RMF Summary: Week of February 27 - March 4, 2012

February 29
NG (March 2012): The Journey of the Apostles
Vishal comments: I am forwarding this note of protest that I sent to the National Geographic magazine today immediately upon seeing their issue.  The article starts with a picture of Christian tribals in Odisha with an inflammatory caption. Thereafter too, there is another picture of an Indian Christian who 'suffered for Christ', and usual nonsense on Christianity saving low caste people in India...

February 29
Develop a strategy to answer back
Arun asks: The New York Times has published several articles based on a new book, The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards," by William J Broad. The latest is here:...
"Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise. "

-- I don't want to promote Broad's book, or help him sell more by stirring up a controversy. However, some critical analysis will be needed, I think. I'm going to assume that his book will contain all kinds of errors and misinterpretations
(e.g., sutras don't name any specific asanas, so those asanas didn't exist, e.g., yoga was stripped of its sexual baggage and republished by Indian nationalists, and so on).

-- So what is the way to make sure (assuming there are such mistakes) that such a book does not become general wisdom?.."

Ram responds:
"Rajiv has given an excellent clue about handling western style descriptions of dharmic/Indian events and activities which give only a part of the meaning of these untranslatable words. I have been using this methods to good effect
recently, by pointing out that in our tradition some words have several meanings at different levels, and choosing just one meaning is wrong.

For example, my friend who is of Indian descent, has been saying that the Shiva lingam in the Hindu mandirs is a phallus, and that Hindus are worshipping.... I found this to be a gross misrepresentation, and told him that ... they went up to the murtis to do arti, but were seeing it as a symbol of Shiva, or a symbol of the manifest universe etc.

He was not convinced until I showed him the Wikipedia entry (below) which showed 16 meanings for the word lingam, only one of which was phallus ....He now understands that Hindus can see the lingam in many ways, ... My friend, who claims to be a Hindu himself, has now stopped with his favourite story.....

Nagaraja recounts a story of Adi Sankara and Mandana Misra:
"...Adi Shankara stands in front of Mandana Misra's house and says Bhikshan dehi. But, Mandana Mishra wants to taunt Adi Shankara and the conversation goes like this.

MM - Kuthaha Mundi (From Where? Shaven (Implying Where are you coming from oh shaven one? - shaven used in a derogatory sense))

AS - Agalath Mundi (Shaven from Chin and above, twists the question to mean From where onwards are you shaven and answers)

MM - Kim Sura Peethaha (What? you want to drink liquor?)

AS - Sura Shwethaha (Liquor is white, twists the question Kim Sura Peethaha to mean What? is liquor yellow?, based on a different meaning of the word peethaha)

The conversation continues like this and Mandana Mishra cannot continue his satire and comes to the point. Once they sit for a proper argument Adi Shankara then provides straight arguments to the point based on his knowledge of Tatva.

What Rajiv ji is set out to do is similar to a part of what Adi Shankaracharya has done (objective, calm arguments to establish certain truths) and Adi Shankaracharya's heroics offer many lessons to do this."

bluecupid shares a link:
"A good [rebuttal] to Broad's sweeping generalization can be found here;

Raj says: I guess this confirms that yoga has entered stage 4 of the u-turn.

Rajiv's comment: Yoga like most other dharmic items has been simultaneously in stages 2, 3 and 4 for many decades. Each stage has its own champions, and they perform like good cops versus bad cops in mutual tension. This is how enzymes operate in mutual tension to end up digesting the food. Most folks cannot see this big picture and hence run around glorifying the good cops.

BD defines specific boundaries which anyone wanting to be a good cop must be asked to cross explicitly and publicly. It forces a hard test, so the person cannot vacillate or pretend there is no difference. It clarifies why he cannot have it both ways. Naturally, this is very discomforting to those who have
become settled in sameness. I have many angry critics attacking me for disrupting their sameness comfort zone

Karthik responds to Arun:
"I had emailed Rajiv about this book a few weeks ago, on the evening I heard William Broad being interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air".

As far as developing a strategy goes: could we write en masse to NPR (specifically, Terry Gross)? We would need to outline what, specifically, we found objectionable about the views aired in that interview and why, in the interest of fairness, "Fresh Air" ought to feature a balancing viewpoint. The transcript of the Broad interview is available here:.."
February 29
Chance for philosophers of dharma ethics to interact with western sc
A scholar named Chris[] is doing his philosophy dissertation on comparative ethics. He is a sophisticated philosopher but weak in dharma. He read BD...
March 1
Why Digestion is different than Assimilation
Rajiv Malhotra writes a blog to respond to critics who say that: everyone has been always borrowing from other cultures, so "whats the problem". We carry this with very little editing, but register [it's free] and read the original post in the e-group to fully understand the context and complete message. As always, the highlighting, emphasis, etc have been added in this (HHG) blog.

"There are several other examples of civilizations becoming digested by some other civilization. Many symbols, rituals and ideas came to Christianity from the so-called pagans (pre-Christian Europeans), but these pagan faiths were demonized and destroyed in the process. Native Americans gave numerous riches to the European colonizers - including potatoes, tomatoes, material wealth, fertile lands - but these original discoverers and citizens of the Americas lost their way of life, and have ended up in museums as exotic artifacts, or as drunken people living on isolated reservations. Egyptian civilization was digested into Greece, and before that some of the African civilizations had been digested into Egypt. In each case, the side getting digested was compromised, marginalized and eventually ceased to be a living, thriving civilization. Today, before our very eyes, Tibetan civilization is being digested into China....

 I want to differentiate between this kind of digestion and the way Greek civilization has been assimilated into "Western" classics without losing track of the sources. While many Indian thinkers, texts and ideas got digested into so-called "European Enlightenment", and the Indian sources replaced with Western ones, the same is not true of Greek civilization. It is fashionable in intellectual circles and in the academy to study and cite Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and numerous other great classical thinkers of Greece, who are now regarded as a part and parcel of the "West". But in classical times, the Greeks did not see themselves as a part of Northern European culture and referred to the northerners as the Occidental "other", while Europeans referred to the Greeks as part of the "Orient". Here lies the difference between Indian and Greek civilizations relationship with the West: When the modern West was formulated, Greece was included as a part of it. Hence, there has been no need to replace Greek sources with other substitutes. But when India was mined for source materials, it remained in Western eyes the non-Western other. India was too different, too far and too massive to be included within the West. Hence, Indian sources of interest were mapped on to Western substitutes. This is why the academy today does not teach Kapil, Bharat, Kautilya, Bharthrhari, Panini, Patanjali, Nagarjuna, Shankara, Abhinavagupta, and dozens of other greats on par with Greek thinkers. The Greeks are part of the West's imagined selfhood while the Indians are not. Therefore, I use the term "assimilation" to describe the experience of Greece, contrasted with digestion. The book explains this distinction further.
 I also want to explain that Indian civilization spread across much of Asia, but in a manner that is different than imperialism, colonialism or conquest. While many Asian nations sent their brightest students to places like Nalanda university in India to bring back knowledge, this was never imposed from the Indian side. At a time when India had the material resources and power to do so, it never tried to appoint governors or tax collectors in another country, or replace their names, language and identity with its own. In other words, there was no digestion of others that would cause them harm.
 I return to the issue commonly raised that every culture has borrowed from others, and hence the same kind of digestion is being done by everyone. Why am I making a case out of the digestion of Indian civilization into the West, some people ask? My response is that there is a difference between digestion and assimilation. Most examples people cite are about assimilation, not digestion, because the source tradition does not get destroyed during the process. When there is an asymmetry of power between the parties involved in the exchange, the implications of exchange depend on this power equation. For instance:
  1. Native Americans also borrowed many things from the white settlers - horses, liquor, guns, for instance. But the natives lacked the power to destroy the white culture. The borrowings in the reverse direction had an entirely different implication.
  2. One can cite examples of Indians learning from Westerners and assimilating these ideas as part of Indian ways. However, India did not take over the global language, institutional apparatus, discourse and grand narrative of history. Indian siddhantas (philosophical theories) did not assume the status of universalism in the same manner as European thought did. Hence the implications of Indian assimilations are not the same as those of digestion by the West.
  3. When women entered the American workforce in the 1960s, men had the power and the women's imitation of men at work was not because women were digesting men. Women did not have the power to do so. Hence, while there was women's mimicry of men, it was assimilation and not digestion.
 Secondly, who says that I oppose all those other kinds of assimilation from being the subject of scholarship? The fact is that the history of ideas as written by Western historians is filled with how the West influenced others, rarely the other way around. In fact, even since Hegel, world history has largely been depicted as the story of what the West did to itself and to others, as though the non-West lacked agency. Therefore, it should not be seen as a problem if some works like mine focus on the flow of influence in the opposite direction. I do not oppose works that bring out assimilations (and even digestions) in which the West is not the predator. Let many directions of research flourish and interact. I do not wish to monopolize the discourse on the history of ideas, but merely wish to add one more dimension to it, ....
 In Being Different, I discuss that large aspects of today's global culture are in fact founded on the values and beliefs that emerged under Western domination of the world in the past 500 years, and these in turn are founded on the values and beliefs that emerged from the unique historical and religious experience of the peoples of European origin. When all collective identities are discarded and all boundaries challenged, the result is not a world free from dominance but one in which the strongest and most aggressive identities along with their versions of history and values prevail....."

