Science and Sanskrit tradition: A Western scholar's challenge - 2

This post contains a detailed summary of a very interesting RMF debate and discussion in Sept-Oct 2012, between a Western scholar (Karl-Stéphan),, Rajiv Malhotra, and RMF commentators. This thread is particularly important in light of the recent debate at AAR, Chicago in November 2012, where Rajiv Malhotra's book "Being Different' was criticized by Rambachan, Pennington (in undignified language), & co. Koenraad Elst has blogged about this, and Rajiv has himself written on this at depth in this forum. A section of current Western academics have invented an oxymoron "Neo-Hindu" line of attack that passes through Swami Vivekananda. This sample by KSB of Quebec, appears to be representative of this work stream (Science versus Sanskrit). He appears to be working at JNU, New Delhi. I wonder if there is any other country in the world where research is done with public funding to undermine the host nation and its cultural identity?

The abstract of KSB's article is introduced in Part-1. You can read the paper within the e-Group if still available.

Here is another overview of KSB's work in the public domain.

Here is the link to the original thread.
Here is the link to the followup thread.

 We first present excerpts from Rajiv's initial response.
"1.     New age: The author, KSB, relies mainly on new age sources, not serious scientists or serious Indian philosophers. Capra's 1975 book is his main source. Though it was indeed a best seller in pop circles, it was superficial in its content. ... but after him there has been a more serious development that KSB seems unaware of and must delve into – see item 3 below.
2.      Indians import the new age version: This is the serious mistake Indians made and continue to make: They were so grateful to westerners' appreciation of their philosophy (like Capra), that they did not do original work of their own, nor did they critically examine and respond to western appropriations of Indian ideas. In other words, Indians adopted the digested version of their own tradition and felt proud of this. "We are legitimate because even some westerners have praised our tradition," they love to say. I agree with Bouthillette's assessment that his teachers of Sanskrit at JNU and various other Indians in the "Vedic science" field are in awe of Capra. So he can claim that he relied on such persons as the spokespersons for Indian tradition. But I don't regard them as competent for this. The reason becomes clear in the next item below.
3.      Western appropriation: I have researched the recent history of this new genre of philosophy of science as it has become established in the west. This genre is now becoming more mainstream, with heavy backing by major institutions. I can't get into too much detail here, as this is the subject of my own forthcoming books (unfortunately delayed a bit due to personal reasons). I have been gathering materials on about 50 western thinkers involved in this digestion (of science/philosophy) that has taken place over the past 40 years, and the breadth and depth of my database keeps growing faster than I can keep up. But just to illustrate:
a.      Physics: Henry Stapp was one of the pioneering western physicists (Lawrence Livermore Labs) who wrote a major book on the philosophy of quantum mechanics using Indian sources but without any acknowledgment. He was heavily rewarded .... But here is the smoking gun: A year prior to his book, he had spent many months with an ISKCON philosopher to study the Gaudiya Vaishnav ontology in order to understand quantum mechanics philosophically. He wrote a short book on this that ISKCON published, in which he concludes that this system is compatible with quantum mechanics. He had not said this of any other philosophical system in the world. This was his holy grail that let him integrate quantum mechanics with a philosophy that would satisfy scientific rigor. Ironically, in his own subsequent major book for serious western scientists, he did not even include his own earlier book on Gaudiya Vaishnav interpretation of quantum mechanics in the bibliography. How amazing! ... All this happened alongside many other similar stories concerning many other scientists like Penrose, Hamerhoff, Bohm, Schwartz, etc. They were busy with similar speculations and digestions based on Indian philosophy. None of them had direct access to Indian philosophy either as texts or as practitioners.
b.     Life sciences: The other stream that flowed into this was the westerners who had learned a great deal experientially from Indian gurus since the 1960s, and brought this into mind-body-spirit healing paradigms – the precursors of Deepak Chopra. Many of them took this into neuroscience and other life sciences. People like Laberge, Sheldrake, Kabat-Zinn,etc. belong in this group. Here is the most exciting discovery I have recently run into: One of the most important individuals who digested Indian stuff but gets claimed as the western pioneer in the literature, is now very old and has turned over his personal documents into an archive. ... The list of contents in the files is quite astonishing: his correspondence with top US research institutions, government funding agencies, and even Prince Philips of UK, to convince them that he had gained knowledge of "eastern sources" which could revolutionize western science!!! There are also files on his trips to India in the 1960s and 70s to study Indian yogis and study with leading thinkers to understand the traditions.  ... Today the subject is being taught in colleges with 100% of the sources referenced as western – going back to Plato, Jesus, Aristotle, etc. But when I get (and hopefully I will) copies of this archive in my hands, it will be worth a volume by itself. I have about 50 such cases with various levels of data, and I need assistants who want to help me.
4.      Given this digest-and-hide-the-source strategy on such a massive scale, no reliable work on the topic at hand can be done based on what Sanskrit scholars and scientists at JNU and other Indian institutions have to say. I am sorry to make such a sweeping dismissal. But I travel a lot and meet such persons frequently. They have bought into the version that's digested by westerners and fed back to them.
5.      So my own approach is to study the western digesters. They have in fact done a great job in many cases to interpret Indian traditions for modern times and added real value. This is great. But they should not distort the history of ideas or plagiarize just because the source is non-western and is in the trusteeship of largely incompetent Indian leaders and experts. By tracing the history of their digestion, I can then reverse the process and reclaim the tradition. This work needs a lot of funding and top quality human resources. KSB should study the digesters and through their writings he will gain a new level of respect for Indian sources.....
6.     His reliance upon quacks like Meera Nanda is unfortunate. He should keep politics out and study this as a topic of the history of science, history of philosophy, etc. Nanda told me of her family problems which caused her to become mentally disturbed and hence she turned against the whole tradition. Now it's a career/business opportunity for her to sell her hatred to westerners. This is explained in Breaking India. But there are too many holes in her positions. I have repeatedly invited her to live debate and she has not accepted.
7.     KSB cites Guenon, but probably does not know that Guenon was also heavily appropriating India sources. This comes out in a book funded by Infinity foundation that is being written by a French couple for the past 5 years...
8.    Finally some comments on doxography,the lens through which Bouthillette sees classical Indian science:
a.      He cites a few modern Indian texts as doxographic and makes sweeping conclusions from this. The authors he names are hardly important to the tradition. Who cares what they wrote? It is simply irrelevant to examining whether Sanskrit offers scientific knowledge or not.
b.     Constant reinterpretation by a tradition is a good thing and not a bad thing. To be frozen in time would be the gold standard for history centric systems. But dharma supports the endless modification of smriti which is human knowledge. That is also how modern science works.Westerners like to call this "progress". I find that many of his examples show progress by Indian thinkers while he seems to think that the implication is otherwise.
c.      Bouthillette does not seem to appreciate the Indian notion of a spectrum of truths, rather than one "objective" truth for every situation. Indian thought does not find any problems with a spectrum of views on certain things, and many works are organized to show how different perspectives can see the same thing differently. I don't like collapsing this into the Western category of "doxographic".
d.     The writings of many of the Western digesters I am investigating show a doxographic style on their part.
9.     I hope these points will be useful to Bouthillette in his research. The sad thing is that I cannot easily send him to some better Indian experts on the subject than he has interviewed.
10. I also hope the Hindus who read this get an insight into the dynamics of the kurukshetra of inter-civilizational discourse. That's whats going on here, so please don't be escapist, lofty, simplistic."

KSB's response:
"... I am looking for possible Journals for publication. Nevertheless, it served its purpose here in fostering this debate. This is why I shared it freely. Any use of it in further work should be made properly or avoided before contacting me. ... I will now go point by point, quoting first the "purvapaksha" than providing my

1. response:
... I pointed out myself that Capra is of New Age literature. I also outlined  how many Indian intellectual followed him, with ample proofs in bottom page note  and in the chapter on Capra. That more recent and relevant work has been done I am also aware, especially outside of India. The literature that I reviewed, if one examines my quoted sources, is older for some cases and recent for others, and of Indian origin. Still, Capra's model is in most case quoted and often copied.

Indeed. It appears to me that the Indian intellectuals that we are referring to here are simply unaware of what is the New Age movement (purpose and nature). ...

3. response:
I personally find this information of yours inspiring and would like to know the name of the second author... or even help you out in your research in some ways if you deem me fit for the task. Just like you, I believe that the subject
(science and philosophy) is becoming hot-soup in the West, judging by the amount of popular works published by renowned scientists. One problem remains. Most Westerners, especially in "scientific" fields, have little knowledge of Sanskrit and of its original traditions of debate. What is more, their knowledge often comes from second or third hand sources. This was also true for Schopenhauer and
the like who had access to limited sources but who are often quoted by Indian intellectuals....

