Wendy Doniger is a Syndrome

Introduction

Wendy Doniger has bestowed a rather flippant interview in Outlook India on the eve of the release of her new book, The Hindus: An Alternative History. The title is sufficiently pompous, entirely faithful to Wendy Doniger’s career as an Indologist. Aditi Banerjee responded with a comprehensive rejoinder that yet again demonstrated Wendy’s credentials as an honest scholar of Indology. Aditi’s almost line-by-line dissection of the interview makes a good, although old observation: a scholarly work should stand or fall on its own merit, and using victimhood both as a means to deflect valid criticism as well as to artificially inflate the value of scholarship is in poor taste. However, Wendy Doniger or her scholarship is not quite the problem. It is a syndrome of which she is the contemporary, and loudest representative.

But it is truly amazing how Doniger manages to brand even serious and erudite scholars who criticize her work as fanatics, Hindutva agents, right-wingers and BJP members. This form of branding is, unless I’m mistaken, a tactic perfected by the Communists: recall Lenin’s famous technique of “sticking the convict badge” on his opponents. Of course, I don’t imply that Doniger is a Communist but the tactic is eerily familiar.

Indology was flawed from the start

Wendy Doniger’s credentials are pretty hoary–with numerous seminars and papers and books and publications in scholarly journals to her credit. As an Indology expert and scholar, she has peer-reviewed other scholarly work but has consistently shown intolerance towards criticism of her work by (mostly) Indian scholars. As Rajiv Malhotra and others have shown on several occasions, this phenomenon owes to an imbalance in the academic narrative and is fundamentally about power.

The element of power dates back to the founding days where entire departments of Indology, Sanskrit, and Oriental studies were liberally funded by the British colonial administration. They were liberally funded because British imperialism needed these Indologists to interpret the local customs and laws that in turn helped them shape policies to rule over the natives (sic). Indologists were naturally obliged to keep their masters happy. From the time of William Jones, who is justifiably called the father of (modern) Indology right up to the likes of Wendy Doniger and Michael Witzel, the research, narrative, and interpretation was, unsurprisingly, colonial in both colour and flavour–Eurocentric, if you will. It was not so much from a spirit of free and objective inquiry that research in Indology progressed but more to meet political and missionary ends. This trend continues today where new scholarly papers and books are written with an express intent to “reinterpret” or provide an “alternative interpretation” of Indian mythology, the Vedas, Puranas, symbolism, sages, Gods, and Goddesses.

It is therefore no coincidence–or any sinister cabal at work–that almost all of these scholarly works meet with such intense criticism by not just scholars but by practicing Hindus. The answer to that is found in Aurobindo’s caution: in his time, he said that these [scholars] lacked the background necessary to properly read this largely spiritual literature [Vedas]. Aurobindo spoke on the authority of the native Indian tradition, which prescribes the prerequisites to understand and interpret these texts. In general, anybody who wants to write any commentary or similar work, especially on the Vedas should at the minimum know these Vedangas (literally, the limbs of the Vedas) apart from knowing the Vedas themselves:

  • Shiksha : phonetics and phonology (sandhi)
  • Chandas : meter
  • Vyakarana: grammar
  • Nirukta: etymology
  • Jyotisha: astrology and astronomy, dealing particularly with the auspicious days for performing sacrifices.
  • Kalpa: ritual

Every single work that is considered as authoritative today by Hindus stem from this tradition–from the three major schools and other work by later scholars demonstrate adherence to these prerequisites. Works by scholars in British-ruled India like Ananda Coomaraswamy, M.Hiriyanna, P.V. Kane, and Ramana Maharshi (who largely spoke through silence and in the oral tradition) contain the same strand of fidelity to this tradition. These prerequisites is also known in general as Adhikari bheda, which simply means that a student should first successfully complete all the previous courses before attempting to sit for an Engineering exam.

This lack of knowledge of these prerequisites is a highly notable feature of Western Indology. Their claim of scholarship and/or expertise in Indology rests almost wholly on their knowledge of Sanskrit. But as we’ve seen above, mere knowledge of the language of Sanskrit isn’t enough. It sometimes leads to rather laughable results:

Having established this similarity between bird song and mantra, the theory then takes off with a life of its own. There are vedic rituals for making rain and curing illness and similarly birds sing for building nests or attracting females; there are rituals and bird songs for various occasions. Then it was also found that bird sing – believe it or not – just for pleasure. So Staal extends the theory to say that, similar to skiing, dancing and music, mantras and rituals too are done for pleasure.

