RMF Summary: Week of January 16 - 22, 2012

January 17
C. Alex Alexander's review of BEING DIFFERENT
*Refreshingly original Perspective of Dharmic Faiths * *by C. Alex Alexander* I agree with the first two positive reviews of Rajiv Malhotra's recent book,... 

January 17
Article: Applying BD ideas to compare India and China
Maria[] is an example of someone raised Christian but who REJECTED that faith. This rejection is NOT to be confused with "appreciating dharma" while retaining one's Judeo-Christian identity, or keeping the identity issue ambiguous at least publicly. She lives in India, and has followed my work for many years. She recently sent me the attached article that she has published, in which she quotes my ideas on Indians' loss of self-hood to contrast this with China. I mention this India/China contrast in many talks across India, and especially the youth and the corporate leaders resonate with this issue.

January 18
State of Formation web site features 4 blogs by..
http://www.stateofformation.org/ This is an important site for religion. Right on their home page they have 4 blogs by me. Part 1 went up a day ago and already...

Yogesh asks if Zoroastrianism can be considered a dharmic faith.

Rajiv: Frankly, I have not examined it enough to be sure.

My hunch is that it served as the bridge from which dharma got exported to the Middle East during the Persian Empire, and there it gradually turned into the Abrahamic Monotheism.

Every time you hear that Monotheism started with Judaism, you must challenge it with the established fact that Zoroastrianism had this notion developed earlier, and that Persians (Zoroastrians at that time) were very influential in the Middle East. You dont need to go beyond just this claim, i.e. avoid claiming Vedic influences on Zoroastrianism. This is enough to checkmate the chauvinism of Monotheism. Once the "chosen people of Monotheism" is debunked with the
example of Zoroastrianism, you can then take the conversation further.

January 19
The Bodhisattva's Brain: Buddhism naturalised
Subramanya posts: "... professor Owen Flanagan, claims that if Karma & Punarjanma are discarded then Buddhism can become something that can be very acceptable to secularists, atheists etc... The Bodhisattva's Brain: Buddhism naturalised ... Owen Flanagan is James B Duke Professor of Philosophy at Duke University.

Rajiv's comment:
... Stephen Bachelor is another prominent example of westerners who started out as very loyal Buddhists, many even taking wows and getting formally initiated and teaching it to other western disciples, etc. But over time they have diluted and eventually erased those aspects which make Buddhism NON DIGESTIBLE INTO WESTERN UNIVERSALISM. I was in Delhi several months ago when i heard that he was to give a talk at India Int'l Center, so I decided to attend it. The room full of Indian scholars, intellectuals, Buddhist monks, and they were going gaga over how the westerner had spent all his life praising their tradition, learning sanskrit, visiting sites in India every year for research, and so forth. The typical inferiority complex many Indians have. Here he again summarized his thesis that has appeared in his books to explain "secular Buddhism".For a quick snapshot of his latest views, please read the short article..

During the Q&A, I was the ONLY person in the audience who raised uncomfortable issues with his talk, while others were thanking him profusely. .... I said that the "overall project of many western Buddhism scholars has been to de-Indianize Buddhism, in order to make it generic, and then eventually re-contextualize it within Western thought." This really shook him up, as these folks are not accustomed to being challenged by Indians on scholarly grounds. After the event was over, he wanted to casually chat with me and find out who I was, ....
After he left, the Indian cronies remaining in the room started asking me why I was not being grateful to "our esteemed guest".

January 19
Digestion process in Archeology and Vedic Science
srini Q1. The negation of Aryan Invasion Theory by Indian scholars was first criticized by Indian leftists and western scholars with even the worst ad hominem attacks on people like Dr NS Rajaram. Now leftist historians like Romila Thapar are coming around to saying something like there was no invasion but a steady trickling of Aryans into India. Do you see this as a form of digestion while continuing to hold on to Aryan race theory? Where do you see this going and in the light of BD, is there a case for how Indian archeologists and scholars
should approach this problem of credibility in western scholarly circles without being trashed?