But otherwise, this comment is a digression from the subject of my paper.

I do not feel there is anything I can add here. It is not directly related to the paper, but I understand the concerns and would be interested in knowing more.

4. response:
I tend to agree with you here as well. ..

I personally do not feel the need to "reverse" any process, as I am not immediately interested in claiming anything...Again, I come back to this; my issue for the moment is one of

5. response:
On this point, it suffices for me to say that I do not rely on Miss Nanda but felt necessary to quote her since she wrote on the issue. This is simply being fare [sic]. In fact, I simply mentioned her book title and did not use her work...

6. response:
This comment comes as a surprise to me.

On page 10 of my paper, one can read:
Not only did I say this, but I quoted in bottom page note all the books that he wrote in relation to Indian thought.

In fact, anyone who reads Guénon, and since I am originally French speaking I read him in his own language, cannot fail to know that he was highly inspired by Indian thought and that he used it to promote his views. Guénon quoted many
Indian texts and never hided his debt to it. In all cases, I do not feel the need to defend him here, ...

It is a complete surprise for me to hear that you believe that the Perennialists did not acknowledge their debt to Indian thought, as most of them saw in the Vedanta the expression of ultimate truth. I look forward to hear about the Infinity Foundation book.

8. response:
..I do not decide what is to be kept or
rejected. History will do. I selected a few and analyzed their rhetoric (one sample only in this paper). I believe that they represent some popular opinions and some opinions also shared by academics. Some of these authors are indeed
teachers and academics. ..

I understand in one way: Sanskrit tradition does not need scientific approval. It stands on its own. I agree.

I do not understand in another way: the whole debate here is that Sanskrit philosophical traditions could contribute to scientific knowledge in some ways. But how? So I do not understand why you say that it is irrelevant.

b. response:
In fact, in the paper, I do not take position on this. I simply mention the fact that there is continuity. I tend to agree with you about the "progress", although I would call it adaptation or "accommodation". My objective, in the paper, was simply to show that there is a possible continuity between ancient
doxographers and modern writers on philosophy and science. ...

c. response:
I do not find in my text anything that suggests this interpretation. doxography is a practical word used for a very precise type of philosophical literature. It is fully explained in the paper. However, if you were to find a better expression you are welcome to suggest it. I will take note of it.

....I am talking about a specific "genre" for which I provided classical examples that fit the definition.

d. response:
For this I am certain. I also noticed it. This is why I believe that we should understand better what is the nature and purpose of doxography and how to use this style properly, in a modern context, or not at all. ...

I thank you very much for the time that you have taken in this exercise. It is very generous of you. I am curious as to why you believe that there are no other better Indian experts that I could interview....

10. response:
I wonder if this is what is at play here. I believe in cooperation and trust more than in suspicion. Although yes, being naive or simplistic serves no one."

Rajiv's first followup is quite brief and to the point:
1. Rajiv response: Pointing out that Capra is new age is unimportant when he has used Capra and Capra's Indian fans as his benchmark for Indian science. Since we both agree that Capra is new age, why has he not sidestepped Capra after a brief mention and moved on to more substantial thinkers.

2. Rajiv response: Many metro university folks in India, Sanskrit included, are products of Western education including western approaches to sanskrit. WU has indeed become exported very successfully to the Indian intellectuals incl those who speak on behalf of Indian traditions. This is true of academics, media, gurus, acharyas (the world trotting ones at least). Provoking them to understand difference and to reverse the gaze is not going to be easy - because it makes them squirm at their own foolish assumptions.

> " But otherwise, this comment is a digression from the subject of my paper."

Rajiv response: The final sentence is disappointing because it means he did not get my point at all. My point is that rater than relying upon the Capra level of writers, he ought to study the westerners who have digested Indian traditions and made it into "western thought" while hiding their Indian sources. On the one hand he is looking for better sources than he used. On the other hand he finds the digesters to be a diversion. THIS ATTITUDE IS THE VERY REASON I AM WRITING ON DIGESTION. I want to show that western scholars CANNOT ignore the Indian traditions that are now prevalent in the form of "Western". For example, virtually every American textbook on Hinduism fails to mention yoga and meditation in their treatment of Hinduism. It is simply assumed that these have become digested and one need not bother explaining them as part of Hinduism. So if you point this omission out, people like KSB will consider that a digression. If the subject of his paper if Indian sources of science, he cannot do a legitimate treatment while ignoring what has been and is currently being digested.

I will stop here. Let others join the discussion also. The above points if taken seriously are enough to call the entire approach of the paper into question. if the sources relied upon are straw men that serve one's agenda, the results can be made into whatever one wants. While such western scholarship is widespread and I dont think we can change it, my purpose is to educate Hindus who tend to be ignorant and naive."

KSB's 2nd followup to Rajiv:
"Mr. Bouthillette's response:
Here I must mention again that my sole interest was to review Indian sources, as mentioned in the paper. If Indian writers on the subject are disliked by some, for good or bad reasons, is irrelevant. ...Now, it happens that most Indian sources were quoting Capra and this is why I spent some time discussing the validity of his work for scientific purposes.

The digression I was mentioning referred to the fact that my paper was limited in scope. It was dealing with a particular topic and a delimitated choice of sources. ... I am not to judge about "straw men" or "real Hindus". I have no agenda it could benefit to. But these writers were definitely Indian and my intention was to examine what is being done in India by Indians, not elsewhere. Therefore, in this limited space, I reviewed and talked only about Indian writers of modern attempts to bridge science and philosophy. I see no problem there and no reason to dismiss the whole paper on that ground."

Sumant's response:
Would appreciate it if Mr.Bouthillette could clarify what he means when he says people like Schopenhauer relied on "second-hand and thid-hand sources". What were these sources ? Are there reasons to discredit them ?....

Mr. Bouthillette's response:
What I mean here, for the case of Schopenhauer, is that he only had a badly translated copy of some Upanishads, coming from Persian sources and not Sanskrit. Also, in his time, scholarship on the issue was limited. So the chances of misunderstanding were high.

Mr. Balakrishnan's response:
5 references fom the EPW, 3 from Nanda. And none from the works of Western scientists like Schopenhauer, Heisenberg, Oppenheimer, Einstein and Tesla. These men clearly saw something the Mr.Bouthillette didn't. Plus, the two works he
takes as examples to further his points are hardly considered the final authority on everything Hindu.

Mr. Bouthillette's response:
... Is there a "final authority on everything Hindu"?
You see, my paper wanted simply to open a new way of reading/analyzing the discourse, in Indian ground, on science and philosophy. Therefore, I used Indian sources.

Mr. Balakrishnan's response:
These statements belie almost a paranoia on Mr. Bouthillette's part. Such fears for science as he expresses are more becoming of the Church and not Hinduism. Hinduism has never tried to "subordinate science". And what "complete sapping of the foundations of the Vedic worldview" is he talking about ? Can he be more specific about what aspects of the Vedic worldview are under the immediate
proven threat of science ? Doesn't the "integral unity" (to use Rajivji's phrase) of all of Nature, as espoused in the Vedas, albeit through the pervasiveness of divinity ("Ishavaasyam idam sarvam yatkinchjagatyam jagat") become more evident as one probes deeper into life, or farther into the cosmos ?

Mr. Bouthillette's response:
For the "complete sapping of the foundations of the Vedic worldview". This is open for debate and this was intended as such, this is why I have put a question mark. I was asking if some of these writers on the subject are trying to promote
a Vedic view out of a perceived treat. I did not answer the question. There is no paranoia in asking questions. Although I agree that other questions could also be asked and other openings made. In my view, this is not the strongest part of the paper and should be worked on further, maybe in a later piece of work, in a wider research. I was only providing what we call "openings" for further questions and angles of approach related to Jaffrelot's observations."

Mr. Balakrishnan's response:
And what about emiment physicists and neuroscientists who have benefited in their science after a study of the Vedic world view, the Gita etc. Mr. Bouthillette never quotes their works. And the reason for that ?

Mr. Bouthillette's response:
...This was not the purpose of this specific paper.

Mr. Balakrishnan's response:
As Rajivji has indicated, these statements of Mr. Bouthillette, indeed the tone he adopts throughout his paper, the two works he selects to make his case, the references he has used for his paper, his averment that those he has interacted with seem to be unware of the world beyond India etc. all point to a deliberate attempt on his part to choose his sources such that he can the see what he has pre-decided he wants to see. Creating strawmen, as Rajivji puts it....

