Old and new images of sepoy and master

pic linked from punch.photoshelter.com

pic linked from devdutt.com

The first image shows British master with Indian sepoy. The body language is asymmetric and explicit.

In the second image, Devdutt Pattanaik and Wendy mom are embracing as equal love birds. But power is asymmetric. One has intellectual adhikara over the other. One has superiority complex and the other is colonized as inferior. One is funding the other and giving him legitimacy and prestige. The subordinate does the dirty work for his master. But in this new American form of colonization, the sepoy gets treated with outward respect. Americans are better at the game than the Brits. The sepoys they hire are better educated and more polished. The lure of sepoy-hood is greater than before.

Please compare & contrast the two eras of colonization, and how Sepoy 1.0 have morphed into Sepoy 2.0.

The Translation Problem

A forum member DJ writes:
Folks, I've been meaning to write this for months, given the importance of this topic. I think we need to tweak our understanding of this matter because it is way off the mark right now. The so-called translation problem is even worse than we think it is. It is not a problem involving words and meanings but is more of a theoretical problem that relates to the entire framework that shapes the way we think.

Ever since our colonization we have taken on the Abrahamic way of talking without really understanding what we are talking about. This has been one of the greatest failing of Hindus. While our enemies were busy studying us to death, we sat back and did not care to understand what their religion and culture were all about.
As a result of this, we adopted their way of thinking so that now we no longer have an intuitive understanding of many of the words in our own languages. This is especially true when it comes to talking about human psychology. We are as clueless about words such as manas and buddhi as as anyone from the West who wants to study our traditions. When it comes to words like these we do with them exactly what we do with words like deva and puja.  We map them on to certain words in English and understand them in the way that the West has taught us to understand them. This is what is so insidious about the translation problem. It is not confined just to translation into English. It encompasses the way we talk in our native Indian languages. The framework of the western cultural experience has been so dominant in the last 300 years that language-use in Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Gujarati, Marathi, Sanskrit, and every other Indian language has been distorted.

Please remember that many of these words have to do with basic human psychology. These are words that we use to talk about ourselves, our friends, husbands, wives, parents, kids, and other human beings. Therefore, we cannot sit back and proclaim that there are many Hindu experts and scholars who do know what they are talking about. Given the fundamental importance of a vocabulary that allows us to talk about ourselves, we cannot sit back and rely on a community of specialists. We must be able to relate to these words as we live and breathe. Even if our experts tell us what these words mean, how do we understand them in ourselves? Is my desire for a dosa an expression of my manas or my buddhi? When I want to punch somebody, what prevents me: buddhi, chitta, manas, dharma, or, to use Christian terminology, the conscience? What if my buddhi and manas both support me in wanting to punch someone? What then is the difference between the two? What do I need to train if I want to improve? How do I identify that entity? How do I know what trains it? Your experts, it turns out, will have to appeal to the words I already know in order to explain to me what buddhi or manas is. Merely knowing a word cannot help me identify it in myself. Our approach to studying human psychology was different from the subject 'psychology' that is taught in schools and universities.

Distortions in our understanding of our own traditions had already started with the Islamic colonization. They became more systematized when the missionaries and European scholars began with their translations. The next level of distortion started when Indians themselves adopted this way of talking in English. Finally, distortions occurred when Indians then translated their way of talking in English back into the Indian languages. After all these distortions, there is no way of telling how the cognition of Indians has changed in the past few centuries. In many ways we are as clueless as anyone from the West who studies our traditions. What they learn from studying Patanjali is also what we learn by studying Patanjali. This is the reason why earlier generations of Indians did not object to the translations the British came up with. It’s because our understanding of Ishwara is as shallow as our understanding of God.

This problem cannot be solved by merely retaining words in our own language. As a first step we have to understand the culture that inflicted this framework that we have become trapped in. In other words, the so-called translation problem is a theoretical problem, and as long as we accept the theoretical framework provided by the West, whether it involves religion or cosmology or whether it has to do with human psychology, we will not be able to solve the problem.

