Rajiv Malhotra's messages

Recently, Rajiv Malhotra [RM] shared details of his personal journey via his article in the 'Speaking Tree' - http://www.speakingtree.in/blog/my-journey-businessman-to-philanthropist-to-scholar-to-victim-556443. As much as his story is inspirational in itself, what really caught my attention was the guidelines enlisted in eight points that RM recommends for the supporters of the Indic traditions. I had originally intended to write a short blog on these eight points, but I kept on writing. The end result is that I have divided the blog into four parts -  the first part summarizes RM's messages, and Part II conveys the importance of these messages. These set up the context for the guidelines to becoming an Intellectual Kshatriya (defined later), i.e. why one must care for the Indic traditions. These guidelines are then reproduced at the end of this blog (Part III) followed by my personal thoughts on these guidelines (Part IV).

Part I - RM's messages:

His 'Speaking Tree' article is a must read for everyone! We will not go into his personal life details (the reader can read for themselves), nor go into the extensive details of his work. We will only look at some of the key messages. To know the gist of Rajiv Malhotra's works, one only needs to read the first two paragraphs of the brilliant article by Aditi Banerjee. In these paragraphs she encapsulates the essence of RM's works from the past two and a half decades. Aditi's article was in response to the flawed plagiarism charges against RM few months back.

RM's main message in this article, and indeed in a lot of other forums, is that the Indian tradition is facing imminent threat both from outside and within. The threat is based upon the generic notion that the Indic traditions are unworthy of being followed and therefore India needs to be 'saved'. RM's works explain why the Indic traditions are rich and harmonious and indeed crucial to India and in fact the world. To counter this attack against the Indic tradition, RM is urging the followers of the Indic traditions to stop being passive listeners, and that it is high time they become intellectually alert. This alertness, or lack thereof, is intertwined with the education system prevalent in India. He cites some of the maladies afflicting the Indian education system today when he briefly compares and contrasts the education system prevalent in pre-colonial India and the current modern/post-modern education system, a legacy from the time Industrial Revolution began in Europe. He finishes the article with some suggestions on how to become intellectually active participants in this battle for the Indic traditions.

Continuing with the current education system, he also criticizes the "scaffolding" that has been created in the modern system where an academician wanting to progress a career must toe the line drawn by a select few. Who are these select few? Typically, high profile academics in Ivory Towers (another name for Universities, pejoratively used sometimes by academics themselves). The scaffolding comes from this misplaced belief that any knowledge coming from outside of Ivory Towers must be bogus, especially in non-hard-science fields such as social science. RM points this out vis-a-vis Indic studies by Western Indologists. These academics have developed a specific theory on what Indian civilization is and nobody (or even a group of individuals) outside of their line of thinking is meant to challenge it. The intellectual alertness, RM asserts, comes from being aware of this dynamics at play and then coming out of one's comfort zone to challenge this Western notions about Indic traditions in various capacities. Drawing from his traditional Indian knowledge, he calls this intellectual alertness and the capacity to challenge the prevalent ideas of Indic tradition based on solid research and logical reasoning, as 'Intellectual Kshatriya-ness'. [ness] is my addition.

Part II - Importance of RM's messages:

So how does one go about becoming an Intellectual Kshatriya [IK]? In his speaking tree article, RM summarizes the qualities essential for a successful IK. The following two paragraphs briefly trapezes through RM's journey following which the 'qualities' of an IK are mentioned. The readers can jump forward to these points (Parts III and IV) skipping RM's journey if they so wish. It is however suggested that one reads RM's journey to get the import of his messages and his recommended guidelines.

