Does Devdutt Pattnaik know the meaning of cult?

Here is Devdutt Pattnaik's original article.

And here's a great original rebuttal by Rajiv Malhotra forum member Jithu

Dear Devdutt,
               A writers job is to curb the use of unnecessary words, letters etc. You have used one letter too many. Whereas your article could have been titled "Delightful truths of cult leader', you have very incorrectly made the leader a plural. Because lets face it, its all about Rajiv Malhotra. Though you've touched upon Rampal in the intro, no Hindu with a slightly endowed intelligence would ever accept him as his Guru. Of course he could still be classified as a cult leader. 
               As you could have easily guessed by now, I am a fan of Rajiv's works. Actually have been for more than a dozen years. And at the same time I'm not a fan of your works because, how can I put it? Let me take a shot it. Oh I got it:  its pretty superficial simple, probably a lot like your readers. I know you are the golden boy of the urban educated Hindu who is anxious of the ignorance of his own culture but just doesn't want to know it enough that he may have to seriously spend some quality time in knowing it and doing something about it. Thats where you come in. You talk about 'myths', about  gays, draw some crazy figures on a slate and lo wallah, you are their savior: a little bit of history, a bit of modern psychology. By the way, were you not in some way advising or coaching Rahul Gandhi?  Its really difficult to say who rubbed their intelligence on whom.
              But this reply has not been instigated by Rajiv though I read your article through his forum. And my first reaction was where are the cult leader(s) and where is the cult? Its very obvious that the whole article is about RM, although you sprinkle about other 'rational' leaders' , just as a writing exercise. I wasn't sure which ran longer, your dislike or put more strongly, your hatred for Rajiv or your knowledge of cult leaders. Either way, it makes a poor display of your supposed 'knowledge' 'expertise'.
             Firstly, I'm not sure if you know about this, but for any crime thats been committed the detectives always look at who benefits by the crime. So suppose if RM committed the crime of writing books and debating people, one has to ask, what does he achieve by it? Money, fame? As you already know he used to run multinational companies, so money can't be the goal. He could have been much more famous by writing mundane books: look at you. But he didn't. So what is the end goal of his crime, I wonder!
             Secondly, about the cult. Sure he does ask help from people for his books, research etc. And he does have a lot of fans, readers, supporters etc. He also does rejects people's help when they don't fit his needs, including yours truly. Most of the times when people complain, he asks them to do what needs to be done by themselves, rather than getting himself involved because of his limited resources.Which brings me to the question: Do you really know the meaning of 'cult' ? Or does your definition goes only as far as when Bollywood calls one of its monstrosity as a 'cult' film? For a cult to exist, there should be a cult leader who promises something at the end, usually something pretty looney if I may add, like the Heavens Gate cult, Mormon cult etc. Some even call Christianity and Islam as a cult because they promise an afterlife in heaven. It might surprise you that Rajiv hasn't promised any of his readers or his fans any thing. He doesn't arrange gatherings or even satsanga. And he for sure hasn't announced that there is going to show the light at the end of the tunnel. Frankly he is more interested in his own swadharma and his sadhana. And speaking of 'Swadharma' he is a kshatriya by the way and hence if he takes up the case for 'intellectual kshatriya'  he is just doing his duty. Alas you are far from being a Brahmin. 
             Sure he wants people to carry on his legacy, continue his works. But if you apply your definition of 'cult' for that then you should also apply that for every guru, every sage in India. There should be a Vyasa cult, Ramana cult, Aurobindo cult, Sankaracharya cult etc.
             And thirdly regarding his 'demands' for invitations to speak. You probably haven't heard the phrase 'right of way'. Anyone who learns driving in the U.S would know it. You 'demand' your right of way if you are obstructed while driving on your permitted legal route by others. So if Rajiv demands to be invited to speak, he in fact is entitled to, especially in programmes that have no balancing act of their one sided agenda. Why don't you attend them and participate, debate the other side? Rajiv has done so many debates with people from the opposite side, I don't see you doing it. You sit on your lazy ass and have the arrogance to ridicule him if he takes up the initiative to counter their arguments! Oh wait, you are the other side, nodding to everything Doninger says, shamelessly selling out as soon as seeing some white skin.
             May be she instigated you to write the article. May be you are just afraid that your works wouldn't sell if more people got to know about RM's works or you are frightened how much of a 'sepoy' you are with no hint of original thought. May be you are just jealous. Or may be you are just a little 'cuckoo' in your head. In any case I would prescribe a little reading of RM's works or watch his videos. They might help you to learn something. Or may be sit somewhere silently and meditate. That also clears up the mind. But for Godsake don't put your readers through such banal and petty articles such as the one you published in Mid-day. We don't deserve such punishments.

Added reading is another post on this forum which discussed the issues of plagiarism by Devdutt Pattnaik. Here is the link.

To join the discussion group please register on yahoo. The thread can be followed here

Valson Thampu has no business talking about godmen

The following is an article that appeared in the Deccan Herald, Bangalore on Nov 28th 2014.

The author is Valson Thampu. Now a cursory google search for this person throws up a Wiki link, the first line of which says he is an educator and more importantly, a Christian theologian. Here’s the link:

Moreover, the author belongs to the Church of North India (CNI) whose basic creeds are the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed of 381 AD which therefore means that CNI makes a distinction between its adherents and non-Christians. This essentially means that they declare that they and only they follow the true religion and that all non-Christians pray to false gods.

If that indeed is a major vocation of his, he should have been truthful by stating in the byline for the article that he is a Christian theologian. But his byline reads only thus. “The writer is Principal, St Stephen’s College, Delhi”. This is intellectual dishonesty since the reader is not aware of the fact that his vocation as a theologian could also colour his views on a particular subject.

Further, this person was nominated to the National Integration Council as this report in The Hindu states.

Also see this post in Christianity Today. The author is in the company of people like John Dayal who has been named in “Breaking India”, written by Rajiv Malhotra.