Between Staal’s athirathram in 1975 and Wood’s in 2006, one was held in 1990 near Thrissur which I attended for a day. This athirathram, which was extensively covered in Malayalam newspapers, was highly respectful and the words I heard were not “playful” or “pleasurable.” I can understand singing for pleasure, but am yet to meet a priest who said, “it’s a weekend and raining outside, let’s do a ganapati homam for pleasure.” [Ed: A highly recommended reading]

Besides, there’s an entire cultural, philosophical, and spiritual heritage that cannot be understood merely in theory and bookish learning–it requires living the tradition. Even their knowledge of Sanskrit is suspect–for someone who holds sufficiently intimidating titles such as Mircea Eliade Distinguished Professor of the History of Religions, it is rather shameful to commit such blunders:

According to Doniger, the concept of a “sex-addict” is introduced into the Valmiki Ramayana by Lakshmana calling Dasaratha kama-sakta, which she defines as “hopelessly attached to lust.”

It is not clear where Doniger picks up the term ‘kama-sakta‘-the term does not appear upon a search of the text of the Valmiki Ramayana as given in the Titus online database, which is based on the following version of the text: G.H. Bhatt e.a., The Valmiki Ramayana, (Baroda 1960-1975), prepared by Muneo Tokunaga, March 12, 1993 (adaptations by John D. Smith, Cambridge, 1995.)…I will give the benefit of the doubt to Doniger and assume that the term kama-sakta has been used by Lakshmana to describe Dasaratha in the Valmiki-Ramayana. That in and of itself does not imply that Dasaratha was “hopelessly addicted to lust.” Kama-sakta simply means an attachment (sakta) to desire (kama). Kamadoes not itself necessarily refer to sexual desire, or even erotic or romantic desire. Dasaratha’s reluctance to allow Rama to serve as guard over Vishwamitra’s yajna, for example, or Lakshmana’s unwillingness to be parted from Rama, could equally be characterized as kama-sakta. To assume it to mean “attachment to lust” is another in a pattern of Doniger’s ex-cathedra translations in variance with traditional Sanskrit nirukta (etymology) for which she has been repudiated before.

[Aside: For a more detailed treatment of her Sanskrit knowledge, this is a good place to head to.]

Which is also what propels them to look for things in the most unlikely places. For instance, Doniger looks for information about temple architecture/temple-building in the Kama Sutra instead of the vast corpus of the Pancharatra and Vaikhanasa Agamas!

She makes a superfluous reference to the fact that the Kama Sutra does not discuss temple worship-one wonders why the Kama Sutra would be a relevant reference for discussion of temple construction…

Contribution of Western Indology

Whatever the faults of Max Mueller and similar folks, they couldn’t be accused of this kind of shoddy, unreasonable, and distorted scholarship. Continuing the observation on Sanskrit, it is amazing that most of these Western Indologists/Sanskrit experts and scholars have never written anything in Sanskrit despite their praises for the language’s beauty, structure, and mathematical precision. We’re talking a period of roughly 100 years at the least. On the contrary, a single generation of English education produced an enormous body of original English prose, poetry, scholarly work, and other non-fiction work entirely written by Indians in an astonishingly short period. The same explanation holds true for this dichotomy: politics and balance of power. At least Max Mueller honestly admitted his lack of command over Sanskrit.

I am surprised at your familiarity with Sanskrit. We [Europeans] have to read but never to write Sanskrit. To you it seems as easy as English or Latin to us… We can admire all the more because we cannot rival, and I certainly was filled with admiration when I read but a few pages of your Sundara Charita. [Max Mueller's letter to a Nepalese scholar and Sanskrit poet, Pandit Chavilal; undated but written probably around 1900.]

In terms of overall contribution, Western Indology has pathetic little to show when compared to Indian Indologists and scholars who not only studied the methodology but applied it effectively and accomplished far more. Even in a work like the Arthashastra, Shyama Sastri draws from an astonishing diversity of sources in his lengthy preface. In reality, today’s Western Indology is facing terminal, and irreversible decline. In the last three years, the Sanskrit Department at Cambridge University and the Berlin Institute of Indology, two of the oldest and prestigious Indology centers in the West have closed down. Other universities in Europe and the US share this fate: the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, once a respected leader in Oriental studies has cut down its Indology programs; the Sanskrit Department at Harvard, one of the oldest in the US is trimming its Sanskrit programs and has stopped its Summer program of teaching Sanskrit to foreign students. This partly explains why scholars like Wendy Doniger and Witzel are increasingly becoming aggressive. Majority of these universities no longer enjoy colonial funding, and the scholarship they produce is rarely seen outside their own academic circles.

