American Veda: A Digestion of Hinduism - Part 1

This is the first of two parts of a detailed summary that tracks the discussion on Phil Goldberg's American Veda (AV) in the forum. On the surface, this appears to be a very positive book about Hinduism that will have a positive impact in the long run. Besides, the author himself appears to be an amiable person (he's on twitter too). What does a deeper analysis of Phil's writings reveal? The first round of discussions was initiated in December 2011 that resulted in an email debate between Phil and Rajiv. A few more threads around this topic were posted in February and June of 2012.  The most recent discussions occurred in September and December 2012, and will be summarized in a sequel to this post. A big thanks to contributor Surya for the Purva Paksha done in this post!

There are three sections to part-1.
The first section introduces Phil's book. RMF gets to know of Phil's book. 

Section-2 gets inside the book and some of Phil's articles in Huffington Post and his Youtube videos. Evidence of digestion, deliberate erasing of original Hindu sources are sighted. 

Section-3 (Digestion) gives you a blow-by-blow textbook example of digestion, where the conversation starts with the greatness of Hinduism and how the world can learn from it .... and ends with a stiletto that says you don't really have to be a Hindu, no way to convert, have your Ash Wednesday, and you can just utilize Yoga and Hinduism like a "plug in" or a "add-on" to your existing religion (Abrahamic).

Section 1 (December 2011) Initial Exchange

The discussion of AV was motivated by the discussion in the following thread:
My response to a Christian wanting to DIGEST Hinduism into Christian The person writing the post below is threatened by my positions on difference between Hinduism and Christianity. He espouses how Hinduism can be digested into... 

In a followup response, Rajiv Malhotra had this to say in reference a quote from a Newsweek article posted by Surya:
"... We are all Hindus now - Lisa Miller, Newsweek, August 14, 2009,

..Quote 2
The Rig Veda, the most ancient Hindu scripture, says this: "Truth is One, but the sages speak of it by many names." A Hindu believes there are many paths to God. Jesus is one way, the Qur'an is another, yoga practice is a third. None is better than any other; all are equal."

Rajiv's response:

" The mindset in the above quotes, from Lisa Miller to Stephen Prothero, and on to Phil Goldberg's "American Veda" - all represent the digestion of dharma. Prothero above even says that Hinduism is nothing more than a collection of parts you can pick and choose from. he does not understand the
notion of integral unity I explain in chapter 3 of BD. That is what we need to understand to prevent this digestion by breaking into parts and cherry picking. "

In a subsequent followup, Rajiv noted:
"...Self-Realization Fellowship, Lisa Miller's article "We are all Hindus", Phil Goldberg's recent book called "American Veda" and many other similar works that our gurus parrot - these are accepting the Judeo-Christian premises into which Hindu deities and stories get mapped WITH APPARENT RESPECT...."

Someone forwarded Rajiv's comments to Phil, leading to an interesting email exchange and discussion that is captured in this thread. We carry excerpts here:
Phil Goldberg's exchange with me
Phil (to Rajiv): You are right that I rejoice in the impact the dharma has had on me and America as a whole.  You are not right in implying that I don't care if the original sources are not recognized.  I stated several times in American Veda that it is important to acknowledge the sources and maintain their purity. ... In the last chapter, for instance, I write:

...Even more important, respecting the source can help prevent something vital from getting lost in translation. . . .  while adaptation is inevitable and desirable, one hopes the process will be carried out with care. If we do not treat authentic Vedic teachings with respect, we will deprive the future of their true value. The task—a delicate and sacred one—is to carefully shape the ancient ideas to fit modern society without distorting them or diminishing their value.
I hope that clarifies my position.  I'm not sure what you mean when you say: So many Indians and Hindus support this book (and others like it) and are surprised when I tell them how dangerous this is.   Do you think there is something dangerous about my book?  If so, I'm at a loss to understand what you could possibly mean.