This author has also petitioned the then PM on atrocities against Christians in Kandhamal, Orissa as is evidenced by these reports.

In writings elsewhere this author barely conceals his hatred for what he calls right wing extremism. He has been close to Swami Agnivesh too as you can see from the below link

Here is another link that is not quite so flattering to the Rev. Dr. Valson Thampu

This report shows that the author had to quit as principal of St. Stephens in 2008. However he seems to have been reinstated later that year. Both the stories in below links.

At the outset, it is important to understand that I hold no brief for Sant/Baba Rampal who he has ostensibly attacked in his piece. I have no particular view on the subject and I refuse anymore to believe all the canards put out in the mainstream media for they’ve cried wolf so often now, that one refuses to take them seriously and I cannot accept trial by media. Also, it’s a curiously skewed situation when crimes committed by assorted padres and mullahs find hardly a mention in the ever shrill media. I believe the law of the land will therefore treat his case on its merits and he will be acquitted or convicted as the case may be. However, I do have a problem with the broad brush Mr. Thampu takes to generally trash all so called “godmen” which is a term that seems to be exclusively used for gurus from the Dharmic faiths. It is a fact that all padres and mullahs and rabbis in churches, mosques and synagogues are also godmen. But this pejorative is very selectively applied only to those coming from the Dharmic faiths.

With the above introduction, I present below some of the observations that I made on his article using the ideas that I picked up from reading “Being Different” by Rajiv Malhotra and also watching, listening and understanding how he uses purvapaksha and the Dharmic lens to refute positions taken by his opponents.

Para 3, line 3: “How come people in this sophisticated age armed with a critical, sceptical spirit, fail to distinguish between an ‘ashram’ and a fortification that looks anything but an ashram?

The writer has put “ashram” in quotes. Why? Is it because there is a mental picture of the ashram? As a reader I would like to know what that mental picture is and what the author thinks an ashram should look like.

Para 4: “The canards on which the conmen of religion build their empires pertain to their ludicrous ideas about god and their pretensions to having special powers.

I assume since in the previous paragraph he has underlined our “secular culture and scientific temperament” the above quote can be applied to all religions equally. I move ahead assuming this is so, for I believe the author will have no difficulties accepting that conmen exist in all religions.

Para 5: “For centuries we have been brainwashed to believe that gods are partial to their own religious communities, cults, locations and individuals. The Christian god cares only for Christians. Hindu gods are partial to Hindus. Lord Buddha, Prophet Mohammad, Lord Mahavira and Guru Nanak, likewise, are irrelevant to those outside their fold. Such people are excluded from help or relief.

Can the author clarify where Hindu gods or Buddha or Mahavira or Guru Nanak say that only their followers or “chosen people” will be preferred? If he cannot cite sources, we must then think that he is making his sweeping generalization based on the Abrahamic gods who indeed say so very explicitly that they are partial only to their followers.

Para 6: “God is, besides, contracted to certain ‘special agents’ whom he favours with special powers. Like a politician to his coterie, god reveals his cards only to these minions. The rest of us are condemned to receiving his favours second-hand.

This is the perfect understanding of the people of the book. But wholly flawed when talking of Dharmic traditions where first person empiricism is the norm. Nobody from the Dharmic traditions is condemned to “receiving his favours second-hand” and everyone has the potential to achieve oneness with the Brahman. So, one has to conclude that the author is applying Abrahamic principles to understand a Dharmic phenomenon when the worldviews itself don’t match.

Para 7: “There is no knowing, however, how god chooses these middlemen. On current evidence, god appears to have a preference for crooks and criminals.”

Even allowing for the first sentence to be true, it follows then that the Christian god (granted that he is the purported son of god, but that still does not absolve him from being a middleman) on whom rests the Christian faith is a crook and criminal. The same also holds for Mohammad who is the prophet of Allah in Islam and therefore the middleman for that faith. As for the Jews, their crook middleman is still in the making.

Now to deconstruct the first sentence, while it is true that one doesn’t know why God should chooses his middlemen in the Abrahamic faiths, (He apparently plays tic tac toe and wherever his finger points that person is chosen) the sentence is not even applicable to Dharmic faiths. In Dharmic faiths, the human being chooses to realize his God potential and a person from these faiths achieves the so called “middleman” status based on the extent to which s/he evolves in consciousness through individual yoga. Moreovers/he is not sole arbitrator between god and his followers. He is only the guide and helps his followers choose their path. Eventually, each one of his/her followers evolves according to his own experience. These faiths also subscribe to the view that all of creation is imbued with God potential.

Para 8: “It is as though he has an air of condescension towards the rest of us, the common folk, to whom mercies will be sent only by proxy.

Repetition that an Abrahamic worldview is being applied to a supposedly Dharmic person (Baba Rampal’s arrest drama which I understand is what the author wants to target). Dharmic peoples simply do not receive god’s mercies “by proxy”. A Baba/Guru/Sant is only a means to follow on a certain path and its up to the follower/shishya to evolve individually through tapas and sadhana.

Para 9, line 2: “We are sure to be forgiven if we disobey or disrespect God, which we do all the time. But we are sure to be exterminated if we try the same with these middlemen.

Following from the sentence in bold, one can safely assume then that “extermination” is what happened in Europe during the crusades and in the US with the genocide of the native Americans and also what happened in Australia with the indigenous peoples of the land. When applied to Islam of course, this is the narrative that has played itself out numerous times since the advent of Islam. Genocide and extermination are exclusive achievements of these two Abrahamic faiths. It would be good to know if the author can produce an account of similar proportions with respect to Dharmic faiths.

Now, for the first sentence. There is no concept of forgiveness within Dharmic faiths because sin is not associated with these faiths. Dharmic peoples are fully responsible for their actions and will therefore reap its consequences (good or bad) as explained by the concept of karma. So where is the concept of forgiveness then? Now, applying this sentence to the Christians, their disobedience is forgiven by God or God’s middleman in the church called the Father? Thus if the Father is the middleman of God then he is of course a crook since the author has previously stated that. And then we have to conclude that it is these very same crooks who are forgiving Christians in the name of God. I don’t know enough about Judaism and Islam to apply it to them. However since these faiths also rely on middlemen for access to God, the transaction must perforce go through these crooks (as per author’s representation).