Rajiv response: Aryan invasion was replaced by Aryan migration long ago. But it does not alter one bit the foreign Aryan vs. native Dravidian divide as explained in BI. Celebrating this shift is misleading but common among many
indian scholars craving for some victory. Whether they came as invaders or peacefully makes no difference to the claim that sanskrit and its classical texts are of foreign origin and hence Hinduism is an alien imposition upon Dravidians, Dalits, etc. Archeology was one crucial discipline not colonized until a few years ago, when US institutions formally took over a prominent center in Baroda, from which they have gained primary access to all sites and artifacts. This was done right under the noses of hindutva leaders and funded by some prominent hindutva leaders. Dilip Chakrabarti of cambridge, a leading ally in this fight against colonizing indian archeology, wrote many letters to officials explaining the problem. I sent these letters to prominent leaders who promised results. but these leaders made noises only for their own visibility and to show off that they had become "intellectuals", and not a single thing got dont after all the meetings and burst of online noise. Dilip and I gave up in disgust. ...

N S Rajaram's followup:
"As the person in the eye of the storm of the Aryan-Dravidian debate (as well as the Vedic-Harappan debate) let me say that I received support from all quarters-- Hindutva and non-Hindutva, Hindus and non-Hindus (mostly scientists), this was both over the AIT and the Ayodhya dispute.
    The one exception has been the Hindu religious leaders. Even over Ayodhya they failed to look at the evidence that I had compiled AT THEIR REQUEST for a presentation. That presentation never took place. But this didn't stop the Kanchi Acharya from giving a long interview in Rediff acknowledging THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE for a previous temple at the site!
    It has been the same story when it comes to 'science'. The late Admar Mutt seer invited me for suggestions to start his 'Purna Prajna Research Institute'. ..
...   This kind of lack of professionalism is the bane of Hindu outfits. Just compare the Hindu University of America with even a small Christian institution. Can any Hindu be proud of the HUA?
   I have given several talks on Science and Vedanta to scientific audiences in several places in India and at places like MIT, University of Manchester, Cambridge, etc, and the response has been gratifying. (I am giving one at the Indian Institute of Science on February 3). But supposed 'Vedic and Vedanta' audiences (mostly self-styled) shun me. This is because of their ignorance of science and fear that their claims in the name of 'traditional scholarship' may be exposed.
   They all invoke Schrodinger's name but don't really know what he said much less understand what he meant. He was talking metaphysics-- not that the equation could be derived from Vedanta. (Their Vedic science-- like vedic mathematics, neither Vedic nor mathematics.) By and large I have found traditional scholars disappointing-- they seem to think that quoting Sanskrit shlokas is proof.
   I find it interesting that Hindu religious leaders and Indian leftist intellectuals seem to suffer from the same complex-- they crave acceptance by Western, especially Whites as 'liberal'. This sense of inferiority extends even towards pseudo-whites like Indian Christian leaders.

This one below is a very important thread, and we carry Rajiv's responses almost completely since it explains the asymmetrical mechanics of digestion.

January 19
Vatapi and Inculturation/Digestion
While reading BD, it reminded me of an amusing puranic story of Agastya and Vatapi that I heard as a kid. The story goes something like this:

"Vatapi was the younger brother of the Daitya Ilvala, the ruler of the city of Manimati. He was a shape-shifter. His brother was denied a boon by the sage Agastya, and hence the brothers became the enemies of Brahmanas.

When any Brahmana guest arrived at the palace, Vatapi would transform into a ram. Ilvala would then cause the meat of this ram to be served to the unsuspecting guest. Once the Brahmana had eaten his fill, Ilvala would utter a magical incantation, and say, "O Vatapi, come out!". Vatapi would then emerge whole and alive from the belly of the guest, killing that Brahmana in that process.

