RMF Summary: Week of March 22-28, 2011

March 22
Another example for chpt 8 - Kalai Kaviri
[Chpt 8 discusses numerous ways by which inculturation is being used to dupe naive Hindus into slipping into Christianity without knowing it. The appropriation of Hindu bharatnatyam dance to propagate Christianity is given as one example. Below is another.]

Kalai Kaviri was founded by a Jesuit priest by name Fr. S.M. George in 1977 at Tiruchirappalli in the Southern part of India...

... no Christian family came forward to support him as dance was considered profane....

... Kalai Kaviri brought out ‘Yesu Kaaviyam’ the poetical life history of the Jesus Christ written by the famous Tamil film lyricist Kannadasan...

... many tourists from various countries, Catholic fraternity in particular started showing interest in Kalai Kaviri visiting the institution. With such rapid growth, Kalai Kaviri inaugurated the full-time Bharathanatyam diploma course ...

... Inspired by the art forms fostered in the Hindu temples, Kalai Kaviri choreographed Indian classical and semi-classical dances on liturgical themes and presented them during the masses. Such performances were acclaimed to by the Christian community the world over as something unique and the first of its kind....

... In 1999, Kalai Kaviri introduced Post-graduate degree courses in Bharathanatyam and music...

Rakesh asks:
"Frankly, what is wrong with this? Afterall, Rukmini Arundale, had to recuperate Bharata Natyam from a Devadasi art form which was looked down upon, and make it respectable for most Hindus.

In fact Hindus should appropriate western art forms to propogate their culture. Imagine providing an intellectual back bone to the traditional African and Latin American faiths by incorporating the Peruvian Inca Sun God as Surya Narayana and Krishna and Kali as the Black Pride Divinities. It is better to make Hinduism an inclusive, global faith..." 

Response to Rakesh's post:
[Inclusiveness is not the same thin as appropriation for the sake of deception.] Inclusiveness is sharing the same platform with another idea or culture with equal diginity. What Kalai Kaviri is doing is not what Rukmini Arundale did.

Inclusivism is not appropriating other culture and practices.
Interpreting the Peruvian and African gods and godesses as Hindu gods and goddess would be appropriation. However, researching about similarities and differences is a different matter altogether.

[What is being criticized is INCULTURATION which is a very defined Church strategy to assimilate "portions" of the target culture in order to make Christianity more easily accepted. It is their entry strategy. This is not what genuine inclusiveness means. When Ravana came dressed like a sadhu, he was not practicing inclusiveness.]]

Another commentator states:
"Christian inculturation camouflages and conceals its real tentions and does not come with benign intentions."

March 22
Look at who is coming to educate Indians!!
ARTICLE IN INDIAN EXPRESS After Beijing, University of Chicago plans centre in Delhi A prestigious university, with a well-established academic reputation for...

March 23
Varna and Caste (jati): What Vedic Literature says - article
Vedic Literature Says Caste by Birth is Unjust
By Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana dasa)
            ...We all know that the Vedic system of Varnashrama has been mentioned in the Vedic literature in many places. But it seems that many people still don't understand how it was meant to be implemented. It is not because of Varnashrama, but because of this misunderstanding of what it really is that has caused so many of India's social problems. This article contains many quotes from Vedic shastra to clarify what the Varnashrama or caste system is actually supposed to be...

March 24
USCIRF Reports an Analysis (Chapter 15)
Aravindan Neelakandan: Chapter 15 of 'Breaking India' deals with the US Government's direct involvement in Indian society and polity. The book shows how the US Commission on International Religious Freedom is one such tool for intervention.(Pages 271 to 283)

The book shows how every one in the commission has been handpicked to serve the agenda of US political interests. They are also people with strong global evangelical ambitions. For example its past commissioners include Eliot Abrams, undersecretary of state for President Ronald Reagan and notorious for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair. Another key commissioner of USCIRF Richard Land was named by TIME magazine as one of the twenty five most influential evangelicals in America...

A. Neelakandan then responded to a question from a commentator:
//In the first part, you will notice a question referring to the "brahmanical" system of "enforcing" varna. Is that historically true? That is, did brahmins actively "enforce" varna, or did they just strictly "observe" it?//

Yesterday a well known Marxist writer interviewed me for his blog on 'Breaking India'. If you know Tamil please go through the audio interview. The interview
precisely touches upon this question. [Here is the mp3 version of the Tamil interview].


Varna system could not have been enforced by any particular community. Those communities that wielded political, financial powers along with those who were considered the authorities of Dharma should have created this over a long period of time and with enormous regional variations. It was a social contract at its best and it had its ills and merits.
March 24
Re: N.S. Rajaram's column on human rights hypocrisy
The following column on 'Human rights Madness' appeared in the latest issue of Newsgram.

March 24
Re: Who educates Indian MP's - guess ?-- who is to blame?
 N. S. Rajaram: Why blame them? They are just filing the vacuum left by Hindu 'thinkers' or 'non-thinkers'.

For over a decade myself and others have been urging the Sangh organizations to set up some bona fide think tanks devoted to education, economics and especially national security. They need to be staffed by outside scholars of proven track record.