Para 11, line 1: “Also, he used to wake up once a week per community (on Fridays for Muslims, Saturdays for Jews, Sundays for Christians) and limit his presence to designated places of worship (mosques, synagogues, churches, temples etc.) 

Asserting his secular credentials, he has targeted all faiths in terms of when God “wakes up” to affix his signature “to designated place of worship”. So far so good. He talks about Fridays for Muslims, Saturdays for Jews and Sundays for Christians. Where is the day for Hindus? No day for the Hindus (or for Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs for that matter). He leaves that out for he doesn’t find any references. That is fair enough. But when he continues he says “his presence to designated places of worship (mosques, synagogues, churches, temples etc.” Why have temples been added when he did not find a specific day for the Hindus, why did their place of worship find a mention? This can only be construed as ill-informed or most probably deliberate false extrapolation?

Para 13: “The Creator is present in, and available to, all parts of creation. Anyone who claims to be a privileged agent of God is a cheat and a de facto atheist. He flies in the face of the quintessential spiritual vision of vasudaiva kutumbakam.

Now for the first sentence: he means God is immanent in all of creation. If so, I’d like to ask him if is he divine? Is a dog divine? Is a tree divine? Is a stone divine? If he answers yes to it, I would then like to ask if he will then be willing to worship himself, a dog or the stone? If he still says yes, I would ask if he would allow me to bring my Ganesh murthi into his church and pray to it. It is a stone and I think of it as divine and I have carved it in the form of Ganesha. Will he let me do it in his house, in his church? Abrahamic faiths do not essentially believe in an immanent god, else why would they object to worshipping a stone?

Let’s deconstruct the second sentence. Let’s assume that as a Hindu I have no qualms in saying that this Hindu “godman” who “claims to be a privileged agent of God is a cheat and a de facto atheist”. By the same token, then Jesus of the Christians, Mohammad of the Muslims and the yet to come Messiah of the Jews, are all cheats too since they claim to be privileged agents of God.

Now for the “vasudaiva kutmbakam” of the Hindus whose most abused usage has gained ground. First, until this point, the author has exhibited an ability to elaborate his point only from an Abrahamic worldview. Therefore, from where does this sudden recourse to a Hinduism tenet come in? it does come in so let’s now look at it. Does vasudaiva kutmbakam comprise everyone and everything indiscriminately? Then even an Osama Bin Laden or a Hitler as Rajiv ji says forms part of that kutumbakam. Or an approaching swarm of locusts should be allowed to create havoc just because they are also part of vasudaiva kutumbakam. The author assumes that a spiritual quest is devoid of fighting forces that are harmful to the concept of vasudaiva kutumbakam. And that is certainly not how Hinduism envisages this concept. Yes, vasudaiva kutumbakam is extended to all those who live by the principles of pluralism which also involves Rajiv Malhotra coined term “mutual respect” operating while conducting inter-faith encounters. The very fact that this author has so far written his viewpoint pontificating from his Christian exclusivist worldview, indeed he does not qualify to be part of my vasudaiva kutumbakam. He cannot be until he offers me the respect which I will offer him for his worldview.

Para 14: “The implied insinuation that God practices untouchability vis-à-vis almost the whole of humankind and dispatches his mercy and charity to them, therefore, only via some conmen deputies should provoke derisive laughter.

This para is laughable for it tries to forcefully bring in the concept of untouchability and to my mind this is a blatant attempt to malign the Hindu faith with the prevalent divisive discourse of caste.

However, assuming for a moment that this is an unbiased observation, we shall look at the facts. Yes, there have been and there still are problems within the Hindu faith. But has it been a case of Hindus not doing the churning from within to correct these problems? The facts would not say so. We shall start with the Arya Samaj. In the page “About us” on their website, the Arya Samaj says this. “Arya Samaj was established by Swami Dayanand Saraswati in the year 1875 to get rid of social evils of Hindu society. Arya Samaj is a bona fide Hindu-Vedic organization. It is non-denominational authentic Hindu-Vedic religious organization dedicated to remove superstition, orthodoxy and social evils such as un-touchability etc., from society.  So it is a fact that Hindus have a tradition of reforming from within and the Arya Samaj is just one example which is pan-Indian. Then there is Dr. B.R Ambedkar and there have been local reformers, for example in Kerala, Mahatma Ayyankali and Sree Narayana Guru who stayed within the faith and worked towards reform. Their contributions especially those of Mahatma Ayyankali have largely not been acknowledged and it is now that the Modi Government is educating Indians on icons such as him. There was also the temple entry proclamation by the Travancore king which was a landmark and forward looking decision to change the bad practices that had crept into the Hindu faith. The proclamation signed by Sree Chithira Thirunal reads thus. “Profoundly convinced of the truth and validity of our religion, believing that it is based on divine guidance and on all-comprehending toleration, knowing that in its practice it has throughout the centuries, adapted itself to the needs of changing times, solicitous that none of our Hindu subjects should, by reason of birth or caste or community, be denied the consolation and the solace of the Hindu faith, we have decided and hereby declare, ordain and command that, subject to such rules and conditions as may be laid down and imposed by us for preserving their proper atmosphere and maintaining their rituals and observances, there should henceforth be no restriction placed on any Hindu by birth or religion on entering or worshipping at temples controlled by us and our Government.

The emphasis in the above quote is mine to underline the fact that this ground breaking reform was achieved from within the faith.