Ellen looks at 'the human tendency to recognize sameness'. This is an interesting perspective, and we carry this in some depth with limited editing:
"By way of introduction, I teach Hinduism and Buddhism ... ...although I have not read Rajiv Malhotra's text yet, I am in agreement (to some extent) with the essence of his basic thesis on difference. Having said that, I want to introduce yet another way of looking at 'religion'. Bear in mind that scholars of 'religion' are really not concerned with the same issues that practitioners are and this is why 'insiders' often have debates with or have taken objection to their work. But, I need not go into detail here, this discussion has raised so many issues with academia on its own that it is not necessary to rehash the objections and central points again and again. What is important to point out, I think, is that within the scholarly study of religion  -- as the saying goes -- we teach 'about' religion, we don't actually teach religion -- and this might be the crux or source of the central objection. In order to do this we attempt to explain and interpret 'religion' as a phenomenon using the methods of the social sciences (and most insiders don't always agree with this approach). But, please bear in mind, this is true equally for all religions, not just Hinduism.

Having said that, I want to introduce a new way of understanding religion, but certainly not the only way. That is to say, through the lens of cognitive science or the study of the mind/brain. It seems to me, that when we look at the human mind/brain we see more 'similarities' than 'differences'.  ...

This is true not only for neuroscience but also for cognitive linguistic theorists who debate Noam Chomsky's notion of a universal grammar that is triggered by linguistic environments at birth. In other words, we (i.e., humans) don't arrive in this world at birth as a tabula rasa. ...

Cognitive theorists are looking at religion as a deeply human phenomenon that expresses itself, like language, in myriad ways. To this end, cognitive scientists are generating a wealth of empirical data based on analytical and applied research, and their efforts lend a new and vital theoretical approach to the field of religious studies. It is my view that the cognitive science of religion has several critical areas of mutual (and beneficial) intersection with Hindu and Buddhist religion (particularly the teachings of the great yogis and mahasiddhas) including critical discussions on the nature of consciousness, the role of the nervous system in religious experience and claims of non-duality (advaita). In this way, science and religion have a role to play in levelling the playing field where religions are concerned, at least in my view.

The question is not, as I see it, one of difference per se, but rather how does the mind/brain generate religious experience and why? In the case of the great yogis, this is an exceedingly important question given the embodied nature of religious experience and the role that mind plays, for example, in meditation (including such states as turiya, samprajnata and asamprajnata samadhi, etc.). I once asked a great yogi the central question raised by cognitive philosophers. That is to say, 'how does matter become conscious?" In turn, he looked at me and did what any great yogi would, he turned my question on its head (into a headstand of sorts!) and said, "no, Ellen, the question is, how does consciousness become matter?" Either way, it is clear that for both sides consciousness is the key. And it is clear, at least to me, that on this subject humans are more alike than we are different.

There is an excellent and what I consider to be a beautiful quote from an amazing scholar of psychology named Merlin Donald who writes:  ....

....why humans aspire for a sense of unity and cognitive integrity in the first place. ... it is intrinsic to our evolutionary, biological self.  It is written in to our genetic structure. The explanation is that simple. It is human to do so!
I have added this simple thread for your consideration. I realize you will have to debate and tear it apart. But I do think it is worth considering seriously.

Let me end with a scene from the vastly successful Bollywood film 'Dulwale Dulhania Le Jayenge' to make my point using a different approach. Baldev's pigeons, as it turns out, were the same everywhere -- in Traflagar Square and in the Punjab. It was his 'mind' (or his culture) that created the differences. Nature is One. So, too, Simran (the lead female character) prays both at a her family altar as well as in a church. Why? The pure mind sees no difference. And I think this is why we cry at the end of the film -- Baldev realizes advaita through love -- through prem -- when he opens his heart." 

struth91 responds:
"... For the sake of clarity, lets use the term 'spiritual experience' or 'mystical experience' as opposed to 'religious experience' for the sense of cognitive integrity or larger consiousness, as described by Ellen....

While Ellen is correct in stressing on the commonality of humans striving towards this 'spiritual experience' - religions are certainly not all 'equal' or the same in their support for such activity. In fact, BD repeatedly brings up the point that Christianity and 'history-centric' religions in general have historically been antogonistic towards this 'mysticism' and there is the well-known history of mystics being marginalized and persecuted in the Abrahamic tradition. In contrast - Dharmic religions view spiritual experience as
an inner science and the the entire goal of religion is to facilitate such a state.

By providing scientific validation to the thesis that striving towards cognitive unity is a fundamentally human need and goal - Ellen provides support to the conclusion that this individual striving should be recognized as a basic human right. There is a need to debate whether religions that impose dogmatic, exclusivistic or history-centric restrictions on a basic human right can be allowed to propagate and destroy the more individualistic and inner-science oriented faiths
through 'push' sales techniques." 

Nagaraja adds:
"....The underlying voice in your conclusion seems to be that the 'difference consciousness' creates a divide, an unpleasant and uncomfortable feeling which can be overcome by a 'sameness consciousness' or a 'consciousness that overlooks
differences" creating unity which is a pleasant and comfortable feeling. Please correct me if I am wrong. My contention is that while this aspiration for unity and pleasantness is good, there is another way of achieving it which the Rishis have shown and our previous generations had mastered. That of acknowledging the differences and respecting them... " 

Rajiv adds a moderating comment here:
"I started a new thread [this is carried in a separate post, see the egroup link at the bottom of this post] because this misunderstanding by Ellen also explained below is a very common one and a very serious one. It inflicts many well intended and supposedly well informed dharmic people including many acharyas and swamis who teach Vedanta = escapism. Lets migrate to that thread so its not personal about Ellen. But I do thank her for opening this up here."

Desh comments:

Honestly, I find Ellen's arguments completely jumbled up - ...Here is why:
  • For one thing, she takes the One-ness of consciousness and extrapolates it to one-ness of mind. There is no one-ness of mind or thought. That is purely individual. Consciousness is NOT the mind. Let us not be IRRESPONSIBLE about using the buzzwords as we like. Mind/Belief/Religion are NOT the same as Consciousness/Experience/Spiritual.. and you cannot use the concepts from one context interchangeably.
  • Religion is of the mind, not consciousness. Its god is a defined god (deliberately in lower case) - with specific characteristic... and therefore limited and restricted - it has NOTHING to do with Infinite.. All the talk of One-ness, Infinite in Religious or Theology is schizophrenic nonsense. 
  • Spirituality starts where physicality and finite ends. Spirituality is not a "mind-game", it is an experiential process.
  • Religion is belief-centric, Spirituality is experience-centric. Lets understand it from Gita's example - in the second chapter, Krishna asks Arjun to go fight. He refuses point blank. Instead in third chapter beginning he complains about he is confused between Jnana and Karma. And in the 4th chap beginning he asks directly "How do I know what you are saying is Truth?" Not once in entire Gita does Arjun say even ONCE that "I believe you". Instead when he sees the Universal self of Krishna he finally says "I KNOW this to be the Truth". Knowing via experience VS Believing someone.
  • We have confused our limited "love" for Spiritual Love. The DDLJ Baldev's example to speak about Spirituality looks cute, but is nonsensical...When the Quality of one's love for her Beloved transform to become hopeless yet unrelenting, then it begins to get into a position to take her beyond the physical.
Sandeep responds to Ellen:
" > The question is not, as I see it, one of difference per se, but rather how does the mind/brain generate religious experience and why? <

I think this question has already been answered in Yoga texts.  Spiritual experience occurs due to suspension of thought.  The energy (Prana) which was occupied in thinking is first recovered in order to transfer consciousness into the subtle body.

There are three energy channels Ida, Pingala and Sushumna collocated with the spinal cord.  In normal circumstances, the breath moves through left and right channels - Ida and Pingala.  All methods of Yoga aim to divert the breath from the side channels into the central channel so that it connects with the universal energy (Mukhya Prana) which can be contacted through the Sahasradala Chakra at the top of the head.

Cognitive theorists are too pre-occupied with the brain. They should pay attention to the spinal cord as well. " 

Srini comments:
"...This is a comment on the argument used for justification of a certain way of studying religion/philosophy and not on the intentions of the person.

...."we teach 'about' religion, we don't actually teach religion"
Does that mean non-belief and/or non-experience in a topic gives a person the right teach "about" it? Or is it like Deepak Chopra saying I teach "about" Quantum physics not actually quantum physics. I don't have to point out what true quantum physicists think about such people.
....I do think the contributions of such "scholars" is valuable ..."

