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Author Topic: The Swastika is not always racist  (Read 637 times)

EnderDragonFire

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The Swastika is not always racist
« on: April 12, 2018, 02:46:39 pm »
So, this is a topic I've wanted to bring up on the cauldron for a while now. I am aware that it's a very sensitive topic, but I've finally decided to discuss it nonetheless. As a Hindu, I feel rather uncomfortable when people say that the Swastika has been "permanently corrupted," that it "is no longer used in traditional contexts," or that it "is always a racist symbol." These things simply aren't true, and if you accept them, they pain over a billion Jains, Hindus, and Buddhists as racists.

If you don't know anything about the use of the Swastika in Indian religions, I reccomend reading these web articles. They aren't scholarly, but they give a good general background for what I'm trying to say:
https://www.hafsite.org/blog/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-swastika/
http://vancouversun.com/news/staff-blogs/hinduism-diwali-and-swastikas-explained
http://www.hinduhumanrights.info/the-swastika-story-how-an-ancient-sacred-symbol-became-adopted-by-the-nazis/

So, assuming that you either read the above articles or already know that the Swastika is an auspicious and sacred symbol for millions of people, let's move on to the Nazis, racism, and hate symbols;

The Swastika is classified as a hate symbol. It's illegal to display in Germany (although, thankfully, members of Indian religious groups are allowed to use it in legitimate religious contexts). It's also illegal in several other counties. My own country, the United States, does not have laws banning hate symbols; the reasons for this are complex and outside of the scope of this threat.

However, there are many watchdog organizations, human rights groups, and other non-government organizations that maintain lists of hate symbols. The Swastika is on ALL of them.

I think this is fine. I AGREE with this. I think that the use of the Swastika for non-religious activities carried the connotation of white supremacy. However, in the USA, it seems that many people and organizations are unaware of the fact that the Swastika still has religious significance for Indian religions. As I said at the begging of this post, statements such as "permanently corrupted," "no longer used in traditional contexts," or "always a racist symbol" are rather commonly made regarding the Swastika.

The Anti-Defamation league is one of the many organizations in the USA that keeps track of hate groups and hate symbols. They describe themselves by saying "We fight anti-Semitism and all forms of hate." They have an online database of hate symbols that can be easily browsed, and the Swastika is included on this list. Once again, I must point out that this is fine, and that racist usage of the Swastika is not cool and should be frowned upon and shunned.

However, the entry about the Swastika is thoroughly troubling. You see, it's not the only religious symbol on the list; there are a few Christian symbols and many Heathen/Asatru/Odinist symbols there as well. On each of these entries, a disclaimer is present that says "care must be taken always to judge it in context." One should not assume, for example, that displaying Thor's Hammer or the Celtic Cross is automatically racist. See their entries for these two symbols below:

https://www.adl.org/education/references/hate-symbols/thors-hammer
https://www.adl.org/education/references/hate-symbols/celtic-cross

The entry for the Swastika has NO SUCH DISCLAIMER. Instead, the article says: "Even today, the swastika is a common symbol across Asia, used by Hindus, Buddhists, and adherents of other religions, where it is often associated with good fortune."

Note the words I have underlined. The ADL says that IN ASIA Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists still use the Swastika. They do not warn, however, against categorizing people who use the symbol in America as racist.

This man is not racist:


These children are not racist:


This temple is not racist:


The above statements are all true. They are true in India, they are true in China, they are true in Japan... and they are true in the United States. Hindus live here, and we have just as much right to use our religious symbols as anyone else. The Swastika is as important to our faith as the cross is to Christians or the Menorah is to Jewish people.

Hindus aren't racist. In point of fact, India was exploited by white racists from Britian and Portugal for centuries It's not fair to tell us not to use our symbols:

White people colonized and exploited India.
White Nazis corrupted and twisted the Swastika.
White activists now tell Hindus to stop using the Swastika (or at leas not to use it in the West outside of Asia).

I am sincerely sorry if this post offends anyone, but I truly feel that Hindus have the right to use the Swastika in any country they want, as long as they use it for traditional religious purposes. Should Hindus get a free pass to fly the Nazi flag or use Nazi symbols? Hell no. Should monks be allowed to wear the Swastika on their head, and should people be allowed to adorn their entrances with the Swastika on Diwali? Hell yes.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

EnderDragonFire

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Re: The Swastika is not always racist
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2018, 02:51:45 pm »
...

It seems I forgot to link to the actual ADL page on the Swastika:
https://www.adl.org/education/references/hate-symbols/swastika

Also, I forgot to say this:

The Idea that Hindus only live in India is itself somewhat racist. It is behind the times, and stuck in the past.

Heathens get disclaimers while Hindus don't, but there are actually more Hindus in the USA than there are Heathen! Why is this? Because Heathens are though of as white, and white people live in America, right? On the other hand Hindus are Indians, and Indians only live in India, right?