Rajiv to Phil: Hi Phil, I would be delighted to discuss with you online or live, with mutual respect. I regard you as a good writer and mean nothing personal when I feel a certain way of your thesis. If you recall, i spent considerable time with you in person in delhi in 2005 going through my UTurn Theory. At that time you said you were thinking of writing a book on the history of yoga in america. I pointed out to you that the real story is how its Indian roots got forgotten. You were intrigued. I also mentioned that the story does not end with yoga as commonly understood but goes into neuroscience, cognitive science, transcendentalism, etc. You were at my talks when i described all this in great detail using powerpoints. Later after a few months you wrote to me that you had extensively revised the book and it was going to take longer. When it finally came out, I did see a whiff here and there on the uturn theory, but my concern has been that it truncated it and glossed over the real issues with appropriation - the digestion into western universalism. ... This is what BEING DIFFERENT discusses, i.e. the irreducibility of core differences that force a choice. These choices are the boundary where the western ego recoils and wants to return home and reclaim western identity. The commonly celebrated "joy of being digested" as in the references to Lisa Miller or your writings are the result of not understanding the full dimension of digestion. None of this means that your work is intentionally "dangerous" - but its incompleteness in appreciating the process at work causes people to celebrate the digestion as a sort of merger of equals which it is not. The tiger digesting the deer remains the tiger, in fact stronger, but the deer turns into a pile of shit. This has happened to many civilizations that were also similarly "assimilated" into Christianity and the west - but they now live in museums... If you want to discuss this, I would be delighted. Lets approach it with open minds. 

Venkat comments:
"... A very good observation by Rajiv in his response to Goldberg. Historically, Christianity has usurped traditions that belonged to other religions and cultures, by a process George.T aptly calls Christian scavenging. Ironically, many traditions such as yoga (and its intrinsic aspect of meditation) are incompatible with Christianity. Recent researches in neuroscience make it clear that if one were to be faithful to Christianity, a contemplation on the Christian god results in rumination, which activates the limbic system and the amygdala, producing an undesirable fight-or-flight response, unlike Hindu meditation, which activates the anterior cingulate and causes bliss...."

Rajiv's response:
"I started this work in the mid 1990s as a theoretical physicist pursuing Indian philosophy. The center of my interest was consciousness studies. I invested heavily on inquiring why the appropriations from dharma into what became "western" theories in the mid 1990s was not see as an issue. Nobody cared, least of all the highly ignorant Hindu leaders patrolling with pomp all over the place.

So the first set of grants given by my foundation were specifically to get trained Indian philosophers into this area. After a few million dollars and several dozen events and sponsored scholars, we did achieve in making a few obscure Indian scholars very prominent.

But Templeton Foundation stepped in and appropriated nearly every one of them. This is a major story I want to write one day. The data is well organized but I have been too busy elsewhere...."
bluecupid commented:
"I like Phil's approach. The Dharmic traditions of the East are being accepted and mainstreamed into the West bit by bit and its creating an open-minded, inclusive atmosphere which benefits Indian Hindus, if only Indian Hindus would take advantage of that."

Rajiv response:
"The above view is precisely the one held by "liberal, secular,
progressive" westerners who (contrary to what liberalism ought to mean) cannot shed their fixation about western identity....
... Note her separation and dissection of dharma away from the cultural soil of the source. This is precisely what the west did to separate Buddhism from India and from Hinduism - all in the name of "cleaning" it of its cultural inferiority. ... now this digestion is rather open.

I predict that Hindu dharma is following suit fast - and bluecupid is an example of this mindset. Digestion is being called "mainstreaming". The old soil from which it emerged is to be rejected in favor of the new soil thats clean (and white).

This discussion is good education for those Indians and other Hindus sitting in silos imagining that the only danger is Christianity. I find folks of this kind at places like Esalen - a white bastion as its founder also once said - and their racism is indeed very deep but subtle."

Rajiv Malhotra is another followup brilliantly sums up the necessity for Purva Paksha:
"Reversing the gaze is a necessary but not sufficient condition to resist.

Until you do this, you will continue to live unconsciously in the colonized paradigms that have been downloaded over centuries. The mere act of gazing at the "other" turns the colonial framework into "other", creating space between
subject and object to examine the other unemotionally.