KSB's response to Sumant:
Mr. Bouthillette's response:
I have selected a quantity of Indian sources for I wanted to examine what has been done IN INDIA. Now, if these sources are disliked by some, this is not relevant. They are written, they exist, they are many and many more will definitely come again... I also mentioned in a long bottom page note how the
same views are expressed in many seminars IN INDIA and therefore felt that it was relevant to analyse this phenomenon.

If this phenomenon is disliked by some, again, it is simply normal and those who do not want to talk about or learn about such a phenomenon should avoid reading or discussing about it. But the accusation of blindness would rather fall upon
them. I find it interesting that the paper creates such a reaction. It seems that it touches upon some sensibilities and for this reason I believe that it was a meaningful exercise and that these sensibilities should be examined further. ..."

KSB's responds to Sumant:
"I would be interested in knowing what you consider to be "Hinduism" and what it is not, as it seems very dear to you who are posing as a defender of such an "ism". You talk about it as a single entity, almost as a person, and I find your view fascinating.

... It is completely irrelevant to the purpose of my research, which was simply to analyse the rhetoric of the discourse found within Indian sources on philosophy and science. Ill-intentions, if there are any, are those that would try to portray this paper as something that it is not.


I hope that you understand my point better and do not doubt my honesty anymore"

Wadhwa adds to Sumant's point:
" Remarks of Mr. Bouthillette about Arya Samaj movement  "assimilating the other's practices to resist him more effectively"  are born out of his  ignorance of the overall scope of Vedic knowledge and the Vedic mission of Maharishi Dayananda.   According to the Chhandogya Upanishad Vedic studies comprise of natural science, physics, chemistry, science of numbers, chronology, science of logic, science of polity, grammar, etymology, sciences cognate to the Vedas(Vedang), botany, zoology, anthropology, fine arts, science of war, science of spirituality, etc.(Source: "On the Vedas - A Clue to understanding of the Vedas" by Swami Vidyananda Saraswati, Formerly, Fellow Punjab University, Vijaykumar Govind Ram Hasanand, New Delhi). ...."

Maria asks:
"Why does the author often mention "Western" Sciences, even in his Abstract? Are these sciences not based on Indian maths? And are there not scientists in the East who contributed substantially to modern science? Or (tongue in cheek) does he refer to the fact that "western" sciences started after the discovery that the earth is round only some 500 years ago, and that they still try to catch up with Indian sciences, which knew (mentioned in the Rg Veda) thousands of years ago that the earth is round??

My overall impression of his thesis is that the author seems to be somewhat apprehensive that Indian philosophies might indeed prevail and prove superior. To pre-empt Indian academics from thinking this way, he gives it a political tilt by assuming that the purpose is to "unite and conquer" and that there is a link between the interest in science and nationalism"

 Sumant's 1st followup to KSB's responses:
"1) The scope of your current paper is narrow. You have stated as much a few times in your responses, both to Rajivji's mails and to mine. By implication, the references you have picked up are such that they suit the narrow confines of your current paper.
2) There seems to be a persistent need in your paper, and your responses, to want to see Vedanta in conflict with science. A need to see the villain Vedanta wanting to "subordinate science", lest science "completely saps the foundations of the Vedic worldview "....
I think 1) and 2) are related. A narrow scope can distort one's view of the whole and induce fears where none need exist.

As has been pointed out on a few occasions, most recently by Rohit, Vedanta is not in conflict with science and does not fear science. It has only helped scientists better understand manifest Nature by providing insights that come from it's integral and harmonius world-view. A view that ws born out of "embodied experience", as Rajivji puts it, replicated by many different men and women through the ages, and not by an unquestioning adherence to any dogma.
As regards your question on what I mean by Hinduism, I mean the Upanishads and the Gita. There are texts in the puranas, itihaas, prakarna granthas etc. that elaborate on the world-view of the prasthana traya, and are completely consistent with them, but I'll leave the definition at just that.
I hope that answers your question."

Anantha's comments:
"...2) ... note that Mr. Bouthillette seems to engage in the same method of "classifying and discussing his opponent's view" that he alleges Jitatmananda and Sadananda to be engaged in.

Mr.Bouthillette says: "I chose this example since the method of SadÄ nanda in classifying and discussing his opponent's view is reflected in the Modern Physics and VedÄ nta of Jitatmananda .....  (2) it mentions only what it needs of the opponent's view in order to make its point; ... Although I am conscious that all of the ancient doxographical literature cannot be narrowed down to a single example, I am strictly interested here in highlighting a basic structural pattern of argumentation that is common to most ancient doxographies and that seems to have inspired modern attempts at comparing science and Indian philosophy."

To take on point (2) in the above part -

...Sadananda's Vedantasara discusses Sankara's advaita world-view and technical details such as the nature of maya, prajna, iswara etc. Out of more than 225 Sutras, there are only about 10 - 15 sutras that appear late in the work meant to be "doxographical" in nature. It is almost as if Sadananda Saraswati also included the representations of other darshanas as a side note and in brief. Therefore, to consider this work "doxographical" and to further extrapolate the nature of this work as "basic structural pattern of argumentation that is common to most ancient doxographies" is simply stretching it too far.

Mr.Bouthillette clearly himself "mentions only what he needs of the opponent's view in order to make its point"

3) I also find the following part of the article to be a product of either lazy research, simple misunderstanding or bad translation - "For example, the Sunyavadins are said to have recourse to the following statement of the ChÄ ndogya Upaniâ"œad 6.2.1: "asad-eva-idam-agra aasit" (in the beginning there was non-existence). It is difficult to believe that a Buddhist proponent of Sunya would quote the Vedas..."

Sadananda never claims the Sunyavadins to be quoting this at all! He attributes a Vedic quotation to every darshana believing the darshana to be in tune with the particular quote. It is HIS opinion that the quote matches the darshana and he never says it to be the opinion of the sunyavadins.  Whether the quote itself is relevant or not is up for discussion but to say he claims the sunyavadins to be quoting form the Vedas is absolute fiction. Bouthillette is creating a straw man and lashing out at it.

4) Bouthillette's responses when challenged are equally disappointing. He pleads "When one writes a paper, one chooses his scope." He, however, offers no such magnanimity to Sadananda. He expects Sadananda to handle everything to do with Bouddha, Charvaka mata etc. in a literary work that is not even meant to be entirely "doxographical" and he complains "The stanzas defining the purvapakshas are extremely brief. The opponent's view is reduced to a minimum, barely more than one to three crucial words to which is added an illustrating example." Sadananda obviously assumes his audience to already be aware of the purvapakshas.

Bouthillette continues to further mete out the same step-motherly treatment to Jitatmananda too and calls the reproduced Paul Davies quote as "an extreme simplification of Western scientific (and de facto intellectual) history". If so, may we please know from him what his version of "Western scientific history" is?

5) He also says "my paper is meant to be an introduction to a further, more elaborated, research". And yet, he finds it completely alright to inform his readers of his already extrapolated conclusions when he says this alleged "pattern of argumentation" is "common to most ancient doxographies". Could you please show us your "more elaborated, research" before burdening your reader with your wild extrapolations, Mr.Bouthillette?

6) ...

7) I also find Mr. Bouthillette's "define Hinduism" challenge extremely amusing. This is a game some people often like to play. Oh, but what is Dharma? Oh, but define Hinduism. I'm not saying Bouthillette is playing this game here but he might inadvertently be doing so. ... Now, on that same front, could he define"Western Science" for me?

8) Again, like I said at the very beginning Bouthillette's entire premise is arguably weak. Indian traditions have never been opposed to / wary of science. The west suffered a great deal when the so called modern science clashed against Christianity and the Islamic world is still coming to terms with, again so called, modern science. No such thing ever happened in India or will ever happen. ... "

Surya adds:
"Doctrinal purity is at the heat of author's research.  This is a serious concern at the philosophical level but less so at the level of practitioners.  Author's research life is driven by the core principle that systems whose doctrines are in conflict cannot coexist.  Author's central goal in his current research is to show that there are some doctrines of science that are in conflict with the doctrines of Vedanta. His long-term goal in research is to suggest that multiple philosphical systems under Dharma or Hinduism are also in mutual conflict in core doctrines.  This is what he means when he says "What is Hinduism?". It is not a question but a challenge.