When the sage Agastya again visited the city of Manimati, the brothers tried to pull the same trick on him. However, the wily sage, rubbed his stomach and said, "Vatapi Jirnobhava" or "May Vatapi be digested!", before Ilvala could utter the magical incantations, and Vatapi was slain. Chastened, Ilvala gave many gifts and made peace with th sage."

Now this story can be compared with the digestion process. The evangelical Churches or the western scholarship act like the Vatapi and Ilvala brothers. First they appear to respect the native culture. They let themselves get adopted to gain confidence or power over their prey. Western scholars learn the language, philosophy, tradition, etc in this first stage. Once the infiltration is complete, they burst open the native culture and traditions with a U Turn....

... The need today, is for a savior in the form of Agastya...

Senthil: Swamy Vivekananda's speech in Chicago first used the concept "All religions lead to same God".. Can we consider this as an attempt of getting digested?  Or is it that the christians twisted this to digest us?

Rajiv comment: Your language above suggests as if Swami Vivekananda might deliberately have intended to get digested. Let us separate intentions from actual effect. One may have good intentions but one's actions might have the opposite effect.

The mistake swamiji did is that HE FAILED TO ATTACK THE HISTORY CENTRISM OF CHRISTIANITY. That one item would prevent any digestion of Hinduism into Christianity.

In fact, the reverse would have happened. With Jesus' significance devoid of any history centrism, one would also automatically undermine the rest of the Nicene Creed. Reduced to a set of teachings only, there is little left in Christianity that Hinduism does not already have.

Try in a debate asking the Christian opponent that you will accept the ethical teachings if he drops the history centrism. His cover of sameness will fall apart. Please watch carefully the video my by discussion with Mark Tully. This is my message - how our representatives in public encounters must get re-educated.

Swami V was a brilliant man but he did not spend enough time with westerners debating them and being in their midst to study them ....  after his death his organization has slipped into getting digested. But recently some senior monks have discussed with me with an open mind and are reading BD intensely.

Julie: "The Bahu of Bengal": My take is that the RKM has made too much about Sri Ramakrishna's forays into other religions…Sri Ramakrishna's forays into other religions were highly unorthodox and last only a few days: for most of his life, Sri Ramaskrishna was content to be a priest of Maa Kali. I don't necessarily agree that Sri Ramakrishna was seeking a "reverse digestion."

Rajiv comment: I agree with this comment.

Arun posts:
Americans well understood that Swami Vivekananda was undermining Christianity.  (note: the publisher on www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info says that the spelling
is as in the original)

MANNERS AND CUSTOMS IN INDIA (Appeal-Avalanche, January 21, 1894)

Swami Vive Kananda, the Hindoo monk, delivered a lecture at La Salette Academy [Memphis] yesterday afternoon. Owing to the pouring rain, a very small audience was present.

The subject discussed was "Manners and Customs in India." Vive Kananda is advancing theories of religious thought which find ready lodgment in the minds of some of the most advanced thinkers of this as well as other cities of America.

His theory is fatal to the orthodox belief, as taught by the Christian teachers. It has been the supreme effort of Christian America to enlighten the beclouded minds of heathen India, but it seems that the oriental splendor of Kananda's religion has eclipsed the beauty of the old-time Christianity, as taught by our parents, and will find a rich field in which to thrive in the minds of some of the better educated of America.. ..."

Rajiv responds to Arun's post:
"Arun makes a very important point below: There is an initial period in all UTurns and digestions in which it appears that both sides are equally impacted with a sort of merger of the two. So the orthodoxy complains from each side because of what are seen as compromises. This is what Christian orthodoxy at Swami Vivekananda's time complained about.

But one must assess the encounter based on long term impact and not just short term. This applies also to many similar movements today that in the short run seem to be spreading dharma into the west - i.e. the sort of things celebrated in "American Veda" - but that in the long run are part of the digestive tract into Western Universalism.

