RMF Summary: Week of December 4 - 10, 2012

December 4 (continuing discussion from November 24)
Life of Pi - lessons for Hindus
Equal-equal Hindus might feel encouraged by the attention paid to that idea in Ang Lee's visually magnificent movie, "The Life Of Pi". A sampling of Christian...

Harsh argues:
"I agree with Mr. Ganesh. Why did PI convert to Christianity? it had nothing to do with the story or plot. Even my "secular" friends felt that PI converting to Christianity made no sense whatsoever. Infact if they could have explained the dharma philosophy nicely in the circumstances shown but it is seen from a Christian POV."

Carpentier responds:
"Actually he does not convert. As a child he wanted to be baptised but it was only a desire and then he went through other religious experiences like Ramakrishna Paramahansa. In the end he is shown having married the Bharata Natyam dancer he had loved as a teenager and having given his children Hindu names. His worldview is distinctly Indic, not "semitic" throughout the movie though it is inclusive, as all truly sadhakas are, in all times and places..." 

December 6 (continuing discussion from December 4)\
Hinduism: The ultimate anti-fragile
The above is an interesting and innovative use of BD's thesis. Clearly, the...

Vibhaa responds:
"Blog author posits that in Stage 2 (1857-1947), Hindu society joined hands with Muslim society. This position is arguable as Muslim leadership in India seems to have collaborated with the Christian West against the nativist Dharma. Syed Ahmed Khan, MA Jinnah are some major examples that apparently applied people of the book solidarity against "Non-Believers""

December 6 (continuing discussion from November 22)
Angana Chatterji hosted at Harvard by Michael Witzel
In Breaking India, Rajiv & Aravindan write about some US academics who produce literature with questionable funding that could aid in the disintegration of...

Bhattacharya notes:
"Only one week from the day this thread regarding Angana Chatterji began, a relevant development has taken place. According to recent news reports [http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/specials/gujarat-assembly-elections/US-\
], in a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dated 29 November 2012, twenty-five U.S. lawmakers, including Congressmen Joe Pitts, Dan Burton, Trent Franks, and James Moran (all discussed in message #3835 in this thread) as well as others, have recommended that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi be denied a visa. In their letter, the lawmakers specifically mention Modi's alleged involvement in the 2002 Gujarat
riots. It is notable that 11 of the 13 U.S. Congressmen named as signatories to the letter in the news article referenced above are members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission [http://tlhrc.house.gov/members.asp], the very same
Congressional committee before which Angana Chatterji testified in March of 2012 [http://tlhrc.house.gov/hearing_notice.asp?id=1227 , click on Chatterji's name
and Transcript/Webcast in left margin for documents/testimony], as discussed in message #3835 in this thread. Another signatory to the November 2012 letter,
Congressman Frank Wolf, is co-Chairman of this committee. (A complete list of the twenty-five signatories and the full text of the letter were not found on the web)...." 

December 6 (New Thread)
AAR session on Being Different
Rohit posts:
"Comments of Sri Koenraad Elst on the AAR session on Being Different: The debate about Rajiv Malhotra's book Being Different was very instructive. At the end, Malhotra ably put his critics in their place, but first they had their say. I was appalled by the bad manners of Brian Pennington against the invited responder, Rajiv Malhotra: he wondered aloud, after a long diatribe which I guess was his privilege, why the AAR and organizer Francis Clooney s.j. had cared to pay any attention to Malhotra at all, let alone invite him. It was typical for these academics: they fight by exclusion, they shamelessly  exploit the fact that they are in and Rajiv is out, eventhough his book will prove more influential (and far more factual) than anything they will ever produce, or than the wrongly famous Orientalism by Edward Said..."
Rajeev responds:
"Rajiv comment: I very much appreciated Koenraad's participation from the audience. He pointed out that those like Pennigton who accused me of "essentializing" Hinduism were themselves essentializing the notion of "minorities". The panel failed to offer any response.

I agree that Edelman (like Rambachan) completely lacked creativity, originality or any imagination to look beyond the box of "standard works" on Hinduism by one "side" or another.

Regarding history-centrism: someone from the audience asked Edelman how the historicity of Krishna according to Vaishnavs resembled and how it differed from that of Jesus. He ought to have taken this opportunity to give some thoughtful remarks. But he look dumbfounded and muttered something like "I have not thought about this." Amazing that the man who was the Vaishnav expert on the panel had never bothered to think of this rather obvious question.

In my response to Edelman, I pointed out that his credentials as Vaishnav scholar (which he went on emphasizing) were based on his years of study at the feet of his guru Dr. Satya Narayan Das, who is arguably today's foremost prominent exponent of Sri Jiva Goswami's Achinta-bheda-abheda. (I happen to know this fact about Edelman's learning of Vaishnavism from Dr. Das.) Then I pointed out much to his embarrassment that: Dr. Das is a dear friend and supporter of my work; that he had read the entire manuscript of BD a year it got published and made numerous comments and suggested changes, that i had used his interpretation of Vedanta in Appendix A and not relied entirely upon Shankara; and that he had written a most wonderful endorsement of this book. This completely slid the rug from under the feet of this scholar.