Doxai means opinions.  Doxography then is an encyclopedia of opinions or beliefs or philosophies etc., Author is focused on Indian Doxograhical works, ie., works that cover multiple philosophical systems.  Author has a theory that Indian doxographers show a consistent motive to unite and conquer even incompatible philosophies under one hierarchy.  This theory is his basis for questioning "What is Hinduism?". His interest in approaching Rajivji stems from Rajivji's book Being Different where he unites them under the Umbrella of Dharma.

Author is alleging that scholars who compared philosophical systems in India are biased in their methods and worked with the motive of achieving Hindu unity.  Author sees them avoid contentious dialogues, abstract away conflicting issues, always have the final say, and finally always manage to claim unity.  Author's deep conviction is that, if one looks at doctrines of different systems in Dharma, they cannot be conformed.  This is what he basically means when he asks  "What is Dharma?"  or "What is Hinduism?".  

In case you did not notice, use of Sanskrit words in his research is part of his grander effort in seeking authentication from orthodoxy as he goes on to compare doctrines.  Most of his references will continue to be Western.

This misses the entire spirit of Being Different which points out how plurality of ideas can and do coexist in India....
It is interesting that Christianity started as one and broke into many denominations (some count it over a thousand).  Their doctrinal rigidity and history-centric dogma combined with Aristotelian binary logic of excluded middle is the reason behind the split.  To them, the fate of Schrodinger's Cat in the box cannot be uncertain.

Dharma has gone the other way and found a way to unite.  The way Rajivji presents it, Dharma is an Umbrella rather than a hierarchy.  It is similar to a statistical cluster.  While each of the philosophies in India have their own core rigid doctrines, they are able to coexist because the "distances between these points in the cluster" are close enough and reconcilable to practitioners.  ....  

Author cannot understand or accept self-organizing nature of Hinduism.  Author thinks Doxographers were the clever orchestrators who perpetrated this unity in diversity.  This too has been addressed in Being Different.  Rajivji has even proposed to the skeptics a simple challenge of bringing together Islam and Christianity (Catholicism, for example, if you worry about multiple denominations) under one Umbrella.  Sorry.  Will not work.  You cannot cluster them under an Umbrella no matter what level of abstraction you choose.  At their deepest core are the history-centric incompatibilities  that can never be reconciled.   "

Rajiv Malhotra has some generic comments. These are very important and very little is edited:
"The strategic objective of a growing segment of Western scholars, an objective that is usually not stated explicitly, is to show that classical Indian traditions lack coherence. The key word here is COHERENCE. Lacking coherence means there cannot be a legitimate civilization built on such a foundation. This is achieved in many ways by many scholars, including:
  1. "There is no such thing as Hinduism. This was a modern construction by Brahmins as part of nationalism against the British." This is a very common genre - starting with Brian Penington's book "Was Hinduism Invented?" .... 
  2. In the name of "diversity of dharma", what many scholars are selling is the incoherence of dharma. They do it in such a manner that many Hindus find it to be a complement, failing to read between the lines. The goal is to emphasize how one dharma system refutes another, how one caste fights another, how one social organization commits violence against another. This internal fragmentation is emphasized as endemic and inherent in dharma, not as something caused by historical events that had nothing to do with dharma. 
  3. Those who demonstrate the unity of dharma are accused of constructing homogeneity. Hence, they are totalitarian and this gets conflated with modern social violence as something they cause.
My purpose in starting this thread is to educate the folks at a level deeper than what meets the eye. This particular western scholar might be a small fry today, but his candidness in speaking out is revealing (and hence useful in debate), whereas the more experienced ones are far more sly and can (and do) fool our people. Even in dealing with this scholar, I am told that the Sanskrit folks at JNU have no clue how to respond intelligently. Some go bombastic and emotional - an instant checkmate, and a bad example to students in class. Others join such incoherence theories, seeing some weird glory in them. Yet others prefer to tune out because they lack the skills of purva paksha of the West.
I have been through numerous such encounters for 20 years or longer. BD's strategy was designed based on those encounters. Even those westerners who do lip service to the idea of reversing the gaze cannot tolerate it beyond a point. (There are some exceptions I know.)
The reason is that in BD the West is shown to lack coherence. It is a synthetic construct, the result of centuries of violence against others and digestion of others. It also shows that digestion is the process by which the west establishes its own coherence and simultaneously dismantles the coherence of its prey. So the civilizational discourse thus far has often been a war to establish which side is coherent and which side is not. My thesis is seen as outrageous and dangerous to Western Universalism. It has to be attacked.
Such attacks will come from some persons. But there are also many other Westerners who agree with BD's approach and see it as taking the debate further than ever before on Indian terms. On the other hand, I constantly face Westernized Indian elites (including many who are very Hindu in their personal lives) who debate me from the Western camp. So stage-5 of the UTurn - in which  WU gets re-exported back to India and planted there as the gospel truth - has been very successful.
Stay tuned. It is going to get more interesting....."

KSB provides a detailed response:
"... For that purpose I will come to the latest remarks of Mr. Malhotra and Rajesh A.

1) Deny Single Identity to the Other.
2) Exaggerate the Differences making them into Fault-lines.
3) Describe Other's Reaction to such Divisiveness as Predatory and Homogenizing!


1) This is a kind of critical analysis that has been developed for classical studies (the field in which I started my formation) and for Biblical studies. I see nothing wrong in such a method, if ample proofs are there. Nonetheless I tend to find these discussions somehow dry and not immediately relevant to the
main discussions attributed to these "authors". I personally do not put too much importance on the exact authorship of the text and prefer to focus on the history of ideas rather than of people. If an idea has been accepted, formulated and distributed it becomes relevant to analyze it. ....

2) Here, I would balance the claim. Some people did exaggerate some differences, while others downplayed them. Dialectic can be useful in fostering a better understanding. By contrasting a doctrine with another, we might better value
their originality and specifics. But to reify these "differences" to an extreme would provide a wrong picture in many cases.

3) I am not sure what the exact claim here is, therefore I will not comment too much. I will simply use the opportunity to come back to my paper.

My point was exactly to show that the "the modern Indian interest in unifying ancient philosophies and Western Sciences is the continuation of a long process of systematic attempts by Indian thinkers to combine all the known authoritative systems of thought under a unified and coherent world view that not only safeguards the foundation of their age-old tradition, often at the cost of doctrinal aberration, but that promotes itself as superior to any other competing discourse."

Sanskrit tradition (a terminology that I prefer to "Hinduism" or "Dharma") is the longest living philosophical, religious, cultural, etc... human tradition.
-The Egyptians, Mayan, etc... are gone.
-The Chinese seem to have renounced their heritage.
-The Greco-Roman world is no more.

On the Indian philosophical landscape, many new ideas have emerged, sometimes competing with one another, sometimes in isolation. The debates have allowed all school to borrow from one another and to strengthen their views over thousands
of years (for some schools).

Now, the specific genre of "doxographical" literature, which is only one type of texts among many other, has contributed in organising and systematizing such a complex and diverse range of topics and schools. There is absolutely nothing
wrong in that.

As philosophical and polemical treatise, these texts tend to favor the particular school to which belong its author (the first one, Haribadra, was a Jain... there was Buddhists as well as Vedantins who also write similar texts, all favoring their own school, simply by being fair to their beliefs). From this kind of texts came the idea of the 6 darshanas and so on. This was an attempt at organising and assimilating ideas ...

Now, my point in my paper was to say that this kind of literature, which played an important role in the formation of the identity of each school, is being revived under the umbrella of the debate with science...

We could reuse the doxographical model of debate without the need to promote the particular school of the author (finding a way to be more neutral). As for doctrinal aberrations, they unavoidably happen any time new ideas are introduced
and assimilated, and it will continue to be so. But generations of thinkers, one after the other, will work in explaining away such difficulties. It seems to be the best way to maintain a tradition alive: not fixing it forever, but allowing changes and new ideas to be assimilated. It seems that this is what allowed the Sanskrit tradition to stay alive for so long and over a far reaching area.

Therefore, in my view again, we should study the ancient doxographical methods, learn from them, modernise them, and produce a mode of debate with a methodology and terminology consistent with ancient thought and relevant to the modern scientific discourse. What is more, it would be an original contribution of India, once more, to the advancement of knowledge.

I do not understand why this should be perceived as any kind of Western prejudice. it is certainly not a desire to prove that Science and Sanskrit culture can not be compatible. I believe in the exact opposite ...." 

