American Veda: A Digestion of Hinduism - Part 2

This post covers Part-2 of the discussions on Phil Goldberg's 'American Veda.'  Part-1 introduced his book, noted his initial defense of his book, his writings in various magazines and his video presentations to uncover the digestion of Hinduism into Western Universalism. 

The discussions here started in September 2012 and progressed through December 2012. Phil uses some fancy footwork as he attempts a self-justification of "why his book does not include the word Hindu". The followup discussion totally exposes Phil's attempted appropriation of Hinduism as well as his weak attempts to cover up.

Original Christianity Original Yoga
Recently, I chanced upon and corresponded with this organization based in New Mexico (US) called "Original Christianity Original Yoga" (OCOY; website:.

In this post Surya noted:
"...digest Dharma.  When they discuss essential cosmology, Dharmic ideas are digested and mapped onto Biblical traditions.  No mention of Dharmic sources.  In the end, this tells you why the Bible is retained.  In the end, Ishannism is no different than Phil Goldberg.  They differ in their means.  They are different variations of Good-cop.  No matter what flattering things they say about Dharma, in the end they are victimizing Dharma and protecting Christianity.  The unstated goal is to stop tendencies of thinking Christians from crossing over to Dharma by offering a version of Christianity that comes in several shades and closeness to Dharma.  At a more sinister level, it lowers the barriers and allows flow from Dharma to Jesus"

Science and Sanskrit tradition: A Western scholar's challenge
A Westerner who is studying Sanskrit in India has sent me a paper that challenges the way Indians want to integrate modern science and Sanskrit. After a few...  

The westerner here cites Golberg's work American Veda as one of his references.

Why the book American Veda is not called American Hinduism
Venkat posted:

"Phil Goldberg is the author of the recently published American Veda. He explains why the word Hindu is not there. Book reviews can be read
from this link:

Below Sri Ashok Chowgule writes about his thoughts on the title of book and the next paragraph is Phil's explanation. Both conversations are extracted from the Abhinavagupta group  (you have to be a member to access the messages).  The topic is Debate on "White Hindu Converts"

Ashok Chowgule:
"one of the source of my contention that more and more Americans (Hindus and non-Hindus, academics and outside) are openly expressing their appreciation, empathy, etc., about Hinduism is his book "The American Veda". I had mentioned to him, when I read the book, that I was disappointed that the word Hindu was not seen on the cover page. If I recollect correctly, he said to me that his publisher said that the
word at that place may turn away people from the book

(At the same time, a book which came after "The American Veda", namely Wendy Doniger's book "The Hindu: An Alternative History", a book which does not look at Hinduism with empathy, has the word Hindu on the cover page. Perhaps the publisher felt that more people will read it
for exactly that reason!)

I would like to bring to the notice a book by Thomas Wendell titled "Hinduism Invades America". It was published by The Beacon Press Inc, New York, in 1930, and reprinted by Kessinger Publishing in 2010. The title say 'Hinduism' and not 'Hindus'. And this is significant. The book talks about the many Hindu gurus, other than Swami Vivekanand, who had come to America to teach (to the people, not in universities) Hinduism. The period in which these gurus taught in America is interesting, since it was a period when generally Hinduism was projected in poor light, culminating in the work of Katherine Mayo's "Mother India". Also, due to colonisation, India was a poor country, etc.  (Incidentally, the word Hinduism did not appear to distract the people from buying the book at the time!)

Phil Goldberg's response:

Let me expand on your explanation about why my book was not called "American  Hinduism" or "Hinduism in America" or a similar title. It's actually a bit  more complicated than what I might have indicated earlier.

 It was mainly to avoid confusing the reading public about the book's  contents.

 In the minds of Americans, the words Hinduism and Hindu are religious terms.  Hinduism is the name of one of the five world's religions they've at least  heard about, Hindu is the name of people who practice Hinduism, or are born  into a family from that tradition. So, it was felt that people would think  "Hinduism in America" was about the Indian diaspora, because they associate  "Hindu" with "Indian." Also, the impact of Sanatana Dharma on America -  which is the real subject of the book - has been secular as well as  religious. It's impacted psychology, science, medicine, etc., and we felt
 that point might get lost if we used a term people think of as religious in  the title.