At least, that's the vibe I got from it. It's like the author completely overlooked the idea of Hindus or Jains even existing on this continent.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: The Swastika is not always racist
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2018, 03:26:37 pm »
Heathens get disclaimers while Hindus don't

Yup, that's some bullshit right there. Hindus, Buddhists and Jains have every right to use there traditional symbols. If people have a problem with that they should take the 30 seconds it requires to do the google search to educate themselves.
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Re: The Swastika is not always racist
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2018, 04:13:49 pm »
they should take the 30 seconds it requires to do the google search to educate themselves.

Unfortunately, people seem to have such a strong gut reaction to the Swastika that they don't bother to do any research.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: The Swastika is not always racist
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2018, 05:12:26 pm »


I utilize the “swastika” in my artwork and other practices from time to time in the same way I utilize the equal armed cross... to express and symbolize nature, the classic elements and perceived correspondences, the Earth and it’s annual cycles, and more specifically a tetramorph of certain deities in my pantheon who have had a profound effect on my own spiritual-religious Weltanshauung.  I understand there were many who utilized these symbols before me, but I do not require theirs or anyone else’s approval to utilize these symbols in whatever way I choose.  It really does not matter to me if others allow themselves to be offended by these symbols or the manner in which I personally perceive and embrace them. 

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Castus

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Re: The Swastika is not always racist
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2018, 06:15:24 pm »
my own spiritual-religious Weltanshauung.

Just throwing this out as a general point of reference: talking about all the non-racist ways you use the swastika is almost immediately undercut by using the word 'weltanshauung'.

As for the OP it's not that I disagree per se -- I don't -- but I do feel like 'but the swastika is also a good thing in Eastern religions!' is a fairly common point of knowledge in reference to the swastika. Like if Hindus facing problems over their usage of the swastika is actually a huge issue in the Hindu community then obviously I'm wrong, but as it stands at this moment I feel that knowledge of the foundationally positive aspects of the swastika is widespread to the extent that 'the swastika is misrepresented' shouldn't be more than a tertiary issue.

But also to be rather blunt, I would prefer that Hindu and general dharmic usage of the swastika remained marginalised if in rehabilitating it its usage as a symbol of Nazism became lost. If a day ever comes where the majority of people associate the swastika with Hinduism instead of Nazism then I hope I'm not around to see it.

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Re: The Swastika is not always racist
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2018, 07:31:54 pm »
But also to be rather blunt, I would prefer that Hindu and general dharmic usage of the swastika remained marginalised if in rehabilitating it its usage as a symbol of Nazism became lost. If a day ever comes where the majority of people associate the swastika with Hinduism instead of Nazism then I hope I'm not around to see it.

I vaguely recalled something about Navajo usage and I tracked it down.  Quoting the relevant paragraph from the site I found:

"In 1940, in response to Hitler's regime, the Navajo, Papago, Apache and Hopi people signed a whirling log proclamation. It read, "Because the above ornament, which has been a symbol of friendship among our forefathers for many centuries, has been desecrated recently by another nation of peoples, therefore it is resolved that henceforth from this date on and forever more our tribes renounce the use of the emblem commonly known today as the swastika . . . on our blankets,   baskets, art objects, sand paintings and clothing.""
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Castus

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Re: The Swastika is not always racist
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2018, 07:40:08 pm »
I vaguely recalled something about Navajo usage and I tracked it down.  Quoting the relevant paragraph from the site I found:

"In 1940, in response to Hitler's regime, the Navajo, Papago, Apache and Hopi people signed a whirling log proclamation. It read, "Because the above ornament, which has been a symbol of friendship among our forefathers for many centuries, has been desecrated recently by another nation of peoples, therefore it is resolved that henceforth from this date on and forever more our tribes renounce the use of the emblem commonly known today as the swastika . . . on our blankets,   baskets, art objects, sand paintings and clothing.""

Thank you Native Americans ♥️

But also I really want to get my hands on Cindra Kline's assuredly-fascinating Navajo Spoons.

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Re: The Swastika is not always racist
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2018, 08:05:33 pm »
Unfortunately, people seem to have such a strong gut reaction to the Swastika that they don't bother to do any research.
I think the difference is that when you have a discussion about neo-Nazi symbols, you have to explain that in some cultures the swastika is NOT racist, and in contrast, you generally have to explain that all the other ones ARE often racist.

Also I very rarely see Hindu and Buddhist people complain about it, but I see lots of white people complain about it, which I use as a benchmark.

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Re: The Swastika is not always racist
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2018, 09:00:59 pm »
Note the words I have underlined. The ADL says that IN ASIA Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists still use the Swastika. They do not warn, however, against categorizing people who use the symbol in America as racist.