Apart from these examples, since independence, the Government of India, no matter whichever ideology, is committed to affirmative action to overcome the injustices of the past and towards that has so many programs intended for the upliftment of the oppressed. As a result, we have so many successful leaders today who are drawn from the Dalit fold. And no one better exemplifies this than the ascent to the premiership by Modi ji who himself is drawn from among the backward castes. We have also had a person from the oppressed castes as President in K R Narayanan. Apart from all of this, I am very sure that many of us in our daily lives, knowing the situations of the past do our utmost in our individual capacity to correct such imbalances. All these examples are showcased in order to reinforce that while Hindus understand that there are many problems within the faith, they can never be accused with a single broad brush of not having done anything about it as Mr. Thampu seems keen to underline.

The issue of the caste system and its continued presence and the tensions its creating within Christianity itself is brought out by these two articles.

Now, since the author is wholly unbiased, the above sentence I believe he would have no problem in extending to the Jews, Christians and Muslims of the world. They are also untouchables, for God’s word is propagated if anything more centrally and principally in these faiths through his “conmen” prophets. So, yes the laughter is indeed derisive for it has exposed the author as someone who threw a stone from a glass house only to have his own windows broken.

Para 15, line 1: “Enlightened souls feel embarrassed when special powers are attributed to them. Extravagant claims of special powers are made only by the wheeler dealers of religion.

That’s why Jesus, Muhammad and the yet to be born messiah are also “wheeler dealers of religion” along with all the Dharmic ones he insinuates.

Para 16, line 1: “It is a nightmare that temples of light are today overshadowed by ashrams of darkness.

Author seems to be using binaries associated with exclusivist ideologies which hardly holds true for Dharmic faiths in which “yes”, “no” and “maybe” also operate.

Para 16, line 3: “Why obscene wealth should punctuate the conmen of religion is an enigma that we dare not face.

While this can and does need to be questioned for Dharmics, the same also applies to churches and mosques where conmen operate in the guise of padres and mullahs. Don’t they also possess obscene wealth?

Para 17: “In point of fact, it is the glare and glitter, the scale and size of their megabucks that blind us to the subhuman realities that shroud these corrupters of our species.

Repeat the same point as before that author fails to realize that the same words could equally apply to the church and mosque who many feel are “corrupters of our species”.

For the scale of Christianity’s intervention in India it will just suffice to go through this blog which does a fantastic job of exposing the designs of such interventionists by accessing the available data n the Government FCRA website.

To conclude, one has to say that there are repercussions when one talks from a lofty pedestal on issues where one’s worldview is shaped by a certain exclusivist ideology. Every faith and every culture has its problems and the author while being a citizen of pluralistic India, if he wants to contribute positively to the change needed within the society must work shoulder to shoulder with its vast majority who do understand the need for change for the country. However, it seems as if this author is interested only in playing up the faultlines in the society and one seriously questions his motives for doing so. 

Not Proto Indo European, but Proto Sanskrit

Sanskrit is not from Proto Indo European

(There was a related/tangential ongoing discussion with some overlap where Aravindan Neelakandan & others participated. The link to that thread is here).

November 2014

RealityQuests started the discussion:
".... A fake (nonsensical) theory in the name of PIE is being created imaginarily (just like the other random stories westerners make) to disallow Sanskrit its rightful, worthy place in history, by constructing (very imaginatively, I must say) a logic stating that all ancient languages are from this (imaginary language called) Proto-Indo European language (PIE). They say even Sanskrit is from this assumed to have existed language. Indeed, which is absolutely nonsense..."

Rajiv Malhotra: This theory is not "being" created. It has "been" there for a long time. It is well entrenched in western thought, as it gives them a history of what they see as their own past in europe. Some years back a major book came that has spread this even deeper. it is titled, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World.
[K] offered to do a review/critique of it, so I bought a copy, and posted it to him. He received it, but did not spend any time reading or critiquing it. He dismissed it (an easy but lazy thing to do), and later wrote a "standard" attack on aryan theory, with no reference to this book per se.

The problem is that most of the "Hindu activists" lack rigor in critiquing opponents. Trivializing the opponent is not a way to beat them - except within one's "like minded" circle..."

RQ continues: I've tried googling and reading many research papers, but nobody or nothing really mentions about this PIE, or about the civilisation or culture or its literature, or for that matter where who spoke this nor when it was spoken. None of it. Its existence is a question! PIE is a big LIE. They say all ancient languages were derived from this. But one must question, why ONLY Sanskrit is the one with attributes of such amazing qualities as it possesses unlike the others which happen to be a derivative of PIE.."

Jaideep responds:
"The theory of existence of PIE is not the problem in itself. IE Languages are indeed very similar, and it is parsimonious to think of them as having evolved from a common ancestor, just like the evolution of species. However, in the case of languages, there is no necessity, nor any way to verify, whether this reconstructed ancestor language was ever actually spoken. To that end, PIE is just a parsimonious reconstruction to aid us in understanding linguistic relationships.

Now the problem with PIE that most nationalistic Indians have is not with PIE itself, but its implied corollary, the Aryan Invasion Theory. Whereas Aryan Invasion Theory can be refuted to the hilt, refuting PIE and claiming Sanskrit to be an independent (or original) language leads to various linguistic inconsistencies."

Rajiv responds with an important followup question: Agreed so far. Question then remains - What is the reason for the PIE cluster, given we agree that no such language existed? Setting aside its usefulness as a virtual device, what caused this similarity?

Jaideep continues:
"An extremely detailed, complete, and nerve-crackingly logical rebuttal of AIT has been done by Shrikant Talageri, in 3 books: 

He has refuted most current proponents of AIT, most notably, Michael Witzel of Harvard and Hans Hock of Illinois. 

Rajiv: Talgeri is a good example of rigor for many, many years...

Rajiv clarifies a point by Jaideep:
"...There is no doubt that panini is a genius. Indeed, Patanjali calls him Bhagvaan. However, it is not the alphabets, but the Maaheshwara sutras that are assumed to be of divine origin."

Rajiv: Disagree. Apart from any sutra, the aksharas are not arbitrary human convention.