Closing notes

In closing, Wendy Doniger is a classic illustration of what happens when somebody is confronted with a superior culture. The initial state of dumbfoundedness gives way to irrational hatred towards the thing that such a mind cannot comprehend. This was pretty much the reaction of Islam when it first set foot in India. Her incredible felicity for detecting only sex in everything that India has produced should qualify as the scholarly equivalent of the wonders of the world. Her refusal to engage her critics in debate and to tar them as fanatics and fundamentalists is the other side of the same coin. But she has been quite successful in creating an aura of trendiness around her books in the fashionable circles in urban India. Needless, secular magazines like Outlook lap her up with some glee because she has shown to be quite adept in the Art of Indian Secularism.

The fact that in an epic work of 24000 verses, which has stood the test of time, the only worthwhile thing she found was Rama and Sita’s sex life (as she imagines it) speaks eloquently about her own Alternate History.

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130 comments for “Wendy Doniger is a Syndrome

  1. RM
    March 24, 2014 at 5:19 AM

    If you look at the volume of works “produced” by this “dhongi”er [ dhongi is a quack ,charlatan in hindi which aptly suits wendy as her surnam ] it i so apparent of her pervert nature of sexuality. Time and again she is obsessed by linga and yoni that she just sant stop herself from going back every time she gets a chance. She sees a male sexual organ in Siva linga and even in the trunk of an elephant !! Hmmm some kind of fantasies..

    Either she has a secret desire for linga which she cannot get in her real life or she does not have the yoni that every
    woman should have hence her part frustration – part obsession with these too. All these point to dhongi-er being a sexual psychopath

    By the way who certified her to be a ‘sanskrit scholar’?

  2. SS
    February 17, 2014 at 9:22 PM

    Had there been academic level-field in independent India, Wendy’s scholarship would have been laughed off – as old Pandits of Varanasi used to on Christian missionaries when they tried to spoke of Shiva, Ganapati or Kali demeaningly for their coversion-to-Christianity project. Wendy is doing pretty much like those missionaries, albeit in an academic way. But it is taken seriuously among our English elite because one, they are almost totally cut off from the Sanskrit and Indian language best literarture, and second, the Marxist historians have already fraudulently made the ground for us to accept a combination of abuse, insult, half-truths and distortions repeated n times by n number of activists from academic chairs as ‘progressive’ interpretation of Hindu history. Which is all concoction.
    Anyone who has gone through Romila Thapar, Bipan Chandra et al bit seriously would find great similarity in Wendy as to the arrogance, attitude, doggedness, evasions, irresponsibility and quoting likeminded propagandists (not original sourse or authentic work) only to suit already formed conclusions irrespective of mountains of contrary evidence. Why? Because purpose is more political than academic.
    It is still like Soviet kind historiography of 1970s ruling the Indian scene. Romila and Wendy, likewise demand a committed readership on the authority of themselves, and on something like ‘scientific insight provided by Marxism-Laninism’ here too. An insight which was denied by ‘bourgeois pigmies’. Translated into Indian case it is ‘Hindu right’ and ‘communalists’, the phrases without whcih niether Romila cabal nor Wendy move even for two minutes.
    The point is, they cannot sustain without abusing the opponents, and thus skirt the intellectual challenge, always.

  3. August 25, 2013 at 2:52 AM

    Dear @OJ if you did not find flaw in Wendy’s work and think article does not provide full information.
    Read this article http://creative.sulekha.com/risa-lila-1-wendy-s-child-syndrome_103338_blog
    It is detail analysis with solid arguments.

  4. OJ
    April 25, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    This post reeks of poor arguments and personal attacks. I have read Sanskrit for many years and have grown up in India and so understand the “context”, yet I don’t find the same flaws with Wendy’s diagnosis as Sandeep does.

    I think critique of an academic piece of work should be encouraged, but I am not convinced that Sandeep’s analysis, as laced as it is in academic language, is valid.

    His entire post is condescending and it is the kind of thing an Indian parent would say to his offspring – only when you grow up will you actually understand the context of what is being said. The only context here being that Sandeep’s critique has nothing of significance that he has to retort to oh but you won’t understand the context! Such bullshit.