We need to develop alternative theoretical frameworks to rival those of the West. Our frameworks may well be superior when talking about human psychology, let’s say. They may not be adequate when talking about the cosmos. Accordingly, we can adopt, adapt, or discard our frameworks. Meanwhile, just quibbling over the meaning of what brhamanda exactly means is a useless exercise. What may have been cutting edge at the time of Aryabhata and Agastya may not be relevant any more. The fact that we are willing to accept every bit of knowledge that was produced 5000 years ago without any critical reflection is further proof of the fact that we are so out of touch with our traditions. It is not about studying some ancient text but really understanding their approach to knowledge. With all due respect, merely using Sanskrit words in some contexts is a useless exercise. If we really understood what we were talking about, we would be able to express it in any language.

Rajiv Malhotra responds:
Indeed, the mis-translation is not just of words but the ideas behind them. Once you require the original word to be retained, you also force people to think what the words mean more deeply. Because puja is not same as prayer, it compels the person to learn what puja is, where and why it differs, and why the difference matters a lot.
The Sanskrit non-translatables initiative started in BD has far reaching implications, beyond just preserving certain words. Each word is an ecosystem of knowledge, a signpost to deep structures. Once we get critical mass on board this venture, it will snowball in many directions. But first lets take issue with common translations we find our netas, gurus, purohits doing all the time. Build from there. This is one of several initiatives in parallel to take back control of our civilization. The SI2 conference will have many outstanding papers on such matters.

Forum member YKW  adds:
Rajivji has very rightly said that the mis-translation is not just of words but the ideas behind them.  Emergence of Aryan Invasion theory to an extent is the result of such a mis-translation and mis-interpretation of Vedic works. Substituting mere dictionary equivalents for words and Ignoring the method and interpretive principles of ancient rishies while translating the multi-dimensional and symbolic language of the Vedic texts made them unintelligible and beyond human comprehension.   Such a mutilation and bungling with the the Vedic language due to ignorance or by choice also kills the very spirit of the profound ideas contained in the ancient texts. It was Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati(1824-83) who in recent times pointed out that how misinterpretation of the texts led to several misconceptions/misgivings which finally ended into many obnoxious customs and evil practices in the society.  Hence, the need to put things in the right perspective.

I am giving below few  examples of  mistranslation and misinterpretation  from the book "Original Home of the Aryans" which is english translation of the work 'Aryon Ka Aadi Desh'. The book is written by Swami Vidyanand Saraswati(former Principal, Arya College, Panipat and Fellow Punjab University), pub  by Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, New Delhi, Ed.1987. Excerpts from the book:

"Griffth in his note on the Rigvedic hymn (1-10-1) writes:  "The dusky brood: The dark aborigines who opposed the Aryans," i.e., the dark coloured aborigines who opposed Aryans are called Dasa or Dasyu.  In order to prove the aborigines as dark-coloured he refers to the six mantras of Rigveda (1-101-1; 1-130-8; 2-20-7; 4-16-13; 6-47-21 and 7-5-3) in which the word Krishna has been used.  As a matter of fact different types of colours are mentioned in  these mantras and not human beings.  Skandswami has interpreted Krishna-garbha as black clouds.  That is why in the Vedas the so-called leaders of Dasyus, Shambhar, Chumuree, Dhumi, Varchin, etc. are classified as different types of clouds." 

"On account of lack of knowledge about the poetic description in the Vedas, the foreigners have distorted the meanings of the words. The foreigners have tried to show that the aborigines were phallus-worshippers.  They have based conclusions on the word Shishan-deva which is used in the Vedas to denote persons who are lusty and sensuous.  Yaskacharya has interpreted this word as abrahmacharya i.e., who does not observe brahamacharya.  This word occurs in the Rigveda (7-21-5 and 10-99-3).  In these mantras prayer is addressed to Indra that evil persons should not cause impediments in their noble works.  These mantras have no reference to worship.  Sensuous persons of any country, time and society are shishnadevas." 