Rajiv's response
I must clarify what Ellen meant, I think. Teaching "about" something is a third-person view, whereas practicing it is a first-person view. Both are valid and complement each other.The important point is that religions defined by a text rather than by embodied experience can be and usually are interpreted using third-person techniques known as hermeneutics. An expert need not be a practitioner because its a matter of interpreting what the text means. This is like a lawyer interpreting what a contract says. (These texts are seen as covenants or contracts given by God.) Indians must understand that this is the result of history-centrism and shortfall in embodied knowing in those traditions. So if that text (a historical record) were lost, man would be doomed as there would be no way even in principle to recover it again. Not so in the case of embodied knowing - thats the whole point of chapter 2."

Kundan adds:
"To add my two cents to this post, I would say that the West has been in a parasitic instead of symbiotic relationship with Indian Thought. It has enriched itself by appropriating the thought while simultaneously destroying it in India and suppressing the influence in its home soil.

We are opposing a parasitic relationship that the West has forged and we do not have anything against a symbiotic relationship. True to the Indian principle, we will encourage a symbiotic scholarly exchange that is based on mutuality and parity of power. " 

March 1 

comment on Being Different
Rajiv: This comment posted on Patheos.com where my book is being discussed at their Book Club. I enourage others to participate.
Indrani comments "... As someone born into the Dharmic Traditions in the Caribbean where my ancestors have lived hundreds of years and where my internal and external space was bombarded by the oppressive presence of persons and institutions that were forcibly, selfishly, and exclusively promoting their Judeo-Christian ideology, I have spent all of my years in a constant struggle to BE myself  and to SEE myself in the world around me. I have struggled with the issues that BD so brilliantly articulates for people like us who are born into and live most of our lives almost in a Twilight Zone of sorts. 

This text bridges the gap between the academy and the masses. It brings the distillation of ideas from a hardcore scholarly level down to one that most ordinary folks can understand.

The text should be prescribed reading for people trying to understand why they find it difficult to "belong" in hegemonic societies, and for those who exercise the hegemony so they can appreciate the violence that they are perpetuating and perhaps do something about it.

People like me are better able to find our bearings in a Judeo-Christian and western world, when we read BD. This text, in a way, sets up important navigation directions for the interface between  Dharmic and Abrahmic traditions. It is a jewel in the Samudra Manthan."

March 4
Please Post : Re: Mutual Respect...
Pankaj posts: On Mutual Respect As the term implies, there has to be both reciprocity and respect.... please note that the Jews do not convert and it may be possible to take a  Position of mutual respect with them, provided they accept. Also note that in India we have not had problems between Hindus and Jews because of religious injunctions or basis in society, strongly supported by the fact that both the sides do not seek to convert each other."

[we will carry the discussion in this thread below in a separate post because of the many comments posted]
March 4
A common misinterpretation of Unity Consciousness
Ellen's recent thread illustrates the common notion that non-duality is escapist from the mundane world on multiplicity. This became the handle with which...

RMF Summary: Week of January 21-27, 2013

January 22 (continuing discussion)
Confused celebrities who are intellectually deficient, ashamed of be
Here is a typical example of a confused celebrity who is intellectually deficient and appears to be ashamed of being different (no pun intended). Shaan (a.k.a....

January 23
Swami Vivekananda Chair, University of Chicago
Prashant shares: Namaste to all! Please read the scanned image of a recruitment advertisement in the Times of India, 23rd Jan 2013 asking for applications for the Swami...

Rajiv comments:
When GOI made this grant to set up the chair a year or two back, I pointed out that U of Chicago is the home of Wendy Doniger from where emerged the Freudian psychoanalysis of Sri Ramakrishna, the guru of Swami Vivekananda. What irony that the genre of scholarship that has done the most damage to Vivekananda's guru gets the multi-million dollar chair endowed supposedly to teach about Vivekananda. You can image what kind of spin that chair will teach. Similarly, the India chairs set up by GOI in some other countries have had questionable occupants. Many tend to be selected based on being cronies, sepoys, or if they are well-intended they lack the ability to stick their necks out and change the discourse in any meaningful manner.

The same it true of some non-govt initiatives set up by "Hindu activists". The selection process in one recent academic appointment was a gimmick to give the appearance of being a genuine search. One applicant told me that when he went for his interview, he was told by an insider that the selection had already been made, and this interview was just to show that the selection was objective and fair..... This candidate felt so angry at the blatant abuse of academic due process.

I am saying all this because its unclear if the newspaper advertisement is genuine or merely for show.."

January 25
2014 Vedic conference in Kozhikode .. headed by anti hindu Harvard Witzel
Venkat shares: 
Quote: "A committee of international Vedic scholars, headed
by the workshop chair, Prof. Michael Witzel (Harvard University), will make the final selection of papers to be presented, totally expected to be around 40 in number."

I wonder if anybody in our esteemed group is in a position to
inform/influence the organizer about Michael Witzel who no friend of India and and certainly no Vedic/Hindu scholar and does not deserve to head the committee.

Kozhikode to host 6th International Vedic workshop

Shambu responds:
"This is Prof. Witzel's baby since 1989 - he started it, as his answer to the WAVES conferences. He decides who is in and who is not. Therefore it is limited to his small network of Indology friends and naive Hindus.

With the demise of the Aryan Invasion Theory, and then the followed-up Aryan Migration Theory, Indology has been struggling to gather food: udara nimttam baukrta vesham. Of late, the secular Government of India and the NarayanaMurthys have been rescuing it.

If we care about India, Samskrita, the Veda, and all that has sprung out of it, we need not fight it out and waste time, since it is in its death bed. Time to meditate and recite viSNu sahasranaamaavali!...

Rajiv's comment: 
By what criteria and on what evidence did you conclude that AIT/AMT are dead? In which institutions and segments of population are they dead, and in which are they alive? How about rigor in gathering evidence and then informing us. For example, please address:
- I dont find it dead in textbooks in India or USA.
- I dont find it dead on the GOI web sites where they discuss Indian history.
- I dont find it dead in the publications of people getting padam bhushan type of awards, and academic chairs for India studies.
- Worst of all, I dont find it dead amongst scholars being given grants and funds by so-called dharma civilization foundations.

Also, maybe you should follow your advice to not bother with such issues and practice: "Time to meditate and recite viSNu sahasranaamaavali!""

Gopal pings the organizers and forwards their response:
"This is the response I got from Srikant[] one of the Organizers,

Respected Sir,
I have received your mail and have noted the contents. As the organizers of this 6th Vedic International Workshop have decided, the main focus of this conference is the Tradition of the Vedic Shakhas in Kerala and other parts of India. They will not entertain any discussion on Aryan Problem and related controversial issues for which there are other platforms. No one, including Prof. Witzel, will be allowed to speak or make a presentation that directly or indirectly points to those issues or supports anti-Hindu propaganda, or denigrates Indian Culture. We do not subscribe to such views and are not interested to spend our time for initiating such a discussion.
As for Prof. Witzel's position as the Chair, it has been there for the past several years, since 1989, when he initiated this workshop. I have attended the past three workshops and have found no controversial issues discussed. ....
Prof. Witzel has done significant work on the Vedic Shakhas and published several articles. You may read them and refute his arguments, if you so desire. 
I hope I have made our position clear.

Can the members of the forum decipher it and provide a respectful response."

Venkat replies to Gopal:
"....  link and content of a dossier of Witzel anti Hindu nature which you should forward to Shrikant[].

Thus Spake Professor Michael Witzel
A Harvard University Case Study in Prejudice?
1.0 Background 2
2.0 Statements stereotyping Indian Americans…………………………………………………..
2.1: Indian Americans are ‘lost’ and ‘abandoned’
2.2: Indian American scholars are all chauvinists
2.3: Indian/Hindu American groups are Hindu fundamentalists
2.4 Rudeness towards Indian Americans and Indians
3.0 Statements Stereotyping scholarship in India and Indians in general……………………
3.1 Direct attacks by Witzel-..."

Vishal comments:
"...What [Srikhant] says ... is true. The conferences have rigidly stuck to studying Vedic traditions in the past.

Witzel will be 70 in July this year - so not much time for him to keep going. Given his health, people think he is 80.

But what are WE HINDUS doing to study our traditions OURSELVES? Most Hindus have not even seen copies of the Vedas, nor have heard them being chanted.

Given this situation, we should follow the dictum, "one should learn Dharma even from the lowliest..."

Venkat responds:
I received a reply..:
 ... Thank you ... Let me make it clear that I do not subscribe to his views nor do I support them. My area of study is limited to .... This is the reason why I try to help ....

Rajiv's comment:
His reply is typical of washing one's hands of responsibility.
"I only do my work, poor little me." "I have my eyes closed to what others do."

January 26
Rajiv's new blog on FirstPost.
Kaajal posts:
Please read Rajiv's new blog on FirstPost. The title: We need to Study Western, "White" culture on our own terms. This blog draws upon Rajiv's writings from a few years ago on identity formation of Indians in America. In particular, Rajiv
draws our attention to the importance of studying "whiteness" as a means of fully understanding Western culture and its claims of universalism. [Here's the e-group link to the December 2012 discussion cited].