 Plus, as you know, it has mainly been Vedanta philosophy and the  methodologies of Yoga that were adopted in the West, not the normative  Hinduism of India. Temple Hinduism is a relatively new phenomenon in the  US, and its influence on the culture as a whole is in its early stages. We  felt that having Hinduism in the title would narrow the scope of the book in  people's minds, and they would think it's only about pujas, bhajans, and  holiday celebrations.

 Finally, as I say in the book's Introduction, "the most influential gurus  and Yoga masters who came to the West made a big point of saying they were  not preaching Hinduism. They were Hindus themselves, of course, but they  asserted that all could utilize their teachings without deserting their own  religions. Indeed, the ideas and practices they proffered did not have to  be viewed religiously at all.." I remember thinking, Swami Vivekananda did  not start the Hinduism Society, he started the Vedanta Society;  Paramahansa  Yogananda did not write Autobiography of a Hindu, and he called his  organization the Self-Realization Fellowship, not the Hinduism Fellowship;  and Maharish Mahesh Yogi did not call his TM practice Hindu Meditation. 

In other words, we felt we were being faithful to the decisions made by the  great teachers who brought the Vedic gifts to the US.

I hope that further clarifies the choice of titles. These decisions about  language are very delicate, and I understand perfectly that many Hindus  would prefer that we made a different decision. As I said in the book, I  hope that the historic misconceptions are overcome soon so "future books
 will use the term Hinduism freely, without fear of misleading the public."

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to explain this.

Surya responds:
"Reminds me of something that friends from Bangalore told me happened in 1980s. A vendor close to their college was selling chapati and sabji for Rs. 2 each. Demand was lukewarm. The smart vendor recognized that students dressed, spoke, and craved for things with a Western motif. Vendor came out with a new product
called Frankie and priced it Rs. 15 each. Frankie was an instant success.  Turns out Frankie was the same chapati rolled with sabji with a toothpick holding the roll together..."

Rajiv Malhotra responds:
"...Read carefully the points I listed in my prior post on this thread. I did not say the goat remains a goat but gets a new name given by the tiger. The goat does not remain a goat. Instead we have a pile of tiger shit and a stronger tiger. The goat is not there.

Before I select any instance of digestion as worthy, one of my criteria is to see if the entity got changed in some significant way that makes a difference. When western buddhists remove reincarnation to secularize it, its not the same thing with new ownership. When mantra is removed and replaced by some other word its a different vibration. When kerala ayurveda massage removes the requirement to chant mantra, its a change/distortion of the product.

... Many of our Hindu groups took up my complaint which I spoke about since the 1990s about yoga's appropriation; but they made making loud noises only that the origin was not being acknowledged. But none of these seem to have understood what difference that makes to the new variety of yoga being perpetrated. This is a dumb down version of the problem. They sound like whining kids in need of a pacifier. Give them a lollypop and pat on the back and they will stop crying.

I am glad that the maharishi people have understood what has changed due to Herb Benson's appropriation of TM. They will support my work on that specific matter, and have offered to get some researchers involved. Lets see where that goes; but at least I did not get a trivialized appreciation or some sort of patronizing sympathy. I feel they really get it.

Frankly, I would rather have a school named Oakridge that teaches authentic dharma, than a school named something like
maha-sanskriti-vishva-kendra that teaches a diluted version."