This separation then generates the need to understand the "self" that is doing the gazing. WHERE do I stand and gaze at them? How am I different? This is how I got started, and then begins the quest to understand one's difference in a way
that is not causing anxiety.

Once difference is clearly anchored (with mutual respect), then the resistance becomes a possibility.

Gandhi established his difference and used that as his ground for resistance - his use of purva paksha, difference and refusal to get digested are explained in the book as examples."

Wadhwa responds:
"Mr.Phil Goldberg's attempt to write American Veda and using this as a title for his book amounts to intellectual subversion and moral turpitude behind the mask of literature. Vedas are basically repositories of knowledge with a scientific basis standing for dignity and sublimity of human life and its perfection. They are the first and foremost books of the world literature and the foundation of Hindu religion since they form the root of most of Hindu scriptures. Apparently, using the title 'American Veda' by Phil is nothing short of a disinformation campaign to mislead people and a subtle attempt to digest real Vedism..."

Shaas responds:
"... "American Veda" - the title is sloppy, lacking humility and respect. But in the same manner, Veda is not Indian. As you stated, Veda stand for "dignity and sublimity of HUMAN LIFE and its perfection". Therefore they are as American as Indian and as Brasilian. Veda is the basis, the blueprint of life and the
Universe. They contain universal truths, universal laws."

Rajiv's response:
"yes, title is a non issue. I am in private discussion with Phil
and we both hope to have a video taped conversation between us to bring both sides openly and amicably. Meanwhile, as a courtesy to him as he is not present here (though we invited him to join), I am closing this thread."

Readers can find more details in a few posts from the blog "DigestingVeda": "Phil Goldberg's exchange with Rajiv Malhotra".

Section 2 (February 2012) Red Flag

A second thread that deals with Goldberg's work is:
American Digestion
This thread was initiated by Surya, and Rajiv provides a preface: 

"..Besides the issues raised by Surya below regarding Goldberg's book, I have expressed my displeasure to Goldberg. He interviewed me in depth in India and USA for material to write his book and received numerous leads from
me. I was speaking at a Delhi conference on my UTurn Theory and there he was in the front row with his recorder. So many of the ideas and examples I gave then found there way in his book - including the one about Mary baker Eddy mentioned below - with only a marginal acknowledgment.
So here is another kind of digestion also going on here: Western authors who learn from Indian "native informants" (myself in this case) then go on to write in their own names what ought to be credited to the "native informants". I will
address this issue in my uturn writings... In Jim Burklo's critique of BD (to be published in a week) he relies upon
Goldberg as his authority to claim that Hinduism is a bogus category invented by Indians under colonial influence! Talk  about one westerner quoting another, who in turn merely cited yet another - in a circular chain of quotes - to then
establish what becomes known as "fact", and this shows up in Wiki, media, textbooks, museum interpretations..."

Surya posted:
"The Background
Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), founder of the Christian Science Movement, published "Science and Health With a Key to the Scriptures" in 1875. She was greatly influenced by writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry D. Thoreau who
made their Dharmic knowledge influence widely felt through books, magazines and newspaper articles. We find in as late as the 33rd edition of her book, excerpts from Sir Edwin Arnold's translation of Bhagavad Gita.

... Philip Goldberg, in one of the presentations of his book "American Veda", makes a reference to it and admits that these references were dropped in later versions. He just smiles uncomfortably as he says this and nothing more.


.... in future versions of Mary Baker Eddy's book, ideas were implicitly presented as Christian Science. No more references to Bhagavad Gita.

This is what Rajiv Malhotra calls digestion - as in, you digest the content and wipe out the identity of the source. Goldberg implicitly acknowledges in the presentation with his uncomfortable smile that digestion has happened.

Do not expect sympathy or remorse from Goldberg - he goes far enough to call Emerson the American Shakaracharya, kind of implying the split from Dharmic roots began with Emerson.

I applaud Goldberg for pointing out the Dharmic origins in his presentations. His comments on Dharmic systems are very respectful and complementary of their richness. Unfortunately, he does not make any direct references to Christian intentions of digesting Dharmic knowledge systems...

