more strength I had before, and I hope that I can embody my own identity with more certainty as I aid the group in this co-creative process.

Resources :

Harvard University, Center for the Study of world Religions, (Enchanting Powers): Judith Becker, (Tantrism, Rasa, and Javanese Gamelan Music)

Marina Roseman, (Healing Sounds From The Malaysnian Rainforest (Temiar Music and Medicine))

Regula Burckhardt Qureshi, (Sufi music of India and Pakistan)

Sue Carole DeVale, (Power and Meaning in Musical Instruments) 95

Aaron Pollitt Field study, Interview with Steve Pollitt(Bamboo Steve), founder of Hymnosophy, 4/18/10

Aaron Pollitt Field Study, Interview with Baraka member, Sakshi Gopal Das 4/20/10

Aaron Pollitt Field Study, Interview with Baraka Member, Gabriel Lantz (Zen-G) 4/21/10

Aaron Pollitt Field Study, Interview with Baraka Member, Danny Atlas (Ras-D) 4/21/10

Aaron Pollitt Field Study, interview with Baraka Member, (Arun Baba) 4/20/10

Buddhism and Hinduism: The Ancient Connection

A look at the traditions of Mahayana, Pure Land, Tibetan, Theravada and Zen Buddhism in comparison with the Vaishnava traditions of Hindusim and the culture of Krishna and the Bhagavad-gita which points to an ancient connection and irrefutable evidence of pervading theistic practices and traditions within all forms of Buddhism.
Buddhism and Hinduism: The Ancient Connection
By Sakshi Zion (12/10/13)
Thesis: While most people in the West think of Buddhism as an atheistic religion. I intend to show that the traditions of theistic Buddhism as well as non-theistic Buddhism may have closer connections to Hinduism and Buddha’s original teachings than one may recognize at first glance.
Outline
I. Intro: is Buddhism really atheistic?
II. Thesis
III. Connections to Hinduism
IV. Bhagavad-gita
V. Mahayana and Pure Land Buddhism
VI. Theravada and Zen Buddhism
VII. Vaishnavism and Shivaism (Hindusim)
VIII. Tibetan and Nepalese Buddhism
IX. Buddha’s 8-Fold Path & Krishna’s Bhagavad-gita
X. Historic Mathura and Gandara (Vaishnava-Buddhist Cultural Centers)
XI. Conclusion
It is common to think of Buddhism as an atheistic religion. Atheism is the absence of belief in gods, so it is true that many Buddhists are, indeed, atheists. But when comparing the various traditions of Buddhism and its path towards enlightenment with the yogic paths in the Bhagavad Gita, we see something very interesting.
The Buddha of history taught that believing in gods was not necessary for those seeking to realize enlightenment. So, for this reason, Buddhism can be more accurately called non-theistic rather than atheistic. But Buddhism did originate in Hinduism in the land of India, so there were Hindu groups which did associate Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu and some traditions such as Mahayana and Pure Land Buddhism which later developed in Japan and China that continued this theistic belief in God, and yet most people in the West think of Buddhism as an atheistic religion. I intend to show that the traditions of theistic Buddhism as well as non-theistic Buddhism may have closer connections to Hinduism and Buddha’s original teachings than one may recognize at first glance.
The Buddha said that he was not a god, but has “awakened.” Yet throughout Asia it is common to find people praying to the Buddha or to the many mythical figures that populate Buddhist iconography. Pilgrims flock to Stupas that are said to hold relics of the Buddha. Some schools of Buddhism are strongly devotional. Even in the non-devotional schools, such as Theravada or Zen, there are rituals which include bowing, offering food, flowers and incense to a Buddha figure on an altar. There are a lot of obvious similar signs such as this, yet also some deeper historical and theological evidences which can also support this claim.
The Bhagavad Gita is considered the holiest book of Hindusim in most circles and is believed to be uttered by the incarnation of God Himself, Sri Krishna. Krishna illuminates his friend Arjuna with the Supreme Knowledge of Yoga. Many of these philosophical ideas that Krishna shares within become very important in Hindu thought, tradition and rituals, and in turn many of the same concepts and traditions are found to exist within Buddhism too. All of the most essential principles of Bhagavad Gita can be found in some form with the various traditions of Buddhism that later developed. One will see that the idea of enlightenment is very similar to most Buddhist schools of thought, if not the exact same.
Mahayana Buddhism teaches the existence of infinite Buddhas, or incarnations of Lokesvara or the Adi Buddha, who preach the Dharma according to time and circumstance. The Buddha of Theravadin Buddhism is not the same as the Buddha of Mahayana Buddhism. The Buddha of the Theravadin Buddhists has been considered by them to be an ‘awakened’ man, the only Buddha, unique in world history to his time. This Buddha of the Theravadins definitely taught not only atheism, but voidism. However, the Buddha of the Mahayana Buddhists was originally considered to be the latest of infinite incarnations of Lokesvara Buddha, who can be compared to and often worshipped as the same Vishnu of Hindusim. Not only did He teach a transcendental theism, but He was considered to be an incarnation of the ADI BUDDHA Himself, meaning the original Buddha. These Buddhists (Sakyamuni worshipers) were indistinguishable from Hindu sects such as Vaishnavism and Shivaism throughout India, and only became perceived as belonging to a separate religion (Buddhism) as their traditions spread outside of India.
Buddhism is a ultimately a path of “waking up,” or being enlightened, to a reality that is not consciously perceived by most people. In many schools of Buddhism it is understood that Nirvana or enlightenment cannot be conceptualized or explained with words. It must be experienced to be understood. Simply “believing in” enlightenment and nirvana is pointless. For this reason, the Buddha taught his disciples to cultivate devotional and reverential habits of the mind. Thus, devotion is an expression of the virtuous and compassionate principles within Buddhism. Of course, devotion requires an object. In the Bhagavad-Gita Krishna refers to himself as the object of worship and the original Godhead.