January 26 
"Guardian article dividing Hinduism on Republic Day
Ganapathi shares:
".... article appeared in left-liberal newspaper The Guardian of UK, against Hinduism once again making an artificial division in..."

January 26
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (Jehovah's Witnesses) Leaks
Chirayu shares: Anybody researching on Jehovah's Witnesses may find this interesting. Recently the hackers collective known as anonymous hacked into the JW's servers and released about 700 MB of data. You can download the release from here ..."

RMF Summary: Week of February 20 - 26, 2012

February 20
Reversing the gaze - example from Thailand
Willard posts: "A recent article in the Bangkok Post Feb 18, 2012 has the writer reversing the gaze on Western corporate ethics by citing the 4th century Indian king Chanakya...Quote from the article:

But if you really were politically astute, you wouldn't be taking your tips from an Italian manual. A far more powerful treatise is available in the East which predates Machiavelli by at least 1,800 years: the Arthashastra (The Science of Material Success) by Chanakya, the genius behind the throne who masterminded the creation of the first Indian empire..."

February 20
In a couple of sentences...
Until Rajiv Malhotra's book, Hindus by and large approached inter-faith dialog with the attitude that "we are one tradition of music, and you are another. Nada...

February 20
Essay on "God is Not One"
Goel shares: Given below is the text of a speech on "God is not One." It might encourage others in the chat group to take the message of Hinduism to wider audiences rather than talking amongst ourselves. Please distribute it, if it has value. 
The document is also attached for easier reading.


(Note: The speech on “God is Not One” was delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Church ..... before I had the benefit of Rajiv Malhotra’s excellent book, Being Different.  Unitarians are well versed with the sordid history and doctrine of Christianity.  Therefore, the speech dwells more on critiquing Islam than Christianity. Taking pride in being “tolerant”, Unitarians often give a pass to Islam. It is a short 35-minute speech and many arguments are left unsaid. A similar speech was delivered at Unity Church of Christianity. I have also delivered speeches on Essentials of Hinduism at the local churches (Methodist, Baptist, Church of Christ) and at college and senior-citizen groups. A positive offshoot of the rise of Radical Islam is renewed interest in studying world religions. The US is not a monolithic society. There is room here to speak on Hinduism.)
My topic originated with Stephen Prothero’s book: God is Not One: the Eight Religions that Run the World—and Why their Differences Matter, 2010..."

Rajiv's response:
"...Goel makes good points in his speech below. However, I wish to make two points:
1) Prothero's book which he comments on to make the case of "difference" does not show Hinduism in the same light as BD does. There are many who point out how Hinduism is different - in caste, lack of "progress" and so forth - by using criteria and picking differences that are not at all the same kind as in BD. I find Prothero's treatment of Hinduism overall unacceptable, ...In fact, Prothero does not give weight to a dharmic family of traditions as such.
2) Many of Prof. Goel's differences below are socio-political items like violence in Islam/Christianity. He discusses exclusivity, but BD's project is to ask: "what makes them exclusive?" The answer BD gives is history centrism. Otherwise, its a matter of "blaming" them for being bad guys. My point is that exclusivity is something those systems CANNOT HELP as long as they depend on truth exclusively through historical prophets. ... I want to find out whats in their DNA that makes this their very character.
Having said this, I appreciate what Prof. Goel has done by way of spreading the notion that we must claim our distinctiveness and not join the bandwagon of sameness." 

February 22
BD Chapter 3: Integral Unity vs. Synthetic Unity
We cover the detailed discussions in this thread in a separate post here.

February 24
Southern Baptist scholar's criticism of BD and my response
Rajiv posts:

This Southern Baptist leader in Washington, DC., saw my entire video of the talk at Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore): "Rajiv Malhotra explains his systems model of History Centrism"

Then he wrote a rejoinder to me, which a friend in the DC area was kind enough to forward to me. I have been having such exchanges frequently for many years as part of my purva paksha. Since many persons here do not have such experience, I am passing on this particular criticism, along with my responses which are yellow highlighted in square brackets after each of his points. There is nothing new he says that I havent heard many times before. Many of his statements are outright false, some are a play on semantics. SB stands for Southern Baptist.

SB: Others attained salvation (saving grace) before Jesus appeared in human form on the earth.  At that time Jews lived under the system of laws, not grace.  Their faith in attempting to keep the law was accepted as righteousness.  [He is referring to Jews only, not ALL others. So my point remains that humanity at large was eligible for salvation only after Jesus.]
Jesus was born from God and Mary.  SB Response: Not quite – Christ existed from the very beginning with God.  Mary was used as a mechanism to bring Christ into the world as a descendent of Abraham (prophet) and David (prophet) to fulfill prophecy.  Christians believe Jesus is God.  [While Christ existed before, Jesus the human has a defined beginning in time. Thats why Christmas is celebrated and the start of the Christian calendar. Christians believe that Jesus = Christ's incarnation. So Jesus WAS born from God and Mary, hence the only human ever to be absolved from Original Sin. That's my point.]
SB: Hindus believe we started out divine.  – The divine was lost?  God became corrupt in human form?  How did man lose his divinity and start to sin, or does sin exist in Hinduism? [He needs to understand the concept of avidya. Because he does not, his only recourse is to substitute it with Original Sin which is entirely different.]
SB: 20:00 Christianity was started by Emperor Constantine.  Christ never used the term Christian.   Churches started under Constantine.  SB response: Constantine originally killed Christians. Christian means Christ like.  The Apostles  and Jesus' earthly brothers  started churches. [Wrong. It is true that Constantine did "originally" kill Christians, but that was before he became Christian himself. This is a slick manipulation on SB's part. The relevant point is that the NEW TESTAMENT WAS WRITTEN BY AN EDITORIAL TEAM UNDER CONSTANTINE. Whatever the early apostles and "earthly brothers" taught was superseded by the Church as a theocratic institution that went on a global rampage to conquer, plunder... which continues today by institutions such as Southern Baptist Church in places like Nagaland. Also, the early "brothers" included some like Thomas who got thrown out of the bible because their ideas were counter to centralized thought control. I am referring to Christianity as it exists now as a formal institution, the Southern Baptist Church being a prominent example.]
Q & A
SB: Rajiv quotes a Jesuit Catholic and a Vatican Catholic Harvard professor – they aren't Christians.  Catholicism rejects much of what the Bible says.  Catholics worship Mary and the "Saints". [This attitude that "my Southern Baptism is the only legit Christianity" is precisely what I wish to bring out as the curse of history centrism. Thanks to SB for helping me make my point.]
SB: Rajiv says Pagan means country Bumpkin.  Not true.  The common meaning of Pagan: follower of polytheism. [People who were polytheistic got branded "pagan" which had the meaning of country bumpkins.]
 "If it weren't for the Church, Jesus would have just been considered a Rishi" – SB  response: this isn't true.  The Bible says everything was created w/ Christ and nothing was created without him.  [In the Hindu system, too, everything is created from Brahman, in fact everything IS Brahman. My point is different and he either does not understand or want to understand. Rishi state is available to every human and is unity consciousness with Brahman. Jesus state is not available to any other person. Thats the difference, not how the world was created.]
 "…Christian yoga…" – SB  response:  I know of no Christian Church that offers yoga. [This shows how ignorant he is or is in denial in front of Hindus to dupe them. He should google "christian yoga", go to a christian bookstore, do some research into this form of yoga that is spreading like wild fire.]

Surya comments:
"...History tells us that much of western scientific thought developed in opposition to Christianity.  History-centrism is the main reason that science faced and still faces opposition by Christians.  For example, The young earth creationists in Christianity believe that earth is not much older than 4000 BC. Some Christian [apologists] try to bridge this faith with fossil evidence by arguing that God created the Earth recently but with an earth with fossils that give the feel of being much older.  In 1950s, Pope Pius XII agreed to the academic freedom to study the scientific implications of evolution, as long as Catholic dogma is not violated.  You will notice such stubborn opposition to evidence in History-centric religions.

The reason for the Nicene creed is, in my opinion, two fold:

(1) to provide a common ground for different Christian divisions.  

(2) to define the core thought that cannot be compromised.  What is outside the core can be (grudgingly) compromised but not without a fight and only if the evidence is unsurmountable.  Thus, the Vatican recently accepting Evolutionary biology is such a compromise....

Core, incompatible, ideology is protected using history centric arguments.  Rest of it grows and adapts through inculturation, serving as a protective layer to the core...."
Arun shares:
"...I find this article, "Beyond Western Hegemonies"
by Giovanni Arrighi, Iftikhar Ahmad & Miin-wen Shih to have an adequate explanation of how the West came to dominate Asia. It is not cultural or collective character defects of Indians.
"The original and most enduring source of Western power in Asia has been the capacity of Western states to disrupt the complex organization that linked Asian societies to one another within and across jurisdictional and civilizational
divides. This capacity has been rooted in Western advances in military technology on the one side, and in the vulnerability of Asian societies to the military disruption of their mutual trade on the other side.".."
Venkata adds:
"...Refusal to engage either out of fear or on account of certain smugness of self-aasurance, with inimical forces, is another reason for the intellectual, economic and military subjugation of Hindus. One can see this factor persisting even today--for example in the view of some well-meaning Hindus that Hindu intellectuals interested in protecting Dharma should not waste their time in debating things with "foreigners", "missionaries" etc..."
NS Rajaram responds:
"It is also a question of time. Many of us have a busy schedule and don't have the time needed to prepare and debate these people."