Jaideep: "Sanskrit underwent evolution during the vedic age itself, and even after that. This is acknowledged in traditional texts itself, like patanjali mahabhasya. Classical sanskrit was frozen after it stopped being a spoken language. Whether panini's grammar had any role in it or not is debatable. Personally, I think that without panini, sanskrit would have been lost today, and while the spoken sanskrit evolved into various indian languages, the sanskrit that exists today also survived, only beause of panini's grammar.  

Rajiv: Agreed. This is examined in my forthcoming book on Pollock-ism. But he claims the shift from Vedic Sanskrit was caused by Buddhists and other non-Vedic people to give them a "new" Sanskrit that would be "secular" and less burdened by "Brahmin hegemony".

Jaideep: "... What we should do is to develop our own capacities (i.e. increase the number of researchers within India), and out-compete others at the game. That way, we would also be able to fight back attempts of digestion. If our own capabilities are not enough, I think all fight against digestion would be classified as "hindu rightwing politics" and ignored. I do have some concrete ideas on this and would be happy to open another thread for discussion if anyone is willing."

Rajiv's response: The battlefield has shifted due to the successes of Pollock to create a new kind of army of Sanskrit scholars. Tragically, most Sanskrit scholars have either watched from the sidelines, or joined Pollock, or are plain confused at why this is a big deal at all. My book intends to shake this up. Stay tuned, pls.

RealityQuests follows up:
"...Similarity in languages is what, has caused the west to assume that there is a common ancestry for the languages. And, since Aryan Invasion Theory has been passed down from Max Muller, this has further ensued them to believe, a language such as Sanskrit has its origins back there in the West. Even if were to assume this is true, there are things that makes the claim of PIE highly questionable in my mind.

From the perspective of an individual who is seeing PIE to have existed : If they consider Linguistics, they are trying to find a language from the existing, similar, spoken languages, in the present , and attempting to trace it back to its parent.

This "creation process" in itself shows, it is a reconstruction which could perhaps be far from reality of the language. For e.g., let us consider a procedure where two languages that are similar are used, to get a reconstructed proto language. By comparing the two languages, and continuously finding the parent language, they would finally reach the summit of the pyramid. It would lead them to form a reconstructed proto (or primary) language at the top of the pyramid. But, this language at the top, does not in anyway equate to an actuality of language of how it was in reality, (even if it were to exist) that is, coming down the pyramid, with the assumed splits, is not necessarily correct.

So, this asterisked, unpronounceable formulae of the constructed PIE, is in fact not a language at all. Atleast, not in any defensible definition of what a language must be. Or if there is a linguist who assumes this language to be the actual one (IF it were to exist), then he surely is not professional.

If this reconstructed language was not spoken by anyone, was there another "actual" language (again, IF it were to exist) that was ("actually" PIE) heard on earth?

Linguistics doesn't seem to be an appropriate method to get a parent or prove its existence per se.

Literature or written documents? -- Nope. Maybe those ancient guys couldn't write, or didn't know how to write. Fine, then?

Personally, I'd argue that - the non-linguistic approaches are the only way to prove the existence or anything else pertaining to this language. Then resorting to anthropological and archaeological means are perhaps what could actually prove its existence. This apparently has been done in the book Rajiv Ji had suggested : "The Horse,The Wheel,and Language - How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World "..."

Rajiv: You must make the effort to get a copy, then read it closely, then write a response. Not an easy thing -- but thats what it takes and we need more people doing that kind of heavy lifting.

RQ continues: " ....why and how are sanskrit scholars and linguistic people of the west able to prove the existence of PIE.

The unique property of Sanskrit is : A number of dhatus, and some exceptional grammar, is all it needs and the ability to describe an object with just its name.

The attribute of an object to be its name. perhaps it is the most special feature, qualifying to have no proper nouns. Yes there, are root words. But that's it. Even God's names are descriptions. There are no proper nouns. This also happens to be the reason why there could be different names for a single object. (e.g. Jalaja, Vaarija, Ambuja, Neeraja, Pankaja all mean Lotus - Jala, vaari, ambu, neer are all water and "ja" at the end refers to them living in. Thus lotus is the one living in water or dwaipayana.. the one born between two islands.) In other words, by knowing the name of an object, you know the property of it.
Sanskrit, is a language that does not need dictionary but needs you to be good in grammar to know the entire language

A grammar that has its entire vocabulary of everything in the world, & so flexible.
On what claims was Sanskrit compared to other languages. Do the other languages have these properties?

If the languages did share this property, then perhaps, they would all be 'cool' and efficient as Sanskrit is. Or was it the grammar they compared, and was it common? That would be interesting to know.

Or, was it on the basis that Sanskrit and other languages shared common words?

If there are, in fact, words in common with Sanskrit in other languages and that caused them to conclude - well Sanskrit has a reason why every thing is called what it is called. If objects were plainly called without a reason , then it was adapted from Sanskrit. Sanskrit would then be the mother, and not a sibling to the language.
And, yes. If Aryan Invasion Theory is the only claim, disproving it avoids the necessity to at all deal with linguistic comparison, and we could clearly say, it was just in due time, that words were adapted due to migration from India to the West for trade or whatever reasons. ..."
Rajiv's response:
PIE is an example of what happens resulting from digestion.
Europeans after their sudden "discovery" of Sanskrit in late 1700s, went through a phase called Romanticism, when they loved everything Indian and saw ancient Indians as their forefathers.
Because this was superficial it did not last. Further digestion switched the relationship, when the first stage of "discovery" later got captured under the control of Euro-chauvinists - rival groups in Germany, Britain, France each wanting to use Sanskrit for their own theories of antiquity. We Indians lost control because the West had more power in shaping the global discourse.
Lesson for today: Dont get sucked into westerners praise for our heritage, especially if that is half baked, superficial, etc. This is not sustainable. It leads to digestion as time goes by.
This is why sameness is so dangerous. PIE was preceded by a few decades of sameness of all Indo-European languages and races. But look what happened later.
Know the big picture and not just a tiny region of the kurukshetra. This means more study and research, and not just a few quick/slick one-liners and blogs to get instant fame."