Let us take a look at his article in Huffington Post titled "Colbert: Try Hinduism for Lent".

In that article, Goldberg writes:
"(a) While researching my book, American Veda, I interviewed dozens of Christians and Jews -- among them ministers and rabbis -- who returned to their ancestral faith after a lengthy period of alienation or indifference, because the teachings that were birthed in India gave them a new perspective on what it
means to be spiritual.

(b) You don't even have to call yourself a Hindu for that matter. I know it seems weird, but the tradition is so adaptable and welcoming that tens of millions of Americans orient their spiritual lives around meditation, yoga and other practices from India but don't think of themselves as Hindus"

I rest my case"

Arjun adds:
"I dont think Rajiv's critique of the Western paradigm is anti westerner or anti white because most of his work is criticizing Indians much more.People like myself can appreciate his work because we have the advantage of seeing both worldviews much more clearly then most because we are brought up in both.So he's right on the points he's making because who wants to see Yoga stripped away from its roots where instead of a whole lifestyle based on Dharma becomes an accessory to a western lifestyle to later end up like a Tamagotchi doing the Asanas for you when you touch the buttons when you're out shopping at your local
shopping mall.."

Surya has a followup to his initial post:
"Philip Goldberg is an ordained interfaith minister.  He had openly stated that he is not a Christian...

Goldberg is definitely sympathetic (if not more) to Christianity.  ... If he really did not believe in Christianity, he should not try so hard to prop-up what he does not believe in.  Why not just encourage people to follow the secular spiritual practices that he so wholeheartedly preaches and ask them to shun what he himself does not believe in?  After all, he is so quick and frequent to suggest that these secular spiritual practices do not need religious beliefs.

... Every chance he gets, he is happy to write about taking spiritual aspects from Dharmic systems while suggesting that the Hindu religious beliefs can be dropped.  He is also quick to disqualify Hinduism as a hodge-podge of regional sects that was congealed into an incoherent mass by the constructive power of the British Raj.  But in the same breath, he is very happy to suggest layering these isolated spiritual practices with Abrahamic religions which he claims he does not believe in...

...It is cleaner for interfaith ministers to prop-up the edifice of Abrahamic religions by extracting aspects of Dharmic systems, call them secular, and add them to Abrahamic religions.  Would undermine the faith if a self-proclaimed Christian preacher or religious scholar were to do this.  There is the added benefit I suppose; Calling yourself interfaith and Universal lends you credibility that you need when you are busily searching for things to extract out of Dharmic systems.  But actions and words cannot hide biases and true intentions.

Systematic theology is always on the prowl for uplifting secular add-ons for updating theology to fit the thinking of the times.  Dharmic spiritual practices are fast penetrating American lives.  .... Since Christian core scriptures are  incompatible with other religions, stripping out Dharmic religious aspects is essential to ensure scriptural integrity before absorbing secular aspects of Dharmic systems.  ...  if you can undermine and dismember the connections to the scripturally-incompatible Dharmic religious aspects before digesting the compatible spiritual aspects.  Who better to deliver this than one who appears to love Dharmic spiritual practices but has nothing to do with Christianity?" 

Here is the post from Digesting Veda blog on section-2 
 2. Post 2: "Goldberg's Interfaith "Digestion" plan exposed!" 

Section 3 (June 2012) Digestion

This thread was motivated by a review of "Being Different".
Response to a BD review and Evolution of God
Veena posted:
"I came across a video on Youtube by Philip Goldberg who is the author of the book American Veda. This is a 46 minute lecture enlightening a group of Americans on the extent of influence of ancient Indian thought within modern American society. While I have not read his book, his effort appears
complementary to the efforts of Being Different."

Rajiv comment:

" Message 2255 and the thread that follows from there was a
discussion specific to how Goldberg's work is a uturn/digestion. I recommend you go through that. Superficial impressions can be misleading."

Renu asks a very interesting question:
"I heard Mr. Goldberg's talk at the U of M in Ann Arbor. My feeling was some what similar to Veena ji's. Later I read the discussions -- one question that presents itself is; so what will make us feel better? Should we let them (white Christian, Muslim and others to be like us or not)? How is Hindu Dharma to spread?     