“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.”(Bhagavad-Gita 10.8) (Prabhupada, 1984)

Within Mahayana and Pure Land Buddhist tradition there is the theological belief in Buddha as a Deity who gives grace or mercy to his devotees. According to Mahayana Tradition, when the Lord descended as Sakyamuni Buddha, he preached to the humble faithful and to the proud atheists both. They believe in the Adi-Buddha or original Buddha and the ultimate goal of enlightenment is to attain the Pure Land where one can be Buddha-like and live, laugh, dance, eat, play and enjoy with Adi-Buddha, the Godhead Himself.
We know that Buddhism went to Asia and South East Asia to places like China, Japan, Vietnam, Bali, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Tibet. Although Buddhism is considered to have arrived rather late in Tibet, it certainly existed at an early time in Nepal. Tibetan Buddhism is practically identical to Nepalese Buddhism. The Tibetan Buddhists fleeing the Chinese helped easily integrate them into the Mahayana worship communities of Nepal. Despite the ‘mother tongue’ language differences, the Tibetan and Nepalese priests shared the same doctrines, icons, symbols, rites, and Sanskrit as an ancient liturgical language. In fact, Tibetan and Nepalese Buddhism are so similar to, and compatible with Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism in Nepal, that one can frequently see the same devotees worshiping at Vishnu, Shiva, Devi and Buddhist temples and/or shrines, sometimes all in the same day. Many devotees also clearly grasped that these were versions of the same tradition. If one was to go to a vender or business owner in Nepal looking for specific statues of Vishnu, they would likely hand you the corresponding statue of the Buddhist Lokesvara and explain that ‘everyone knows there is no difference…we only make one form of these murtis, and they are used by both the Buddhists and the Hindus. We do not have separate forms of Vishnu to sell to you’. This is very common in Nepal. Clearly one can see how in the places so close to India, where Buddhism was born, the similarities and long-standing traditions of Hinduism pervades most all of Buddhist practices, beliefs and rituals.
For those Theravada and Zen Buddhists who believe Buddha was not a god, why then do they still bow to Buddha-figures? From the influence of tradition and cultural customs one might bow just to show gratitude for the Buddha’s life and practice. But the Buddha figure also represents enlightenment itself and so it can mean many things for different Buddhists. In spite of Sri Lanka’s status as a kind of capital of Theravada Buddhism, there is astounding ancient evidence there of Mahayana Buddhism. For instance, on Wesak, the holy day of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and ‘nirvana’, in the public places and temples all the pilgrims chant Mahayana Buddhist births stories, as well as his enlightenment and death stories. And many of the rituals and practices are filled with Mahayana songs and traditions. You can hardly find a single ‘Theravadin’ temple where the lay Buddhists are not worshiping Buddha according to Mahayana traditions. The point being, that so many of the customs and traditions are remnants or related to the essential truths and teachings of Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita.
The many mystical creatures and beings of the Mahayana Buddhism art and literature are often called “gods” or “deities.” But, again, just believing in them is not the point. In the Zen monastery the monks liked to point to the Buddha on the altar and say, “That’s you up there. When you bow, you are bowing to yourself.” The iconographic devas and bodhisattvas are also seen as archetypes of the individual and a Buddhist might evoke the Bodhisattva of Compassion in order to become more compassionate. This idea of compassion and this sense of duty to be so is an aspect of what Krishna calls Dharma. Essentially, we all have our special mission in life and we’re not all the same, so Dharma is different for everyone, but the practice of compassion is one we all share, and of universal importance. This concept certainly derives from the principles laid out by Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita.