Kundan provides more feedback:
" I agree with Karl-Stephen that Capra is a perennialist—he reduces the plurality and diversity present among the “eastern” “spiritual” traditions to a mere caricature which most modern pernnialists beginning with Huxley are prone to do. Forget about the eastern traditions, even the Indian yogic traditions show a tremendous diversity and plurality among themselves. But this should not mean that these traditions do not show commonalities and similarities in approach and methodology towards the pursuit of the “unknown.”

  1. On this forum itself, I had once remarked that it is “difference anxiety from below” which makes Indians seek the clutch of science to emphasize on the modernity and advancement of Indian spiritual traditions. I had also remarked that we need to free ourselves from this “difference anxiety.” Having said the above, it does not once again mean that the Indian spiritual traditions do not share some characteristic with science, in particular pre-popperian science. For example, science, particularly at the time when Swami Vivekananda, was lecturing emphasized on the “direct experience’ of reality in order for that truth to be accepted within the canons of science. Hacker, Halbfass, and later Rambachan wrote reams asserting that this aspect of Vedanta was invented by Swami Vivekananda to make it compatible with Science. It is the greatest lie. “Pratyaksha pramana” and experience or “anubhava” of Vedantic reality has been of supreme importance in this, like all other yogic traditions of India. I write the above to show that assertions of some of the “Neo-Hindus” as Hacker likes to call them were not predominantly inspired due to nationalism and nationalistic assertion but because of certain truths that the Indian yogic tradition has held sacred since most certainly the Upanishads.  [It is interesting to note that Rambachan and Pennington attacked BD at AAR a few weeks later in November 2012, and this discussion by Kundan is relevant to that debate in Chicago]
... Quoting Nicholson, he says that “doxography ‘consists of texts that simply outline one system after the other in separate chapters without explicit refutation of these systems.’” Now the texts of Sankaracharya or Madhavacharya or Haribhadra Suri, of course, engage in the “purva paksha” of their opponents by elaborating their doctrinal assertions but they also go about refuting the assertions—and they do this quite systematically. Because the aforementioned authors engage in systematic refutation without selective representation of the views of the opponents, they cannot be said to be engaging in doxography for doxography according to the definition used by Karl-Stephen is about recording opponent’s views but not about refuting them explicitly. Yet Karl-Stephen says “It is possible to categorize this tradition of more or less polemical writings under the genre of ‘doxography.’” This contradiction makes Karl-Stephen biased in making Indian philosophical traditions doxographical. He is invested in making the Indian philosophical system as such despite evidence to contrary—evidence that he himself has mentioned.
  1. As far as the unifying tendencies of the Hindus are concerned, this thread has been alive in them since the time they discovered the concept of Self—one Consciousness that has become the many. This unifying thread has been present in the Gita as well, which is a synthesis of the yogic traditions of the time, for instance Sankhya and yoga. Thus, this unifying thread present in Hinduism is not seven hundred years old only as Karl-Stephen says on page 12 but has a much earlier legacy. And may I add that the attempt is not doxographical. Let me give you a concrete example. In the modern times, Sri Aurobindo has unified many strands of Indian spiritual traditions like Buddhism, different schools of Vedanta, different kinds of yoga, Tantra etc. In the process, he has refuted the partial truths of many different traditions from an integral perspective. Now anyone who is familiar with these traditions would know that he has neither misrepresented them nor caricatured them. A correct representation of the all the traditions is very much there. It is time that Karl-Stephen begins to do some serious reading of these texts and not base his knowledge on known Hindu-baiters like Hacker in creating straw men and then beating them. Since yogis do not operate in a strict duality of right/wrong and true/false (the transcendence of binaries and mind that operates in such binaries) is an integral aspect of the yogic traditions, particularly the ones that are rooted in Vedanta. Therefore you will find that a refutation of a particular system does not mean its complete negation. In most circumstances, the negation of a particular view has lead to its assimilation—this is the “progress” of the Hindu civilization. But I am sorry to say this advancement of knowledge is much more than doxography. I recommend the writings of Sri Aurobindo to Karl-Stephen. Once he is through with his voluminous writings, he himself will get the “pramana” and know what I am talking about.  

  1. Karl-Stephen says, “The "Neo-Hindus", in which we could add many more names, like Aurobindo or Nataraja Guru, have been particularly influential in the promotion of a dialogue between Indian philosophy and Western sciences. Their authority within the same New Age circles that inspired Capra is also undeniable.” Karl-Stephen in the above only exposes his ignorance of the writings of Sri Aurobindo.... 

  1. Karl-Stephen writes “Observing how these modern philosophical writings share striking features with ancient doxographical attempts, not only in regard to their style and purpose but to the dynamic socio-religious environment in which they developed, lead me to believe that a considerable portion of the current Indian trend of comparative attempts that aim at unifying modern sciences and Indian philosophies can be said to be a new manifestation, consciously or not, of doxographical literature and, in parallel, one more attempt at promoting Hindu unity.” Karl-Stephen seems to be in the line of authors who are quite invested in showing how the unifying thread in Hinduism is a social construct. This movement gained momentum through the writings of Hacker (it has a much earlier antecedent in the colonial writings of Mill) who tried to show that the assertions of “Neo-Hindus” (a term which actually is an oxymoron because Hinduism has never been frozen in time to begin with) came about in primarily response to European contact.
  1. Karl-Stephen is oblivious of the doxographical methodology that he has used in making his contentions. He is blatantly selective of the numerous Vedantic texts that are extant even today—out of them he selects two that serve the polemical nature of his arguments. Interestingly both these texts are so obscure that only a few Indians would have even heard of them.

  1. Karl-Stephen’s paper is agenda based. For centuries, the western historians have been crying hoarse that the seeds of the evolution of western society lie in Greek thought. After the renaissance, it is a common western assertion that there has been a constant progress in philosophy and science of the western world which has gone in certain stages. Regarding science, the “theory of relativity” and quantum physics are considered to be superior and inclusive of the Newtonian science—does Karl-Stephen remember the attack that Thomas Kuhn faced when he suggested that science has not “progressed” over the years but has “evolved” through revolutions and that there are definite breaks in these revolutions which are not an outcome of a linear evolutionary progress? ... Kuhn had to retract his words in his subsequent publication. If Jitatmananda puts Vedanta as the engine of this progress, he does not automatically become doxological. If he is doxological, then the entire western world which has harped on the notion of “progress” in the western academia is doxological. Jitatmananda has merely added Vedanta to the western narrative.
  1. This brings me again to the agenda-based scholarship of Karl-Stephen. Whether he accepts it or not behind the garb of his objective scholarship, what is bothering him is the assertion of an Indian making Vedanta lead the story of western progress. It would be worthwhile at this stage for scholars to actually investigate his ideological leanings.
 KSB responds:
"Dear Mr. Singh, and the two others who wrote meaningful questions before, I regret to be in such a lack of time.
Somehow i have the felling that doxography is understood as something "negative", which it is not. It is simply a specific literary genre. Which exists in the Western tradition as well and which can be very beneficial when understood properly.

A quick remark on the nature of doxography: it is not polemical per se, in the definition of Nicholson, but in my view it ends up being so, nonetheless. Here I should put more thought and research and it was meaningful to have this weakness pointed out by Mr. Singh.

As I said before, this paper is the reflexion of a work in progress. What can be seen as a biase from my part, which is highly possible since I have many failings, may in fact simply be a lack of knowledge in certain areas that I aiming at reviewing. so I thank you for any suggentions of specific readings.

All of your comments are welcome and I can only thank you for the time that you have taken in highlighting my ignorance on different issues.
Please forgive me for not being available so much in the last few days."

Kundan responds to KSB:
"In your subsequent emails to responses to your paper, you have been defending that doxography is not negative....I do not understand how doxography is not negative when it is a selective representation of opponent's views and an assertion of one's own without an explicit refutation of the opponent's contention. Doxography, in such a situation, means a lack of rigor and a lack of intellectual integrity. By taking a couple of texts, you have made a sweeping judgment on the rigor of Indian daarshanic (I specifically do not call it philosophical here) tradition. I hope you see how that is a problematic contention.

Based on what you have written in the paper, it will be extremely difficult for you to defend that there is nothing negative about doxography. In fact, your defense of doxography seems to me an after-thought....