Rajiv's response:  
" Same dilemma exists for every instance of digestion. Each digestion also has the effect of spreading oneself. The deer gets 'spread' widely once it gets digested into the tiger - as part of the tiger's DNA running around, as the tiger's shit being spread, as part of the powerful tiger's presence in the jungle. The price is the loss of one's separate self existence. Through the East India Company's digestion of India's wealth, one could celebrate that Indian wealth has 'spread' widely - the crown jewels in the London Tower are mainly digested Indian jewels, for instance. So lets celebrate this, ok?

Whats a better way to spread without losing one's SEPARATE SELF-EXISTENCE? I am afraid I have explained this time and time again in writing and talks, so I wont be able to do it again at this now..."

Surya follows up in a separate thread using the good cop / bad cop analogy that was also mentioned in section 2 [sorry, i edited it out, but you can read it in the original thread]

Digestion - The Good Cop Style Let us recall the good cop/bad cop roles.  (This was explained by Rajiv in Invading the Sacred, pages 253-261, and since then in numerous writings and talks.) They are two sides of the same digestion coin.

Bad cops are bad mouthing Dharmic traditions and calling for conversions.  They are easy to spot.  They are the tigers wanting to digest the deer.  Deer has no confusion  - Deer sees the tiger as is and is fully ware of what the tigers want to do.  Tiger has never any confusion and makes no efforts to be subtle.

Good cops are respectful and full of praises.  They are not easy to spot.  They are sophisticated tigers in sheep's clothing.  Deer often confuse the disguised tiger to be a real sheep.  Deer needs to be sophisticated and not fall for the external appearance.  ...

Let us take a look at one of Phil Goldberg's blogs and analyze carefully.

Phil Goldberg writes: "one of the unique merits of the Indian spiritual heritage that colonial powers labeled Hinduism is that it's so multifaceted it makes Christianity, Judaism and Islam seem uniform by comparison. You know all those deities -- the gods and goddesses that cause outsiders to think Hinduism is polytheistic? To Hindus, they're just different forms of the one ultimate reality called Brahman. Same with avatars like Krishna and Rama."

Comment: What a nice guy!  Such a friend of Hinduism.  He truly understands us.

Phil Goldberg adds: "So there's plenty of room for Jesus. Most Hindus are happy to include him -- along with Buddha -- in the pantheon of incarnations, saints, gurus and holy ones they regard as worthy of reverence.  In fact, if you visit any number of organizations created by Indian teachers in America, such as Swami Vivekananda's Vedanta Society or Paramahansa Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship, you will see portraits of Jesus in places of honor. And in some of those institutions, Christians who want to be initiated with a sacred mantra are invited to choose one associated with Jesus -- or with Mary, if they're inclined toward the Divine Feminine. It's part of a concept known as ishta devata, or cherished deity.

Comment: Phil is calling for reverse digestion!!  He is suggesting that Jesus should be assimilated as an Avatar.  Let us invite him to our temples for flattering talks to boost our egos and send some money his way to say thank you for being a friend.

Phil Goldberg adds: "For thousands of years, India has understood that the divine can be imagined and experienced in all kinds of ways, as in the oft-quoted verse from the Rig Veda, Ekam sat vipraha bahudha vadanti  -- typically translated as, "Truth is one, the wise call it by many names." Hence, individuals are free to use their preferred form in their spiritual practices. "

Comment:  Hmmm ... why is Phil suddenly bringing this up?  I have seen this verse quoted by tigers to tenderize Deer before digestion.  This should raise a red flag because it is being wrongly interpreted to soften and disarm Hindus.  The verse is saying that truth can be seen and presented in more than one way.  A convenient, but wrong, interpretation that is often invoked for this verse is that all religions offer the same truth...

Wait a minute.  Is that why he suggested that there is plenty of room for Jesus?  I see now that he is not suggesting assimilation of Jesus as an Avatar.   Instead, is he suggesting that Hindus should find it acceptable to use Dharmic practices with Christianity?!