    So embarrassingly shameless and disgraceful to put it here.

    • RM
      March 24, 2014 at 5:11 AM

      hello OJ “Simpson” which parts of the above article did you not comprehend??

  5. Edith Turner
    April 26, 2012 at 9:26 PM

    To Wendy, This is Edie Turner, you remember, widow of Vic Turner. I have written a new book on Vic’s “Communnitas” called “Communitas: The Anthropology of Collective Joy.” I think you’d love it because it has stories to illustrate the complex meaning. I’m sending you a copy to Swift Hall..A review would be of interest to the History of Religion. Best of good wishes to you. May the “story” reign long! Warmly, Edie

  6. Kim
    September 1, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    Ummm–Sid makes the most sense to me. Christianity was in India a LONG, LONG time before it ever came to Europe or to the United States. Catholics generally don’t consider Protestants as Christians. United States has people of every faith living here–including many Hindus, Jains and Buddhists.

  7. cricfan
    April 12, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    @Pritam:
    The Donigers of this world should absolutely be criticized for their third-rate work, but they will remain clueless and will continue to come out with rubbish. Nobody can stop people from making a fool of themselves, after all. The only effective way to counter them is to have scholars from India systematically trained in Hindu studies (in both India and the west) so they can set the record straight and produce positive and enriching works that exposes the venom spewed by the Donigers of the world. That is a tough road since the playing field is so stacked against this route, in India, as well as outside.

    • February 13, 2014 at 1:18 PM

      The Exoteric and the Esoteric are different. Those who study the Exoteric miss the Wisdom of the Esoteric. Just giving a superficial opionion that religious traditions are mere amalgamations of many practices exposes the author’s ignorance of Esoteric Wisdom ! She has not understood what Henry David Thoreau said ” The English sense has toiled, but Hindu Wisdom never perspires ” or what Annie Besant said ” After a study of 40 years, of all the great religions of the world, I find none so scientific, none so philosophic, none so systematic as the great Religion we know by the name of Hinduism” !

  8. Preetam
    April 11, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    Only in the US, can an academic get away with including in one single article on yoga:

    shit, piss, pus, and so forth, going naked, sometimes eating out of human skulls, eating carrion or faeces, an adept drawing female fluids up through his penis, corpse, circus tricks, … ad nauseum.

    Yes, the brilliant Wendy Doniger, in a review of Mark Singleton’s Yoga Body, being playfully irrelevant as usual. One wonders what would be the reaction of her class of Indologists if respected Indian academics were to speak of the beard of Christ as his limp phallus, a cross as a really limp phallus between two erect testicles, whatever.

  9. March 19, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    May i request Ms Wendy Doniger to go through the book, URL link given below and know what the wisest of the wise scholars, like TS Eliot, Friedrich Hegel, Julius Robert Oppenheimer, Ralph Emerson, Henry David Thoreau etc have said about the HINDUISM
    ,
    http://www.slideshare.net/sgewali2000/what-is-india-current-b-1615487

  10. Kaffir
    February 28, 2010 at 12:43 AM

    Jon, what is this fancy word “subaltern voices” that you mention, and how does it relate to India, Indian society and its history? Who appointed Wendy and other authors of her ilk in the US to speak on behalf of the “subaltern”? Is this some kind of messiah complex/white person’s burden, with the outer garb changed from Abrahamism to liberalism? Thanks.

  11. larissa
    February 26, 2010 at 7:53 AM

    Also it is of interest that the “sexually-liberated” do not seem the understand the nature of the “erotic” in India– that even at its most sensual Indian literature is always informed by a sense of higher ideals in the background. Wendy just does not seem to grasp this fact.
    But then again, one who grows up in a “repressed” sensuality as represented by the Abrahamic traditions can hardly grasp this nuance…

  12. larissa
    February 26, 2010 at 7:37 AM

    @Jon
    Its a new fad in the sense that the Freudian, Marxist, Feminist and other such interpretations try to subvert and as one good writer put it “discredit any concept of authority, of tradition, of race, or fatherland, and any form of idealism or heroism, while tending to highlight, at the same time, the lower and more materialistic aspect of human nature…”If anything, Wendy’s books show the obsessions and orientations of her own mind, shows that towards which it gravitates…
    If women write such nonesense its better they not write at all…and this I say as a woman!