[some intermediate discussions are not provided here and can be read in full in the forum].
Gopi adds: "..I wanted to explain the nature of the PIE/Linguistics battlefield.

The field of linguistics has moved beyond the motivations of its founders. Like it or not, the PIE edifice is the incumbent theory. Unless someone can come up with an alternate theory of how Sanskrit words could have morphed into its cognates in other languages using consistent sound-change laws & do this exercise across a wide swath of language families, we cannot claim Sanskrit as the mother. I love Sanskrit as much as anyone else, having learnt it for several years. But facts are facts & we don't have an alternate theory

What Talageri did was not discard PIE but place its origin in the Indian homeland. He used a somewhat lesser known "language dispersion model" (formulated by Gamkrelidze & Ivanov) and argued that this model fits OIT very well

If well meaning nationalists & OIT supporters make "Sanskrit is mother" statements without a serious theory to back it up, they will not be taken seriously by the academia. Even their serious points in favor of OIT might then get ignored

I am also curious to know your position on Sanskrit & PIE"

Jaideep shares a response from Shrikant Talageri:
"The person who said "What Talageri did was not discard PIE but place its origin in the Indian homeland. He used a somewhat lesser known "language dispersion model" (formulated by Gamkrelidze Ivanov) and argued that this model fits OIT very well" is basically right in saying that I do not discard PIE. You can not discard it. PIE is the only logical explanation for the existence of the IE languages, and those who chauvinistically advocate Sanskrit or Vedic Sanskrit are only being unreasonable and self-defeating. What they do not realize is that Vedic Sanskrit is different from Classical Sanskrit, and the fact that Vedic Sanskrit is the earliest extant form on record does not mean it was the form which existed since Day One. PIE is a linguistically logical reconstructed prototype of the earliest possible ancestral form of all the known IE languages. Just as Vedic Sanskrit is as Indian as Classical Sanskrit, this older form, PIE, also is not necessarily by definition non-Indian. That is, its area need not necessarily be different from the area of Classical and Vedic Sanskrit. In fact, I have shown that it is the same.
The language dispersion model has not been "formulated" by Gamkrelidze and Ivanov. It is the language dispersion model which has to fit in with any Homeland Theory. It is just that Gamkrelidze and Ivanov have enunciated this model very clearly and systematically in trying to fit it into their "Anatolian Homeland" hypothesis, and I have quoted them because they have put it so succintly and clearly. But in their case it is like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole (or is it the other way round?). It does not explain most of the linguistic problems. The Indian Homeland theory answers every single one of the linguistic requirements (besides fitting in with the literary narrative in the Vedic and Puranic texts). Thus it fits in with, among every other linguistic factor, Hans Hock's arguments about simplicity, minimum migration and the evidence of the isoglosses, as also with Nichols' evidence for the movement of the European branches through Central Asia (which is so undeniable that, although every other western Indo-Europeanist steadfastly ignores it, Gamkrelidze and Ivanov bring the European branches all the way eastwards from Anatolia to Central Asia before sending them on the way to Europe)."

Part-1 of Shrikant Talageri's talk:

(Part-2 and Part-3 and the OIT talk can also be found at website).

Subra responds to Shrikant's message: "..I have some questions on the justification for the creation and acceptance of a distinct PIE vs Sanskrit that Shrikant ji or other scholars can clarify:
a) Does this distinction imply a 'before-after' binary dichotomy? that certain epochal historical events triggered this relatively 'sharp change' in the language?
and similarly, what we today call Sanskrit is in reality a 'neo-Sanskrit' that is fundamentally different from what was communicated in Vedic times?

b) In contrast to this, why would this alternative claim be problematic or rejected:
'There is & was only Sanskrit that originated in India & continually evolved over time, and produced diverse derivatives that spread over the world"
- much like Hinduism and its derivatives, but without compromising on its core or 'integral' unity (as explained in 'Indra's Net')."

Rajiv responds: I like 'b'. We dont need a different name like PIE for an earlier stage of sanskrit, just like we dont need to say that modern Hinduism is a new religion disconnected from vedas. Evolution and change in Indic traditions is a different process than in western ones, because there they must destroy the past to legitimize whats new. Our change is cumulative. Hence we still have people worshiping snakes in a temple because nobody goes to police them into "the one true religion". Whats PIE nay be thought of as pre-Vedic Sanskrit...?"

Gopi responds to Subra's questions:
a) Its not a before-after dichotomy or a "sharp change". Language change is a slow process. Vedic & Classical Sanskrit are different, but not so different that you can't tell that one is a parent of the other. Per current language theory, Vedic Sanskrit descended from PIE via the Indo-Iranian branch. "Rate of change of language" is not predicted in Linguistic theories. Linguists tried that and gave up. So, the "actual dates" have to be fixed by other methods like attested documents, archaeological data etc. What can be predicted by Linguists is whether 2 words are cognates, whether one is a parent of the other, whether they have a common parent etc. They can model "relative ages" of languages, but not "absolute ages". That's why you have a PIE tree but no dates on that tree

b) Agree fully with your proposal and that of Rajiv. That's what I wrote in one of my earlier emails as well. If PIE originated in India, we might want to call it "Proto Sanskrit" or something like that. 

Rajiv : I love this idea! Lets popularize it giving you credit!

Gopi continues: Linguists will hate it though - because Sanskrit (or more specifically Indo-Iranian) is not the only branch that came out of PIE. Anatolian, Balto-Slavic, Germanic etc are all branches that are parallel to the Indo-Iranian branch. 

Rajiv: No problem. That makes those languages descendents of Proto-Sanskrit and sisters of Vedic Sanskrit.