Phil Goldberg adds: "While researching my book, American Veda, I interviewed dozens of Christians and Jews -- among them ministers and rabbis -- who returned to their ancestral faith after a lengthy period of alienation or indifference, because the teachings that were birthed in India gave them a new perspective on what it means to be spiritual. And you don't have to wear a dhoti, put a mark on your forehead (you've already done that for Ash Wednesday anyway) or declare your allegiance to anything. There is no Hindu equivalent of what we call conversion."

Comment: OK.  Not exactly cheering for Hinduism.  But he wants Christians and Jews to experience spiritual practices of Hinduism and return to their respective faiths.  Still no blatant digestion but getting suspicious.  Some of us happy-go-lucky Hindus are happy as long as they openly acknowledge that they are digesting Dharma (rather than be angry with the thief, they are happy as long as the thief acknowledges that he stole from their specific house.)

Phil Goldberg adds: "You don't even have to call yourself a Hindu for that matter. I know it seems weird, but the tradition is so adaptable and welcoming that tens of millions of Americans orient their spiritual lives around meditation, yoga and other practices from India but don't think of themselves as Hindus."

Comment: Hello!  Unadulterated, blatant, quintessential digestion!!  This is typical of good-cop U-turners as described by Rajiv Malhotra.


The U-turner who wants to internally harmonize what he has brought back from Dharma must digest what he likes of Dharma into his biblical DNA. This goes through various stages of removing aspects of Dharma (such as karma-reincarnation) that are incompatible with biblical DNA. Some prior Western U-turner might have already gone through this sifting process, eliminating the incompatible. Many of the popular U-turners have gained their popularity because they have created digested versions (they were involved in digestion and/or compiled what others already digested) for consumption by the mass market."

Bhattacharya responds:
"I'd suggest that as soon as Phil says "so there is plenty of room for Jesus", warning flags should go up.

At this point, we may think to ourselves: hmmmmm...plenty of room for Jesus who? Jesus Christ? But exclusivist history-centric Christian truth claims are at odds with Dharmic embodied knowing and integral unity. I bet this Phil fellow is
using a 'good cop' routine on me, any second now he'll try to digest Dharma, and remap it into synthetic Christian 'sameness'/Western Universalism." 

Rajiv Malhotra presents necessary conditions for how non-Hindus, (Christians, for example), can respectfully embrace Hinduism

1) Start with mutual respect as a necessary condition that we demand. 

2) "Mutual" does not mean unconditional; it has to be reciprocated from the other side. This is why Ravana, Bin Laden, Hitler type of persons do NOT deserve our respect, i.e. because they simply cannot respect others who are different. 

3) History-centrism must be EXPLICITLY REJECTED by the other side, because HC results in mandatory exclusivity claims, and hence CANNOT respect others.

4) Accepting Jesus without the prerequisite of removing HC is like adopting a snake without first removing its poison. I am always inviting my Christian friends to adopt dharma and see Jesus as Ishta-devata, BUT always explaining that the concept of ishta-devata requires removing HC. No ishta-devata can be exclusive or HC as that would distort the principle of ishta-devata.

Sameer comments:
"There is a growing section of the population in the west that calls itself Christian, wants to follow Jesus, but does not accept the history-centric exclusivity claims. It is this section that can be compatible with Dharma and I think Dharmic people ought to make them feel welcome."

Rajiv's comment: 

"Not so fast. This is the group represented by Gregg in my Patheos debate. Pls read that and all the comments following his post. This mindset is also represented by Mark Tully - pls go through that video.

The point is that most of the time the non-history-centrism is a posture to help digest dharma, but upon closer inquiry there remains in the background the notion of the historical Jesus as necessary. I request that you kindly do some reading beyond the "sameness Christianity" - thats the next bridge for you to cross."

Chandramouli adds:
"... Mark Tully, suave, cultivated, genteel, rational, reasonable, global - and focussed - reveals a mindset that underpins what Rajiv has pointed out even while Tully Sahib projects a cultured universalism.

Listen, for example, to his "Life in a Seminary" .."

Raghu adds some interesting comments:
"According to Carl Jung, there are three deficiencies in the Christian Myth. These are:
firstly, the space given to women. In Catholicism there is space for a virgin pure woman.

