This is a guest post by DCP, a practitioner of the Old Norse religion of Astrasu (actually a revival of the Old Norse tradition but what do I know). DCP is a proud supporter of my practice which is fortunate due to the fact that he supports it with mead and revelry!
The Buddhist and the Heathen
In 1904, archeologists began excavating an amazing find in the county of Vestfold, Norway. The Oseberg Ship, a Viking burial ship dated to approximately 800 A.D., contained a wealth of exquisite treasures from the height of the Viking Age in Scandinavia. Among these was a bucket, and where the handle met the vessel was a hinge in the shape of a tranquil male sitting in the lotus position. This is not the only presumed “Buddha figure” to be found in association with a relict Viking horde. A grave site from the island of Helgö in Sweden also contained a statue remarkably similar to the depictions of Buddha from northern India.
So, is there a philosophical connection between the Vikings and Buddha? Probably not; you will not likely find Norse heroes such as Sigurd Volsung or Egil Skalagrimsson contemplating the noble truths. However, in my conversations with John I have found parallels with the philosophy of Northern Europe and of that which originated with the devout of Asia. I am an Asatruar. Asatru, literally translates from Old Norse as “true to the gods”, is the modern revival of the Old Norse spiritual belief system. As Asatruar, we strive to reconstruct the spiritual essence of our Scandinavian predecessors, and we endeavor to embody the courageous and noble spirit of the strong heroes, explorers and ancestors who made such a grand impact on the ancient Eurasian world.
Does this mean that we long to board longships and pillage the settlements of the British Isles and Normandy? No (usually), it means that we attempt to embrace our fate, be it good or bad, with courage and conviction, and we live with the notion that all of our actions have an effect on those around us, and that effect, positive or negative, has an immediate impact on the world. This impact bears directly on our reputation, and it is our reputation that is the key to our lasting impression in this world, and our standing with our gods in the next.
The more positive our impact and reputation, the more beneficial our impact is on Midgard (this world), and the better our standing in Asgard (the world of our gods). I share with Buddhists the notion that my actions have an immediate and lasting effect on myself, and by extension this world, and positive actions create a positive world. Even though, to me, these actions may have implications in the next world, my primary concern is that beneficial actions benefit those close to me now, and detrimental actions are harmful to this world and to those I hold dear. Much like Buddhist philosophy, as I understand it, I am emphatically concerned with my impact on the world as it is now, and I strive to perform just and honorable actions for the sake of the world around me, for making a better world is ultimately beneficial to me as a member of this world.
Asatruar strive to live life, do the right thing, and accept our fate as it comes. We long to achieve our best when we are in the moment, as that is the point in time when our true selves are revealed. It is in the words of one of our most sacred texts, the Havamal (The Sayings of the High One) in which I see some of the most compelling similarity between our faiths:
Averagely wise a man ought to be,
never too wise;
no one may know his fate beforehand,
if he wants a carefree spirit.
More to come…
Thanks brother! You are always welcome to throw your 2cents in over here. I’ll leave us with the “5 Remembrances”. Something that both Buddhists and Asatruar can agree on.
I am of the nature to grow old; there is no way to escape growing old. I am of the nature to have ill health; there is no way to escape having ill health. I am of the nature to die; there is no way to escape death. All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature of change; there is no way to escape being separated from them. My deeds are my closest companions; I am the beneficiary of my deeds. my deeds are the ground on which I stand…
Very similar excerpt from the Havamal….
Cattle die, kinsmen die,
The self must also die;
I know of one thing which never dies,
the reputation of each dead man.