As far as what is valuable in your paper is concerned, let me be very candid in stating what I have found valuable: I am sure that you are aware of this trend in Euro-American trend in mainstream academia which is highly invested in showing that "Hinduism" is a modern construct, primarily having come out of a contact with the west. Swami Vivekananda is a poster boy in such contentions. That he gave a unified vision of Santana Dharma is also contended to be a product of his nationalistic aspirations, as a mark of resistance against the colonial masters. When you site an obscure text of pre-European contact that has a unifying thread of bringing many different daarshanic and philosophical traditions of India under one umbrella (despite your inclinations towards buying that Sanatana Dharma is a modern construct), you strike a the very roots of the social-constructivist orientation of mainstream academia towards "Hinduism."

In my eyes, your effort will be laudable if you write a paper on the above issue. Otherwise we have seen many scholars from the Euro-American world towing a very colonial line against Hinduism ...

If the trajectory of your scholarship does not change in the future, I can completely visualize how your stay in India will be used to compromising the spiritual traditions of India. I write the above not because of nationalistic aspirations but because I do hold that the Indian spiritual traditions (and for that matter "mysticism" in many parts of the world, even where it has lived on the margins) has something unique to contribute to humanity, ...." 

KSB's response to Kundan:
"Doxography, again, is a specific kind of philosophical writings and should not be equated with the full "daarshanic" tradition. I hope to be able to study further what was the actual use of these texts. So far, my assumption is that it
was intended to teach its recipient ways of facing various opponents coming from different backgrounds. If it is so, it makes sense that the texts would not necessarily engage the in the purvapaksha's view but focus on the best answer to
provide on specific points.

This is what I mean by not negative "per se". The aim of the text defines its structure and method. Still, the whole of Indian tradition is not made only of doxographical writings. There are very few examples if one compares with the other kind of shastras available.

My point, in the paper, was to suggest that many modern Indian writings on science and philosophy are taking a similar shape as the ancient doxographies.

As for the obscurity of the VedaantaSaara, I cannot agree with you. It is a very well known text that is studied by many who begin their ways in the Vedaanta tradition. I was exposed to it myself at JNU. Also, within the debate on science and philosophy i have seen it mentioned by Indian authors.

Although it is not the best example of doxography, as it has been mentioned already and as I also said in the paper, I used it because I could reproduce within the limited space of my paper most of the argumentation and structure of the part of the text that is "doxographical" in nature, which is only chapter 3. ...The reason is that I feel that we could a few things from this. As mentioned in my paper:

- The impact of historical changes on Indian thought.
- A consistent terminology of debate that could serve as a basis for the modern debate with science.
- A mode of debate that could be actualized to fit the needs of the modern discussions on science and philosophy.

There is probably more, but these 3 points are in my view positive, since they can bring a better understanding of philosophical developments in India and in the meantime contribute to the quality of the modern debate.

Now, for your comments on:
""Hinduism" is a modern construct, primarily having come out of a contact with the west. »

I already explained, in brief, what I perceive as a common thread within the Indian traditions. I wrote about the "experience" at the core (or origin) of the various schools and even of the Veda. On this, I think that I join your views on
mysticism and this is what I was suggesting when I wrote this previous comment. Mysticism did not only exist in India. ...This being said, the emphasis on "Hinduism" is a concern that I do not share. I feel that the word is very vague and when I hear it, especially in the mouth of Westerners, I never know what they are talking about. My problem with the term is therefore that it is too generic.

...  This does not mean that I think that the unity of Indian tradition is a modern phenomenon. But the perception that the tradition (the people who hold it) has of itself is likely to have gone through various phases. I find this to be interesting.

As for nationalism, let me say a few words. I also come from a nationalistic background, as many around me in Quebec, family or friends, are supporters of the independence of Quebec in America. There is nothing wrong in having views
about the future of our people. When these views shape our philosophical discussions, they should be pointed out so that what is being said is better understood. ...

...I am al sensitive to the issue.  For now, I am aiming at developing an approach that would not take sides either with what you are calling "colonialists" nor with "post-colonialists". In fact, I am not interested so much in politics, although I have to face it often in  dealing with Indian matters.

I am sorry, due to a limited time, I must stop here for now..."

Kundan's followup:
"Firstly, for the clarity of the readers, you are saying that you have not made a sweeping judgment against the daarshanic tradition being doxographic. Well! in such a case that should come out very clearly when you revise your paper.

Secondly, all the texts that you have cited of Shakaracharya, Madhvacharya, and Haribhadra Suri, if they are not doxological in nature, then they should not be mentioned in the paper. If you are doing so, you are committing an academic fraud and misleading the reader and the academic community.

Thirdly, you would want to clearly explain what the difference is between “Literature Review” and doxography. If doxography means representing the view of one’s predecessors without explicitly refuting them, then most of works in the current western academia are doxographical, given that literature review happens to be a major component of thesis and dissertation writing.

With regards to your following points, please see my response below:
Your framework is thoroughly Euro-Americo centric and should be seen as a colonial and invasive paradigm in the study of the Indian traditions. Here are my reasons why:

The yogis who are considered as the revivers of the Indian Sanatana Dharma tradition, like Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo, and Paramhans Yogananda, were not intellectuals who advanced their philosophy through hair-splitting reason—that they have employed reason to put their point of view is a different matter altogether. It is quite clear from their own writings that they have enunciated “thoughts” from a state which “transcends and integrates” reason, logic, and discursive mind. In other words, their knowledge was a revealed knowledge.

The modern western metaphysics largely is stuck with reason and privileges reason as the end-all-and-be-all of knowledge pursuit. It denies states higher than reason. On the other hand, the Indian daarshanic and yogic tradition have discussed threadbare the limitations of logic, reason, and discursive mind (look up the Buddhist and Vedantic traditions and you will know what I am talking about). Revealed knowledge has been given a much higher status than knowledge approached from discursive standpoint. It also is considered more sophisticated and closer to truth in the Indian scheme of things: the Shruti/Smriti distinction as explained in BD.  

From what I understand you are not someone who is following the cosmological and metaphysical paradigm of the Indian daarshanic tradition. On the other hand, you are looking at the development of the Indian thought from a social constructivist point of view. The dominant and mainstream western framework gives you the right to investigate the Indian systems using this methodology; however we hold the right to criticize your methodology for what it is: colonial, privileged, destructive, and invasive.

Secondly, the mainstream western scholars (I emphasize mainstream western scholars here because there are western scholars living on the margins in the west, who do not buy and are critical of the reason-centered paradigm of western academia) are in the habit of clubbing intellectuals and yogis of modern India under one category. From the traditional Indian perspective, it is mixing apples and oranges. From the Indian cosmological world view, it is stupidity to put Sri Aurobindo and Raja Ram Mohan Rai in one category. The only reason this is allowed in mainstream academia is because of the privilege and destructive dominance that it holds, continually denying the voice to the representatives whose traditions are being ravaged, pillaged, dissected, and raped (In a certain sense, we are like native Americans but we have become so colonized...). 

With regards to your second point, the Indian tradition even in the modern times has not pitted itself against science. The religion/science problem is a western problem, rising in response to a particular historical context. When you are forcing the debate in the Indian context, you are bringing the western assumptions. You, and all other westernized Indians, are seeing a problem where there is none.

There is a reason why it is so. The Indian yogis have seen our cosmos as a graded system of consciousness, going from gross to subtle. Let me just give you one example. Since you are familiar with Vedanta, you would know that there are different levels of consciousness. You have the realms of matter, of emotions, of mind (with its many sublevels like chitta, manas, and Buddhi), of higher mind (ones that transcend logical and discursive mind—the illumined and intuitive mind), and of ananda. Each higher level of consciousness transcends and integrates the lower ones—for example the higher mind transcends and integrates mind which mainly operates in binaries and discursive thought. Mainstream science (despite quantum physics and theory of relativity) operates from the level of mind—this is because it gives reason a privileged position and operates in subject/object dichotomy. ...If we take it that one begins to have an experiential taste of yogic science when one enters the higher mind, then one can safely say that yogic science transcends and integrates mainstream western science. Indian yogis, and people who understand their cosmological paradigm well, therefore, do not have trouble in understanding that mainstream science.....

...You, therefore, will find yogis like Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo at times making a case with science but are also clear in stating that mainstream science will not get into a space where yogic science goes, until the former transcends its own metaphysical assumptions.  

The question then comes, “has Vedanta (and I am sure the same allegation can made about Buddhism) devised this strategy to conquer science in a recent socio-historical-political context?” The answer is a clear no because the idea of a graded cosmology is as ancient as the Vedas and the Upanishads. Given the final level of consciousness that was experienced in the consciousness of the yogis, different system of yogic systems have come about ...