But what do they do? They coin some Sanskrit term like Bauddhik Sangh, Itihasa Samiti, Vedic mathematics, etc and put people with no qualifications beyond Sangh association.

Sangh organizations have saddled themselves with the debilitating dogma tha answers are to be found by going back to an imaginary Vedic past. This
revivalist attitude hangs like an albtross around the necks (and brains) of Sangh thinkers, and they are sinking deeper into the morass.

So why blame the Ford Foundation if they are filling the vacuum left by Hindu 'bauddhiks'?

March 25
Dark side of giving: The rise of philanthro-capitalism
This article was forwarded by my friend Prashanth Vaidyaraj. It notes from the economic stand point the truth of how philanthropic money is being used to not...

March 25
Wickileaks: US Ambassador monitored Dalit tensions secretly
Please note that this is ""This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available...

March 26
Christians launch political party in Tamil Nadu

Varna and jati (caste)
we have already covered lengthy and useful debates on this topic and this thread continues the analysis. Here is the link to the previous discussion.
Vijaya Rajiva: Comment on Dr. Elst's observation that Jati and Hinduism have been associated for at least two thousand years:

Jati has been wrongly translated as 'caste' since the Portuguese did so based on their erroneous theory of different races existing in India. There were a variety of ethnicities in ancient India, but not different races.

Jati arose out of the shrenis (guilds) out of economic necessity, the need for specialisation for producing the goods for both trade and domestic consumption. It is generally assumed that shrenis did not exist in the early Vedic period, although some scholars seem to think that there were the beginnings of shrenis in that time frame.

Certainly by the post Vedic period they existed and the loose social formations of the period became crystallised into Jatis...

Dr. Aravindan Neelakandan responded to Vijaya Rajiva. I've carried more detailed excerpts since Dr. Neelakandan cited a short story of Isaac Asimov as a reference in his response :)

 //I disagree with your implicit statement that Jati and Hinduism are actually intertwined. In that regard you and Dr.Elst seem to be in agreement!//

No. Exactly opposite is the case. Perhaps the following statement of mine has been misunderstood: //So Jaathi is as inherently intertwined with Hinduism as much as birth-based institutions of Europe are inherently intertwined with Christian theology.//

Now the birth-based multi-layered institutions of pre-modern Europe were supported by Christian theologians and law-makers. This does not make Christianity, in the eyes of modern scholars, a supporter of this system. However with Hinduism different yard sticks are used. An essentialist argument
is put forth to say that Hinduism is intertwined with Jaathi. This is simply not the complete picture and is a distorted picture of history. In this connection,
with regard to the evolution of untouchability, one of the best insights on the subject is in an unexpected realm. I suggest the science fiction short story
"Strikebreaker," by Isaac Asimov, in "Anthropology Through Science Fiction", (Ed. Carol Mason, Martin Harry Green- berg, and Patricia Warrick, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1974)Unfortunately I lost my copy of this wonderful collection.:( In the related discussion, Asimov states that caste system evolves
in a society with limited resources and limited mobility...
...Veracity of this speculation by the good doctor of science fiction, can be further validated by the fact that pre-Modern Europe also had defiled trades and ritual notions of purity and untouchability. It is not just an accident that not many works or literature can be found on this subject in the Western curriculum. The one rare book I came across in this regard is "Defiled Trades and Social Outcasts: Honor and Ritual Pollution in Early Modern Germany" by Kathy Stuart
(Cambridge University Press 2006)...
[I found a free and legal archived pdf link to Kathy Stuart's work here]

... So we need not justify or label Jaathi as an uniquely Indic phenomenon. But what one finds unique as an Indian is this: There is not a single instance of mass movement in Christendom that spoke for these voiceless people of dishonorable trades.

... So caste system can evolve anywhere given the appropriate social conditions. In India it became rigid with colonial resource drain. In Europe it withered away with enormous inflow of capital and resources ...

... I also think those who want to somehow preserve the Jaathi and project it in a positive light often fail to see the dark alchemy that this system is undergoing
in India....

 ... Here let me again quote 'Breaking India' which deals more objectively the situation and the pros and cons of Jaathi. This is from Chapter 5 of the book and is under the sub-heading "Building on Max Muller's work":
Prior to colonialism, the jati-varna system in India had little, if anything, to do with race, ethnicity, or genetics. It was better understood as a set of distinctions based on traditional or inherited social status derived from work roles...

... Max Müller, who was largely responsible for entrenching the racial framework for studying jati, had his own evangelical motive. In his view, caste: which has hitherto proved an impediment to conversion of the Hindus, may in future became one of the most powerful engines for the conversion...

 ... Today Jaathi has become an important and effective tool for community evangelism. So those who bat for it should take this worrying aspect into consideration.

[there were some followup responses, but for brevity, we will stop here. Readers can click the RMF link and read the discussion in its entirety]

March 28
Princeton Univ, March 31: My debate with prominent Indian Christian
Rajiv Malhotra: On March 31, Princeton Univ will hold a discussion/debate on my book, "Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines."
The response to my talk will be given by the Rev. Dr. Nehemiah Thompson. He is the Pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church, as well as General Secretary, National Association of Asian American Christians in the USA. He is a well-known leader for Dalit activism before the UN, US Government in Washington, Indian Embassy, and media. 

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