After Swami Vivekananda's era, the RK Mission / Vedanta Society in USA under Swami Parmananda changed into digestible form. This swami became immensely popular among liberal white Americans with his "sameness" message, even though he imagined that he was digesting Christianity into dharma.

If X = dharma and Y = Christianity, what happened was: X + Y= Y enhanced. The X got digested into Y and enhanced Y in the process. Let me explain further. It is the history centrism of Christianity that prevents it from getting digested, and that in turn digests the other.

Imagine a Hindu and a Christian who agree to accept each other's faiths and combine both - as happens in many marriages when they raise the kids with both religions. Here is the resulting set of ideals and practices in the combined version:

From Christianity: Nicene Creed = history centrism of Original Sin + Jesus' virgin birth + Jesus' exclusivity as ONLY redeemer/saviour + Jesus' sacrifice to redeem all sins of those who accept him + ...

From dharma (as commonly taught today, lacking any items that resist digestion): Pranayama, vegetarian diet, namasker, symbols, certain holidays, etc.

Now imagine the person who fully performs both lists of items above. Who is he in terms of faith?

He is a Christian enhanced with certain Hindu practices
digested. Some are good for his health, others are nice symbolically making him seem very liberal and open minded in order to impress naive Hindus.

Accepting Jesus as the one and only SAVIOUR (from Original Sin) is the game changer in favor of Christianity. You can get all the namaskars you want, all the bindis and dhotis being worn, all the sitting on the floor and eating with hands, all the celebrations of Hindu rituals and holidays. IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE TO THE SOLIDLY ENTRENCHED CHRISTIAN. Such a hybrid is a Christian. Hinduism is made redundant because it becomes a subset of the Christian, i.e offers nothing else that is not already digested.

This is why I request people to re-read chapter 2 until history centrism is very well understood.

Whats the remedy for us? This question is what drove me for 20 years because I lived in the crisscrossed world of Hinduism and Western religious ideas. This is how my R & D led to the differences explained in BD. These differences are what resist getting digested. They cannot be tolerated by the Nicene Creed. So long as you hang firm to these differences you cannot be digested into Chritianity. This makes it important for gurus to teach these differences to western and Indian followers.

So do not accept that person X "has become very Hindu friendly" on the basis that s/he does yoga, has an image of a deity, turned vegetarian, does namasker, dresses like traditional Indians, has a guru, and so forth. Ask the HARD QUESTIONS. Dont settle for attempts to evade these questions.

But before you can do this kind of encounter (like the one I had with Mark Tully, and the one I was prepared to have with Clooney but he chose to not take me on), you need to do lots of homework. This includes the purushartha of studying the other (purva paksha) and the anubhava (experience) of dozens of encounters as your way to practice and learn from experience. Every guru ought to go through this tapas."

[there are several other responses and discussions in this thread. read in the e-group]

January 20
Economic Historian's special lecture of BEING DIFFERENT in Bangalore
Dear all, Greetings!!! I am glad to invite you for the special talk by Sri. Shankar Jaganathan, Economic Historian, on "Rajiv Malhotra's book Being Different: ...

January 20
Opportunity for sponsoring book gifts at World Sanskrit Conference,
In January, 2012, the Indian Govt and various Sanskrit Universities are holding a World Sanskrit Conf, the largest of its kind. They have confirmed 1,000...

January 20
Re: Itihasa versus history-centrism: Who is a Brahamana
Does our scriptures suggest that Varna is a birth right? Far from it. There has been lot of discussions about caste and varna. Summarizing Kshatriya, Brahmana,...
January 21
Short report: The India trip thus far
Thus far there have been 5 extremely fruitful events on BD in this trip: 1. Univ. of Delhi: Yesterday, I was given the afternoon slot to address a large...

January 22
FW: [RajivMalhotraDiscussion] Itihasa versus history-centrism
There are a couple of "Vish(s)" out there in this group, so I am not sure which Vish was addressed. but I found my email to the group, tacked, so I will go...

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