Despite many issues that have been raised regarding the presence of “doxography” in the Vedantasaara, even if we say that the third chapter of the text is doxological in nature, it is not doxology that helped the Vedantins to unite different schools of thought but it was the idea of this graded cosmos (most certainly not in a three dimension) that helped Sadananda in the past and helped other yogis in modern India to embrace science without feeling the need to reject science.

Therefore it was not the craftiness of the Brahmins in the past or the nationalism of the Indians in the present that has helped them to bring about the unifications of the past as well as the present.

If you will take my explanation in the above, you will see that unification of modern science with Vedanta or for that matter with the yogic world view has not come out of politics but it has come from a long-held truth perspective and cosmology. I want to say this to you: please walk your talk. Why are you bringing matters into the level of politics where what was involved was sheer quest of truth. The people who revived a dying tradition called Hinduism did it on the basis of years of spiritual practice and quest for truth. If you cannot give them the respect that they deserve, at least leave them alone. I think the Indians have become tired of the colonial and invasive practices. The last statement is particularly written not to embarrass you but to invite some self-inquiry.  I sincerely hope you will pay some attention to it. If you want to get into the details of what I am saying here, I recommend to you “DecolonizingMethodologies” by Linda Tuhiwai Smith.  "

Surya shares some links:
Dark Experiences in Western Mysticism vs. Blissful Experiences in Eastern Mysticism

Capra wrote about differences in Eastern and Western mystical experiences.  Was he just making things up?  

Mystic experiences in the East are always experiences are bliss.  People who witnessed mystics in India speak for this.  Reported mystical experiences in the West were dark and painful, often empty with no divine experiences.  Could it be a struggle between the Christian scriptural conditioning that does not allow direct experiences of the divine and unconditioned mystical experiences?


Dark mystical experiences of Mother Theresa

In a letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, mother Theresa wrote "Jesus has a very special love for you," she assured Van der Peet. "As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have free hand."
In the booktitled Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, consisting primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, provides the spiritual counterpoint to a life known mostly through its works. The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever — or, as the book's compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, "neither in her heart or in the eucharist".

That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the "dryness," "darkness," "loneliness" and "torture" she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. "The smile," she writes, is "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything." Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. "I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love," she remarks to an adviser. "If you were [there], you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'" Says the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit magazine America ... It will give a whole new dimension to the way people understand her."


Dominican Fr. Paul Murrary, meanwhile, argued that on the basis of Mother Teresa's private writings, published only after her death, she now ranks not only as a friend of the poor, but as one of the great mystics of the Catholic tradition, with an interior life comparable in depth and intensity to St. John of the Cross.

Those private writings were collected as part of the beatification process, and had previously been known only to a handful of spiritual directors and church authorities. They spoke not only of mystical visions and revelations in the 1940s, but an inner darkness stretching over most of the rest of her life and which led her even to question the existence of God.
We now know that Mother Teresa's spiritual journey, Murray said, “was not one long unbroken experience of bliss, with roses of consolation strewn along the way.” Instead, she lived with a sense of bewildering rejection and even complete abandonment, as her prayers were not heard and God remained silent.

Dark mystical experiences of St, John of the Cross
Yet when the sixteenth-century mystic John of the Cross identified a similar phenomenon—this spiritual desolation called the "dark night of the soul"—he insisted that it is an important spiritual discipline. The dark night, said John, is a tortuous but fruitful path to union with God. ....
Today few subscribe to John's view. Instead, we have taken his phrase "dark night of the soul" to describe a subjective experience of the loss of a sense of God's loving presence. Without understanding its place in St. John's larger theology, we are not always sure what to do with it. It seems a decidedly unpleasant episode, often associated with doubt. "

The original thread continues here.
Sandeep asks:
"In light of the dark Christian mystical experiences catalogued by Surya below, does anyone know of any publications which have investigated differences between mystical experiences recorded in Yogis and in Christian mysticism ?  (I have already asked Surya this question in private)

Also, are there any works of Christian mysticism which are devoid of references to the Church, the body of Jesus, the original sin, the sacrament, etc ?  To rephrase, I want to know which, if any, works of Christian mysticism are closest to the Indian model.  I have already browsed the "Cloud of Unknowing" and "The Imitation of Christ" and both do not fit the criteria because they contain references to Jesus as the Son of God and what not.   I suppose there might be early (so-called) Christian-Neoplatonist saints whose works might be close to Vedanta.

Rajiv's response:
I have established (for my uturn theory book series) that Neoplatonism (Plotinus based thought) is itself considered a digestion of Hinduism. See the massive research book by McEvilley. If you really want to piss off a western chauvinist who is said to be well grounded in Hellenistic "Western" thought, send him the following quotation. Thomas McEvilley explains the current lack of acknowledgment of Plotinus’ thought being similar to and potentially derived from Indian thought:

“Translations of his work may have a churchy kind of ring. The view of Plotinus as a kind of proto-Christian theologian may express, at least in part, a dread of finding possible Indian origins for the texts whose influence was to contribute to shaping the thought of Thomas Aquinas, Nicolas of Cusa, Meister Eckhart, and many later western thinkers. So it is not only that ‘to admit oriental influences on [Plotinus] was tantamount to besmirching his good name,’ but even more it would also besmirch that whole aspect of the western tradition that flowed from him. If Plotinus had passed massive Asian influence into the western tradition, there would be little point to calling it western tradition.”

(“McEvilley, Thomas, The Shape of Ancient Thought, Allworth Press, New York, 2002. P. 550)."
Sandeep follows up:
"... McEvilley devotes much of his Neoplatonic exposition to presence of similarities and does not prove any direct trail.  I assume there is some clinching evidence in the form of some archaeological artifact or ancient manuscript, otherwise you are open to the same criticism that is leveled at those like OCOY who claim Jesus had some Indian influence.  You could be asked : how and from whom did Plotinus learn Vedanta or Buddhism ? 

There are several authors like Porphyry, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus around the 3rd century A.D. who mention the Indian gymnosophists but did anyone actually travel to India to gain initiation into Yoga? ....
...To answer my own question, there is work being done in neurotheology and depth psychology, which builds on the direction set by William James in "Varieties of Religious experience".  The keyword is "common core hypothesis" which proposes that the essential cluster of mystical experience is independent of religious context.

For neurotheology, see Andrew Newberg

Ralph Hood (1975) defined a mysticism scale which can be used to compare mystical experiences across religions.  It measures measures eight facets: Ego Loss, an experience of losing one’s self into a greater unity; Timelessness/Spacelessness, a sense of being outside spatiotemporal limitations; Unity, unifying vision of the world as one; Inner Subjectivity, perception of inner awareness in all beings; Positive Affect, blissful feelings that accompany mystical experience; Sacredness, a sense of the holy; Noetic Quality, a cognitive advancement in understanding the world; and Ineffability, the alleged inexplicability of mystic experience."

Rajiv's comment: 
Yes I am well aware of the burden of proof in making claims that topple well-established positions, and I only publish what I can defend. There are also different levels of certainty: from plausible hypothesis, to one of a few likely scenarios: to most likely scenario: established hard fact. Very, very history is based on the final category. For instance, do you know that nobody has successfully responded to a challenge made in recent years to prove that the man named Euclid actually existed? Yet there is this Euclidean geometry. In case of Plotinus, THERE IS NO ARCHEOLOGICAL PROOF THAT SUCH A MAN EXISTED - IT IS SECONDARY REFERENCES ONLY. ... (On an unrelated but exciting development: Just this week I have obtained scans of parts of a huge archive on a very prominent American's Indian appropriations, which will be enough to write a whole volume given his stature. ... I consider this the biggest find of 2012 in my work. A young Indian scholar deserves credit for discovering this and bringing it to my attention. Lots of intense work with zero bragging on his part or attempt to slip out of hard work or responsibility. We do have such heroes, no matter how few.)"

Surya responds to sandeep. For brevity, we only provide limited excerpts.
Dear Sandeep,

McEvilley would not write such an elaborate work if he could simply establish the claim with a clinching evidence in the form of an artifact or a manuscript.  