When one looks at RM's career profile one finds he is trained in Physics and Computer Science from an elite American University. Subsequently, he became a very successful entrepreneur. How then, did he get into social studies where he crossed paths with the Western Indologists? Following advice from his guru, that he should give something back to the society, he gave up his business (more on this later) and immersed himself in charity work - volunteering at the AIDS center, serving at the Kitchen soup, footing the education bill for strangers and acquaintances - the whole gamut. In terms of Indic studies, he originally started out as a 'regular' Indian who gave donations to scholars for such studies, and in return would be showered with accolades. However, over time he realized he was being side-lined as a 'feeder' whose only job was to be a funding-source to these scholars, who would then create whatever theories they themselves deemed correct. Alarmingly, these theories invariably showed the Indic traditions in poor light. Why were these theories a problem? Simply because his personal adhyatmic practise under a guru based on the same Indic traditions that the Indologists were writing about, told him a diametrically opposite story compared to the popular Western theories about these traditions. Here is an example. RM willingly gave up his multi-million dollar business which is quite common and a unique feature in the Indic tradition continuing since millenia - King Ashoka from the pre-common era (B.C.E.) and more recently (June 2015) one of India's billionaire businessman, Shri Bhanwarlal Doshi, gave it all up to join the order of Jain monks. These examples are important as it brings forth two points that are readily apparent - 1] the homogeneous unity in the Dharmic tradition of India, while Ashoka followed Buddhism, RM followed a Hindu path and Sri Doshi became a Jain monk - all three have the common ground of Dharma as its foundation. 2] The uniqueness of this tradition to India. It is one thing to become a billionaire and donate money while still maintaining one's billion dollar bank account, but a completely different cup of tea to let go of an entire business empire. RM sold his business for $1! This requires extreme mind training of non-attachment, which is a critical component of all the Dharma-based mind sciences. These mind sciences are mentioned in texts dating back to well over thousand years. One of the current Western theories is that Hinduism (Neo-hinduism to be exact) is a repackaged version of Western ideas and therefore barely a century old! Therein lies the crux of RM's message of being intellectually alert, of becoming an Intellectual Kshatriya to protect the age old tradition from such West produced theories.

Coming back to RM's story on how he entered social studies, following such bold assertions by the Western academia about Indic Traditions, an example of which is mentioned above, was when he decided to perform his 'due diligence' on this 'Indic study industry', as he fondly called it subsequently. The answers to questions such as: how many full time scholars are there in the West who study Indian civilization? Who funds them? Where do these knowledge outputs go (Conferences, Journal articles, Post-graduate thesis etc.)? Who uses these outputs and how is this knowledge used?, showed a completely new picture to him. The books that he subsequently published is a result of his single-minded devotion to the task at hand.

Part III - RM's core points on becoming an IK:

We read his books, listen to his talks/lectures and we learn a great deal. This is akin to Dharampal's writings from a few decades ago where he was showing the true picture of the pre-colonial India as obtained from the archives present in the British libraries. Both Dharampal and RM have been Intellectual Kshatriyas. RM knows much and has experienced much. Since his outputs are in direct contrast to the Ivory Tower publications and more importantly, aims to show the true picture of what is happening in the background, he has had to endure a lot of personal attacks. This has been a long battle as well - not for the faint of heart. Based on his experiences, RM has presented some guidelines to enable others who also wish to be on this path. Let us now look at these guidelines for becoming IKs, which are reproduced verbatim for the full effect. Here goes:

To do the kind of work I do, one must have the following qualities:

1. The uncompromising dharmic commitment to want to do this even if a heavy personal price is paid. This requires sadhana to be grounded and have resilience.
2. The freedom from needing to generate monthly income.
3. The freedom from greed to go on accumulating materially.
4. The risk-taking ability and fearlessness.
5. Originality, creativity and ability to think out of the box.
6. The intellectual calibre to study intensely detailed works and decode the other side; then be able to write well-structured arguments.
7. Autodidact with a genuine interest in the subject matters at hand.
8. Extensive experience managing Westerners from a position of authority – i.e. not be weak or obsequious in facing aggressive Westerners.

Part IV - My thoughts on RM's points:

Each of these points are extremely critical and equally important and they flow sequentially from one to the next. Following are my thoughts on the aforementioned points.

[1] Uncompromising Dharmic commitment:
This commitment comes from a deep sense of respect and sense of pride for the Indic Traditions. The Western Indology writings projecting these ancient traditions in a poor light, attack this very sense of pride/respect vigorously. RM's work in throwing the spotlight back on the nature and the reasons behind such writings therefore assumes even more importance. However, each individual IK must do his or her own research and put in the hard work to gain mastery over what is at stake. This requires serious commitment to the task at hand. This commitment must be uncompromising as there will be guaranteed challenges (in all its forms) along the way as RM's journey amply shows.