  13. Sid
    February 26, 2010 at 6:07 AM

    Jon,

    The question never was about bringing “subaltern voices”. Her scholarship is inherently dishonest. Read any of her books (I had the misfortune of reading a few chapters of “Erotic Shiva”, it is out there in Google Books) and many things she wrote are twisted mis-representation or just plain fabrication. What happens if I fabricate some dis-tasteful stuff about your life or character and then claim to introduce some “subaltern voices” in your life story, how are you going to feel about it?
    “Do you honestly think that the Hinduism of today always was?” – Do you know when Hindusim came into existence? It is bad enough that we have been reduced to call ourselves Hindu (a term that Doniger’s ideological predecessors invented) instead of Dharmic. The traditions can change over time, how Shiva treated Parvati would not change over time.
    Our cultural tradition contains good dose of erotic material as any self-confident well-developed culture can have without worries of moral policing. But her re-presentation is plain wrong. If she has the right to write whatever she wants, we have the right to protest her dishonesty.
    The only people who comes to defend Wendy, are either her students or the people who do not know about “Hinduism”, but are fascinated with her erotically charged mis-representation that often finds a rhythm with their ‘sexually-liberated’ opinion of how an ancient ‘pagan’, ‘semi-civilised’ culture should be. Your argument of sub-altern voices is a great attempt at obfuscation. But that does not cut it. We are seriously unwilling to negotiate on Wendy’s trashy tradition.

  14. Rajiv Chandran
    February 25, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    Jon

    >>>”A 50-year fad, I guess!”

    Progressives call themselves modern as well – and they seem to have been around for about a 100 years.

    >>>”…rather that she wanted to bring to light certain subaltern voices in some of the major epics.”

    …and have you ever read what Hindus have to say about themselves. In mainstream western academia Hindus represent one of the biggest subaltern groups themselves – voicesless and denied agency over discourse own their own culture and identity.

    >>>”…tradition is continually negotiated”

    Isnt that universalizing assumption. What if some people work hard keep parts of their tradition immutable. What if instead voicing of what the tradition means to them – only an outsiders views are presented and presented as truth. This is what is happening with Ms Doniger.

    “..don’t pretend to be objective about it.”

    Well people trying to protect what they perceive is thier tradition need to be politically correct about being objective about it – but someone outsider claiming spokesmanship of subalterns in Hindu society and culture are exempt from these otherwise stringent requirements of objectivity. Absolutely amazing.

    “…she is extraordinarily kind”

    Not long ago there was a mild mannered schoolmaster-ish chicken farmer named Himmler who tried to annihilate the entire Jewish race through his holocaust project. Point is personal appeal has nothing to do with entrenched ideological positions and biases.

  15. February 25, 2010 at 12:05 AM

    Thanks. I had posted a link without knowing you had a post. I was infuriated reading the nonsense and started searching valmiki ramayana. She is clever never clearly gives which exact shloka she is referring. Thanks for the Aditi link. I am sleepless since I read about Ashwamedha. I am searching all over the place. I will appreciate a post on Ashwamedha/Naramedha/Purushamedha (Krishna Yajurveda Taittariya Samhita).

  16. Ram
    January 30, 2010 at 11:20 PM

    I agree with most of Sandeep’s comments and central thesis but for this: “… Wendy Doniger is a classic illustration of what happens when somebody is confronted with a superior culture.” I’m quite surprised how Sandeep can come up with this “superior culture” nonsense. You’ve lost me tight there, Sandeep!

    I agree with Larissa about her “fad in modern scholarship” supposition. But I also winder if there is also a sociological trend that has brought down scholarship. Feminism, “social engineering” oriented policies have led to increasing numbers of women in academia. Women outnumber men in grad schools in the USA; increasingly, more husbands are becoming unemployable; boys get the shaft or less attention in primary/middle schools in the USA and so on. Associated with this is the rise of ambitious and opportunistic women who find paths or careers of least resistance. Call it niche areas that will fetch them huge dividends in the shortest time with least resistance. As a result, we have increasing mediocrity.

    Don’t jump on me yet: the above trend is NOT because women are inferior. It’s because Orientalism is not not such a popular or fetching ($) subject and perhaps only the mediocre bottom feeders are left to choose it. Stoically speaking, in the larger sense, perhaps this is the way it was meant to be: women have been BS-ed for so long that it’s their turn to “come on top” any which way. (No, Wendy, don’t read anything into that expression; no pun intended at all)

  17. Jon
    January 15, 2010 at 3:43 AM

    Doniger is a fad in modern scholarship? A 50-year fad, I guess!