"The word anas is used in the Vedas.  The foreign scholars have interpreted it as "without nose or with flat nose."  Their view is fallacious.  The word "nas" does not mean nose.  it refers to sound.  The Hymn in which this word occurs in the Rigveda (5-29-10) speaks of clouds: the word, therefore, in the context means clouds which do not thunder.  It has no reference whatsoever to flat nose or noselessness." 

Swami Vidyanand further remarks  that the camp-followers of the Western scholars continue to see through the eyes of their western masters.  The great exponent of Indian culture,K.M. Munshi has written quite diabolically about Aryans and Rishies and described them beef eaters, drinkers, gamblers, etc,  in his book Lopa-Mudra.  In the preface to the book Shri Munshi has stated that whatever he has written in the book is based on Rigveda. However, when Swami Vidyanand asked him to  quote the mantras on the authority of which he had written all this in his book - he wrote back as under in his letter dated 2nd February, 1950. 

" I believe the Vedas to have been composed by human beings in the very early stage of our culture and my attempt in this book has been to create an atmosphere which I find in the Vedas as translated by Western scholars and as given in Dr.Keith's Vedic Index.  I have accepted their views of life and conditions in those times." 

Talking about the pernecious effects of mis-interpretation and mis-translation, Swami Vidyanand Saraswati  further says that by adopting literal meanings of words instead of etymological or derivative meanings,the Vedas have been shown as a book of facinating stories.  In this way our brains have been stuffed with rocks of faithlessness in the Vedas.  (Note: The above english translation of the book Aryon Ka Aadi desh i.e.,- Original Home of the Aryans by Swami Vidyanand Saaswati is out of print, however, Hindi enlarged edition , pub.by Arya Prakashan, Ajmeri Gate, Delhi is available).

Wendy Doniger's 'Grandchildren' mobilized to lead Hinduphobia - with NRI funding

Rajiv Malhotra:
Andrea Jain who wrote this Hinduphobic article was student of the notorious Jeffrey Kripal (himself a Wendy's Child and target of many of my writings.)

Despite all this pedigree, the NRI fools funded a Jain studies chair at the University where Jeffrey K teaches and put him in position of authority to call the shots there.

See the Jain Chair announcement.

What is going on with our rich NRIs - claiming to be nationalists before one audience, and then funding such institutionalized Hinduphobia?

Why have many of you [members] failed to expose this syndrome of NRI duplicity?

Question: Why are you targeting Sheldon Pollock personally, i.e. one man?

An important point that we want people to understand. Please read the following FAQ closely. Also read the comment by Sonal Mansingh.

Question: Why are you targeting Sheldon Pollock personally (i.e. one man)?

Answer: We are never targeting anyone personally, but critiquing and responding to their ideas. We see these ideas as a serious school of thought and not as one person’s. Before choosing a target for purva-paksha and uttara-paksha, one must ask the following kinds of questions:
·         What is the specific harm being caused to us by a given target, which we hope to undermine?
·         What further high-value targets become within our range once we have successfully engaged this target?
·         What does our team gain through this fight, in terms of learning new sophisticated methods?
·         What would be the demoralizing effect on the opponent’s supporters, and how would this boost the morale of our support base?
·         How did our tradition respond to similar situations?

Such an inquiry led to the following position regarding the above question.