2] Freedom from the need to generate monthly income:
As an extreme example, a person barely able to garner 2 square meals a day is merely surviving. Hence, though this person could be practicing the Indic tradition, this person cannot be expected to join the 'intellectual battle' as his/her energies are consumed in meeting the basic needs. This is a serious dilemma for the supporters of Indic traditions as there is scant financial resources available.

3] Freedom from greed:
This is for people who have managed to place themselves well above the basic needs pointed in [2]. The question for people in this category is: what brings about a sense of achievement in them - fighting for a cause without the guarantee of fame/notoriety OR amassing material wealth and status? A person aspiring to become an IK, the answer is rather obvious.

4] Risk taking ability and fearlessness:  
Okay, so lets say our man has his basic needs met and his sense of achievement comes from fighting for the Dharmic/Indic traditions. How far could our man go without a healthy dose of fearlessness and courage? Not too far. Recall that the Ivory Towers hold all the cards at the moment - funds and institutions backing them. They can therefore speedily mobilize their vast resources to counter anyone who dares to challenge their theories. This is the 'Goliath' in the story - play on word very much intended. Does our man, lets call him 'David', have the courage to take on the 'Goliath'?

5] Originality, creativity and ability to think out of the box:
Even when [2]-[4] are present in our man, this is not a physical 'David-sling-shots-Goliath-to-death' narrative. This is an intellectual battle. Our proverbial David has to prepare an 'intellectual sling-shot' and aim at the 'intellectual weak-point' of Goliath. Clearly, this calls for intellectual creativity and alertness.

6] Intellectual calibre to do a purva-paksha:
Finding the intellectual weak-point of 'Goliath' is akin to performing purva-paksha and requires some minimum intellectual calibre. This is self-explanatory and flows readily from [5] above.

7] Autodidact with a genuine interest:
I had to open a dictionary to find out what 'Autodidact' meant. The act of opening the dictionary to find out what RM was trying to convey was Autodidactive. Autodidact = self-learning. The effort required to learn things out of ones own initiative comes naturally if the person is genuinely interested in the subject at hand.

8] Extensive experience in engaging an aggressive Westerner:
Well, now that [1]-[7] are in place, the David-Goliath battle actually begins. However, unlike the popular 'David-Goliath' story where Goliath is well and truly dead after a single sling-shot, our 'David' needs to be prepared for multiple combats, learning from each engagement and continuously improving, for the 'Goliath' in this intellectual battle is not going away any time soon! Experience is necessary.

How tapasya leads to anubhava and then knowledge

This is a very poignant post on the tapasya that is required to become proficient at taking audacious positions as Rajiv has done and explaining them.

Sujeev, a forum member, posted this article, with the following comment:

Sriram Chadalavada writes as if he was the one who discovered the utility of Confucius institutes to the Chinese. Not a word about Rajiv Malhotra, who as far as I know, is the only one who has been talking writing publicly about Confucius Institutes for the longest time. What's up with these people?

To this Rajiv responded:

  • People downgrade my tapasya when they say my contribution is merely one of "coining words" or "saying xyz" before others. My coining words or talking something comes much later, years later. First comes the tapasya that eventually leads to insights. Talking comes much later and then at times words get coined.
  • In the case of Confucian Institutes, my real contribution was that I visited the China Institute in the 1990s, where I spent days at a time learning their global strategy, and then wrote about it and talked about it later. The tapasya was not a matter of sitting at a keyboard. I also visited Japan Foundation, Korea Foundation, Tibet House, Council on Islamic Education and other similar places to learn how others are doing this work. Its this hard work that matters not just speaking something.
  • Recently Aseem Shukla of HAF wrote that I was not the first to use Mutual Respect term. I agree with him. He concludes that his usage and mine are therefore on par. This I disagree with. He did not go to 100+ interfaith events and stick his neck out challenging the "tolerance" advocates by explaining mutual respect and how it differs. I did that for 10+ years before talking about it in Hindu groups. When I said this in gatherings, for years I was isolated, sidelined as "too controversial". I put up with the attacks with no Hindu willing to come to my defense. It was more convenient to avoid me as a troublemaker so that they would not spoil their image.
  • I have learned what I know by getting out of my comfort zone, sticking my neck out and taking person risks. I have been outcast from my own social high flier groups both in India and USA as most people dont want to get embarrassed by the controversies I create with my audacious writings. This sacrifice and process is what people like Aseem do not appreciate. He is a smart young man but has not ventured out of the comfort of a high paid medical career at its peak, which is what I did by age 44. Note that my children were only age 13 and 10 when I quit everything concerning career/business or income producing. My wife is a homemaker with no income. When you do this drastic transformation, you have burned all bridges from a conventional vyavaharika life, and put yourself in divine hands - my guru and the supreme being. Only then did my true tapasya start.
  • The process took many years of persistence - internal meditation + studying + external encounters with all sorts of people. 
  • At first my guru did not allow me to go public with anything I was doing, saying it would fatten my ego and I would be superficial and mainly trying to show off. Then, after many years, I was encouraged by guru to start talking about my anubhava with various matters.
  • So the difference is tapasya leading to anubhava, which eventually leads to 'coining words' and talking about xyz.
  • Unless you know what went into the tapasya, you cannot understand my anubhava, and you will not know why I create gravitas by coining of words or other discourse. There is shakti in the tapasya and this flows into the activism. One becomes a channel for the divine to work through.
  • These outputs presented to the samaj are the prasad of tapasya. 
  • This is where all these high flier new activists are deficient. They have not made the sacrifice required. They have lined up opportunistically to claim credit after the hard word and risk have been done by others. They stick to goody-goody Hindu leadership and want me to do the risky and hard tapasya all on my shoulders.
  • Their strategy is to sit on the sidelines and watch from a distance to see if my intervention succeeds or fails. If it fails they can disassociate from it, wash their hands off of it. If it succeeds, they can jump in later and claim the credit. 
  • But as I age and life withers away gradually, I wonder was it worthwhile since there are very few genuine tapasvis. 

Ragini Sharma takes on Rambachan

A Forum Member responds to Anantanand Rambachan 

Anantanand Rambachan, ever since he has been called out as being one of the proponents of the Neo-Hinduism thesis in Indra's Net has been attacking Rajiv Malhotra personally. His latest is in a piece in the Open magazine.

Ragini Sharma, one of the forum members of Rajiv Malhotra's discussion forum wrote a brilliant rejoinder to Rambachan's attack, as a comment below his article. It is reproduced here, along with brief follow up comments from Rajiv ji.

Dear Anantananda,
With all these accusations and counter accusations, I thought I must be fair to you and therefore I just did some research on you. So you studied 3 years with Dayanand about Advaita and you say you learnt some practices and then you spent the rest of your career as a Prof. at an evangelical Christian University in the US to teach about what you know.

