While some people have been recruited by various Hindu Gods, the vast majority have attracted to these Gods for other reasons. Many Eclectic Pagans have a statue on their altars of Lord Genesha, the “Elephant God,” to remove any barriers in their lives. This means that Lord Genesha shares altar space with non-Hindu Gods, and may not receive the proper reverence.
Other popular Hindu Gods among Pagans are Kali Ma, the Dark Mother and Tara, the Mother Goddess of Tibet and India. The Goddess Religions will add to these Goddesses, Kuan Yin (Wade-Giles spelling), the Chinese Goddess of Compassion to complete the trio. Within these religions, each of these Goddesses is a part of the Great Goddess.
Begun in the 1970s, in the West, the Goddesses Religions reject the over-emphasis of the masculine divinity in monotheist religions, and the subjugation of women. These religions focus on uniting the cross-cultural feminine divinities found in other religions. (Note 1) The result is that the Goddesses of many pantheons relate to each other rather than to their Gods of their own cultures.
However, all of these Gods and Goddess live in a richly textured eco-system where they relate to the other Gods of their Pantheon. Taking Them out of their religious and cultural context creates a loss of relationships and meaning. Fitting these Gods and Goddesses into an alien context causes Them to lose their original purpose of being. It changes Them in becoming something other than Hindu Gods. Some Hindus have complained that this practice weakens their Gods, and saps Their Power. As a “hard” Polytheist, I see differences between Kali Ma of Hinduism and Kali Ma of the Goddess Religions.
For me, this tendency to “plug and play” seems to manifest itself with Pagans who have eclectic practices or see the Gods as archetypes. I wonder if this is a carry-over from the propensity of New Age and Theosophy practices of using the cafeteria approach to Eastern religions. Or is it an offshoot of combining Eastern and Western religions into one belief system as the New Age and Theosophy does? Or is it simply a part of being a part of a monotheistic culture that tries to have all things be homogenous?
Each of the Hindu Gods cannot be distilled into to a single purpose or character. Kali Ma, who has many forms, is the consort of Shiva. She can either purge people of their anger or be the force of destruction. Lord Genesha, the Son of Shiva, has thirty-two forms and titles. His titles range from the God of Scholarship to the Granter of Prosperity to the Lord of Beginnings. This is an example of the horizontal aspects of a God. (Note 2) Each “piece” can be worshipped and called upon separately but together they make up the whole. In their vertical aspects (Note 3), Gods can move from cosmic and unknowable to personal. We as humans can only guess at their True Natures.
Hindus themselves have called Westerners who worship Hindu Gods but remain wedded to the Western lifestyle as “half-Hindus.” They do understand the need of the person to seek their soul purpose. However, many Hindu religious leaders regard these “half-Hindus” as being separated from their old faith but not fully embracing Hinduism. Added to their concerns is the history of predatory and disruptive conversions by Christian missionaries.
How does someone ethically worship Hindu Gods? Some religious authorities have suggested to first study the basics of Hinduism. For example, they counsel practitioners of yoga to know about the religious sources of their discipline. This will deepens the practice by understanding its underpinnings. I think that this can apply to Pagans as well. By studying Hinduism, they can forge the proper relationships with the Hindu Gods that they venerate.
Note 1. “Goddess Spirituality is a movement ¦ a practice ¦ a belief system made up of women and men… A belief in Goddess as the primary divinity, the Creatrix, is one of the common factors of those who identify with Goddess Spirituality. Ways of worship, ceremonial practices and expression of Goddess Spirituality is fluid and reflects a “being-ness” rather than dogma and there are no set rules. Goddess Spirituality can exist within traditional religious frameworks and can also exist without any framework at all.” From The Mother House of the Goddess http://themotherhouseofthegoddess.com/goddess-spirituality-priestess-practices-resources/
Note 2: “Dealing With Deities” by Raven Kaldera discusses these concepts in depth. Kaldera defines “horizontal” as the aspects where the difference is in the sphere of influence, not the distance from the person. If you call upon a deity using a particular epithet, that is how They will appear.
Note 3: Kaldea defines “vertical” as “how personal and close to humans, or how impersonal and close to the undifferentiated Divine.” The higher aspect is more distant and archetypical, but still the essence of the God.
To learn more about Hinduism as explained to Westerners: Kauai’s Hindu Monastery: https://www.himalayanacademy.com/readlearn/basics/god-and-gods-of-hinduism
Their book: “How to Become a Hindu” (which is a free e-book) focuses on the questions of conversion and Westerners. https://www.himalayanacademy.com/view/how-to-become-a-hindu
Gods Recruiting: Shinto of Japan : My previous entry in this series.