I have finished reading Rambachan's PhD dissertation written in 1984 where his ideas come out clearly against Swami Vivekananda and others he thinks of as the culprit starting what he calls "Neo-Hinduism". I have also finished reading very thoroughly the complete writings of Hacker (a Christian missionary) on this matter along with related works by others. So I will first write a full purva paksha of this school of anti-Vivekananda...

Of course Penington's crass and very unscholarly conduct is most reprehensible and deserves to be address as such. There was no scholarly content in his paper that was relevant to BD - mostly generic attacks on the type of scholarship he presumes Hindus to produce. I doubt he read BD more than skimming through it and looking for things quickly to get his bearings.

Below is Dr. Das' endorsement of BD:

Reviewer: Dr. Satya Narayan Das, Founder of Jiva Institute of Vedic Studies, Vrindavan

Many Indian spiritual leaders, lacking a profound knowledge of their own culture, and feeling inferior to the West, try to respond to the Western challenge by showing how Indian and western religions are the same. They chant "sarva-dharma-sama-bhava" (all religions are equal) out of context, causing much confusion. In the midst of this morass arises the ”lotus of Rajiv” (the word rajiv means a lotus in Sanskrit) in the form of his book, Being Different. Rajiv Malhotra's work is a kind of yajna that reverses the gaze upon the West through the lens of Indian knowledge systems. This process is traditionally called purva paksha, and in Rajiv’s work it is given a new mission and a new importance.... 
... The dharmic traditions have been a target for digestion into the belly of Western culture. Being Different challenges the legitimacy of such attempts with profound logic and examples. Its analysis of Abrahamic religions shows how they are history-centric. This fixation drives them into claims of exclusiveness and gives them anxiety over cultural differences which they seek to resolve through appropriation, assimilation, conversion - all forms of digestion that obliterate whatever seems challenging.... 
... Being Different breaks new ground in that direction. The result is a highly original and sincere attempt to compare the basic paradigms of Indian and Western thought. This book will open the eyes of any fair-minded reader regardless of worldview. " 

Shashi adds:
"In his book Decolonizing the Hindu Mind, Elst strenuously points out that there is a dearth for good material on Hinduism that takes a position. In that context Elst was dealing with the issues in political arena. Better yet, this precisely what Rajiv has been doing in the academic arena (and other non-political forums), which as Rajiv has pointed out in past, will have the greatest impact.

In http://koenraadelst.blogspot.com/2012/12/impressions-from-aar-conference.html, Elst says “It was typical for these academics: they fight by exclusion, they shamelessly  exploit the fact that they are in and Rajiv is out …”.

This is an old trick: they only indulge in monologs. If they had ever entered into a constructive Indian style purva and uttar paksha based debate with Indian pundits, among other things – AIT would never be born and we would not have to clean their mess..."

December 7 (New Thread)
Appropriating Music -- Takadimi.net?
I ran into this website in course of my research on rhythms -- http://www.takadimi
.net I suspect that this is a u-turn/appropriation classic -- Read the FAQ...

December 7 (New Thread)
A martyr in making in south india
Ram posts: 
Christian catholic church is slowly initiating attempts to digest the tamilnadu , kerala functions of pongal (makar sankaranti) by attaching it with the supposed martyrdom of Devasahayam pillai. An article on the whole myth of Devayasahayam pillai being killed for his religion

Shanti notes:
"Thank God we Hindus follow the Lunar calendar! Otherwise the Church would have long ago found a 'Christian reason' for each of our other festivals too.  The Church is known to have done this across Europe to all pagan festivals:

... In fact there is a widely held theory that the celebration of Christmas on 25th December is not the actual birthdate of Jesus but selected by the Church to coincide with the pagan winter festival."

December 7 (New Thread)
Ravi posts:
Prof. Ashok Aklujkar (Dept of Asian Studies, Univ of British Columbia
‘Languages give people a sense of identity’

Ashok N Aklujkar is Professor Emeritus, Department of Asian Studies, at the University of British Columbia. He received his PhD degree in Sanskrit and Indian Studies from Harvard University and was the founder of the Canadian Association of Sanskrit and Related Studies. He has published groundbreaking research on the Sanskrit Linguistic Tradition and Poetics.

Why is Sanskrit a dying language in India?
Incorrect educational policies are primarily to be blamed because they are aimed at taking Sanskrit out of the mainstream. We should create more space for languages in general — regional as well as languages of historical importance such as Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit. Even Hindi is slowly being rooted out. This is because we emphasise on English way too much.