Rajiv's response
Agreed. Which is why it should not be taken up by people
casually, inconsistently, without adequate commitment for the long run, without adequate training, experience, and the right depth of required knowledge.

Once people appreciate that this is a specialty, not a casual hobby, only then can they respect others who specialize in this with commitment." 
Carpentier responds:
"Engaging with Evangelicals or Born Again Christians tend to be fruitless since they have an agenda based on "blind" faith which is by definition not amenable to reasoning."

Rajiv's response: 
I have said this many times here: If your goal is to change the
mind of a debating opponent, you are wasting time in debate
. But if your goal is to educate the large audience of undecided, confused, vacillating, persons then the above logic is irrelevant. Using your logic, one should not debate opponents
in politics because one does not expect them to switch parties." 

Arun adds:
I second Rajiv Malhotra's response. The point of a debate is not to change the opponent, but to change the audience.

Rajiv's comment: 

The impact if any on the other side is irrelevant. The other
side is merely to be used as a device to get one's own points out to the audience - not only those sitting in the hall but those who will watch it on YouTube later
. If your impact on the audiences will be negative, then dont get involved. This could be the case if you are ill-prepared on purva paksha,
inexperienced in debate, crude in communication skills, or if moderation will be biased against you. Most Hindu activists have suffered this fate. But I dont believe that I have suffered these conditions - my track record for a decade of taking on opponents is very public. Many new movements got inspired, many groups emerged, many writers taking the ideas I introduced and utilizing them. Yet, jealous "activists" want to stop my efforts of bringing new approaches to dharma into the mainstream. They need to understand my response below and Arun's comment above. If you failed, it does not follow that so will I.

[this next thread seems to have gotten intertwined into the previous thread on Purva Paksha, and was initiated in December 2011..]

Chapter 1 of 'Being Different'
Kundan has a general overview of the book 'Being Different;:
"I have received my copy of “Being Different” and have completed reading the first chapter. My first impression of the book from yesterday’s reading:
  1. Apart from the fact that it is astute in its intellectual formulations, it is soulfully written as well.
  2. I think this book is a must read for all Indophiles (lovers of India).

I specifically liked Rajiv ji’s formulations on “Difference Anxiety” both from above and below. The preliminary discussions in this chapter on assimilation and digestion are extremely important because even for many of us Indians, who have had an English medium education, it was much later in life that we learned that Indian traditions have impacted the west in a major way in the last five hundred years: And we learn this only after we take a specialized study of humanities. This information is not readily available—not only that very few books are available on this topic, many of you will be surprised to know that Raymond Schwab’s important book “Oriental Renaissance” (as referenced in “Breaking India”) is out of print. “The Oriental Enlightenment” by J.J. Clarke is available, if you want to further learn about India’s impact on Europe during the times of Enlightenment.  


Regarding “Purva Paksha,” I want to add that there is another book available which will complement “Being Different” very well. It is Sri Aurobindo’s “Renaissance in India with a Defence of Indian Culture.” An English journalist by the name of William Archer wrote a scathing book that represented the colonial view on Indian culture and its traditions. Sri Aurobindo in that book does a “purva paksha,” “khandana,” and goes on to discuss the Indian tradition from the perspective or “siddhanta” of his Integral philosophy. A pdf copy of the book is available on the following website:

If you want to purchase a copy of the book, you can do so from their online shop"

Wadhwa adds:
"..plea to add "Renaissance in India with a Defence of Indian Culture", a book doing purva-paksha, by Sri Aurobindo which will complement 'Being Different' is a good suggestion.  Adding to this, I would also suggest the works of Maharishi Dayananda(1824-83) especially Satyartha Prakash.  His magnum opus  containing extensive use of purva paksha style debates is basically written for spreading  the message of truth without evincing personal hatred.  Sri Aurobindo acknowledged his legacy and in a chapter on Dayananda - The Man and His Work which is part of his publication 'Bankim-Tilak-Dayananda' (pub.by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry 1st Ed.1940,6th Ed.2006) he writes "In Dayananda's life we see always the puissant jet of his spiritual practicality.  A spontaneous power and decisiveness  is stamped everywhere on his work."(page 49). At page 51 Sri Aurobindo says "Truth seems a simple thing and is yet most difficult.  Truth was the master word of the Vedic teaching, truth in the soul, truth in vision, truth in the intention, truth in the act.  Practical truth, arjava, an inner candour and a strong sincerity, clearness and open honour in the word and deed, was the temperament of the old Aryan morals.  It is the secret of pure unspoilt energy, the sign that a man has not travelled far from Nature.  It is the bar dexter of the son of Heaven, Divasputra.  This was the stamp that Dayananda left behind him and it should be the mark and effigy of himself by which the parentage of his work can be recognised."  .."

Arjunshakti responds:
Swami Dayananda maybe have done his critiques on islam and Christianity but he also reinvented through his interpretation the Vedas as being monotheist and anti idolatry ect.He used the very same Abrahamic templates he was attacking to become the Vedic world view which only opens the doors to the likes of Dr Zakir naiks on a common platform of 'monotheism' ..The Arya Samajis even have their equivalent to the 10 commandments.. Often I see present day Arya Samajis attacking other Hindus as 'puranics' and believes in multiple gods giving more ammunition to the anti hindus to attack Hinduism with..

Rajiv's response:
Agreed. Both he and Ram Mohan Roy while doing their purva paksha of the west got "modified" themselves in the process

Rakesh asks:
"Even Ramakrishna math got modified ? swami vivekananda while he remined steadfastly hindu had to make hinduism palatable to the west and had to make Christ an avatara as well.

Rajiv response: 
While agreeing with the above, I want to differentiate between
Jesus and Christianity.

Indians need to understand that Christianity was not started by Jesus or proposed by him, but invented by Roman conquerors as a system of theocracy and mind control. The 4th century construction of the New Testament in Nicea (in modern day Turkey) is well accepted by Christian theologians and has never been doubted by mainstream churches.

One can take Jesus' own words (such as Sermon on the Mount) and find great similarities with Vedanta. But Jesus was not history-centric - which is the problem with christianity, that if removed from it would de-fang it. In fact, the church would dissolve, and there would be a reverse digestion, i.e. Jesus would get digested into dharma while Christianity would disappear.

Despite this position which I have worked out in detail, I dont advocate people promoting "Jesus lived in India" type of scenarios, because the ground is not ready to make such a massive onslaught on the edifice of the christian fortress.
Such thinking today amounts to sameness, and is leading to Hinduism getting digested into christianity, not the other way around.


The purpose of BD is to define what non-compromising positions of dharma must sustain in this encounter between cosmologies. In each of the differences identified, the two sides' positions are shown to be mutually incompatible, and
the side that compromises gets digested into the other. Once you are secure in this knowledge and experienced in its deployment then by all means you should engage in interfaith dialogues and propose: "lets be the same, but on our terms". But first step is to get a solid grip of what "our terms" amounts to."

Mukul asks:
"Can you show the exact quote? I think Swamiji's [Vivekananda] position on Christ was not of an Avatar. He even challenged the historicity of Christ at one place"

Nimesh comments:
...[Vivekananda] never challenged the history of jesus.
he was just explaining the difference between a religion that is founded by one person [i.e. history-centric] vs the one that has evolved. [also,] it was one of the greatest experiment of his guru - ...

Neeraj adds:
We are starting here with an assumption that there WAS a 'Jesus Christ', which has not been proven by the most sincere of Christian historians (as per Sita Ram Goel's 'Jesus Christ: An artifice for aggression'). Do we have to accept Jesus to be a historical figure?...

Rajiv's response:
Whether jesus existed in history is irrelevant to my point (as is whether Shiva was a historical person). There are many states of consciousness in dharma and these may or may not be historical - they can also be ahistorical.
My criticism in BD is (for strategic reasons) ONLY limited to history-centrism - this criticism has implications against the church which i want to separate from Jesus.
Desh comments:
"....The fight between Dharma and Abrahamic dispensations is a classic fight between Inclusivity and Exclusivity. All that Exclusivist desires is to sit on the same pedestal as the Inclusivist. That is MORE than enough for him. Enough to about the agenda of "I am X, and SO you are Y, and that is why I hate you". The Inclusivist helps him by saying "I don't know who I am, but we are all one".

This is Benign Inclusivism. Benign Inclusivism or Exclusivism may not be the only options. Dharmic Inclusivism is an alert construct where Exclusivism has to be fought with correctness of knowing.