Krishna says in BG 12:13: That devotee of mine who is non-envious possessing benevolence towards all living entities, compassionate with no sense of proprietorship. (Prabhupada, 1984)

The original Sanskrit word for compassion in this verse is Karunah, which means to be sympathetic towards the sufferings of others, friend and foe alike. You find this principle very strongly in all Buddhist schools of thought, the practice of compassion and good will towards all living entities.
The Buddha has given the 8-fold path, which are the main principles of the Buddhist life and virtues. When one compares the principles of righteousness in the Bhagavad-Gita and the 8-fold path you will see the same essential principles of devotional life. Devotion to the Adi-Buddha/Sri Krishna or devotion to the path of compassion and ultimate enlightenment, it is still Yoga, and it is still a devotion towards the highest aspirations of the living being. The 8-fold path:

Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration

Bhakti Ananda Goswamis is a scholar, sanyasi and practitioner of both Krishna-Vasishnavism and Pure Land Buddhism. In his research he points out that during the 3rd Century BCE during the time of the great Buddhist King of India, Ashoka, that the area of Krishna’s birth Mathura and nearby Gandhara were centers of contemporary Vaishnava and Mahayana Buddhist universities and traditions living and worshipping together.

“In fact, in both of the university-like intellectual ‘Buddhist’ centers of Mathura and Gandhara, the Vaishnavas and Buddhists were completely compatible as members of various lineages or orders of the same religion. This fact cannot be contested. No honest scholar can deny that Gandhara and Mathura, the two greatest early Mahayana centers of Buddhist intellectual and artistic activity and diffusion, were also Vaishnava centers of the same. This was not a sequential phenomenon either. The Vaishnava and Buddhist presence in these centers of Bhakti Yoga was contemporaneous. In fact, there was a Western Bhakti Asyla Temple Federation representation in the visitors and residents of these two great Vaishnava and Buddhist ‘university’ centers of Gandhara and Mathura too. Greeks, Romans and other western Eli-Yahu / Heli-os / Heri-Asu worshipers visited and lived in these two centers.” (Sherman, 2001)

While many scholars claim that Ashoka patronized the atheistic Theravada Buddhism during his reign, Bhakti Ananda Goswami contests that considering the evidence, it is highly more likely that he patronized Mahayana Buddhism instead.

“When it is known that Mathura was the North Indian regional center of Krishna Bhakti, how is it possible that the very antithesis of Krishna-Vaishnavism and closely related Pure Land Buddhist Bhakti, namely atheistic Theravada Buddhism, could have been the Buddhism that Ashoka patronized there? When it is clear from evidence all over the region (and beyond) that Ashoka equally protected and supported Vaishnavism and Mahayana (Pure Land) Buddhism and that at the time these two great Bhakti traditions were considered part of the same religion, how is it conceivable that the ‘Buddhism’ that he patronized in Sri Lanka was Theravada, the historical and doctrinal antithesis of both Vaishnavism and Pure Land Buddhism?” (Sherman, 2001)

The evidence suggests that the traditions of Buddhism and the 8-fold path are directly related to the principles and teaching of Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita. Hinduism and Buddhism are very much connected as they always have been, and even if the individual Buddhist does not recognize Buddha as the Godhead, the evidence suggests that the Mahayana traditions which are intimately related to the Vaishnava and theistic traditions of Hindusim pervade practically all of Buddhist life and ritual. The virtues of compassion and devotion towards the path of enlightenment and the Supreme Being within the individual are most prominent in all the traditions and the goal is the same: Nirvana, Bliss, Oneness, Pure Consciousness, the Pure Land, Buddha-hood and Devotion to Adi-Buddha /Sri Krishna or other such sacred form and names of the Godhead.
References:
Prabhupada, A.C.B.S. (1984). Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Australia: McPherson’s Group.
Sherman, D. (.A.G. (2001). Interim period: Mathura as the Vaishnava-Buddhist seat of culture and learning. Retrieved from: http://www.vrindavan-dham.com/interim-period.php