Secondly, the space given to matter is only as a dead entity. It is also seen as the devils play ground.

Third, the space given to the other. The other is evil.

The dharmic myths have a balance between the masculine and feminine. Every human quality has a god, and every god has a consort. Matter is divine, and man is one part of the infinite evolution and manifestation of matter. Matter is Prakruthi and a primal godhead. There is no 'other' to be fragmented, dumped with ones shadow, therefore hated. The other is to be embraced and is part of oneself. This was explicitly stated by the Buddha as he achieved Nirvaana.

The Dharmic ways are therefore psychologically holistic, sociologically inclusive and politically democratic, ecologically oriented and spiritually grounded. That's why they are the hope for mankind. Wars will end and the earth will be treated with love only when the myths based on the fragmentation between the victim, the oppressor and the savior retreat and give space to the myths of deep inner work and meditation. The fragmented myths are not only the stuff of the Abhrahamic books but also of every Hollywood film and TV serial. They are the subtext of every advertising commercial. "
Sameer has some questions on Surya's deconstruction of Phil's article:
1. Let's be fair. Phil is saying that Jesus is compatible with Dharma but he is not saying that all religions offer the same truth.
[Moderator notes that a history-centric Jesus is simply incompatible with Hinduism and Dharmic faiths, as explained by Rajiv earlier]

This [the final part where Phil simply mouse-cliks & deletes Hinduism] I agree is objectionable. If they adopt Indic practices, they should respectfully acknowledge the source."

Surya has a brilliant followup that hits the nail on the head:
"Please ask them the following questions:
(1) Do they believe that Jesus is the Son of God? [Rajiv's comment: I would add 'literal' son, otherwise they play games with what 'son' means.]
(2)  Do they believe that Jesus died to redeem us of sin?
(3) That humans can have salvation only through Jesus?

If they say NO to all three questions, we can agree that history-centric exclusivity has been dropped.

If the answer is YES to all [any] three of those questions, they have much bigger problems than worrying about compatibility with Dharma. 

For example:
(1) What did Jesus achieve? Did he die in vain? How does he compare with Gandhi in achieving freedom for his people?

(2) What are the moral implications of Jesus forgiving sins of other people?  

Is it morally right for Jesus to forgive someone who harmed me without me forgiving that someone first?  

What are the implications of a human Jesus taking away personal responsibility by taking their sin away?

(3) What does Christianity offer that Dharmic traditions do not already offer?

Ergo, Christianity needs history-centrism, and hence the importance of Nicene creed to Christianity.  There is no escaping.

Christianity is a very resilient religion.  It has faced much opposition in its history and Nicene creed is a very well thought out expedient for its stability and survival.

Thus, if a liberal Christian says that they reject history-centrism, either they do not know the implications of what they are saying or they are lying with the intent of digesting Dharma.

This leads us to the consideration that Rajivji mentioned in his response: "The point is that most of the time the non-history-centrism is a posture to help digest dharma, but upon closer inquiry there remains in the background the notion of the historical Jesus as necessary."

Rajiv's comment:

This is exactly the sharpness of purva paksha and response that our tradition calls for. We must learn to push deeper and not settle for easy answers.

Sameer proceeds to do a Purva Paksha of the SRF (spiritual research foundation) that does not raise any red flags at a first glance. Rajiv's response:

"...Swami Kriyananda is simultaneously speaking great things about Hinduism and also Christianity WITHOUT THE CAVEAT OF REMOVING HISTORY CENTRISM ..

...Recently a western documentary maker was
scheduled to interview me for a film on spirituality. He wants to show the sameness of all paths, but after reading BD he got uncomfortable. So at the last minute he got what he wanted in an interview with a well known RKM swami in the Boston area and another with a well known "sameness" Vedanta scholar in Rochester. Both of them were glad to oblige, and not provoke with a stand that forces people out of their comfort zone. So he called me to say that he already
has the statement from Hindu experts that suffice. I face this all the time ...

 ... I refer you to to understand the difference between Hindu and Christians good news about dealing with the human condition....