That is why I am completely convinced that your books will serve a much larger purpose than you may have intended. They are as revolutionary historically as Vivekananda's speech in 1893. Such contemporary and mainstream effort with solid knowledge of Dharma has not happened in a century now..."
Surya comments:
"Read the following speech by Vivekananda on Jesus.  A very respectful speech. Vivekananda sees Vedantic thought in what Jesus says.  ... In the speech, the closest he came to elevating Jesus to God is when he says:

If I, as an Oriental, have to worship Jesus of Nazareth, there is only one way left to me, that is, to worship him as God and nothing else. Have we no right to worship him in that way, do you mean to say? If we bring him down to our own level and simply pay him a little respect as a great man, why should we worship at all? Our scriptures say, "These great children of Light, who manifest the Light themselves, who are Light themselves, they, being worshipped, become, as it were, one with us and we become one with them."
Need To read this carefully to avoid being digested.First, there is the supposition "IF" in the beginning of the sentence.

Second, he is saying that worshipping great men of light brings us close to them and their teachings.  That is same as  "Guru sakshat parabrahma".  This is a core Hindu value - conferring very high respect to a teacher.

If we agree with this, then we accept Jesus as a great teacher of Vedantic thought and confer the respect we give to other religious teachers but nothing more special.  Jesus is not called exclusively by Vivekananda as an Avatar or Son of God...  "

Srinivasan comments:
"That is exactly what the Swami Abhedananda who took over from Swami Vivekananda did when he was in America. His book"Why Hindu accepts Christ and rejects Churchianity" is a fine book which does the job of digesting Jesus into Dharma and rejecting the claim of Church andis printed by Ramakrishna Mutt.Swami Vivekananda rejected the idea of Sinner.His speech in Chicago echoes the thought well. "...the Hindu refuses to call you a sinner ...."

Chandramauli comments:
"If one goes by history, this stratagem of separating Jesus from
Christianity has always ended up being albatross round the neck of Hindus. Example:

"He (Raja RamMohan Roy) had demolished the most important Christian dogmas. But all along, he had kept Jesus on a high pedestal. Perhaps he was convinced that Jesus was a great moral teacher. Perhaps he was using Jesus only to beat the missionaries with their own stick. In any case, the Brahmo Samaj he founded had to pay a high price for his praise of Jesus.  Keshub Chunder Sen who took over the Brahmo Samaj at a later stage, became infatuated with Jesus, so much so that he got alienated more or less completely from the Hindu society at large. Keshub's disciples tried to get Jesus endorsed by Sri Ramakrishna who knew nothing about the mischievous myth. And that, in due course, led to Ramakrishna Mission's antics of denying its Hindu ancestry."

Rajiv's response:
I have had any number of arguments and debates with the RKM folks over this stand of sameness by them, including in public forums. In my uturn theory, i also include many other similar uturners - SRF, Brahma Kumaris, and so forth. A
couple of years ago I had a big online fight with one Swami Bodhananda who has an ashram in Michigan supported by many NRIs, and the fight was specifically on his sameness nonsensical positions which he persisted in defending by avoiding the issues I raised. The discussion turned toxic once he tried to disqualify me on grounds that he had "adhikar" and I did not.

So the whole uturn research is to understand this syndrome - both the role of the gurus/sampradaya side and from the side of the westerners who join such movements.

The central question i started to focus on was: what would be non-digestible into Judeo-Christianity and yet inseparable from dharma? If these items of difference are clearly understood and planted firmly in every dharmic leader's public posture, then uturns would be prevented.

My answer: attack history centrism. A focused target is easier than a wider one, such as a whole religion carte blanche. Many people who see themselves as christians join in attacks against history-centrism. THERE IS A WHOLE ANTI-CHURCH MOVEMENT WITHIN CHRISTIANITY ITSELF.

A smart strategy knows the limitations in one's positions and does not try to fight a bigger battle than one can win. So all i hope to achieve through BD from westerners is to win over those who accept the problems caused by history centrism. Going beyond that is self defeating because you will get no supporters - not even the yoga/meditation types of westerners. (You should go out and try your various ideas as experiments to get real world empirical data first.) " 


February 25
A case study in digestion : Influence of Indigenous Indian education
Dear Rajiv Sir, I feel that the adoption of Indigenous Indian Education model by the Europeans is an example of the digestionyou have discussed in BD. The...

[this thread below is summarized separately in two posts on  'American Veda', which you can find in the RMF archive. here is part-1]
February 26
American Digestion
[Preface by Rajiv: Besides the issues raised by Surya below regarding Goldberg's book, I have expressed my displeasure to Goldberg. He interviewed me in depth...

Why Integral Unity and Not Synthetic Unity?

This is post devoted to a single thread on this topic. A very interesting discussion.
February 21
Chapter 3: Why Integral Unity And Not Synthetic Unity
Surya comments:
  1. Without synthetic unity there is no God/Man separation
  2. Without God/Man separation there is no need for prophet to access truth
  3. Without prophet to access truth there is no truth based on history
  4. Without truth based on history there is no exclusive access to truth
  5. Without exclusive access to truth there is no religious intolerance
  6. Without religious intolerance there is mutual respect
  7. With mutual respect there is no religious violence 
February 22
BD Chapter 3: Integral Unity vs. Synthetic Unity
Surya posts:
Dharmic faiths = Integral Unity

Integral unity means ultimately ONLY the whole exists; the parts that make up the whole have but a RELATIVE existence. The whole is independent and indivisible.

Creation is not separate from God. Since the divine manifests itself as the cosmos, the entire cosmos is intelligent and ultimately one. God is not merely the creator (the external force) of the world; God IS the world.

...Integral unity can be discovered and experienced through spiritual practices.

Dharmic notion of integral unity is summarized in chapter seven of Bhagavad Gita. Long before the Gita, Vedas described only one Ultimate Reality, with many layers and levels. There is no shift in the Scriptures from polytheism to
monotheism as some Western scholars claim.

Abrahamic faiths = Synthetic Unity
Synthetic unity starts with parts that EXIST separately from one another.

There is one unique event, the creation, that is separate from its creator and before which there was nothing.

Physical and non-physical entities ultimately have their own independent existence, linked only externally by divine fiat.

There are inherently separate entities: God and Creation, God and Human, body and mind, spirit and matter etc., ."

Does the knowledge and concept of integral unity guide our views and policy for rural development ?  

.... Dr. Kamal's question is quite pertinent, particularly considering that his institute in involved in Holistic research for rural development..."
Karthik responds:
"I feel this knowldge was addressed when Gandhiji called for "production by the masses instead of mass production" . EF SChaumacher, an Econimist in 60s revived this with his "Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered" and his reference to Buddhist Economics. A reasonable write up on this is in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_economics.
THis could be well applicable to Hindu Economics as well.

Surya responds:
"Integral Unity should not be confused with a centralized, monolithic system.  Forcing such a top-down hierarchy is indeed antithetical to Dharmic traditions.  Such a forced unity is synthetical in nature.  Thus, mass production is a synthetically forced unity.

Schumacher talks about how high economic efficiency can be wasteful in certain natural resources even though it is the least cost or most economical approach.  Mass production seeks to replace human capital with other less expensive resources.  In the end, it ignores the human element and the human need for a respectable livelihood: ...

The notion of cottage industry advocated by Gandhiji was founded on the principle of "small is beautiful - economic way where people matter".  
The dilemma that arises is:  Economics where people matter is unstable - it is an ideal that is a peak of the mountain; one can easily slip off this peak when exploited.  Economics where profits matter is stable - it is at the bottom of the valley of ideals but it is very stable; difficult to exploit you here.

I will leave with a question: 

Will the growth of Dharmic traditions bring greater stability at the top?  Or should we give up and accept as fact that the bottom of the valley is the only stable economic state?"

Ram comments:
"One of the overlooked advantages of the decentralized dharmic spiritual system is extreme resistance to outside attempts to destroy it, such as moves by conquerors to wipe out the system.

The strength of the centralized authoritarianism like Christianity or Islam is its clear lines of authority, organization internally, its leadership class of highly trained priests, its education system and its ability to act like a unit against threats. That is also its weakness, because the centralized system works well only when it is protected by the state. If the state is conquered by an outside group or a new political entity, the centralized authoritarian group loses its protection and can easily be shattered.

Look at how the Russian communists crushed the Eastern Orthodox church after the Russian Revolution as an example. .... So in a single generation the Eastern Orthodox was wiped out, and no new generations grew up within that system.
In contrast the dharmic systems like Hinduism are apparently designed for the long term, to be able to resist immense pressure from the outside. Hinduism does not depend on the patronage or protection of the state and can exist strongly even if the state is hostile. ... They can choose their own spiritual path, their own ish devta, without permission or approval from any organized group.

When the Muslims invaded India they made enormous attempts to wipe out Hinduism and convert all to Islam, by force if necessary. ...