1.      Following the purva-paksha system:
a.      The purva/uttara paksha system of argumentation on behalf of one’s tradition requires naming the opponent, citing his/her specific works and then giving a sound, logical critique. It is not done by sweeping generalizations of opponents. It is essentially a “case studies” method in which specific instances of differences get argued with specific opponents (similar in some ways to the famous Harvard business school case studies approach). While a general treatise with critique can be ignored, a direct critique of named opponents who have stature is non-ignorable, which is important.
b.      There is a difference between doing a purva-paksha and developing a new shastra/siddhanta on a given subject. Before a new shastra can emerge, one must first clear the table of existing theories by doing specific purva-paksha on the major ones. This is how the system of knowledge continually renews and refreshes itself. Ignoring the opponent was not seen as a worthy thing.
c.       The target should be a leader representing an important school of thought, one with lineage, followers and traction. In other words, we like to critique an entire ecosystem.
2.      Harm being caused that we must remedy: Sheldon Pollock is not just an individual but also the leaders of an important school of thought causing the following problems that are very serious, concrete and immediate:
a.      Harmful content and substance: There are vast and deep problems with Pollock’s positions, and they often remain camouflaged beneath his surface praise and emotional appeals. The book, The Battle For Sanskrit (TBFS), started exposing these. The first Swadeshi Indology conference (SI-1) validated these concerns and added more substance to the criticisms. The next conference is going to take this criticism to a much higher level. For specific issues with his scholarship, the reader is referred to TBFS and the SI-1 web site. But as a sample, he alleges that: (1) the Sanskrit tradition from its beginning has been socially oppressive, (2) shastras by design have prevented creative thinking, (3) Sanskrit texts contained toxins that influenced the Nazis to commit the holocaust, (4) the Ramayana contains seeds of violence and this has been provoked against Muslims, (5), mimamsa was developed in response to Buddhism, as a way to codify biases, (6) rasa entered late in the tradition, and even later it was reinterpreted (by Rupa Goswami) to introduce sacredness, (7) kavya has from the beginning been a device for kings’ projection of power in an aesthetic manner; and so on.
b.      Hijacking Sringeri: Prior to TBFS, he already had provisional commitment from Sringeri mattha to set up Adi Shankara Chairs in US Ivy Leagues, with Pollock himself in charge of selecting and directing the academic programs.
c.       Hinduphobic parampara: He has trained and influenced one of the largest and most influential group of students and peers. His importance through his writings is well attested by the Western academic establishment. These followers include many sepoy scholars/journalists whose works are filled with venom against Hinduism. Many who wonder “why bother critiquing Pollock?” must wake up and discover that many individuals they are fighting are trained by him and/or operating under his ideological influence. Rather than fighting isolated instances, we must get to the roots of the system that produces such instances.
d.      Official recognition & infiltration: His followers have infiltrated the official establishments of higher learning, media and education, and he has received official awards. This has made his positions officially endorsed in India. Hence they need to be examined closely and evaluated objectively.
e.      Murty Classics Library: A direct and immediate consequence of TBFS was a major petition against the MCLI, which triggered response and counter-response from both sides. This brought to the surface the previously hidden faces of Pollockism. In fact, the recent Vande Mantram Library initiative is an example of a direct result of the awareness created by TBFS.
3.      Knowledge being acquired by our scholars and further purva-paksha opportunities:
a.      Because very few of our traditional scholars have done purva-paksha on the latest Western Indology, this work has required them to learn about many areas of Western thought, research methodologies and institutional mechanisms. Some of these insights may help us upgrade our competitiveness in the global discourse. This knowledge better equips us to encounter with many other Western schools besides just Pollock, from a much deeper level than our scholars have done in the past.
b.      Subsequent purva-paksha targets under consideration include: Romila Tnapar, Wendy Doniger, Western(ized) feminists, to name a few. In each case, we wish to adopt a focused and sharply targeted approach in order to maximize the impact on the ground.
4.      Psychological warfare:
a.      By toppling the leader of a school, the followers of that school get demoralized. New recruits into their program become harder to attract. This already happened to other intellectual leaders we targeted in the past.
b.      Simultaneously, we are witnessing a boost to the self-confidence of our young scholars. They are becoming fearless and better skilled at debating in open forums.
c.       An important quality to cultivate is being non-ignorable. This cannot be achieved by criticizing dead scholars (who will not talk back), dead empires, marginal players, or over abstracted and over-generalized opposing views. To trigger lively debate that can transform the discourse requires one to name names, be direct and sharp – precisely the qualities exhibited in our tradition of debates in the past.
5.      Waking up some tamasic, lazy and pompous “insiders”:
a.      It is our experience that many “insider” scholars, including and especially some with big reputations and high society profiles, are pathetically out of touch with the latest scholarship, lazy to do any new reading in a serious manner, and even deficient in analytical/debating experience to engage Westerns with confidence. Some of them are also sold out through various forms of patronage. Hence they tend to be cynical about such attempts as the Swadeshi Indology movement where hard work and original, non-emotional scholarship is being required for membership.
b.      The strategy adopted by SI is to welcome all established scholars on the terms of rigor and objectivity, rather than mental blockages or emotions. Many senior scholars are already solidly in the SI movement and their leadership is given paramount importance.
c.       The good news is that we find the new, young scholars to be very enthusiastic and competent in this pursuit. This fits well with our goal to develop next generation specialized teams of scholars with different kinds of subject-matter expertise.
d.      The old-school scholars who did not make much impact but spent their energies traveling for events and enjoying the limelight, now feel threatened by a new stock of scholars that are bypassing them. There is also blatant jealousy on display at times. We do not want our scholars to get discouraged by this, and one purpose of writing this is to prepare them for such cynicisms.