...I am disappointed but not surprised that such a large number of well meaning persons dont seem to understand some rudimentary logic: The universality of physics does NOT mean that ALL TRUTH CLAIMS are valid. I think people dont get the idea that truth claim is different than truth. Every physics-claim by every scientist does not turn out to be true; each claim undergoes validation as per the scientific method. Just making a claim by itself does not establish its validity. We have free speech which includes the right to make claims that could be false. Physicists make all sorts of hypotheses and every hypothesis is not necessarily true. You should refer to Christian doctrine as a hypothesis, no more and no less. You must go through my detailed responses in another thread recently that: All claims of dharma are not dharmic; otherwise the ideologies or Ravana, Bib Laden, Hitler, and every random person would be dharmic. Dharma would turn into moral relativism with no standards or criteria to determine it."

Jalan has another analysis of SRF and Paramahamsa Yogananda's writings on Christ. For brevity, we leave it out, but its worth reading in the original thread.

Surya responds to one of Sameer's earlier comments on universalism of science:
"> Sameer: Dharma is a universal science - it cannot belong to any nation any more than Physics can. The original teachings of Jesus are nothing but Dharma.

Underlying principle you are using is: Universal science does not belong to any one nation. It does not follow that people can take laws of Physics and add subjective variations and send back into the world of science.... It suffices to say that modifying or adding physics knowledge is a tightly controlled and managed process and not a free for all. Should not the same be true for Dharma? "

Rajeev has the last word in this long post. For brevity, only the highlighted ones are included: 
".....I do not deny that: Jesus' statement could be reinterpreted using entirely new categories and meanings to make them close to dharma. (So no use telling me how this or that swami reinterpreted. As per #1 above, we know that is a simple thing to do. What I question is the legitimacy of such reinterpretations. These new categories and meanings contradict the basic premises of Bible and Christianity, so such reinterpretations are lifting Jesus out of the context of that tradition....
.... Can you get Christians to install Krishna, Shiva, Durga, Kali, Ganesh, Hanuman into their church on the basis of sameness of divinity? Please watch my Tully debate in which I ask him to do this when he claims "we are same" and notice how he recoils at my bold suggestion."
At this point, it's clear that the evidence is quite damaging in that the approach chosen by the author (Phil Goldberg), what ever may be his intent, is in fact an example of digestion of Hinduism, where he is cherry-picking Hindu concepts (ripping them from Hindu context) and doing a plug-and-play into Western Universalism, essentially deeming Hinduism to be irrelevant to Westerners today. Yet, it seems there is some more to said about this encounter. Don't miss part-2.


  1. CNN website:

    "....Which revered religious figure - Moses, Jesus, or the Prophet Mohammad - spoke out boldly and unambiguously against slavery?

    Answer: None of them.

    One of these men owned slaves, another created laws to regulate - but not ban – slavery. The third’s chief spokesman even ordered slaves to obey their masters, religious scholars say..."

  2. I don't think all truth claims are valid is the point. The point is that what Hinduism is offering can be contemplated by any sincere seeker regardless of his/her religion. Even the statement that "Truth is`one but the sages speak of it by many names" can be realized. It is just a matter of evolved thinking. While Christianity may not evolve but the Christians do. They are not bound by their religion. And they have come a long way. And that is why many of them transcend their religion as the article by Lisa Miller pointed out. If we as humans are to live in harmony with each other, we must support evolutionary thinking rather than suggest that Hindus have monopoly of the truth. The truth is there for any one to discover and appreciate.

    1. Phil Goldberg's actions do not match this claim, unfortunately. the weight of evidence is against him. Personally, I believe this line of argument has been addressed in the forum. Feel free to join the forum and post this question for a open debate.

    2. What site do I go to join the forum?
      It is irrelevant whether Moses, Jesus or the Prophet denounced slavery or not. They told the truth the way they saw it at that time. Are the followers of these prophets evolving in their thinking and going past their teaching wherever it is necessary? And that is the key. I think Christians are evolving.

    3. there should be a button for 'join this group'. wishing u good luck and a productive debate.