This went on in various forms for hundreds of years, but yet at the end of the Moghul era in India less than 10 percent of the Indians had been converted to Islam. In most other countries they had conquered, the Muslims quickly achieved conversion rates of over 75%, and in some places like Iran and Iraq they hit close to 100%.  In India the only way to wipe out Hinduism was to wipe out the Hindus physically, which was foolish.

I understand that Buddhists has also proved very resistant to destruction or conversion, because of the same decentralized system that has the individual free to pursue his connection with the divine without intermediaries, institutions or permission from authoritarian structures.

We believe that the Hindu rishis and swamis who wandered the world thousands of years ago made some conclusions that we are still benefitting from today. Religions rise and fall over time, depending on the nature of their structure and change in circumstances. ...  A system that is fixed and attached to the norms of a particular culture in historical time will shatter when that culture changes and moves on.

So those rishis and swamis developed a system that would be flexible and adaptable to change, that would not be dependent on centralized authoritarian structures, that could be practiced without dependence on external instututions or priests, that could  be practiced secretly or at home, that offered freedom of choice as opposed to a fixed menu, that allowed members to function at their own level of development, that was based on firm and defensible philosophical principles, that allowed and welcomed new methods of worship and religious systems, that was egalitarian and non sexist, non racist, respectful towards other systems, respectful to the environment and all living beings....
That is the heritage of Hindus, one which we neglect at our peril.

Arjunshakti responds:
"Its true that Hinduism is resilient but lets not forget that Hindus in the past did also stand their ground militarily especially during Islamic periods.Theres many myths that have been created to promote that hindus were just passive were slaves for a thousand years but still made it through.This is the reason why sometimes even good intentioned Hindus think that its ok we dont have to stand our ground because we survived in the past so we will continue to survive but thats not the truth or the reality.."

struth91 adds:
"...The core takeaway of Chapter 3 is in the contrasting attitudes towards Science and Reason in the respective societies. Hebraism and Hellenism coming together to create the artificial entity known as 'Western Civilization' was always a force-fit.

It is ironical that Matthew Arnold used 'Hebraism' as his term for Christian Biblical heritage and moralistic worldview that contrasted with Science - when the original Hebraic religion (Judaism) was and is perhaps less dogma-driven than is Christianity, resulting in a more positive attitude towards Science.

See this article for a Jewish viewpoint on why Judaism 'embraces Science' far more so than does Christianity:.

Each one of the three points that the Rabbi makes for Judaism, holds true to a much larger extent for Hinduism (& Dharmic religions in general)...

Surya comments:
"...applied to evolving proper policy for development.

For clarity, I will identify my position: Followers of Dharmic traditions find comfort in a self-organizing socio-economic system versus followers of Abrahamic faiths who will find comfort in a highly organized, centrally commanded socio-economic system.  Advantage for followers of Dharmic traditions is that they are comfortable will both forms - they can choose either forms and be comfortable as we see in India.  Followers of Abrahamic faiths are uncomfortable with self-organized systems.

Underlying premise is that the faith system of a follower defines his/her zone of comfort and hence is a major driver of choices he/she makes for the system. 

Reasoning with BD concepts is as follows:

1) Chaos vs. Order
Comfort with chaos implies that Dharmic followers are open to a socio-economic system which is self-organizing in nature and evolves to meet the specific needs of the society.

For example, Mass production by cotton mills is highly structured, centralized, and driven centrally by profit motive (economic efficiency) as opposed to handloom industry that is organized around societal needs (economically suboptimal but caters to the human needs of large number of artisans)."

Karthik responds:
"... Just by coincidence... they remind me somewhat of these five principles:
  1. The importance of real freedoms in the assessment of a person's advantage
  2. Individual differences in the ability to transform resources into valuable activities
  3. The multi-variate nature of activities giving rise to happiness
  4. A balance of materialistic and nonmaterialistic factors in evaluating human welfare
  5. Concern for the distribution of opportunities within society
Guess what those five principles are? They're known collectively as the basis of what is called "Capabilities Approach". Amartya Sen is credited with having "developed" these ideas (all by his own sweet self!) in the 1980s. The "Capabilities Approach" as applied to other aspects of society is a recurrent theme in the writings of another vaunted professor of "Ethics", Martha Nussbaum.

Easy to see what happened here, no? First, Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum et al pile onto the deconstructionist bandwagon and use Western critical theory to relentlessly hammer dharmic civilization as obscurantist, elitist, caste-riven, inegalitarian, restrictive, etc. etc.

Of course, once the Western Grand Narrative representation of India has become the norm in cultural studies, our civilization's intellectual wealth is conveniently available for plunder, digestion, and re-packaging as "original thought" by the Amartya Sen/Martha Nussbaum types!

"Poverty" is still bandied about as a characteristically Indian vice... but a "capabilities approach", outlined on exactly the same dharmic principles of self-organizing social and economic development described by Surya below, has suddenly become the unique, original intellectual property of Sen and Nussbaum!! All hail the Age of Reason!

These fellows are indeed the Clive and Mir Jaffar of today."
Rajiv comments:
"This is very good analysis of Amartya Sen's and his girlfriend's (i.e. Nussbaum's) trajectory that fits the UTurn Theory. With one hand appropriate (i.e. stage 3 of uturn) and with the other hand denigrate the source (i.e. stage 4 of uturn). These stages as per uturn theory do not have to happen in one set sequence, nor do thay all happen in the same individual, and could take multiple generations of scholars to become evident. There is also stage 5 in which this "new and Western" thought is re-exported back to Indian intellectuals who eagerly lap it up"

Surya adds:
"BD comments further to distinguish between apparent organic systems and Dharmic integral systems.  

(1) Synthetic unity is, at best, a convenience; it misses out on the deeper bonds that hold people together across the boundaries of hierarchies and diversified of various kinds.  Synthetic systems can be functional and pragmatic -serve their design purpose well.  For them to be integral systems, how the individual elements function versus the whole is looked at.

(2) A tighter form of synthetic unity can take on an organic quality where the overarching interests of the whole override separate interests of the parts.  The whole takes priority and parts are subservient to it.

(3) Many organic systems fall short of integral unity in the Dharmic sense.  This is because their building blocks are still separate and exert powers separately.  It is rare for a synthetic collection to become so integrated that the parts permanently relinquish their own self-interest.

(4) It could be a tentative coalition for a purpose - individual interests can surface at any time.  In integral systems, there is no question of temporary coalitions.  There is only one purpose.  

.. There is a simple test offered in BD to see if a system qualifies the definition of an integral system:

If the individual elements of the system retain their identity and interests separately then the system is synthetic.  
It is easy to identify some synthetic systems.  For example, the capital marketplace is synthetic in the sense that its participants try to optimize their own separate interests, the market's purpose being to enable each participant to transact for its own benefit.

Cooperative farming is a synthetic system.  Here the coalition is temporary and the individual elements are participating out of self interest.  United Nations is another example of this kind."

Rajesh shares:
"Actually this issue of Top-Down Organization vs Self-Organization is important for the future trajectory of Indian Retail Industry.

In the Western World one sees a few big players who own most of the retail outlets. They keep on buying the smaller players in the market further consolidating their market share and joint-monopoly!

In India one sees a huge number of sellers and vendors, who may be small and have just a few shops in a single town.

Now why is it important to preserve Mom&Pop Stores, family owned businesses, etc. vs Big Retail. After all Big Retail does offer us consumers more competitive prices, i.e. until their (monopoly project is complete), they do help in the creation of more efficient industry for Logistics, Refrigeration, Storage, Assembly, etc.

The biggest advantage in keeping it small is that in times of repression, self-organized retail sector has the ability to absorb a lot more people, who can look independently for opportunities, who can be self-employed. The Self-Organized Retail Sector offers a buffer for such times, especially as all other areas including agriculture in order to become more efficient have to cut down on dependent people. So Self-Organized Retail Sector remains the only savior in such times. For a huge country like ours where big industry nor government can provide jobs for everybody, this is a huge plus point.

How does the West react during times of recession? Well they roll out huge stimulus packages. They give money to various industries like construction industry, and other industries, for doing new projects in the hope that this heightened economic activity would give more people jobs. Invariably one gets only jobless growth. The industry takes the money but does not hire new people because they can do without! And the unemployed have nowhere to look for jobs. And the government has nowhere to fund jobs directly except the already bloated public services. So these people remain unemployed. In the West there is no Industry, which can act as a Recession Buffer.

In a global economy, where the pressure is so much to keep production costs low, it is possible that in agriculture and manufacturing there would be shift towards more efficiency and possibly more organization. That is all the more reason that inefficiency costs can be tolerated when they are more closer to user, i.e. in the retail sector.

Summarizing, we should keep the Retail Sector as self-organized and try to avoid Big Retail to force its way in! It will save us from the Recession and Jobless Growth problems of the West!"

