Buddhist, Hindu and Native American Spiritual Leaders Sign a Historic Proclamation Affirming the Difference between the Sacred Swastika and Hitler’s Hakenkreuz
Multi-Religious Event Condemns Bigotry and Rising Attacks Against Jews and Other Minorities
Wednesday, Oct 19, 2022 Virtual: For the first time ever, an august gathering of spiritual leaders belonging to the Buddhist, Hindu and Native American traditions across the United States has made a strong and clarion call about the sacred Swastika symbol and asked the world to recognize the important distinction between this symbol and Hitler’s Hakenkreuz (“hooked cross”).
Issued on Sunday, October 16, the Swastika Proclamation acknowledges the suffering resulting from the genocide of Jews, Roma and others and the impact of the usage of Hitler’s symbol of hate to dehumanize vulnerable members of society even today. However, the proclamation clarifies that, based on historical records, Hitler always called his symbol “Hakenkreuz” (German for “hooked cross”), while “Swastika” is a Sanskrit word and a sacred symbol of peace and well-being. By wrongly associating the sacred Swastika with Hitler’s Hakenkreuz, enormous harm is being done to more than 2 billion Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Native Americans and other Indigenous people who continue to use the symbol with reverence and respect worldwide. The full text of the proclamation can be found here.
Signatories of the proclamation include prominent spiritual leaders such as Venerable Dhammadipa Sak, a trustee member of the Parliament of the World Religions, Poojya Swami Sarvapriyananda, the Head of the Vedanta Society of New York, Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, President of the Buddhist Association of the United States, Dr. TK Nakagaki, President Emeritus of the Buddhist Council of New York and the author of the Buddhist Swastika and Hitler’s Cross: Rescuing a Symbol of Peace from the Forces of Hatred, Poojya Swamini Svatmavidyananda, Interfaith Leader and Senior Disciple of HH Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Grandmother Mona Polacca, a Hopi/Havasuai/Tewa Elder and a member of the World Council of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, among others.
Speaking on behalf of the broader Hindu community, Nikunj Trivedi, President of the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA) welcomed and expressed his gratitude to the spiritual leaders, endorsing organizations and attendees, remarking that the proclamation is “a historic achievement, resulting from conversations between Dharmic communities and the Native American elders, to formalize a common understanding of the deep importance and sacredness of this ancient symbol of well-being and prosperity among our communities and where we stand on this issue.” He also shared how, in 1940, four Native Americans tribes renounced the usage of the Swastika due to prevalent misinformation, but that, after 82 years, Native American elders have joined the Dharmic traditions to jointly proclaim the sacredness and the usage of Swastika as a symbol of well-being, peace and prosperity.
Venerable Bhikku Bodhi commended the efforts of the Swastika Awareness Coalition (SAC), which worked to create the proclamation and garner support across traditions who consider the symbol sacred, saying that the Swastika “is a symbol of blessings rather than a symbol of hatred” and that “by the truth of this proclamation may there be Suwatthi, may there be blessings, may there be well being, flourishing, safety, security and happiness.”
Echoing these sentiments, Poojya Swamini Svatmavidyananda shared that Swastika is “sacred geometry” and wished that the symbol would bring about universal harmony and peace.
Reverend Dr. T.K. Nakagaki remarked that, for him and others from Japan, Swastika symbolizes Buddhist temples on maps and the teaching of Buddha himself. He added that in Japanese, the Swastika is known as “Manji” (ten thousand virtues) while Hitler’s Hakenkreuz is known as “haakenkuroitsu.” “Both have a different meaning and different history. The right education is something important I believe,” concluded Dr. Nakagaki. “This Swastika Proclamation makes a clear distinction between Hakenkreuz and Swastika which is a very important aspect. Hopefully this (Swastika proclamation) will bring better understanding and more dialogue regarding the true information (about the two).”
Grandmother Patricia Anne Davis, a Native American Elder of the Choctaw-Navajo/Chahta-Dineh lineage affirmed her support for the proclamation, calling the event a “Reverent revolution that does not require us to overthrow anyone and does not require violence and suffering to bring about a change, the change is the reverence that we have for one another and others, we give up enemy creation, and we befriend language and culture that restores and revitalizes our spiritual oneness.”
Speaking on behalf of the Buddhist Council of New York, which represents around 950,000 Buddhists in the New York region, Reverend James Lynch added that the Buddhist Council has always been very clear about the Swastika and the violent symbol of Hakenkreuz. “We are equally mindful that the Swastika is a different symbol altogether from the Hakenkreuz. Swastika is a holy and sacred symbol for many religious traditions from the Bon tradition to Native American traditions and to Africa, Asia and beyond.”
Poojya Swami Sarveshananda, the National Director of Chinmaya Mission Yuva Kendra congratulated the organizers for taking on such a huge but noble task. “In togetherness, lies our strength…knowing that all of us are standing on the same platform of truth is where we draw our strength from. And that today is such a beautiful day…to see that all of us have come together to rightfully claim that which is ours.” He emphasized the compassion that the Hindu community feels towards “our Jewish brothers and sisters” and that today’s event does not downplay their trauma but aims to correct the historical misinformation about this benign and sacred symbol.
Shri Balabhadra Das, an African American Hindu spiritual leader and a Direct Disciple of ISKCON founder HH A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, expressed great excitement about the proclamation and this historic event. “We have been a little too quiet about this. Now that we are speaking in one voice, I believe it will have a major impact, and I give my full support to this effort on behalf of the Vedic Friends Association. I am very proud of this effort.”
Venerable Sagarananda Tien, Secretary of the Amatavihara US Zen Institute, also congratulated the organizers and shared that in the Lalitavistara Sutra, the symbol Swastika is one of thirty two important marks of a holy person. The Chinese Buddhist tradition shows the Swastika on the chest of the Buddha and thus the symbol is of great importance and is most auspicious.
Guru Dileepkumar Thankappan, Chairman of the World Yoga Community, expressed his joy and honor to join the event on a very important date “to protect our symbol of Hinduism.”
In his comments, Gokul Kunnath, President of the United States Hindu Alliance (USHA) emphasized the importance of SAC’s work, saying that “in the backdrop of unspeakable and growing hate, as well as legislative efforts worldwide to ban our sacred symbol, [USHA] has joined forces with like minded organizations to pursue a robust global awareness campaign to promote the work of the [SAC]. At the same time, we will continue to work with the Jewish world on a lasting agreement regarding the future use of the Swastika worldwide through dialogue.”
A formal spiritual ceremony followed, where Hindu, Buddhist and Native American chants officiated the proclamation and wished for the well-being and peace for all.
So far, the proclamation has been signed by thirteen prominent North American spiritual leaders, along with over thirty organizations belonging to the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Native American traditions. More are expected to sign as they learn about this historic event and pledge their support – domestically and internationally.
The SAC will strive to improve the cooperation among all Dharma based traditions, as well as other ancient indigenous traditions around the world to protect, preserve and promote Swastika as a unifying and benevolent symbol and help to differentiate it from the Hakenkreuz of Hitler, the Nazi Party, the neo-Nazi supremacists and hate groups. It will also engage with leaders from the Jewish and other communities to encourage dialogue and dispel misunderstandings around the sacred Swastika while standing in solidarity against hatred and bigotry.
The full event video is available here.