Gopi: Anatolian is an older branch than Indo-Iranian. But given that Vedic Sanskrit has the largest number of cognates that match with the reconstructed PIE, it can be argued that "Proto-Sanskrit" has a bigger claim to the PIE title than any other language!! We will be branded as Hindu Chauvinists for sure :- 

Rajiv: Such branding has outlived its life and no longer should bother us.

Come adds: "PIE was a "politically correct" expression coined in the West to avoid identifying the "ancestor [language]" with India and the "[backward] East". It was a way of making Europe central in the diffusion of the IE languages and cultures. Germany no longer claims that it was the cradle of Aryans but Russian academics are still quite partial to Southern Russia-Ukraine as the original home of Indo-Europeans while Anglo-Saxon scholars favour what is today the Turkish territory."

The Sanskrit wars have begun

Below, Rajiv Malhotra offers explanations and rebuttals to the personal attacks mounted by Aatish Taseer in the interview he gave to Open Magazine.

So the big war is on, even before my Pollock book comes out. It is not even in final draft yet, and a lot more work remains to be done. This latest salvo comes from a young novelist who is the son of Tavleen Singh and a Pakistani journalist. 

If you recall, I had taken Tavleen to task on Twitter for her support of Pollock without her doing any due diligence on the positions of Pollock. Now her half-Pakistani son gets his turn to go after me. Open Source Magazine lends itself as a forum for this, without offering me any space to give my side of it.

His latest novel is a typical "South Asian bhai bhai" one finds from many Indian "intellectuals" wanting to transcend modern India and Pakistan. They project back their ideologies on to some imagined history of the subcontinent.

Familiar stuff? Not so easy. You are familiar with those saying this from an anti-Sanskrit position. But thanks to Pollock, he has directly trained and indirectly nurtured an army of such persons who make their case while wanting to appear pro-Sanskrit (in his sense of what Sanskrit is like).

Please read the excerpt below from his recent interview, with my responses in brackets. Please feel free to post this at his interview, on twitter or anywhere else. Let there be open discussion on the merits of various positions.

I find refined classicism throughout the novel, sustained by Skanda’s Sanskritised sensibility. What will you say?

Yes, but Skanda’s interest in Sanskrit, though full of emotion, is at the end of the day a scholarly interest. It is not revivalist; it is not of the Rajiv Malhotra kind. [Rajiv: Aatish does not appear to know that Pollock calls himself arevivalist of Sanskrit. Hence, according to the Left, being a revivalist of Sanskrit is not contrary to being a scholar. The two are compatible. What is contentious between Pollock and me is not scholar versus revivalist, but two different kinds of revival. Aatish needs more "scholarly" reading and less novel writing...]  

Men like him—Malhotra and his cohorts—have poisoned the pool of classical studies. They’re not scholars; few of them have even a passable knowledge of Sanskrit; but they’re determined to shut down serious scholarship, determined to coerce Western academia into telling them the few banalities they want to hear: things that warm their little NRI hearts:the Aryans did not come from elsewhere but sprang up out of the soil of India; Sanskrit is not one of many Indo-European languages, but the mother of all languages… [Rajiv: 1) Aatish fails to cite even a single instance of my work that would support his personal allegation that I am "determined to shut down serious scholarship". Any scholar worth his salt ought to cite concrete evidence, and not engage in such ad hominem attacks. 2) The italics above are in the original interview - Aatish wants to emphasize that he supports the foreign Aryan theory and attacks me for saying that the "aryas" (there is no such thing as Aryans) have been indigenous to the Indian soil. He is also upset that I consider Sanskrit to be more than "one of many Indo-European languages". The "mother of all languages" motif troubles him greatly when applied to Sanskrit.

Now when you start to refashion the past to fit the needs of the present, you must ask yourself why? Why do I want the past to be one way and not another? Because if you set to work blindly remaking the past, you can do it a lot of harm. [Rajiv: When my book comes out, I hope that he and his mom, Tavleen, will take the time to go through it, and see that the evidence proves just the opposite: That it is Pollock distorting the hard data of history to fit his modern analysis of Indian society. These novelists/journalists, lacking scholarly competence, will find themselves sandwiched between their support for Pollock-ism and their claim to be pro-Indian civilization. Let thaat debate start after my book comes out.]

These monkeys, they want the white man to tell them that India—which Malhotra couldn’t bring himself to live in—was once the greatest country of all. Only then will they go away and let serious people get on with their work. [Rajiv: Calling me a "monkey" hardly helps the image his mom wants him to have - that of a young, serious thinker. So he thinks that what I am all about is getting the white man to tell us how great we are. But thats not my position at all. I am critical of Indians who are in awe of white men's approval of them. He has not read my works criticizing that tendency among Indians. Rather, it is he and his mom craving white peolpe legitimizing them. Their swooning over Pollock demonstrates this. So who here is the one being the monkey in awe of "the white man"?]

It’s sad to see this kind of sloganeer get traction in India—I read the other day in the paper that Delhi University had embarked upon a project to prove the Aryans were not foreigners. Such foolishness! It makes me fearful for India. And these are naturally fears that my novel is very alive to. [Rajiv: Dismissing me as sloganeer with no specific data point? And this is the state of journalism in India that editors of mainstream media do not bother calling it out as unsubstantiated and as ad hominem attacks? Why such desperation so suddenly? His reference to Delhi University gives the answer. Because places like DU are now starting projects that will evaluate evidence "to prove the Aryans were not foreigners", people like Aatish are deployed to attack those involved. He is worried that now I "get traction in India".]

[Rajiv: It is important to note that this kind of mischief as Aatish represents is now being clothed as the new voice of the true Indians. The latest trend is to even sound pro-Modi while rejecting Modi's deep notions of who we are, and replacing them with love for the "foreign Aryans who brought us Sanskrit". This is where the kurukshetra is most intense - Indians serving as a new breed of sepoys who are dressed up as great lovers ofIndia.]