Why do you think Sanskrit, in particular, should be focussed upon?
For over 1,000-1,200 years, all Indian languages have drawn their sustenance from Sanskrit. Our vocabulary is based on Sanskrit. It cemented India when it was politically divided. Each individual needs a sense of identity, which is built through philosophy, religious teachings, ethics, and all of this is rooted in Sanskrit. This is why we need to promote it.

What problems do you foresee if we do not focus on languages?
If we do not pay enough attention to languages and humanities in general, our social problems are going to increase. Each language has a view of the world embedded in it and suggests different ways of solving social and scientific problems. So if we give English precedence, we are impoverishing the world of other points of view...

What, according to you, is the future of the humanities stream?
The policymakers as well as the public at large need to be educated. The people of India are restless because they are realising that their dharmic roots are being taken away and are being destroyed in the name of globalisation and westernisation. This will lead to a loss of truly creative people. ..."

Rajiv responds:
"I am glad to see the media give Ashok his due. In 2002 (exactly a decade ago) Infinity Foundation gave a grant to Harvard University for the purpose of appointing Ashok Aklujkar as full-time visiting professor. He taught courses there and did research. In the prior year, Infinity Foundation's visiting professor for Hinduism Studies at Harvard University had been Arvind Sharma. Both these are mentioned at our web site..."

This thread provides many links and information that brings us up to date with the latest debate. We plan to summarize this in a separate post.
December 7 (New Thread)
Critics Respond to Hindu Intellectual's Attempt at Being Different

Note: This error-filled article discussed in the next thread has been exposed for its lack of research by Sandeep Balakrishna here.
December 8 (New Thread)
The Case for Indian Islam by Neil Padukone
films2020 posts:
" ... Pragati is the publication of Takshashila Institution, a think-tank based in New..."

Arun responds:
"The Tamizh Alvars predate the arrival of Islam"

Manish notes:
"First thing first, I have been following Pragati for at least 3 years; it aspires to be nationalist but never rises beyond Nehruvian miasma. The quote below bears this out. This is the bane of all ''strategic'' thinking in India.

// The intermingling of Islam and Hinduism in the 12th century produced a profound evolution in Hinduism that remains salient today. //

-- there was no intermingling; Hinduism was mercilessly mauled. To term the rape of Hindustan as ''intermingling'' is the usual Nehruvian teachnique of lying while hiding behind pious platitudes, so as to avoind facing up to ugly realities. "

 December 8 (New Thread)
A plea for some help
Vish posts:
I wonder if some forum member, with accesses, could help me find a contact for Prof. (Mrs.) Bhaswati Sinha, who was (maybe still?) with the Department of Religious Studies in Punjabi University, Patiala.

I am coming here after doing my due, and in not getting anywhere.

Prof. Sinha, after a sustained labor of two decades published a very important treatise on Udayana-Acharya's work on the "Hindu Rational Enquiry into the Existence of God". It is a remarkable thesis in that Udayan talks of "Adrsta" (a kind of genetic notion still prevalent in a Hindu's way of life, but which everyone wants to summarily dismiss as non-scientific attaching tags such as 'chance', 'fate', 'bad luck' etc). Udayana-acharya  uses some powerful arguments to develop the notion of God as the cause for such an effect.

Prof. Sinha's elaborate work lays a powerful foundation to notions of "Poorva-Paksha" arguing against many of the notions advanced by Mimamsakas, Buddhists, Chaarvakas and the like (many thanks to BD for providing a resurrection of this long forgotten concept of the Dharmic way of  acquiring knowledge). She also provides a  terrific reference and examples on the powerful logic that was prevalent in India during those ancient ages.

Prof. Sinha did her MA from Calcutta University, and obtained her Ph.D. from Madras under Dr. TMP Mahadevan. In 1976 she was recommended by Mahadevan to join the Punjabi University to forge a research team there, and we believe that in some shape or form she still lends her services to them."

The thread below will be covered in depth in Part-2 of our series on this topic. Part-1 can be found in the June 2012 archive.
December 8 (New Thread)
Why the book American Veda is not called American Hinduism
Dear Friends Phil Goldberg is the author of the recently published American Veda. He explains why the word Hindu is not there. Book reviews can be read from...

December 9

Course on Indian Culture via MOOC
Alekshendra posts:
"Dear Dr. Malhotra,

This is my attempt to try to reach you. I have seen almost all of your lectures available on YouTube and the point made by you about the digestion of Indian Culture/History/Identity by the west.

In this regard, I would like to bring to your attention a new trending way of providing education online.
We have something called MOOCs (massively open online course) ( these links can give a better Idea:
1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixE1YAlHnVU
2. http://www.ted.com/talks/daphne_koller_what_we_re_learning_from_online_education.html )

I was a part of one such MOOC offered by Prof. Keith Devlin of Stanford University and the strength of the class was whooping 61 thousand.

