I joined some Hindu friends on Sunday for a trip to the Hindu Temple of Greater Cincinnati, at the end of a rural road in Union Township. They began their worship service seated cross-legged atop ornate rugs beneath plain, soaring ceilings, chanting call-and-response songs before a row of 10 or 15 painted, bejeweled, Paul Bunyan-sized god sculptures.
Three of them were familiar to me: Ganesh the elephant god, Hanuman the monkey god, and Buddha. It surprised me to learn that some Hindus count the Buddha among their gods, whereas the Buddhists I know regard him as a human who, through meditation, succeeded in shedding the delusions that plague all humans.
The chanting ended before I could sketch Hanuman’s cheeky face–or Ganesh’s fourth hand. I look forward to revisiting.
It stumps me to think what the non-human elements of these gods might mean to Hindus–or what monkeys and elephants might mean in their culture, given their resemblances to gods.
Light to shed on this, anyone?