Spiritual Harmony between Australian Aboriginals and Hindus

By: Vijai Singhal.

A sacred ceremony was conducted by the Aboriginal elders Aunty Peggy and Aunty Cathy to welcome Prakruthi Mysore Gururaj, a Fijian Indian lady as their traditional family member into Gunggari Nation. She was given a traditional name Bua Bua  which means
butterfly and hence will be called a  Butterfly lady  in the Gunggari culture. The Ceremony was witnessed by many multicultural groups present at the Harmony Day event on 21 March 2021, organised by the Fiji Senior Citizens Association of Queensland and the Hindu Council of Australia. It took Prakruthi weeks to prepare for familiarizing with the Gunggari values, hand painting and to learn the traditional dance.

This is in continuation of the initiative taken by the Sydney Sanskrit School in 2013 in collaboration with Dharawal Elder (Late) Les Bursill OAM to translate Dharawal rhymes into Sanskrit, resulting in ‘Yabun’ – a bilingual sing along CD. The project was sponsored by Multicultural NSW. Also classical Indian dance Bharatanatyam was choreographed to welcome to the Aboriginal Country theme and Aboriginal Marloo, the Kangaroo story in liaison with Peter Morgan Music. The Sanskrit School students constantly sing the Dharawal National Anthem at all functions.

There are a number of similarities between the spiritual thinking of the Australian Aborigines and the people of Hindu Faith. Australian aborigines claim to have lived here for over 50,000 years. Some estimates put it even to 65,000 years. Also, a study in 2013 at the Max Planck Institute by researchers, led by Irina Pugach suggested that Aboriginal genomes consist of up to 11% Indian DNA which is
uniformly spread through Northern Australia indicating a substantial gene flow between Indian population and Northern Australians occurring around 4,230 years ago. Some changes in tool technology and food processing also appear in archaeological records around this time, suggesting some migration from India.

Hindu faith is also one of the oldest living religions in the world. Hindus call it Sanatana Dharma – the Eternal Religion, ever existing. It predates recorded history. Both these cultures are very ancient and there are some basic similarities in their spiritual thinking.

Smoking ceremony – is an ancient aboriginal practice that involves burning various native plants to produce smoke, which has cleansing
properties and ability to ward off bad spirits from people and the land and in many ceremonies to make pathways for brighter future. There are many different plants used in smoking ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. Depending upon the region and availability, the plants can include peppermint, cauliflower bush, eucalyptus and Eremophila longifolia (commonly known as Berrigan emu bush).

Havan or Yagna is a fire ceremony in Hindu faith, which translates to sacrifice, devotion or worship and is a part of various Puja ceremonies including Namakaran samskar (naming), Vivah (marriage), and Grahpravesh (house-warming) ceremonies etc. Mixture of various herbs and
Ghee (clarified butter) is poured in the fire with chanting of Vedic Mantras. Aboriginal Elder, Uncle Graham Paulson has written about some characteristics of Aboriginal spirituality in his article on the subject of Aboriginal spirituality. He writes…

“Aboriginal spirituality is animistic – In an animistic world everything is interconnected, people, plants, animals, landforms and celestial bodies are part of a larger reality. There is nothing inanimate, everything is alive; animals, plants, and natural forces. As such, humans are
on equal footing with nature. They are part of nature and they are morally obligated to treat animals, plants and landforms with respect.”

Hinduism say: “Sarvam Khalu Idam Brahma”- Chandogya Upanishad (III.14.1) meaning “All this is Brahman, the Supreme Consciousness”. Everything animate or inanimate is pervaded by Brahman. Hindus worship the earth, the sun, the rivers, the trees and the animals –nature in all its manifestations and glories, seeing the presence of God in them. Everything is interconnected.

Aboriginal spirituality is cosmogony – Cosmogony is a theory of the origin of the universe. Aboriginal cosmogony begins at the ‘Dreamtime’. This is the time world was shaped the way we know it to be now. He says, “Hidden in the sky, in the sea and under the surface of the earth are
dreamtime heroes, also called creation ancestors, who are part human, in terms of their emotions and intellect, part animal, bird or reptile, in terms of their physical shape, and part super-human in terms of their power and creative ability. At some point in dreaming they
emerged from their hidden worlds and as a result of their actions and inter-actions they shaped the world as we have it today.” Hindu creationists claim that species of plants and animals are material forms adopted by pure consciousness which lives an endless cycle of birth and rebirths. According to Hindu belief, there are ten Avatars or incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Some believe that their sequential unfolding is the true depiction of the evolutionary process as narrated by Darwin’s theory of evolution. The first avatar is Matsya (fish), second is Kurma (turtle, amphibian), third is Varaha (boar), fourth is Narsimha (a man-lion), fifth is Vamana (dwarf) and then rest four are humans
or divine beings. The last one Kalki is not yet born.

Aboriginal spirituality is earthly – “These ancestors created order out of chaos, form out of formlessness, life out of lifelessness, and, as they did so, they established the ways in which all things should live in interconnectedness so as to maintain order and sustainability. The creation ancestors thus laid down not only the foundations of all life, but also what people had to do to maintain their part of this interdependence—the Law. The Law ensures that each person knows his or her connectedness and responsibilities for other people (their kin), for country (including watercourses, landforms, the species and the universe), and for their ongoing relationship with the ancestor spirits themselves.” – Vicki Grieves (2009)

“Earth in which the seas, the rivers and many waters lie, from which arise foods and fields of grain, abode to all that breathes and moves, may She confer on us Her finest yield.”
— Bhumi Suktam, Atharva Veda (xii.1.3).

Living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rains. Rains are produced from performance of yajna [sacrifice], and yajna is born of prescribed duties. Regulated activities are prescribed in the Vedas, and the Vedas are directly manifested from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Consequently the all-pervading Transcendence is eternally situated in acts of sacrifice. “My dear Arjuna, one who does not follow in human life the cycle of sacrifice thus established by the Vedas certainly lives a life full of sin. Living only for the satisfaction of the senses, such a person lives in vain.” – Bhagavad Gita (3:14-16)

Aboriginal spirituality is totemic and oral – a child at birth is allocated a birth totem. His/her spiritual responsibility will be to learn the songs and dances, and how to perform the ceremonies. This knowledge is passed on orally. The Vedic tradition has been a “Guru-shishya
parampara”. The Vedic knowledge has been transmitted for millennia verbally from Vedic teachers to disciples. During the Maurya’s time
(around 300 BCE) Vedas were written on palm leaves and were also etched on stone, rocks and metal plates. After the invention of the printing press around 1439 CE in Germany, the art of printing entered India in 1556 CE through Goa. So it can be estimated that Vedas were first printed in India around 1600 CE.

Vijai Singhal

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