That's because none of the Hindus or Buddhists I know in the US/Canada or Western Europe use the swastika (at least publicly) because the symbol is so tainted in the West. I don't know about Jains as I've never really known any. When the symbol is used in the West, it's a Nazi symbol. It might be reclaimable far in the future, but any group in the West trying to do so now is going to fail. Fair or not, that's the reality that the Nazis left. Instead of trying to blame the ADL for pointing out the obvious, blame the Nazis for corrupting the symbol with millions of people exterminated in the name of "Aryan" racial purity, not to mention all the people killed in the war they started.
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Re: The Swastika is not always racist
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2018, 09:56:02 pm »
That's because none of the Hindus or Buddhists I know in the US/Canada or Western Europe use the swastika (at least publicly) because the symbol is so tainted in the West. I don't know about Jains as I've never really known any. When the symbol is used in the West, it's a Nazi symbol. It might be reclaimable far in the future, but any group in the West trying to do so now is going to fail. Fair or not, that's the reality that the Nazis left. Instead of trying to blame the ADL for pointing out the obvious, blame the Nazis for corrupting the symbol with millions of people exterminated in the name of "Aryan" racial purity, not to mention all the people killed in the war they started.

I don't use it publicly. For Hindus, there are dozens of other sacred symbols that can be substituted for everyday use. I don't wear the Swastika because I don't want to shock or traumatize anyone However, it is an important symbol that is necessary for certain rituals and celebrations; for example, many Hindus, including in many living in the western world, use the Swastika on Diwali. We shouldn't be asked to expected to stop using it in those traditional, limited contexts. Likewise, private display of Swastikas for religious purposes, such as in Mandalas and religious icons, should not be infringed upon.

For Jains, it is the *main* symbol of their religion. It is totally fair to compare it to the Cross in Christianity, as it bears an equal amount of symbolic value. Asking them to remove it is like asking Christians to remove the cross. Other symbols, such as the Ahimsa symbol, are like the Christian Ichthys; important and ancient auxiliary symbols, but poor substitutes for the Cross itself.

"When the symbol is used in the West, it's a Nazi symbol." I just don't agree; when it's on a private altar to Kali, it's not a Nazi symbol. When it's on the doorstep of a Hindu home during Diwali, it's not a Nazi symbol. When it's painted on the forehead of a Jain monk in red saffron, it's not a Nazi symbol.

The default assumption in the west SHOULD be Nazism. I agree with you and Castus on this. If someone in the west sees a Swastika in public, they should be suspicious. However, if the symbol is presented in the context of a Dharmic ritual or in a Dharmic place of worship, that should be considered an adequate defense of it's usage. I'm not saying it should be used outside of the ritual context, nor that people should be afraid to question the use of the Swastika by members of Dharmic faiths. I am just saying that, if they do question it, they should accept it's usage in traditional religious contexts as a valid excuse.

I am not blaming the ADL for making the Swastika a Nazi symbol; the Nazis did that. I only mention the ADL as an example of how little heed is payed to Dharmic religions in the west when the Swastika is discussed. A simply one line statement similar to the one given for other Nazi symbols that are also used by heathens.

Basically, I am saying that "Don't assume that the Swastika is racist if you see it on Diwali or in a Hindu temple, and always inquire to make sure someone is not performing legitimate religious rituals before you accuse them of being a Nazi or racist."

I feel the need to point out that the Nazis never asked us to use our symbol. They just took it. They *stole* it and we had no say in it. If they had instead chosen to put the cross in the middle of their flag, I would not expect Christians to cease all usage of the symbol. Certainly, casual usage would need to be tempered and thought and care would need to be taken when displaying it, but full cessation? That would hardly be fair. The Nazis were not Hindu, they didn't get permission to steal our symbols, and the vast, vast majority of Hindus would never endorse the horrible things that they perpetrated. We. Are. Not. Nazis.

All I ask is that this fact be respected. 
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

EnderDragonFire

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Re: The Swastika is not always racist
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2018, 10:09:21 pm »
But also to be rather blunt, I would prefer that Hindu and general dharmic usage of the swastika remained marginalised if in rehabilitating it its usage as a symbol of Nazism became lost. If a day ever comes where the majority of people associate the swastika with Hinduism instead of Nazism then I hope I'm not around to see it.

I agree. "Marginalized" is fine. On the other hand, banned, condemned, or shunned are not acceptable. The only thing I want is acknowledgement that in -very- limited contexts, it's OK for Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists to use the symbol.

When I see a Swastika in public, my first response is disgust. My mind immediately goes to the Nazis and their atrocities. However, when I see the same symbol in a Hindu temple, or in a Jain religious artwork, or in the private home of another Hindu, I do not respond with disgust. All I am asking is for people to be aware that there are other meanings to the symbol beyond the racism of the Nazis, and that the symbol *is still used* in those contexts, even in the Western world. Hindus don't normally go around waving the Swastika in the air or grafting it on buildings; if they did, that would NOT be acceptable.

I get that it's a complex and touchy subject. The Nazis killed *millions* of people while flying the hakenkreuz, a variation of the Swastika, as their primary symbol of hate. Today, many neo-Nazis and other racists continue to use the symbol to shock and terrorize innocent Jewish people and minorities. This is wrong, it's sickening, and it should not be tolerated. Anyone using the symbol should have a damn good reason.

I simply think that "I am Hindu, this is a specific religious ritual with a specific meaning, that has been done for thousands of years." counts as such a reason. Also, "I'm a Jain, this is the main symbol of our faith, we aren't Nazis and don't support their beliefs." is another such reason. I'm not trying to obscure or distract from the legacy of the Nazis and their crimes against humanity.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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