    “In closing, Wendy Doniger is a classic illustration of what happens when somebody is confronted with a superior culture. The initial state of dumbfoundedness gives way to irrational hatred towards the thing that such a mind cannot comprehend.”

    A “superior culture”? Perhaps, but you’re arguing along lines of ideology as much as, if not more, than Doniger ever did. I read all of The Hindus and did not get the impression that she was especially sex-obsessed, but rather that she wanted to bring to light certain subaltern voices in some of the major epics.

    “Tradition” is continually negotiated. Do you honestly think that the Hinduism of today always was? Do you think it has been unchanging?

    You’re obviously working hard to defend your notion of “tradition”, whether it be against Western academics or the dreaded Islam… which is fine, but don’t pretend to be objective about it.

    And please, please don’t act as if Wendy Doniger is some sort of hateful demon… though I don’t know her well, I took a class with her and she is extraordinarily kind, whether or not she may be wrong at times.

  18. larissa
    January 9, 2010 at 10:08 PM

    I forgot–lets not post more on this Wendy section–it gives her way too much importance than she deserves–besides, as those posting here mostly find her book not worth reading, the discussion has veered off to touch on other topics anyway….
    She’s just a fad in modern scholarship and would misrepresent if given a chance the Greeks as much as the Hindus, with her Freudian analysis and what not….

  19. larissa
    January 9, 2010 at 8:40 PM

    “Your observation about west and it’s inability to cope up with a fast changing world with ideologies (Catholicism and Secularism) that are bankrupt of answers to the question that man asks about eternity yet filled with disastrous political consequences is something I can relate to well.”

    Why only the West. Take a look at the way India is headed where most new political experiments are a copy of what happens in the West with no real understanding of their implications…
    My thinking is that the original Western civilizations (without the influence from the three Mid-East religions)–this is, the Greco-Roman one, was not incompatible with that of the Hindus and Buddhists. Look at the Hellenic-Buddhist civilization in Afghanistan–it was syncretic and very harmonious–but look at Afghanistan after the arrival of Islam–became a civilizational wasteland. This is something that Hindus don’t seem to realize.
    Similarly, look at Kashmir before Islam–it produced art, learning, poetry, literature, philosophy (both Hindu and Buddhist)–look at it today? Does anything more need to be said? Does any trace of Hindu and Buddhist civilization remain in Kashmir valley?
    What would have worked in India’s favor would have been a kind of Meijii type restoration that occurred in Japan (1867-8) when it modernized in response to external challenges while yet retained whatever culture it had–creating a harmonious transition to modernity. India got stuck with the naive idealism of people like Nehru.
    Don’t say that “secularism” is the West’s problem–given that India copies unthinkingly most things–the problems of the West in a cultural sense will also become India’s problems, they have already become so when it comes to urban life.

  20. larissa
    January 9, 2010 at 7:36 PM

    Well even secularism in India is a very bad second-hand copy.
    When I get frustrated thinking of India–I realize that its pointless upsetting oneself over it as Hindus are’nt even in control there anymore, and democracy there resembles a mobocracy …

  21. Sid
    January 9, 2010 at 5:31 AM

    @larissa,
    For the first time, I seem to agree with you. Your observation about west and it’s inability to cope up with a fast changing world with ideologies (Catholicism and Secularism) that are bankrupt of answers to the question that man asks about eternity yet filled with disastrous political consequences is something I can relate to well.

    I second Sudarshan.

  22. Sudarshan
    January 8, 2010 at 11:18 PM

    @Larissa
    “It is unfortunate that Indians don’t relize that there is a cultural continuity which is worth preserving and that the secular state tries to undermine it. ”

    Very well said!!!

