Jews, Hindus and Buddhists and the significance of the swastika

The Jewish Community Relations Council, a large Jewish organization in New York, co-hosted the city’s “The Swastika in American, Jewish and Asian Cultures” event two years ago, which discussed the significance of the swastika with Buddhists and Hindus. symbol charged by many in the West: the swastika.

The swastika symbol was used by Hitler and his cronies in the 1930s and 1940s and has long been associated with the evils of Nazism and hatred, but the swastika (with the hooks pointing in a different direction than the Nazi swastika) is even more revered by Hindus and Buddhists, who on Monday claimed that the swastika was abused by Hitler and that its image should be rehabilitated.

Burma. The wheel of time. Photo by Adi Ichsan

‘This is the most important symbol in Asia. The swastika is a noble symbol, ”said T. Nakagaki, President of the HEIWA Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, during the zoom conference. “There’s a lot of ignorance about this symbol. It’s a taboo. People think it’s a hateful symbol, and if you use it, you’re an evil person.” But Nakagaki thinks that is wrong. “Our education does not teach what the swastika means. Hitler apparently stole the symbol from the East. Why can we not return the swastika to its proper place? The Nazis used it the wrong way. We have to acknowledge both, the good side and the bad side. ‘

Holy symbols

In both Hindu and Buddhist culture, swastika sacred symbols are carved into temples and used for ceremonies. The swastika in Hindu culture dates back more than 5,000 years and is used “to express happiness during ceremonial events.”

Steven Heller, co-chair of the School of Visual Arts and MF Design, said he respected Eastern beliefs, but stressed that the swastika should continue to be avoided in Western cultures. “It’s one of those cruel double standards. For some it means something good, for others it means something terrible.” Neo-Nazis and white supremacists still use the swastika to fuel hatred and anti-Semitism in America and elsewhere.

This is not the first time that the use of the swastika has been discussed. When the Japanese Buddhist monk Kenjitsu Nakagaki celebrated the Buddha’s birthday with a flower ceremony in a 1986 temple in Seattle, USA, he came under harsh criticism for the composition of the flowers, which he arranged counterclockwise in the form of a swastika.

Born in Osaka, Japan, the monk (then 25) was unaware that neo-Nazis and white supremacists continue to use the Nazi swastika – with right-wing hooks – to promote hatred. He knew the symbol as ‘manji’, a Chinese character meaning ‘happiness’ in Japanese. Because of the consternation that had arisen, he decided not to use the symbol anymore, even though it has been a part of Japanese culture since the introduction of Buddhism in Japan about 1500 years ago and is still used.

But at an interfaith workshop in 2009, where a hate crime expert called the swastika “a universal symbol of hatred and evil,” the monk made the decision to preserve the original meaning of the emblem. “This narrow and limited perspective is unacceptable to those of us who value and grew up with the swastika in our religions and culture,” said Kenjitsu Nakagaki, 57, now a prominent New York City Buddhist priest. He wrote the book ‘The Buddhist swastika and Hitler’s cross’, for the purpose of informing the Western world about the Eastern roots of the symbol. The book goes into detail about the Sanskrit origins of the swastika and its use in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, before Hitler’s Nazi propaganda for centuries.

Shapes and images

The swastika comes in many shapes and images. Depending on the respective religion and culture, the standard version of Buddhism exists with left-handed arms, while Hitler chose a swastika with right-handed hooks.

In an earlier interfaith discussion, Rabbi Alan Brill, president of Jewish Christian Studies at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, praised Nakagaki for pointing out the differences between the two symbols, but stressed that people in the West “know no difference.” they do not have that knowledge. Incidentally, the swastika is not exclusive to the eastern countries and can even be found in the ancient Ein Gedi synagogue in Israel, Greco-Roman architecture, and in New York City’s subway station with 1920s designs.

Source BNN.

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