I was wondering over the possibility of creation of an Online Course offered on Coursera which focuses on Indian Culture, its content, it's distinctiveness from the west
( https://www.coursera.org/category/humanities) then the knowledge and message can be spread on a much larger scale. "

Rajiv responds:

"I would be delighted. But some others must do all the logistics, funding, tech work, marketing, etc. I can supply the content itself. Many similar ideas have come and gone, because when the workload gets tough our folks' enthusiasm fizzles out. The core team has to be FULL TIME as I am. This means they need funding. It cannot be pursued as a hobby as and when one feels like. There has to be professional accountability just like in one's job"

We end this summary with a very thought-provoking post by Rajiv Malhotra. This post has some profound messages worth reading more than once. We cannot say later that we weren't warned.
December 10

Hindu Dharma is more than just a matter of naming  
"1) Many of our people seem confused and think that being Hindu is merely a matter of calling oneself by that name. This approach might be called "definition by naming". So long as someone uses the right name, its ok. I find this shallow and troubling. I know many who call themselves Hindus, but who are in one or more of the following categories of counterproductive persons:

    Using Hindu community to boost their own political status or raise self importance to get some appointment, etc. Obsessed with occupying some position of importance for which they are utterly unqualified, thereby denying someone better qualified the chance to serve us better.
    Happy to get digested; promoting digestion out of naivete/stupidity; seeing this as a sign of glory: "We have arrived on the world stage".
    Confused with ideas of sameness, as substitute for having to study hard to understand what dharma is.

2) So if naming cannot be the criteria for defining who is Hindu, another option many use is history centrism. Hinduism defined as a specific history in a specific geography. I reject this as well. It limits Hinduism's claim of universalism by defining it this history centric way. For one thing, it excludes many segments and movements which have separate histories (e.g. Swaminarayanan) and/or do not consider any unique history to be the basis at all (e.g. Kashmir Shaivism, Tantra, Yoga). This approach has been used for political expediency - turning Hinduism into a Semitic religion of sorts. It becomes a claim that downgrades us...

3) Definition by distinct principles and practices. This the approach BD follows. Here, I found it important to combine both positive and negative principles. Examples of positive principles are karma-reincarnation and non-translatables that are specific and shared by the diversity of dharma approaches. Negative principles are what we reject. These negative principles are is critical to formulate carefully so as to have non-digestible differences. Examples of negative principles: I reject the claim that God's manifestation on earth has been limited via one son and no other way...

4) So the combination of positive-negative principles define us.

    The positive ones root and ground us, in a manner that all (or almost all) dharma groups can accept; hence we get a unified platform.
    The negative ones prevent us from getting digested into some other religion that is lurking around sending its "good cops" to entice and us and fool us. ..

5) The cunning tiger would like to separate the quills of the porcupine from the meat, reject the former and digest the latter. If the porcupine is foolish and accept the tiger's offer and drops his quills, he will surely get eaten and digested. The smart porcupine must NEVER SEPARATE THE QUILLS FROM THE REST OF HIS BODY. The positive-negative principles come as one package, never to get separated.

6) Swami Vivekananda's greatness is because he followed the above method #3. I have been reading through his collected works now for a second time lately, because I realized that the AAR panelists' attack on BD was based on those scholars' lifelong attacks  of Swami Vivekananda. The central problem these scholars face is any claim of unity of Hinduism. They know how to deal with #1 and #2 approaches. #1 is simply trivial and easy to appease such fools by simply using the Hindu name. #2 has been attacked as Hindutva and hence they have lots of weaponry and soldiers trained to start firing. But #3 is very tough for them. This is why they have worked since 1950 to undermine Swami Vivekananda as a champion of unity using #3 approach. Digestion is one of their most aggressive and successful methods because Hindus get fooled into thinking the tiger is paying them a compliment.

7) I have a list of top tier scholars who have made their careers attacking Swami Vivekananda and now I am writing a response to their attacks on BD. Their attacks on BD use the same approach as their attacks on Swami Vivekananda. Basically, anything philosophical (not political) that unifies dharma, is seen as dangerous. Why? Because such a foundation for unity is very robust as a foundation for nation-building. To destroy India they must destroy every viable method of its unity. Modern economic growth is insufficient to hold a massive diverse country together when it faces crises and catastrophes. Only a shared set of dharmic principles can hold it together. Hence, this academic cabal has targeted Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Gandhi, B.G. Tilak, Radhakrishnan, etc. - calling them "Neo-Hindus" to imply that they lack authenticity...

8) I welcome sincere and COMPETENT help in this latest project of mine.I am working on it non stop 7 days/wk amidst some personal challenges..."

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