Karthik adds:
"Developing, and effectively marketing, a BD-based "App" for economic development is a particularly pressing need, because poverty (like the "plight of women") is one of those emotive touchstones used over and over again by postcolonial theorists employing Western categories to depict India as a "uniquely divided and oppressive place" (Ronald Inden, quoted in BD)

When the arch-pedagogues of the Western Grand Narrative, and their acolytes on the Indian Left, use "poverty" to bash India (and by extension, all that is Indian)... we have the deck stacked against us from the start. That is because "poverty" is emotionally loaded, and any discussion of the subject provides an excellent vehicle for gratuitous civilizational invective.

Everybody knows "poverty" is bad, right? So when we get defensive about drain-inspector portrayals of poverty in India (such as "Slumdog Millionaire") it becomes easy for the enemy to portray us as vain jackasses... indeed, to assume a moral high ground and bash us with righteous indignation at our "inhumane indifference to the suffering of less privileged Indians". We are accused, in our embrace of "bourgeoisie nationalism", of willfully turning a blind eye to the harsh realities with which millions of our fellow countrymen contend every day.

Here is a case study in the use of "poverty". A potentially honest and non-judgmental journalistic treatise on an Indian slum has been immediately co-opted by the Usual Suspects to push their venal and motivated deconstruction of India.

This is a book by one Katherine Boo who has apparently written about the effects of  poverty and deprivation around the world, including in the United States.

This book in particular deals with the Annawadi slum near Mumbai airport. Having not read the book myself, I cannot comment on whether it is simply a "drain-inspector's report" or actually offers a fresh perspective. It is quite possible, given Boo's reputation as a dispassionate and thorough journalist, that the book is simply a careful, non-judgmental and even sympathetic record of her interactions with Annawadi's inhabitants over a period of some years. She has not spared economic inequality in the West, and was awarded the Pullitzer Prize in 2000 for her reporting on the plight of welfare recipients and group-home inhabitants in Washington DC.

Boo herself is a journalist, not a "theorist". She appears to have reported on her experiences in Annawadi (thankfully) without resorting to "analysis" or "interpretation".

However, her book has already become a vehicle for celebration, and hijack, by the theory-wallahs we know so well. They have seized upon it as another chance to do India down, and reinforce their pet themes.

"A beautiful account, told through real-life stories, of the sorrows and joys, the anxieties and stamina, in the lives of the precarious and powerless in urban India whom a booming country has failed ...."... Amartya Sen

Not to be outdone:
"....." Ramachandra Guha

"Her book, situated in a slum on the edge of Mumbai’s international airport, is one of the most powerful indictments of economic inequality I've ever read. If Bollywood ever decides to do its own version of The Wire, this would be it.”... Barbara Ehrenreich

[...In her view, Bollywood should take its cue from the mirror that American journalist Katherine Boo is holding up before India, and become inspired to incorporate the Western Grand narrative of Indian poverty into its own pop-cultural representations of itself!...]
One effect of this assault is to pre-emptively delegitimize alternative frameworks of conceiving of poverty, of approaching and resolving the social and economic problems associated with poverty. That is exactly what the Indian left wants: a monopoly over the characterization of Indian poverty, restricted to dogmatically Marxist frameworks that will never, ever concede an inch of space for dharmic solutions.

Just one of many reasons why I am so grateful that Rajiv has begun this work.."

struth91 posts:
"Regarding a BD-based "App" for economic development-

Economics is best addressed as a component of Governance (Raj Dharma). A useful way of understanding Dharma, the ethics and science of decision making, is to categorize it as operating at 4 levels : Individual & Community Dharma, Corporate Dharma (covering all forms of organizations and leadership issues), Raj Dharma (including governance, politics, economics and jurisprudence) & Inter-State Dharma.

There's  already a fair amount of work on classical Indian thought around economics ..

As is well known, Kautilya's Arthashastra is probably the earliest ever treatise in the world on economics. There was also a defined Sreni Dharma for regulating the srenis /  guilds of ancient India, a precursor to modern-day Corporate Law.

Coming to "Apps" in this area- would be better to aim to popularize concepts, processes and frameworks of analysis that are derived from classical Indian thought. But there is some danger in full-fledged economic positions unless these are sophisticated and nuanced enough to stand up against current models.  Simplistic 'black and white' positions, such as an anti-multinational message (the RSS propagated this in the nineties) can be easily panned as being 'obscurantist'...."

Senthil introduces a new angle to the discussion. Rajiv notes: "Good points made. See my challenge in the new thread I am starting, titled "Is the Vedic lifestyle viable today?". This thread was summarized here.

"One of the important message in BD is "Reversing the Gaze"..  its a call to bring ourselves out of the western models and see them from our dharmic perspective..  

So far, we were discussing about dharma from a philosophical angle..  i call it as "Software" part..   We also need to consider another part of our dharma, which is the hardware part..  ie, what are the physical environment needed for our dharma to flourish?  I wish, this should also be discussed..  Let me share few things, which i had thought over..

1. The present system of politics, the administration, the geographical organisation, are all based on western systems.  What i find is that, we are trying to fit our dharma, in to these western systems, which i feel is incompatible.  

To quote one example, the current westernised urban system, heavily pollutes rivers, seas, and ground water system.  So many lakes, has been destroyed to expand big metros like chennai, mumbai etc.  Such acts cannot be part of dharma.   Rivers are divine for us, so as other water sources. 

Another example i could cite is that every hindu has to perform pitru dharpan to our ancestors, and for that we need water sources.  In our traditional administration system, a nagara or a grama is planned, and built in such a way, that is conducible for hindu way of life style.  In all ancient nagaras, there would be a shiva/vishnu temple at the center, with a big lake.   In All traditional gramas, there would be a grama devata at the centre of the village, with  a lake/pond or a small water body besides it.  These water bodies, enable hindus to do their religious rituals. So our dharma flourished, because, our nagara and grama were built according to agamas.  Today, the metros, and towns are built based on western model, for western type of economic system, and not based on dharmic way of life or dharmic way of economy.   That's the reason we are finding it more and more difficult to adhere to our dharma in Metros.  Infact, its virtually impossible for dharma to exist there.

2. We never had anonymous/atomised populations before britishers.  Our society had a different kind of representation system, based on family/jathi/village, which is still existing in the other part of india.   Every jathi had jathi panchayat headed by jathi elders, which resolves internal family and jathi disputes.  At a village level, there would be village panchayat, resolves issues related to village administration or inter-jathi disputes. Whether jathis are outdated or not, is a different question.  ...

3. Hinduism is often described as a way of life.  However, a way of life is based on societal setup, and the physical setup (village/nagara planning).
   Societal setup:  the jathis, its gothra, kula devata, all have their own way of worship, rituals, marriage etc. which forms the cultural part.
   Physical Setup:  the facilitation by design of living area (village/nagara), in such a way, that the life style (& hence the dharma) of these jathis are made possible and feasible.

There is one more angle - the economic angle - which i will not include for now.

4. Based on Rajiv's excellent point of "Sanskrit Non-Translatables", i would like to convey, that the words, Nagara, Grama, Dhesa  cannot be equated to city, village or nation of the western vocabulary.  In Europe, the nation is always based on race and language.  Whereas in our civilization, a dhesam is based on dharma.  We had 56 ancient dhesams, and all of them, had the same social structure - The brahmanas, kshatriyas, vyshyas, and shudras.  The racial formation is virtually impossible in such setup.

In western terms, a village is a place with sparse population.  As per webster's dictionary till 1830s, a village is termed as place where barbarians live.  We cannot apply this term to denote our gramas.  Our gramas are well planned, and well designed as per agama.  (Note:  we verified this aspect, by visiting many of the gramas in chera dhesam in tamilnadu..   )

5. The social composition of a typical village is same across south india ( for north india, i have no data as of now).  The farming community would be predominant, and some dozen other jathis that exists as part of them.  The beauty is that, all these jathis constitute a single entity.  ie, due to some reason (famine/war), if the farming community migrates, they do no go alone.  But migrate as a whole, with all the associated jathis.."
Raghu responds to Senthil:
"We must guard against a romantic reconstruction of our past. ... studied the Vaastu Shastras for ten years... We have seen both the exalted and the extractive sides of the so called pundits. While the original texts are open and rational, later day practitioners and present day Vaastu pundits have distorted the design principles beyond recognition into
a dogmatic set of formulae backed by blind belief.

Some of the governance mechanisms described by Dharampal and Claude Alvarez were misrepresented by the leaders of the time to accumulate land and wealth on the one hand, and allow the traditional duties to languish.

We have a difficult task on our hands, firstly of rediscovering a balanced sense of pride, secondly, of looking critically and rationally at both the past and the present. Dharampal was fond of saying that we can't become a great nation by
running behind the tails of the west, nor by blind resurrection of the tradition." 

Rajiv's response: This is a good comment and belongs to the new thread I started with message no. 2208. (summarized in this post - last week).

Arun has the last word in this discussion:
"The decentralized knowledge systems such as we call Hinduism today survived.The centralized ones, such as were taught in Nalanda, Taxila (of course, it included the traditions that survive today) perished.  It is not as though we did not have centralized knowledge systems, IMO."