According to the Olaf U website you and “a regular participant in the consultations of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue at the Vatican” and your writings seem to directed towards the Christian community - to explain Hinduism to them. I have read several of your articles. I am not impressed with that but I do see Rajiv's point about your neo-Hinduism ideas because its the type of ideas that Paul Hacker, the founder of Neo-Hinduism, had. Like you, Hacker was educated in Yoga and Advaita,  he then converted to Catholic faith, and was doing this Hindu-Christian dialogue. You did not.
Now I saw your earlier article that you do not refer to Hacker in your thesis, but it is not contested that you PhD Supervisor, Ursula King, did write a translation on Hacker and would be an influence on you. All your talk about you wanting to "interrogate" Advaita and the sacred texts and revered gurus and you need to "critically evaluate in order for the tradition to be relevant and creative" reeks of neo-Hinduism. The problem is that your interrogations are within the Doniger-Pollock-Clooney-Rambachan clique. If you are honestly interested in interrogating the truth, why not have this dialogue with Hindu practitioner scholars in India - with the current religious leaders in India who do never read western academic work - they are the ones who live it, breathe it and have the most invested in its survival.
You would agree that it is the oral tradition, of guru paramparas, that have preserved the sacred knowledge - not your books, written texts. Whatever, is written is a fraction of what is known to the oral tradition even today - along with its cultural context. Work like yours and other western non-practitioner scholars do not come close to knowing what the oral tradition lives - in the hearts of devotees. You do not have an ounce of devotion in you - and Bhakti -devotion, which cannot be divorced from Gyan because it permeates every cell of the disciple that learns at the feet of the Master, while he questions the teachings, with an open mind. The Guru is happy when his disciple turns out to be more learned than him or her. And, the love of the guru is equal to 1000s of mothers, and guru is exalted in all Vedic traditions. You just never had one - I mean a guru you gave your heart to. You are stuck in the head.
Just to give you a fair chance, I thought I would check out some of your talks. Again, Rajiv is right. You are well intentioned but you are an apologist for a Hindu. I have posted the links to the videos below - I am referring to your talk at the KAICIID Global Forum of 2013 - a multi-faith dialogue on how religions conceive the Other. Your introduction to this idea of the other in Hinduism was pathetic and apologetic, no mention of Vasudev Kutumbakam or Hindus' illustrious history of giving shelter to Jews, Parsees, Buddhist etc.; or that there are over 300,000 mosques in India and almost as many Muslims as in Pakistan, living in peace, as compared to in the rest of the word. You did not say anything about 800 years of rape, murder, killing of Hindus by Mughals, burnt libraries, and the Muslim Iconoclasts (Goel) who smashed every temple they could find in India - millions and the cultural genocide. Never mentioned the Goa Inquisition of the Catholic Church and the menace of conversions today by saffron robed Christians - the shame of acculturation, which by the way I hope you talk about in your classes you teach. Or the stealth of thousands of our Sanskrit texts by German, English and others.

Rajiv is completely right - because, you DID bring up the issue of caste and shamefully in the context of religion. Not only is this contested by Hindus who assert the caste system is not in the Vedas, which have varna, and also the social context of jati. You call yourself a Professor but you present yourself as ashamed of your Hindu roots. Can you bring up the issue of Hinduphobia in the academia - about Wendy's and her protégés horrible sexualisation of Hindu gurus, deities and texts? Do you have any guts to defend Hindu rights? No, for that we need Rajiv.

At the same time, at the conference, the Muslim cleric began by reciting a Koranic prayer, and to lecture about tolerance, Islamophobia, racism, multiculturalism. No mention of extremism or problems with its religion - Pakistan has 15% Hindus - now has 2%, they were killed off. There are hardly any temples left. there and Shias, Ahmediyas are being killed.

The Jewish presenter talked about "humanity as one", hegemony, tolerance. You could learn pride in one's religion from these people, they have no less intra-religious conflicts and problems.

The Catholic Priest presenter took the cake - its the religion that has the history of causing cultural genocide and mass killings in every corner of the world. And the sexual abuse of children all over the world. Yet, he only talked about how great the Pope was and his religion was.

Also, there was Buddhist priest from China who lectured everyone about extremism - no mention of atrocities on Tibet. She preached others about harmony of non-sectarian, practical use of faith. Amazing.
You looked sheepish and ashamed of Hindu faith - you are not fit to represent our wonderful faith to the world. Yes we have problems, but lets present a balanced picture, with honesty and talk about the progress that has been made, considering our own cultural genocide and continued assault on our religion from all sides. Rajiv Malhotra does that. Can you return the western gaze or are you a colonized Hindu? Your talks and writing demonstrate you speak as the latter.
I also saw your talk on Karma and forgiveness. It was so Christianized - no mention of the mystery of karma - you never mentioned the reincarnation either which is such an important aspect of karmic theory.

Anantananda, here are the links. I wish you well and hope you can find some courage. And attacking Rajiv for exposing your half-heartedness Hindu self is not going to do it for you.  And trying to present Rajiv, who lives to protect Hindu Dharma, as a terrorist, is pathetic and shameful.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBbtDWq7Kzg Jewish
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BH2uvefumQ0 Catholic
Chinese buddhist
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljKdLzMOSLI Rambachan

Rajiv Malhotra's followup comments
  • Ragini's new comment deserves to be posted as an article, so I hope people will do so wherever they can.
  • The Rambachan-Richard Fox nexus becoming clearer all the time.
  • Wondering why Aseem Shukla, otherwise quite level headed, fell into this and cannot see the big political picture.
  • I would respect Rambachan a lot more if he wrote on the contentious issues rather than "defense by offense". In other words he should act like a philosopher he claims to be, and argue his point that Vivekananda did not properly understand Vedanta. Why obsessed with personal defensiveness?