Now, here is some additional context.
  • When I was researching on Pollock in 2015, I went around many senior scholars in India for leads, help, sources, etc. Did not want to rediscover what was already known to our people.
  • Result: Very disappointing. Hardly any serious work had been or was being done, little interest to get off their rear ends and work hard, lots of bombast/ego, pride, emotions, etc. 
  • But not surprised because i have been through this inertia in India for 25 years on various topics.
  • Basically our "scholars" want to get maximize personal benefit with minimum effort/investment of their own.
  • Case study: One retired Delhi U prof who is well known as natya shatra "expert" (though scantily published) wanted to save himself the effort of reading Pollock. So he felt that giving me enough chai and a samosa at India Int'l Center cafeteria would allow him to pick my brain while he and his wife would sit and take notes. This would let him beat me by getting a quick blog out of his own. Serious books are unnecessary as per this lot, because it is too much effort. Result is that the western Indologists call the shots when it comes to prescribing books in colleges worldwide even though the subject is Indology.
  • I told him he would have to wait for my book to come out first, as leaking out the critical research and responses by me would not be appropriate. In the end he and his wife gave up trying. 
  • Within a couple of weeks from this "samosa-based research" attempt, his article suddenly appeared in IndiaFacts attacking Pollock and Rohan Murthy. Note that when I met and told him about Pollock, he had only hesard about him tangentially and lacked even the basic idea of what Pollock's work or controversy were about. Now he was writing like an overnight "expert". However, as expected, there was no substance in his article - merely emotional allegations based on how everything wasgenerally wrong with the West. So no need to spend effort reading Pollock.
  • Fast forward several months. My tbfs book comes out, gets rave reviews by top Sanskrit scholars in India, there are 25 events, lots of awareness. This man wants to ignore all this material because it is overwhelming to him. He now wants to make it seem that it was unimportant (because he could/did nothing about the topic).
  • Next comes a big surprise. Last week there was some meeting in Delhi to create a rival to Murthy Classics Library - an initiative inspired by tbfs and the subsequent petition against MCLI. One of the speakers presents a summary of the Swadeshi Indology movement. Guess who is the top cynic speaking out against "conferences targeting Pollock?" Its our DU friend who last year was desperate to get masala on Pollock so he could put out a very rapid article critical of Pollock. Contradicting his own previous desires/article, last week he argued: we must not attack one man's work. He gives every reason not to be so focused in conferences. 
  • Of course, our team of three SI scholars argued back and explained the importance of specialized. focused analyses.
In light of this, I decided we must do a FAQ on why we targeted Pollock per se, not personally but as a school of Indology. 

The link above takes you to a summary of the importance of specializing. Some of it is taken from TBFS.

I hope serious scholars will take the time and study it. This issue is important for us to debate. As I noted in this attachment, Indian scholarly events are too unproductive, more like flea markets with substandard speakers regurgitating their same old material for many years.