  23. larissa
    January 8, 2010 at 6:32 PM

    Also in India there is a lot to protect simply because there is a continuity in traditon even though the secular state tries to undermine it.
    Unlike Western Europe, which is post-Christian and where the common man needs a deep scholarly understanding of Greco-Roman civilization to even imagine what religion can mean in a non-Christian context (I find the unfortunate result of Christianity to be that even the original Western civilizations, Greece and Rome, are viewed by a Christian prism and religion althgether), so it really takes a lot of scholarship and study for them to understand religion in a non-Christian context, in addition to their own Greco-Roman religious outlook. It is easy to see how Freudianism, Marxism and Socialism and Totalitarianism arise out of a reaction to the Christian doctrine–which essentially “separates” man from God, so a neurosis is already set in (in the sense that God is forever separate from man–a disjunct in the psychological sense)–the theories of Freud are merely sign of this neurosis–he uses Greek mythology to illustrate “the Odeipus” complex and other such things–but he is not correct here as the Freudian view arises only in a world where the thinking has become Christian, as a reaction to it–so he should have sought in Christian mythology the illustration for his theories and not in Greek myths. A Freudian outlook could never arise in the Greco-Roman standpoint or in the Hindu standpoint. This is what I am saying. But it arises when a civilization has become Christian in the sense of a “reaction”. In a similar way, “atheism” in the West is also a “reaction” and is different from what it is in the East.

    A lot of Iranians I know tell me–Islam was not initially our religion, it was imposed on us by Arabs, who destroyed classical Persian civilization. We are Muslims because that is what we know now, as all else has been destroyed, if someone were to remove this religion by force, then we have no connection to the sacred. They are right. The case for Christianity is similar–although it was the Roman emperor who adopted it–I don’t think the Romans relalized that Christianity also uproots everything foreign to it–in the sense that all desert religions do– this is their hallmark–they are not “syncretic” like the dharmic religions or the Greco Roman religions. Now Christianity has been the religion of the West for a long time, yet the problem has become that religion has lost its hold on many in the West– what you see in the post-Christian world in the West is a “desacralization” and “mechanization” of all forms of existence– I doubt that religion will be a moving force in the West as it used to be in the Middle Ages –not saying this is good or bad but just how it appears to me. Since the West has but Christianity as its connection to the sacred, it is understandable when Putin firmly declared Russia to be Greek Orthodox– its a reaction as he does not want further dissolution. What else has Russia got in terms of tradition if not religion, as the old aristocracy was completely destroyed by communism? But with loss of religion, there is a loss of sanction for morals, you have only a secular “sanction” in the form of law–and this is not really satisfactory as people will try to subvert the law, there is no “higher” sanction for anything–and hence the nihilism and disenchantment you see in the West today. Some Christians seem to think the Church can again have the hold it once did–I wonder if this is the case.
    Now in India the case is different from the West–a lot has been preserved of the original culture despite Islamic disruption of classical civilization in India, and more recent colonial rule which for all its evils did one good–end India’s intellectual isolation vis a vis the world. India was isloated from the world under many years of Islam when not a single univeristy was opened and as Hindus turned conservative to survive Islam-hence the backwardness today which is sought to be overcome-
    Now since a lot has been preserved in India (although the secular state tries to quickly destroy this), the questions for conservatives and nationalists are different from the West (where there is the Greco-Roman civilization, the Christian one and the current post-Christian one with all the disruption these different forms entail on a culture)–It is unfortunate that Indians don’t relize that there is a cultural continuity which is worth preserving and that the secular state tries to undermine it. What is more disappointing is that they blindly follow the West when they don’t undertand it–giving up on their own traditional wisdom and adopting blindly something whose future they don’t understand, as the problems of the West are different from that of India in the cultural sense.
    But then if you look at it, Hindus are not really in control in India these days–you find a mobocracy there.

  24. VENRAJA GOPAL BOWENPALLE
    January 8, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    Thank you very much Mr.Gajanan.

    There are very few people who sincerely appreciate like you.

  25. Sid
    January 8, 2010 at 2:05 AM

    Palahalli,

    “I’m merely argueing for native rights in their own lands….” – How native are Americans (or Christians as you would like to put it) in North America? In Australia? In Africa?
    Try to shift 10000 years back, how native are Indians in India or Chinese in China?
    I find it interesting that you managed to give your argument totally a new color with a straight face.

    1. Not all US schools teach creationism. Some schools do and that is where the protest is.

    2. “…the “evolutionary” theories are opposed by Christian Americans because they negate the theory of Creationism.” – You are making it look like as if theory of evolution was invented as a reaction to creationism. Darwin never said that he went to the South Pacific Island because he did not like what Bible said. It is actually the other way round. As a Hindu, I would rather look at an established theory, find if there is any observed fact that contradicts it and if not, I will go with the theory. Where is the need to consider creationism?