Indian DNA and civilization - Reflections

Rajiv Malhotra posted a link to a New York library exhibition about Africans in India by the Schombury center for research in b lack culture.

This blog states his views in the forum on this topic.

  1. First of all we must differentiate between hardware and software. A person with any DNA (hardware) can adopt any culture (software) he wants. Hence, the issue of whether Indians share common DNA is unrelated to where their languages came from - as it is possible for cultures to travel.
  2. I do believe based on everything I have read that there is a common DNA substratum shared by all Indians. Hence there is no such thing as separate Aryan/Dravidian DNAs.
  3. Remaining still on the hardware side, there were many immigrant groups entering the country each bringing its own DNA pool. Africans were brought as slaves by the Muslims in the past 800 years. Portuguese settled in Goa, British and French in many parts of India. Many Brits had Indian wives - this was a common part of British high society in India until 1857, after which time it was British policy to discourage Brit from marrying Indians. Then the Brits based in India started having concubines and affairs and had children from these. 
  4. Typically, the Middle East Muslims and European Christians each raised their Indian offspring in their respective religions. So in a variety of ways, the DNAs of various foreign peoples started to mix within India. Some of the new groups formed their own separate jatis while others mixed with the Indian mainstream. So the shared DNA substratum has ethnic diversity within it as well.
  5. Indians also migrated outwards in all directions. For instance, many Indians were taken as slaves to Central Asian slave markets during the Muslim rule and sold at various prices. This is well documented. At times the trades involved lakhs of slaves taken in long journeys. Indians were also brought to Middle East for various kinds of high paying jobs - like they go today. 
  6. Similar DNA mingling occurred across other countries - within Europe, Turkey as a major mixing ground of people from many places, etc. Even Chinese are not of homogeneous DNA.
  7. None of the above tells us by itself where Sanskrit, Vedas etc originated. That needs to be researched as an independent issue. Of course if there are very large scale migrations then the people tend to take their entire cultural portfolio with them.
  8. I dont believe that Sanskrit/Vedas came from elsewhere. Archeological evidence suggests these originated entirely in India.
  9. People who made India their home (including most foreign migrants) adopted this common Indian civilizational matrix as theirs.
  10. But the cultural software also includes many exported and imported modules. For instance, Sanskrit-Old Iranian seemed to influence each other; specific details are unclear. It is likely that Vedic ideas and practices migrated outwards to varying extents. Again scanty data available and more research needed. Indian traders brought back many things they learned overseas.
  11. We should not look for either/or binary models. Rather I prefer an open architecture with complex flows taking place. Much of the world was this way until the Abrahamic religions closed human kind into closed mindedness and closed territories. Hence the way races/cultures are being studied today is reductionist and is under the influence of exclusivist thinking.

Rajiv Malhotra further adds:
  1. To clarify misunderstanding on my twitter feed:
  2. All Indians have a shared substratum since 1000s of years.
  3. There is no separate Aryan/Dravidian entity. BI explains this.
  4. Later on, many migrants entered, each bringing diverse genetic materials. These get integrated with the substratum to varying degrees. Some genetic material remains relatively segregated and forms new and separate jatis.
  5. Hence the origin of certain groups that resemble people from X or Y continent. These are not old but rather new genes in India (i.e. few centuries and not thousands of years).
  6. As a result of 3 & 4 there are certain "lower castes" that are incorrectly being blamed on Hinduism. Actually, Hinduism did not cause their problem. Hinduism in fact gave them a home in India, whereas they were brought as slaves by Arab/Turkish Muslims.
The purpose of this thread and my tweets is to explain Islamic slavery as a root cause of certain lower castes today. These communities are being falsely told that their ancestors were exploited by Aryans, brahmins, etc.

Next time someone argues in favor of the Aryan theory by citing examples of such jatis, I am supplying you with data to offer counter arguments on how such communities came about.