Prof. Rambachan decided finally to answer his critics and wrote an essay on Swarajya Mag to debunk Rajiv's "myths" about him as he calls them, that he claims Rajiv has concoted in the book Indra's Net. The essay can be found here. Following the publication of this essay, the forum has been alive with extremely meaningful and profound discussion points put forth by many learned forum members. This particular thread on the forum contains some extremely profound observations by various forum members.
Rajiv's response to Prof. Rambachan's essay is appearing in pieces on the forum as Rajiv is extremely busy and they are reproduced below in chronological order.
I am glad Rambachan has decided to respond to me. This is what we need. Not him and Vatican in interfaith propaganda, but INTERNAL resolution among Hindus as to our positions.
So let me articulate specific issues/questions on which I request him to give clear, crisp responses as that would define his stance.
- Is he willing to criticize his academic peers who support the neo-Hinduism thesis? Specifically, his PhD adviser Ursula King, Brian Pennington, Peter van der Veer, Pankaj Mishra. Richard King. If he wants to be 'nuanced' and cannot say it openly and directly for everyone to understand, that would be more gobbledygook and only continue suspicions: Which side is he on? Is he saying one thing to Hindus but another to the Western academy?
- Is Hinduism as espoused by Swami Vivekananda any of the following: new and disconnected with Vedic origins, lacking unity across its various elements, in conflict with Advaita Vedanta? If so, I have a problem. I would like to convince him to come out in a positive, concrete way and assert the following:
- Vivekananda's Hinduism is a continuation of an old tradition, merely repackaged for modern times.
- Its various elements comprise a unified system
- It is consistent with Advaita (which we must note has undergone many interpretations/evolutions).
- Did Vivekananda use Christian/Western influence for formulating any of the following: his notion of karma yoga, his notion of raja yoga as science, his notion of bhakti? If so, I have a problem. That is what Rambachan has maintained before. In his recent article, he hedges his position and does not come out clearly. I would like him to change to the following position, even though that would contradict his own prior works and create tension with his Western academic peers::
- Karma yoga, raja yoga as science, bhakti - each of these is indigenous in our tradition, are not an adaptation of Christian/Western ideas.
Many comments have cited in some detail the anti-Hindu writings of Ursula King, under whom Rambachan studied in UK and got his advanced degrees and academic credentials. Many have caught him on some utterly false or at least misleading statements he makes in the article.
Right now my priority is to meet my deadlines for my next book, The next 2 chapters I am doing are very tough and challenging. After that will be smooth sailing. But to do these on time is excruciating.
So you have to be patient for my response to Rambachan. Meanwhile, you should use this opportunity to get involved, learn the issues, etc.
In any case, he evades the key issues of neo-Hinduism and merely wants to cover himself - WITHOUT in any way wanting to upset his academic cabal.
He also ignores that I am not the first to raise these objections about him. My book's chapter on him cites a long debate between him and Arvind Sharma years back, in which Sharma made some of the same points as me and I am citing his extensively. I also cite T.S. Rukmani, Prof of Hindu Studies at Concordia U, who feels the same as me. Then there are some Western scholars who my book cites. I am in good company on my positions. What I do for the first time is to bring together the whole gang of neo-hinduism. Previously scholars have not put them together as a group with a consistent theory they all echo.
Strangely, he whines that I am doing ad hominem attacks against him in the book - yet he cannot cite a single such incident. I always make it a point to send my book drafts to as many as a dozen reviewers before it goes to the publisher, and the specific purpose is for scholars who are new to the issues to make sure the tone is respectful, the material is coherent, etc. So I challenge Rambachan to cite where exactly my book has any ad hominem against him.
Also, he is only one of a whole group of scholars in the neo Hinduism club that I take on. Why did that group ask him to shoulder the responsibility to evangelize on their behalf? While he is upset that I pointed out his affiliations with the Church and other western bodies, he does not say what was incorrect in my statement.
I am glad this happened as it will fan the flames and more Hindus will read to understand the issues that are at stake.
Pls post this material here and elsewhere - right now I am bogged down and unable to do this but I request others to do so for me.
Please point out in various forums:
1) End note 11 of chapter 6 is where I refer to Swami Dayananda Saraswati, since Rambachan refers to him. What i write there is misrepresented in Rambachan's article. I do not say what he alleges. I say that swamiji teaches unity of various elements of Hinduism and champions this through the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha.
2) He accuses me of ad hominem attacks. I read through chapter 6 again and did not see anything like that whatsoever. Yesterday, I showed it to a scholar at Princeton Univ who is uninvolved in religious studies and works elsewhere in the humanities. She has no knowledge of Hinduism or this issue. She said it is very well written and by no means ad hominem. Is Rambachan whining and claiming 'victimhood' status to divert attention from the real issues of neo-Hinduism? This is a common Church technique.
3) Focus on Ursula King, please:Rambachan is a product of two strong influences. One side is the influence of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, from whom he learned Vedanta philosophy. He then took this knowledge to England where he spent many years under the tutelage of Prof. Ursula King, a rabid anti-Hindu scholar of considerable influence. (Indra’s Net has a chapter summarizing some of her writings. I also met her once at Oxford where she attended a lecture I delivered back in the 1990s.) He did his advanced work under her and she was his PhD advisor. Under her supervision, he got his academic credentials. He cannot try to hide all that influence under the rug, as he tries to do in his public posturing before Hindu groups. When he wants to establish his credentials amongst Hindus, he speaks only of Swamiji as his teacher. But in his academic writings, he is very much part and parcel of an entirely different world, where his membership started decades back under the mentorship of Ursula King. His is a tale of two worlds. He is remarkably silent on his history and involvement in this second world.
Thank you for so many excellent comments people have posted at his Swarajya article. See this as a chance to delve deeper into a major issue all Hindus must become informed of - neo-Hinduism is like a cancer eating us from within.