    3. Missionaries in India have not come here to make arguments with you or me. They have come here to find the future of Catholicism. Period. Irrespective of what you think of creationism, they are hell bent on raising hell here. I am not suggesting here to burn them alive, but we better prepare to put our house in order. We, the Hindus, are the biggest source of frustration for Islam-infected mad men or much maligned Catholicism. As the multi-billion dollar religious business consolidates itself, it would continue to attack us using whatever deception it can use including communism or secularism. Our only long term hope is that the inherent conflict between two conversion-ist doctrine have to face each other eventually and possibly weaken themselves. But we need to make sure that we do not become the soldiers for any of them.

  26. Sid
    January 7, 2010 at 11:03 PM

    Palahalli,

    1. I do not know how many outsiders actually see west as Christian. Westerners obviously do not. Culture and religions are separate paradigm. They do have a relation but they should be seen separately.

    “Mind-game : Is a Western nationalist the same as a Western Christian missionary on an out-reach in the non-West?” – No, they are not. Main difference is nationalists are respectable figures in general (only exception is Hitler). It is tempting to assume what you have written, but the basis of nationalism has long shifted from religions to ethnicity/language/culture.

    2. Truth is not subjective. What you are suggesting would put the entire idea of freedom of expression to hell.

    3. America is not a Christian country. I think you are confusing between a nation and it’s majority. A christian country is something that declares Christianity (any type) to be the only acceptable religion or at least it accepts only Christians to be it’s desirable citizens. However, many of western nations are not so. Majority living in west are not Vatican or even Church oriented and thus they do not have a drive to identify themselves as Christian nation. Then, what is the point of calling West as explicitly Christian?

    4. I think I made all the points I could make. Science and related education should be free from cultural and political concerns. It is the culture and politics that changes, truth does not. The central point of evolution is an established truth, it would not change if some “tribe”s can not accept the truth. If someone can not accept this, then it is his problem, not the community’s. The question is whether we are capable of accepting the truth without cultural concern or not. So far we have, so there is no point in beating around the bush here.

    Oh, in case you noticed, calling yourself “Indian” is not fashion. Calling yourself “Secular” is an in-thing.
    Also, in case you noticed, in the outside world, we are known as “Indian”s first and Hindu later. I can not resist the temptation to point out that both Hindu and India are derived from same word and same phonetic mistake.

  27. January 7, 2010 at 10:47 PM

    Kaffir -

    1. No. I’m not at all assuming a monolith. I don’t think schools in the US can continue to teach “creationism” if a majority of American parents are opposed to it.

    2. To my mind, the “evolutionary” theories are opposed by Christian Americans because they negate the theory of Creationism. If I were to stand outside of it all as a Hindu, I would say bring both of these theories to the table.

    3. “Bible/Christianity” – So? This is the US isn’t it? There are plenty of things we Hindus can do in Hindusthan to stop the Benny Hinn-like circuses – including making a strong “evolutionary” argument.

    I’m merely argueing for native rights in their own lands. Non-natives have no moral right to subvert a native society and culture. I think if we appreciate this rule enough, we will be better able to defend ourselves and our own right to our way of life.

  28. Kaffir
    January 7, 2010 at 10:22 PM

    =>
    Intellectual “truths”(theories of evolution etc) that are still being debated cannot be thrust down the throats of a people who have traditionally opposed a particular side (Darwinism).
    =>

    Huh?? Come again?

    First of all, you’re assuming that “people who have traditionally opposed a particular side” is a monolith and it applies to all Americans, and this fictional monolith’s stance is valid and has more credibility than the opposing side’s stance (though based on what?). Not true.

    Second, “thrust down the throats of a people”?? Teaching theory of evolution is part of the science curriculum – it doesn’t mean that the theory is set in stone. How is that “thrusting down the throats of people”? Is teaching astrophysics in schools – where new discoveries are still being made and the theories revised – “thrusting down people’s throat”?

    =>
    This is very much like how liberal Hindus and some Hindu nationalists rant and rave against caste and want to “abolish” it but Hindu masses happily live their caste traditions.
    =>

    This is not at all like the example you give above. I don’t see any corollary between the two issues.

    What you fail to acknowledge is the source of this creationism theory – Bible/Christianity. Most likely, these very same people who are pushing creationism in a science class, are the ones who sponsor Benny Hinn and other evangelists who come to India to harvest souls. Why would I want to support such people and their wacky ideas of teaching creationism in a science class? Just because I agree with some conservative ideas, and these people are also conservatives? Illogical!!

    Perhaps you need to examine your stance and why you are so quick to support those who do not view you as an equal and want to “save your soul”. An enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

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