[The Cambridge Companion to Plotinus] What is known of Plotinus is known through the Biographical writings "The Life of Plotinus" of his disciple Porphyry.  Plotinus was exceedingly reticent of his personal history and nothing is known of Plotinus' early life.  Plotinus was born in Lycopolis, Egypt in 205 CE.  He was likely from a Hellenized Egyptian family.  No one knows what he did during his first 28 years.  Searching for a teacher of Philosophy, he came to Alexandria when he was 28 years old.  The next 10 years, he studies with a teacher named Ammonius whose identity or background is not known.  In 243 CE, Plotinus  decided to study Persian and Indian philosophy and to that end attached himself to an expedition of the Emperor Gordian III to Persia.  The expedition was aborted with the assassination of Gordian by his troops.  Abandoning his plans to travel Easy, Plotinus set out to develop his philosophies.  Plotinus thought of himself simply as a disciple of Plato.  Between Plato and Plotinus, there were several Greek scholars much of whose work was critical of Plato.  Plotinus was intimately familiar with all these works and set out to defend Plato.  Plotinus probably would have been deeply disturbed to be characterized as the founder of something called "Neoplatonism".

Given this backdrop, it is no easy task to show connection between Indian thought and Plotinus.  McEvilley masterfully weaves together several pieces of minor evidences that together offer a strong inductive argument. He spends considerable effort showing the influence of Indian thought on Plato.  In fact, McEvilley builds the argument so slowly and methodically adding piece after piece that it can frustrate the impatient reader.  

There are several noteworthy paragraphs in his book where he brings out the essence of his inductive arguments.

Indian and Western philosophical approaches were very different:
McEvilley shows how modern European philosophers missed the whole point as they drifted away from commonalities of Indian and Greek thought , away from what they said was speculative philosophy.   McEvilley clarifies: "No Indian philosophical system is merely speculative.  Each is a darsana, an insight into the real which is at once a path to perfection and cessation of pain."   McEvilley goes on to quote an Eastern scholar that "Western philosophical traditions are based merely on intellectual insight." 

Greeks were similar in thought to Indians, not Europeans:
Even as McEvilley develops his book showing diffusion of people and thought between India and Greece, one thing becomes clear.  McEvilley is neither slighting the Greeks nor Indians in the process. Instead, he is building evidence to a more interesting claim that he later makes: "Greek Philosophy has, in effect, been forced into the mold of European philosophy, when in fact it had a great deal more in common with its contemporaneous Indian thought....""
KSB comments:
"One who reads the whole of McEvilley woul not fail to notice that he spoke of exchanges in both ways...
For example, he suggests that Nagarjuna woul have been influence by Greek philosophy, at least in his exposition method.

If that was true, the impact on Indian thought, think of Shankaraacarya for example (who debated extensively on Budhist doctrines), woul have been immense.
Are we dealing with "Eastern Digestion" of "Western" material on the part of Indian thinkers?! Sounds impossible doesn't it... Anyway, one could ask, what does it bring us to apply these modern (but outdated) "East/West" concepts/myths to Ancient societies who most probably did not entertain any of our identity complexes/crisis. What is more, as the exchanges between cultures are complexe, and this has been so for millenias, the East/West divide is not only a simplistic reduction of reality, but it is unpracticable. Where does the East ends? Any archeological evidence of its foundation?
On another topic:
The avenues of exchanges in the ancient world can hardly be traced through archeology, as ideas leave little trace on the ground. They can be inferred by cross examination, comparative studies, linguistics and so on.
One thing is certain, there were exhanges happening on many levels, including in the level of ideas (culture, religion, art, medicine and so on).
The possibility of finding asian influence within Greek philosophy has nothing new (it is not a "scoop" and does not rest solely on McEvilley's voluminous work)  and is a stimulating topic. I wonder about the need to label it "Digestion", with the negative connotation that comes with the word....
A culture completly close on itself, without any imput from the outside, especially if this culture is to claim any significance in any domain, is unlikely. This holds true for Greece, Persia, India, China and so on.
What is wrong with any culture engaging with new ideas from the outside?
There are changes happening in the mentalities and leading institutions offer already interesting curriculum. Another problem is, in America as well as in India or anywhere else, few students see the necessity of knowing their cultural heritage..."

Rajiv's response:
"This is silly. I met McEvilley and showed him otherwise and he admitted it was speculation. He came to my house to get support to turn his book into a documentary and i pointed out several errors including his support for Aryan Invasion Theory. That said, certain parts he wrote gave me great leads to follow through on my own later...]"

Sandeep responds to KSB [and Surya: see original thread]:
"... n certain cases, archaeology can prove or disprove textual evidence.  For example, the British archaeologist Flinders Petrie claimed to have found a grave with Buddhist symbols in Dendereh, Egypt in the 1890s which would have affirmed the Buddhist embassies sent by Ashoka to five Greek kingdoms in  the West,  but his claim was debunked by other archaeologists as being overly presumptuous.  Similarly, the thatched roof houses which were excavated in Capernaum validate Mark's account (Mark 2:1-12) of a sick man who was lowered into the house of Jesus after removing the roof but disproves Luke's account of tiles being removed given in Luke 5:19 (see Charlesworth, Historical Jesus Essential Guide, page 88). .."

KSB responds:
In that sense, doxography could be redevelopped to engage with new purvapakshas, like chrstianity, Islam, modern philosophy, modern science, etc. In adapting ancient doxography, as I stated before, we could maybe re-launch an era of stimulating debate and not of white-wash oecumenism.
So, I am still not convinced about the use of the word "Digestion" as I said, because of its essentially negative and conspiracy-like connotations. Although I am intesrested in learning more about what it aims at highlighting and in looking at the different perspectives that it gives me..."
Rajiv responds:
"Rajiv: You can say this about any problem in any domain just to dismiss it by labeling it a conspiracy theory. You can dismiss the analysis of an epidemic like HIV, or corruption, or green house effect, or over population, etc. - by merely branding it a conspiracy theory. This style of response is a low IQ response because it saves the person the need to understand a case on its own merits when he can brand it and get rid of it. It is popular because the other side gets scared and runs away, so such responses get encouraged.

I dont care to even read further whatever else you might have written, as your starting point is to ignore the facts and arguments offered. Please note that when people here criticized your thesis on the other thread, they did not do so by branding it a conspiracy theory; instead they gave point by point responses to it.
The last word in this discussion goes to Surya:
"Would you say that you are not convinced about the use of the word "Syncretism" because it is essentially negative and its conspiracy-like connotations?

That would be silly.  Syncretism, Digestion, and Assimilation are words with definitions.  How can definitions be conspiracies?

Syncretism is defined as the combining of different beliefs. 

Syncretism happens in two different ways.  One is by digestion where the identity of the source of beliefs is eventually wiped out.   The other is by assimilation where the identity of the source of combined systems is maintained but sufficient commonalities are found to assimilate into a larger whole.

Syncretism leads to incoherence when two distinct beliefs are integrated into a single homogeneous belief but the integrated belief retains incompatible parts from the beliefs it combines.  Digestion and assimilation differ in how they tackle incoherence.  

Digestion is inherently asymmetric - digester has control over the digestion process.  ..

Assimilation finds common core as the unifying abstraction.  Do we not see white light as a coherent idea while realizing that it has constituent colored light?  Assimilation avoids incoherence by not integrating distinct ideas into a homogeneous whole.  

Hinduism is the same.  There is no conspiracy to unify beliefs. Dharma as a broader category is the same.  BD explains how Dharma as a coherent category exists.  

Abrahamic faiths as a category is the same.

BD. also explains history-centrism of Abrahamic religions, their separation of creator from creation, concept of ex nihilo creation, need for prophet as a bridge for the unbridgeable gap between man and God, obedience to God as the means to salvation etc.,   These aspects of Abrahamic religions implies that they can never be assimilated with Dharma.

BD also explains how assimilation as a process is limited.  Abrahamic faiths have a common core that is too far, too separated from the Dharmic core.  Thus,  Dharma cannot assimilate Abrahamic faiths.  Abrahamic faiths cannot assimilate Dharma.

Christian "scholarship" can digest but not assimilate Dharma.  It is not a conspiracy but a requirement in the Bible.

Christian syncretism as digestion:

Digestion is what happened to pagan religions that contributed, for example, Christmas or Christmas tree or Easter.  Identity of the digested pagan religions is gone.  Wiped out.   

Christianity as an exclusivist religion is clear about dire pronouncements to those who seek to add or remove things from the Bible.  It is unequivocally stated in Revelation 22:18-19.

Revelation 22:18-19: "I warn everyone who hears the words of prophecy in this book: If anyone adds anything to these, God will give that person the plagues written about in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, God will take away that person’s share of the tree of life and of the holy city, which are written about in this book."

Thus, pagan beliefs are replaced with Christianized beliefs but practices are retained.  You can visit some of the Churches in India where Hindu practices are used in Churches.  Same thing happened to indigenous practices in South America...."

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