As you can see, so much of our fight is internal, with our own people.


Smt. Sonal Mansingh, who is a famous performer and expert on Indian Nritya/Natya responds:
Apropos ur 28th August mail: this Naatya Shastra 'scholar' has threatened to expose classical dancers who according to him,  know nothing abt it. He is more aggressive now than before having been brought as Exe Trustee of most prestigious Govt cultural organisation. In any case, Pompous pretentiousness is the hallmark of most scholars & academicians, Indian or non-Indian. Sincerely
Sonal Mansingh

Rajiv: Sonal ji, I have always considered the performers (and you are among the foremost of this era) as our exemplars, not the cynical bookworms sitting on the sideline passing comments...

The difference between two kinds of differences: Digestible and Non-digestible

Two kinds of differences: Digestible and Non-digestible

I want to respond to a common confusion about the kind of difference we need to assert in order to protect ourselves. A difference that the other religion can adopt is not sustainable and can easily become a part of the other faith as well.

For example: Removing shoes to enter a temple, wearing tilak, eating with one’s hands without silverware, eating on a banana leaf, wearing saffron clothes, giving prasad, etc. – each of these has become common practice in Christian churches in south India. None of these differences causes any violation in the core tenets of Christianity. They see these practices as mere “culture” that can be accepted by them without any problem.

The church developed the doctrine and practice called “inculturation” precisely to encourage its followers to adopt local cultures, symbols, even festivals, etc. in order to “localize Christianity”.

This is no different than MacDonald’s adopting Paneer Burger for menus in India and Chow Mein for China. It is a very common globalization strategy to adapt products for local markets. The church gave this the name “inculturation” and experimented it for generations in Africa, Latin America before introducing systematically in India. Each adapted product is market tested, feedback given from field operations to headquarters, policies updated, new versions developed, etc. This process is ongoing very studiously.
This is why Western Indologists like to separate religion and culture, so they can reject the former and digest the latter.

What are the Hindu dharma items that the Christian host cannot digest because these items would violate core Christian tenets? These are the kinds of things explained in Being Different. If such a tenet were absorbed by the Christian side, they would need to distort it in order to make it fit their framework and assumptions. Here the Hindu side must forcefully resist letting such distortions take place – for which we need well-informed and assertive Hindus.

What would happen if Christians were to ingest such non-digestible items in their authentic form (i.e. without being able to distort them)? The result would be what I have called the poison pills.

Below is a post I received that I now want to respond to. I have removed references to a specific guru because that leads to personal fights for/against, which is silly, because what we want to do is to discuss the principles and learn.

The discussion thread was about examples of digestion; a guru’s position on yoga came up in this context. A follower of his defended him by writing the following:

As a counter example, I can say I first learnt one of the main essences of "Being Different" from XYZ's talks, long before Rajiv's book "Being Different" was published. Like for example his talk on uniqueness of Hindu Temples, as he says here "Nowhere else in the world, such wisdom exists", or his talk on how Indian Temples are totally different from places of worship of other religions like Churches or Mosques.’

Note that he is unconscious of the distinction between digestible and non-digestible differences. Merely praising Hinduism is useless if the issue is to explain what/why certain differences are non-negotiable for us and at the same unacceptable to the other side. The question is not how Hindu temples are superior/unique. But in what ways do they have features that are impossible for Christians to adopt and adapt? Clearly the person who wrote the above is not focusing on this, and it remains unclear whether his guru is sufficiently focusing on teaching non-digestible differences. Difference can be at many levels.

What I am requiring is impossible to do without reversing the gaze and first studying the other religion. How can you be sure that Hindu item X is non-digestible into a certain religion, and that it will act as a poison pill, if you have only a superficial idea of that religion?

This is the crux of the matter. Teachers who are mixed up about the other religion, perhaps partly because they want to be politically correct with them, simply lack the depth of knowledge about the other religion to be able to formulate Hindu dharma in non-digestible terms. They can go on praising Hinduism, but that does not address the issue of digestion.