To follow this thread, please join the yahoo discussion group> the thread can be found here

Aravindan Neelakandan clarifies his positive relationship with Rajiv Malhotra

Posted here is the exchange between Aravindan Neelakandan and Rajiv Malhotra which took place so that the air could be cleared on what Maria Wirth on twitter insinuated with the following tweet.

Maria Wirth: just wondering ,u say "My book Breaking India.." Wud it not be fair 2 say "Our book"with Neelakandan as Co-author?

Well, the background to the above tweet was this tweet from Rajiv Malhotra

My book 'Breaking India' now ranks No. 1 on Amazon under International Relations:

That led Aravindan Neelakandan to issue these two tweets earlier today to clarify

"does not want to work with u anymore" is WRONG. Working on BI has been a good learning experience.

'doesn't want to work' is WRONG. Coauthoring BI has been a good learning experience.

Here is Aravindan Neelakandan's complete response to the above tweets along with Rajiv Malhotra's comments.

[Rajiv: Maria Wirth (angry because of some unrelated issue I had with her work some time back) has tried to create tension between me and Aravindan Neelakandan on twitter. Aravindan not only rejected her presumption on twitter, but also sent this post as a clarification of his position. He re-joined this egroup after a gap, in order to post this. I encouraged him to do so. Though the main purpose is to clarify the issue of our mutual relationship, Aravindan also takes this opportunity to disagree with my positions of certain unrelated topics - theism/atheism, Subramanian Swamy, and plagiarism by Sanyal. I give my responses below in highlight. Welcome back Aravindan.]
Let me state categorically that when we started the BI project I was not intended to be coauthor and was a research assistant with Infinity. It was Sri. Rajiv Malhotra who voluntarily offered me to be the co-author. [Rajiv: I did this towards the very end when the book was nearing completion; Aravindan at first said he did not deserve it, but later accepted.] It was a graceful gesture and am thankful for that.

I value his original scholarship, its depth and new insight. I do have my differences of opinion with him. But that does not in anyway diminish my respect and administration for him.  

Being an atheist myself I find his criticism of Darwinism ill-founded and have openly expressed my criticism of his saying 'intelligent design' being influenced by Hinduism. As a person who has been working in the field of environment and organic agriculture for more than a decade, I can say that Darwin is profoundly right and only Dharmic religions have the capacity to integrate Darwin in their worldview. Intelligent Design is a camouflage for creationism and the involution Swami Vivekananda talks about including the intelligence being involuted to expand as existence has more in sync with David Bohm's implicate order than the 'intelligent design'.
  • Aravindan is certainly entitled to his position as an atheist. 
  • My views on Darwin mirror what Sri Aurobindo wrote, which is a much more detailed position than Vivekananda. This is explained in some of my writings - the importance of involution-evolution process, and not the one-way evolution by Darwin. So Darwin is incomplete, as there is no upward feedback loop, which is also important in systems theory. 
  • Many Judeo-Christian digesters are now borrowing this Hindu tenet to bridge the gap between "science and religion", a gap that never existed between dharma and science. Bohm himself was learning these ideas from his extensive dialogs with J. Krishnamurti and others from the dharma traditions. 
  • I feel Aravindan has seen both sides of the debate mainly through Western proxies (like Darwin, Bohm Intelligent Design), none of which properly capture the dharma position on the matter. This is a separate issue I am happy to debate in a suitable forum.]

In my personal opinion he is a bit over anxious about people plagiarizing his works. I also feel he sometimes goes overboard on this account as in the case of Sanjeev Sanyal. Perhaps because he has had a few bad experiences in the past, and hence this anxiety over his works being plagiarized. I am afraid this attitude may actually be an impediment in his vision of building an institution and intellectual movement that will live for generations to come.
[Rajiv: Since Aravindan was not a member of this egroup, he is probably unfamiliar with the details written in: message 8655 (thread), message 8679 (Chronology of my interactions with SS since 2013 over my work), message 8700 and message 8761. As a good scholar, Aravindan knows the importance of studying the background evidence before passing judgment. SS has since then accepted this account and issued an acknowledgment. Plagiarism is a problem of dharmic ethics; of nurturing team work to create robust schools of thought and not random sporadic one-off blogs here and there; of encouraging hard work and discouraging the fast-food mentality of quickly jumping ahead present in many of our fellow Indians.]

I also find his endorsement of/association with Subramanian Swamy problematic, as in my personal opinion SS is also engaged in playing up the Brahmin vs Non-Brahmin binary in Tamil Nadu, apart from being pro-Chinese and pro-Sri Lankan against the Tamil-Hindu interest. Subramanian Swami's accusation of RSS in Coimbatore bomb blast in 1998 is something that has hurt me deeply as a Swayamsevak. [Rajiv: We agree to disagree on Dr. Swamy. I may not agree with 100% of issues with him. or anyone else for that matter. But I base my overall support seeing the big picture dynamics of the kurukshetra, and not get distracted by every instance and every stand of someone. I respect his tapas, long term persistence, ability to stick neck out and take risks, continue even when not rewarded formally...]    

But these are issues that do not affect my respect for his ingenious presentation of Indic Dharma, his hard work and intellectual integrity in fighting for the Dharmic-Indic civilization. He could well have chosen a happy retirement with occasional sideline charity towards Dharma. But that he plunged right into the center of the fire is something for which we as Hindus are indebted to him whether one agrees with him or not in all his stands. I will always feel it a honor to be invited to coauthor the sequel of 'Breaking India'. As a Tamil Hindu I specially feel indebted to him because 'Breaking India' had really stopped a grand plan of Christian appropriation in Tamil Nadu. Had he not come into the picture at best a few articles would have been written on the net and would have been used merely to gain some brownie points in the internet debates but only a field-worker knows what kind of effect 'Breaking India' had achieved in Tamil Nadu and the kind of awareness it had created. For this too we need to be thankful to him.

[Rajiv: I want to thank Aravindan for being more than a scholar, but also a true friend. We developed mutual interest in each other's personal well-being. That is important to bear in mind. Disagreeing on scholarly matters is not the end of a relationship.]