Sanjay posts:
"One of the books that Rajiv references in "Being Different" provides another illustration of the insidious manner in which minds get colonized:  Jonathan Kirsch in "God against the Gods" relates how Jews began aping the Greeks after the conquests of Alexander.This is the passage (p 76):

Alexander brought Hellenism to the land of the Jews when he replaced the defeated Persian emperor as its overlord. Much to the horror of the Jewish rigorists, the Chosen People promptly showed themselves to be no less vulnerable to the charms and attractions of Hellenism than they had been to the "abominations" of their pagan seducers in distant biblical antiquity. By the second century B.C.E., the city of Jerusalem boasted its own gymnasium, where Jews studied the Greek language and practiced the athletic skills that were put on display in Olympic-style games. Not only did they insist on competing in the nude, aping the traditions of ancient Greece, but some of them resorted to a primitive form of plastic surgery to conceal the fact that they were circumcised-an act that was regarded by the rigorists as the ultimate betrayal of the God of Israel.
We cannot know how Judaism would have fared if the Jews of antiquity had been free to choose between their own traditions of monotheism and the attractions of Hellenism.Then, as now, the lure of assimilation was so powerful that no amount of scolding or sermonizing was effective in preventing defections from the oldest and strictest traditions of Judaism..."

tvikhanas notes:
"That's a funny argument Goldberg gives. When Yogananda identified himself as a Yogi he would done it as a further specialized identity on top of Hindu identity, not in exclusion of it. When Swami Vivekananda talked of Vedanta he
was using it as further qualification of the Hinduism he brought to America, not something different from it.

It is strange to turn this around, give it as an excuse to not use the word "Hindu". It's like we are comfortable with "quantum mechanics", "optics" etc but not with the term "Physics"."

Pratap adds:
"Like Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of needs" is welcome but not "panca kosa" theory."

Surya comments:
"Goldberg ... is one of those good cops who praises Hinduism but sees Hinduism as a deli from which you can pick and choose what you want.

In his blogs on Huffington Post, Goldberg clearly mentioned that Vedas and Yoga help Jews and Christians develop their spirituality and then go back to their religious fold.  He says Hindus accept all religions and do not mind others choosing what they like in Hindu thought.  THAT is the main reason for focusing on secularized Veda.  Not because Hinduism does not sell..."

tvikhanas notes:
"You are touching on an important point when you mention Goldberg's HuffPost essays. One can find many westerners today setting themselves up as "authentic" representatives of Hinduism and undermining Hindus whether intentionally or
unintentionally. Goldberg seems to be one such character.

It is one thing for non-Hindus to adopt Hinduism but it is entirely different to set themselves up as insiders, or leaders or representatives. We can see this happening big time to "Buddhism". May be it requires a different thread to discuss how to deal with this.

What's happening to Buddhism and Yoga actually serve as powerful reminders why we must resist various Dharmic schools being severed from the larger Hindu religion. It becomes very easy for non-Hindus to set themselves up as representatives of these severed schools and then to steer
them in self serving directions. What's happening to Buddhism & Yoga in America is quite instructive. Most of the
visible Buddhists on various websites are westerners and they claim to be authentic representatives (until 10-20 yrs later they do a u-turn back to catholicism/judaism). If we point out the nonsense they are spouting, they claim their view is the authentic/original/scientific/rational version and that our
views are colored by Hindu superstition/chauvinism/nationalism!.." 
 He further notes:
"There are many characters in the west calling themselves as "Vaishnavas", "Advaitins", "Tantrikas" or "Yogis". This serves two purposes:

1. It lets them avoid facing the unpleasant truth that they are voluntarily adopting what they themselves for the last ~300 yrs condemned as superstition and other worldly nonsense. 2. More importantly, they can spout nonsense and not be challenged by Hindus in general. They can always claim that's what their tradition teaches and there will naturally be far fewer from that particular tradition to challenge those claims

For instance, a lot of garbage is written by ISKCON [Western] dudes on HuffPost, and they claim to be authentic representatives of Gaudiya Vedanta. There are very few people from that particular tradition to respond and even if there are a few they will probably prefer to keep quite.

The point is these sub-categories are specialized identities within the larger Hindu framework, not something  independent of it. The relationship between these
schools is very nuanced and some one who has lived in the west will have not have appropriate experience/analogies to understand them. They will only make nonsense of it (like Buddhism being a revolt against Hinduism just as
Protestantism was against catholicism).

It is farcical for westerners to claim to have become vaishnavas or yogis or what ever after a few years of practice. At the very least they have to unlearn some of the fundamental thoughts that their culture has given them, like eternal damnation..."


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